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Instant analysis: Angels 7, Nats 2

Apr 22, 2014, 9:50 PM EST

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Bryce Harper and Mike Trout drew all the attention when this series began. Tonight, though, a far more-established star reminded everyone just how special he is.

Albert Pujols became just the 26th player in baseball history to join the 500 Home Run Club, launching a pair of blasts off right-hander Taylor Jordan to etch his place in the record book and lead his Angels to a blowout win. The veteran slugger drilled a 3-run homer to left during a 4-run top of the first, then sent a 2-run blast flying deep to left-center in the top of the fifth to the amazement of the Nationals Park crowd.

Jordan struggled through yet another ragged start, putting his team in another early hole. The Nationals had a chance to get back into the game in the bottom of the third against a faltering Tyler Skaggs but could only manage two runs. They were shut down the rest of the night by Skaggs and the Los Angeles bullpen, slogging their way through a ballgame that was dominated early by one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: We have to break from tradition here and highlight an opposing player. How often do you get to see someone hit his 500th career homer in person? Pujols actually entered the game on only 498, but he hammered a first-inning sinker from Jordan down the left-field line for his first homer of the night. Four innings later, he crushed another sinker from Jordan deep to left-center, to the right of the Angels’ bullpen and onto a walkway next to the picnic tables in the Red Porch area. As Pujols rounded the bases to a standing ovation, his teammates gathered at the plate to greet him. The crowd of 21,915 then elicited a curtain call from the big slugger, fully recognizing the significance of the moment, even if it came at the expense of their hometown team.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: It’s become quite a disturbing trend for Jordan. Three straight times he has taken the mound, he has been battered around in the first inning. The Braves got him for four runs on April 12, the Cardinals got him for three runs on Thursday and the Angels pounded him for four more tonight. It’s not uncommon for sinkerballers to need awhile to get a feel for their trademark pitch, but Jordan’s early struggles have become a significant problem. It’s probably no coincidence that Doug Fister is now pitching in rehab games on the same day Jordan starts. But Fister likely needs to make two more starts, building up to five innings, before he comes off the DL (likely around May 7). So the Nationals either have to stick with Jordan in their rotation for the time being or find another alternative.

KEY STAT: The Nationals have give up at least three runs in the first inning five times this season. They’ve given up at least two runs in the first inning nine times.

UP NEXT: The series concludes Wednesday evening, with the Nationals needing a win to avoid getting swept. Gio Gonzalez takes the mound against Angels veteran Jered Weaver at 7:05 p.m.

  1. David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:53 PM

    The hit totals in this series are misleading. Let me be clear: I’m not excusing the lack of offense. But we’re drawing tons of walks. Maybe if they throw more strikes, we get more hits. So looking at the hit total isn’t terribly productive.

    The problem is cashing in on those walks. We scored our 2 runs today on a WP and DP. Need better than that. Had our chance for a big inning, wasted it.

    • Eric - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:00 PM

      Really frustrating that so much solid contact died on the track.

      Also, what’s up with Harp? Fire seems to be turned down way low.

      And, I’m bummed to see Rendon catching the error bug. I was just starting to think my concerns last year about his fielding were unfounded…still plenty of time for him to prove they were, but…it’s a lot in a short period.

      “Ray, is there anything you can throw Pujols that he can’t hit?” Jonny Holliday (paraphrase)

      You should be asking Roark.

      MW saying we don’t know if Det will end up back in the rotation. Seems like he’s trying VERY hard to praise TJord. Sounds ominous, honestly.

      • scmargenau - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:28 AM

        2 errors so far. 5 last year. Plz — worry about harp not Rendon

    • Hiram Hover - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:09 PM

      Well … 3 hits and 4 walks out of 27 men sent to the plate vs Skaggs.

      That’s, what, a .259 OBP.

      Not that impressive–and that’s ignoring the fact that no one reached in the 8th or 9th vs their BP.

      • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:11 PM

        Also a HBP. So .296 OBP. Still not great. Yesterday was the bigger case, I think

  2. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:55 PM

    Thanks for the excellent pitching effort Taylor Jordan…

  3. NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 9:55 PM

    Um, I believe Atlanta lost a one-run game. Thought that never happened.

    Seriously, we need some 7-2 games going our way.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:07 PM

      I’d be fine winning 1-0.. 7-2.. 16-1.. As long as we win…

    • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:08 PM

      Well we have the Padres and Astros coming up. Let’s hope.

      • Hiram Hover - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:20 PM

        Yeah, tho I was thinking the same thing about this series vs the Angels–8-10 coming in, we’ve now get them back to .500.

      • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:21 PM

        The Angels are a talented team though. Especially with Roark and Jordan going, it was going to be tough. Roark pitched better than I expected so it’s disappointing to lose that game.

      • Hiram Hover - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:27 PM

        Good point, DP. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the big three in these upcoming games. But the offense still has to produce.

  4. David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Matt left the door open to putting Ross back in the rotation.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:01 PM

      Had to have known it was coming… He will pitch for about 4 innings as he can’t go thru the line up 2 times, especially throwing 95 percent fastball…

      • scnatsfan - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:04 PM

        That’s 4 more innings then Jordan is giving us right now

    • Eric - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:02 PM

      Dangit, this was supposed to be a post, not a reply.
      Really frustrating that so much solid contact died on the track.

      Also, what’s up with Harp? Fire seems to be turned down way low.

      And, I’m bummed to see Rendon catching the error bug. I was just starting to think my concerns last year about his fielding were unfounded…still plenty of time for him to prove they were, but…it’s a lot in a short period.

      On to the post game:

      “Ray, is there anything you can throw Pujols that he can’t hit?” Jonny Holliday (paraphrase)

      You should be asking Roark.

      MW saying he doesn’t know if Det will end up back in the rotation. Seems like he’s trying VERY hard to praise TJord. Sounds ominous, honestly.

    • Eric - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      OMG, why are all my posts showing up as replies to you DP. LMAO. Apologies. I’ll give up now.

    • 6ID20 - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      No way Detwiler goes into the rotation before Fister comes back. He’s not close to being stretched out. Hasn’t pitched more than 2 innings in a shot, including spring training. Treinin OTOH could have a shot at it. Especially if Fister has a setback.

  5. scnatsfan - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:03 PM

    NatsLady the way this team is playing they are winning more then they should. It’s hard to imagine them winning with new holes springing up in the SS Nats every day. We all hope MW finds some answers quick, we never recovered from our early beatings last year.

  6. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    Yesterday’s loss stings even more since we lost today…. I figured we would go 2-1 and lose today….

  7. npb99 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    About Harper: I’m starting to suspect that he’s just not that spectacular after all. He had a man’s body as a teenager and crushed the competition in high school and college. But now that he’s in the big leagues, he’s just not that impressive. He has power, but doesn’t come across as a smart hitter, and his effort and concentration are inconsistent.
    There’s lots of examples of players who mature early and are phenoms in high school or college and turn out to just be ok when in the NFL or NBA. I hope that isn’t true about Harper, but when I seem him play, he just comes across as another player, not so remarkable at all.
    Maybe we’ve just bought into the hype too much. Honestly, if we’d never heard of this guy before he was called up in 2012, and just based our judgment on what we saw on the field, I don’t think our expectations would be as lofty as the media and hype machine have led them to be.

    • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:18 PM

      Sigh. This again. It’s amazing how fast a fanbase will turn on their own player.

      Here are the players in MLB history with more homers than Harper before age 21: Mel Ott, Tony C. That’s it.

      Here are the players in MLB history with more WAR than Harper: Ott, Trout, Kaline, Cobb, A-Rod. That’s it.

      Harper’s slashline is better than Ken Griffey’s at his age and through the same number of ABs. Same for Bonds.

      People lose all perspective. Because Bryce isn’t playing at an MVP level AT AGE 21, people start to think he’s not special. He is.

      • scnatsfan - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:24 PM

        That remains to be seen. He is neither a bust or a hall of famer yet, right now he is an average major leaguer with huge potential.

      • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:28 PM

        What remains to be seen? He’s special. He’s putting up numbers that are pretty much unprecedented for his age. Could he flame out? Sure. So could any player in MLB. But that doesn’t take away from what he’s already done.

        He put up 5WAR in his age 19 rookie season and put up almost 4WAR in an injury shorted and plagued age 20 season. That’s special.

      • Hiram Hover - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        C’mon – he’s a much better than average major leaguer, and he’s 21.

      • scmargenau - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:33 AM

        DP u r ridiculous – stop being stat boy. Stop the over homeritism. It’s gross. Bryce isn’t that good. Davey was a old puppet. Stras isn’t ok at best. Do u live in the real world?

        Good things; Rendon, Barrett, zimm, Roark, Ramos, Gio, etc. we all know who’s good and who we should dump to improve. Are unpaid by this blog? Your rhetoric grows old.

    • Hiram Hover - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:25 PM

      No, he’s not yet as smart and focused a hitter as he could be. Those are things that come with maturity and experience. There are very, very few 21 year olds who have them.

    • Eric - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:29 PM

      I think Harper is stuck in the doldrums, is all. Maybe it’s the public benching, maybe it’s frustration with his lack of production, maybe it’s an event in his personal life. I don’t know. He just seems…blah. The way he’s playing, the look on his face half the time they show him, it’s all just…flat. Interestingly, it’s like the opposite end of the spectrum from where he was last year.

      I truly don’t think what we’re seeing right now is remotely what Harper is. I think he’ll get past whatever he’s going through and his true colors will fly again, perhaps slightly less erratically.

      • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:30 PM

        I agree that he seems flat right now. But he’ll get out of it.

      • scmargenau - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:39 AM

        U r for real? Stop making excuses for him. Btw his eye black sales are down. Let’s all donate. Poor Bryce. U never see trout bitch n moan about missing “his” pitch or throwing a tantrum. Why? Class. Coolness. He’s a stud. Bryce is a dud.

        What is wrong with people in this town? No wonder everyone makes fun of us. We r the definition of excuses and hype.

      • Eric - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:25 AM

        LOL, thanks for the life coaching, man! Making excuses? We’re taking about a baseball team. This is all entertainment to me. Doesn’t really change my life if Harp has already peaked. I just don’t think that’s the case.

  8. NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:30 PM

    This series reminds me somewhat of the June sweep in 2012 by the Yankees. One of the games was close (extra innings, I believe), but in general the team was out-played and seemed intimidated by the Yankees.

    Except for Roark (and a couple of others), you see the big shadow of Trout and Pujols, and forget that this was below .500 team when they arrived here with problems of their own.

    I don’t want to think Harper is “sulking” but the much-vaunted battle of the young phenoms has turned out to be Harper ceding to Trout on every point. Is Harper injured, tired or sand-bagging because he resents Williams (even if subconsiously?) WIlliams has publicly benched him and dropped him to 6th in the batting order–that has to rankle. The right words come out of his mouth, but his body language… You can say he is “only 21” but this is his third year in the major leagues.

    • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:33 PM

      It doesn’t matter that it’s his third year in the big leagues. Despite that, he is STILL the youngest player in MLB. We need to remember that. He was only dropped to 6th because it was a lefty on the mound. He still batted second the two games after his benching. Look, I agree Harper seems “off” but again we’re getting into dangerous territory when we try to psychoanalyze. I’ve made my feelings on that particular discourse well-known.

      As a bit of an aside, I also thought the Nats have done a pretty good job containing Trout this series. At least as much as you could reasonably hope. He hasn’t been the guy that’s beaten us, that’s for sure.

  9. NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    I’m not “turning” on Harper, I’m just observing and wondering. He doesn’t have fire, he doesn’t run fast, he doesn’t glare at umps, and he’s in a slump. That doesn’t mean I don’t value him as a player and expect him to snap out of it. But he just doesn’t look like the Harper who is usually so memorable.

    • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:34 PM

      Harper is less than two weeks removed from destroying his equipment in the dugout and people saying he needs to “grow up.” Then he stops and people say he’s not showing fire. That’s the part I dislike. No matter what he does, he can’t win.

      Of course, if he were hitting, it’d all go unnoticed. And he will hit.

      • scmargenau - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:40 AM

        Umm. Re read your post. Figure it out.

  10. BurnedOnce - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    Painful time in the park.

    Hitting highlight: our pitcher is responsible 33.33% of our hits tonight.

    Yeah team!

    Anemic, tight, having no fun; that’s our team.

  11. breakbad1 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:35 PM

    Well it looks like our schedule was not quite weak enough.

  12. breakbad1 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:43 PM

    Although I’m an Honorable Mention on the All-Psychoanalyze Team, I do agree with DP. I don’t agree that we shouldn’t psychoanalyze, of course, as that is the principal occupation of dedicated fans worldwide.

    What I agree with is this: We don’t want the fan base to pin Harper in a corner where, whatever he does, he can’t win. Mr. Proctor is right on this point. In a way, we’ve got to give Harper a little room to grow up.

    • scmargenau - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:42 AM

      Weak. Say what u feel.

  13. Eric - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    I don’t think Harper is sulking. He doesn’t come off as petulant in any way to me. He just seems bummed, or maybe even like he’s trying to learn how to let a schneid roll off his back. For instance, his reactions to his K’s tonight were downright calm…

  14. philipd763 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    Definitely time to ship Jordan to the minors.

  15. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    Harp’s not the only one who appears flat… Whole damn team appears flat…

  16. npb99 - Apr 22, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    Back from doing dishes, so I’ll respond to responses on my Harper comments. In many respects, age is misleading. Not every precocious athlete turns into a legend. There’s lots of athletes in all sports who are phenomenal at 16 or so, but just good, not great as adults. Anybody remember Alan Webb? Or Freddie Adu? Just two local examples.
    I’m not turning on Harper, just calling it as I see it. And from what I’ve seen of him, I’m lowering my expectations. If he ends up surpassing them, great.

    • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 11:14 PM

      As I explained, this has nothing to do with what Harper did at 16. It has to do with what he did at 19 and 20. I showed you comparables. If you choose to ignore them, that’s your prerogative. It’s very, VERY rare for a baseball player to put up the numbers he has at his age alone–it’s even rarer for those guys to flame out.

  17. breakbad1 - Apr 22, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    Well, I agree with npb99 as well.

    I know that everybody on this board want to see Harper become a first-ballad Nationals Hall of Famer, so we can be there when they put his statue in the plaza at Nats Park.

    But we have to adjust expectations, also. Harper seemed to be pure sunshine and hustle when he first arrived, but it turns out he is moody and given to sulking. No problem; we just know him better now.

    Also, we set crazy expectations when we said (more often, when we were told by the Nats PR machine) that Harper is a five-tool player. He isn’t. Boswell hit this with some pretty strong statistical support in his chat the other day. Harper is an average left-fielder with a good arm. He is not a major base-stealer, and has a history of making major mistakes on the base-paths.

    So he is a 3-tool player and he is human.

    • David Proctor - Apr 22, 2014 at 11:31 PM

      Maybe. Harper graded out as a plus CF. Not Denard Span, but well above average–though he sometimes made it look hard. I don’t understand the insistence on moving him from there by Rizzo and co. I never did. He was comfortable there.

      If you can play CF, you can play the corners. So I think he will be a plus OF in time. Just as with his hitting, that tool will take some time to develop. The arm is certainly already there.

      I agree he is not a major basestealer, but he is still a plus baserunner despite the sometimes boneheaded mistakes.

    • texnat1 - Apr 22, 2014 at 11:36 PM

      He has an excellent arm and is still learning the outfield. Your post is hyperbolic nonsense.

    • Section 222 - Apr 23, 2014 at 12:59 AM

      Boz notwithstanding (his critique of Harper was a drive by shooting full of questionable use of stats like RBIs and runs scored to make his point), I think you’re being a little harsh, particularly considering his age. The tool is speed, not base stealing, and Harper has it. He’s scored lots of runs with his speed and hustle in 2012, though he certainly has made some mistakes this year. And he’s not that experienced in the outfield. In time, he should be an excellent fielder, though I think that’s the only tool he’s lacking right now. Good arm is also an understatement. He’s made a few sensational throws from the left field corner already this year.

      • scmargenau - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:33 AM

        Wrong. All the bases in the world matter not if they don’t cross the plate. That’s why RBIs matter. Harper has put on 30 lbs of muscle and us not fast anymore. Nor is he a surprise… 2 years of film now. He’s a slightly above avg ball player. I don’t care how he compares to a handful of 18 and 19 year olds. What can he do consistently? So far, not much.

      • Section 222 - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:24 AM

        If you don’t understand why RBIs are a poor indicator of a player’s performance or value, there’s not much point in having this debate. Time will tell whether Harper is just a slightly above average ball player. There are no guarantees in life, but I think you are underestimating his value. There’s no penalty for taking extreme positions on a baseball blog though, so go for it. See you in a few more years.

  18. NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    DIfferent topic.

    So Shane Victorino was set to be activated from the DL tomorrow, but that might not happen, even if he is ready. Why? Because Farrell blew out the bullpen & they have to call up a reliever instead. Interesting trade off.

  19. NatsLady - Apr 22, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    Hopefully, Harper has a long career ahead of him. However, I’m responding to what I see NOW, as a left-fielder on our 25-man roster. He isn’t great right now, there may be “better” players on the team. But no one is enough better that Harper shouldn’t be in the starting lineup every day that he is physically capable.

    • natszee - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:36 AM

      He has great potential but is young yet. Will be interesting to see if his playing potential can be fully realized. But as you say, right now, he is a + ballplayer and that is far from “great”. On Sunday, I was there and watched him make two routine catches look like Willie Mays because he misjudged them … like he misjudged “sun balls” and walls. That is judgement, not skill. Bryce is loaded with skill. Question remains is how it’s applied will determine how “great” he will be.

      Here is one non-baseball judgement observation … I noticed this last year but it’s more prominent this year, when he takes or exits the field, he does so by trotting through center, warms up in extreme left center and never looks into the stands to his right as he seems to intentionally avert eye contact with the fans. On the chance that he may make an inning ending catch, he will carry the ball in and at times, toss it to someone behind the dugout but never to a fan in left field. My 11 year old noticed it big time and asked me if Harper was alright.

      Yes, he is young so he gets a pass but his playing performance won’t get him a pass to the all-star game at this rate and his personalty won’t help in the vote either. Wonder if that will bum him out?

  20. breakbad1 - Apr 22, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    (Sorry–“ballot” not “ballad.” Yes I’m a Dylan fan.)

  21. natsfan24 - Apr 23, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    The biggest problem with this team since 2010 has been hitting. Solid hitting. Line drives. Pop… Consistently making contact. Desmond is fake strong. Werth is not a power hitter & Bryce is not imposing as a hitter due to his height. These guys still need a couple power hitters to be considered World Series contenders. Sure they can hit a fastball into the first row but so can most minor leaguers. Just look at Trout. That dude is twice the size of Bryce and Ian Desmond. Look at Puljols. The Nats are lacking muscle and size. It has always been a problem and it is why Rizzo will always be haunted by letting Morse & The Hammer/Willingham go. In baseball you’ve got to have your Boog Powells and Bash Brothers of the world. If you don’t have size, you better be able to rake & they can’t.

  22. secretwasianman - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    This season is over. Too many errors, horrible pitching, no hitting, and terrible managing. But hey Febuary pitchers and catchers report.





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