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Instant analysis: Nats 4, Astros 3

Apr 29, 2014, 11:36 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: As Bryce Harper was in a hospital bed recuperating from thumb surgery earlier in the day, his Nationals teammates took the field in Houston trying to overcome the latest significant injury to their starting lineup. They jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, getting a towering home run from Jayson Werth in the top of the first and a Jose Lobaton RBI double in the top of the third.

Gio Gonzalez, though, gave both runs (and another) right back in the bottom of the third, surrendering three consecutive two-out hits to the Astros. Gonzalez recovered to prevent Houston from scoring again, but the left-hander left his teammates needing to mount a late rally.

Which they did, thanks to Adam LaRoche. The veteran first baseman delivered two clutch hits late, doubling to left-center in the top of the eighth to score Werth, then singling in the top of the ninth to bring Denard Span home with the go-ahead run. Rafael Soriano then tossed another scoreless inning to wrap up a nice, come-from-behind victory for the Nationals.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: What else can be said about LaRoche? He has been, quite simply, the Nationals’ best hitter this month, with plenty of those hits coming in crucial situations. The key throughout has been his ability to go the other way. LaRoche’s eighth-inning double to left-center was his 12th opposite-field hit of the month. He had only 34 total opposite-field hits all of last season. Of course, he’s still capable of pulling the ball when needed, which he did for the game-winning hit, lining an RBI single to right off Josh Fields. LaRoche’s 29 hits this month are his most ever in March/April.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was kind of an odd outing for Gonzalez. He got off to a great start, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced. Then he fell apart in the bottom of the third, surrendering three consecutive two-out hits that brought home three runs. Then he rediscovered himself, especially his curveball, retiring 10 of the final 12 batters he faced. Put that all together, and Gonzalez wound up with a quality start — three runs allowed in six innings — but his pitch count stood at a massive 111. On this night, the Nationals could’ve used a bit more from the left-hander.

KEY STAT: Rafael Soriano has not given up a run over his last 22 innings, dating back to Aug. 23, 2013.

UP NEXT: This brief, two-game series wraps up Wednesday night at 8:10 p.m. Jordan Zimmermann gets the start for the Nationals, facing Houston left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.

  1. stoatva - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    Anyone but me glad that was McLouth out there in right and not Werth?

    • nats128 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:43 PM

      Thinking the same. That ball off the bat looked like the Nats just lost. Not sure how McLouth got there.

      I would have pulled Soriano if I had Storen warming. Soriano just completely lost the strike zone. Ump helped him on the 1st pitch to Altuve.

      Nats finally had the luck of the ump.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:49 PM

      Yep, I said I didnt think Jayson got to that ball… He normally/usually plays good in rf but seems a little slower this year, maybe it’s the groin…

  2. Section 222 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:41 PM

    Dan Kolko’s interviews are a pleasure to watch.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:50 PM

      Yes… Julie made me cringe… Kristina was okay…

      • dcwx61 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:52 PM

        Kristina is the best interviewer ever. All she had to do is stand there.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:54 PM

        Lol…. She didnt appeal to me…. But then again, she’s not my type…

      • dcwx61 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:55 PM

        That’s ok..Roger was not my type either.
        So in fantasy baseball, we both win.

    • llf0701 - Apr 30, 2014 at 5:06 AM

      I agree about Kolko. He’s a natural. I also learn a lot from him, and FP!

  3. Joe Seamhead - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    That was fun.
    And we’ll never know if Werth would have caught that game ender.
    I love Soriano. I was getting sleepy. He woke me up!

    • dcwx61 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:49 PM

      +1
      Good move by MW to put the better fielding Outfielder in Right
      and the better fielding infielder in left

  4. Section 222 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    That double by ALR in the 8th went to the exact spot where the Shark made that unbelievable game ending catch with Stammen watching in the bullpen in 2012.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:51 PM

      *sigh*

      I miss him…

      • dcwx61 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:53 PM

        What…Did you two separate ???
        Who got the season tickets

    • adcwonk - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:59 PM

      I was thinking that same thing!

    • secretwasianman - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:44 AM

      I. Think it was Clipp watching.

      • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2014 at 9:05 AM

        No, definitely Stammen. Clip was pitching!

  5. texnat1 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    Nats should explore signing Laroche to a two year contract extension whereby he is obligated to play elsewhere next season and then return here in the contract year.

    • npb99 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:50 PM

      +1

  6. dcwx61 - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    Fun game…another comeback win without almost have the starting position players.
    Not sure that was an untuckable save ???
    but a save non the less.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    So true. Nats really got the calls behind the plate tonight when the game was on the line. Werth walks on a 3-2 that usually goes to the pitcher on a borderline pitch and Soriano gets Strike 1 on Altuve.

    Very happy for some breaks to go the Nats way for once.

    • stoatva - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:49 PM

      To judge from the TV pitch track, that umpire seemed to have a pretty solid strike zone this evening. No one gets ‘em all right, of course.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:57 PM

        He did and really did call that Werth ball 4 correctly but its a call on 3-2 that many times will go to the pitcher. The Altuve 1st pitch strike 1 was an awful call and when you consider he walked the previous 2 batters, Bo Porter should be steaming mad as Altuve swung on pitch 2 that he otherwise might have spit on. It gave Soriano some confidence.

        Baseball Gods were kind tonight to the Nats. Also pick up a game on the Barves and back on a 90 win pace.

      • therealjohnc - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:57 PM

        Yeah, the Astros were yapping a lot (especially Qualls) because they were hitting the mitt – but the pitches were not over the plate. If the catcher sets up insider or outside and the pitcher hits the mitt, it’s not a strike*

        *unless you’re Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine

  8. stoatva - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:48 PM

    It’s nuts that the Astros have Nolan Ryan sitting right behind home plate, glaring at their pitchers.

  9. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:52 PM

    Glad Espi was able to play tonight… Was concerned after that hbp.. So Frandsen doesn’t look lost in RF, and I love it….

    Hoping Souza Jr gets the start tomorrow…

  10. Joe Seamhead - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    I thought the home plate ump called a pretty good game.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:00 AM

      He sure did as I say that as a Nats fan.

      By the way, that walk to Werth was an excellent call. That ball was even further off the plate on pitch track then it looked after the catcher frame.

  11. Joe Seamhead - Apr 29, 2014 at 11:59 PM

    How long has it been since Soriano recorded a blown save? That’s 10 scoreless innings this year, but did he not finish 2013 with some silly numbers, too?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:03 AM

      Nats128 with good observations on Soriano’s pitches. Higher velo on the fastball and the slider has more break and lower velo. I do believe Livo has worked with him and wouldn’t be surprised if it is more of a slurvey delivery.

    • Eric - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:03 AM

      I think 22 scoreless, or at least saved, going back to last year.

      • adcwonk - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:13 AM

        That’s right. He’s got a 22-game 22-inning streak going.

        Not that you’d know it from listening to some of the commentators here. ;-)

    • Eugene in Oregon - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:04 AM

      Don’t talk about it and go knock on some wood (or imitation wood grain) immediately.

    • Hiram Hover - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:05 AM

      Yeah, but his ST #s were crap, and that’s what really matters, right?

  12. Eric - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:05 AM

    Werth: “That’s really been my focus lately: just get on base for Rochey.”

    Love it.

    • NatsLady - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:22 AM

      Well, “unless I can knock one out, of course” [he thought but didn't say].

  13. dcwx61 - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    Good night all,
    Even NJ in Del Boca Vista, Phase III
    Smoke em if you have em
    Stay Classy, Washington (If it weren’t for me and a few others, it would be)
    Time to tuck

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    Here’s the break of the game on that 1st pitch gift of a strike to Soriano on Altuve. Look how center cut that slider was on pitch 2

  15. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:14 AM

    Gio had +4 strikes in his favor tonight

    Cosart had +1 strikes in his favor tonight.

    Given that both pitchers were over 100 pitches, fairly close and Lobaton did a better job framing than their catcher except the 1 curve that FP called him out on.

  16. Joe Seamhead - Apr 30, 2014 at 12:52 AM

    Regarding Gio’s “sore” shoulder from his last start. I know it was chilly that night, but Gio threw plenty of times on cold nights in Oakland. So he walked a couple of guys that night. Gio led the AL in BBs when in Oakland. Now, after supposedly having a sore shoulder in his last start his manager leaves him in for 110 pitches. Does this strike anybody else as odd? It makes me wonder how much influence the bench coach has, as that sure seems very much like Knorr’s style, as was the public dressing down of Harper.I never made a post regarding my feelings on the handling of Bryce. He needed a talking to, even a benching, but I thought that it was a mistake to air the dirty shorts out in public. Just a thought. Maybe I’m out in left field on this.

    What is it about Houston’s field and our outfielders all getting web gems?

    • dgourds - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:35 AM

      Just curious – how do you know what Knor’s style is? From the few times Davey was thrown out last year?

      • Joe Seamhead - Apr 30, 2014 at 7:54 AM

        That’s certainly where my thought process originated. Knorr publicly came down on Bryce last year, and also the way he not only pulled Soriano, but the public taking him to task for not throwing strikes,both moves that did him no good in securing the manager’s job, IMHO. Like I said, I may be off base.

  17. secretwasianman - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:45 AM

    Nice comeback. ALR is really a true pro. Worried about Desi. Toto many Ks with guys on base.

  18. veejh - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:41 AM

    Frandsen had a couple chances to bat in some runs. Like 3 I think. Fail.

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 30, 2014 at 8:13 AM

      Though he didn’t come through at the plate, Frandson had a pretty impressive night in LF, especially the play off the wall. That said, several posters mentioned they thought he showed good arm strength. I don’t think that is true. Both throws to the plate were off line and skipped in on 2 or 3 bounces. Keep in mind that though there is a tall wall making for tougher home runs, it is actually only 315 feet from the wall to the plate. So, on the play that he caught the ball behind his back, he did hold the runners, but the next batter hit another single to left plating both of them, but Kevin made an ill-advised throw to the plate allowing the batter to advance to scoring position. Turns out it didn’t matter, as the next guy grounded out to end the inning, but that is often one of the “little things” that can cost you wins. And if it had been Harper he would’ve been taken to task.(though Bryce might have been able to get the guy on that play).

  19. llf0701 - Apr 30, 2014 at 5:10 AM

    ALR = MVP

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 30, 2014 at 8:15 AM

      I don’t know about MVP, but one could certainly give a good argument for him being the team player of the month for April.

  20. ArVAFan - Apr 30, 2014 at 6:23 AM

    Good morning (and how could it not be, after those performances last night, including by Fernandez in Miami. Do check out his fake throw to first, catching a Brave at the plate. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer team (G).)

    Nice to see some love for the HP umpire-especially since Ted Barrett is a family friend.

    Anyway, off to the land of heat & humidity, otherwise known as New Orleans. But they have electricity there, so I’ll actually be able to watch the games on my Internet-connected devices.

  21. natsjackinfl - Apr 30, 2014 at 7:49 AM

    Anybody notice that our old friend Chris Young got a win last night against the big bad Yankees? Congratulations to him.

    And congrats to Feel Wood who brought out the old “Boca Vista” reference under his new alias last night.

    • tcostant - Apr 30, 2014 at 8:52 AM

      It’s funny I was just wondering how he was doing, his year’s stats are not that bad.

      DATE OPP W L ERA SV IP H ER BB SO
      04/06/2014 @OAK 0 0 0.00 0 2.0 0 0 0 2
      04/13/2014 OAK 0 0 0.00 0 6.0 4 0 3 2
      04/18/2014 @MIA 0 0 3.27 0 3.0 7 4 3 0
      04/23/2014 HOU 0 0 3.50 0 7.0 4 3 5 6
      04/29/2014 @NYY 1 0 3.04 0 5.2 3 1 3 3
      TOTALS 1 0 3.04 0 23.2 18 8 14 13

  22. stoatva - Apr 30, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Interesting to read about Mattheus’ ejection at Syracuse. He came inside to prospect Gregory Polanco, who dives toward the plate, straightening him up. The ball didn’t hit Polanco, but the umpire interpreted it as a purpose pitch and tossed Mattheus.

    • Eric - Apr 30, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      “That pitch was too good and almost fooled the batter into getting himself hit. This is the MiLB, son. Yer outta here!”

  23. Joe Seamhead - Apr 30, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    Regarding Soriano:

    Since the end of last August he has pitched 22 innings in 22 games. In those 22 appearances he has given up 13 hits, 8 BB’s,. He has 22 K’s, 15 saves in 15 save opportunities, and has not given up a run, earned, or unearned in those 22 games.

    He also made 2 super defensive plays in one inning earlier this month.

    And yet he so often has us all on the edge of our seats, reaching for a sedative!

    It can’t go on forever, but the guy has been on a great run.

    Where’s the love?

    • Section 222 - Apr 30, 2014 at 9:15 AM

      Nice summary Joe. He also has the same calm demeanor, game in and game out. For me, that’s a nice change from the emotion that some of our other relievers wear on their sleeves.

      Meanwhile, uber-closer Craig Kimbrel, who now has his own website by they way;

      http://craigkimbrel.com/

      has blown a save and had a meltdown in a non-save situation.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=kimbrcr01&t=p&year=2014

      I don’t expect Soriano to get much love, but maybe, at the very least when he does blow a save, which he will because it’s inevitable, the pitchforks can be kept under wraps for a night. Being realistic though, that’s about as likely as him never blowing a save all year long.

      • Eric - Apr 30, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        I saw that Kimbrel site last week. Freaking hilarious. At least he’s promoting Curing Kids Cancer on the homepage.

  24. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    I thought LaRoche was bad in April [said in sarcastic tone]

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