Nationals

Baseball playoffs full of momentum swings

201210141956717749090-p2.jpeg

Baseball playoffs full of momentum swings

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Just ask the Oakland Athletics and Washington Nationals how much momentum means in the postseason.

Poised to ride the wave from Game 4 walkoff wins in the division series, the A's and Nationals were promptly thrown under water - Oakland by a brilliant start by Justin Verlander, Washington by a bullpen meltdown.

It happens every October, or at least seems to. Just when one team appears to have seized momentum with a dramatic comeback or frantic finish that leaves the other side devastated, the roles get reversed.

``For me, I don't really believe in that kind of stuff,'' St. Louis infielder David Freese said. ``We're all professionals here and you wake up the next day no matter what happened previously and you grind it out. ... As far as momentum, I think both teams just battle and you just play it out. And then if it doesn't work out one night you get a good night's sleep and you show up the next day ready to go.''

If there's anyone who would be a believer, it could be Freese. He helped the Cardinals deny Texas a World Series title a year ago that seemed firmly in the Rangers' grasp.

With the Cardinals down to their final strike in Game 6, Freese hit a two-run triple with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Neftali Feliz to tie the game. Josh Hamilton replied with a two-run homer in the 10th only to have St. Louis tie it in the bottom half. Freese then forced Game 7 when he led off the 11th with a homer against Mark Lowe.

The Cardinals then won it all the next night in Game 7, overcoming an early two-run deficit to win 6-2.

There are plenty of other examples l- from the New York Mets' improbable Game 6 rally that led to a World Series title in 1986 to Kirby Puckett's walkoff homer in Game 6 in the 1991 World Series that was followed by Jack Morris' 10-inning shutout that game the Minnesota Twins the title over Atlanta.

That was perhaps the best example of former Baltimore manager Earl Weaver's mantra that ``momentum is the next day's starter.'' That proved true again this year when Verlander beat Oakland 6-0 in Game 5 a night after the Tigers blew a 3-1 lead in the ninth inning.

``I don't want to sound casual about this kind of stuff, because don't get me wrong, the game broke our heart,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before the Game 5 win. ``But at the same time you learn over the years that, like I always use the expression, you can't chew yesterday's breakfast.''

CC Sabathia did the same for the Yankees when he threw a four-hitter to beat Baltimore 3-1 in Game 5 the day after New York lost in 13 innings.

St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, one of this era's most accomplished postseason pitchers with 10 career wins, doesn't buy into that theory. He points to his team's Game 5 win in the last round when Adam Wainright fell into a 6-0 hole before St. Louis rallied to win in the ninth.

``I think it's how you play each game,'' he said. ``Nobody expected Adam to go out and give up six runs in one inning or two, whatever. And we still won that game. There's no question it might set the tone a little bit. At this time of the year everything matters. It doesn't matter who's starting, what's going on. You need breaks, you need a little luck and you need to go out and do the things the right way. So I don't buy into anything.''

Since the start of the expanded playoffs in 1995, teams are 53-35 in the postseason in games following a victory when they scored the winning run in the ninth inning or later, according to STATS LLC.

But teams are just 2-6 so far this postseason in those situations. That includes San Francisco's Game 3 extra-inning win in Cincinnati that started the Giants' comeback from a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-five series.

``If you look at our series with Cincinnati, I mean we looked dead in the water here,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``I don't think a lot of people had us going in there and winning three. You win one game and it can switch. We have one hit for nine innings, but we found a way to win that ballgame. You saw the confidence grow with the ballclub and they found a way to win the next two. You always want to try to build up momentum, and if it doesn't happen for you, you want to stop it.''

Quick Links

Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

Adam Eaton calls Todd Frazier ‘childish’ after the ex-teammates get into it again

NEW YORK -- Normal is not something the Nationals do this season.

Monday’s pivot from the mundane -- an otherwise run-of-the-mill 5-3 baseball game -- came when Adam Eaton was jogging toward the visitors dugout in the bottom of the third inning when he stopped to respond to New York third baseman Todd Frazier, whom Eaton said was chirping at him all night.

This is not new. The two were teammates on the Chicago White Sox in 2016 and did not get along. Last year, Frazier and Eaton also had an exchange. The one Monday night at Citi Field prompted several members of the Nationals to hop over the dugout railing while Frazier and Eaton were being restrained near the first base bag. First base umpire Mike Estabrook cutoff Eaton who was walking toward Frazier after initially heading to the dugout following a 4-6-3 double play which ended the inning for the Nationals. When Frazier came toward the Mets dugout from his position at third base, the two began their spat.

Afterward, Frazier declined to comment in the Mets’ clubhouse, saying only, “It was nothing.” Eaton took the opportunity to expound on his displeasure with the incident, its continuation and Frazier himself.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Eaton said. “Gosh, who knows what goes through that guy’s mind? He’s chirping all the way across the infield. He must really like me, [because] he wants to get my attention it seems like every time we come into town, he really cares what I think about him. I don’t know what his deal is, if he wants to talk to me in person or have a visit or what it is. But he’s always yelling across the infield at me, making a habit of it.

“He’s one of those guys who always says it loud enough that you hear it but can’t understand it. So, he’s making a habit of it. I ignored him a couple times chirping coming across, but I had it to the point where I’m not going to say the saying I want to say but you got to be a man at some point. So, I turned around, had a few choice words with him. It’s funny, I was walking towards him, he didn’t really want to walk towards me but as soon as someone held him back then he was all of a sudden he was really impatient, like trying to get towards me. Just being Todd Frazier. What’s new?”

Asked if he is surprised such exchanges are still happening three years after they played together, Eaton said he was.

“Yes, absolutely,” Eaton said. “He’s very childish. I’m walking with my head down, play’s over, I’m walking away. I can still hear him. I’m a 30-year-old man with two kids, got a mortgage and everything. He wants to loud talk as he’s running off the field. At the end of the day, I got to be a man about it. I tried to stay patient with the childishness, but it is what it is. I got to stand up eventually.”

He did, and what could have been merely Game 47 for a struggling team turned out to be something else.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS

 

Quick Links

Patrick Corbin’s rough beginning a hole Nationals can’t emerge from

corbin-mets-loss.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Patrick Corbin’s rough beginning a hole Nationals can’t emerge from

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 5-3, Monday to drop their record to 19-28. Here are five observations from the game…

1. A wondrous, very Mets day preceded the game.

Their general manager, Brodie Van Wagenen, held a press conference to announce...Yoenis Cespedes -- already out because of dual heel surgeries -- suffered multiple ankle fractures during a ranch accident over the weekend. Van Wagenen then went on to profess his support for maligned New York manager Mickey Callaway -- for the most part. Last, and most important to writers, three boxes of donuts were in the press box with a note: “Have a great series! -- BVW”.

Things are always a little different in Flushing. That was a problem for the Nationals.

In what could be labeled a “reverse-lock” situation, Washington’s $140 million starter, Patrick Corbin, was outpitched by unknown and often ineffective Wilmer Font, whom the Nationals smacked around just five days ago. The Nationals, as they often do, dragged themselves back into the game after trailing 4-0. A Juan Soto single drove in Anthony Rendon in the eighth to cut the lead to 4-3. Rendon was on base four times.

And, again, it was just enough to produce a close loss. Washington put two runners on with none out against dynamic New York closer Edwin Diaz before Kurt Suzuki flew out, Trea Turner grounded into a fielder's choice and Adam Eaton flew out.

The Nationals drop to nine games under .500 following one-run and two-run defeats. They also fell to 2-14 in series openers.

2. A rough, short evening for Corbin.

He trudged through the night on 98 pitches. Corbin lasted just five innings. He walked three, gave up four earned runs, struck out seven.

His night was a mess early. Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso homered in the first inning. Two walks in the third -- one with two outs -- led to two more runs scoring. He zipped through the fourth and fifth before being removed.

Corbin has endured two blowups this season in an otherwise quality first two months: Monday and April 29 against St. Louis. The latter outing featured four walks and a homer allowed against one of the league’s better offenses. Monday’s bad outing came against a Mets lineup which did not feature Robinson Cano to start and entered the evening 21st in wOBA.

Bad timing. Bad night.

3. Tanner Rainey made his Nationals debut Monday. He was interesting.

Rainey gave up a hustle double to pinch-hitter Cano -- yes, hustle and Cano -- but otherwise showed a sharp fastball-slider combination.

Rainey was the return for Tanner Roark in the offseason trade that sent Roark to Cincinnati during the Winter Meetings.

He has command trouble. He also throws 98-100 mph with ease. Asked in spring training where that velocity comes from, Rainey said his legs and weight lifting. No secret sauce. He lifted more, he threw harder. And he subsequently repeated the process.

Rainey’s velocity will always intrigue. The question is if he can command his two-pitch arsenal enough to become an actual bullpen weapon. The baseline tools are there.

4. A shuffle in the relief corps is coming.

Tony Sipp (oblique) was activated from the 10-day injured list Monday. Dan Jennings was designated for assignment. That experiment is over. Jennings signed a minor-league contract April 15. He was in the majors April 30. He’s gone less than a month later. He did not pitch well.

The Nationals claimed right-handed Javy Guerra off waivers Monday. Guerra was designated for assignment by Toronto. Guerra pitched 14 innings for the Blue Jays this season, with a 3.86 ERA and 3.17 FIP. In other words, distinctly better than most in the Nationals bullpen.

Washington expects Guerra to arrive in New York on Tuesday. Kyle McGowin is likely to be sent back to Triple-A Fresno to make room. So, two fresh pitchers in the bullpen early in the week.

Trevor Rosenthal should also be back shortly. He is expected to throw an inning for Double-A Harrisburg on Tuesday. Rainey will likely be sent back to the minor leagues to make room there.

And, a situation in West Palm Beach, Fla., to keep an eye on: reliever Austen Williams had to be shut down to allow his shoulder to rest. Williams threw 40 pitches at the spring training facility the first week of May, when he appeared on his way back from the 10-day injured list. However, he has stopped throwing after experiencing further shoulder soreness. He was placed on the injured list April 19 because of a sprained right AC joint.

5. Matt Adams worked with the team on the field Monday, which he expects to do the next two days.

He’s on the verge of being activated before the week is out.

“I watched him [Monday] and he took some really good swings,” Martinez said. “We’ll see how he feels [Tuesday]. I’m assuming that he might be a little sore, because he did take some swings and he’s going to continue to do baseball activities [Monday]. But we’ll see how he feels.”

Adams’ 15-day absence has handcuffed Martinez in multiple ways. Take Sunday. Right-handed slider-thrower Steve Cishek on the mound. Left-handed hitters’ OPS against Cishek is 143 points higher than right-handers. But, no Adams meant no left-handed pinch-hitter.

Those issues should be over soon.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS

​​​​​​​