Harper vs Trout Top Five:
5. Quick Recap: Los Angeles Angels' right-hander Garrett Richards was dealing with some sort of control issue or grip issue in the fourth inning as he walked the first two batters he faced, throwing a few pitches to the backstop in the process, and he hit Jayson Werth in the third at bat, loading the bases and prompting some complaints from the Washington Nationals' 34-year-old outfielder. Werth went hard into second, drawing stares from LA shortstop Erick Aybar, but the Nats' outfielder broke up what might have been a double play off Adam LaRoche's bat as Denard Span scored from third on the play to make it 1-0 Nationals early in the first game of three for the Angels in D.C.
Nationals' starter Tanner Roark threw 6 2/3 scoreless against the Angels, handing the ball to Drew Storen, who recorded the final out of the top of the seventh on a fly to center by LA's center fielder Mike Trout.
Roark's Line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 105 P, 63 S, 9/4 GO/FO.
Albert Pujols grounded up the middle in the top of the eighth, where Ian Desmond got a glove on it, but misplayed the ball for his eighth error of the season. Nats' right-hander Tyler Clippard got two outs, but with Pujols on third, Angels' shortstop Erick Aybar singled through the right side of the infield to tie things up at 1-1. Clippard walked Chris Iannetta to load the bases with two down and pinch hitter Raul Ibanez cleared them with a three-run double to left-center field that made it 4-1 LA in the eighth.
Ian Desmond did what he could to make up for his costly eighth inning error, sending a solo shot out to center and into the Red Porch seats to make it a 4-2 game. That's how it ended.
4. Key Matchup: Through three+ seasons in the majors with the Los Angeles Angels, 22-year-old, 2009 1st Round pick Mike Trout has a .314/.402/.548 line with 78 doubles, 18 triples and 67 HRs in 354 games and 1,573 PAs, over which he's been worth a total of +22.8 fWAR.
Trout is coming off a .323/.432/.557, 39 double, nine triple, 27 HR campaign in 2013 in which he finished at +10.4 fWAR (up from +10.0 in 2012).
Bryce Harper was 19 when finished at +4.5 fWAR in his rookie campaign in 2012, posting a .270/.340/.477 line with 26 doubles, nine triples and 22 HRs in 139 games and 597 PAs. A knee injury cost the 20-year-old Harper a month on the DL last season and he made 100 fewer appearances at the plate than he did in his first year, as he put up a 274/.368/.486 line over 118 games and 497 PAs in which he hit 24 doubles, three triples and 20 HRs, finishing his second major league season at +3.8 fWAR, for a combined +8.3 fWAR in his first two campaigns.
While baseball's two young stars have been compared since the start, this week they face each other on the field for the first time and they talked with reporters who wanted to know what each of them felt of the constant comparisons:
Trout on Harper: 'He plays really hard, except for that lack of hustle the other day.' He talked to Bryce about it, Harper understood move.— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) April 21, 2014
Mike Trout speaking to media with a bunch of curly Ws behind him: pic.twitter.com/ZkMecixBDL— Chase Hughes (@chasehughesCSN) April 21, 2014
Mike Trout on what Harper skill he likes: "That he plays the game hard. Max effort every time. Except for the lack of hustle the other day."— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) April 21, 2014
Harper on comparing himself to Trout: "Not at all. I know I'm a damn good player. And he is, too."— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) April 21, 2014
Nats' manager Matt Williams was asked for his take on the comparisons of the two players before this afternoon's series opener in the nation's capital.
In particular, a reporter wondered if he worried at all that Harper would be pressing or would have to deal with added pressure with the matchup getting so much coverage.
"Bryce wants to get a hit every time up," Williams said. "Just like everybody else does. So, just because it's this series or Mike Trout, I don't think there's any added pressure on it. He's as passionate about the game as anybody. I don't see any issue with it. Certainly, like everybody else on the team, I want him to get a good pitch to hit and hit it and play. But the added stuff? I don't think so."
The comparisons, Williams admitted, are probably not fair for either of the two supremely-talented players.
"I don't think it's fair," the former major leaguer-turned-manager said. "Everybody brings a different set of tools to the table. And Bryce is one of our main guys and we rely on him. And the Angels rely on Mike. So, the comparison is natural I think because of all that's been written and all that's been documented and their timelines and all that, but it's probably a little unfair to compare them because they're two very different players. They both have exceptional tools and exceptionally high ceilings, but to compare them? I don't think Bryce compares himself to Mike or vice-versa and we certainly don't do that either."
Tonight in D.C., both players struck out in their first plate appearances, Trout looking at a 2-2 fastball from Tanner Roark and Harper swinging on a cut fastball inside from Angels' right-hander Garrett Richards.
Trout hit an opposite field single in his second at bat in the top of the third, but was doubled up on a 6-4-3 DP off Albert Pujols' bat.
Bryce Harper walked in his second at bat of the night, putting two runners on in front of Jayson Werth, but was thrown out at home one at bat later, with the Nats up 1-0, when Anthony Rendon grounded to first and Albert Pujols threw to the plate to get the second out of the inning.
Trout flew out to center in his third at bat, 1 for 3.
A pop to short by Harper on a 95 mph fastball from Richards left Harper 0 for 2 with a walk and K.
Trout's fourth at bat came with one on and two out in the seventh against Nationals' reliever Drew Storen, who got a fly to center to leave the Angels' outfielder 1 for 4 on the night.
Bryce Harper faced Angels' reliever Joe Smith in the bottom of the eighth, and grounded out, leaving him 0 for 3 with a walk and a K.
Trout's fifth at bat of the night came in the top of the ninth, and he improved to 2 for 5 with a hard-hit single through short.
3. Pujols 500: Albert Pujols hasn't faced the Washington Nationals since he left the National League to sign with the LA Angels before the 2012 season, but before that, in his time in St. Louis, the former Cardinals' slugger put up a .357/.456/.722 line with 16 doubles and 22 HRs in 65 games and 274 plate appearances against the Nats.
In Nationals Park, it gets even more ridiculous: .378/.500/1.027 line, 14 doubles and seven home runs in 12 games and 46 PAs. Pujols entered tonight's game two home runs short of 500 for his career with a shot at hitting that mark over the next three games.
Nationals' Manager Matt Williams was asked before today's game for his thoughts on Pujols the player and his impending milestone.
"It's not the homers," he said. "The 500 homers and beyond, wherever he gets to is not what sticks out to me. What sticks out to me is his ability to hit. So I would refer to him as a 'well-over .300 hitter with power'. Those guys are unique. Really unique. Because generally your sluggers, the guys that have the ability to hit the ball over the fence are more free swingers, but Albert's been -- since the day he got the big leagues -- he's been the consummate hitter, first and foremost. And that's why he's driven in 150 runs. Sluggers don't do that. They hit balls over the fence, but the ability to drive runs in like that is unique."
As for the the now-34-year-old 'well-over-.300 hitter with power" approaching 500 HRs?
"I think it's huge," Williams told reporters. "That's a lot of balls over the fence. It's a lot of them. I think that Albert's one of the great hitters of this generation. And like I said, the ability to not only hit home runs, but the ability to hit .330 and drive in 100+ every single year, that's saying something. That's the ultimate guy you want on your team, because he provides it all. Not to mention Gold Glove-caliber first base defense. He's played third. He's played the outfield. So he's versatile. Everybody thinks of his as a first baseman, but he's played all over the diamond. Wherever Tony [LaRussa] wanted him to play, he'd play. And regardless of where he played and being comfortable or uncomfortable, he hit all the time. So that takes great discipline and that's a great player."
Pujols went 0 for 4 on the night in his first game in D.C. as an Angel, but he reached on an error by Ian Desmond the last time up in the eighth and scored to tie it in what ended up being a four-run inning.
2. Row-ark: Coming off a less-than-stellar outing in Atlanta, Tanner Roark recovered last time out against the Miami Marlins, holding the Fish to seven hits, two walks and three earned runs in 6 1/3 IP in Marlins Park.
Tonight in the nation's capital, the 27-year-old right-hander started the game with a backwards K...
1st: Roark got Angels' left fielder J.B. Shuck looking with 92 mph 1-2 heater for the first out and K of the game in the opening frame. Center fielder Mike Trout took a 93 mph 2-2 fastball on the low outside corner for a called strike three that home plate ump Jordan Baker liked. Albert Pujols took a 1-2 fastball outside that just missed and he held back on a 2-2 slider outside before grounding out to third to end a 16-pitch first inning.
2nd: Tanner Roark's curve got a swinging K from Ian Stewart in the first at bat of the second. 3 Ks. Howie Kendrick robbed Denard Span of a hit with a range-y defensive play in the first, then singled to center with one down in the second. Roark got a pop to left from Brennan Boesch for out no.2, but Erick Aybar singled through the right side with two outs to send Kendrick around to third. Angels' catcher Chris Iannetta spit on a 2-2 bender, and took a full-count curve outside for a two-out walk. Garrett Richards stepped in with the bases loaded and K'd swinging at a 2-2 slider. 0-0 after two. 40 pitches for Roark.
3rd: J.B. Shuck grounded out to second in the first at bat of the third, but upon review it was ruled that he beat the covering pitcher to the bag by diving headfirst into first. Single. Mike Trout went the other way with a 2-2 four-seamer for an opposite field single in the next at bat, but got doubled up at second on a double play grounder off of Albert Pujols' bat. Shuck took third on the play, but was stranded there when Ian Stewart flew to center to end the third. 11-pitch frame, 51 after three.
4th: Howie Kendrick grounded out to second to start the fourth. Brennan Boesch gave Danny Espinosa some more work. Two quick outs. Erick Aybar doubled to the right field corner, leading Tanner Roark to walk Chris Iannetta so he could pitch to the opposing pitcher and Richards grounded out to second to end the Nats' right-hander's fourth scoreless frame after 18 pitches, with Roark up to 69 overall after four.
5th: J.B. Shuck flew out to center to start the 5th. Trout took a 91 mph 1-1 fastball to center for out no.2. Albert Pujols tore into a 2-1 fastball from Tanner Roark, but grounded out to Anthony Rendon, who jumped on the grounder and threw to first to end a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 5th by Roark, who was up to 78 pitches.
6th: Ian Stewart flew out to foul territory in left on a 1-1 fastball. Howie Kendrick hit a sharp one-hopper to Adam LaRoche at first for out no.2. Brennan Boesch went the other way with a 2-2 fastball, lining to left with two down, but Erick Aybar grounded out to Roark, who was up to 92 pitches after a 14-pitch frame.
7th: After Chris Iannetta grounded out to second, Tanner Roark threw a 2-2 fastball to pinch hitter David Freese that got the former Cardinals' infielder looking for out no.2. J.B. Shuck singled on a first-pitch fastball, at which point Matt Williams emerged from the dugout and took the ball from Roark. Drew Storen came on in relief to face Mike Trout, who flew out to center to end the inning.
• Tanner Roark's line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 105 P, 63 S, 9/4 GO/FO.
After Tanner Roark's strong performance tonight, #Nats SP over the last 4 games have worked to a 1.35 ERA (4 ER/26.2 IP) with 27 Ks— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 22, 2014
1. Tanner Roark Finds A Home: As MASN's Bob Carpenter noted after Tanner Roark completed a scoreless top of the sixth inning against the Angels in Nationals Park, the 27-year-old right-hander was up to 16 scoreless innings overall in the nation's capital going back to an outing last August 31st against the New York Mets in which he allowed one run in his first inning of work in relief of Dan Haren. Roark completed three more scoreless that night and threw seven scoreless against the Atlanta Braves in a September 17th start in D.C.
Tonight's outing against the Angels was Roark's first start at home this season after three road starts. By the time he was done with two outs in the seventh, he'd thrown 105 pitches. When Drew Storen got the final out of the inning, Roark was up to 17 scoreless frames.
Tyler Clippard took over on the mound in the top of the eighth with Albert Pujols up first. Pujols sent a grounder out to short that went off Ian Desmond's glove. E:6. No.8 for Desmond. Clippard got Ian Stewart swinging with a high fastball for out no.1, but Pujols stole second as his teammate struck out. Howie Kendrick stepped in with a runner in scoring position, and sent a sharp grounder to short that Ian Desmond got to before pocketing, or actually faking a throw to first, and throwing behind Pujols as he rounded third. Safe. Brennan Boesch popped to short left for out no.2, but Erick Aybar singled through the right side to tie things up at 1-1.
Raul Ibanez came up with the bases loaded and two down later in the inning and lined a three-run double to left-center field that game LA a 4-1 lead.
The Nationals got two on with two out in the eighth with Jayson Werth walking and Adam LaRoche singling to left. Anthony Rendon worked the count full and grounded out to first. Still 4-1 Angels.
Ernesto Frieri came on to close it out in the ninth and gave up a home run by Ian Desmond in the first at bat of the inning, 4-2, into the Red Porch seats. It wasn't enough. 4-2 final.
Nationals now 11-9