Nationals pitcher Tyler Walker has bounced back from a slow start to spring training. He put his latest resurgence on display Wednesday night during the Phillies 8-4 win.
Walker retired six consecutive Phillies hitters in the 5th and 6th innings. During that run he prevented the Phils from tacking on to a 6-3 advantage. The line was impressive: 2 innings, no hits, no runs, no walks and three strikeouts of Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins.
Shortstop Ian Desmond started his post game comments by praising his new teammate's performance:
"You know it is impressive what Walker did tonight. I think that is going to be overlooked. You know it is probably not easy to pitch against your former team for the first time. He went out there and he dealt. He gave it to them. That was good to see."
You see Tyler was with the Phils for awhile last year, pitching in 32 games, finishing 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA. He had 2 stints with the Phils during 2009 but was not on the team's playoff roster. Tyler is the best person to ask when it comes to breaking down the Phillies.
"The name of the game is throwing strikes. You have to get ahead of these hitters. They are best hitters in the world. If you get ahead of them (with) strike one, the average goes down dramatically.
They are like anyone else, if you get ahead of them, you can put them away later. It felt good to go out there and throw some strikes.
It helps being able to see them a little bit. But it all comes down to execution of pitches. The flip side of that is they know what I am going to throw too."
Walker was signed by the Nats as a free agent on January 28th. But in spring training he struggled early, ending up allowing 5 HRs and 13 earned runs. But one key statistic should not be overlooked: he allowed 1 walk and struck out 10 in 9 1/3 innings. Tyler started to get into a rhythm and pitched better as March rolled along. He made the team out of Viera.
When comparing tonight to how things started for him in spring training, Tyler said "It is almost like ignorance is bliss. Just throw your nose to the grind stone. Fix what your doing wrong. In my opinion, you are only as good as your next time out there. Tonight is over and I am only going to be as good as what happens tomorrow."
Tyler's best advice came when asked how to get out power hitter Ryan Howard who seems to sting the Nationals in every game he plays.
"You definitely can't get into a particular pattern with him. He goes in stages of being ultra hot. When he is hot there are not many holes in his swing. When he is not going well you have to take advantage of those times. What it comes down to his execution of pitches. When he hits a good pitch, tip your hat. But if he hits a bad pitch (then) you have to make the adjustment and make the correction.
I don't think he is hitting great pitches right now. I think he is hitting bad pitches. We have to throw better pitches right now. Bottom line."
One of the main problems when facing the Phillies is not in facing Ryan Howard, it is the rest of the lineup that can soften you up by extending at bats and tiring starters out.
Tyler agreed: "They are pretty balanced. Chase (Utley) is going to grind you out and where you down. Typical of what they do was opening day to John Lannan. They grinded him down a little bit and John makes a mistake to Howard and he hits a homer. It is a well balanced lineup and you have to just attack them in the strike zone."