Thursday, April 8, 2010

Game 3: Nats vs. Phillies

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals look to avoid a season-opening sweep this afternoon.
A lot of things have gone wrong for the Nationals in the last 72 hours. But here's one thing that's gone right: The cherry blossoms have been in perfect bloom all week.

OK, so if that's the best thing they've got going for them, you know it's been a rough start to the season. But at least the weather's been great and those cherry blossom trees behind the left-field fence turned pink right on schedule for the first time since Nationals Park opened in 2008.

As for the on-field product ... well, the Nats had better hope Craig Stammen puts together a better start today than John Lannan or Jason Marquis did in Games 1 and 2. Stammen had a very encouraging spring. Healthy after pitching much of last season with bone chips in his elbow, the young right-hander had a very nice spring and legitimately earned his spot in the rotation. When he keeps his sinker down and has his breaking ball working as well, he's got a pretty solid groundball/strikeout combo that should be effective against even the Phillies' vaunted lineup.

Couple of lineup changes from Jim Riggleman, both expected. Cristian Guzman starts at shortstop and bats second, with Ian Desmond getting the day off. And Wil Nieves makes his first start behind the plate, giving Ivan Rodriguez a breather.

Check back for updates and analysis throughout the game, and check the homepage for other news and notes...

PHILLIES AT NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:35 p.m.
TV: MASN HD
Radio: WFED-1500 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 84 degrees, Wind 19 mph out to CF
STARTING LINEUPS
NATIONALS
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Willie Harris
2B Adam Kennedy
C Wil Nieves
P Craig Stammen

PHILLIES
SS Jimmy Rollins
3B Placido Polanco
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
RF Jayson Werth
LF Raul Ibanez
CF Shane Victorino
C Brian Schneider
P Kyle Kendrick

3:23 p.m. -- Some pregame items of note ... Ian Desmond isn't out of the lineup today because of any struggles so far. Jim Riggleman simply wants to get Cristian Guzman in the lineup. Riggleman said Desmond is likely to start at shortstop each of the next four days, with Guzman likely to get one start at second base and one start in right field this weekend against the Mets. ... Mike Morse's left calf injury isn't serious, but the Nats will try to avoid using him today. Riggleman said Morse would probably only be used in an emergency. He figures to return to the lineup in the next day or two, though.

4:36 p.m. -- One pitch, one out. Jimmy Rollins flies out to left. Late-arriving crowd here. Either that, or this is going to be a lightly attended ballgame. Rain, by the way, is heading in from the west. They're hoping it doesn't hit until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.

4:51 p.m. -- Didn't take long for the Nats to get on the board. For the third straight game, Nyjer Morgan leads off the bottom of the first and manages to reach at least third base (he tripled this time). Cristian Guzman immediately drove Morgan home with a first-pitch single up the middle. And Ryan Zimmerman roped a double off the left-field wall to put runners on second and third for Adam Dunn, who brings another run home with a grounder to the right side. Josh Willingham's sac fly completes the three-run inning and is perhaps the best example to date of the Nationals' lineup actually doing a good job of moving runners up and coming up with productive at-bats with men on base. Nats lead 3-0 after one.

5:12 p.m. -- Craig Stammen may not have dominating "stuff," but he's not afraid to go right after hitters. Through three innings, the right-hander has thrown 39 pitches, 23 of them strikes. He allowed a run in the second and another in the third, but he hasn't walked a batter and has recorded eight of his nine outs on groundballs. Good sign his sinker is working today. Nats lead 3-2 heading to the bottom of the third.

5:14 p.m. -- Be sure to check out this story I just wrote for CSNwashington.com on the way Guzman has embraced his new role as a utilityman.

5:37 p.m. -- Who says Nationals right fielders can't hit for power? Willie Harris just tattooed a hanging breaking ball from Kendrick into the right-center field bleachers for a two-run homer. Harris has always had surprising pop, and if given a chance to get 400 at-bats in a season could probably hit 15-20 homers. Nats now lead 5-2 in the fourth.

5:50 p.m. -- Nyjer Morgan covers a ton of ground in center field, but it doesn't do much good if he can't corral the ball. Morgan let what should have been a routine single by Placido Polanco get past him and turn into a run-scoring, two-base error. And when Ryan Howard added an RBI single two batters late, the Nats' lead was down to 5-4. Fortuantely for the Nats, Phillies third base coach (and former Orioles manager) Sam Perlozzo made a horrible call in waving Howard around third on Jayson Werth's third double of the game, then trying to hold him up too late. Howard wound up as dead meat in a rundown. So it's still 5-4 heading to the bottom of the fifth, with Jose Contreras now pitching in relief of Kendrick.

6:16 p.m. -- Craig Stammen certainly could have gone another inning, but perhaps Jim Riggleman sensed his starter was beginning to fade. So Stammen was out after the fifth, and Sean Burnett entered for the sixth. The problem: Burnett threw eight of his first 10 pitches for balls and walked both batters. Then Tyler Clippard plunked Ben Francisco on a 2-2 pitch, loading the bases for the top of the order. What could have been complete disaster, though, was only minor disaster when Clippard got a sac fly out of Jimmy Rollins and a groundball out of Placido Polanco. So it's now tied 5-5 heading to the bottom of the sixth.

6:50 p.m. -- Credit Clippard for getting five big outs without allowing another run to score and giving his teammates a chance to retake the lead. And retake the lead they did against Nelson "Softball Girl" Figueroa. Ryan Zimmerman delivers a two-out, bloop double just inside the right-field line, scoring Alberto Gonzalez. So the Nats are now up 6-5 heading to the eighth. They'll need six outs from some combination of Brian Bruney, Jesse English and Matt Capps in all likelihood. And with the bottom of the Phillies lineup batting in the eighth, you've got to believe Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will get their chance in the ninth. Stay tuned.

7:01 p.m. -- Despite putting two men on with two outs, Brian Bruney gets Polanco to ground out to escape the eighth. So the Nats will be three outs from their first victory of the season. Due up in the ninth for the Phillies: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth. Here's the question: Do you want Matt Capps against all three of those guys, or do you gamble with Jesse English (at least against the two lefties)? Fascinating dilemma for Riggleman.

7:12 p.m. -- It's Capps. Cue "The Final Countdown."

7:22 p.m. -- Nats win! Nats win! Despite a leadoff double to Utley and then an intentional walk to Howard, Capps manages to get Werth and Ibanez to fly out and then Victorino to pop out. Of Capps' 10 non-intentional balls, nine were strikes. Impressive.

57 comments:

Aeoliano said...

The only offense came from Desmond's bat? Riggleman's calls are confusing? I guess he will just absolutely refuse to bench Guzman. And throw 38-plus year old incendiaries to pitch against potent lineups like the Phillies.

I guess I'm confused? Do the Nats want to develop younger, read "cheaper" players? Or do they just want to cobble together a major league lineup from the scrap pile of other teams in order to put a product on the field to keep the turnstiles going?

Hopefully, in July it will be looking more like the first choice. Then at least something will be accomplished this year?

Knoxville Nat said...

Mark,

May I request one addition to your pre-game notes? In addition to listing the local TV and radio channels how about listing the XM radio signal that is carrying the game for us out of towners who want to listen to the ball game? Thanks for the great coverage of the Nats.

Anonymous said...

Knoxville, you can pull up the xm website and get the channel listings for all the games by going on the mlb link. JTinSC

Knoxville Nat said...

JT....thanks for the info I'll give that a look before leaving work today.

Aeoliano writes " Riggleman's calls are confusing?" Are you talking about playing Guzman at SS or are you referring to something else?

Moe Greene said...

What's confusing is that you don't understand the difference between a period and question mark.

Grandstander said...

I'm Ron Burgandy?

Anonymous said...

+1 grandstander

Sweetesq said...

Nice one, Grandstander.

Aeoliano said...

"Moe Greene said...
What's confusing is that you don't understand the difference between a period and question mark."

Aren't you dead? I thought my family put the hit on you in Vegas. Nothing worst than whining ghosts.

Aeoliano said...

are you referring to something else?

Starting pitching looks horrendous ...

Nationals' top two starting pitchers have combined to allow 11 runs and 15 hits in 7 2/3 innings. And these are supposed to be the two guys they don't have to worry about; PLUS 3 home runs already.

Middle relief, starting with Batista, does not look good.

Supposedly "the veterans" could be relied upon to be ready for the season? And so they were given holy absolution for poor springs? I think Martin, Thompson and Olsen easily pitched better than Batista, Hernandez and Marquis? It doesn't seem to matter that this team has finished dead last losing 100 games twice?

Putting Guzman may be fine and good but taking Desmond out does not seem to make any sense. He is by far the youngest of the "starting" infielders. He needs the most experience. He isn't going to get tired yet? Plus, he certainly is hitting, although he should definitely work on the strikeouts? Why not put Guzman at second base? He needs work there?

Are they intentionally setting themselves up to lose?

Greg P said...

MLB Trade Rumors is saying that the Mariners have dfa'd Ryan Langerhans to make room for Jesus Colome.

Didn't Langerhans play passable RF?

Souldrummer said...

No, no, no. Langerhand couldn't hit. He's a potential 4th outfielder because he's a defensive upgrade over some of the guys that we have who don't have experience. The RF situation must be addressed via trade. And that's why we're all JD Martin, Scott Olsen, Shairon Martis, and Matt Chico fans. Somebody needs to be convinced that one of our 4/5 starters is worth an OF risk. If I were going to bring anybody back, it would be Church.

Aeoliano said...

Its probably why Pittsburgh kept him on the roster instead of releasing him. They knew he had value to the Nats. Still like the BJ Upton idea. But the Rays are winning ... fat chance of that happening until there is an injury.

Aeoliano said...

And btw, I'm the Kodiak bear ...

Doc said...

Mark, is Riggleman 'sitting' Desmond because of the errors? What does Riggleman think of the issues that Desmond's errors entail?

Greg P said...

@Souldrummer Agreed, his mlb slash line looks mediocre at best. My memory is a bit fuzzy but I thought at the time of the trade he was an above replacement fielder who was making strides at the plate.

Anonymous said...

Cherry Blossoms islooking good? Is he a new callup? Can he get these guys out?

Anonymous said...

I am all for resting starters (particularly 38 year old catchers), but with the off day on Tuesday, and considering we havent won a game yet, do we really need to deviate from our "A lineup" and "rest" Desmond and Pudge already?

Joe said...

@Aeoliano

Desmond got the day off because he's a rookie and played a night game before an afternoon game. He needs the break. Not to mention Guzman is a switch hitter and Kendrick is a righty. It's the perfect day to give Desmond the day after having a fantastic day against a lefty yesterday. Desmond is obviously going to be an every day player, and he should be with his performance thus far. That does not mean that the 24 year old rookie won't get a few days off now and then.

Souldrummer said...

@Joe
Agreed, I don't have a problem with Desmond sitting today. He needs a mental break, especially after so much time standing on the infield while the Phillies batters pass through the turnstiles. I'm sure he'll get a chance to pinch hit today regardless.

Guzman played well and so far has handled things very professionally and deserves his at bats. Probably the next move is a day off for Kennedy during the Mets series. Guzman probably deserves two starts per week and tonight is as good as any for him.

JayB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JayB said...

Mark,

Yahoo lead news today with Nats opening day issue...over 800 posts in a few hours. Boz let the topic dominate his chat from Masters with Tiger on the course. Boz says Nats must apologize to fans and that the Group Sales decision was the BIG mistake and was all Kasten and he pushed it hard. Boz says that Kasten is Tone deaf on DC sports and still does not understand the market.

For what ever reason you want to focus on bad baseball....nothing new with the Nats for sure and not really newsworthy anymore. Even though your post is deeply lost under game stories .....it is tell getting more posts.....do you have plans to report on the Open Day Story further?

Anonymous said...

Yahoo story link?

Natsochist said...

@Anon 3:10: Enjoy. 1,021 comments as of the time of this posting.

alm1000 said...

How about a link to Boz's chat. I can never find the chats.

CW said...

Mark,

Any intel as to whether the Nats have talked with the Rockies to try to pry one of their surplus OFs? A guy like Spilborghs would be a nice and relatively cheap option for us, I think. Morse looks totally lost and Taveras and Harris are pinch hitters/pinch runners at best.

Souldrummer said...

For the JD Martin lobby. JD Martin is leading the Phillies AAA squad 3-2 in the bottom of the 4th. JD hit an RBI triple for his own cause. You may beat us in our own ballpark. Your fans may infest our stands. But no way, no way will we tolerate you messing with "the plan" in the minors by beating up on our Chiefs!

JayB said...

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/The-Phillies-fan-invasion-was-orchestrated-by-th?urn=mlb,232653

and

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2010/04/01/DI2010040102101.html

Good Stuff like...."he Nats handled Monday very badly. Kasten's only experience is of sports in Atlanta where he started working for Ted Turner when he was in his early-to-mid-20's. He still has a surprisingly poor feeling for the Washington area and seems tone deaf on some issues. When something blows up in your face as dramatically as the Opening Day fiasco, it should be a hint that you should try to get a better feel for your community before you invite thousands of Phillie fans, in buses, to your "home.""

6thandD said...

Put Guzman at 2b.

Walk off Walk said...

Proper punctuation: "Wil Nieves? Yes, Wil Nieves."

BarneyBear said...

Can JD Martin play right field? He'd have the arm, and he's 2-2 in Syracuse so far today...

Souldrummer said...

JD Martin hates these Phillies prospects and his bat is a weapon of hate.

NatinBeantown said...

I'd like honest responses to this, if you can:

Aside from Opening Day, when Nats fans could/would have filled the park on our own, what's the driving factor in attendance the other days? Is it dedication to the team, to the sport, or watching a winner? I read Chipper Jones comments about how this year was a pleasant change from when Braves fans are outnumbered in their own stadium (link below), and it got me thinking...

No one doubts that DC fans will show up when the team is winning, so the team takes the approach to suffer through the lean times and work to build a future winner, as opposed to a more painstaking effort to build a more loyal, less fairweather fan base. This is an approach with Stan K's fingerprints all over it in both cities. Stan's Atlanta teams were famous for not selling out Turner Field even for the playoffs.

Honestly, would DC support a non-winning team if it sensed the Ownership cared and was working hard to do everything they could to win now AND win later AND uphold the "public trust" by honoring their fanbase? DC and Atlanta have similar fairweather/transient reputations that don't necessarily support that. Just curious for people's thoughts as we wait for first pitch. (And Go Nats!)

http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-braves-blog/2010/04/05/chipper-wants-electricity-from-opening-day-crowd-to-continue/

Jim Webster said...

Nice article about Strasburg, Heyward and ... Zuckerman. Nice going, Mark.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/04/12/100412fa_fact_mcgrath

Anonymous said...

@NatinBeantown

I think DC can clearly support a baseball team better than Atlanta if it is even reasonably competitive. Just look at 2005 when they had 2.5 million fans. It is tough to be patient, and this team just had to build from square one as far as a farm system because of the way MLB ran (them into the ground) them before the Lerners. Have the Lerners and Kasten done a great job, probably not. There is a lot of room for improvment there as well. But I am pretty sure if the nats fielded an 80-85 win team that was in the hunt into August every year, they would post that 2.5m in attendance every year as well.

This town even puts in pretty good attendence numbers for the Wiz, and they are a god awful embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

"http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2010/04/01/DI2010040102101.html

Good Stuff like...."he Nats handled Monday very badly. Kasten's only experience is of sports in Atlanta where he started working for Ted Turner when he was in his early-to-mid-20's. He still has a surprisingly poor feeling for the Washington area and seems tone deaf on some issues. When something blows up in your face as dramatically as the Opening Day fiasco, it should be a hint that you should try to get a better feel for your community before you invite thousands of Phillie fans, in buses, to your "home.""

Sorry, JayB. That's not Boswell saying the group sales were all Kasten and that Kasten pushed it hard. Learn to read. Then learn to write.

Anonymous said...

"Honestly, would DC support a non-winning team if it sensed the Ownership cared and was working hard to do everything they could to win now AND win later AND uphold the "public trust" by honoring their fanbase?"

No. They did not support the Capitols when they were bad and when Leonsis was dismantling the team and spending years rebuilding from the bottom up. Now the Caps are winning, and the fans are supportive and think Leonsis is God. The fickle Washington fans have very short memories.

JayB said...

How about..."I knocked Stan last year for going on the radio in Philly with his "come on down" pitch. A total miss-read of Washington. I know he read it. I guess he's stubborn and didn't like the message; so the Nats ticket people __doing their job as ordered__ doubled down on the original mistake." ....did not want to paste the whole thing....it is full of stuff like this....lots of Stan and Lerner bashing this week from BOZ...look at end for the comment from "out of town High level Exce who walked the park with Boz....Oh and stop being such a jerk who not?

Anonymous said...

Ok, I won't complain, 3-0 after 1 inning is great Keep it up! (But could it have been bigger if Dunn and Willingham took those 3-0 pitches??)

Let's go Nats!!

Anonymous said...

I am still confused by the outrage about Opening Day!? Just look at Opening Day and look at last night's crowd..WAY DOWN in attendance that is what you would have gotten on Opening Day without the Phillies in town!

NatinBeantown said...

Anon 4:51...
Agreed on the great start. I think Dunn and Hammer are going to be aggressive, since they'll not see many strikes with the Harris-Kennedy-Nieves-pitcher chasm behind him.

JayB said...

Wrong...sold out or very very close to sell outs for each year in the new park....this year would have been a sell out for sure with the weather being so nice....Stan and Nats blew it big time. Everyone knows it...likely they know it...just to small to admit it.

Pete said...

3-1 Nats giddyup

Anonymous said...

They're not promoting the club at all. Recall Orioles at Farragut Square? Can you say Tyson's Corner?

NatinBeantown said...

...and Willie tells me where I can stick my "chasm"!

Sec314 said...

Stammen is working fast and attacking hitters (take note Garrett Mock). I'll bet that slugger JD Martin is doing the same thing in AAA

Jaumiusk said...

http://mlb.fanhouse.com/2010/04/07/eugenio-velez-wears-san-francicso-giants-jersey/?ncid=txtlnkusspor00000002
Reminds of of something, no...?

Dave said...

Ah, Nyjer! Overrunning that ball in CF was really, really not good!

It remains 5-4 Nats, but it shouldn't be that close.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

So much for my big dreams of a quality start.

Dave said...

A rough appearance by Burnett. Very disappointing.

Anonymous said...

JayB said: "For what ever reason you want to focus on bad baseball....nothing new with the Nats for sure and not really newsworthy anymore. Even though your post is deeply lost under game stories .....it is tell getting more posts.....do you have plans to report on the Open Day Story further?"

I TOTALLY agree with you, JayB. I don't want to hear ANYTHING more about baseball from this site. Ever. Please Mark, change the name to How-the-Philly-Fans-Overtook-Nats-Park-and-are-Now-Overtaking-the-Nats-Blogs-too. I only want to hear about every other team's FANS. Whatever you don't, please Mark, do NOT report on baseball. That's NOT what we're interested in.

Does your mom ever let you out of the basement, JayB, or does she just leave your Pepsi and Ring Dings at the top of the steps and close the door?

Mrs. Z. said...

Bottom of the 8th--is it too early to start hoping?

LoveDaNats said...

Victory is SWEET!!

Section 109 said...

WE WON! This is terrific! Sure changes my mood!

leslie said...

As you see, only better and better......
gogogo...NATS gogogo...

Tcostant said...

For the record I disagree with the 6:09pm post, I'd like the info you provide in how the Phils took over Nats Park. That is real reporter stuff and while I enjoy coming ti this site. Keep up the good work Mark.

hondo69 said...

Jim Webster, thanks for the link to that New Yorker piece. It was very enjoyable!

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