Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Game 33: Nats at Mets

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Back to Citi Field tonight for Game 2 between the Nats and Mets.
NEW YORK -- Nothing about Scott Olsen's performances through the majority of spring training suggested the left-hander was capable of retiring, let alone dominating, big-league hitters over an extended period of time.

Olsen, to be honest, looked finished. His fastball rarely hit 90 mph, and even when it did, opposing hitters battered it around the park. I keep thinking back to his March 23 start against the Tigers in Lakeland, when he gave up six runs and 12 hits in only 4 1/3 innings, retiring only 12 of 25 batters faced. Worse, Jim Riggleman felt afterward that was "the best he's thrown" all spring.

Boy, were we all wrong. When he takes the mound tonight against the Mets, Olsen will carry with him a 2-1 record, 3.54 ERA and one earned run allowed over his last 20 1/3 innings. The turnaround has been remarkable. For one thing, he's throwing better pitches than he did all spring, combining a well-located fastball that now regularly tops 90 mph with a sharp-biting slider and an effective changeup that have confounded opposing hitters.

Maybe more importantly, Olsen is pitching with purpose. As Riggleman puts it, it's like every pitch he throws is the most important one of his career. That strategy has worked well for Olsen his last three times out. Can he sustain it? We'll find out in a few hours when he returns to the mound at Citi Field.

Check back for updates throughout...

NATIONALS AT METS
Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
TV: MASN-HD
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of rain, 54 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
STARTING LINEUPS
NATIONALS (18-14)
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
SS Ian Desmond
RF Willy Taveras
P Scott Olsen

METS (17-15)
CF Angel Pagan
2B Luis Castillo
SS Jose Reyes
LF Jason Bay
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
RF Jeff Francoeur
C Rod Barajas
P Jonathan Niese

7:11 p.m. -- We're underway with a strike from Jonathan Niese to Nyjer Morgan. It's overcast but no rain ... yet.

7:16 p.m. -- Just when you thought Adam Dunn would never, ever swing at a 3-0 pitch ... he clobbers one from Niese down the right-field line for a three-run homer. Nothing wrong with having the green light there. Dunn knew Niese didn't want to walk the bases loaded for Josh Willingham, so he zeroed in on a fastball, got it and then mashed it over the fence. Nats lead 3-0.

7:25 p.m. -- Looks like Scott Olsen is picking up right where he left off. Cruised through the bottom of the first, only nine pitches (six strikes).

7:34 p.m. -- Cristian Guzman has drawn a walk in consecutive innings. I repeat: Cristian Guzman has drawn a walk in consecutive innings. Film at 11.

7:44 p.m. -- Brief moment of panic there for the Nats. David Wright smoked a comebacker off Scott Olsen's left ankle, and the pitcher stayed on a ground for a while in pain. But he appears to be OK and remains in the game.

7:52 p.m. -- A scary second inning for Olsen turns out OK. He rebounded from the comebacker to make a nice play on Ike Davis' grounder back up the middle, starting a 1-6-3 double play. Jeff Francoeur did send a single to left to bring home one run, but Olsen shook that off to get out of the inning without allowing anything more. He continues to pound the strike zone: 22 of 30 pitches so far. Nats lead 3-1 after two.

8:08 p.m. -- So, of course after writing about how bad the Nats' right fielders have been at the plate, Willy Taveras is 2-for-2.

8:33 p.m. -- For those interested in Jason Marquis' rehab start tonight at Potomac ... he allowed three runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings. All three runs and five of the hits came in the second inning against Winston-Salem. Marquis also walked one batter and hit another. More details in another item I just posted on the homepage.

8:37 p.m. -- Another big hit for Pudge Rodriguez brings home two more runs, puts the Nats up 5-1 and knocks Niese from the game in the fifth inning. Rodriguez is 1-for-3 tonight, so his batting average has actually dropped from .393 to .391.

8:42 p.m. -- Ian Desmond's overall numbers may not look spectacular, but he's coming through with big hits when the Nats need them. With an RBI single just now, he put his team up 6-1 in the fifth. Desmond's batting average with runners in scoring position: .364. His average in all other situations: .203.

9:01 p.m. -- Scott Olsen is nowhere near as sharp tonight as he was in his last three starts. But he's finding a way to get outs when he needs to. Despite eight hits allowed in five innings, the Mets have scored only once. Nats still lead 6-1 heading to the sixth.

9:41 p.m. -- Nice relief work from Tyler Walker and Doug Slaten, keeping the lead at 6-2 after seven. Walker came on for Olsen in the sixth and retired both batters he faced. Slaten then pitched the seventh and despite putting two men on got out of it thanks in large part to a double-play grounder, with a nice turn from Ian Desmond. If they can maintain this four-run lead, the Nats might be able to avoid "Clip 'n' Save" for a second straight night.

9:57 p.m. -- Or not. Brian Bruney can't retire any of the three batters he faces in the eighth (a single, a double and an Ian Desmond error) so here comes Tyler Clippard to try to bail the Nats out once again. It's 6-3 with two on, nobody out and Jeff Francoeur at the plate. Hold your breath.

10:08 p.m. -- The bad news: We're now tied. The good news: Clippard now has a chance to improve to 7-0.

10:12 p.m. -- We're no longer tied. With their fourth straight hit off Clippard, the Mets have taken a 7-6 lead, knocking the almighty setup man out of the game. Miguel Batista coming on to try to clean this mess up. Even if Batista gets out of it, the Nats will be facing K-Rod in the ninth. Due up: Willingham, Pudge, Desmond.

10:18 p.m. -- Did someone turn back the clock to 2009 without telling me? Sheesh.

10:24 p.m. -- Not sure what angle MASN has on this replayed foul ball/home run by Ike Davis, but the SNY broadcast shows it's clearly foul.

10:34 p.m. -- A heartbreaking, 8-6 loss for the Nationals. First real crushing loss of the season. Very 2009-esque with the bullpen and defensive meltdown. Now we'll see how they handle this. Do they come back strong tomorrow and brush it off, or do they let this turn into something bigger?

53 comments:

NatsFaninTexas said...

Tomorrow being a day game after a night day, we should see Nieves in the lineup. Then for on Thursday it looks like Pudge will be catching Lannan for the first time since opening day.

Section 222 said...

Great. Willy Taveras is rewarded for his excellent baserunning last night with a start in RF. Let's hope this is a "show us something or you're going down when Morse is ready" message.

BowdenBall said...

STARTING LINEUPS
NATIONALS (18-14)
...
RF Willy Taveras
...


Eww. Gross.

It's hard enough to score runs with only eight productive lineup spots. Why are we gonna try to do it with seven?

Jack T. in Florida said...

This has to be a farewell appearance for Willy T.

I cannot imagine he gets to stick with Morse ready to come down from Syracuse.

Natsochist said...

If they're going to start Taveras, I'd like to see them do it when Livo's pitching -- then put Livo 8th and Taveras 9th in the order. Livo's not a terrible hitter, for a pitcher, and at least that way they've got speed in front of Nyjer if Taveras happens to get on base.

aspenbubba said...

Mark,

What happened with Guzman playing RF? He played a few games and then went back to platooning in the IF.I never saw anything written by either you or Adam.

Mark Zuckerman said...

AspenBubba: Funny you should bring Guzman up, because I just asked Riggleman about that a few minutes ago. Said he did consider starting Guzie in RF tonight but was worried about putting him out there with the windy conditions. I wouldn't be surprised to him back out there sometime in the near future, especially against LHP.

Souldrummer said...

It's not in the blog list, but there's a nice article on Clippard in the New York Times today.
Here's the link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/sports/baseball/11clippard.html?hpw

Doc said...

Couple things Mark. First, Olsen has never pitched this well in his MLB career. Pudge says its locating his fastball, but that hard slider is totally impressive.

Second, Guzman's bat, R or L, is better than those clowns that are playing in RF. Riggleman and Co. are missing a bet not playing him more there.

Aeoliano said...

Guzman's OBP is now at .314. His SLG is .384. OPS .698.

Well below Willie Harris?

I suspect that when Morse comes up there will be some pressure on Riggleman to put Morse in to see if he helps the offense. Batting Guzman third when Zimmerman was out must have contributed greatly to the current shortage of offense.

If Morse comes in and immediately starts hitting you'll be seeing Guzman at 2nd base with Bernadina and Morse in right

Souldrummer said...

Doc appears to like the BA stat. Guz has zero pop, grounds into DPs never walks and will play bad defense in RF. We are using Guzman too much for my tastes right now. Kennedy had a nice night last night and is rewarded for it with another ride on the pines.

Section 222 said...

Soul -- Thanks for that link to the NY Times piece on Clippard.

Souldrummer said...

No worries, man. The stuff about how we tried to change his delivery was helpful.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Why has Morse been out so long? Is his injury much much worse than they thought at the time (when he claimed he didn't need to go on the DL), or are they just hiding him in the minors to avoid making decisions on the 40 man?

Positively Half St. said...

Hah- I was trying to get on to sak that we have a laugher tonight, and then Dunn creams one. It is not a laugher yet, but just a start.

Joe said...

Dunn - swinging on 3-0? Beautiful

Matt said...

Guzman walks twice... in 1 game?!

Aussie Guy said...

Taveras hits twice... in 1 game?!

Aeoliano said...

Taveras 4 RBI's were against the Mets earlier in the season. Maybe Riggs is smarter than we think? And he was safe as 2nd. Umpire missed that. He was straddling the bag not touching it and did not have control of the ball. Thus sayeth former Mets pitcher Darling Mets color man.

Souldrummer said...

@Nervous
I think the issue is that both Morse and Taveras are out of options so that they want to maximize Morse's 20games of allowed rehab before they DFA one of the two of them.

K.D. said...

Atta Boy, Pudge! I don't think any of the options at right field have had a chance to get comfortable. Everyone is sweatin' and trying to do too much at the plate.

K.D. said...

That's Mr. Olsen to you Mets fans. Nice job.

Anonymous said...

Olsen did NOT look happy being taken out. Pretty sure I saw a "that's f@#$in bull$%!t." Nice.

JayB said...

Yea that was classic....he is a hot head but so much better than when he was "young"....I remember some huge blow ups with the Fish....

Aeoliano said...

@souldrummer,

Mike Rizzo himself said that if they DFA Morse he would be claimed. He categorically stated that he would return to the active roster.

If its true its Riggleman asking for Taveras. Its pretty clear Riggleman has his favorites. Right now he is trying to finagle a way to convince Rizzo to let him replace Olsen in the rotation with his 'fav' Batista.

Will said...

Even with a four run lead, I know better than to leave the sound on when Bruney comes in. CUT THIS CLOWN.

Anonymous said...

Anybody but Bruney!!! I'd take the afroementioned Joey Eischen over Bruney!

Aeoliano said...

Darling said that it was a pretty crappy play by Desmond on an easy ground out. He had time to set and thrown instead of hurrying it.

Back to Clip 'n Save.

Aeoliano said...

And who suggested Willingham in right field? Yikes. The snooze alarm just went off.

Waddy eye no said...

LOSE BRUNEY!!!!!

Janner33 said...

Dear Mr. Bruney. Go Home. Please. Just go.

Aeoliano said...

Uh Clipp may need relief Riggs ... too late ... the Mets bring on their closer now.

Aeoliano said...

10 - 6 Mets: Here comes Batista ... Riggs go-to guy. Lose Bruney? How about this guy ... sigh ... just coming off allowing a homer last night, now has four with plenty of walks to go with it ...

If you lose Bruney, you lose Batista (how did he make this team anyway? Had to be Riggleman ... ), and you lose Bruney. Walker is looking better.

Aeoliano said...

IBB : here comes the Batista special: grand slam.

Aeoliano said...

I'll take Bruney over Batista every single time.

rmoore446 said...

OMG, this is like a flashback to last year--lousy defense and worse bullpen. Yes, cut Bruney...and why no defensive substitution for Willingham with the big lead?

Aussie Guy said...

Aeoliano... who are you talking to?

Natsochist said...

Mark - MASN broadcast showed it clearly foul as well. Dibble chewed out Davis for his "WHAT?!?" reaction after a whopping 1-2 weeks in the big leagues.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Oh man, that was close. Also, I guess Clippard got a taste of his own medicine there from Batista. Hopefully all those stories about the 2005 meltdown did not jinx them for the rest of the season.

Aeoliano said...

Biggest comeback of the year for the Mets. Just great ... really just great.

K.D. said...

That might be it for the Bruney audition. Got to come back strong tomorrow, set the tone. No slacking on get-away day.

Doc said...

Be strong Nats fans! We shall overcome!

Anonymous said...

It all started when Nyjer let that routine pop drop between him and Guzman. We all love Morgan, but that was totally, totally unacceptable, and set the tone for the rest of the night.

LoveDaNats said...

Bruney. The Hanrahan of the 2010 Nats. Do you think the Pirates might want him?

Anonymous said...

This loss can be blamed on many people, but it's mostly Riggleman's fault. Him taking Olsen out in sixth was just stupid.

rmoore446 said...

Let Bruney figure it out in AAA. He's had enough chances here. Time to bring up our reliever phenom and, while we're at it, bring up Morse. I'm tired of the banjo-hitting Bernadina and Taveras in right field.

rmoore446 said...

I agree with Anonymous 10:42 about Nyger's screw-up on the pop drop. He looks like a world-beater for much of the time but then loses concentration or something and makes a bush play. He's a little better than half-baked but that under-done side keeps turning up. Really, several of the team lost focus tonight at times, almost as if they were spoiled by the big lead.

Anonymous said...

I blame Zuckerman. He dredges up memories of the Nats bullpen imploding and blowing a big lead late the last time they were four over .500 in 2005, and then they go and do it again tonight. Mark, this is not what people made all those contributions to you for.

The Great Unwashed said...

Bruney:

Ball, ball, base hit.
Ball, ball, base hit.
Ball, ball, base hit.

Seems like the only strikes he throws are hittable. Why is this guy still on the roster?

Section 222 said...

Actually, I'd say this loss is Sept. 18, 2005-esqe. :-)

Sunsince_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Nicely said, Sec. 222. There was every nightmare out there tonight with the exception fo Khalid Greene.

Evem my bourbon and Maalox isn't touching this heartburn tonight.

Anonymous said...

I'm okay with Morgan; he makes for interesting [?] baseball. But Bruney? No thank you. Get the hook, and then a train ticket. But seriously, in spite of recent performance, pitching reliability and depth are the gaping holes with this club, IMHO, and I'm hopeful and patient.

natsfan1a said...

Does seem as though the miscommunication with Morgan was a turning point. On the other hand, I was with Olsen on his getting pulled (although I phrased my concern differently than he did as I addressed my tv set ;-)).

Have to admit that was a great catch by Drama Boy (What? That's a HR! OMG, I can't believe this! My life sucks!) to end it.

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