Friday, May 7, 2010

An impressive win, too

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Willie Harris gets mobbed by teammates after his game-winning single.
Not that Willie Harris isn't always motivated to win a ballgame, but when Scott Olsen nearly throws a no-hitter and then nearly watches it all go down the drain, the motivation to come through in the clutch ramps up to even higher levels.

"When they tied the game up, it's like you get that feeling in your stomach," Harris said. "Like: Damn, man. This guy just went out and did so well and he's going to
get a no-decision."

Thanks to Harris, Olsen's brilliant performance did not go to waste. With one deft swing of the bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, he lined a single past Braves second baseman Martin Prado and gave the Nationals a thoroughly satisfying 3-2 victory.

This was the kind of game the Nats simply had to win. You don't squander a pitching performance like Olsen's, even though they almost did. When Tyler Clippard entered with the bases loaded in the eighth and served up a two-run single to Jason Heyward, the life was sucked out of Nationals Park. A crowd of 17,131 thought it was about to witness history. Instead, all it got was another tense ballgame.

But give the Nats credit for finishing this one off and ending the night on a high note. Clippard played a big role in that, bouncing back from the two-run single to get a double-play grounder to end the eighth and then another double-play grounder with the bases loaded to end the ninth.

That set the stage for a walk-off victory, which the Nationals wasted no time producing. Adam Kennedy led off the ninth by drawing a walk. Ryan Zimmerman then roped a double to deep right off Peter Moylan (the same Atlanta reliever who gave up Zim's walk-off homer in the first game at Nationals Park two years ago).

Under normal circumstances, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham would have been due up next. But because Jim Riggleman subbed out both players for defensive purposes earlier, he was left with Alberto Gonzalez in the on-deck circle and Clippard in the hole. Not exactly Murderer's Row.

So Riggleman knew he needed to use his two best remaining bullets off the bench: Harris and Cristian Guzman. But in what order? With first base open, Braves manager Bobby Cox was certain to call for an intentional walk and set up a force at any base.

Because Cox was going with the right-handed Moylan, Riggleman elected to put the game in Harris' hands.

"It was almost a flip of the coin," the manager said. "I knew whoever I put up there was going to get walked. So I was going to put it on one of them, and I decided to put it on Willie."

After sitting cold on the bench most of the night, Harris had moved to the batting tunnel underneath the stands, alternating practice hacks with Wil Nieves.

"We always play this game where you just hit balls up the middle to the back of the cage," Harris said. "Tonight, fresh out of the cage, playing the game, up the middle, I go in the game and hit one up the middle. I told Wil, 'We've got to play this game every day!'"

If it leads to results like tonight's, every Nats player not in the lineup might crowd his way into the tunnel during every remaining game this season.

23 comments:

Sec3MySofa said...

More wigs! We're gonna need more wigs.

Anonymous said...

gotta read steinberg's wig quotes...damn thats funny

Witboy said...

I love how scrappy this team is. They have three major league relievers and the starting rotation can be generously described as "patchwork" (though it is really good to see how devastating olsen's slider has become). If they can continue to hover slightly above .500 until the the roster gets reinforced, they can become a real monster in the second half.

Witboy said...

It seems to me that the pitching staff in the second half of the season should look something like this:

SP: Stephen Strasburg
SP: Livan Hernandez
SP: John Lannan
SP: Scott Olsen
SP: A

RP: B (Long)
RP: C (Long)
RP: D (Mid)
RP: Sean Burnett (LEFTY)
RP: Drew Storen (Short)
RP: Tyler Clippard (Setup)
RP: Matt Capps (Closer)

A,B,C, and D would be some combination of four from the following:

Jordan Zimmermann
Ross Detwiler
Chien Ming Wang
Jason Marquis
Craig Stammen
Luis Atilano

I would hate to have make the decision of who gets the one extra starting slot and what two have to be sent down; but the most important thing is that Bruney, Batista, and Tyler Walker are all gone and we have a legit rookie stopper every five games.
This would make me very worried if i was an NL team with my eye on the wild card.

Avar said...

Brilliant performances by Olsen, Clippard and Harris. Really great to see what a cohesive team they are becoming. Love that they found the grit to pull this out.

One negative that I haven't heard anyone mention. Am I the only one that thought Bernadina pulled up on Heyward's hit and that if he laid out for it he could have caught it? I know it's risky; miss it and bases clear and 3 score instead of 2. But, I couldn't help but think - Willie Harris makes that catch.

An Briosca Mor said...

The best part about Harris's walk off hit was how as soon as it got out of the infield the whole Braves team realized the game was lost and just started walking off the field. No one played the ball, so it just rolled softly out and eventually died in mid center field, where it sat for the longest time, a speck of white in a field of green. I was hoping they would just leave it there, maybe until just before BP today. But alas, by the time I had walked around the concourse on my way out and stopped to take another view of the field it was gone.

Anonymous said...

I too thought Bernadina could of caught that hit. Oh well, things worked out.

This is another game Manny would of lost. He would of just stood there with that stoic stance of his....staring....doing nothing. It is so good to see a manager making moves, using his players like Riggs does. I see Manny is in last place again in Cleveland. 10-17. Oh, but he's a players manager. He has no talent. He's patient. He's good with the younger players. He's good with the Latin players. Blah blah blah. Good riddance

greg said...

witboy, we're not going to see zimmermann before september. rizzo has already said they're going to slow him down and keep him on schedule, which would have him ready at the end of august. doesn't make any sense to rush him.

Jeeves said...

Bernadina is considered an excellent defensive player. (Obviously not yesterday, but those things happen.) I find it frustrating that his poor day yesterday is emphasized whereas Zim's crucial error is barely mentioned. Awfully difficult for a kid to make an impression. I can't imagine the pressure he and Maxwell must feel every time they make a play or have an at bat.

Doc said...

In some future game, defensive subbing for Dunn is going come back and bite Riggleman in the offensive butt. C'mon Riggs hasn't AD improved his fielding game enough to be as good a first baseman as utility infielder Kennedy.

Scooter said...

As to Bernadina: it sure did look playable. My best guess is that if he dove, it would have skittered past him for 3 runs.

So there was that play, and also Pudge deciding not to try for the lead runner on a bunt. I half-suspect the team was recently advised not to do too much, to play within themselves ... basically, to respect the cliches.

Steve M. said...

Jeeves said...
I can't imagine the pressure he and Maxwell must feel every time they make a play or have an at bat.


Maxwell isn't delivering though adding to the pressure. It was mentioned somewhere before that Maxwell is the kid frozen at the plate and will either walk or strikeout.

His OBP is decent but that .154 average is horrible with all the games he has played. I think Mike Morse is a better choice off of the bench from what I saw last year.

Steve M. said...

The 3 most criticized pitchers in Spring Training were Olsen, Livo and Marquis and 2 of the 3 have moved to the top of charts.

Olsen has been a man on a mission and Livo just brilliant. Hoping for Marquis to join the list and Lannan to re-find himself.

With Strasburg in the wings and Atilano holding his own, this team can make some noise if they can find a way to beat to the Marlins and Phillies with some consistency!

cadeck13 said...

Avar, I thought the same thing about Bernadina. I even thought Willingham would have caught that ball.

erocks33 said...

I think Bernadina made the right choice. If it falls in front of him, the worst to happen is two runs score and the game is tied. If he dives for the catch (and he most definitely would have had to dive for it) and misses it, then the Nats are down 3-2 with the batter in scoring position (with Heyward's groin maybe only at second, but still in scoring position).

Now, if his throw was a little better, then he would have had nailed the runner at home. Alas, the throw sailed away from home plate and Pudge didn't have a chance for the play at the plate. I think the kid made the right decision (and any of you that think he should have dove for it ... you know if he had and missed it you all would be on here moaning that he should have let it drop in front of him).

Anonymous said...

Hoping someone could help me with something. Im heading to a nats game in a few weeks with a large group of friends. Normally i just take metro in, but this time we are looking to do some tailgating before the game. Ive heard that lot W allows for tailgating (I miss the old RFK tailgating), has anyone tried this and how did it go? Are their any restrooms and did you generally have a good experience? Thanks in advance

erocks33 said...

@Anon -- if you want to pony up $25, you can park at the lot at "The Yards", directly across the street from the stadium, on the corner of "N" and First Streets (I believe). Cash only lot (it's a private lot, aka non-Lerner/Nats), it's secure and I've always found lots of room to enjoy a frosty beverage or two before the game. Plus, the stadium is a mere seconds away so you can enjoy your party a little longer before packing up and heading in.

Aeoliano said...

@Witboy

Walker does walk very few and strikes out many. His problem is the 4 home runs usually coming when the pitcher he is relieving has put men on base. Bruney walks way too many and has an gi-normous WHIP. Batista has given up 3 home runs, walked way more than he has struck out, has an inflated ERA and his WHIP is not great.

Something does need to be done because it looks like Clippard's run may be tapering off. I guess Riggleman thinks about this a lot so it must be at the top of many minds. Has to start with replacing Batista with Storen? Or someone soon?

Aeoliano said...

A,B,C, and D would be some combination of four from the following:

Jordan Zimmermann He may be ready in August, he's a yes.
Ross Detwiler Just started rehabbing. July-August behind Chico
Chien Ming Wang NEXT YEAR. He won't be ready bank it.
Jason Marquis Gone and hopefully forgotten.
Craig Stammen Possible replacement for Batista
Luis Atilano If he pitches well he stays, Batista stand-in

Anonymous said...

thanks erock, will that private lot let you set up a small portable grill and cook a few burgers? And any idea when they open. Thanks again.

Aeoliano said...

Mark,

If you are going to put the new fan girls over in the right gutter. How about misschatter who has had a Nats far longer? Is it her WaPo connection ;)

erocks33 said...

@ 12:50Anon --

I've gotten there at 4:45pm before without a problem. Not sure about the portable grill. I would imagine if someone needed the parking spot you'd probably have to pack it up, but otherwise I can't imagine they'd have a problem ...

Anonymous said...

Nats are turning into a thrilling team. Bernadina should have gone for the grab. And Zim was throwing high and wide all night but gets cut a lot of slack (especially by the TV booth guys). The tram is playing like a TEAM.

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