Thursday, June 17, 2010

Game 67: Nats at Tigers

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
It's win or get swept today at Comerica Park.
DETROIT -- In what might as well be dubbed a "must-win" game for the Nationals, Jim Riggleman will trot out a lineup that should appease plenty of fans who have been clamoring for a Willingham-Bernadina-Morse outfield.

Congrats, you're getting it today. Nyjer Morgan takes a seat on the bench this afternoon against Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman. Cristian Guzman is serving as today's DH, so Adam Kennedy is starting at second base. Ivan Rodriguez is also getting today off -- no surprise, since they obviously want him behind the plate tomorrow night working with Stephen Strasburg. Wil Nieves will attempt to hit his way out of an 0-for-19 slump.

Luis Atilano takes the mound for the Nationals, trying to salvage one win in this series in Detroit. A loss today would mean a 1-5 interleague road trip and a new low-point for the season (five games under .500).

Check back for updates throughout...

NATIONALS at TIGERS
Where: Comerica Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV: MASN-HD
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 74 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
STARTING LINEUPS
NATIONALS (31-35)
DH Cristian Guzman
CF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
(P Luis Atilano)

TIGERS (35-29)
2B Ryan Raburn
SS Ramon Santiago
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
LF Brennan Boesch
DH Carlos Guillen
3B Brandon Inge
C Alex Avila
CF Don Kelly
(P Jeremy Bonderman)

12:38 p.m. -- Before we get to today's game, a note about tomorrow night. The Nationals are expecting a big crowd for Stephen Strasburg's second home start, but tickets are still available. A quick attempt to purchase seats on the team's website shows most of the available seats are in the lower deck, the seats that generally go to season-ticket holders. Looks like they've released some of those to the public for single-game purchase.

12:46 p.m. -- For all those in the "Alberto Gonzalez should be the everyday second baseman" camp ... over the second half of last season, when he became the Nats' regular second baseman, he hit .244 with a .263 OBP and .326 slugging percentage. Some guys get exposed when they play too much. I believe Gonzo would fall into that category. Solid utility infielder to bring off the bench, but not an everyday player in the big leagues.

1:00 p.m. -- Today's national anthem sung by ... Kenny Loggins?! I have to say, I was disappointed there wasn't a dancing gopher next to Kenny as he belted it out.

1:04 p.m. -- OK, let's get down to baseball. Jeremy Bonderman starts off Cristian Guzman with a strike. Gorgeous day here in downtown Detroit.

1:06 p.m. -- The good news: Roger Bernadina and Ryan Zimmerman each absolutely smoked balls to center field off Bonderman. The bad news: Both were caught by Don Kelly. Kelly made a really nice, sliding-into-the-wall catch of Bernadina's shot, then backtracked to snag Zimmerman's drive. Nothing to show for the top of the first, but perhaps those two well-struck balls were a good omen.

1:14 p.m. -- Luis Atilano put himself in a real jam -- two on, nobody out, heart of the Tigers order up -- but give the rookie credit because he came through big-time. Got Magglio Ordonez to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, then struck out Miguel Cabrera on a nice 2-2 sinker. Encouraging to see Atilano can retire some of the best hitters in the game.

1:19 p.m. -- I don't know if Bonderman is specifically trying to pitch to the big part of the ballpark, taking advantage of the wide-open dimensions here, but it certainly looks like it. Four of the Nats' first six batters have driven the ball to left-center and center fields, yet all resulted in fly outs. It's entirely possible three of those drives (by Bernadina, Zimmerman and Adam Dunn) would have been home runs elsewhere. Here, they're nothing but long fly outs. Still scoreless going to the bottom of the second.

1:32 p.m. -- Looks like the ball's going to fly today. That doesn't mean it'll leave the park, but it's going to come close. Two more Tigers belted drives to the wall in the bottom of the second. Brennan Boesch's shot to left was hauled in by Josh Willingham. Alex Avila's poke to right-center was uncatchable. It bounced off the wall and in the process scored two runs. Detroit leads 2-0 after two.

1:56 p.m. -- Over his last six games, Cristian Guzman is 4-for-23 with nine strikeouts. In this series, he's 1-for-10 with six strikeouts. Not the kind of production you're looking for from the guy atop the lineup.

2:10 p.m. -- Five innings, one hit for the Nats. One baserunner (Ryan Zimmerman, who singled in the fourth). They continue to hit some balls hard, but every one of them seems to get swallowed up by the cavernous outfield here at Comerica Park. Atilano has managed to hold the Tigers to two runs through four. At this rate, he may not be able to afford giving up anything more if his team is going to have a chance at winning today and avoiding the sweep.

2:20 p.m. -- Apparently, Atilano doesn't read this blog in between innings. He just did exactly what I suggested he not do in the bottom of the fifth. Two runs, three hits and an intentional walk later, he's out of the game. Lasted only 4 1/3 innings, allowed nine hits. Jim Riggleman decided not to mess around anymore. Drew Storen is on, trying to extend his perfect streak of stranding inherited runners (he's 12-for-12 so far this year). Tigers lead 4-0 in the fifth.

2:26 p.m. -- And there goes that streak. Carlos Guillen singles up the middle, scoring Miguel Cabrera. First inherited runner to score off Storen in 13 tries. Tigers lead 5-0 after five.

2:36 p.m. -- With that strikeout, Wil Nieves is now 0 for his last 21 with seven strikeouts. Now hitting a cool .167.

2:43 p.m. -- Well, the Nationals have finally scored, thanks to a double by Desmond, a wild pitch by Bonderman and an infield single by Guzman. But that's all they can muster, despite continuing to hit the ball hard. By my count, they've had four fly outs to the warning track, plus two other smoked line drives that were caught. It's now 5-1 in the sixth.

2:54 p.m. -- This is getting ugly. 7-1 in the sixth. Looks like the Nats are going to have to ask Strasburg to be a stopper for the third time in 10 days.

3:03 p.m. -- Hey, what do you know: Someone hit a ball beyond the warning track! Adam Dunn just barely gets one over the fence in right-center for his 16th homer of the season, his sixth in nine games. Unfortunately, it was also his 11th solo shot of the year, so it's still 7-2 in the seventh.

3:12 p.m. -- Now on the mound for the Tigers: A pitcher named Ni. Lame Monty Python jokes coming in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

3:17 p.m. -- Here it is. Your bang-your-head-against-the-wall stat of the day: In this series, Detroit starting pitchers have recorded 27 strikeouts while issuing only two walks. And one of the walks was intentional.

3:23 p.m. -- Breaking news: The streak is over! Adam Dunn got a hit with two outs and a runner in scoring position! He's now 1-for-27 in those situations after singling home Guzman. Big -- BIG -- hit to bring the Nats back to within 7-3 in the eighth.

3:47 p.m. -- Mercifully, this ballgame and this road trip are over. With an 8-3 loss today, the Nats complete a sweep at the hands of the Tigers and finish 1-5 against Cleveland and Detroit. They've fallen to five games under .500 for the first time this season

23 comments:

Doc said...

Great,many of us are haaaaappy! Mark, what do you think of that OF? I think it could rock!

All Riggs needs to do now is put Gonzo at 2nd. Its a different Gozo from last year.

Sec314 said...

This is exactly the line up they should be using, ESPECIALLY when Nieves is catching; even more so when the pitcher bats.

Guz at DH is an added bonus. He should be off the field as much as possible.

Uncle Atom said...

Just when I was settling in for a return of the 08-09 malaise. (Another vote here for Gonzo at 2B)

Sam said...

Guzman is still in the lineup - that's bad. Even worse, he's leading off. When will Riggleman learn?

Natsochist said...

Why not flip Bernadina & Desi? I know Bernadina's hitting really well now, but Desi always seems to mash in the 2-hole.

Anonymous said...

You still need table setters at the top of the line up. Riggleman would be better off batting Willingham 2nd because he does WALK. Followed by WALKING machine AD. Dunn doesn't hit well with RISP or runners on base period this year. Too many dingers with no men on. Desmond and Morse should come behind Zimmerman who would be after Dunn.

Be better off with Kennedy leading off. Guz never WALKS and IS in a deep SLUMP. Seems like the stubborn Riggleman is still there waiting for his chance to throw Willie Harris or JMax onto his lineup card.

Doc said...

@ Anonymous: Right on! Top of the lineup is supposed to be for guys who get on base---that's JW & The Big Guy. Don't know the stats, but seems that Desmond does wonders with men on base---The Kid might end up with 80 RIBBIES this year.

You could make 2 lineups out of these guys--not sure of the sabermetrics of that. Mark needs to check with Davey Johnson. Wonder what ol'Davey thinks about batting Wee Willie at DH???

HHover said...

To pick up on a couple of comments here - why *doesn't* Gonzalez get more playing time generally, and more starts specifically? Defensively, he's at least as good at 2d base as Kennedy, and offensively, their lines are pretty similar this year, with a slight edge to Gonzo tho with fewer ABs.

Section 222 said...

figured this would be a good entry to share a fascinating graphic I saw on MLB network last night-- in interleague play at AL parks so far this year, the DH for the AL team is hitting .368 vs. .187 for the NL team's DH. (I may not have the exact numbers, but they were something close to that.) AL teams plan for a DH, whereas NL teams use a utility infielder or 4th outfielder to fill the spot. Big advantage for the AL in those interleague games. In the NL park where the pitchers hit, the NL's average is higher than the AL's, but still below the Mendoza line because pitchers are crappy hitters. So not that big an advantage for the NL. No measurement of pitchers' success rate at laying down sacrifice bunts.

Joe K said...

On the team's biggest concern...

I got to this party late - two things worth highlighting, in addition to what was already said. The first is injuries. I have to believe that the Nats have a medical staff as good as anybody's, though I would certainly make sure that there is no question about players not receiving MRI (please!) as part of their physical examinations. That said, as a fan I can't help noting that the Nats seem to suffer more unexpected injuries than other teams - I don't think that's just me as a fan overreacting to my own team. Some of it is, I'm sure, just the fact that the Nats are (or have been) in a position of trying to catch lightning in a bottle with players who look like they've been overlooked by other teams - and when you do that, sometimes you get burned. However, I think there is work to be done, just with getting players to be more frank about their condition. From the player's perspective, I can understand the impulse to play through pain. But the last series provides management with a perfect counterpoint - if I were in management, I'd take every player aside, and talk to him about Austin Kearns: Did he do himself any favors by trying to gut it out? Maybe they have already done this, and maybe it wouldn't work anyway, but that's about as much as I can see from the outside.

The second concern, and more of a 'baseball' concern, is that the bullpen's workload may be difficult to sustain. It isn't as obvious now, because they aren't getting the lead as often, but it will be an ongoing concern if the Nats stay near the pennant race. It isn't as if Riggleman can tell all of his starters to go seven or eight innings, but this team will be better off if they can get two innings out of their relievers from time to time, just so that they don't use most of the 'pen when the starter goes six innings. I saw Burnett go two innings recently - I'd like to see more of that, because the back end of our bullpen is actually pretty good now. I think it's great to see Storen-Clippard-Capps in the last three innings, but I think they'll be more effective if other guys occasionally work into that mix, and if they can get to Capps with fewer outings of <1 inning.

HHover said...

Mark, about your 12:46 update:

Two of those 3 stats you just listed for Gonzo from last year aren't really that different from Kennedy's for this year (OBP is the exception, and Gonzo made up for fewer walks with better slugging).

If that makes Gonzo not "an everyday player in the big leagues," what exactly does it make the 7-year-older Kennedy?

I think you're right about Gonzo, but I think the fact that he even looks like an attractive option at 2d base underscores the Nats' weakness there--they've got two aging vets and one so-so bench player.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Nice baseball play by Bernandina by throwing out the guy at second rather than making the Nyjer Morgan - miss the cut off man and let guys advance throw- to the plate.

Natsochist said...

Hey Mark,

Technically, Atilano did exactly what you said he should do:

"Atilano has managed to hold the Tigers to two runs through four. At this rate, he may be able to afford giving up anything more if his team is going to have a chance at winning today and avoiding the sweep." (emphasis added).

Mark Zuckerman said...

Natsochist: Yeah, yeah. You're right. But have you ever heard the phrase: "Do what I mean, not what I say?" :)

Bowdenball said...

I feel like maybe I jinxed us when I wrote a couple days ago that Livan and Atilano haven't been "savvy," they've been lucky.

This one's on me, folks.

Grandstander said...

Livo has a .245 BABIP with an 81.2 LOB% and a 5.16 xFIP

Atilano has a .276 BABIP with a 70.1 LOB% and a 5.34 xFIP

Say what you want about sabrmetrics, but those numbers tell the story of 2 pitchers who were getting VERY lucky. Regression was simply bound to occur.

Also, Mark, do you have any feel for how much longer Nieves is going to be with this club? At this point, he only serves as a backstop and an out in the lineup. Surely Burke could be more capable as Pudge's backup, no?

natsone_va said...

Pardon my French, but this game is f***ing frustrating. Looks like it may only be worth it to watch one out of every five games. If we don't take 4 of 6 in the upcoming homestand and then 2 of 3 from the stinkin' Baltimorons, I'm going to be livid!!!

NatsJack in Florida said...

Holy Cow! A 2 out RBI for Dunn. 1 for 27!

Anonymous said...

Unless I've missed something, in eight at-bats for the Tigers, only one 1-2-3 inning by our pitchers. Meanwhile, our hitters are making Detroit's pitchers look like hall of famers.

cadeck13 said...

Wow, I guess we are an average team, I was really hoping for more. Alas, we are definitely better than '09 & '08 but it still doesn't console me. This is frustrating! One out of every five games? I need more :)

Pete said...

Regression to the mean, my friends. The Nats were not as good as their early record. The starting pitching and defense is really bad. Outside Zim, Dunn and Hammer there's no pop in the lineup. Guzman and Morgan have regressed terribly.

DJ said...

Mark-

How much longer will we have to rely on Atilano and Martin? Why not call up Detwiler and then make a move for Lee or Haren?

Anonymous said...

I really wished Livan could have pitched the first game of this series. A match-up between him and Scherzer may have given us a chance to get one of these games. Verlander has improved every year and Bonderman is hitting his stride after a major injury. It wasn't long ago and the Tiger's were at the crossroads the Nats are at now. We have to keep pushing forward. The pitching needs to be addressed now, the defense a close second. We cannot waste the positive buzz that SS has generated. Let's hope that Rizzo puts a plan in action soon.

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