Sunday, May 15, 2011

Game 40: Marlins at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals wrap up their series with the Marlins this afternoon.
The Nationals came home two days ago feeling pretty good about themselves, having just taken road series at both Florida and Atlanta. Two days later, they find themselves needing to beat the Marlins just to avoid a sweep at Nationals Park.

Both losses came by one run -- Friday's night's 6-5 loss in 11 innings, yesterday's 1-0 loss to Anibal Sanchez -- so it's not like they've been getting overwhelmed by their division rivals. But as we've seen throughout this season to date, the Nats are pretty much built to play low-scoring, tight ballgames. Which means there are going to be a lot of close wins and a lot of close losses. There's little margin for error.

Ian Desmond is out of the lineup for the second straight day, still dealing with a quadriceps strain. Alex Cora again starts in his place at shortstop. Only lineup change from yesterday is a swap behind the plate, with Ivan Rodriguez starting and Wilson Ramos (in a 1-for-21 funk) on the bench.

Updates to come all afternoon...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN2, Ch. 50
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 186
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 71 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to CF
CF Roger Bernadina
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Jayson Werth
LF Laynce Nix
1B Adam LaRoche
C Ivan Rodriguez
3B Jerry Hairston
SS Alex Cora
P Jason Marquis

MARLINS (23-15)
CF Chris Coghlan
2B Emilio Bonifacio
SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Gaby Sanchez
LF Logan Morrison
RF Mike Stanton
3B Greg Dobbs
C Brett Hayes
P Javier Vazquez
1:38 p.m. -- And we're underway on what has turned into a very nice afternoon in the nation's capital, with Jason Marquis facing Chris Coghlan. The Nats, by the way, have a Harmon Killebrew No. 3 jersey hanging in their dugout today.

1:41 p.m. -- Boy, Marquis couldn't have gotten this one off to a much better start. Sets down the Marlins in order in the top of the first, needing only seven pitches, all of them strikes. That, my friends, is efficiency.

2:02 p.m. -- Javier Vazquez entered today having surrendered at least one run in the first inning of every start this season, and the streak has continued today. Big time. The Nats scored six runs in the first, getting five singles, a double, a walk and an error on left fielder Logan Morrsion. They batted around, with clutch RBI hits coming from Laynce Nix and Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge, by the way, now has 14 hits and 13 RBI for the season. He may not be hitting much, but when he does, he's certainly making them count. And then Marquis capped it all off with a two-run double down the left-field line, nearly stretching it into a triple. Quite an impressive rally to open the game. Nats lead 6-0 after one.

2:13 p.m. -- So much for the Nationals' errorless streak, which stood at nine games entering today and was just three inning shy of the Nats club record (set in 2005). Jerry Hairston threw to high to first on a grounder for only the team's second error in its last 16 games. And it came back to cost them because Morrison doubled, Mike Stanton sent a sacrifice fly to left and Brett Hayes singled in another run. It's now 6-2 in the second, both runs unearned by Marquis.

2:17 p.m. -- If you've got a few minutes to spare during the game today (maybe between innings) be sure to check out my one-on-one video interview with Drew Storen, conducted before today's game.

2:30 p.m. -- Wow, another opposing baserunner gunned down by a Nats catcher. This time, Pudge got Emilio Bonifacio to complete a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play. Ramos and Rodriguez have now combined to throw out 11 of 24 would-be base stealers this season.

2:40 p.m. -- Vazquez has certainly settled down since that ragged first inning. He's retired six straight since. Nats have to be careful not to ease off the gas pedal. We've seen them have one big inning before, only to go silent the rest of the day. Can't let the Marlins creep their way back into this one. Still 6-2 after three.

3:03 p.m. -- Leave it to the Nats' best hitter to end Vazquez's string of consecutive outs at eight. No, not Ryan Zimmerman. Not Jayson Werth. Not Laynce Nix. Why, Jason Marquis of course! He's now 2-for-2 today with a double and a single. And, as astute reader Nattydread pointed out: Marquis and Matt Stairs now have the same number of at-bats this season (20). Marquis is hitting .350, Stairs is hitting .100. Maybe it's time to use Jason as the late-game pinch-hitter on days he's not on the mound?

3:26 p.m. -- Another run-scoring hit for Pudge, this time a double to left-center with two outs in the fifth to bring Werth home. So he's now got 15 hits and 14 RBI for the season. And the Nats have got a 7-2 lead after five.

3:32 p.m. -- You know, Marquis' next scheduled start is Friday at Baltimore. Wonder if there's any way Riggleman would let him hit and forfeit the DH...

3:36 p.m. -- Meanwhile in Lakewood, N.J., Bryce Harper went 0-for-4 with a walk today, ending his hitting streak at 18 games. Hagerstown did win the game, 6-2, and Harper's walk in the eighth helped ignite a rally.

3:54 p.m. -- Marquis finally showing some signs of fatigue in the seventh. He allowed back-to-back doubles to Stanton (who just seems to hit every single ball hard) and Dobbs, then a two-out RBI single to Coghlan. That cuts the lead to 7-4 and brings Todd Coffey in from the bullpen. Nice hand for Marquis as he exits, and the usual roar for Coffey as he comes sprinting in. They've even added a "Coffey Time" clock on the scoreboard here. Took him 13.3 seconds to make it from bullpen to mound.

4:00 p.m. -- Yikes, Coffey took a line drive directly off his right arm, struck by Bonifacio. He had to leave the game and was holding him arm very carefully as he exited. You hate to speculate about these things, but that could be a significant injury. Tyler Clippard all of a sudden is in the game, with two on, two out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate representing the tying run.

4:06 p.m. -- Pretty good confrontation there between Clippard and Ramirez. With the count 1-2, Hanley asked for a new bat, then got a legitimate brushback pitch underneath his chin. He paused to look at Tyler for a moment, though it didn't look like he said anything. Then on the 2-2 pitch, Clippard got him to fly out to center, ending the inning and keeping the Nats' lead at 7-4 at the seventh-inning stretch.

4:25 p.m. -- The Marlins hit Clippard pretty hard, but he escaped the eighth with no damage, thanks to a double play line drive to first, with LaRoche making the catch and tagging Gaby Sanchez out. So we head to the bottom of the eighth, still 7-4.

4:38 p.m. -- Some insurance for the Nats in the bottom of the eighth. Bernadina beats out a slow roller, allowing Pudge to score, and that makes it an 8-4 game. And with the lead now four runs instead of three (and thus no save situation anymore), Drew Storen (who had been warming in the pen) takes a seat. It'll be Cole Kimball instead for the ninth. Pretty silly, when you think about it. Not like there's much difference between a 3- and 4-run lead. Other than the fact it separates a save situation from a non-save situation.

4:49 p.m. -- That'll do it. Nats win, 8-4. Marquis gets the win and improves to 5-1. And he got a couple of hits and two RBI to boot. Nice game for the right-hander.


HHover said...

If these guys can't hit Vazquez, things really are desperate.

UNTERP.NAT said...

The best the Nats can do is win; the worse is lose. Expect the best. Go Nats!!!

natsfan1a said...

Let's go Na-tion-als (clapclap-clapclapclap).]

In other news, vote for Roger (Roger offers you his protection):

Doc said...

For all the other teams playing The Fish this year, hitting against Vazquez has been like batting practice. This is the Nats' chance to grab some hits--let's see what they can do!

This is the clown that Rizzo wanted to sign last winter, and slot in as a #1 SP--I guess the good news is that he didn't sign him.

C'mon Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaats!!!!

WilliamTells said...

Anybody ever go on SB Nation DC? I chuckled when I saw an ad for Grand Slam Flex Packs featuring Jayson Werth placed directly over a story about Werth's abysmal start to the 2011 season. Unfortunate coincidences leading to marketing FAIL? Expect it...

Grandstander said...

Normally, I'd be excited to face Vazquez with the year he's having. But we have an uncanny way of making crappy pitchers look amazing. Not going into this game expecting good things.

SonnyG10 said...

Looing forward to another good game today. Go Nats!!!!!

JayB said...

Mark is it odd that Nats have prevented interviews with Eckstien? Why would they do that?

Stranded_in_Philly said...

With Pittsburgh coming into town for a 2 game set, how about a nice little winning streak to get back to .500?

Anonymous said...

Maybe Eckstein would prefer to actually do his job and work with the hitters right now instead of wasting time responding to questions from legitimate reporters goaded on by clueless gits like JayB. Eckstein has talked with the press plenty during his time in DC. It's not like he's been holed up in his compound like Osama bin Laden. There's a reason that the manager has to face the inquisition of the press. It's part of his job description. Not part of the coaches' job description, though. It's their choice whether or not they talk to the press. Let the coaches do their jobs, JayB.

Harper is Awesome said...

Anon: Why are you defending the hitting coach of the team with the worst batting average in the MLB???
Harper says, "this clown better be gone by teh time I come up to the big club."

CBinDC said...

Watching the pregame ...again the line of the day the week the year ...the Nationals play great losing games .....why the losing games they play are better then the winning games .....which in this universe if you want to see them play great hope they lose ??? I do not really know what to make of this teams line of thinking.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't Channel 50 showing the game? This is not cool....

yankish2 said...

Is there any team that could win with Jerry Hairston Jr and Alex Cora in their starting lineup more days than not? And how many of you think Mike Morris will not hit as many homeruns during the regular season as spring training? Maybe not literally but it will be this close.

dj in Fl. said...

Well hopefully everyone is feeling a better after the first, and we can loose the negativity and just cheer the boys to victory
Everybody bats in the first, life is good.

Nattydread said...

Here Here DJ!

Unkyd said...

Anon 1:21: With you (except the name calling). Rizzo and Riggs speak for their subordinates. Thankfully, I have no "interested parties" demanding an explanation for anything that goes wrong with my daily performance at work. A chaIn of command functions best when the subordinates are carrying out the instructions from on high. R&R should answer all questions regarding the performances of everyone down the line, we assume then that their bidding is being carried out, to the best of everyone's ability. It's on the big guys. What would you have Eck say, anyway? Some generic platitudes? Or broadcast just the batting strategies he's trying to instill, and better prepare the opposition to counter them.

We're all just venting...I get that. It just seems, too frequently to devolve down to implications that our various Nats are lazy, or don't care, or are far more stupid than we, here in the peanut gallery. The players are more talented than we can imagine being. The staff has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about all aspects of the game. We're getting great pitching, terrific defense, and THE BATS WILL COME AROUND.... It's folly to think that these guys wool
Bat this poorly all year. AND Riz will have a couple of new faces here before the end of the summer, as well.

Patience.......GO NATS!!!!!!!

Doc said...

Right on dj, let's go with the flow!!

Good decision on Vazquez's part to sign with a team near his home!

Let's get another 6 runs in the 2nd---we have a lot of season runs to catch up with!!!!

Anonymous said...

There are about 5,000 guys playing pro baseball just in the US plus thousands more outside the US. About 400 of them are big league position players. They got here because they have been hitting baseballs since they were in short pants. They know how to do it. What the heck is a hitting coach going to change at this stage or teach them what they don't already know? A little tweak here and there, stuff like that. But it's up to the hitters to do what they learned how to do to get them this far.

WilliamTells said...

Pudge Rodriguez to Emilio Bonifacio:

Don't tug on Superman's cape, son.

masnstinks said...

Thanks for the sanity! If you truly only watch these games to see a win you will be usually disappointed. The great teams win 2/3 of their games, most around half. You need to be able to love the game with all it's nuances and love having a home- team that you can get to know the players and go to games. If you can only sleep at night if your team wins then I suggest you join the evil pin-stripe empire or become a phanatic. I can be ok with losing a great game. Love my Nats!!!! Love the game!!!

Nattydread said...

Marquis BA: .350
Stairs BA: .100

With a comparable number of appearances. Hmmm.

dabassguy1 said...

Marquis is our best hitter. Can he play a position?

Harper is Awesome said...

Masnstinks: Why can't we become the Phils.. 5 or 6 years ago they were a losing ballclub every year... You can't be satisfied with losing 100 games every year

Smatt1001 said...

Let's go Pudge!

waddu eye no said...

ahh. joined the 21st century, got the dvr , hit pause, turned off ray, turned on charlie and dave.

masnstinks said...

H is A ( although his hitting streak ended today), We CAN become a team that wins and plays good baseball. It didn't happen overnight for anyone and it won't happen overnight for us.It has taken the Red Sox years, the Phillies years to get back to it, the Cubs years. Hopefully it won't take THAT long. Part of the enjoyment is watching young guys grow and learn, get drafted, work their way up - watching trade pieces to see if they work out( or not -- see Matt Stairs) - this is an improved team - you can see it - most of the time. Want to go back to Dimitri Young, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge and Daniel Cabrera?

A DC Wonk said...

repeating a memo from earlier in the season from Pudge to Nats fans: "I still ain't dead, yet."

CBinDC said...

Ohhhhhh please do not blow this game ......argh just when you think you can relax bammm a hit directly off of the pitcher....I hope Coffey is OK

A DC Wonk said...

masnstinks said: "Want to go back to Dimitri Young, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge and Daniel Cabrera?"

masn, you're being too kind! Some of those guys had potential. How about guys like Bascik, Astacia, Day and Simontacchi as regular starters? Or guys like Langerhans in 2007 (appeared in 123 games, batted .170), or 2008 with semi-regulars WM Pena (.205), Kearns (.216), etc.

Harper_ROY_2012 said...

Sad that Bonifacio would be the leading Nats hitter right now by almost .100 avg points...that is how bad we are right now!

masnstinks said...

No matter how hard I try to stay on the positive side - it just hurts me to watch LaRoche hit ( or should I say "miss"). I have some serious "don't blow it" jitters going on.

dj in Fl. said...

But he can play some defense at first.

CBinDC said...

In my book it is Willie Moe Pena that symbolizes all that was a Bowden era player. A at the end of their career, getting over paid because of a favor and doing nothing while playing and caring nothing about the results. His is the lowest priced signed ball at the Foundation Booth just $5. While complain as I may do I do not find any Willie Moe's on this team.

A DC Wonk said...

I actually didn't mind "trying him out" to see if Willy Mo had anything. What was ridiculous was that he played so much because the other options were even worse. Same thing with guys like, say, Bascik, etc. I'm not picking on them. I'm saying that when the team is so bad you have to *rely* on guys like them, you're teams in baaaad shape.

Anonymous said...

A while back there were lots of calls to bring Bixler up. He's a career .170 hitter. And that last play was a DUH. I don't get it.

A DC Wonk said...

Good for the kid (Cole Kimball) -- getting the side out after a leadoff walk.

I wonder what kind of stuff he had, as, after the first batter, he seemed to throw almost *all* fastballs. Did he think he didn't have his other pitches with him today? (And, if so, way to get the job done without all your weapons!)

natsfan1a said...

ahhh, that was nice. Well, maybe a little scary at times, but nice. Bring on those Bucs!

Oh, and Carpenter answered that I had on watching Marquis back in Pittsburgh. Evidently he had a 3-hit game at one point. (I still think he wants another Silver Slugger. :-)

natsfan1a said...

answered "the question"

Cwj said...

DC Wonk- Yeah I think Kimball was probably told not to use his splitter too often. Don't want to dip into the well too often :)

Good win. 19-21. A sweep of the Pirates would be so sweet, but they need to at least take that series.
Go Nats!

natsfan1a said...

I believe that they'd need to sweep to take it, seeing as how it's a two-game series.

Anonymous said...

This was a great win but ...

On May 23rd of 2010 found the Nats 1 game over .500 with 24 wins. Have to wonder if they will be even close to matching that this year with this team?

I don't see where the improvement is going to be? Starting pitching ... sure its better ... but it doesn't equate to a better start than last year? Will it equate to a better record over the long haul? I just don't see it. Especially, if Riggleman returns Ankiel to the starting lineup and removes 1 of Bernadina or Ankiel.

I still don't see any value added to Stairs. He has to be pinch run for. He doesn't play the field and he has what 2 hits in 17 at bats? Sure there are the walks but c'mon Nick Johnson would be better for that why didn't they just sign him?

masnstinks said...

Only LaRoche and Espi had 0-fers today - their defense, especially LaRoche today, softens that blow a little bit. How sad is it that Jason Marquis hits better than Matt Stairs? Love what Bernie is bringing to the game!

Cwj said...

Haha good point Natsfan1a!! :)
Thought it was 3 games for some reason.

SonnyG10 said...

Unkyd, Oldguy, and masnstinks...I like the way you're thinking.

Nattydread said...

This is a better team.

Bernadina and Kimball have passed their auditions. The Shark adds defense, speed and pop, Kimball is the other man they needed in the pen.

Nix is pulling his weight on offense. Ankiel will come back as 4th outfielder -- which is where he fits.

LaRoche, Espinosa and Desmond are playing some fine defense. Even Cora is standing in nicely.

Pudge shuts down the steals.

Marquis: Silver Slugger. Maybe it rubs off.

Zimmerman comes back and this team has wheels.

Cwj said...

Nattydread- Agree about Kimball and Bernadina.
I would add that HRodriguez probably passed his audition in yesterday's close game as well.

dj in Fl. said...

I agree Nattydread.
I also do not think the vets on this team will let them sink into a long losing streak as in the past.
The Marlin announcers felt that Riggleman would be a solid canidate for manager of the year for the Nats having this record without Zim, and with this hitting.

josh f said...

Great win today - is it too early to say Marquis is going to the All-Star game?

Unkyd said...

Luv U 2, Sonny! I'm just not about to let something I follow fir fun, make me miserable. If I took as little joy in the Nats as some here seem to... Well there's plenty of other diversions...

Ankiel has to be the new Stairs, when he bones back...2-3 games a week relieving the starters in the OF, PH, PR... VERY useful in that capacity. I said the other night, if Riggs sends Bernie down, or even SITS him down, the townsfolk will be chasing him, with torches and farm implements, with Frau Blucher(NEIGH!!!!) in the lead!!!

Cwj said...

Josh f- definitely too early but it'll likely be either him or Storen.

Cwj said...

Unkyd- hahaha Great Young Frankenstein reference! :)

Richard said...

Good to see Bernadina filling the sorely needed leadoff spot. Pleasure to watch him today get on base three times. If Espinoza, in his current deep dark funk, hadn't been batting behind him, he may have scored more. Watching Esp and LaRouche at the plate right now is -- not fun.

Cwj said...

As long as Espinosa and LaRoch continue to provide outstanding defense I won't complain too much about their hitting.
Obviously the Nats need both of their bats to do something. But I'm not hitting the panic button on either one just yet.

Cwj said...

*LaRoche I meant

sjm308 said...

Just a really nice win. Can't imagine Riggs sitting Bernadina since he fills two needs, leadoff and CF. Ankiel will be fine filling in for all 3 outfield positions and PH which will mean Stairs will be released. I have mentioned it before but I hope they keep him as a player/coach at the minor league level but I will also understand if some time actually wants him in the same role. Hard to believe someone would pick him up but you never know.
Love that Kimball has hit the ground running and that plus HRod doing well last night means we now have a full bullpen again. Hope Coffey is OK and if not its Balester tiime once again.

Two wins against the Pirates and we are back to .500

Go Nats

sjm308 said...

wow, horrible spelling - obviously meant someone and I guess everyone knows how to spell time

Cwj said...

SJM308- haha I seriously try to spell correctly.
With my slow, 2 finger typing it shouldn't be that hard :)

slidell said...

Nats and O's are in similar situations. Given their respective divisions, they have to get REAL good to get into playoff contention.
FWIW, in the NL, the East division has an +18 aggregate W-L record, the Central -11, and the West -7.
This club seems to have a lot of fight, just not quite enough weapons to pull out enough "almost" wins. Maybe next year there'll be more ammo.

Neal said...

Would like to see this batting order for the Nats when Ankiel returns (remains to be seen what Riggs will do):

Bernie CF
Desi SS
LaRoche 1B
Nix LF
Werth RF
Ramos C
Espi 2B
Hairston 3B
Bench: Pudge, Ankiel, Morse, Cora, Stairs (Bixler has options left, he'll be sent down).

Rational: Bernie is the best lead off hitter the Nats have on the 25 man roster, Desi hits well in the 2 hole, LaRoche will get better pitches to hit because they will no longer be able to pitch around him with Nix batting right behind him, Werth is hitting in his natural potions (the 5 hole) and Ramos gives him some protection with the threat of his power bat. Espi would be best served by batting 7th (because he's a struggling rookie at the plate) and Hairston's experience makes him better prepared to bat right before the pitcher (the 8th hole batter usually gets junk to hit, not a good place for Espi to bat).

When R Zim returns:

Bernie CF
Desi SS
R Zim 3B
Nix LF
Werth RF
LaRoche 1B
Ramos C
Espi 2B (hopefully he'll have solved his hitting issues by then)
Bench: Pudge, Ankiel, Morse, Hairston, Cora, (Stairs will retire now and will be offered a coaching position in the organization, he was going to retire this year anyway).

Note: No one gave up on Carlos Pena last year when he couldn't buy a hit. You don't pull a gold glove caliber 1B out of the lineup because he's struggling at the plate, especially one like LaRoche who's historically a slow starer and has always hit his numbers.

Unkyd said...

Neal: I like.

Harper is Awesome said...

Neal very nice job.. can't wait till Zimmerman return. Don't forget that your gonna have to add the Oppo Boppo King in there as well quite soon!

Neal said...

Harper is Awesome:

That will be a very nice problem to have. I think it won't be until the September call-ups that they'll have to face that though.

Grant said...

The Nats shouldn't forfeit the DH next week when they are in Baltimore, they should use it for one of their position players!

Neal said...

Grant.....I think the Nats have already said that's what they'll do. Maybe using Morse as DH (just guessing on Morse).

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