Thursday, July 7, 2011

Squeezing out another improbable win

Associated Press photo
Wilson Ramos' well-executed squeeze bunt scored the winning run for the Nats.
Davey Johnson had managed 2,047 previous big-league games over the course of the last 27 years, and he couldn't recall ever giving the sign for a suicide squeeze. Not once.

But with his Washington Nationals struggling like never before to drive runners in, and with Michael Morse standing on third base and Wilson Ramos at the plate in the seventh inning of a tie game Wednesday night, Johnson decided he might as well give it a shot. The way his things had been going -- the Nationals were 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position, for crying out loud -- what did he have to lose?

"You haven't been here the last eight days that I've been here?" the 68-year-old manager said with a smirk. "You've got to open up the Cracker Jack box."

And what did Johnson find inside that box? The magic prize that allowed the Nationals to pull off yet another one-run victory, this time by a 5-4 count over the Cubs.

Even if his first attempt nearly resulted in disaster.

Though Morse got the sign from third-base coach Bo Porter, Ramos initially didn't see it. So as his teammate came barreling down the baseline, completely unprotected, Ramos swung away and fouled
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JaneB said...

What a fun night at the park...and this was one of the best moments. The guys behind us started screaming, "there he goes!" as the ball left the pitcher's hand. Gorzo's epic at bat was fun too.

Any word about Espinosa's shoulder? And where is Collin going to fit in?

One more to sweep!

Cwj said...

Mark Z- Outstanding article! You really captured the feel of this strange, yet winning team of ours!

Go Nats!

DL in VA said...

How many pitches was Gorzelanny's epic at bat? How fun was that to watch! Obviously, it would have been great to see it end in something other than a K, but it was great to see the crowd really get behind him with every pitch fouled off.

What a great game to watch!

dryw said...

Agreed, that was really a fun one. Good teams find ways to win, and we do seem to be turning into an actual good team. Walking out of the park last night, I said to my friend "If it's this much fun to be two games over .500, I can't imagine what next year is going to be like!"

I don't keep a pitch count (two of my friends do!), but I'd say Gorzelanny's beautiful at-bat was at least 8 pitches. Three strikes to get him, at least one ball, and all the fouls. So fun to watch!


Bzl. said...

That's some Heat he faced! I don't know if I've ever seen anyone get a standing O by whiffing.

Great game, once again. And, it was great to see Werth get a standing O of his own after that screamer to right that moved Mikey over to 3rd.


C. Carpenter Batter
T. Gorzelanny Speed Pitch Result
1 96 Fastball (Four-seam) Swinging Strike
2 97 Fastball (Four-seam) Swinging Strike
3 98 Fastball (Four-seam) Foul
4 98 Fastball (Four-seam) Ball
5 98 Fastball (Four-seam) Foul
6 99 Fastball (Four-seam) Foul
7 99 Fastball (Four-seam) Foul
8 98 Fastball (Four-seam) Foul
9 91 Fastball (Four-seam) Swinging Strike

Natslifer said...

I was there last night too. This team just feels so different - staying ahead and/or knowing that they can take the lead again. Zimmy looked like the All-Star he is - smooth swinging power to both sides of the field. And boy that was fun to hoot and holler for Gorzo - he had a huge grin on his face as he came back to the dugout too.

I think the Flubs came in to town at just the right time.

masnstinks said...

There are those who say that DC/Nova is not a baseball town. I say they are wrong -- people who know baseball cheer for the battle by a pitcher that ends in a K -- they let Jayson know that he got lazy on a defensive play, they appreciate the beauty of a squeeze bunt. I see no reason why we should not use bunting early and often -- Bernie and Bixler - the speedy B's - can beat them out, all of our pitchers seem to be able to execute them to move a runner and it seems that even our power hitters can execute them to surprise the other team. If you have a weapon that works - use it. I think I have seen almost every player on this team put down a bunt. Nice to see the fundamentals being solid this year -- new slogan "Bunting -- expect it!" I guess I just don't understand the reluctance to use anything that can help. Kind of funny that the things that help us win have been very little things and very big things - wild pitches, bunts -- and huge home runs.

Anonymous said...

Boy, when its tied in the 7th, you sure have a better feeling with Davey standing over there than frowning, gloomy Riggleman

"I'm not gettin on the bus unless......"
"Oh yeah....see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya!"

Drew8 said...

It's kinda frustrating to win 18 out of 25 and not gain ground on the Braves.

If anyone wants to dream big -- and why not? -- the Nats are 7 games behind the Braves in the wild card standings, with big series later this month against the Braves and the Mets.

On another topic, I'm reading the tea leaves and trying to figure out how the pieces will fit in the next year or two. Farm ace Doug Harris says Harper is playing left field in Harrisburg because RF is Werth's territory in Washington.

One plausible scenario then is that LaRoche is dealt at the 2012 trade deadline. Morse moves from LF back to 1b. Harper, post Super Two, comes up and plays left field, with Bernie or (insert splashy acquisition here) in center.

The big question remains -- where does Rendon play? Morse is not a free agent until 2014. He has to play, which likely means he's the first baseman and Zimm stays at 3b for now.

Espinosa is a fixture -- either at 2b or ss. Seems like the logical move is still to move Espinosa back to short at some point, taking advantage of his cannon arm, and plugging in Rendon at 2b, leaving Desi as the odd man out.

Eventually, if Morse leaves and takes his payday, maybe Zimm could slide over to first, Rendon to third and Lombo to 2b.

Anonymous said...

Anon -- Riggleman took over a 26 - 61 team, had it over .500 and Rizzo wouldn't even TALK about an extension. Maybe you're happy about that. But not all of us are. Davey is doing a good job, but Riggleman's hard work over the past two seasons paved the way, and he should have gotten respect for it by the management of the team, and should be getting credit for it now. And if you think Riggleman is 'gloomy', you've never talked to him. All the success the team is enjoying now would be more fun for me if Jim Riggleman had been given a contract rather than a kick in the pants.

sjm308 said...

raymitten - I can't put my finger on it but ever since that mess, while I am thrilled with how we are playing, I just don't feel the same. I think both parties were wrong and that is strange. How hard would it have been for Rizzo to talk, and how difficult would it have been for Riggs to not go with an ultimatum? Its done now and I am guessing the players have had at least a little difficulty adjusting to new coaches and leadership but it appears things are moving forward pretty well. Honestly, I thought this was Riggs last year anyway and would have loved to have him finish it out with class. Have to admit that part of that is from personal experience.

Go Nats!!

Knoxville Nat said...

raymitten.........well said! I hope people remember that this is Mike Rizzo's first time around as a General Manager. For all the good things Rizzo has done as a GM he seems to come up short when it comes to managing people.

Unkyd said...

Drew8, "on another topic..."

Nice "problems" to speculate on, no...?

natsfan1a said...

Once again, Riggleman = gone (by his own action); Johnson = here.

Back to the actual, you know, game, in addition to dodging a bullet after the first squeeze call, Morse had to avoid tripping over Ramos' bat after the second call. Vote for Morse (polls close at 4 p.m. today). He put his life on the line for you. It's the least you can do. :-)

Anonymous said...

Drew...yeah, well...let me worry about Luca Brasi

Drew8 said...


Luca Brasi is a Marlins fan.

He sleeps with the fishes.

Feel Wood said...

Rizzo told Riggleman during spring training that there would be no decision made one way or the other on the managerial situation until after the season. So when Riggleman asked to have a talk when they got to Chicago, Rizzo told him that it was not yet the time to discuss contract - in other words, that the situation had not changed from what Riggleman was told at the beginning of the season. How is Rizzo disrespecting Riggleman by declining to waste both of their time in a discussion that was not going to change anything? If Riggleman had instead honored his contract and gotten the performance out of the team that Davey Johnson seems to be going to get, there's a very good chance that Riggleman would still be managing the Nationals in 2012 and beyond. Of course, following that course would also have carried the risk that the team would underperform and he'd get fired. But that's the risk that every manager takes. Riggleman is by all accounts a nice guy. Some people (not me) even think he was a good manager. Be that as it may, neither of those things gives him the right to a contract extension just because he asks for one. He was not being disrespected at all when Rizzo basically told him that if he was going to get an extension he would have to earn it.

SCNatsFan said...

Riggleman is gone and he'll always get a bad rap for the way he left and won't get credit for developing some of these players but the way he left was his choosing. I don't wish anything bad on him but, like I tell the girls in my office, if you leave I'll miss you but we are still opening the doors for business tomorrow with someone else in your chair.

Thrilled with last nights curly W, loved the Gorzo at bat (although he nearly broke his leg with the last swing!) and Morse nearly running full speed into Ramos. Would have liked to see HRod finish the game; when his stuff is on he is truly nasty and I think with as much as Storen has been called upon this year that HRod will get his chances to finish close games out, interested to see how he handles it.

C'mon boys, get the sweep today. And darn it Werth, wake up already!!! If we were losing right now he'd be getting burned in effigy in DC, ah but winning cures so many ills.

Anonymous said...

And Hannibal should have rushed back to Carthage sooner to defend it from the Romans in the Second Punic War. Oh, are we talking about Riggleman again?

Nat in Athens said...

I love the arguing about where Randon will play. All I know is that I have two (possibly three, with Brad Peacock) great pitchers all under the age of 25, a great bullpen, an infield which is possibly set for years and that does not include Lombardozzi, some very good drafts and Bryce Harper in the outfield. A lot of this has to do with Mike Rizzo and he should get credit for it (including the fact that he staffed the team with people such as Davey Johnson who was able to step in immediately). For all of us who saw the pitching disasters of years past the future is bright in DC baseball.

Dave said...

How are we still talking about Riggleman--who, as the posters with the keenest short-term memories will tell you, unexpectedly resigned his job two weeks ago today?

Last night my wife asked me where Riggleman is now. I told her I didn't know, but that I was sure he wasn't in Major League Baseball.

It was time to move on about a week and a half ago.

Well said, Feel Wood.

gonatsgo said...

Actually , Dave - he is doing some tv work in Chicago. Raymitten et al, some of the posters can talk all they want about moving on, etc. For me it is still too soon.I still have a bad taste in mhy mouth. It kind of galls me when the new manager is treated like some kind of genius for doing the exact same things that Riggs did and was criticized for. He did a lot for this team and both he and Rizzo went too close to the cliff and jumped off when they should have stepped back. Not the nats proudest moment. I am thrilled that the guys on the field are resilient - if you haven't noticed, they play about the same way that they were playing before. I love watching them play, but I also don't quite feel the same way. But then, sports fans have always been pretty fickle. I love this team, but it did take me a while to warm up to our new players this year, too. Some of them it's taking longer than I would have thought ( guess who?). I love watching them play, they're still my team - the manager - well, it hasn't been that long, I need more time. I just can't switch allegiances as quickly as some people can. I am happy for you if you can just turn the page and forget, but not everyone can.

Anonymous said...

"You've got to open up the Cracker Jack box." Who said that about putting on a suicide squeeze? Multiple choice:
a) Jim Riggleman
b) Davey Johnson

If nothing else, the post-game press conferences are alot more entertaining.

UNTERP.NAT said...

It was a fiasco what happened between Riggs and Rizzo, but it's over. Everyone must move on.

Let's finish off the Cubs...

Will said...

I'm also a bit bemused by the Rendon talk. It seems abundantly clear how this situation will play itself out.

Potential positions for Rendon:

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B: 'nuff said
Ian Desmond, SS: second worst batter in baseball
Danny Espinosa, 2B: 2011 ROY
Mike Morse, 1B: All Star
Jayson Werth, RF: the $126 million man
Bryce Harper, LF: tearing up AA ball, #1 prospect in baseball

One of these things is not like the other; one of these things just isn't the same...

I think it's pretty clear that Espinosa shifts to his natural position at SS and Rendon and Lombardozzi fight over 2B, while Desmond rides the pine.

m20832 said...

He's still at Caddies in Bethesda picking up hot babes!

Now let's sweep the cubbies and win the series against the Rockies!


The Michael said...

What seems to be lost in this... Riggleman's selfishness cost Radison his job and McClaren a spot in the dugout. The 'me first' mentality certainly had it's ripple effect.

Let's move on to those that want to be here.

N. Cognito said...

I think Joe Cronin or Bucky Harris would have been a better fit for this team than either Riggs or Davey.
Cheap Lerners! Stupid Rizzo!

Dave said...

I can't believe I'm still responding to this, but I feel a certain kind of revisionist history trying to take hold so very soon after the events of June 23.

According to one version of this revisionist history, Mike Rizzo is a cold, scheming jerk who fired Riggleman from his job at Riggleman's moment of triumph. (That's the most extreme and wildly inaccurate version, but I've seen it on several baseball blogs.)

Or another version holds that the only reasonable thing for Rizzo to have done was to sit down and renegotiate Riggleman's contract in Chicago because Riggleman threatened to quit on June 23. After all, Riggleman had a smaller contract than any other MLB manager, and he suddenly should not have had such a small contract anymore, because the team had won a bunch of games recently.

But the fact is this:

Riggleman quit. Nobody saw it coming, including Rizzo, and nobody welcomed it.

Riggleman seems to have had some kind of sudden midlife flip-out (albeit one that had been simmering for awhile) and decided to give the finger to Rizzo, the Lerners, the team, and the fans on a very big day in the Nats' history.

As long as the revisionists keep trying to rewrite the events of June 23, I'll keep responding with the facts.

natsfan1a said...

On another note, Boz has a good (imo) piece on Werth today. If you're on here, Steve S., atta boy. :-)

Mark'd said...

Drew8, good point on the Braves. They are hot right now. The good news is the Nats have plenty of games with the Braves and need to take care of business in their head to head matchups.

Anomynous said...

N.Cognito, good call. Davey never won a pennant or World Series in DC. While we're at it, bring back Joe Kuehl. (Just for the name, though he was a pretty good first baseman).

Webster's said...

Fickle fans? That sounds more like Riggleman to me.

Dave said...

Thanks for pointing to that Boz piece, 1a. The doom-and-gloom comments underneath it notwithstanding, I think Boz puts Werth's contract and situation in a good perspective.

And I, too, would like to think that Steve S., the hero of the story, might be lurking here at Nats Insider.

NatsLady said...

Didn't Matt Stairs injure his knee? Can't he be put on the DL so we can move someone?

Tim said...

Taking a snapshot of how are people playing today and extrapolating 18-30 months into the future doesn't seem realistic to me. 18 months ago we thoguth we had our lead off and CF of the future in Morgan. How did that work out?

Where Rendon plays, who moeves where, and who is blocking who is premature. Rendon is still injured and he hasn't even signed yet. I don't see him moving up to the MLB level for at least a year and a half. And with injuries, possible trades, etc...

Desi has proved he can play D and he always been a solid offensive palyer. So gotta assume he will get his batting together shortly. If he doesn't or if someone else gets hurt, then it all becomes simple.

Anonymous said...

"What seems to be lost in this... Riggleman's selfishness cost Radison his job and McClaren a spot in the dugout. The 'me first' mentality certainly had it's ripple effect."

Radison and McLaren are at least still getting paid for the rest of this season, since they were fired or reassigned within the organization, respectively. Riggleman gets at least some credit for shooting himself in the foot without taking along any innocent bystanders. But he still shot himself in the foot. It's pretty clear he basically just decided he didn't want to manage any more, either now or in the future. He should have just said that, like Mike Hargrove did when he quit Seattle, instead of making up stories about how he was disrespected by a GM who did nothing more than tell him to complete his current contract and perform well, and then we'll talk about an extension.

JaneB said...

I was just signing in to point out the Boswell piece on Werth. It was great that people stood and cheered him for that fly ball way out to the warning track, to move the runner in position to become a home plate stealer. And the people sitting next to us, as a group, shouted, "we love you, Jayson." I know: too much for a bunch of you. But there is NO WAY this guy "doesn't care" or is dogging it. He is clearly too much of a pro to be indifferent to what's going on, and he'd change it in a trice if he could. It sounds like he is physically beat up, and now the pressure is in his head. We help most by not condemning him.

And the Luca Brazi comments were hilarious.

Think we see Pudge tonight, or the same line up? Insider Minds want to know.

gonatsgo said...

ok - moving on - no more tears, no more blame. Just one more thing to get out of my system. I hate the post-game "interview" -- the man mumbles and rambles and I find myself saying "huh?" a lot. Some of you might find it entertaining but I don't think it puts the man in a good light. He is good at sound bites but sometimes I feel like he doesn't actually remember what happened in the game. Positively speaking - now that he is starting to recognize the team he has and adjust to it - he is doing better at managing the game and the line up. A lot of the things he said when he first came on board have totally gone by the wayside ( ie -- same line up every day, not sacrificing, leaving pitchers in a longer time). He at least has a learning curve.

Feel Wood said...

"Think we see Pudge tonight, or the same line up? Insider Minds want to know."

Davey has said that Pudge will be playing every third day going forward. Do the math.

Mark'd said...

The Braves have the 2nd best record in the entire National League. If they went with the top 4 records in the NL, the Nats would be 1 12 games out of the playoffs instead of 7.

N. Cognito said...

"The Braves have the 2nd best record in the entire National League. If they went with the top 4 records in the NL, the Nats would be 1 12 games out of the playoffs instead of 7."

But they don't.

Navy Nats Fan said...

I was at the game and loved the Gorzo at-bat - I was alternating between cheering and laughing. After the 7th or 8th pitch he stepped out and turned and looked at Bernadina in the on-deck circle and you could tell they were both having a ball. It flashed through my mind that it would be a great time for Gorzo to imitate Morse's pre-bat routine with the leg lift and inside hands move, before he got back in for the next pitch.

Gorzo must not have my sense of humor, because he didn't do it.

Anonymous said...

gonatsgo - "the man mumbles and rambles and I find myself saying "huh?" I have one name for you - Columbo. Underestimate at your peril. (If you're too young, ask your parents).

Anonymous said...

As to the future--the other team I follow (since the 1940s), the Red Sox--have had guys go down in the last few years to cancer, mononucleosis, broken ribs, broken thumb, broken foot, TJ surgery, strained this and that, etc. etc. Talking about who's going to be where a year or two from now ignores the reality: stuff happens.

JaneB said...

Thanks FeelWood. I missed that he ever said that about Pudge and Wilson alternating.

As for the wild card: start picturing the Phillies whamming the Braves. And US whamming the Braves, as well as some teams out of our division whamming the Braves. We can catch them, one one-run win at a time.

gonatsgo said...

anon at 11:26 - I am actually quite old - and your analogy is very good -- and so accurate that it's kind of scary. Part of my problem with the man is my history with baseball - I really, really did not like him back in the day and am having trouble switching gears. I assure you that I am trying to be fair and open-minded. Reach back in your mind to that player/manager that just rubbed you the wrong way and then have everyone tell you you're just supposed to love them now. It's tough. I do feel that he has a huge ego that gets in the way a lot. He loves to have the spotlight on him and always has. I realize that doesn't make him a bad manager. Again -- old dog, new tricks for me.

natsfan1a said...

Just one more thing, for the young 'uns:

(RIP Peter Falk. Oh, and Norm!)

masnstinks said...

Seeing lots of comments regarding the NL East today -- I think it's great that we are finally seeing ourselves in the mix! This is truly the best division in baseball - I don't care what they say about the ALEast - ours is tougher. The Mets have really gotten hot lately, the Braves and Phillies are huge hurdles and the Marlins won't continue to be this bad - they have usually been tough for us. I would love to see this team really settle in after the as break and get some sustained offense going. We will have to make another run through the division coming up - crunch time. I am somewhat concerned about Znn, Clip, and Storen lasting the full season. What a great problem to have that we are using our closer too much!! Maybe Strassie to take over for Znn?? Is HRod ready to close some games? That is, if we ever had a mop-up game where we were ahead by more than one run. So far they are snatching wins by a whisker - if they can sustain their offense, who knows what could happen? Lots of hits last night. You would think at some point, some of those get through or fall the right way, wouldn't you?

Sunderland said...

N. Cognito said...
I think Joe Cronin or Bucky Harris would have been a better fit for this team than either Riggs or Davey.
Cheap Lerners! Stupid Rizzo!
Heck, let's kill 2 birds and hire Lou Boudreau and have him handle duties at SS as well!

And the Rendon talk is silly. Tim is right, Rendon's healing, unsigned, and a long way from being an MLB ready performer.
And the "Zimmerman, 3B, 'nuff said" makes at least one enormous presumption, in that Zimm is looking at free agency in 15 months(around when Rendon may be MLB ready BTW).

A DC Wonk said...

@gonatsgo -- that's big of you to admit that you might be biased from Davey's past. Although, I'm curious -- why is that? Were you a fan of one of his opponents?

I was a Mets fan, and so I thought the world of Davey -- they never finished lower than 2d with him (and he was gutsy enough (as I noted a week or two ago) to give the Mets a complete day off after losing their first two games of the World Series at home -- an action that many people took as arrogant, but he explained later, was a case of the Mets players being burnt out).

I remember that Davey was into sabermatics before the term even existed -- he was years ahead of his time, and, in baseball-manager terms, he was almost a quarter century ahead of his time. (The guy, recall, has a graduate degree in math)

My next experience of following Davey closely was when he worked for one of the baseball guys I hate the most -- Peter Angelos. He took the Orioles to first place, won manager of the year, and got fired. Was that Davey's ego? Or Angelos being a jerk? It could have been either, but I'd bet on the latter, given Angelos' history. Standing up to Angelos is usually the difficult, but right, thing to do.

And, so, I hope you do give Davey a new look with unbiased eyes.

Big Cat said...

Well, as long as we got Riggs down and kicking him, let me add my two cents. As soon as Detwiler gave up the homer in the 6th(?)Davey immediately came out to get him. I remember thinking Riggs would of left him in for 2 or 3 more hitters, or until the lead was gone. He was notorious for that. last night, it was obvious Mattheus didn't have his best stuff. Davey got him out of there fast. Would Riggs have done this? Nope. He would of been scared to make him mad and left him in. Game over

Big Cat said...

Wonk......I too loved the job Davey did with the O's. If I remember right, Angelos was perturbed by Johnson not wanting to have lunch with him once a week to discuss team matters. I guess Davey blew him off one to many times. Angelos then hired his "oak tree" Ray Miller, which was a nightmare

MicheleS said...

Danny is on 980 right now, and he is really pumping up Werth! I love Danny! I am so glad he is on our team for the next 10 to 15 years!

JD said...


Zim has 2 years beyond this one left on his contract so he has roughly 27 months left. Having said that it's not inconceivable that he will resist committing to an extension before exercising his option to test free agency. I posted before that we should resolve this sooner rather than later so we know how to proceed.

I am fairly certain that Rizzo has had contacts with Zim's agent but this needs to be hush hush because if other teams get a whiff of this it will diminish Zim's value substantially.

To me the best case scenario has us signing Zim to a long term deal (7 years) and then finding Rendon another position or even using him in a trade for a front line pitcher but if this does not work you can't lose Zim for nothing.

A DC Wonk said...

To me the best case scenario has us signing Zim to a long term deal (7 years) and then finding Rendon another position....

Exactly. These guys are tremendous athletes -- they (either Zim _or_ Rendon) can learn a new position. Bryce went from catcher to outfield, Espy went from SS to 2B, A-Rod went from many years at SS to 3B, and etc.

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