Saturday, June 9, 2012

Game 57: Nats at Red Sox

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Behind Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals try to make it two in a row at Fenway Park.
BOSTON -- All of New England was buzzing last night about Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals, and the locals were still buzzing this morning about the performances of those two young stars during a series-opening, 7-4 victory at Fenway Park. (Witness the cover of today's Boston Globe sports section.)

But, as is always the case in baseball, there's another game to be played today, and you can't rest on your laurels for long. So the spotlight now turns to Gio Gonzalez and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the former looking to bounce back from a sub-par outing against the Braves and the latter making his season debut after missing 12 months following Tommy John surgery.

With the right-handed Dice-K on the mound, Davey Johnson brings back his regular lineup, with one slight twist. Michael Morse will remain as DH, so Rick Ankiel makes his first start in center field since May 29.

Plenty of updates and analysis to come...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at BOSTON RED SOX
Where: Fenway Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv, MLB Network (outside D.C. area)
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 177
Weather: Partly cloudy, 75 degrees, Wind 7 mph LF to RF
NATIONALS (33-23)
LF Steve Lombardozzi
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
DH Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
(LHP Gio Gonzalez)

RED SOX (29-29)
LF Daniel Nava
2B Dustin Pedroia
RF Adrian Gonzalez
DH David Ortiz
1B Kevin Youkilis
3B Will Middlebrooks
SS Mike Aviles
CF Darnell McDonald
C Kelly Shoppach
(RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka)

UMPIRES
HP Dana DeMuth (cc), 1B Al Porter, 2B Paul Nauert, 3B Doug Eddings

4:07 p.m. -- Daisuke Matsuzaka starts off Steve Lombardozzi with a fastball for a strike, and we are underway on a gorgeous, 78-degree afternoon in Boston.

4:14 p.m. -- Dice-K didn't appear to have any trouble with the top of the Nationals' lineup. He struck out both Lombardozzi and Ryan Zimmerman and got Bryce Harper to hit a weak popup to shallow left field. Needed only 12 pitches during a 1-2-3 top of the first. Gio Gonzalez now taking the mound for the Nats.

4:20 p.m. -- And Gio matches Dice-K with his own 12-pitch first inning. Got Dustin Pedroia flailing at a beautiful curveball for his first strikeout of the day. Also got Daniel Nava to fly out to center and Adrian Gonzalez to ground out to short. It's scoreless through one.

4:27 p.m. -- Adam LaRoche crushes Matsuzaka's first-pitch fastball in the top of the second into the home bullpen for his team-leading 10th homer of the season. At least, I believe it was a first-pitch fastball. Could've been the famed gyroball, though I doubt Dice-K would start off LaRoche with that, knowing his reputation as a good first-pitch gyroball hitter. ... Nats lead 1-0.

4:36 p.m. -- The Nats dodged a bullet in the bottom of the second ... though Jesus Flores wasn't able to dodge the bullet fired right at him. David Ortiz led off with a double into the left-field corner, a tough play for a novice outfielder like Lombardozzi, especially in his first-ever appearance at Fenway. Now with a runner on second, Gio and Flores got their signs screwed up, with Flores expecting a fastball and Gio throwing a curveball. The end result: Flores took a direct hit in his groin/upper thigh and went down in a heap for a few moments. He's OK, but Nats catchers just continue to take a pounding behind the plate. Gio, meanwhile, managed to get out of the jam, thanks to a nifty play from Zim at third base and a routine flyball to right. Still 1-0 Nats after two.

4:54 p.m. -- You know what we don't really talk about much anymore: Ian Desmond's defense. That's actually a good sign, because it means he's not making mistakes out there. But it needs to be noted just how good Desmond has been at shortstop this season. His play just now to end the bottom of the third -- charging in and making a quick throw to get Nava -- was incredibly smooth. And the kind of play he wouldn't have made look so smooth in the past. Desmond's defensive transformation over the last two seasons has been nothing short of remarkable. Still 1-0 after three.

5:10 p.m. -- Plenty to talk about in the top of the fourth. Let's start with Harper, who after drawing a leadoff walk advanced to third on Zimmerman's single to left. Then the kid started dancing off third base and appeared to completely consume Dice-K, who kept stepping off the mound and faking pickoff throws. Moments later, Michael Morse went out and poked a low-and-outside fastball into right field for an RBI double. That's Morse's sixth hit since coming off the DL, and five of them have been hit to right field. Desmond then did the same thing, poking a two-run single to right for his 29th and 30th RBI of the year. Just like that, the Nats have taken a 4-0 lead as the Fenway natives again get restless.

5:25 p.m. -- Gio has quietly been dealing today. Through four innings, he's allowed one hit (that Ortiz bloop double to left) without issuing a walk. He's struck out three, all on curveballs. And his pitch is a scant 46.

5:40 p.m. -- Gonzalez finally had to labor some to get through the fifth, though he wasn't helped by a rare LaRoche error at first base. His pitch count is up to 72, but he's still allowed only one hit and he's now got five strikeouts. And what do you know: Strasburg and Gonzalez are once again 1-2 in the majors in strikeouts. Still 4-0 as we head to the sixth, with Frankly Morales in to replace Dice-K.

6:02 p.m. -- Not much happening at the plate for the Nats since the big fourth inning. They've done very little against Morales. Fortunately, Gio continues to keep the Red Sox off the scoreboard, so it remains 4-0 at the seventh-inning stretch.

6:25 p.m. -- The wheels began to fall off in the bottom of the seventh. Gio issued a one-out walk and then a single, prompting Davey to emerge from the dugout and pull his starter after 98 pitches. In came Craig Stammen to face Ryan Sweeney with runners on the corners ... and proceeded to walk him to load the bases. With switch-hitter Jarrod Saltamacchia now pinch-hitting, Davey elected not to keep Stammen (one of his best relievers all season) on the mound and instead went with the just-recalled Michael Gonzalez. Curious move, and Saltamacchia pounced on Gonzalez's first pitch and poked a two-run single off the Monster. Gonzalez remained in the game and did manage to get out of the jam without inflicting any more damage, though. He struck out Nava looking at a nice fastball at the knees, then got Pedroia to foul out. So it's 4-2 as we head to the eighth, with a lot of baseball yet to be played.

6:32 p.m. -- The Nats have had no answer for Franklyn Morales. The lefty has come in and effectively silenced their lineup over three perfect innings. This game is turning quite tense as the Nats try to hang on for dear life, up 4-2 heading to the bottom of the eighth and Sean Burnett now in.

6:39 p.m. -- A 1-2-3 eighth for Burnett, which was much-needed by the Nats. Now they'll carry at least a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, with Tyler Clippard starting to get loose in the pen.

6:49 p.m. -- And here we go ... It'll be Clippard vs. Middlebrooks, Aviles and Sweeney in the bottom of the ninth, the Nats still leading 4-2.

7:00 p.m. -- That's it. It's all over. Clippard gets his seventh save as the Nats beat the Red Sox 4-2. Their record in 20 series this year is now 13-3-4. They've also incredibly won nine games this season when producing five or fewer hits.

51 comments:

Scooter said...

I had heard they were thinking about putting Gonzalez in the outfield. I see now that this will be his 12th game here this year, so I guess they made good on the threat.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Tjeu want to get Will Meadowbrooks in the line up more. Like we want to get Steve Lombardozzi in the lineup more. (except Meadowbrooks has more power).

GO GIO lets win the series today.

baseballswami said...

I was listening to a tv talking head freak out about EJax being a pinch runner and about how pitchers can get hurt, etc. etc. The AL types always act like their pitchers are fragile china dolls. They are highly paid athletes and can basically get hurt sneezing, closing a door on their fingers or cutting themselves in the kitchen. Our pitchers in particular seem to be very athletic in fielding their position, hitting and running bases. Any player can get hurt doing anything at all. I think they should be actual baseball players like everyone else on the team - but then maybe that's just my NL kind of mind-set. Just like their precious DH guys at some point knew how to play a position. Not up on the Sox - where does Adrian Gonzalez usually play? I guess I am just used to the Nats way of doing things - you play where and when the team needs you , you adjust and you play the game you have been playing for years and do it well. I love the versatility and adaptability of our guys. You were a catcher or a 1B? Now you're an outfielder - do it!

phil dunton said...

Please, not Ankiel. Put Bernadina in CF. Ankiel's arm isn't worth four strikeouts!

SonnyG10 said...

Well we certainly got Boston's attention.

Grandstander said...

Rick Ankiel is slashing .223/.284/.385

Roger Bernadina is slashing .239/.333/.386

That's 50 points worth of OBP that's sitting on the bench right now. The reason for the drastic difference is obvious.

Ankiel's K% is 32.6%! Highest on the team, including Espinosa. His 0.24 BB/K ratio is second worst on the team, after only Desmond, who never walks, but at least he gets hits.

In addition, his .321 BABIP suggests his .223 average is actually higher than it should be and will regress.

That's just a huge hole in the lineup. I'm not saying Roger Bernadina is a much better replacement, but he is slightly better. Fangraphs has him beating Ankiel in WAR 0.2/0.0 and BR has him beating Ankiel in WAR -0.1/-0.6, so Ankiel's defense isn't making up for his K's at the plate.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Would be great if you are wrong today an Ankiel go 4 for 4. Of course we always cheer for all of them to get hits. We just know some do not do it very often. When you have more K's than hits that is very not good.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Davey really likes Bernadina as his left handed pinch hitter with Tracey o

Steady Eddie said...

Sad to say, there's not a great deal to choose from between Ank and Shark as starters. Shark's best hitting this year has been as a PH; and just maybe (this is hope not belief) Davey thinks Ank has learned more plate patience with off the plate garbage per his two walks vs the Mets this week.

Like I said, I don't really believe it, but in Davey we trust.

Drew said...

Looks like another terrific clash today. GYFNG!!

One postscript from the last thread -- we shouldn't overlook a dandy contemporary duo.

Last year there was considerable legitimate debate as to whether Justin Verlander or Miguel Cabrera was the Tigers' MVP -- and, by extension, the AL MVP.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Turn on the flagship station hoping to hear Byron Kerr and some Nats talk, and they are talking about the Redskins again. I like football come September (but really don't want to talk about it at all during baseball season). COme on lets do more promotions flagship station.

hiramhover said...

As to Ankiel vs Bernie

Ankiel is the better and more experienced CF, which helps in that odd and unfamiliar OF--esp with 2 rookies at the corners.

And he did draw 2 BBs the other day vs the Mets.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Flagship stations till talking football. It is June 9th lets talk baseball.

Will said...

Just to chime in on the CF debate. Over the past month, Bernadina has batted .308/.378/.513(!)

Ankiel has batted .169/.270/.354 in that same time...

Steady Eddie said...

hiramhover -- you're basically right re Ankiel being a slightly better fielder, though I was referring to their hitting as starters. I've seen them both misread liners hit over their heads; Shark's speed sometimes enables him to catch up to them better and make some of those highlight reel snags, but he also tends to misread liners in front of him whereas Ankiel has made some very nice charging catches this year. And of course the Shark has teeth but no comparison at all with The Arm.

Steady Eddie said...

Will -- most of the Shark's good hitting has come off the bench -- he may be slightly better hitter than Ankiel as a starter, but not by much IIRC, and Ankiel is certainly the preferable CF in a very challenging park like Fenway.

MicheleS said...

GO GIO! GYFNG! ! i know we can beat Dice-K!!

NCNatsie said...

Maybe Ankiel will be great at the plate today. Maybe in exchange for the pitching tips Ankiel gave Stras before yesterday's game, Stras returned the favor and talked to Ankiel about hitting. :)

hiramhover said...

Steady

The 2 BBs did come as a PH--my point was simply that they're his most recent ABs. I think Ankiel understands that even for a player with a high K rate, his K rate this year is atrocious, and perhaps Thursday's performance reflects an effort to change.

Certainly, out hitters should be patient today, and make Dice-K throw strikes in his first appearance in more than a year--he's probably going to be a low-ish pitch count anyway.

mick said...

where's Tyler Moore, I thought Davey said he needs to play every day?
This is where Davey loses me

mick said...

at least have him DH

mick said...

not loses but confuses me

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Let's score 3 in the first today.

mick said...

quick beer run and then will watch Nats on flat screen, outdoor party

Steady Eddie said...

mick -- Davey had TMoore in to hit against a LHP and play LF. He has Lombo in to hit LH (he's weak from the other side of the plate) against Dice-K, who's a righty.

This one is not complicated.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Tyler Moore or Steve Lombo.......you can't have both.

baseballswami said...

Oh, come on, NatsJack - that's too hard of a choice. Please?

Corky said...

I like and agree with Mark's comment about Desmond's D. It turns out that the Nats' executives knew what they were doing. Let us try to remember that. ;)

Soul Possession, My Hitterish Sofa said...

Flagship stations till talking football. It is June 9th lets talk baseball.

I don't listen to talk radio--do they call themselves the "flagship" station, or are we just using the term loosely?

Steady Eddie said...

Is Guo dealing today or what? Those hammers to AGon were wicked good, and then Desi with yet another GG play to get Papi.

These guys are cookin'!

waddu eye no said...

am i the only guy in rome listening to the game?
gyfng

baseballswami said...

no :)

Section 222 said...

Gio needs to practice getting over the cover first. He's just a spectator out there.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

We have good pitchers, but one thing as a whole they do too much of is walk sub .200 hitters. I think it is concentration. they concentrate better on the great hitters.

MicheleS said...

222
Look @ Boz on twitter. He is hammering Gio about that very point

MicheleS said...

Danny has some hops! Our defense is soooo good!

jeffwx said...

espi gets an assist from right field 9-3

Grandstander said...

Gio is pissed as well he should be. He was absolutely dealing and just took his foot off the gas.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

No walks damn it.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Walking people is the kiss of death at Fenway 9and Coors) why do they do it? Earlier walking a .190 hitter. totally illogical.

baseballswami said...

so quiet here today...

Unknown said...

Nats seem to think four runs will win every game. As that old song goes, "It ain't necessarily so."

JaneB said...

Just checking in here -- quiet day here.
I missed the reference for why Clip is one out away from walking to the ballpark...can anyone 'splain me?
How can these fans interfere so often? They're grown ups aren't they?

NatsNut said...

Opps, tying run a the plate!

Eugene in Oregon said...

Cue MicheleS...

JaneB said...

We have to channel MichelleS now...

I love that Davey is being nice to Gio now. Plus I love Gio. Plus I love Clippard.
Plus I love all of them, actually.

Drew said...

JaneB:

It took the team bus 90 minutes to go from the hotel to the ballpark today because of a parade. Clippard was one of the guys who got out and walked, deciding it would be quicker.

Candide said...

Since MicheleS isn't here...

WOO-HOOOOOOOOO!!!

SonnyG10 said...

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Four to two. Nats win! Thaaaaaaa Nats win!!!!!

MicheleS said...

Thanks for picking me up. Have been out with the family! WOOOOOO HOOOOOO!

Candide said...

Cunegonde and I have been out of town this weekend in the wilds of NJ with nothing but MLB Lite and Nats Insider to keep us abreast of our boys - can you believe you can't get the Nats on local TV here? Went to a graduation party today and got to talking with some NYC area baseball fans and they seems to be as impressed with our two young phenoms as we are. One of them compared Bam Bam to my boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle, "except he seems to have more brains and less alcohol than Mantle."

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