Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nats vs. Astros -- 3/17/10

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats are back at Osceola County Stadium ... again.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Hello yet again from the spring training home of the Houston Astros, which at this point feels more like the home of the Washington Nationals. This is the third time the Nats have played at Osceola County Stadium this spring, the second time in five days.

I'm guessing George and Barbara Bush won't be in attendance this time as they were Saturday, but you will be pleased to know Adam Dunn will be here. After coming out of yesterday's game with lower back spasms, the Nats' slugger made the trip as promised and will be starting at first base.

Jason Marquis on the mound, making only his second official start of the spring (his last one was rained out). And there's a threat of some light rain this afternoon.

If you didn't see the earlier, shocking news: Elijah Dukes has been given his unconditional release. In slightly less shocking news: Logan Kensing also has been given his unconditional release.

Check back for updates throughout the day, and check out other new posts for non-game-related stuff, including a deeper analysis of the Dukes move...

Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Astros radio via XM and MLB Gameday Audio
Weather: Cloudy, 64 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF

RF Willy Taveras
SS Cristian Guzman
CF Justin Maxwell
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
2B Danny Espinosa
3B Eric Bruntlett
C Wil Nieves
P Jason Marquis

CF Michael Bourn
2B Kaz Matsui
RF Hunter Pence
LF Carlos Lee
1B Chris Shelton
3B Chris Johnson
SS Tommy Manzella
C Humberto Quintero
P Wandy Rodriguez

1:14 p.m. -- We're underway, and we've got a surprise already. Adam Dunn did not start after all. Chris Duncan is batting cleanup and apparently playing first base. Dunn did make the trip and was in the clubhouse getting treatment on his back this morning and was on the field during BP. I'll update with any more info on him. The Nats, meanwhile, went down in the top of the first against Wandy Rodriguez.

1:18 p.m. -- Official word is that Dunn was held out strictly for precautionary reasons. With an off-day tomorrow, he can rest more and not have to play until Friday. Doesn't explain why he made the trip today, though.

1:28 p.m. -- Here's the last thing you wanted to hear: Jason Marquis is getting rocked by the Astros. Gave up FIVE runs in the bottom of the first. In order: Single to left. Walk. RBI single to left. Walk. Strikeout. Three-run double to right-center by Chris Johnson. Groundout. RBI double to right. Lineout. Just like that, it's Astros 5-0 after one inning.

1:47 p.m. -- And the hits keep on comin' against Marquis in the second. RBI double by Carlos Lee. Sac fly by Chris Shelton. It's now 7-0, and Marquis' line reads as follows: 2 ip, 6 h, 7 er, 3 bb, 0 k. U-G-L-Y.

1:55 p.m. -- Willy Taveras, a man who owns eight home runs in 643 career big-league games, just blasted a solo shot to left to put the Nats on the board. Cristian Guzman follows with a gap shot to left-center and gets those legs cranking to turn it into a triple. Justin Maxwell, however, can't bring Guzie home. He strikes out to end the inning. Astros lead 7-1 in the middle of the third.

2:02 p.m. -- A much-needed, 1-2-3 inning from Marquis, who sets down the bottom of the Houston order in the third to keep things in check. He'll throw one more inning before his afternoon is complete.

2:09 p.m. -- Josh Willingham hammers the ball to left field for a solo homer in the fourth. Danny Espinosa (starting for the second straight day) whiffs badly for the second straight time. It's 7-2 after 3 1/2 innings.

2:17 p.m. -- Marquis can't make it through his requisite four innings. Michael Bourn leads off with a single ... for the third straight time today. Kaz Matsui draws a walk ... for the third straight time today. Hunter Pence drills his second single of the day, and that's all she wrote. Josh Wilkie on in a mop-up role. For Marquis: 3.1 ip, 8 h, 8 er, 4 bb, 1 k. He's still responsible for one runner on base.

2:25 p.m. -- Marquis' total spring numbers after two official starts: 5.1 ip, 11 h, 13 er, 7 bb, 1 k. ERA is 21.94.

2:45 p.m. -- Yet another ragged appearance from Matt Capps. He walks the leadoff man in the fifth, then later allows an RBI single to center and uncorks a wild pitch. The Nats' new closer has now been scored upon in five of his six outings this spring, allowing a total of nine hits and five walks.

2:57 p.m. -- What do you know, Tyler Walker allowed a home run to the first batter he faced today. Jason Michaels crushes a 3-1 pitch to left-center to put the Astros ahead 10-2 in the sixth. Fifth home run allowed by Walker in four outings this spring.

3:20 p.m. -- Marquis believes his troubles today were mechanical and can be fixed, though he wasn't happy with the results. "I just didn't have a feel for anything: my delivery, the ball coming out of my hand. I've just got to go back to the drawing board and try to feel comfortable throwing the baseball. I have an idea what I want to work on. Asked if this poor spring concerns him at all, seeing how there's less than three weeks to go, he said: "I think it would've four or five years ago. Not so much now. Ultimately, if it keeps going like this ... you want to see results. You don't want to embarrass yourself or embarrass your team out there with outings like that."

3:25 p.m. -- Adam Dunn said his back felt fine taking BP today but became an issue when tried to field grounders. He's still not worried this is anything serious, though, and believes he'll play Friday. "If this wasn't March 17 and it's April 17, then I'm playing," he said.

3:28 p.m. -- Drew Storen, by the way, allowed a run in the seventh on a hit, a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a sac fly. Astros now lead 11-2 heading to the eighth.

3:45 p.m. -- That's a final. Nats lose, 11-2, fall to 2-12 in the Grapefruit League. They'll enjoy their one and only off day of the spring tomorrow, then return Friday night to host the Cardinals, with Stephen Strasburg on the mound.

4:09 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman on Marquis: "He just didn't throw strikes. He was consistently missing down. That's a good place to miss if you're going to miss. But it just wasn't tempting enough to get guys to swing, so he was consistently behind in the count. Just did not have it."

4:12 p.m. -- Riggleman on the pressure on Walker to get his act together quickly or else risk not making the club: "We've got almost three weeks to go yet. So for a reliever, there's still a lot of appearances to get out there and redeem yourself, pitch better. I don't know that the word is pressure. He knows he's better than that, and he's going to have to show it."


Jeff Wang said...

What? No one bemoaning the loss of Logan Kindling? (thanks 1a for the nickname!)

peric said...

Justin Maxwell hitting all of .115 this spring batting 2nd?

HabsProf said...

Not bemoaning the loss of Kensing, but according to the ESPN data, Kensing has pitched one inning in spring training. Why did the Nats bring him back if they weren't going to give him a shot? It's not like the guy got lit up in his one inning (no hits, no runs, don't know about walks).

Again, not saying he shouldn't have been dumped, but why bother bringing him to camp?

natsfan1a said...

Can't recall who said that, but it wasn't me, Jeff.

peric said...

I think with Drew Storen and new pitcher Rafael Martin now in the mix in Syracuse and Harrisburg Kensing's opportunities were about to diminish. They are loaded to the gills with relief pitchers that pitch at AA/AAA at this point.

greg said...

i imagine they've seen kensing's bullpen sessions and decided he just wasn't throwing well enough to keep him over their other options. better to drop him now and get more live hitters for the pitchers they'll actually bring north.

The DC Wolf said...

Mark, what have you heard about what will be the Nats gameplan in RF now that Dukes is gone?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Matthew: Check out the updates on the Dukes posting for the club's plan in RF now.

jcville said...

It would make for some ugly defense, but what about Duncan in RF? I'd prefer Maxwell, but Duncan would seem to be an option there.

The DC Wolf said...

Oops, my bad. Do you think they are going to stick to Harris, Maxwell, or Morse or will they look to upgrade before the start of the season?

jcville said...

Well, it's a good thing these games don't matter... Anyone else tired of that refrain?

Anonymous said...

Did the groundout go to Guzman? Interested in his fielding today.


Steven said...

So, the future in RF is Willy Taveras?

Jeff Wang said...

actually, this is the third rotation through, right? So it does matter, right?

greg said...

actually, only the second time through for marquis and lannan. they threw sides when they were rained out.

natscan reduxit said...

... my Yankees-fan workmate believes Dunn will be traded before the end of June, and might not even come north with the team. Any rebuttals?

Go Nats!!

Anonymous said...

Any indication how the players are reacting to the Dukes news?

markfd said...

Was Tavares using a bat he borrowed from Mickey Rivers!?

Way to hustle Guz!

Jeeves said...

And Jason Marquis self-proclaimed that he'd like to be a mentor to the young Nationals--Wow!

Sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam said...

Jeeves: Marquis will teach the young pitchers how to walk off the mound quickly, which their heads down, after getting bombed by a poor offensive team. I think the rest of them is getting the hang of it.

Wally said...

Just saw the Dukes news. I am as surprised as Mark and most posters. Very hard to believe that this was baseball-only, although Rizzo has usually been more candid. I think that JayB got it right that missing the rest of winter ball put him in Rizzo's dog house, and he did not do enough this spring to get out (but I do believe that they tried all avenues to trade him and there were no takers). But even though I am surprised, I am not too bothered because I think that Dukes has really regressed over the last 18 months in terms of power plus plate discipline.

I'll bet plan A is a RF platoon of Morse/Duncan with Bernadina as the 4th OF, plus Willie. The final straw for Dukes even could have been a desire to keep both Morse and Duncan on the roster.

Also feels like a bunch of trades coming up to shape up rosters (majors and Syracuse). I bet some of the pitching 'surplus' goes (some combo of Martin/Martis/Chico/Stammen).

Anonymous said...

I know it's piling on and arguably less important in March, but there is a reason some baseball fans think Marquis is a bottom of the rotation guy. One has no trouble wondering why he has been left off the playoff roster in the past after a performance like today. Carl in 309

HabsProf said...

Wow! Just saw read Marquis' spring training stats. They look ugly. Almost as bad as Capps' numbers.

Weren't those guys the two big free agent signings? The guys who were supposed to help the pitching staff?

It's still only spring, it's still only spring, it's still only spring.... or so I keep telling myself.

Anonymous said...

The Mets are closing in on Joe Beime, the report I saw in the NY Post today said that besides the Mets, one AL team and one NL team are also talking to his agent.

I sure hope the Nationals are that NL Team!

Sam said...

What's with the interest in Joe Beimel? He isn't very good.

Anonymous said...

I've never been to Spring Training. I recognize that, early on, guys just need to get their work in and work on a specific task (a pitch type, a new release angle, etc). At what point in the spring do they begin to focus more on the full package, as in, doing whatever they need to to get a guy out? 3rd time through? 4th? Not til the last week?

Mark Zuckerman said...

NatinBeantown: I'd say generally teams are most concerned with spring numbers/results in the final 7-10 days. So the Nats are getting close to that point of no return.

jcville said...

Those walks drive me crazy -- isn't Marquis a groundball pitcher? Let 'em put it in play, then, Jason! Capps - you're not helping yourself as a closer by walking the leadoff hitter. These guys are clearly not following the McCatty way of being aggressive...

Natsochist said...


Have you heard any word that the Nats are considering letting Bruney take a shot at the closing gig, with the way Capps has been getting shelled?

Anonymous said...

I second Natsochist's question with an additional wrinkle..any talk of Storen being allowed to start the season as the closer? Also, can we please see the headline Nats Cut Walker tomorrow, PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

Sam said...
What's with the interest in Joe Beimel? He isn't very good.

Answer: He would improve our current pen and that is all that matters.

Sam said...

He would cost money for, what, one additional win? If that many...there's just no point in signing him.

Anonymous said...

I am very nervous about Capps at this point.

And with all the other cuts, how in the world is Walker still in camp?

johninmpls said...

Mark, if I send you another $20, will you come home? These updates are actually depressing me now. I prefer the ignorance-is-bliss approach now.

Anonymous said...

Please, Nats fans, don't push the panic button. It is still early. Marquis, Capps, Bruney, they are veterans. They will be ready when the bell will ring.

Anonymous said...

JohninMPLS has an interesting proposal. But here's a twist. If we all put up a little more dough, maybe we can get Mark to stay AND lie to us several times a day with glowing reports of crisp pitching, sharp infield play, timely hitting and deft baserunning. Then we'd be dumb and happy (in my case, fat as well).

Anonymous said...

Sam said...
He would cost money for, what, one additional win? If that many...there's just no point in signing him.

Answer: Beimel won't cost much, after all he is not signed on 3/17. A bad pen, can loss games, the swing can be a lot more that "one add'l win". Plus if the Nats at out of in July, you can trade him again, get a minor league with upside and not have to pay half of it.

HabsProf said...

Interesting post by Rob Neyer re: Dukes.

Sam said...

I agree with Neyer. Now I don't have to write my own blog post. :)

Anonymous8 said...

peric said...
Justin Maxwell hitting all of .115 this spring batting 2nd?

Can you say .103 and they pinch hit for him on his last at-bat to keep him from dropping to .100

This is where Bernadina and Nyjer can help themselves by bunting to get a base hit and help their BA while Maxwell isn't really a bunter.

When you look at the home run and one of Maxwell's other hits came off of AAA relievers later in the game. I want to see what my fringe guys are doing against real Major League pitchers.

Duncan and Maxwell need to be sent to the Minor League camp now to get themselves straightened out.

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