Sunday, March 7, 2010

A tale of two innings

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jason Marquis pitched a clean first inning, then allowed five runs in the second.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After watching his teammates on the Nationals pitching staff serve up homers like creamed corn in an elementary school cafeteria the previous three days, Jason Marquis wanted to take the mound today, put together two clean innings and restore his club's good name.

The veteran right-hander, though, wasn't immune to the plague that has consumed the majority of Washington's pitchers through the early stages of the Grapefruit League. Despite a quick, scoreless first inning, Marquis fell into some bad habits in the second and after a fluke play wound up charged with five runs.

Omir Santos' inside-the-park grand slam on a groundball into the left-field corner -- more on that in a moment -- was the big blow, but that wasn't really Marquis' fault. His bigger problem was loading the bases on three straight walks to open the inning, and that's what he lamented over afterward.

"I just lost my aggressiveness, wasn't really getting through the ball," he said. "I was trying to guide it to spots, instead of just letting my natural ability take over. It made me lose command of the strike zone."

Marquis isn't the type of pitcher who agonizes over spring training results. He's been through enough of these over the years, and his status on the club is as secure as anyone's, so he wasn't going to get too upset over anything that took place today.

"It's spring training," he said. "Am I excited about giving up five runs? No. But I've still got five more starts to work on things before Game 1."

Now, about that bizarre grand slam. Santos hit a hard grounder that wound up lodged under the padding of the left-field wall. Willy Taveras immediately held up his arms, signaling the ball was stuck and thus the play should be deemed a ground-rule double. Third-base umpire Paul Nauert, though, didn't immediately see Taveras' motion from his position. Rather than wait for the umpire to make it out there for a closer look, Taveras decided to try to retrieve the ball. Once he did, the play remained live, and the next thing everyone knew, all four runners had crossed the plate.

"If the ball is stuck there, you just have to leave it there until the umpire sees it," Taveras said. "But he has to run [out there for a closer look]. If that happens during the season, somebody's going to get thrown out of the game. He needs to run out there."

Nobody was thrown out of this game. Riggleman did come out for a discussion with Nauert, but it wasn't animated at all. You've got to wonder if we'd see a different display of emotion had this taken place on April 7 instead of March 7.

"If you had to do it over, Taveras would just trust that when [Nauert] does get down there to see it, he's going to see that it's lodged and it would be a double," Riggleman said. "But he kind of panicked and picked it up and it was too late."


DCJohn said...

Well they kept the opposition under 10 runs. It's going to be hard to keep Ian Desmond out of the line up. Morse, too. I won't be concerned about the first week in March, but by St. Patrick's Day, they better start taking these games seriously.

SonnyG10 said...

Hope the stuck ball is not indicative of how things are going to go this year. That looked a lot like what happened to us last year.

023staN said...

I'm not worried about Your Washington Nationals this early in Spring Training. We will continue to attend every game to cheer them on to victory!

Anonymous said...

Well, I'll be. I guess a guy has to be paid $10,000,000 a year to know enough to leave a stuck ball alone! Then again, about $20,000,000 a year to know enough not to guide a pitch to spots, instead of just letting my "natural ability" take over (take over??). How did you get to the majors in the first place - with NO natural ability? You just have to love the thought process of these guys. Wow. Good luck team. I think the Nats will do well this year. Thank goodness it won't be with most of the "players" now at spring training. I just hope management thinks clearer about who stays with the team than the way Marquis and Taveras think!! GO NATS!

natsfan1a said...

You know, it's almost to the point of stalking with the 320 impressions, IMO. Pretty creepy stuff.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious parody, 023staN. He has to be the most cloyingly annoying guy in Natstown.

Anonymous said...

After watching his teammates on the Nationals pitching staff serve up homers like creamed corn in an elementary school cafeteria the previous three days
C'mon Mark, how about some new similes ;-)

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