Friday, April 23, 2010

Game 17: Dodgers at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Dodgers (minus Manny Ramirez) come to Nationals Park this weekend.
It's always a treat when the Los Angeles Dodgers come to town. One of baseball's best-run and most-stable franchises -- well, at least until Frank and Jamie McCourt decided to get divorced and ruin everything -- makes only one trip per season to the District. Sadly, Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Vin Scully (now in his 60th season with the club) no longer makes road trips east of the Rockies, so you won't be able to hear those familiar and soothing tones.

Another key member of the Dodgers organization won't be playing in this series: Manny Ramirez. One year ago, the slugger was suspended 50 games for performance enhancing drugs in the middle of a series against the Nats. This time, Ramirez is injured. He strained a calf muscle running the bases yesterday in Cincinnati, and word is that he will miss this entire series.

Ryan Zimmerman also isn't in the lineup for the Nationals for the second straight game and the seventh time in 12 games. We'll get an update on Zim's hamstring in a little while.

Check back for updates throughout the game...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 68 degrees, Wind 6 mph in from CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Cristian Guzman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
3B Willie Harris
RF Justin Maxwell
P Luis Atilano

SS Rafael Furcal
LF Garret Anderson
RF Andre Ethier
CF Matt Kemp
1B James Loney
3B Ronnie Belliard
2B Blake DeWitt
C A.J. Ellis
P Charlie Haeger

6:03 p.m. -- Sounds like Ryan Zimmerman will miss another couple of days. The severity of this hamstring injury is very similar to his previous one that kept him out of the lineup five straight games. The Nats aren't going to rule anything out yet, but Jim Riggleman did say it's "doubtful" Zimmerman will play tomorrow.

6:05 p.m. -- Mike Morse update: The injured outfielder/first baseman has gone down to extended spring training in Viera, Fla., to begin his rehab. After a few days there, he'll hook up with one of the organization's affiliates to continue the rehab.

7:06 p.m. -- The first pitch of Luis Atilano's career is a strike, an 88-mph fastball to Rafael Furcal.

7:12 p.m. -- Nice first inning for Atilano. He pounded the strike zone (10 of 13 pitches were strikes), induced two groundballs and allowed a weak single to right by Andre Ethier.

7:23 p.m. -- The Nats wasted no time jumping on knuckleballer Charlie Haeger. Nyjer Morgan led off with a drive to left-center that rolled to the wall and turned into a triple. Adam Kennedy followed with an opposite-field single, and just like that the Nats lead 1-0.

7:31 p.m. -- Turns out the Nationals did require Jason Marquis to undergo an MRI before signing in December. Read all about that, plus comments from Marquis and Mike Rizzo on

8:02 p.m. -- I'm honestly not sure what just happened there. Ronnie Belliard hit a fly ball to center field. Nyjer Morgan took three or four steps back, thinking it was a deep drive. Then he suddenly realized the ball wasn't hit that well and came racing in. The ball still landed a good 10 feet in front of him. Then, Morgan inexplicably fired the ball toward home plate but off-line, basically to no one. Belliard advanced to second on a bizarre play that left Atilano in a major hole.

8:05 p.m. -- Atilano gets out of it with only minimal damage (an RBI groundout to third). So as we head to the bottom of the fourth, it's 1-1.

8:28 p.m. -- If Adam Dunn was going to break out of his season-long slump, that was a pretty good way to do it. He absolutely crushed a pitch from Haeger to lead off the bottom of the fourth. It careened off the facade of the third deck down the right-field line. They don't announce estimated distances here, but that had to be at least 450 feet, I'm thinking. Meanwhile, Atilano continues to pound the strike zone and have success doing it. Through five, he's allowed one run on three hits, effectively using his sinker to get groundballs out of the Dodgers. Nats lead 2-1 after five.

8:40 p.m. -- A round of applause, please, for Luis Atilano, who just posted a quality start against the highest-scoring offense in baseball in his big-league debut. Six innings, one run, five hits, two walks (one intentional) and one strikeout against the Dodgers. Ninety-three pitches, 57 for strikes. Now, can the bullpen hold that 2-1 lead and reward Atilano with his first career win?

8:47 p.m. -- Um, yeah, I think Dunn's slump is over. Just tagged his second homer in two innings, crushing a fastball from Haeger to right-center. Just like that, it's 4-1 in the sixth.

8:51 p.m. -- Here's a trio of blasts from the past, all in one double switch by Joe Torre. Now pitching: Ramon Ortiz. Shifting from third base to second base: Ronnie Belliard. Now playing third base: Jamey Carroll.

9:03 p.m. -- Ivan Rodriguez out of the game with lower back tightness. Wil Nieves replaced him for the seventh. We'll see how serious it is postgame, but I would imagine Pudge will probably get tomorrow off regardless with the short turnaround.

9:05 p.m. -- I think I'm going to officially begin the "Tyler Clippard All-Star Campaign" right now. With two more strikeouts in the seventh, the bespectacled reliever now has 16 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. He's 3-0 with an 0.71 ERA. Send Tyler to Anaheim!

9:14 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 23,859.

9:23 p.m. -- Another brilliant inning for Clippard, with two more strikeouts and a popout. His updated season totals: 3-0, 0.66 ERA, 18 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. Send Tyler to Anaheim!

9:38 p.m. -- Once again, I have no idea what just happened, but the inning is over and we're going to the ninth with the Nats up 5-1.

9:45 p.m. -- Whatever the case, this ballgame's over and another curly W is in the books. Nats win, 5-1, behind a strong debut from Luis Atilano, a pair of Adam Dunn homers and outstanding relief once again from Tyler Clippard. Kind of a ragged affair, with three Washington errors and some strange doings on the field, but overall it's a good win that puts this club back over the .500 mark (9-7).

11:03 p.m. -- OK, for those wondering, here's what happened on that Willie Harris play in the eighth: He apparently thought James Loney had stepped on first base after fielding the grounder, thus forcing Harris out. (Turns out Loney didn't step on the bag and was firing to the plate to force out Cristian Guzman.) So Harris trotted back toward the dugout. Once he did that, he officially vacated his right to be safe at first base. Umpire Jerry Crawford said he would have ruled Harris out even if Ronnie Belliard hadn't tagged him. You're not allowed to abandon your base and leave the field, even if you remain in foul territory all along. Definitely a strange play, and thankfully for the Nats, not one that cost them the game.


Tcostant said...

I think is time to move Pudge up in the line-up. A guy on a roll like this shouldn't hit 6th. You can always move him back later, if he comes back to his mean.

Anonymous said...

I agree....Pudge has gotta move up.

Souldrummer said...

I thought Guz could only bat 2nd? I'd like to see a swap between Guzman and Rodriguez.

Doc said...

Mark, do the Nats do any special batting prep for hitting a knuckle ball--apart from getting a good night's sleep?

Souldrummer said...

Seems to me Wakefield was nasty for them in that spring training start as well.

K.D. said...

Hopefully Wakefield was good practice for tonight's starter. I say don't mess with success with Pudge. He has hit everywhere in the line-up during his career, he just wants to be in it (the line-up).

K.D. said...

By the way, I have already decided to vote for Pudge for this year's Allstar game. It would be his 15th appearance, first one in the National League. Little bit early, but hey!

Mark Zuckerman said...

Doc: No special prep for Haeger. In fact, there's really nothing guys can do to prepare for a knuckleballer, because there's no real set pattern for how they throw. Haeger's knuckleball is different from Wakefield's, and each guy's might be different from start to start.

Dave said...

Where is MASN2 HD on Verizon? Why does plain old MASN2 have such a hideous picture? Thought this was the year we were supposed to get all games in HD?

Doc said...

Already, in one inning, Atilano is better that Marquis!

Anonymous said...

I say move Dunn down in the order. All the way down.

Anonymous said...

Doc -- I saw on that 20 inning game that Filepe Lopez is better than Marquis. LOL

Doc said...

Anonymous--That's a hard thing to admit too! I mean who wants to admit that FLOP is motivated to do anything---except make money!

Anonymous said...

That was my evil twin who wanted to move Dunn down in the order.

Doc said...

Good job by Atilano! How do we get our money back from Marquis???

Anonymous said...

Looks like Dunn is finally getting hot again

Gus said...

People like to bag THE PLAN, and I know it's hardly like we are a contender, but to see Ramon Ortiz, Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll play against us, while a young first gamer throws a quality start is pretty cool.

cadeck13 said...

Mark, re: 8:02 post "I'm honestly not sure what just happened there. Ronnie Belliard hit a fly ball to center field. Nyjer Morgan took three or four steps back, thinking it was a deep drive. Then he suddenly realized the ball wasn't hit that well and came racing in. The ball still landed a good 10 feet in front of him. Then, Morgan inexplicably fired the ball toward home plate but off-line, basically to no one. Belliard advanced to second on a bizarre play that left Atilano in a major hole."

Did you leave the press box? :)

Mark Zuckerman said...

Cadeck13: No, I was in my regular perch high above home plate for that strange Nyjer play. Still doesn't make sense to me. And for the record, I was down in the stands shooting photos when Dunn blasted his first homer. Take that, all you jinx believers!

Dave said...

Sorry about Nyjer's misplay in center, but his RBI sort of makes up for it. I do think I'll wear my #1 T-shirt to the park tomorrow.

cadeck13 said...

ok, so we'll let you leave the press box perched ever so high only when Dunn is at bat :)

Dave said...

WTF was that? Harris leaves 1b after the force at home? In fact, as my wife just pointed out, why was Willie swinging away on 3-0 with bases loaded? Bizarre.

Dave said...

Luis Atilano! TWO pies in the face! Almost chokes up in the Debbi interview talking about pitching to Pudge. Great first win for the rookie.

K.D. said...

Great pitching by Luis & Tyler. Some sloppy defense by a few. Think Dibble jinxed it by bragging about the error-less streak. Hope Pudge's back is just a little stiff from over swinging at those absurd knuckleballs.

Gus said...

Mark, any reports around the park on Chuck James in Triple A today? All the website tells you is 5 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 5 k. 59 pitches, 41 strikes. Not sure if that's his first start back??

Positively Half St. said...

Nats are in 3rd place, and a 1/2 game out of second. It does not matter yet if it is sustainable. Dig it, friends!!!!

natsfan1a said...

I liked Atilano's poise and how he got ahead of hitters. I also liked Dunn's dingers. Needless to say, the man was made to wear the Elvis wig. :-)

natsfan1a said...

K.D., it was Bob, not Rob, who bragged on the streak.

Natsochist said...

Mark, if you can figure out what happened with that Willie Harris play to end the 8th, I'd love a post on that. As would Carpenter & Dibble -- they're still trying to figure it out.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Natsochist: Just posted the explanation at the bottom of the running game thread.

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