Saturday, April 10, 2010

Game 5: Nats at Mets

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The sun is out today, but it's still cold and windy.
NEW YORK -- It's another chilly, windy day in Queens, but at least the sun's out for this afternoon's matinee between the Nationals and Mets.

The Nats can only hope the abundant sunshine brings out the best in John Lannan, who today attempts to become the first member of the rotation to reach the sixth inning. It's been a woeful stretch for Washington starters so far, with Craig Stammen's five-inning performance Thursday the gold standard to date, as it were.

As manager Jim Riggleman said last night: "That can't continue. That's not going to work."

Lannan will be facing a Mets lineup bolstered by the return of leadoff man and shortstop Jose Reyes, who has been activated off the DL after missing several weeks with a mysterious thyroid issue. Reyes hasn't been himself for more than a year, but if he returns to the form he displayed in 2006-08, he's one of the most dynamic players in baseball.

Willy Taveras gets the nod in right field, in part because Mike Morse is not ready to return to the field from his calf injury, and in part because Taveras brings better defense to the Nats outfield.

Cristian Guzman starts at second base, with Ian Desmond at shortstop and Adam Kennedy getting his first game off of the year.

Check back for updates and analysis throughout the game, and check the homepage for other news and notes...

Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 1:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM
Weather: Sunny, 54 degrees, Wind 16 mph LF to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
SS Ian Desmond
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Willy Taveras
P John Lannan

SS Jose Reyes
2B Alex Cora
3B David Wright
LF Jason Bay
RF Jeff Francoeur
CF Gary Matthews Jr.
1B Fernando Tatis
C Henry Blanco
P Oliver Perez

12:25 p.m. -- The Nationals plan to make a roster move after the game today, with Livan Hernandez added so he can start tomorrow's series finale. The common belief is that the club will drop one of its eight relievers. Jesse English is the only one with options, but Jason Bergmann and Tyler Walker would be candidates as well. Asked what factors will be used to determine the move, Jim Riggleman said, "probably recent performance as much as anything." The manager said they've got "two or three options there." Here's one possible out-of-the-box scenario: Option Garrett Mock to Syracuse. Though Mock's turn next comes up Thursday, the Nats technically don't need five starters until next Sunday. John Lannan, Hernandez and Jason Marquis could all pitch on normal rest thanks to Tuesday's day off in Philadelphia. Not saying that will happen. Just saying it's one intriguing scenario that would allow the Nats to keep all eight relievers for another week.

1:11 p.m. -- We're underway, with a flyout to left by Nyjer Morgan to start things off. Another sparsely attended game here at Citi Field.

1:19 p.m. -- John Lannan tosses 1-2-3 bottom of the first. His first seven pitches were all strikes. Ten of his 12 overall pitches in the inning were strikes. That's how you "attack hitters," in case certain other members of the Nats rotation were wondering.

1:33 p.m. -- Two on, two out, 0-2 count. And Willy Taveras triples to deep left-center. Just how Jim Riggleman drew it up, right? Nats lead 2-0.

1:45 p.m. -- To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld's line when yelling at the lady behind the car rental counter: "You know how to take a lead. You just don't know how to hold a lead. And that's really the most important part of the process: holding the lead." John Lannan, presented a 2-0 advantage by his teammates, proceeded to then load the bases with nobody out in the second, two of those baserunners coming on walks. He nearly got out of it, but Henry Blanco's fly to center field was deep enough to score one run. And Oliver Perez's blooper just carried over Ian Desmond's reach for an RBI single. So we're tied, 2-2, heading to the third.

2:07 p.m. -- For the second straight inning, Lannan loads the bases with nobody out. This time, he escapes without allowing a run. The key moment: Jeff Francoeur tapped a little dribbler about six inches in front of the plate. Pudge Rodriguez picked up the ball, stepped on the plate and then threw to first for the double play. As one particularly disgusted Mets fan (wearing a Darryl Strawberry jersey and NY cap with the brim back and to the side) sitting in front of the press box put it: "Oh my god!" Still 2-2 after three.

2:20 p.m. -- Deja vu: Bases loaded, Willy Taveras at the plate. Two-run single up the middle. That's four RBI for Taveras -- his career high -- in only four innings. Should we just give Jim Riggleman manager of the year honors right now? Nats now lead 4-2 in a game that has featured seven half-innings so far, four with the bases loaded.

2:32 p.m. -- John Lannan isn't exactly pitching well today, and he'd probably be the first to admit that. But it's not like the Mets are taking it to him. Through four innings, they only have three hits (an opposite-field double by Jeff Francoeur, an opposite-field single by Oliver Perez and an infield single by Alex Cora that should have been an error on Ian Desmond. So what's been Lannan's problem? He's been all over the place (three walks and a hit batter already). That's not his style. The question is whether he can figure it out, take advantage of the 4-2 lead he's been given and churn out a couple more decent innings to put himself in line for the win.

3:15 p.m. -- So much for the best game of Willy Taveras' life. Already sitting on four RBI with two men on and two out in the sixth, he struck out at a 3-2 splitter from reliever Ryota Igarashi. So it's 4-3 Nats, and Lannan is out of the game, the fifth straight Nats starter to fail to make it to the sixth.

3:17 p.m. -- Whoa, and Ryan Zimmerman is out of the game (tight left hamstring). They're saying it's precautionary, but Willie Harris is now in at third base. Not the kind of development you expected, and not one the Nats can be happy about.

3:35 p.m. -- Tyler Clippard is absolutely blowing away the Mets. Five strikeouts in two innings of relief, most of them coming on high fastballs. Wow. Still 4-3 after seven.

3:48 p.m. -- Golden opportunity squandered by the Nats there. Bases loaded, one out in the eighth, and Pudge hits a comebacker that turns into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play. So it's still 4-3 going to the bottom of the eighth. Clippard is returning for a third inning of work. But the Nats' 3-4-5 hitters Zimmerman (hamstring), Dunn (pinch-runner) and Willingham (defense) are out of the game. Adam Kennedy takes over at first base, with Willie Harris in left field and Alberto Gonzalez at third base for the final two innings. If the Nats bullpen holds on, great. If they don't and this team needs more offense later, this is going to be a major problem.

4:02 p.m. -- All hail Tyler Clippard. Three innings, seven strikeouts.

4:08 p.m. -- Can Clippard go four? No, not after throwing 40 pitches. So it's Matt Capps on to pitch the ninth and try to preserve the Nats' 4-3 lead. Top of the order for New York: Reyes, Cora and Wright.

4:25 p.m. -- All I can say is: The Mets must HATE Willie Harris. Nats win, 4-3.

7:31 p.m. -- Forgot to mention this earlier: There was no roster move after today's game. Riggleman said they'll make the move tomorrow morning, not wanting to spoil the good vibe from today's win.


natsfan1a said...

Go NATS!! (and a repost, because, hey, it's TWIB :-))

We pause now for this brief PSA. This Week in Baseball is starting up again. Today's episode is supposed to air locally at 12:30 on Fox. I've not checked the MLB Network schedule, but last year the weekly episode would also air there on Sunday. How about that?

JayB said...


At what point does this team look hard at their pitching philosophy...They have changed out so many parts but for year after year they still can not throw strikes. This issue has crossed players of all ages and all levels of MLB and minor leagues. Is it time to dump Spin Williams?

Anonymous said...

Is there any chance that Guz can pitch?????

JayB said...


Posted the Mock option makes the most sense...if they do not do it then I think you need to get some time with Rizzo to understand why he has just a most favored status on this team....Mike has said production is what matters...Mock has NEVER produced anything anywhere.

Jeff Wang said...

Neither has Bergmann or Walker... (well, this year, at least.)

TBC said...

The Nats need to make two roster moves (25 man and 40 man) to make room for Livo tomorrow. My prediction, in order of likelihood: Mock DFA. Bergmann DFA. Walker DFA. Remember, DFA clears a roster spot immediately and gives them 10 days to trade the guy or release him. If there's a bag of balls out there for whoever they DFA, they'll get it. Otherwise, they release the guy and sign him back to a minor league deal.

Then when they bring Olsen up to take Mock's rotation spot, they will option someone down to make room, like one of the extra relievers.

Sam said...

If the Nats send Mock down, who would they call up to start next Sunday? I'm pretty sure that Mock would have to stay down for 10 days (barring injury - quick digression, if Riggleman beats up one or all of the relievers, does that count as an injury?). So, someone else would have to be called up to start next Sunday, someone like Olsen or Martin (shudder).

JayB and all other Mock haters: please exercise patience. Lannan had a terrible Opening Day start in 2009, and he went on to have a decent season. No one is expecting Mock to be good, just serviceable (you know, until Strasburg, Detwiler, and possibly Wang are pitching). And previous performance and stats suggest that Mock can be that. That being said, I think Mock is much better suited for the bullpen. He's kind of like our Joba Chamberlain, without as much talent. He strikes out batters like crazy. If he pitches one or two innings at a time (and I mean intentionally, not by starting poorly), he could be so productive. I really think they should consider putting him in the bullpen and seeing what happens. He doesn't have a future in the rotation with this team, but I think he has enough talent to be a decent reliever.

Sam said...

If you want to complain about anything right now, do so about how Lannan just gave up a two-out, game-tying hit to a pitcher with a career .164 wOBA.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Thanks for the explanation of the double play. Wasn't quite sure how that happened - it's hard to tell from gameday.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

2 errors already? This can't make their pitchers particularly confident that if they attack hitters, the defense will take care of them.

DJ said...

This is where Rizzo needs to show once again he doesn't a run a front office anything like our previous one (Bowden). Bowden would continue to give a certain player opportunity after opportunity based on potential and not performance. Mock deserves to be out of the Majors and needs to prove to the front office/coaches otherwise while doing so IN the minors.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anybody watching the game on MASN and hear what Dibble just said about Reyes?

Jim Webster said...

Mark asks: Anybody watching the game on MASN and hear what Dibble just said about Reyes?

I did a doubletake but think Bobby asked how a young athlete developed a thyroid problem and Dibble answered something like this -- when you go to Canada and get your blood flushed. Caught me by surprise.

JayB said...

I did not hear anything much just an "oh yea, Yes!" with the error.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Thanks, Jim Webster. I heard he said something odd along those lines.

JayB said...

Dibbs has been all over the Home Plate Ump....who does look bad...Zim almost got thrown out looking back at him during the first ab and running to first on his pop fly...stare down as he left the box

Sam said...

Does anyone else love Tyler Clippard right now?

DJ said...

Yes, Sam. Yes.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Sam, I'm fully on the bandwagon. Plus, I have a soft spot for the glasses.

Anonymous said...

Clippard is great, would love to see him and Storen in the 8th/9th for the next 5 years.

Need to get some insurance here

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Is it really that much better to have people who are "good" at defense playing out of position than to just leave in the regulars? Don't think I like this decision very much. Hopefully it won't matter.

Souldrummer said...

7 Ks for Clippard in 3 innings! Wow! What a lift!

Sam said...

Nervous Nats Fan: Guzman started the game at 2B, and he has done well enough to continue playing there late in the game. Kennedy is better than Adam Dunn at any position. Kennedy would be better than Dunn with no legs and one arm.

Everyone else is in position.

LoveDaNats said...

Now that's how you pitch!

Knoxville Nat said...

A win! Okay now 2-4 for the season, how long did it take us to win two games last year?

Anonymous said...

The Mets must hate Willie Harris!

Wally said...

2-3 Knoxville. let's make Johan earn it first.

Knoxville Nat said...

My bad, 2-3 for the season. Sorry, I wasn't a math major!!

Steve said...

Taveras' trade value will never be higher than on a 4 RBI day. Pull the trigger now.

Anonymous said...

I was listening to the Mets radio broadcast and as soon as Willie came into the game, they said "he always manages a great defensive play against the Mets. He did it in Atlanta and he does it with the Nationals. As soon as the catch happened, "He did it again!"

They even interviewed Willie on their aftergame and he said "Don't hit it to me. If you do, I will catch it. That's what I tell myself."

He was asked about Clippard's great performance and Willie said "He was throwing the 'invisiball.' They must not have been able to see it."

Great game!!

natsfan1a said...

The Mets must hate Willie Harris. :-)

Too bad they didn't take the Elvis 'do along.

Eric said...

Nyger looked lost today. Riggs needs to sit him down tomorrow against Santana.

Positively Half St. said...

Let's all sleep soundly with a smile on our faces tonight. If the Nats beat Santana tomorrow, perhaps we can have a weekend of unrealistic expectations.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Mark, has there ever been any talk of moving Clippard to the rotation?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Nervous Nats Fan: Clippard came up as a starter, remember, but the Nats really like what he can do out of the bullpen. At this point, I think he's far more valuable as a 7th-8th inning guy than a No. 5 starter.

Dave said...

@Eric: It's "Nyjer."

I think I heard on the radio that Riggleman might indeed give him a day off tomorrow.

natsfan1a said...

I think I heard that on the tv, too, Dave.

BTW, someone (on another blog, I think) suggested a mnemonic of "New York/Jersey" for the spelling of Nyjer.

Suicide Squeeze said...

I don't know how much I'll be able to handle Cardiac Capps. Would rather go through a rookie closer knowing that at least he is learning something when he blows a save. Cardiac Capps doesn't seem to learn and just tries to get by. Willie Harris saved his ass today.

The Mets must HATE Willie Harris!

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic writing. Agree with all the compliments. So glad to be a subscriber.

Willie is my favorite player because he always goes all out. Doesn't hurt that he's a fellow Georgian. The Mets radio broadcasters actually came close to predicting the end because they moaned when he came into the game because of his past exploits.

As others have said, I worry about Capps. We went through last year with another cardiac closer Macdougall. I don't want to do it again this year.

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