Thursday, May 13, 2010

Game 35: Nats at Rockies

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Coors Field, the mile-high home of the Colorado Rockies.
DENVER -- Hello from beautiful Coors Field, where the entrance to the media parking lot is in Wyoming. OK, one small complaint about an otherwise fantastic ballpark. I always enjoy coming here, both to enjoy the scenic home of the Colorado Rockies and to enjoy the city of Denver, one of my favorite stops in the National League.

The Nationals open a four-game series tonight, with the unusual local starting time of 6:40 p.m. MDT (that's 8:40 p.m. for you folks back on the East Coast). Most notable thing about tonight's game is the return of John Lannan to the mound after missing his last start due to elbow inflammation. The lefty says he feels great after receiving a cortisone shot and throwing off a bullpen mound in New York. Then again, Jason Marquis also said he felt great after his own cortisone shot in the elbow and bullpen session. So there's obviously no guarantee here.

The Nats will field what's become their conventional lineup vs. right-handed starters, with Roger Bernadina in right field hoping to build off yesterday's breakout performance. Ivan Rodriguez back behind the plate, and Josh Willingham back in left field.

Plenty more to come later, so check back for updates throughout the evening...

Where: Coors Field
Gametime: 8:40 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of late showers, 49 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
P John Lannan

ROCKIES (16-17)
LF Carlos Gonzalez
CF Dexter Fowler
RF Brad Hawpe
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
C Miguel Olivo
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes
P Jhoulys Chacin

7:38 p.m. -- What signs should you be looking for tonight to tell if John Lannan is OK? "If he's locating his pitches better," Jim Riggleman said. "It was very uncharacteristic of him to walk two or three guys in a row the way he has in some of his outings. If those things aren't happening, then we'll feel like he's getting back on track. But if he's not hitting his spots, if the velocity's way down or something, we might have some feeling that he's not right yet. It's a tough place to pitch. He's coming off [10] days without pitching. So it's going to be a challenge. We're not going to read too much into if they get some hits off him, because it's a tough place to pitch, period. But more the other things: location and the freeness in his delivery."

7:53 p.m. -- Had a nice chat a little while ago with Vinny Castilla, now a special assistant to the Rockies' GM. Castilla's in uniform, working out with players before most home games. He remains a beloved figure here in Colorado as one of the original Rockies of 1993. And, of course, he'll always hold a special place in Nationals lore as one of the first stars of the inaugural 2005 team. I'll always remember his performance in the RFK Stadium opener, when he came within a single of hitting for the cycle. His fourth-inning triple, which scored the game's first run, also produced my first bouncing-stands experience at RFK. I've written this before, but to me, that was the moment baseball truly returned to D.C. Anyways, Vinny was interested to hear what's going on with the Nats these days, both the current team and some former execs (coughJimBowdencough). He remains active with the Rockies and with the national baseball program in his native Mexico. "Got to stay in the game," he said. "I love it too much."

8:07 p.m. -- This just in: The start of tonight's game is going to be delayed. There's a big thunderstorm about to roll through town, and in anticipation of it, the grounds crew is covering the infield. No word on when this game will get underway, but everyone seems confident the game will be played in its entirety once this storm passes through. I'll provide updates as I get them.

8:48 p.m. -- The tarp's off, they're preparing the infield and the game is scheduled to begin at 9:15 p.m. EDT.

9:17 p.m. -- And as promised, we are underway following a 37-minute rain delay. Jhoulys Chacin starts Nyjer Morgan off with a strike.

9:23 p.m. -- Wow, did Ryan Zimmerman just crush that 2-2 slider from Chacin. It nearly reached the concourse at the top of the left-field bleachers, instead fell just short of that. Nats lead 2-0 on Zim's seventh homer of the year.

9:26 p.m. -- FYI: That was the 700th hit of Zimmerman's career.

9:29 p.m. -- Another FYI: Zim's .667 slugging percentage now ranks third in the NL, behind Andre Ethier and Jayson Werth.

9:31 p.m. -- Nice first inning for Lannan, who retired the side (with some major help from Ian Desmond, who made a spectacular play diving to his left and hopping to his feet to gun down Brad Hawpe. Lannan's fastball was right around 88 mph, didn't appear to be in any discomfort.

9:48 p.m. -- Little bit of a scare there in the second inning for Lannan, beginning with a booted grounder by Adam Dunn, who threw to his pitcher just in time but not without threatening the integrity of Lannan's groin muscles. He then issued a two-out walk followed by a groundball single. But all's good after Clint Barmes flied out to end the inning. Still 2-0 Nats after two on a nasty night in Denver.

10:12 p.m. -- It's raining pretty hard here, looks like some fielders have been slipping a bit. They're currently working on the mound and the batter's box, adding Diamond Dust to sop up the moisture. We'll see how long they can continue like this. Nats still lead 2-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth.

10:31 p.m. -- Some nice hustle by Ian Desmond puts the Nats on top 3-0. From the moment he left the box after lining a base hit over the second baseman, Desmond was thinking double. He slid in well ahead of the throw, and that opened the door for him to score two batters late on Nyjer Morgan's single to right.

10:35 p.m. -- Break open the floodgates! Zimmerman blasts another Chacin slider to left. This one's a three-run homer and puts the Nats up 6-0 in the fifth. Zim's updated numbers: 8 homers, 21 RBI, .696 slugging percentage.

10:51 p.m. -- Something (the layoff, the weather) finally got to Lannan in the fifth. His velocity dipped, his pitches weren't as sharp and the Rockies started hitting him. He's now out of the game after 4 2/3, the Nats up 6-3. Miguel Batista coming in with two on and two out. Lannan cannot earn the victory.

11:10 p.m. -- Interesting decision there by Jim Riggleman. He had Cristian Guzman in the on-deck circle to hit for Batista. But after Desmond's sac fly brought home a run and put the Nats up 7-4, Riggleman pulled Guzman back and let Batista hit for himself. He struck out, as expected, and now he's back out to pitch the bottom of the sixth. Considering that innings right now are more important that runs, the move seems to make sense. FYI: Riggleman said before the game he'd like to avoid using both Tyler Walker and Tyler Clippard tonight. We'll see if he can actually do it.

11:22 p.m. -- As much as I enjoy covering games out west, it's never good to look at the out-of-town scoreboard and see every other game has gone final while you're just starting the seventh inning.

11:24 p.m. -- Um, what exactly did Nyjer Morgan think he would accomplish there slamming on the brakes about 10 feet shy of second base? (Aside from risking serious injury to himself, of course.) Not a smart play. Accept that you've been thrown out and just take the tag.

11:35 p.m. -- Quick quiz: Who on the Nationals' pitching staff has surrendered the most home runs this season? John Lannan? Jason Marquis? Craig Stammen? No, it's Miguel Batista, who just served up his fifth bomb in 22 1/3 innings. Miguel Olivo absolutely crushed Batista's high-and-inside 85 mph pitch to left. So now it's 7-6 Nats in the bottom of the seventh, with Doug Slaten entering from the bullpen. This team refuses to play lopsided games, one way or the other.

11:43 p.m. -- I hate to say it, but this field is simply not playable right now. There are huge puddles on both sides of the infield. The grounds crew is out dumping more Diamond Dust over it, trying to stay ahead of the rain. But it's coming down harder now, and it's a miracle no one's injured themselves yet. Guess they're going to try to squeeze these last two innings in, but it's not going to be pretty. And whoever loses this game may have a legitimate complaint about the conditions.

12:00 a.m. -- Big, BIG, bases-clearing double from Cristian Guzman there to break the game open. It's now 11-6, possibly negating what would have been a fascinating dilemma for the official scorer. Tyler Clippard was warming up and would have entered to protect a two-run lead in the eighth. Here's the thing: He could wind up as the pitcher of record. Since Lannan didn't go the minimum five innings, he's ineligible. It's then the scorer's discretion to award the win to whomever he feels was most effective out of the bullpen. Batista allowed two runs and put five guys on in 1 2/3 innings. Doug Slaten was fine, retiring two of three batters, but it's not like he dominated. If Clippard was to pitch a 1-2-3 eighth and strike out a batter or two, there's an argument he would deserve the win (his eighth of the year and his sixth straight appearance with a decision). But the Guzman double may prevent Clippard from pitching at all, and even if he does, it's not exactly a high-pressure situation anymore. Still, a potentially fascinating situation.

12:07 a.m. -- Whoa, fan on the field! No taser, but the security guard did make a nice, hard tackle that would make Brian Orakpo proud.

12:12 a.m. -- Ryan Zimmerman now with a career-high six RBI tonight. Nats winning 12-6. Maybe the official scorer can just credit Zim with the W. He deserves it more than anyone else tonight.

12:18 a.m. -- OK, now it's 14-6. The Nats have scored seven runs in the eighth, matching the club record (since 2005) for a single inning.

12:22 a.m. -- So much for the potential Clippard situation. Brian Bruney is now in, protecting an eight-run lead. Zimmerman is also out. My guess is that Doug Slaten will be awarded the win.

12:32 a.m. -- Brian Bruney is unhittable when pitching with an eight-run lead.

12:33 a.m. -- They're pulling the tarp. I think this means we're required to wait at least an hour before they can call this one official. Shoot me now.

12:45 a.m. -- OK, just found out they're required to wait 30 minutes before calling the game. So this will be official at 1:03 a.m. on the East Coast.

12:49 a.m. -- FYI: The official scorer just said Slaten will be the winning pitcher. (Assuming this game isn't resumed and the Rockies rally to score eight runs in the ninth.)

1:12 a.m. -- That's it! It's all over! Nats win! Nats win! Final score: 14-6. Number of fans still attendance when game officially ended: Three. Winning pitcher: Slaten (1-0). Nats record: 20-15. If the season ended today, they'd win the NL wild card.


Wigi said...

I would love to see the statistics that show the percentage of the cases where one cortisone shot equals "all better".

Ben said...

I just wanted to point out, even though I am a little late.... that I was at the Nats- Mets game on Tuesday night for the big bullpen meltdown (one of the hardest games to ever be at the ballpark for).

I was sitting in the first row in center field at CiTi, and Nyjer came to make a catch right at the wall under me, and as soon as he caught the ball, I yelled out "I love you Tony Plush!" and he gave me the weirdest look. He probably thought that i was some obnoxious Mets fan, and wondered how I knew about his "gentlemans" name.

The Mets fans around me gave me weird looks, because they had been yelling Nyjer for the entire game, and were so confused as to who Tony Plush was.

Fun times.. I thought I should just share. G NATS!

natscan reduxit said...

... very happy for you - and for us - that you were able to make this western trip, Mark. I'm looking forward to reading your stories and impressions of the Nats' first four-game sweep of the season.

Go Nats!!

Section 222 said...

Yes, glad you're out there Mark. Look forward to your reports, and enjoy Denver!

sec3mysofaButHiDef said...

Ben, to be fair, it may have been the "I LOVE YOU" he was reacting to, not the TPlush. Just sayin.

NB: The forecast is for high 40s and thunderstorms around 9pm. Not good odds of getting this one in, or is that good odds of not getting it in?

Carl in 309 said...

Vinny Castilla--a most pleasant blast from the past. I'm glad, Mark, that you had a chance to catch up with him. Though in his playing twilight with the Nats in 2005, he always exemplified playing with a never say die attitude. Another endearing recollection this week!

Wendell said...

Agree on Vinnie Castilla. What a classy guy. I followed him when he was with the Braves & was glad to see him sign with the Nats. He was one of my son's favorite players. Matthew's always asking, "Where's Vinnie?"

Anonymous said...

WOW its really empty there!!!! And they talk about the Nats attendance?

LoveDaNats said...

You brought back memories of those wonderful bouncing stands at RFK (DC Stadium to those of us lucky enough to have seen the Senators play back in the day). I love Nats park but RFK will always mean baseball to me.

Grandstander said...

Pitching, defense and the 3 run homer...

Our HR streak continues!

Wendell said...

We had seats on the third base side at RFK. Love the bouncing stands.

Sec3MySofa said...

Yeah, tell Vinny we still love him here, too. The guy's a warrior.

Positively Half St. said...

In a way, the number of people in visiting stadiums (stadia?) for Nats games is an indication of how they draw. That will improve.

A few things:

1. Vinnie Castilla- nothing but good wishes and thanks to him. If you ever talk to him again soon, please let him know that we original fans still have a special place in our heats for him.

2. Lannan looks good.

3. I found an unopened DVD of the Nats 2005 Return to Washington" DVD at Goodwill today. I feel like I should leave it unopened for the kids and grandkids someday.

4. How do you pronounce Roger Bernadina's full first name (Rogearvin)?

5. Can we perhaps get 5 full in with a lead and then a typhoon? I'm tired, but demand that we meet St. Louis's 20-15 record.


Positively Half St. said...

One more thing:

I was writing while the TV was muted. The closed-captioning rendered our team's name as The Nationalities. I guess that is a pretty good advertisement for baseball's diversity, but it still speaks to our team not being a household name.

Spike94wl said...

Mark, how bad is the rain right now? Do you think that they're just playing to make it official and then they'll call it? I'm asking because I wouldn't mind if Lannan didn't have to push himself tonight.

Positively Half St. said...

After Zim's 2nd HR, we need to get through the bottom of the inning for sure.

Anonymous said...


I am watching Zimm in his first AB, the phone rings, I go to answer it in the next room, and when I glimpse at the score on my XM radio, the Nats are up 2-0.

A few minutes ago. Zimm hits one off his foot. I switch to the Cavs/Celtics game thinking it was good luck when I didn't watch Zimm's first HR. I turn the channel back a minute later--Zimm is entering the dugout after the three-run HR.

I have discovered a cause and effect relationship betweeen my viewing behavior and Ryan Zimmerman hitting home runs.

Les in NC said...

not much difference in Lannan's fastball and changeup now....he needs to come out after this inning (assuming they make it thru the inning ofcourse).

Carl in 309 said...

Here we go again. Can't we just earn a big lead and hold it?

David said...

does anyone else think Lannan won't be able to lift his arm, just like Marquis, tomorrow? or was it just fatigue that lead to his drop in velocity?

Anonymous said...

jim tracy pissed they are still playing...should have said something when you were down 1 in the 7th and not 5 in the 8th...just weak tracy

David said...

i thought the win always goes to the pitcher on record when the lead was taken, if it occurs after the 5th inning...

Mark Zuckerman said...

David: That's correct, but the Nats were already winning when Lannan departed. He would normally be the pitcher of record, except he didn't last long enough. So in this case, it's the scorer's discretion.

Brian R. said...

The last time the Washington Nationals scored 10 or more runs was on August 25, 2009, against Carlos Zambrano and the Chicago Cubs. Josh Willingham had two home runs, two singles and a walk. Zambrano hit a solo home run in opposition, off winning pitcher Garrett Mock.

Natsochist said...

Mark: Dibble just made a (gasp) decent point - why not take Zimm out of the game after that last hit? You've got a 6-run lead (again), there's six defensive outs left, and you still have Alberto Gonzalez available, who's played well at third earlier this year. It'd be nice not to have to worry about him getting hurt. Thoughts?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Natsochist: That's not a bad thought. Though, considering the Nats' penchant for making every single game close, you'd hate for things to get tense again and not have Zim in the game. If they score another run or two and go up 7 or 8, I'd definitely pull him. Really, it's remarkable the umps are letting this game continue under these conditions.

Les in NC said...

Is it too soon to go ahead and say the Nationals will come away from this game in sole possession of the NL wild Card spot?

When was the last time THAT happened?

David said...

Oh I see. I was under the impression that at some point after Lannan left, the Rockies tied it up. If that had happened, would the scoring for the win revert to the standard "pitcher of record" rule? Giving the official score judgement on who was the most effective is an interesting and rarely used scoring rule. I've played and followed baseball my whole life and don't really remember that happening very often.

Mark Zuckerman said...

David: Yes, you've got it right. Had the Rockies tied or taken the lead, then whichever pitcher was in the game when the Nats retook the lead for good automatically gets the win. It is indeed rare for the scorer to have discretion, but it happens once in a while. Usually, though, it's pretty clear which pitcher deserves it, typically the first guy out of the pen. But I'm not sure Batista really deserves it in this case. With the game lopsided now, my guess is Slaten will get the win.

David said...

Cool. Thanks for the explanation.

Anonymous said...

Even in this dreary weather, Debbie Taylor looks phenomenal. She's my dream woman.

Anonymous8 said...

Dibble actually had LOTS of good things to say tonight. The altitude must be getting to him.

Eugene in Oregon said...

This has been a treat - waking up (in Slovakia) to check the score, discovering that the game was still going on, and then listening to that top of the 8th eruption. Looking forward to a return to Washington in August, if only to see some games.

David said...

Debbie Taylor? really? lol sorry. She's a soccer mom on drugs. She cracks me up.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Keith: Good morning! How's the weather in Slovakia? Can't be worse than it is here in Denver.

Anonymous said...

Now these are the kinds of games that I like to see Brian Bruney pitching in. The kind that not even he could mess up.

Natsochist said...

Okay, this altitude is doing something - Bruney just pitched a 1-2-3 inning with 2K's. Someone pinch me.

K.D. said...

Now that nice crisp inning by Bruney was worth staying up for.

Carl in 309 said...

Anon, bit your tongue! But seriously, having survived the bottom of the 8th with a football score and presumably continuing rain, can we call this puppy yet? I've got my big lead, and Letterman is nearly over!

sec314 said...

Aren't you glad you decided to go on this road trip?

Anonymous said...

"Now these are the kinds of games that I like to see Brian Bruney pitching in. The kind that not even he could mess up."

There was a reason I posted as Anonymous. Cause I was not taking the fall for a possible Brian Bruney implosion, which I admit, was somewhat worried would happen.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Fortunately, I only woke up at 5:30 a.m. East Coast time this morning.

Traveler 8 said...

I'm trying to follow this on Gamecast - has the game been called for weather?

Spike94wl said...

Mark, I don't think anyone would blame you for checking out a bit early today. I'm not sure how much more you can commentate on this one.

Going To Bed said...


Great stuff again tonight, glad you could make the trip to Denver. I'll be checking in tomorrow to make sure the Rockies didn't pull a 9 spot on us in the bottom of the 9th. Sorry that you have to wait this out another hour plus walk back to Wyoming to get your car.

~Going to Bed

Anonymous said...

hey mark i appreciate what you are doing for us...but you cover major league baseball for a living, one of the more exciting teams looking to the not going to shoot you for rain and lack of sleep

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anon: All in good fun, my friend. The moment I legitimately complain about this job is the moment I walk away forever. Rest assured, I'm still living out my dream, rain delays, lack of sleep and all.

Anonymous said...

haha its cool, rain delays are the most fun for me, but im weird...just dont get pneumonia

Carl in 309 said...

Bright side to this game--beyond the prospective win, of course--we get a substantially reduced run differential. Cut in half, in fact, assuming the 14-6 score stands up.

Anonymous said...

Brian Bruney wanted to get back to the nice warm dugout. Didn't you know?

Anonymous said...

Ben Goessling reports that Batista got the win? So, its like the racing presidents .. here comes Teddy ... no its Abe? Then its Slaten, no its Batista!

SKpeter said...

to Keith, what are you doing in Slovakia? I guess that I am only Nats fan from Slovakia :)

natsfan1a said...

grrrr....Lance Cormier (Late with that because I don't watch the late West Coast games live). :-)

Seriously, best wishes to Vinny. I was rooting for him in the CWS.

Fun to wake up and see the game results email in my in-box. 14-6? Also great to be able to read your recap here. Glad you could make the trip!


I'll always remember his performance in the RFK Stadium opener, when he came within a single of hitting for the cycle.

waddu eye no said...

my daughter still wears her castilla jersey from year one. she liked his hair.
(she was 10)

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