Sunday, May 16, 2010

Game 38: Nats at Rockies

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The sun is shining at Coors Field ... at last.
DENVER -- What a gorgeous day for baseball at Coors Field. Finally. The rain has cleared. The clouds are gone and there is abundant sunshine for today's series finale between the Nationals and Rockies.

This could be as close to a must-win game as the Nats have faced in some time. Not that a loss would be devastating; they'd still head to St. Louis with a 20-18 record. But that would constitute the first three-game losing streak of the season, heading into a tough series against one of MLB's best clubs.

A win today, however, would salvage a four-game split with the Rockies and put the Nationals at 21-17 heading to St. Louis, where even a two-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals wouldn't be crushing.

Couple of interesting notes about Jim Riggleman's lineup today: 1) Adam Dunn has his first day off of the year, probably because of a bad matchup against Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis. 2) Mike Morse is in, but not in right field; he'll start in Dunn's place at first base. 3) Cristian Guzman is your starting right fielder for only the second time in his career. Riggleman hinted a few days ago he'd consider doing that, particularly against a left-hander. Guzie is hitting a stout .419 against lefties this season; he HAS to be in the lineup somewhere.

Check back for updates throughout...

Where: Coors Field
Gametime: 3:10 p.m.
TV: Ch. 50-HD, MASN2-HD
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 62 degrees, Wind 6 mph in from RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
RF Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Mike Morse
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Scott Olsen

ROCKIES (18-18)
CF Carlos Gonzalez
LF Ryan Spiloborghs
RF Brad Hawpe
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
C Miguel Olivo
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes
P Jeff Francis

1:54 p.m. -- A clarification: Adam Dunn is out of the lineup today not by Riggleman's choice but because the slugger has flu-like symptoms. Dunn showed up at the ballpark today feeling nauseous, so he's out. Also, for those wondering: Jeff Francis is making his first start today since Sept. 12, 2008. He's had a long road back from labrum surgery, though he appeared ready to go at the end of spring training until a triceps strain landed him back on the DL. The Rockies say he'll be restricted to 90-to-100 pitches, tops, today.

3:10 p.m. -- We are underway with a ball from Jeff Francis to Nyjer Morgan.

3:21 p.m. -- Nice start for the Nats. Morgan beat out a grounder to short, then took third when Ian Desmond roped a double to left-center. A sac fly from unconventional No. 3 hitter Cristian Guzman brought Morgan home and put the Nats up 1-0, though they missed a chance to add to it.

3:30 p.m. -- A fabulous double-play from Alberto Gonzalez and Ian Desmond just highlighted the bottom of the first. Gonzalez went far to his right to snag Brad Hawpe's hard smash, then flipped to Desmond, who fired to first to complete the twin-killing. Olsen should buy Gonzo dinner tonight when they arrive in St. Louis to say thanks.

3:48 p.m. -- A leadoff double by Troy Tulowitzki paves the way for the Rockies to tie the game. After Tulo roped that shot off the left-field wall, he advanced to third on Todd Helton's groundball and then scored on Miguel Olivo's sac fly. So we're now tied 1-1 after two.

4:05 p.m. -- If you haven't seen it yet, you may want to check the homepage for news about a certain rookie reliever who will be joining the Nats' roster tomorrow in St. Louis.

4:16 p.m. -- Meanwhile, back here at Coors Field, it's still 1-1 after four innings. Scott Olsen has settled in nicely, allowing only two hits without issuing a walk. He seems to be taking advantage of the spacious outfield here; four of the last six outs have been via flyball.

4:41 p.m. -- Is it just me, or does it seem like every game Scott Olsen starts turns into an epic pitcher's duel? We've got another one cooking today. It's still scoreless heading to the bottom of the sixth. The potential good news for the Nats is that Jeff Francis has thrown 87 pitches through six. He's supposed to be limited to 90 or 100 pitches, though no one's up in the Rockies bullpen right now.

5:00 p.m. -- Francis at 104 pitches, with two outs and two on in the seventh, and they're leaving him in? Wow. Big AB here with Ian Desmond.

5:01 p.m. -- And Desmond pops up. We are still knotted 1-1 at the seventh inning stretch.

5:34 p.m. -- OK, it's still 1-1, now in the bottom of the eighth. Tyler Clippard back on the mound after getting out of a jam created by Scott Olsen in the seventh. If Clippard keeps the Rockies from scoring here and then the Nats take the lead in the ninth, he'd be in line for his eighth win.

5:37 p.m. -- Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't this be a good time to move Guzman to second and put Bernadina in right? Do you really want to take the chance of Guzie having to throw out a runner at the plate in a tie game in the eighth? I wouldn't.

5:41 p.m. -- Sac fly. Rockies take a 2-1 lead. Clippard now in line for the loss. And his ERA is now over 2.00 for the first time this season.

5:44 p.m. -- So we go to the ninth. Barring a rally, Clippard will fall to 7-2, his sixth straight appearance with a decision. Manuel Corpas trying to close it for the Rockies. Morse, Gonzalez, and the pitcher's spot due up, both both Willie Harris and Adam Kennedy are in the on-deck circle.

5:46 p.m. -- Harris will hit for Morse. Kennedy will hit for Gonzalez. Looks like Adam Dunn has a helmet on in the dugout to hit for the pitcher.

5:50 p.m. -- It's over. Nationals lose 2-1 and drop three of four in the series, the last two by a single run. It's their first three-game losing streak of the season. At 20-18, they'll head to St. Louis, where Drew Storen awaits to join the roster tomorrow night.


Unknown said...

Weird lineup... Trying to max out righties, I know, but still.

Tegwar said...

Mark is this Jeff Francis first start since 2008? I know he had surgery and missed 2009 but I can't find anything on him except 11.2 in Tulsa, not much of a rehab? I can't expect that they will let him pitch more than 5 inning. Nothing against Gonzalez but I think Guzman should be at 2nd and Bernadina in right. I know he is a lefty but Coors field has a very big right field. Maybe there will be changes later in the game when Francis reaches his pitch limit.

Bote Man said...

Who has the Bruney death watch?

Anonymous said...

I say he's gone after the road trip. Let him go home and pack his things and leave with dignity.

BinM said...

Bote - I'm in for 5/18; Dead man walking.

Tegwar said...

Never mind I found this on

Jeff Francis (shoulder) is scheduled to make his first start since September, 12 2008 on Sunday.
Francis tossed seven scoreless innings in his final minor league rehab start with Double-A Tulsa on Tuesday and is eager to contribute to the major league club. The 29-year-old left-hander missed the entire 2009 season after left shoulder surgery.

Doc said...

Real Nats should have Francis' ass kicked out of the game by the 3rd!! Gooooooo Nats!

NatsNut said...

Mark, I really appreciate the details at the head of your game thread posts. I couldn't remember the start time and came here first to find it. Plus where it is on TV in case I happen to be in front of one. It's a small thing, but appreciated.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Thanks, NatsNut. I actually just remembered that today's game (like all Sunday games) is also on Ch. 50, in addition to MASN2.

Anonymous said...

Anybody else think that Dunn might be headed for right field? Morse is better defensively at first and has about the same pop at the platoon that's out there now.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anon: Um, no. The Nats are committed to Dunn at 1B, and he's committed to playing 1B. He's far better there than he is in the outfield.

Nick said...

I have a beef with today's lineup. If Dunn is having a sick/off day today, then why not keep A-Gon on the bench, stick Kennedy at first, move Guz into 2nd and put Morse in right? I understand trying to put another righty in there, but how much do you give up, defensively, with Guzman in right as opposed to Morse?

NatsNut said...

I've said this before and I'll say it again. If I never, ever, ever, never see Adam Dunn in the outfield again, I will be a happy fan.

Sec314 said...

Morgan cannot hit lefties. I wonder if Bernadina could learn to do so and play CF when the Nats face one.

Anonymous said...

Don't you have to pinch hit for Olsen there with two men on and nobody out in the seventh in a 1-1 game? Especially with Clippard rested and ready to go?

K.D. said...

Pudge is too jumpy right now, at least that means he is probably feeling good. He needs to settle down.

Anonymous said...

Oof. Dunn was available to pinch hit for Olsen in the 7th?

Anonymous said...

It could be that Batista is sacrificed. He hasn't exactly been the best pitcher the Nats have seen recently. He is more likely to clear waivers and land in Syracuse. While Bruney is kept in the mop up role to fix his problems. It is possible that Bruney is actually attempting to get put on waivers? Not sure but it sure looks that way at times to me.

Glad to see all the whiners have stopped blathering about the FOX deal with the MLB. Old crotchety types in wheel chairs and walkers I imagine.

Knoxville Nat said...

Bruney continues to think he ia a major league caliber pitcher but the stats don't back up his arguement. Do you think he would care to go to arbitration again after the start he has had this saeson?

And for Anonymous, I am not in a wheel chair or need a walker but I can be "crotchety" at times but I still hate this dam Fox deal and wish Joe Buck would go suck a lemon.

A DC Wonk said...

So, why _did_ Olsen bat for himself with bases loaded in the 7th? Why not a pinch hitter then . . . even a double play 6-4-3 would have scored a run!


Doc said...

Olsen batting: Riggs thought he could lay down a bunt, and stay around to pitch the next inning. Other than that there was no reason. I can never understand why pitchers aren't taught to bunt--I mean it's not that hard.

A DC Wonk said...

lay down a bunt with bases loaded?

Scooter said...

Wonk: not loaded; first and second. He was bunting. Did you watch? He bunted foul for strike three.

And c'mon, Doc, you must know that they try and try to teach these guys to bunt -- I mean, it's like the second-biggest part of their job. Some of them just [stink] at it.

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