Thursday, May 20, 2010

Game 42: Mets at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats go for a two-game sweep of the Mets tonight.
You only get so many chances at a series sweep in this game, so even though the Nationals and Mets are only playing twice this week, the Nats might as well go for the kill tonight.

After last night's bizarre 5-3 victory -- one that included an inside-the-park homer and a triple play by the Mets in consecutive innings -- the Nationals will try to go at it a little more conventionally tonight. Luis Atilano is on the mound, trying to continue his surprising run and make a case to remain in the rotation once Stephen Strasburg arrives.

Fredericksburg native John Maine takes the hill for a New York club that is in disarray at the moment. Jerry Manuel will be fielding a slightly more potent lineup tonight, with David Wright and Rod Barajas back in action.

Check back for updates throughout...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Clear, 77 degrees, Wind 4 mph out to CF
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 Luis Atilano
METS (19-22)
SS Jose Reyes
2B Alex Cora
LF Jason Bay
1B Ike Davis
3B David Wright
CF Angel Pagan
C Rod Barajas
RF Jeff Francoeur
P John Maine

6:10 p.m. -- Breaking news: Mike Morse is no more. He's now going by the name Michael Morse. He also shaved his head the other day. Guess it's a complete personality makeover.

7:06 p.m. -- We're underway with a strike from Luis Atilano to Jose Reyes. It's Military Appreciation Night at the ballpark, so the Nats are wearing their alternate blue jerseys with the stars-and-stripes DC logo.

7:21 p.m. -- Well, this one didn't exactly get off to a rousing start. The Mets just scored three runs in the top of the first on three hits and a bad error that was charged to Ian Desmond but was really Adam Dunn's fault. With runners on first and second and one out, Ike Davis hit a chopper to the right side of the infield. Dunn scooped and had an easy play at second for the forceout. Except his throw sailed wide. Desmond technically still had his foot on the bag when the ball went off his glove, but he dropped it because it was a bad throw. Whoever you want to blame, that opened the floodgates. David Wright followed with a bases-clearing double to right-center, so just like that Atilano and the Nats face a 3-0 deficit. It might have been worse if not for a nice reaction play by Atilano on Rod Barajas' line drive comebacker. Atilano caught it, then underhand tossed it to first for the double play to end a frustrating inning.

7:26 p.m. -- Wow, here's an unexpected development. John Maine is out of the game after five pitches (four of them balls to Nyjer Morgan). Not sure what happened, but Maine was hunched over on the mound, and that prompted Jerry Manuel, pitching coach Dan Warthen and a trainer to rush out there. Left-hander Raul Valdes now pitching one batter into the game. The Nats, meanwhile, have their standard lineup for a right-handed pitcher (Bernadina, Kennedy). If you're Jim Riggleman, you can't pull those guys now and replace them with Guzman and Morse. But these won't be good matchups the first time through the order for the Nats.

7:34 p.m. -- Sure enough, Valdes got out of the first inning on six pitches. Figures.

7:53 p.m. -- The Nats got one run back in the second, thanks to a leadoff double by Dunn. It's going to take some clawing away over the course of the night to pull this one off, though the Mets bullpen certainly will be suspect. Valdes can probably go 3-4 innings maximum. One thing to consider: R.A. Dickey, last night's starter, could be available to come back tonight at some point.

8:10 p.m. Well, they haven't been able to take much advantage of this bullpen game from the Mets. Valdes has pitched well, allowing the one run on two hits through three innings of relief. He just struck out three in the third, including Ryan Zimmerman on a 3-2 fastball that looked a tad too inside to be called strike three. Nonetheless, Tim Tschida rung up Zim, who flipped his bat and helmet away in disgust. Still 3-1 Mets after three.

8:19 p.m. -- The John Maine Injury Update: The Mets are saying he was removed for precautionary reasons. Pitching coach Dan Warthen noticed during Maine's warmup session in the bullpen that his velocity was down and his mechanics weren't right. They had Valdes warm up right from the start of the game, and when it was clear after one batter something wasn't right, they pulled Maine. He'll see a doctor tomorrow.

8:52 p.m. -- Wow did this one get ugly in a hurry. The Mets scored five times in the fifth, thanks to a combination of poor pitching by Luis Atilano, poor defense by the Nats and a poor job of putting out the fire by Tyler Walker. Perhaps we should have seen something like this coming. This was the first time Atilano had faced a team for the second time, and the Mets (who didn't score off the rookie last time) had his number all night this time around. It's 8-1 in the bottom of the fifth of what has suddenly turned into a laugher.

9:07 p.m. -- It's 10-2 Mets in the sixth after Rod Barajas crushed a two-run homer off Walker, the catcher's 10th of the season. Do I really need to say any more at this point?

9:13 p.m. -- So much for the Nats taking advantage of John Maine's incredibly early departure. Raul Valdes just finally came out of the game, two batters into the sixth. That's five-plus innings of relief for Valdes, having allowed only one run (though he's still responsible for two men on base).

9:45 p.m. -- It's 10-3 Mets after seven. If you're still paying close attention to this game, I sincerely hope you're getting paid to do so.

10:12 p.m. -- Hold the phone ... here come the Nats! It's now 10-5 in the eighth, with the bases loaded and two out for Zimmerman.

10:16 p.m. -- Make it 10-6, with the bases still loaded and Adam Dunn at the plate representing the tying run. You may resume paying attention to this game for free.

10:19 p.m. -- Oh, well. At least that got interesting there for a moment. Dunn flies out to left, ending the eighth. The Nats, despite their spunk, still trail by four runs heading to the ninth.

10:31 p.m. -- Here we go, last chance for the Nats. Down 10-6 in the ninth. K-Rod on the mound. Willingham, Nieves and Harris at the plate. FYI: They are out of bench players, but the pitcher's spot doesn't come up for nine more batters.

10:38 p.m. -- They added one more run in the ninth, but that was it. Nats lose, 10-7, turning what had been a fiasco of a ballgame into an actual competitive exercise. Still goes in the books the same way. Washington falls back to .500 (21-21), with the Orioles coming to town this weekend for the first leg of this season's Battle of the Beltways.


Section 222 said...

Very good point that it's getting close to the time when some decisions about the starting rotation for June and July have to be made. Seems like the only "locks" to stay in the rotation come June 4 are Livo and Olsen. Lannan will probably stay unless he regresses or his elbow flares up. Stammen and Atilano are definitely the ones on the bubble. The loser could stick around as a long reliever in place of Batista, but I can also imagine the F.O. deciding, particularly for Atilano, that they have enough promise as starters to go back to Syracuse and keep working on things there until the next call to Dr. Andrews for someone else. And unless they really catch fire over the next few starts, it's hard to imagine either of them being in the rotation once Detwiler is ready to rejoin the team. Not that Detwiler is a sure thing by any means, but they kind of have to let him have a few starts, right?

Coming out of spring training, most people probably expected that Livo was a placeholder for SS. Remember that he was the last to make the 25 man roster. But now he's embedded in the rotation for awhile. Quite an interesting predicament for Rizzo and Riggleman.

Jimmy said...

Good point about Livo, Section 222. Now, if I had to choose I might keep Atilano in over Stammen when SS comes up, just based on performance. It seems Stammen still has some kinks to work out, while Atilano has impressed since the Spring. On the other hand, Stammen brings a decent bat (for a pitcher anyway) with him.

Definitely a tough call. Kinda nice burden to have though - too many options is better than not enough!

Carl in 309 said...

Section 222 is correct--it is an interesting dilemma for Rizzo and Riggleman. But the good news is this is a good dilemma for the Nats to have.

My amateur read about the pitching options at least as of early June would be a little different, however. Our current group of five guys--Lannan, Stammen, Hernandez, Atilano, and Olsen (nothing special about my order) is generally performing well. One of them is clearly not going to be a starter by the first week of June. I am attracted to the option of pushing the "loser" off as a longer reliever and sending Batista off.

Most nights, we seem to get quality starts from the guys we have. Until they can't perform, I don't think we tinker with this part of the team much. So I can't imagine that Detwiler would "have to . . . have a few starts"--he (and anyone else--Wang) would have to be a significantly likely upgrade in terms of actual performance in order to justify the change.

I perceive our performance improvements coming from more reliable relief pitching (Storen's appearance appears to help us there) and more muscular hitting--are we going to break out like the one game in Denver (or even the decent 3-run uprising last night which was a pleasure to watch), or are we stuck in this mode of a few runs and clutching to keep our opponent off the base paths?

Grandstander said...

While Lannan isn't necessarily a "lock", I don't see him losing his spot in the rotation unless he goes to the DL. If he's healthy, he's in. Between Atilano and Stammen, that's a tough call.

Stammen's certainly had some pretty awful performances, and his last 2 outings haven't helped his case any, but Atilano has gotten pretty lucky as he's been pretty shaky too, he just hasn't gotten the runs scored on him the way Stammen has.

For instance, Stammen has a BABIP of .323 while Atilano's is .273. Stammen is also sporting a much better K/BB ratio at 2.50 to Atilano's 0.88 and his LOB% is 55.2% compared to Atilano's 79.9%.

What those numbers tell me is that the other shoe is going to drop with Atilano, and it's going to drop with a *thud*. You simply cannot survive throwing that many balls and keeping that many men on base while you're sporting that low of a BABIP. His ERA is a mirage as much as Stammen's. When you look at the xFIP, Stammen is at 3.93 while Atilano is at 5.45, a near reversal of their ERAs.

I know Rizzo, and many others, don't put any emphasis on sabremetrics, but I think in this particular instance, it's worth exploring the possibility that Stammen is actually the pitcher.

That being said, my gut tells me that, barring a string of disasterous outings by Atilano, Stammen will probably find himself shoring up the BP sometime in early June.

Bowdenball said...

Grandstander, why do you say Rizzo doesn't put any emphasis on "sabermetrics"? He's made statements about a balanced approach in the past.

And really, in this case, it doesn't exactly take a Cal Tech PhD to understand what you've explained very well- that Stammen is the far better pitcher once you get past the back of the baseball card stats.

Steve M. said...

I am guilty as charged. I thought Livo was a placeholder for Strasburg and that Stammen was the odd man out on the next one and would go to the 'pen.

I was in Olsen's corner from the beginning and have always thought of Lannan as a back of the rotation guy so I am going 1 for 2 right now.


Move Stammen to the 'pen in place of Batista. Problem solved. This becomes a much stronger pitching presence in 2 weeks.

When Detwiler, Wang, and Jordan Zimmerman become available, then tougher decisions will have to be made.

Anonymous said...

"Not that Detwiler is a sure thing by any means, but they kind of have to let him have a few starts, right?"

Detwiler was never put on the 25-man roster for this season, so when he comes off the DL he can be put in AA or AAA for as long as it takes for him to prove that he's ready for the rotation. Wang and Marquis OTOH are out of options, so they'll only be able to go to the minors on limited rehab assignments when they come off the DL, and then they'll have to be added to the 25-man or released. And they won't be released, because they're both under contract or team control for next year. So exoect to see one or both of them up before Detwiler.

Dr. Anonymous said...

The need now is to worry more about to come out of May and earliest of June after the far west road trip as close to the Phillies in first place and as far from the cellar in the NL East as possible. Preferably where they are now in second just behind or actually in first place. How can that best be accomplished? Not who stays or who goes for Strasburg who may not appear until June 8th and Pittsburgh.

If they can make it that far ... then the ball is in Rizzo's court to do something to bolster the team to make run at the playoffs. Now. NOT next year.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on the rotation after June 1st:

Strasburg (I put SS behind Livo because can you imagine one night seeing that curve and the next day seeing that fastball!!)

Who knows what happens when Wang or Detweiler is ready and able to come up, my guess is that when Batista gets DFA'd and Stammen goes to the bullpen.

Matt said...

Just thought people would appreciate this quote from MLBTR: "The club added Saul Rivera earlier in the week, only to see him surrender five runs in his first appearance."

DJ said...


I'm nervous that tickets for the June 4 game are going to go fast ..... should I just pull the trigger and buy tickets to that game? Thanks.

Cwj said...

I agree with Steve M and others on moving Stammen to the Bullpen. As a control pitcher who can gobble innings, he just might excel as a reliever.

Anonymous8 said...

CWJ - I agree too with you guys on Stammen. His St. Louis appearance was the opposite of his norm. He got beat up in the 1st and then pitched a shutout. Normally, he cruises until the 4th or 5th inning when the top of the order has seen him twice then he gets banged around.

He is such a good guy that I want to see him as part of the team in some capacity.

Anonymous said...

Why not have a six-man rotation (with either Detwiler or Chein-Ming Wang? Why does seem to be a non-option here?


Cwj said...

Hahaha a six man rotation :)
If anything it should be a four man rotation.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Any reason given for the name change? Seems like an odd thing to do. Maybe he's taking a page out of Tyler Walker's book and mixing it up a little.

Anonymous said...

Is Michael Morse a better hitter than Mike Morse? That would be nice.

Anonymous said...

I just tried to purchase tickets for June 4th against the Reds and the website was SLOOOOOWWWWW and I couldn't even get close to my choice for 4 tickets. Ended up near the rightfield foul pole. Any news on JESUS confirmed for his callup that night?

Anonymous said...

1. Livan
2. Lannan
3. Olsen
4. Strasburg
5. Atilano (Wang when ready)
5a. Detwiler when someone gets hurt (and they will

(I don't know what to do with Marquis. I never thought I'd say this, but the Nationals may have more starting pitching than they need.)

Stammen to the pen (he is lights out the first go round in the order but gets lit-up thereafter).

Nervous Nats Fan said...

How many innings do you think Valdes will throw? Is he their Batista?

Nervous Nats Fan said...

One thing to consider: R.A. Dickey, last night's starter, could be available to come back tonight at some point.


Mark Zuckerman said...

Nervous Nats Fan: Because Dickey's a knuckleballer, and the strain on his arm isn't as great as a traditional pitcher. Not saying it's likely to happen, but Mets beat writers apparently talked to him pregame and when the subject came up, Dickey said he could do it.

waddu eye no said...

what's with morgan in the outfield tonite?
goofed up a ball almost identical to pagans HR last nite (thought i was watching a replay). plus a couple of weird throws earlier and now the bad one to zim.
and now it's 6-1.


yankish2 said...

Whoever said that the Nats may have more starting pitching than they need must be new to baseball. No team ever has enough starting pitching.

Anonymous8 said...

waddu eye no said...
what's with morgan in the outfield tonite?
goofed up a ball almost identical to pagans HR last nite (thought i was watching a replay). plus a couple of weird throws earlier and now the bad one to zim.
and now it's 6-1.

I am watching on TV and Dibble is biting his tongue. Dibs pointed out the 2 cutoffs Nyjer missed and didn't really chastise him like Dibs will sometimes do.

As you pointed out, Nyjer got to close to the wall and didn't get in position to play it well off the wall.

Anonymous said...

Nyjer has been a disaster in the field and on the basepaths tonight. He needs a day (or a week) off. Just completely terrible tonight.

Atilano also just punched his return ticket to Syracuse tonight. What an ugly game.

yankish2 said...

Walker needs to join Bruney. He began bad in spring training and continues.

yankish2 said...

I agree about Morgan. When Riggleman did the double switch he should have taken out Morgan.

Sec3OhMyHead said...

This is like a Ponce game, but "Well, shave my head and call me Michael" would make a good signon.

K.D. said...

Mark, I am paying close attention, no pay needed.

Dan H. said...

The speculation on the Nats rotation seems to confuse numbers with quality. Strasburg does indeed seem to be Jesus and may well soon be the ace of the staff, but that's a heavy burden to place on a young man just out of college. J. Zimm's clearly the real deal if he can recover from his injury, though he may not be able to contribute this year. Lannan's an over-achiever who many fans seem ready to write off prematurely even if he should rightly be seen as a middle-of-the-rotation-late rotation pitcher. Livo is very much in the Lannan mode who may have recaptured the magic that could see him as a middle-of-the-rotation man throughout this year. Stammen and Atilano would not have seen the majors on more solid teams but may have something to offer. Detweiler is a promising prospect who has not yet proven his ability to win at the minor-league level, yet alone in the big leagues. Wang and Marquis are now injury-plagued veterans who have shown that they can be solid contributors when healthy. Olsen is a wild-card who has been alternately brilliant and less-than-ordinary in his still young career. The problem is not a surfeit of excellent pitchers. It is rather the challenge of piecing together what could be a above-average rotation through a combination of thoughtful analysis and feel.

K.D. said...

Mark, Maybe a re-hash of how SS got his nickname is in order.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

K.D. said...
Mark, Maybe a re-hash of how SS got his nickname is in order.

Oh, Jesus, no...

Brian R. said...

Mark, for your amusement and/or enlightenment.

The reason R.A. Dickey could pitch tonight - and conceivably could pitch in 100 games a year - is that he was born without the UCL. The ligament that "causes" Tommy John surgery just isn't in his body. As an Olympic medal-winning pitcher (not yet in the pros), Dickey had never felt any arm pain at all. Then he made the cover of Baseball America, his arm was at a funky angle, and doctors discovered the absence of ligament. He switched from a pain-free fireballer to a knuckleballer out of fear (in my opinion unwarranted; he had done plenty fine up to that point) that the lack of UCL might lead to serious injuries if he kept packing the heat.

Dickey's arm in rather weird action:

The San Antonio Spurs have a guy, DeJuan Blair, who arrived at a similar circumstance through unnatural (surgical) means. Operations in high school left him without either ACL - but the guy sure can play basketball. And they certainly haven't told him to downgrade to knuckleballs.

Brian R. said...

...knucklebasketballs, that is.

Anonymous said...

The "Jesus" nickname -- if I recall it was that the first time somebody sees him actually pitch in person (particularly the catcher catching him) -- that's the first word our of their mouths.

Anonymous said...

Right on regarding a few days rest for Nyger. Let's see a different outfield for a bit. I'm over the spark he brougt last year. It's all a matter of what have you done for me lately.

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