Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One "stupid" inning does in Livo

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Livan Hernandez gets some counsel from Wil Nieves and Steve McCatty.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Livan Hernandez stood at his locker in the visitors clubhouse at AT&T Park, a quizzical look on his face as he tried to explain the five-batter sequence that cost him and the Nationals tonight's ballgame.

"I still can't believe I lose that game with two outs," he said. "It's unbelievable."

Considering how well Hernandez pitched against the Giants every other moment he was on the mound, it is pretty unbelievable he wound up on the wrong end of a 4-2 decision. But that's what happens when you regularly play low-scoring, tight ballgames like the Nats do. The margin for error is razor-thin, and tonight Livo was the one left bleeding to death.

The situation: Bottom of the fifth, scoreless game, two outs and an 0-2 count on Giants starter Todd Wellemeyer. A pitcher couldn't conjure up a more-advantageous scenario, facing an opponent whose owns a career .135 batting average and zero extra-base hits.

"I have a lot of holes," Wellemeyer told reporters inside the Giants clubhouse.

So how exactly did the San Francisco right-hander manage to loft a base hit to right on Hernandez's 0-2 offering?

"I was looking outside," Wellemeyer said. "He threw it out there and I got a little duck fart over the first baseman's head."

Little did any of the 27,981 inside the ballpark realize Wellemeyer's, uh, "duck fart" would turn this game upside-down. Andres Torres followed with a single to center. Edgar Renteria followed by taking another down-and-away pitch to left for an RBI single. Freddy Sanchez roped a hanging slider to right to bring home two more runs. And Pablo Sandoval provided the final blow, another RBI double to center.

Five batters. Five hits. Four runs. Against a guy who to that point had surrendered only two hits while striking out four.

"He was great," catcher Wil Nieves said. "He was hitting the corners. Keeping the ball down. Throwing everything for strikes. Breaking ball. Changeup. Everything. He did a great job. With two outs in the fifth inning, it just got out of hand."

"They just got him," manager Jim Riggleman said. "He was outstanding for 4 2/3. And when Wellemeyer got the hit, it seemed like he didn't regroup."

This was an uncharacteristic performance from Hernandez. He's been known to have a bad outing every once in a while, but this wasn't a bad outing. He was as sharp during those first 4 2/3 innings as he's been at any previous point this season. He just couldn't finish the inning off.

"I lose the game, but in a very stupid way," he said. "Two outs. I've got the game right there, and I lose it. ... I get frustrated when it happens like that."

Livo certainly doesn't deserve the full blame for this loss. His teammates racked up all of four hits off Wellemeyer (who entered with a 5.71 ERA) and three San Francisco relievers. And three of those came in succession in the seventh.

Otherwise, the Nationals lineup was impotent on a chilly, rainy evening along the bay. Top-of-the-order hitters Nyjer Morgan and Cristian Guzman went a combined 0-for-8, and the heart of the order (Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham) struck out in succession against closer Brian Wilson in the ninth.

But there's no telling how this one might have played out had Hernandez managed to get out of that fifth inning unscathed. Even after the two-out rally, his pitch count was a mere 75. He could have gone the distance. But because his club suddenly trailed by four runs, Riggleman felt it necessary to send up a pinch-hitter to open the sixth.

Through a variety of circumstances, the Nationals have come to count on Livo as their ace. On this night, they needed him to perform up to that lofty title.

"I think I have to pitch better than that," he said. "I know I have to pitch better than that."


Anonymous said...

The team has to start scoring more runs. There really is no excuse other than Pudge being out for not scoring more runs. Morgan, Guzman, Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham 1-5 should score runs...

Andrew said...

Early in the game with men on 1st and 2nd and no outs, Livo does his job and lays down the perfect bunt to move the runners. With 1 out and Nyjer up and men on 3rd and 2nd and the middle infield playing back, Morgan lays an egg.

Early opportunity to blow the game open squandered. The Nats made Wellenmeyer look like a stud pitcher. This guy had an ERA of 5.71

NatsJack in Florida said...

Watched Morgan's weak attempt to drive in a run and then watched Guzzie ground out sharply to short, inning over. Went to bed.

Offense has been lacking ever since the outburst in Colorado. Eck's got to shake them up somehow.

Andrew said...

I watched the whole game and Dibble was correct on the positioning of the outfielders.

Bernadina was motioned by Livo to move back early in the game which was great for that batter. Then Roger stayed in that position seemingly for the rest of the game.

When Wellenmeyer got his hit to right, was Bernadina playing him like Barry Bonds? Certainly it appeared he was playing Wellenmeyer too far back and that ended up doing in Livo as that was the start to that 4 run 2 out rally.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, off topic:

The Nats really going to screw their actual local fanbase again and wait to call up Strasburg? A lot of people are going to be angry if that June 4 date isn't for real--looks like it's sold out. I just can't imagine an actual justification.

The Great Unwashed said...

You can second guess defensive positioning all you want. What it comes down to is the Nats have problems getting hits off opposing pitchers with high ERAs. Last night, it was Todd Wellemeyer. Before that it was Kyle Lohse. Before that, it was Jason Hammel. They're making hittable opponents look lights out and it's a disturbing trend.

One of the strengths of this team is supposed to be its line up, yet it seems whenever they have an opportunity against a lesser opposing pitcher, they can't capitalize on it. It's very frustrating.

For the Nats to be considered good, they have to win the games they're supposed to win. The next games feature Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, and I don't expect the Nats to win those.

natsfan1a said...

The June 4 date is based on media and fan speculation, not on anything that the team has said. If it's "not for real," the team hasn't screwed the fans; that act would be on the media (or on the fans who are buying into the "Strasburg hedge fund"), imho.

N. Cognito said...

Anonymous said...
"Sorry, off topic:

The Nats really going to screw their actual local fanbase again and wait to call up Strasburg? A lot of people are going to be angry if that June 4 date isn't for real--looks like it's sold out. I just can't imagine an actual justification."

What are you talking about?
The Nats haven't said Strasburg's first major league start will be on the 4th. People are speculating. Too damn bad if he doesn't start that day.
I've got 5 tickets to the game. If he doesn't start then, I'll enjoy a Friday evening at the ballpark and get tickets to the game he does start.

Steve M. said...

I agree with the discussions on light hitting and defensive positioning.

Seems Nyjer needs to play back a few steps and Bernadina in a few steps and the Hammer was at the right spot each time.

Guzman had that 0-4 night combined with Nyjer's poor performance at the plate while again making another poor bunt attempt right in front of the plate. Yes the strike zone was moving but 0-8 at the top of the order will kill you most nights.

4 total hits against a pitcher with almost a 6 ERA. Pathetic.

Richard said...

Wellenmeyer has a much better ERA at AT&T Park (low 3s) than on the road (mid 9s).

Steve M. said...

Richard, most of the Giants pitchers have lower ERAs at home. The point is, 4 hits against Wellenmeyer is pathetic AND none against the bullpen is even more pathetic. Whether his ERA is 3 or 5 or whatever, 4 hits off of him in 6 innings is not great coupled with ZERO off of the relievers.

Not going to win many games with that lack of offensive production.

Pete said...

Nyjer is completely hopeless right now. With runners at second and third he grounds out. Then he lays down the same crappy bunt that every team in the league has figured out. I put part of the blame on Riggleman...he needs to stop calling for it. That said, Mr. Morgan needs a night off to put his head back on straight.

Anonymous said...

Have to figure its at least time to stop batting Morgan first and Guzman second. Time to put Bernadina and Desmond up there ... and move Mr. OBP Willingham to third. Then follow with Zimmerman and Dunn. Put Guzman behind Dunn instead of batting him third. He doesn't walk so he shouldn't be anywhere near the top of the order? At least Morgan walks. Guzman wants to drive in runs with his right-on-the-button line outs or singles. Let him do it lower down in the order.

Anonymous said...

Pete, Nyjer was bunting for a hit and may not have been given a bunt sign.

There is that perfect bunt zone where he isn't getting the ball on the 3rd base side. He is either pushing it to close to the 3rd baseman or to close to the catcher and sometimes bunting straight up in the air for a popup so I think he has a flawed combination of technique and strategy.

He is such a weak hitter that I don't think the coaches want to take the bunt away.

For the Nats sake since I doubt they will bench him so I hope he gets his s--t together because the Tony FLUSH show is now a tiresome re-run reel.

Ron In Reston said...

I, for one, hope that Strasburg does NOT make his debut on the 4th. All the people who bought tickets (and overpaid) based on no facts whatsoever deserve what they get. I have tickets to see the Nationals, not one player, no matter how good he is. This is not "The King and His Court", SS still needs the other 8 guys around him.

Of course the whole thing will be turned against the Lerners, saying they just wanted to make money by selling out the game and then not starting him. That's the biggest crock of crap I've heard in ages. First of all, owning a baseball team is an investment, and the point of an investment is making money, which is something the Lerners are good at. In order to grow an investment you have to spend money, which they have done in signing Dunn, Pudge and spending gazillions on SS. So should they just take money out of their own pockets to pay this kid? Of course not, they pay him from what the teams makes. They are under NO obligation whatsoever to call him up or start him when the "fans" think they should. That's why there's that Rizzo guy who makes those decisions. So if a bunch of folks want to spend their money on "maybe", the Lerners have every right to take it without any criticism whatsoever. I know the actual journalists in the area understand this, my concern is all the talk radio and blogging folks, who, if anything, are greatly responsible for all of this, are going to pin it on the "greedy owners".

I'll get off my soapbox now with a final thought: real fans go to see their TEAM play, no matter what.

natsfan1a said...

All great points, Ron. Well said.

Andrew said...

Ron - It doesn't matter what they say. It will be like Opening Day all over again.

The problem is planning and travel for many. There are many who can't take off during the week. There are people traveling from Harrisburg, Syracuse and San Diego.

I have Nats fans coming in from Missouri and Indiana.

I personally hope it is June 4th. The stadium will be packed to capacity and will be ALL Nats fans unlike the Pittsburgh series which will be
a lot of Pirates fans.

Wouldn't it be great to see every seat filled including the seats behind Home Plate?

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