Saturday, June 5, 2010

Game 57: Reds at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats look to make it two in a row over the Reds tonight.
It's another busy weekend in NatsTown, where the club's catching situation continues to be an issue.

As you undoubtedly saw in the previous post, the Nationals have placed Carlos Maldonado on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured right thumb, an injury he suffered Thursday in Houston when he was struck by a foul tip off Carlos Lee's bat. To replace him, the club has called up Jamie Burke from Class AAA Syracuse. Burke, you'll recall, spent the season's first two months on the DL following knee surgery and only returned to playing a couple weeks ago. The veteran wasn't, however, on the 40-man roster, so he had to have his contract purchased, which meant someone else had to be dropped. That someone was Chris Coste, another veteran catcher who two weeks ago had Tommy John surgery but today was given his unconditional release.

All the while, Ivan Rodriguez is still trying to return from his own lower back injury. Pudge was doing some running on the field earlier this afternoon, under the watchful eye of Jim Riggleman and also played catch and hit in the cage. He's slated to take a full round of BP and run the bases tomorrow, and if all goes well, he'll go on a quick rehab assignment to Class A Potomac on Monday. If that goes well, he can come off the DL in time for Stephen Strasburg's debut Tuesday night.

Check back here for game updates throughout...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 74 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to RF
2B Cristian Guzman
CF Nyjer Morgan
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
C Wil Nieves
P Luis Atilano

REDS (31-24)
SS Orlando Cabrera
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
3B Scott Rolen
LF Jonny Gomes
RF Jay Bruce
CF Drew Stubbs
C Ramon Hernandez
P Mike Leake

7:00 p.m. -- Just about ready for first pitch here at Nationals Park. Much, MUCH smaller crowd than last night. I would think we're going to be looking more at the low-20,000s than the low-30,000s for this one.

7:07 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from Atilano to Cabrera. Everyone's favorite ump, Joe West, is behind the plate tonight. He was showered with boos when his name was announced a few minutes ago.

7:17 p.m. -- For all Ryan Zimmerman has done at the plate this season -- did you know he's now leading the NL with a 1.005 OPS? -- he's been dealing with some throwing issues for several weeks now. Zim had another misfire on the game's first batter tonight, botching a routine throw to first for an error that wound up leading to a Reds run. Zim has been using this sidearm throwing motion since last summer, when coaches told him to treat every play like it was a difficult one after he had the yips on some routine plays. Well, he's now starting to have trouble with those throws. You've got to wonder if someone's going to tell Ryan to start throwing overhand on the routine plays from now on. Nats trail 1-0 heading to the bottom of the first.

7:22 p.m. -- I was about to say that Nyjer Morgan may be the worst bunter I've ever seen for a player who should be a good bunter. But that's not true. Damian Jackson was the worst bunter I've ever seen for a player who should have been a good bunter. Nyjer is the second-worst.

7:27 p.m. -- And Morgan's botched bunt costs the Nats a run in the bottom of the first. Guzman stranded at third when Willingham lines out to center to end the inning, with the Nats still trailing 1-0.

7:43 p.m. -- Two innings, four hits for the Nats ... and no runs yet. Bernadina killed the second-inning rally by getting gunned down trying to steal second. This is turning into a recurring theme here. The Nats have no trouble getting runners on base. They just can't seem to bring them home. Reds up 1-0 after two.

8:00 p.m. -- That's five hits in three innings for the Nationals, and still no runs. Dunn strikes out looking with Morgan on second and two outs. So the big guy is now 0-for-23 this season with two outs and runners in scoring position.

8:33 p.m. -- It's now 2-0 Reds after five thanks to a double down the left-field line by Orlando Cabrera that scored pitcher Mike Leake all the way from first. Atilano hasn't pitched poorly, but he hasn't made a couple of pitches when he's needed to. The Nats' lineup, meanwhile, still can't get a clutch hit off Leake. Six hits through five.

8:55 p.m. -- The Nationals are on the board at last. It took a single, a hit batter and an error on first baseman Joey Votto (though personally I thought Roger Bernadina should have been credited with a hit for his line drive off Votto's glove) but it's now 2-1 after six. Could have been tied if only Ian Desmond had lived up to the "Mr. Clutch" moniker I gave him last night. Come on, Ian: You're making me look bad!

9:02 p.m. -- How about that. Luis Atilano has gone seven innings, allowing only two runs. More impressively, Jim Riggleman let the rookie stay out there that long and throw 114 pitches. Something tells that won't happen Tuesday with you-know-who, or else John McLaren will be managing this team on Wednesday. Still 2-1 Reds at the stretch.

9:07 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 22,896.

9:23 p.m. -- Another night, another ejection. This time, Riggleman gets the heave-ho from Dan Bellino after Desmond was called for interfering with Brandon Phillips rounding second. Desmond did get in Phillips' way, inadvertently, though I suppose you could argue Phillips barely lost his stride and might have been thrown out at third base regardless. Either way, it's now 3-1 Reds in the eighth.

9:29 p.m. -- Make it 4-1 after Wil Nieves couldn't hold onto the ball when Phillips crashed into him at the plate. Tough to blame Nieves for that. Despite a great throw from Desmond, Nieves had no time to secure the ball before Phillips hammered him. Still goes down as an E2, the second strange error of the inning and the third error of the game for a Nats club that now has an NL-leading 54 errors on the season. The next-closest team? The Dodgers, with 45.

9:34 p.m. -- I'm just going to throw this out there and let you all debate ... The Nationals are now on pace to commit 153 errors this season. Last year, when they were ridiculed by every corner of the baseball-watching universe for their shoddy defense, they committed 143 errors. Where's the outrage this time around? Where are all the calls for more emphasis on fundamentals? Where are all the calls for more infield practice?

9:40 p.m. -- Don't be surprised if Brandon Phillips gets one in the ribs when he comes up to bat in the ninth. The Nats didn't like that he pounded his chest in a taunting manner after bowling over Nieves. Ivan Rodriguez, who is in the dugout, appeared to say some things toward the Reds dugout. Phillips is due up third in the ninth. Stay tuned.

9:54 p.m. -- What do you know? Batista plunks Phillips and gets tossed by Joe West. Looks like Phillips expected it, cause he just trotted to first without saying a word. No incident here ... so far.

10:11 p.m. -- What began as a somewhat-tight pitchers' duel has now ended as a lopsided 5-1 Reds victory. Not too much good stuff from the home club tonight, aside from the unity displayed on that intentional plunking of Phillips. We'll see if there's any carryover tomorrow, though I would suspect warnings will be issued to both dugouts before the game.


JayB said...


Where is Steven S? Would it not make sense to have him with the team at this point. Can he sit on the bench without being on the 25 Man roster? Craig S. is going to go down...does he pitch again before Tuesday? Can they get around needed Stamen again before Tuesday so SS can be called up early and spend time with the team now?

JayB said...

Also I second the call for some more up to date information on Flores. You did a great job 10 days or so on this but if he is going to play again this year he is going to have to start making some real progress at some point....Can he throw more than 60 6 yet?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Strasburg won't be at the park and in uniform until Tuesday. Not allowed here until he's on the 25-man roster, and the Nats don't plan to promote him before then.

Nothing new to report on Flores since the update last week. I wouldn't hold my breath on this guy returning from the DL anytime soon.

Dryw Loves the Nats said...


Anonymous8 said...

Another(echoing)lame bunt by Nyjer Morgan. If he gets Guzman to 2nd, Zim's shot to the outfield would have allowed Guzy to tag and get to 3rd and with Dunn's hit, just COST the Nats a run.

Anonymous8 said...

It is the small things in baseball that make a big difference.

Nats give away an unearned in the 1st and a missed opportunity in the bottom of the 1st leads to a negative TWO in net runs.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where Dibble is? I hope he wasn't suspended for his criticism of West last night.

Anonymous said...

There must be a way we can blame Guz for this, right? ;-)

Smatt1001 said...

Anon 7:31
Dibble's at his son's high school graduation. They were saying that he'd be back tomorrow.

Anonymous8 said...

Is it me, or does Willingham look like he took his sweet time running after and digging that double out of the corner? I can't believe the pitcher scored on that but he deserves a ton of credit for hustling.

dj in Fl. said...

What a great job by Atilano tonight.
He made sure he was not the one leaving Tuesday.
If we could only drive in our runners.

Anonymous8 said...

dj - I agree with you. Atilano has really been solid.

Nice to see the opposing team screwing up. Orlando Cabrera in a HR jog and gets a double on what may have been a triple.

Michael J. Hayde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JayB said...

Best I can tell Mark they are doing the extra infield each day...correct?

The defense is much better than last year and you know it Mark....Anderson Hernandez two errors in the first home game last year on 10 hoppers right to him are not the same as say these two errors in the 8th and you know that too.....What is the point of your question Mark? Do you see these two seasons as the same types of errors Mark?

A DC Wonk said...

Where's the outrage this time around?

I think it's coming. The defense looked pretty decent the first part of this year, but seems to have taken a nosedive just in the last week or two. (At least that's the impression I get). So, the complaints, I suspect, are coming.

A DC Wonk said...

JayB -- I don't think it matters "what kind" of errors. When you accumulate enough so that you're last in the league -- and not only last but a full 20% more than the second to last -- there's a problem.

JayB said...


Looks like Riggs gave you the same answer as I did above about errors and work....dumb question really Mark, it shows an agenda and a lack of attention to the facts between this year and last.

And yes it is still a problem but a much different one than Acta created here.

K.D. said...

I think it is also a matter of who is making the errors. The Nats reigning Gold Glover gets a pass for a few, as does a rookie shortstop.

Anonymous said...

Quite impressive the way JayB doesn't let any facts get in the way of his opinion.

But Mark, I will say that the defense looked quite a bit better over the first 30-35 games, and has only fallen off the cliff more recently. I think it started to falter before Pudge went on the DL, but has gotten worse since then. I just did a quick count and tallied that they've made 19 errors in the 13 games since he's been out.

Mark Zuckerman said...

I swear there's no agenda here. I've said it before, but I'll repeat one more time: I think Riggleman has done a fine job as manager of this team. I think Acta's firing was justified last summer. I think there has been more attention to detail this year. I also agree that of course the defense hasn't been nearly as bad this year as it was last year.

But the defense over the last three or so weeks has been bad, and it's now costing this team on a near-nightly basis. And you can't ignore the fact they have committed nine more errors than any other team in baseball.

My point is: You can drill defense and fundamentals into a team as much as you want, and it may help some. But ultimately it's on the players to make the plays in the field. And that's what Riggleman said tonight.

Cwj said...

This team is missing Pudge in many ways. He'll be back though.

JayB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

In terms of the UZR which some (perhaps excluding Mr. Zuckerman?) believe is a better indicator of defense than errors. Examples are range and the balls players like Morgan, Desmond, Bernadina can get to to quash hits, runners advancing, big innings. That figure seems to have risen significantly. Clearly they are far better defensively with Pudge than without Pudge and that may be due to his ability as a field general. And his talent for calling pitches.

JayB said...

Understood but I just want to makes the points that drilling has greatly reduced the mental errors on Bunt Plays, Double Steal, Cut off plays, Calling balls in the OF and a whole host of problems with the defense. And this team is working on these things everyday where as last year at this time they work not.

Eric said...

JayB, Can you please take your idiotic comments to another blog? Do you ever stop bitching? Most normal fans are happy with the progress coming off of back to back 100 loss seasons.

Anonymous said...

Yeah - what Eric said.

Ernie said...

I was at the game tonight. It looked like Guzman just stood and watched two ground balls roll to his left for hits that most second basemen would pick up. Did I just see that wrong? And was Dunn out of position after Phillips's single when he was half way to second and no one was there to catch him in a run-down? Or did Phillips just come that far off the bag because Dunn was backing up the throw? Finally, keeping score with Joe West in the park is a near impossiblity - the scoreboard can never explain the strange calls and I have to wait until I get home to figure out what happened. Up in my section we thought the call was that Zimmerman missed Phillips on the tag.

A DC Wonk said...

How does having Pudge cut down on errors by infielders?

Anonymous said...

JayB said...
This post has been removed by the author.

Finally he says something that makes sense. And we're only in what, year six of this team?

Grandstander said...

I understand that, but where is the accountability? Is it simply a matter of not being to sit some of these guys because of our lack of depth? That's the way it seems to me. Before, when Nyjer was just terrible and made those 2 inside the park HRs happen, any other team would have sat him down, we didn't. Why? No one could take his place. Guzzy and Desmond combine for 6 errors in 2 games, who else you gonna put in? Nieves can't even make a clean throw to second, let alone get a freaking hit, but who else do we have??

I've said it before and it's now become glaringly obvious, the lack of depth on this team has totally exposed our weaknesses. If one guy isn't there and performing, the whole ship goes down. Pudge, Dunn, Nyjer, with them out or slumping we simply cannot win consistently because no one is able to fill the void.

It hurts more because we had such a hot April/May, but this is simply not a competitive team yet. In a couple of years, absolutely, and I trust Rizzo to make the right moves to make it happen. But we were fooled into thinking this team was anything more than some bright young talent mixed with some retreads who could hobble us back into respectability.

Cwj said...

DC Wonk, I think Pudge provides something for this team that stats can't account for.
Imagine Phillips trying to show him up! :)

natsfan1a said...

I was watching on tv, and missed the part where Pudge was barking at the Reds' dugout. Thanks for that interesting tidbit. I did see a tight shot of him nodding to himself after the Phillips celebration ("Well, well, what have we here? Um-hmm, duly noted."). I agree that Pudge seems to add something to the team that stats can't account for, even if he's merely in the dugout. I for one can't wait to have him back on the field.

natsfan1a said...

Oh, and imo, any agenda is not on the part of the Mark and the media, but on the part of those fans who can't let go of the Acta era and can't stand to read anything that does not serve to validate their low opinion of him.

A dc wonk said...

I agree Pudge adds some things - but I wouldn't think that improved infielding would be one of them

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