Friday, June 11, 2010

Game 62: Nats at Indians

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians.
CLEVELAND -- Despite what the merchandise stand here suggests -- if you haven't seen it, check out the previous post -- this isn't only a weekend Strasburg-fest. The Nationals and Indians do play a pair of games the next two nights before the phenom takes center stage for his second career start.

Jim Riggleman counters former boss Manny Acta with a new-look lineup for this interleague series. Josh Willingham will serve as DH, with Willie Harris is left. Look for the DH slot to be a revolving door all week, with regular position players getting a chance to take a breather and only hit for a day. Ivan Rodriguez, though, bats second tonight behind Nyjer Morgan for the first time all year. Also, Adam Dunn hits third and Ryan Zimmerman fourth, even though Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook is a right-hander.

The Indians counter with their own top prospect, catcher Carlos Santana, making his big-league debut behind the plate.

Check back for updates throughout...

Where: Progressive Field
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 79 degrees, Wind 7 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
DH Josh Willingham
LF Willie Harris
SS Ian Desmond
2B Adam Kennedy
RF Roger Bernadina
(P Luis Atilano)

INDIANS (23-36)
CF Trevor Crowe
RF Shin-Soo Choo
C Carlos Santana
1B Russell Branyan
LF Austin Kearns
DH Travis Hafner
3B Jhonny Peralta
2B Luis Valbuena
SS Jason Donald
(P Jake Westbrook)

5:31 p.m. -- The most popular man in the ballpark today isn't Stephen Strasburg. It's Manny Acta, who spent most of the Indians' batting practice getting hugs and handshakes and conversing with Nationals players, coaches and media members. I'll have a full Acta story on in a little while, but the gist of it is this: Acta says he's never been happier than he is right now in Cleveland. He likes the direction the organization is headed. He keeps close tabs on the Nats and isn't surprised at the success they've had this season. He doesn't allow himself to think about what might have been if he had Strasburg, Drew Storen, Ian Desmond and others on his club a year ago.

5:34 p.m. -- Also caught up with Austin Kearns, who says he's finally healthy after battling injuries through most of his Nats tenure and is enjoying life in Cleveland. And said hello to former Nats third base coach Tim Tolman, now Acta's bench coach, who also is happy to be back on a big-league staff.

7:06 p.m. -- And we're underway on a muggy Friday night in Cleveland. Jake Westbrook fires a strike to Nyjer Morgan.

7:13 p.m. -- Well that didn't take long. Back-to-back doubles by Pudge and Dunn give the Nats a 1-0 lead. Might have been 2-0 had Morgan not been thrown out trying to steal second following a leadoff infield single. Nevertheless, Luis Atilano will take the mound with a lead in hand.

7:29 p.m. -- Let's see: What was the absolute worst-case scenario you could have drawn up for the bottom of the first? A two-out error by Adam Kennedy prolonging the inning and setting the stage for a three-run homer by Austin Kearns? Yeah, that would be it. The Indians give Manny Acta a 3-1 lead over the Nats after one inning as heads explode around the D.C. area.

8:12 p.m. -- I stand corrected. The absolute worst-case scenario was Austin Kearns hitting TWO home runs. Belted another solo shot off Atilano to lead off the bottom of the fourth. It's now 4-1, and the Indians are threatening again.

8:22 p.m. -- You know, Acta was talking before the game about how Kearns is finally healthy again after battling all sorts of injuries the last two years. He said Kearns never let on just how hurt he was and believes that's the sole reason for his struggles. Hard to dispute that line of thinking so far tonight.

8:26 p.m. -- Meanwhile, the Nats lineup has done nothing against Westbrook since that golden opportunity in the first. That inning was derailed by Morgan getting thrown out trying to steal second. Then in the third, Nyjer roped a line drive right at the third baseman on a hit-and-run, leaving Roger Bernadina hanging out to dry for the double play. Nats don't have a hit since then. We're in the bottom of the fifth, still 4-1 Tribe.

8:36 p.m. -- Breathe a sigh of relief, NatsTown. Austin Kearns just struck out to end the fifth. All is right with the world.

8:49 p.m. -- Travis Hafner joins the home run parade, belting a solo shot to right to lead off the sixth. A subsequent single by Jhonny Peralta ends the night for Atilano. I know this hasn't all been the right-hander's fault, and three of the runs are unearned, but he was sharp tonight. Left a fastball right in Hafner's wheelhouse on that home run. Plenty of other balls hit hard. Really disappointing start for Atilano, who was coming off his best outing to date. It's 5-1 Indians in the sixth, with Tyler Walker now pitching for Washington.

9:01 p.m. -- This game has officially turned ugly. Walker poured more gas on the fire and allowed two more runs. It's now 7-1, and both sides are just playing out the string.

9:33 p.m. -- Just when you thought the Nats had a glimmer of hope, loading the bases with one out in the eighth, Zimmerman kills the rally. Reliever Chris Perez comes on and on one pitch gets Zim to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. The Nats did get one unearned run in the inning, but it's still 7-2 heading to the bottom of the eighth.

9:50 p.m. -- This one's over, and not a moment too soon for the Nationals, who lose 7-2, failing to get back to .500 in the process. Atilano struggled. Kearns dominated. The lineup missed a couple of early opportunities and then went silent the rest of the night. This is one to flush down the toilet immediately.


Natsochist said...

Personally, I'd rather see Desi and Pudge flipped, but I like the ingenuity regardless!

Anonymous said...

Riggleman is really starting to tick me off. How do you not have Morse in the lineup tonight !?!?!?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

WOW. Im rooting for Cleveland tonight. Riggleman has got to be one of the dumbest managers in the league. Its going to be so fun watching Morgan and Harris go a combined 0 for 9 tonight !!!!!!!!!

Doc said...

I'm with all the Morse fans. Wad's a guy have to do to get in the line up---marry Riggleman's daughter??? Harris and Morgan vs. Morse--B.S. big time!!! Riggleman needs to get a grip--or a brain transplant! I'll bet he never looks at the sabermetrics, just thinks that any left-handed batter does better than a guy like Morse.

Bobby Valentine wouldn't do it that way!

Anonymous said...

I understand the frustration from Morse fans..I'd love to see him in there..but let's give Riggs the benefit of the doubt..he knows the team (I think) and didn't use Capps yesterday..some managers would have just thrown him in there (maybe Capps was hurt, idk)...would Bobby V be better? Yes, but Bobby V might be the best manager in baseball..not an easy comparison..Morse needs to be in there Sat and Sun..he tore it up for the baserunning mistake..compared to what I've seen on the paths this year, that was a speeding ticket compared to some felonies that have gone on this year

dj in Fl. said...

I am very glad we have Riggleman instead of Bobby Valentine. I like Morse but remember the only year he batted a half seasons worth of games he hit .278. The more you play, the bigger the book on you gets, and pitchers find your weakness. His hits this year are againist Baltimore, Houston, and Pittsburgh. Hardly an indication of potential. It is just Harris turn to start tonight, so he is in that spot. If our current outfielders do not improve their skill level soon, they will be gone. To make a move now would cost a young pitcher and we have not sorted out odd man out yet. Chill and enjoy the improved play over the previous years, or go root for Baltimore or Cleveland.

Anonymous said...

dj..i was with you until "or go root for Baltimore or Cleveland." To say a 'true' fan cannot be critical are the words of a small minded person...a critical fan is the best kind of fan..theyre not just cheering for whatever happens but are involved in the action and strategy...and Bobby V can manage circles around Riggs..and Riggs (and V) would be the first (and second) to tell you that...those check swings might (cant be sure, of coyrse) if a manager with the juice of a Bobby V was on the pine

Anonymous said...

might have gone a different way (what I meant to write...duh)

Go Nats!

A DC Wonk said...

I'm with dj in Fl. . . . ya gotta have patience. Anyone can go through a hot streak or a cold slump, which is not indicative of how the rest of the season might go (see, e.g., Zimmerman in prior seasons).

As for his "go root for..." comment, I'm guessing that was directed at the Anon person above who wrote that he was going to root for Cleveland tonight.

Anonymous said...

I didn't notice that 'root for Cleveland tonight' that's absurd..thanks

Anonymous said... for the hot streak comment you're right..but you have to agree if a guy is on a hot streak ride hm until he cools..and if Morse's night last night wasn't indicative of the beginning of a hot streak I dont know what is

Doc said...

Yeah, I'm critical, but tha's what an involved fan does. I'm a die-hard Nats fan, and always will be---Goooooooooooo Nats!!!!

P.S. Don't forget, Bobby V. was interviewed for the job that Riggs got. Goooooo Nats!

Grandstander said...

I'll give Riggs batting Harris over Morse, but putting Harris in the 6 hole?!?! Is he smoking crack?

Also, Tim Tolman? I guess he's better as a bench coach than a third base coach because DAMN was he bad! There's a guy I'm so happy to be absolved of, maybe even more than Manny.

JayB said...


Why is Kennedy in the line up, better question is who is he on the team? He has lost the only thing he had which was steady defense.

When is it time to stop Morgan from running into outs? How many outs is too much? What is the point of Morgan running any more? He gets no jump at all.

Anonymous said...

Austin Kearns---three run homer! ha-ha-ha-ha--and Morse is riding the bench. Riggleman has brain damage.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessismistic_For_Me said...

Who has the heroin?

Anonymous said...

Make that 2 home runs for Kearns. I wonder if he is pushing the Nats to trade for him? Yep, Riggleman's idiosyncratic issues are the true problem when it comes to right field and the lineup card.

Harris down to .172 now Riggs, I believe that IS lower than Kearns average last year. And hey Kearns had that thumb issue.

Janner33 said...


lesatcsc said...

Atilano self-selects for Syracuse when Olsen is ready. Nice! Always good when the hired help make the boss' job easy.

There must be a very big, very complete book on Willie Harris. Does anyone remember his last hit? What is it he does anyways. He must have married Rigg's daughter because he keeps getting the nod over Morse. This is a guy who dreams of the Mendoza line. When he starts hitting below the Twiggy line can we finally give up?

Gotta love it when Dunn is hot though.

lesatcsc said...

Ryan, remember this if you're ever tempted to move to the AL. You suck against medoicre AL pitching.

K.D. said...

Westbrook has been pitching a long time, the last nine with Cleveland, he knows what he is doing. As far as Atilano goes, his demeanor seems to be more subdued lately. Easy to turn the page on this one. Thanks for the coverage Mark.

Anonymous said...

Well....that was expected. I hope they let Rizzo do the lineup for the rest of the season.

JayB said...

I would take Orr over Harris at this point. Harris has worked this spot on the 25 roster down to number 25 a guy who can play anywhere and should never start a game and get about 50-75 ABs the rest of the year. Orr will produce much more than Harris in that role and is a much better defender at more positions. Bye Bye Willie, you just got too old right in front of our eyes.

PDowdy83 said...

For once JayB I think I actually agree with you. Harris has been downright awful this year at the plate, yet he still keeps getting the chances. I'd rather see Morse and Gonzalez getting playing time. Let Kennedy be your main left handed pinch hitter and put Harris into the position on the bench that Gonzalez is in.

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