Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Game 66: Nats at Tigers

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats have their work cut out for them tonight against Justin Verlander.
DETROIT -- The Nationals have faced their share of top pitchers this season. Roy Halladay. Johan Santana. Roy Oswalt. Tim Lincecum. Josh Johnson. Ubaldo Jimenez. Chris Carpenter.

Tonight, another big name is added to the list: Justin Verlander, the Tigers' flamethrower from just outside Richmond who has established himself as one of the best young right-handers in the game. In 4 1/2 seasons in Detroit, the 27-year-old is already 72-47 with a 3.89 ERA. He owns a no-hitter, a Rookie of the Year award, two All-Star Game appearances, a 19-win season and a 269-strikeout season.

Oh, and like a certain Nationals rookie, he regularly tops 100 mph on the radar gun.

Not exactly the kind of opposing pitcher the Nats want to face when needing a win. Unfortunately, this is the scenario they've left themselves in after losing last night 7-4 in a very winnable game. They had Max Scherzer on the ropes but went silent at the plate the final five innings. And they couldn't overcome John Lannan's ragged start.

So Jim Riggleman will try a little different lineup tonight. As promised, Josh Willingham gets a scheduled night off. Willie Harris is in left field, with Michael Morse DH'ing.

Check back for updates throughout...

Where: Comerica Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 77 degrees, Wind 15 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Roger Bernadina
LF Willie Harris
DH Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
(P Livan Hernandez)

TIGERS (34-29)
CF Don Kelly
DH Johnny Damon
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
LF Brennan Boesch
2B Carlos Guillen
3B Brandon Inge
C Gerald Laird
SS Ramon Santiago
(P Justin Verlander)

7:06 p.m. -- Play ball! Justin Verlander starts Nyjer Morgan off with a 95 mph fastball for ball one.

7:11 p.m. -- There may not be a deeper center field in the majors than Comerica Park. To that, Adam Dunn says: Pish-posh! Dunn crushed a 95 mph heater from Verlander off the top of the fence just to the left of the 420-foot mark. The locals say only a handful of balls have ever been hit out there, maybe 20-to-30 since the ballpark opened 10 years ago, only a couple per season. Dunn's blast (his 15th of the year) puts the Nats on top 1-0.

7:16 p.m. -- Nice, clean first inning for Livan Hernandez. Cristian Guzman made a diving stop of Don Kelly's grounder to his left, then Livo got Johnny Damon to hit a soft liner/pop-up to third and Magglio Ordonez to fly out to right.

7:21 p.m. -- And now Roger Bernadina takes Verlander deep, sending an 0-1 fastball well over the right-field fence. The guy really is starting to heat up at the plate and is making solid contact with more consistency. Verlander had allowed only two homers over his last nine starts. He's now served up two in two innings. Nats lead 2-0.

7:41 p.m. -- So much for that. Livo just gave both runs back, and then two more for good measure during a frustrating bottom of the second. He walked three, including Brandon Inge with the bases loaded. Couldn't locate his slider to save his life. How bad was it? Miguel Batista was already warming up in the bullpen. Batista has taken a seat now, but Livan had better figure things out quick or else I don't imagine his night is going to last much longer. Tigers lead 4-2 after two. Nice pitchers' duel here.

7:58 p.m. -- Slightly better job by Livo in the third, but he still was victimized by a leadoff walk. Ordonez reached, took second on a groundout and then scored on Brennan Boesch's single up the middle. Hernandez continues to have trouble was his slider. Seems like every one he's thrown has either been out of the strike zone or clobbered by the Tigers. It's now 5-2 after three.

8:23 p.m. -- Livo has settled down and gotten things under control, but unfortunately so has Verlander. Morse led off the fifth with a single, but Desmond immediately grounded into a double play, killing that possible rally. So the Tigers have made those five early runs (on three hits and four walks) hold up so far. It's 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth.

8:37 p.m. -- At last, a clutch hit. Pudge Rodriguez comes through with a two-out, RBI single in the sixth. Guzman scores from second as the Nats trim the lead to 5-3. They're staying within striking distance.

8:48 p.m. -- If you had told me three innings ago that Livan Hernandez would make it through the sixth on only 92 pitches, I'd have dragged you to the nearest mental facility. What a turnaround for Livo. Since surrendering Boesch's RBI single in the third, he's retired 11 of 13 batters. The Tigers still lead 5-3, but there's perhaps a glimmer of hope as we head to the seventh.

9:04 p.m. -- Oh well. Just when you thought Livan might navigate his way through this one without giving up another run, he serves up an absolute bomb to Boesch with two outs in the seventh. Left an 85 mph fastball right over the plate. So that'll be eight runs allowed by Hernandez in 6 2/3 innings tonight, and that's going to skewer his ERA big-time. It goes from 2.28 to 2.94 in the blink of an eye. Nats trail 8-3 still in the bottom of the seventh, and there would appear little hope of a comeback.

9:15 p.m. -- What was Hernandez's primary problem tonight? Command. He issued six walks, his most since May 1, 2007 when he was pitching for the Diamondbacks.

9:18 p.m. -- Adam Dunn is now 0-for-26 with two outs and runners in scoring position this year. Yes, 0-for-26.

9:20 p.m. -- Is it good if your closer is pitching the eighth inning down five runs? Generally speaking, that means his services haven't been needed very much lately. Sure enough, Matt Capps hasn't been on the mound since one week ago today, saving his second straight win over the Pirates.

9:31 p.m. -- It's over. Tigers win 8-3. Nats fall to 1-4 on this road trip. They've also now lost 20 of their last 31 to fall to four games under .500. Is it Friday yet?


slopitchtom said...

For crying out loud, if Riggs insists on putting Harris in the lineup why isn't he hitting 9th!? I just don't get it. Well, at least he's not dh'ing and hitting 6th like he was in Cleveland on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

Who on first?

David said...

who's DHing? and who's playing first?... your lineup says we have two DH's :-)

David said...

I dunno, second base!

Doc said...

Mark,how many DHs are you allowed to have in one lineup? I'll bet that DH beside AD's name was meant to be a 1B. Anyway, 2 DHs in the lineup is better than one in the bush! Or does that have to do with birds?????

NatsJack in Florida said...

I believe Mark said Morse was DH'ing so Dunn would be on first.

Mark Zuckerman said...

OK, OK. You got me. Dunn's at first base, Morse is DH'ing. That's what I get for cutting and pasting last night's lineup and tweaking that instead of starting from scratch.

Doc said...

Anyway, regardless of Who's on first, and What's on DH, Riggs is really supplying the humor with WH in LF---batting 7th. 'Cept it's not that funny! We want The Hammer!

Anonymous said...

If his goal is to make Willie interesting trade bait ... it's not working Riggleman. Other than that there doesn't seem to be any other reason to put him in the lineup. Kind of like beating the dead horse named JMax.

Section 222 said...

Presumably Harris and Bernadina are hitting in front of Morse because they are lefties. Let's hope they can punch and judy their way on base and Morse can deliver a big hit. And with the Hammer out of the lineup, Dunn is hitting third so they can't pitch around him. Seems sensible, though I'm with the rabble that would rather see Harris continue to ride the bench.

N. Cognito said...

More musical chairs from Riggs.

Arlington Big Fish said...

Is it my inagination, or does Livo get stuck pitching on most of the nights we're facing young stud pitchers? I seem to recall he faced Santana & Lincecum & John Johnson.

Arlington Big Fish said...

Make that Josh Johnson

NatsJack in Florida said...

And don't forget Hibaldo Jimenez. Only gave up 4 hits in that game and lost 2-0.

K.D. said...

You know with all the complaining about Willie he will go 3 for 3. We will need to play small ball tonight to scratch out a few runs. Bunt and run Nyger! Zimm and Dunn should be better since they aren't DH. Morse shouldn't have a problem as long as he treats his at bats like a PH.

David said...

i think the abbott and costello reference was unnoticed

nattaboy said...

Willie Harris has also seen tough luck, getting his few starts against the toughest hurlers.

I like the lineup. I like Riggleman. I love the Nats.

N. Cognito said...

David said...
"i think the abbott and costello reference was unnoticed"

No. Poorly done, so ignored.

NatsJack in Florida said...

And for the a second time in a week... I agree with N. Cognito.

natsfan1a said...

And here I thought it was Zuckerman's subtle homage to Abbott and Costello, no doubt inspired by recently observing the "Who's on First" artwork outside of Jacobs Field. You should never have fessed up, Mark. ;-)

Bowdenball said...

I gotta come clean.

At this point in the season I find myself hoping that Riggleman will start Willie Harris just so I can read all the jokes about it on the internet.

NatsJack in Florida said...

The Pirates have just designated Aki Iwamanura (or however you spell his name) for assignment.

There is a second baseman to consider that might come cheap.

David said...

Man you guys are a tough crowd. That's one of my favorite movies of all time (The Naughty Nineties). I couldn't help myself. :-)

Big Oil said...

Willie Harris circa now is making Termel Sledge circa '05 look downright legitimate.

Have a game, Willie.

Traveler8 said...

I want to ask for a moratorium on cute non-references to Stephen Strasburg. Last night, re Schertzer, it was :He struck out 14 Oakland A's in only 5 2/3 innings in his first start back in the majors. (Hmm, sound like anyone we know?)
And tonight, re Verlander, it is: Oh, and like a certain Nationals rookie, he regularly tops 100 mph on the radar gun.

This is really getting old, and sounds totally unclever done more than once - and it has been done by a lot of writers a lot more than once. From now on, please, just refer to him as Strasburg and we can go on from there.

Otherwise, I love this blog, thanks Mark, and the rest of you.

A DC Wonk said...

At least we haven't heard a comment demanding that Mark ask Rizzo why Riggs is trying to throw the series to the Tigers . . . ;-)

meixler said...

All I can say is that if Roger is on first and Willie is asked to bunt he'd better get it down!

JayB said...

Riggs did not try to lose the CLE games, he just decided he would use those games as an opportunity to play his worst players all at once in some lame attempt to get them to hit above .150 and he knew if it did not work Acta would benifit. Harris should not be playing at all but at least it is not at DH and Morse is in the line up. I hope it is very long time before we see Kennedy at 2B two days in a row!

dj in Fl. said...

I would like to see Kennedy get enough time in to get out of his fielding slump. He takes Ian to the park in a cab before each game and hits him grounders and teaches him how to play the game right. Give him a break!
His 5 errors at 2b this year cost contributed to a loss, but what has his effort given us in improved play at short.

Doc said...

Looks like Roger B. is a lock on an outfield spot. It comes down to Morgan/Harris vs. Morse. What is it that Morgan/Harris can do that Morse can't. We know what they can't do, and what Morse can do.

If Morgan was doing what he did last half-season, this would be a short discussion; but he isn't, and in all probability he won't be.

Doc said...

@ David: One of my favorites too! Those guys knew baseball, and were friends with a lot of players. As a kid, I had my picture taken with them.

I think Mark made the mistake, just to have us 'Insiders' generate some discussion. However, I do think that Riggleman, with all his substitutions, gets confused about Who's in RF--thats when Guzman ends up there!

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