Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Game 72: Royals at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nationals Park, shortly after a monster storm rolled through tonight.
It's mostly gone unnoticed because the Nationals have lost far more games than they've won over the last month, but this club's bullpen continues to be among the best in baseball.

Check out these ERAs for Washington's relievers in June...

Tyler Clippard: 0.90
Sean Burnett: 1.35
Tyler Walker: 2.08
Drew Storen: 2.53
Matt Capps: 3.38
Miguel Batista: 3.86
Doug Slaten: 5.79

Pretty impressive. For the season, the Nationals' bullpen owns a 3.45 ERA. That's fourth-best in the NL, seventh-best in the majors. Again, pretty impressive.

Tonight, the club will pay homage to the two guys who have been pitching the eighth and ninth innings all season: Clippard and Capps. Tonight's giveaway T-shirts have a picture of a giant coupon, emblazoned with the words "Clipp and Save." (Yes, that slogan was first coined by former Washington Times copy editor Steve Repsher.)

"It's kind of neat," said Capps, who got a glimpse of the shirts the other day. "It's a cool feeling, and something neat for your friends and family to see and to have. For the team to think that much of you, it's a good feeling."

So, how might the Nationals best commemorate the occasion tonight? How about taking a one- or two-run lead into the eighth inning against the Royals, then handing this game over to their most-trusted relievers? We'll see if they can pull that off.

Check back for updates throughout...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 90 degrees, Wind 6 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Roger Bernadina
2B Adam Kennedy
P Luis Atilano

ROYALS (29-42)
LF Scott Podsednik
C Jason Kendall
CF David DeJesus
1B Billy Butler
RF Jose Guillen
3B Alberto Callaspo
2B Mike Aviles
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
P Anthony Lerew

5:47 p.m. -- Before we get to tonight's game, an ticket update on tomorrow's game featuring Stephen Strasburg: They're still available. As of this moment, they're looking at a crowd in the mid-30,000s. Could be the first non-sellout after Strasburg's first two home starts were packed to the gills. Still, 35,000 wouldn't be too shabby for a Wednesday afternoon against the Royals.

6:42 p.m. -- The All-Star Futures Game rosters were announced today. Representing the Nationals in Anaheim next month will be Harrisburg shortstop Danny Espinosa and Hagerstown outfielder Eury Perez.

7:06 p.m. -- This one is underway with a strike from Luis Atilano to Scott Podsednik. Looks like a slightly larger crowd tonight than last night, but still under 20,000. They could end up drawing more fans tomorrow than the first two games of the series combined.

7:10 p.m. -- Atilano cruises through the top of the Royals' lineup in the first. Podsednik roped a line drive but right at Cristian Guzman at shortstop. Atilano then took care of the rest himself, striking out both Jason Kendall and David DeJesus, the latter on a called third strike that DeJesus didn't seem to like. Nevertheless, a really quick inning for Atilano.

7:14 p.m. -- Speaking of efficiency, Anthony Lerew just retired the Nats on seven pitches, all strikes. He even faced four batters, pitching around Ryan Zimmerman's two-out single to get out of the inning without suffering any damage. Both Nyjer Morgan and Adam Dunn made outs on the first pitch they saw. So we're scoreless after one.

7:24 p.m. -- Couple of singles by the Royals in the second, but Atilano escapes the jam with a nifty play on Yuniesky Betancourt's comebacker. Thirty-one pitches for Atilano through two innings, 20 strikes.

7:36 p.m. -- Atilano has not been a strikeout pitcher all season; he entered tonight with 25 Ks in 60 1/3 innings. So naturally, he's punched out four Royals through three innings. Where did this come from? Still scoreless as we go to the bottom of the third.

7:40 p.m. -- A two-out rally in the third puts the Nationals on top 1-0. Guzman singles to right, and Zimmerman follows with a big double down the left-field line. Zim has now reached base in five of six plate appearances against Kansas City.

8:07 p.m. -- I've been covering baseball for 10 years now, and I've seen my share of thunderstorms. But I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite like what we're experiencing right now. A huge storm is blowing through Nationals Park. The rain and wind are as intense as I've ever seen. Fans have nowhere to go for shelter, because it's coming in sideways. Fortunately, it's a small cell that should pass through shortly and then clear up. Hopefully, it'll cool things off as well.

8:20 p.m. -- The tarp is now coming off the field. Still raining lightly, but nothing like before. They should be back underway shortly.

8:22 p.m. -- Oh, by the way, the Nats currently lead 3-0 in the fourth. I failed to mention that Josh Willingham hit his 100th career homer and Nyjer Morgan drove in his 10 run of the season with a sac fly. When they resume, the Nats will still have runners on the corners and two outs with Cristian Guzman at the plate.

8:43 p.m. -- They're saying the game should resume at 8:50 p.m. Luis Atilano was just warming up in the bullpen, so it looks like he'll stay in the game.

8:53 p.m. -- And we're back after a 49-minute delay.

9:05 p.m. -- I don't know if it was the delay or something else, but Atilano was not nearly as successful in the fifth as he was before the rain came. In his defense, the Royals put two men on base with an infield single and a blooper to shallow center. Still, Kansas City turned that into its first run of the night. So after five, the Nats now lead 3-1.

9:14 p.m. -- Did you know that 45 of the Nats' 65 homers this season have been solo shots? That 69.2 percent rate is the highest in the majors, and tells you that Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham haven't been getting many opportunities with runners on base, and when they have, they haven't come through. That said, it's hard to find fault with the blast Dunn just hit. It caromed off the wall on the side of the batter's eye in center field, at least 440 feet from the plate. Just a bomb. Nats now lead 4-1 in the fifth.

9:26 p.m. -- Atilano is done after 5 1/3 impressive innings. Joel Peralta making his Nationals debut, facing a Royals club he used to pitch for.

9:42 p.m. -- We go to the seventh, Nats still holding a 4-1 lead thanks to a double-play grounder induced by Peralta. Now, Riggleman's got his bullpen set up for the remainder of this game. Drew Storen will pitch the eighth. It's all set up for "Clipp and Save" to finish this out on their T-shirt night.

9:47 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 21,168. So they need to draw at least 34,761 on Strasmas tomorrow to surpass the combined attendance the last two nights. I think they'll do it.

9:51 p.m. -- Perfect inning of relief for Storen. His updated season totals: 2-1, 2.08 ERA, 16 appearances, 4 earned runs in 17.1 innings pitched. Not bad, kid.

9:54 p.m. -- Hmm, no action in the pen. Might Storen return for a second inning of work, as Riggleman tries to keep Clippard fresh to relieve Strasburg tomorrow? Makes some sense.

10:07 p.m. -- Well, Riggleman did try to squeeze a second inning out of Storen. Unfortunately, the rookie put the first two Royals he faced on base. So Tyler Clippard is on after all. "Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Millions of peaches, peaches for free. Look out!"

10:17 p.m. -- It's OK, you can exhale. Billy Butler's drive to center only reached the warning track and Nyjer Morgan hauled it in. Close call there, but Clippard got the job done. Still 4-1 heading to the bottom of the eighth.

10:25 p.m. -- Here comes Capps. It's "The Final Countdown" on "Clipp and Save" Night!

10:39 p.m. -- Well, that's not the way Matt Capps wanted to do it, but he got the job done in the end. He loaded the bases, then allowed a two-out, two-run single to Podsednik, cutting the lead to 4-3, with the tying run on sescond. But "Save" held up his end of the bargain, and the Nats are now on an honest-to-god winning streak. That's two in a row over the Royals. Atilano gets the win, improves to 6-4. Clippard gets the hold. Capps gets his 22nd save. Stephen Strasburg gets to go for the series sweep tomorrow afternoon.


Anonymous said...

Does the lineup mean Nieves is catching Strasburg tomorrow?

Anonymous said...

Seriously, tje shakeup in the lineup is Kenndey for Desmond, why aren't we giving Zim the day off before a day game tomorrow? Or will he likely be off tomorrow and Stras will have a lineup like this one behind him tomorrow afternoon:

CF Bernadina
SS Desmond
3B Gonzalez
1B Kennedy
LF Harris
C Nieves
RF Morse
2B Guzman


NatsJack in Florida said...

I guess a 25 Yo is tired and needs a rest. Guzman makes an error tonitr guaranteed!

And good job Michael Morse. Your reward is.... ta da... Pinch Hitting!!!

Anonymous said...

WORST MANAGER IN THE LEAGUE !!!!!! No competition. The dumbest baseball manager I have ever witnessed. Its getting pretty frustrating to watch.

Grandstander said...

Everyday I find myself anxiously awaiting the lineup, hoping beyond hope that there's some kind of shakeup. Bernadina leading off, Morse in RF, Morgan not in it...

Putting Guzman in SS for Desmond and slotting Kennedy at 2B was not what I had in mind.

A DC Wonk said...

The stats in the article is more evidence for something I've been wishing for a while -- Clippard should be the closer.

A DC Wonk said...

Oh, and one more thing I wanted to mention. When complaining about Rizzo, folks ought to take a look at this bullpen and compare it to last years' -- which was one of the league's worst. Last year the bullpen averaged an ERA of over 5 -- this is quite an improvement. And it's almost all new guys.

A DC Wonk said...

NatsJack wrote: I guess a 25 Yo is tired and needs a rest.

Sounds weird, but it might be true. Or, even he isn't tired -- Desmond is is 2 for his last 24, and could use a day on the bench, imho.

(sorry for making three posts in a row)

Bowdenball said...

Just a guess here, but I'm wondering if the people who are attempting to predict tomorrow's lineup based on today's lineup and guessing that Zimm or others will rest are forgetting that we have a day off on Thursday followed by a 45 minute "road trip" on Friday.

Tomorrow's not your typical getaway weekday afternoon game. There's no reason everybody in the lineup today can't go tomorrow, including Pudge if he feels up for it.

JayB said...

My vote for post of the season is......

"Anonymous said...

WORST MANAGER IN THE LEAGUE !!!!!! No competition. The dumbest baseball manager I have ever witnessed. Its getting pretty frustrating to watch. "

Anonymous said...

Why in the world is Morse not playing. He is the hottest hitter they have. I said it before the season started and I will say it again - Nyjer Morgan is the 2010 version of Nook Logan. Guess we are going to have to wait for Logan, I mean Morgan, to get injured so Morse can get some serious playing time. All the guy does is hit. And please... no more Adam Kennedy.

JayB said...

I sat with Adam Dunn at the Season Ticket holders lunch. I remember him asking if Morse was coming back because "that guy can really hit". Adam went on to say he should 'playing everyday somewhere in this league".....right you are Mr. Dunn!

Bonnie Jo said...

Any thoughts on the idea that Rizzo/Riggles are showcasing trade bait? Guzman? Morgan even?

Anonymous said...

Riggleman is far better than Manny, and i liked Manny personally, but hated his baseball decisions. Especially when a pitcher got down 6-0 and he left him in.

At least Riggleman yanked Lannon three times in less than 5 innings.

The brand of baseball this year is much better than it has been in a few years.

I can see the forrest amounst the trees.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I agree that it is much better this year. We didn't win our 33rd game till August 3, 2009 last year so we are a good 6 weeks ahead.

But I am getting tired of not playing our best lineup night in and night out. At least this year, we have players on the bench that have proven (at least for the short term) that they can play solid baseball.

I like Riggleman personally, but he's reallly esting me with his hard headedness.

NatsJack in Florida said...

really testing

Jaxpo Nat said...

Why do I have a bad feeling that it will be Willingham, not Morgan or anyone else, that gets traded within the next few weeks, leaving us with Morgan/Bernandina/Morse in the OF.

Just have a not-so-pleasing hunch.

Mark L said...

Baseball manager is the one job in sports where the fans have as much information on hand as he does. We know what he knows -- he has two centerfielders, and he keeps running out the lessor one. And, by putting out the lessor CFer, he keeps the Nats hottest hitter on the bench. What's wrong with this picture?

natsfan1a said...

Just got home from a meeting and came here to check re. the rain delay. Stay safe out there!

dj in Fl. said...

Great csn article Mark....
Would all the Riggleman haters please take note of Clips comments on how everyone knows exactly when they will pitch has made the pen solid.
Please do not think the fan has has as much knowledge abd insight as all the powers that be that witness practice everyday.
After attending 300 Nats games the last 5 years I can finally say there is progress this year.
Enjoy it as it is now, and even more in the years to follow as they upgrade the position players. I bet there is a plan we know nothing about for every position on that team right now.

dj in Fl. said...

When retired guys try to multi task the english language is the first to go. Hopefully you got my point, sit back, relax, and enjoy the game.

Matt said...

It is pretty impressive that the Nats have only scored 4 runs on 10 hits, 2 of them homers, in 5 innings.

Anonymous said...

Like I said... sending down Lannan was the best possible thing Rizzo could have done for this team. It woke the rotation the hell up. This is easily Atilano's best performance to date from a pure stuff perspective, and it's not ALL thanks to Pudge.

tappy said...

It's OK to use Clippard tonight -- I asked Santa for a no-no for my first Strasmas.

LoveDaNats said...

I somehow missed the connection between Clipp and peaches. Anyone care to elaborate?

A DC Wonk said...

Did anybody else think that "swinging bunt" in the ninth was rolling foul when Pudge picked it up?

And two more hits for the Guz.

Mark Zuckerman said...

LoveDaNats: Clippard's entrance song is "Peaches" by the Presidents of the United States. One of the strangest song choices in the majors, but definitely cool and fitting for Tyler.

Anonymous said...

Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America is Clippard's walk-in music. If you want to know why, I suppose you'd need to ask him.

Doc said...

Riggleman was recently asked about Morse playing more. He said that it was hard to find playing time for him with Hammer and Bernie in the OF. He absolutely didn't mention Morgan, like Morgan is an 'untouchable' in CF. Many Nats fans see Bernie as a better fielder that Morgan, and Morse as a way-better hitter.

Riggleman then went on to say that Morgan is still learning the game. Yeah, right! He's been playing professional ball for 10 years, and he's still needs to figure it out from a teacher like Riggleman. Even when Morgan was playing hockey in the winter, he played ball in the summer, all the way through he teens.

Does Riggleman really think that Nats fans are so much below him in baseball acumen that only he understands Morgan's value (or lack of value)?

Mark's stats on Nats leading MLB in HRs with no one on base is a tribute to both Morgan's and Guzman's deficient OBPs. I don't think that neither Riggleman, nor Rizzo are very stats savy. If they were, the OF would be Hammer, Bernie, and Morse. Bernie might even make a pretty good lead off guy.

Anonymous said...

Even after 2.5 years I see the Lerners still can't figure out who to call to FIX THE STUPID HUGE CURLY-W CLOCK!

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