Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Game 73: Royals at Nationals

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg will battle the Royals and the heat this afternoon.
It's an absolute scorcher today, with temperatures in the mid-90s and the heat index approaching 100. Good thing Stephen Strasburg will be here to provide a nice, cool breeze with each fastball he fires up at the Kansas City Royals.

This will be a good test for Strasburg, who I would imagine has never pitched in heat quite like this before. He's talked in the past about dealing with wind and cold in the Mountain West Conference, but the only other place he's pitched that may have compared to this was Beijing at the 2008 Olympics.

That said, the conditions today -- or more specifically, the rare 4:35 p.m. starting time -- could play to Strasburg's advantage. The worst time of day for hitters is late afternoon, when the shadows start creeping over the plate but the bright sun remains on the pitcher's mound.

Just a hunch, but I've got a feeling Strasburg's going to be especially effective today.

Check back for updates throughout...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:35 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 95 degrees, Wind 9 mph out to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
P Stephen Strasburg

ROYALS (29-44)
LF Scott Podsednik
C Jason Kendall
CF David DeJesus
1B Billy Butler
RF Jose Guillen
3B Alberto Callaspo
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
2B Chris Getz
P Brian Bannister

3:13 p.m. -- I know you'll all be interested to hear this: Jim Riggleman plans to take the same approach with his designated hitters this weekend in Baltimore as he did last week in Cleveland and Detroit. In other words, look for Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman to each get one day off from defensive duties but remain in the lineup as DH. That also means more at-bats for Michael Morse and (yes) Willie Harris.

3:17 p.m. -- Something to keep in mind about today's game: Riggleman may not have his full complement of late-innings relievers to turn to if the Nats hold a slim lead. Drew Storen threw 22 pitches over more than one inning last night. Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps each pitched the last two nights. I would be surprised if Riggleman uses all three today.

3:21 p.m. -- If you were wondering -- and I'm sure you were -- what the record is for most strikeouts in the first four games of a pitcher's career, it's 40. Herb Score did that in 1955 for the Indians. Strasburg's at 32 through three starts, so he needs eight today to tie Score, nine to establish a new record.

4:30 p.m. -- Nationals Park may be close to full at some point this afternoon, but not for Strasburg's first pitch. There might be 25,000 fans actually in their seats right now. Tons more streaming through the center-field gate, though.

4:36 p.m. -- And away we go ... Stephen Strasburg starts off Scott Podsednik with a 97 mph fastball for strike one. 93 sweltering degrees at gametime.

4:39 p.m. -- Well that didn't take long. Three up, three down. Needed only nine pitches, seven strikes. Struck out Podsednik on a 97 mph heater, then got Kendall to ground out to second and DeJesus to hit a lazy fly ball to left.

4:44 p.m. -- Not to be outdone, Brian Bannister mows down the top of the Nats' lineup in 10 pitches. We're scoreless through one. Still a stream of fans coming through the gates.

4:54 p.m. -- Couple of soft singles for the Royals in the second -- an grounder up the middle by Guillen and a blooper to center by Callaspo -- but Strasburg brushes those aside. He battled through an eight-pitch at-bat with Betancourt (who fouled off six straight) and emerged without allowing a run to score. Through two, he's allowed two hits, struck out two and has thrown 21 of his 25 pitches for strikes.

5:00 p.m. -- Hey, what do you know, the Nats are doing nothing offensively in support of Strasburg. Bannister has faced the minimum through two, allowing a single to Dunn but getting Rodriguez to ground into an inning-ending double play. He's only thrown 21 pitches (13 strikes) himself through two scoreless innings.

5:11 p.m. -- Couple more singles for Kansas City in the third, but they both came with two outs. Facing his first real challenge, Strasburg struck out cleanup hitter Billy Butler looking at a 97 mph fastball. Through three, he's given up four hits, no runs, no walks, four strikeouts. 43 pitches, 34 strikes.

5:20 p.m. -- Cross another "first" off Strasburg's list: His first career hit. Sharp single to left in the bottom of the third. They saved the ball for him, naturally.

5:32 p.m. -- Strasburg is putting guys on base -- six in the last three innings -- but he's coming through when he needs to. Six strikeouts through four. Unfortunately, his teammates haven't done squat against Bannister, so it's still scoreless.

5:50 p.m. -- Uh-oh. Royals take a 1-0 lead in the fifth, getting three straight two-out hits, all with two strikes. You might say Strasburg is actually too much around the plate. Sixty-three of his 78 pitches so far have been strikes. Kansas City's hitters are showing they can put them in play. Eight hits through five, all of them singles, four of them coming with two strikes.

5:59 p.m. -- Wow, what a blown opportunity for the Nationals. First and third, no one out, and they can't score. Willingham was the biggest culprit. The Royals were conceding the run on a grounder to first, but Hammer inexplicably stopped halfway down the line and then ran back to third. Huge mistake. Desmond then struck out for the second out. Willie Harris was on deck to hit for Strasburg, but Riggleman pulled him back at the last moment and let Strasburg hit with two outs and runners on second and third. He wound up grounding out to short. So he still trails 1-0 after five, and you wonder how much left he has in him anyways.

6:11 p.m. -- That should do it for him. Six innings, 1 run, 9 hits, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts. His 41 strikeouts are the most ever by a pitcher in the first four games of his career, besting Herb Score's record from 1955. Strasburg also now has more strikeouts than anyone on the Nats' pitching staff but Tyler Clippard.

6:22 p.m. -- Wow, another squandered scoring opportunity, though this time the umpires cost the Nats the tying run. With runners on first and second and one out, Dunn singled to right. Bernadina came around and appeared to beat Jason Kendall's tag, but Hunter Wendelstedt called him out. Replays confirmed he was safe. The crowd went nuts with disapproval. No argument from Riggleman, though. When Willingham was caught looking at strike three, the rally was killed, and so were Strasburg's chance at a win. He'll either take the loss or a no-decision. Sean Burnett on to pitch the seventh.

6:27 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 31,913. Smallest crowd to see Strasburg so far, home or away. Actually, this was even smaller than the crowd of 33,774 that turned out June 4 against the Reds (the game everyone thought Strasburg was going to start).

6:30 p.m. -- Well, at least Bannister is now out of the game. The Nats can take their chances against the Royals' bullpen, starting with Robinson Tejeda.

6:36 p.m. -- Can we have Bannister back please? Tejada mows down Pudge, Kennedy and Desmond in the seventh. It's STILL 1-0. If the Nats don't score, Strasburg will own a 1.78 ERA and a 41-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio but a 2-1 record. Unbelievable.

6:46 p.m. -- Willie Harris is 0 for his last 20. His last hit came on June 3 at Houston.

6:50 p.m. -- They're down to their last three outs after Ryan Zimmerman whiffs at a 2-2 fastball at his eyelids, with the tying run on second. Incredibly, it's still 1-0 heading to the ninth.

7:06 p.m. -- It's over. Nats lose 1-0. Unreal. Sitting in the Royals' dugout, Zack Greinke must know how Stephen Strasburg feels right now.


Grandstander said...

Did everyone else look at this lineup and become immediately relieved to see Pudge behind the plate?

Hopefully I'll be able to catch this game at work!

Anonymous said...

Especially effective? With him, I have no idea what that even means.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nats Insiders! I have an extra ticket for today's game if anyone wants it. Section 204 (LF mezzanine) Free to a good home, although I'll let you buy me a soft drink if you insist. If you're interested, email me at

Doc said...

Is Nyjer Morgan related to someone in the Nats' Front Office?

Mark L said...

He obviously knows someone's dark secret.

Knoxville Nat said...

Could the Nats be trying to showcase Nyjer for a possible trade? I can only hope!!

cadeck13 said...

The only sense I can make of Nyjer's playing time is that he is not any good to us off the bench late in the game and hopefully they are showcasing him?

Hey Cwj - are we doing Stras' line prediction for today? I'm going with 7IP, 2H, 0ER, 0BB,9K
Guillen & Podsednik get the hits. I hope SS outdoes the predictions. And yes, I am relieved Pudge is part of the battery today :)

NatsJack in Florida said...

So let me get this straight. Nyjer Morgan is of no value coming off the bench in late innings but has value starting.

Name one other player on our team... oh hell... any team that fits that description.

If he has no late inning value, he has no early inning value either.

Les in NC said...

My prediction:

8 IPs, 4 H, 1 ERs, 1 BB, 10K, 105 pitches.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

My prediction:

6 2/3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12K

Anonymous said...

Ummm...what shadows, Mark? I heard about the shadows exopected to play a factor on Saturday before the 410 PM start and there were no shadows between the mound and the plate until the 8th inning, there were shadows along the 3rd base line and LF before that so it might be harder for the fielders to see the ball from the light into the Strasburg in this heat will not be pitching inot the 8th!!! The sun is too high in the sky in summer to play havoc with the configuration of Nats Park!!

NatsNut said...

I'm with you, Mark, I have a feeling about today's game too. I won't say exactly what my prediction is, but it rhymes with toe glitter.

Section 222 said...

Thank goodness that Riggleman is taking full advantage of the DH in Baltimore to let Willie Harris try to "get going" and improve his .152/.242/.324. While riding the bench, Michael Morse does not risk reducing his .390/.457/.634. Smart thinking.

Anonymous said...

If Riggleman doesn't have Morse in the lineup for all three games up in Baltimore, he ought to go the way of Fredi Gonzales just on account of not knowing what the DH is for. Here's a hint, Jim. It's not an opportunity to get some ABs for guys who can't hit anyway, like Willie Harris, Adam Kennedy and Alberto Gonzales.

Waddy eye no said...

Predict perfect game. 20 groundouts 7 k.
And a monkey will fly out of zim's butt

court said...


The radio guys mentioned that sKs kicked some dirt around near his landing spot - anything to worry about?


Michael J. Hayde said...

This is distressing. The Royals are waiting on and fouling off pitches, driving up Stras' pitch count, knowing they can't do better than an occasional single. I suspect this will be the opposition's strategy: wait, wait, wait, until Strasburg hits his 90+ pitches in the 6th or 7th, then try to jump all over the bullpen. Meanwhile, once again our sorry offense is making a 5.40 ERA journeyman look brilliant.

A dc wonk said...

Does anybody think Stras throws too many strikes? I think the last two singles cane on 0-2 pitches that were over the outside of the plate? And does anyone throw up and in anymore?

Anonymous said...

Are we ever going to catch a break from an umpire this year? How can you miss that call when you are 2 feet from it? Bernadina was def safe.

To make matters worse the pitch he rung up Willingham on was the same damn pitch he called a ball 2 other times in the at bat.

Sec$39.99 said...

That jugular is looking pretty much intact from here...

Anonymous said...

Mark, any word on why Detwiler didn't start for Harrisburg?

Doc said...

How close to the Mendoza line does Riggs let Morgan get, before he benches him?

Michael J. Hayde said...


Can't be positive, but I suspect the middle of our lineup didn't read your "Jugular" piece today.

Doc said...

Can't blame it all on the manager, but Uncle Jimmy doesn't know how to run the offense.

Anonymous said...

what purpose does Willie Harris provide? Aside from a late inning defensive replacement, I cannot think of anything. He is an automatic out as a pinch hitter and if he starts, he is multiple outs.

natsfan1a said...

Ohhh, *jugular.* They thought you said the juggler. Never mind.

Anonymous said...

Man, this team cannot hit! Is there really no one anywhere in the minors that can hit .151 at the big league level? Willie Harris has set the bar so low you need digging tools to get under it. The time for "aw gee whiz, it'll all work out if we're just patient" optimism is over. It's time to send some messages - give Willie Harris his outright release, sit Nyger down and juggle the line-up to try and get a spark going again. How about:

Bernardino CF
Willingham LF
Dunn 1B
Zimmerman 3B
Morse RF
Rodriguez C
Desmond SS
Guzman 2B

4 of our 5 hottest bats in the top 5 and Nyger and Willie no where to be seen.

If Willie is kept and does start in Baltimore, it is time to let Riggleman go. In fact, he and Willie can leave town together.

Richard said...

The line up today was troubling. The Nats needed a win badly and the team isn't hitting except for Guzman and Morse. So why aren't whose two playing every day? Jimmy says Guzman needed a day off. Day off be damned. They have a day off tomorrow and Riggs said last night, by way of assuring a reporter that Guzman wasn't hurt by a tumble in the ninth, that Guzman wanted to come in early today to work on his hitting, so apparently Guzman wasn't tired and wanted to work. More evidence that there's no sense of urgency. Riggs' guys need ABs. Why? So they'll be all fresh and ready for September? By September they'll be calling up AAA shortstops to try out in right field. Or maybe it's just 'cause Riggs feels bad about the lack of playing time for some of the guys. I for one would prefer that they be asked to be ready for whatever the team needs. If that's a occasion pinch hit, so be it.

Richard said...

I don't understand why Guzman and Morse don't play everyday and especially why Morse sat the last two games while Kennedy played. The team needed a win badly and the team isn't hitting and yet Riggleman chose not to play two guys who are hitting. Guzman didn't need the rest. Last night Riggleman said Guzman wanted to get extra work today even though he wasn't going to play. There no sense of urgency. Riggleman is resting guys for ... for what? Not for rest, obviously. They have a day off tomorrow. For September? By September they'll be calling up AAA shortstops to try out in right field. Riggleman is managing the team like it's 10 games over .500, not struggling for its life. If you want to rest people, rest the guys who aren't hitting, like Zimmerman.

Anonymous said...

That call at home was ridiculous, but the ump was standing in a position where he couldn't see the runner's legs cross the plate well before the catcher tagged him. My seats have a direct side view, and it was obvious it wasn't even close.
And I agree with those who asked where the manager was. And all game, where Morse was. Anyone could pinch hit better these days than Willie H; even Livan Hernandez!

Richard said...

Sorry about the double posting above. The system hiccupped on me. I'll spare you the details.

Doc said...

@ Anonymous: Your batting lineup has some merit. For sure with some OBP at the top, some of AD's dingers will count for more than 1 run. Then we have Zim's OBP to be backed by some real hitters behind him. I'll bet Davey Johnson would like it!

I think Uncle Jimmy adapted his management style from reading Mother Goose books. We could have Bobby V. after the All Star break for half-price!

Anonymous said...

What a pathetic effort. All the thousands of new fans drawn to see Strasburg get these quiet, crappy games with no offense and leave early. At home now, they're saying they don't want to go to that boring place anymore.

A DC Wonk said...

Does anybody have any plausible idea at all as to why Harris was sent up as a pinch hitter rather than either Guzzy or Morse?

Bonnie Jo said...

@dc wonk: apparently Ray Knight agreed with you. But whatever you do, DO NOT share these thoughts with Rob Dibble. His childishly defensive responses and agreesive body posturing to Ray's suggestion that Stras was throwing too many strikes were laughable. Dibble might as well have said, "Yeah, well I could kiss your butt!" Pathetic

Bonnie Jo said...

or maybe he would have said "kick you butt." I don't know, either one is funny.

Anonymous said...

Bonnie Jo and DC Wonk - I too enjoyed that little dustup involving Knight and Dibble. I too think that the conventional wisdom is if you can get two strikes and get the count to 0-2 or 1-2, don't throw another strike until the count is closer or the guy strikes out.

And how many times can we say it: with this listless lineup, Guzman has got to be in there every day. As for shaking it up -- move Nyger and Zimm to seven and eight. The no production twins.

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