Monday, June 28, 2010

Game 77: Nats at Braves

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg is playing tonight at Turner Field. Jason Heyward is not.
ATLANTA -- Hello from Turner Field, where the Stephen Strasburg Summer Tour arrives tonight. This one has been particularly hyped-up, because of the potential for three or four confrontations between Strasburg and Braves Rookie of Year candidate Jason Heyward. Unfortunately, Heyward is not in the Atlanta lineup for the third straight day because of a thumb injury. An MRI was taken this morning, and there's concern around here that the test is going to show a sprained ligament, which could land the 20-year-old right fielder on the DL.

So Strasburg will have to carry the show on his own. Shouldn't be a problem, since he's managed to carry the show on his own four times already in the last three weeks. Once again, a national TV network has picked up this game (ESPN2). And once again, you won't be able to watch that telecast in the D.C. area. It's Bob and Rob on MASN or Charlie and Dave on 1500 AM.

As has also been the case four out of the five times Strasburg has pitched, the Nationals will be asking their young ace to stop a losing streak. The pressure might be even greater tonight given the hideous weekend sweep in Baltimore.

Facing a very tough right-hander in Tim Hudson, Jim Riggleman is going with a slightly tweaked lineup. Ivan Rodriguez gets bumped up to the 2-hole. Also, Alberto Gonzalez starts at second base.

Check back for updates before, during and after the game...

Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
TV: MASN, ESPN2 (outside D.C. area)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 87 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
C Ivan Rodriguez
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Stephen Strasburg

BRAVES (44-32)
2B Martin Prado
RF Melky Cabrera
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
1B Troy Glaus
LF Eric Hinske
SS Yunel Escobar
CF Gregor Blanco
P Tim Hudson

4:55 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman is holding a closed-door team meeting with his players right now.

5:06 p.m. -- Oh, and by the way, it's official: Craig Stammen will start tomorrow night's game. He's on his way from Syracuse to Atlanta as we speak. The Nats will have to remove someone from the roster following tonight's game, most likely a reliever. The two strongest candidates would appear to be Joel Peralta and Tyler Walker.

6:03 p.m. -- As for Rodriguez hitting second tonight and Guzman not being in the lineup, Riggleman said it was a combination of liking Pudge in the 2-hole and Guzman still being bothered a bit by the stiff neck that kept him out of yesterday's game. "We're just trying to move it around a little bit, trying to find something that helps us work throughout the ballgame," the manager said. "See if we can find a nice flow in the lineup and see if we can win a ballgame here."

7:02 p.m. -- It's looking like a good crowd here at Turner Field, though nowhere close to a sellout. Upper deck is maybe half-full.

7:11 p.m. -- And with a fastball for strike one from Tim Hudson to Nyjer Morgan, we are underway.

7:20 p.m. -- So the Nats managed to put their first two batters of the night on base. And yet Hudson still only faced the minimum. How? Well, that's what happens when Nyjer Morgan (after reaching on an error) gets picked off (replays showed he was probably safe, but still). And even after Ivan Rodriguez drew a walk during a nice, nine-pitch at-bat, Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the inning with nothing across. Stephen Strasburg now taking the mound.

7:23 p.m. -- Well, that was an interesting first inning. The Braves sent four batters to the plate, and every one of them hit the ball hard to the left side of the field. Two of them picked up hits (Cabrera doubled and McCann singled). But nobody scored, thanks in large part to Willingham, who made a nice throw to the plate to nail Cabrera and end the inning. Nine pitches for Strasburg, six of them strikes. But like I said, four of them were hit hard.

7:38 p.m. -- Tim Hudson hasn't allowed much of anything yet, but he's sure had to work for it. He's thrown 38 pitches (plus a bunch of pickoffs) in two innings. Bernadina did come through with a two-out single -- he's really starting to hit more consistently -- but Desmond struck out to end the frame. Still scoreless heading to the bottom of the second.

7:53 p.m. -- The scoreboard shows zeroes in the Braves' column, but Strasburg has not been sharp yet. Issued his first walk in 15 days (a four-pitch free pass to Glaus) and at one point threw six straight balls. The Braves also seem to be on his fastball a bit. Strasburg has been more effective with his changeup, and got Blanco to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to save himself in the second. Scoreless through two. He's thrown 25 pitches, only 13 strikes.

7:58 p.m. -- Hudson retires the side in the third. Nothing doing from Gonzalez, Strasburg or Morgan. Strasburg's back out on the mound really quick after that groundball out.

8:05 p.m. -- Real quick and clean third inning for Strasburg. It featured his first 100 mph fastball of the game, three groundball outs and only 10 pitches. Through three, he's allowed three hits and a walk and only has one strikeout. But 35 pitches, 20 of them strikes. Still scoreless through three.

8:25 p.m. -- Strasburg has been in trouble several times tonight, but he's finding a way to pitch out of it, thanks in part to a devastating changeup. He's induced two inning-ending double plays on that pitch through four innings. Still scoreless here. Once again, Strasburg getting no run support.

8:44 p.m. -- Strasburg's really cooking now. He just struck out the side in the fifth, blowing away Hinske with a 99 mph fastball, Escobar with a 90 mph changeup and catching Blanco looking at a 97 mph heater. Through five scoreless innings, he's allowed four hits and a walk while striking out five. Only 61 pitches (37 strikes). Now, if the Nats could only score him a run for the first time in his last 12 innings on the mound.

8:55 p.m. -- Bad news: The Nats have four hits (and no runs) through six innings. Good news: Hudson has already thrown 102 pitches.

9:03 p.m. -- Man, when Strasburg gets on a roll, he gets on a ROLL. He's retired eight in a row in the following manner: K, 5-4-3, K, K, K, K, K, 3-1. Hit 99 mph a couple of times in the sixth. He's only three strikeouts away from Herb Score's record of 50 strikeouts in his first five career games. And at only 73 pitches, he's in good shape to pitch the seventh.

9:10 p.m. -- Golden opportunity there for the Nats in the seventh. Bernadina led off with a double, then took third on a bunt by Desmond. But Gonzalez struck out for the third time today, leaving Riggleman to decide whether to pinch-hit for Strasburg or not. He wound up pulling Adam Kennedy back and let the kid hit. Groundout to short. Inning over. We're still scoreless at the seventh-inning stretch.

9:25 p.m. -- Tonight's paid attendance: 42,889. That includes 9,601 purchased today, and 21,608 purchased since Strasburg made his last start five days ago. The kid sells.

9:42 p.m. -- Well, that all fell apart quickly and in embarrassing fashion. Strasburg nearly got himself out of a jam, but Ian Desmond booted a double play grounder for his 19th error of the season (far and away the most in the majors). A sac fly brought home the night's first run. Worse, Nyjer Morgan made a terrible decision to throw to third, allowing the trailing runner to advance. That proved costly, because both men wound up scoring, plus another, thanks to some hard-hit-but-bobbled grounders. All of a sudden, it's 5-0 Braves, the Nats are right back into their shoot-themselves-in-the-foot mode and Strasburg is about to be handed his second career loss. His final line: 6 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 2 walks, 7 strikeouts. For the season, he's almost certain to be 2-2 with a 2.27 ERA.

9:56 p.m. -- I would love to know what the ratings were on MASN and ESPN2 at 9:20 tonight. And then I'd love to know what they were at 9:30. I have a feeling a couple of TVs across America switched channels during that stretch.

10:07 p.m. -- That's it. It's over. Nats lose 5-0. Fifth straight loss, each one more agonizing than the previous. Plenty of postgame reaction to come.


Nats2005 said...

Looks like Riggleman has finally figured out (no one ever accused him of being overly bright) that his job is in jeopardy. Gonzales (at last) at second and Guzman and Kennedy (mercifully) riding the bench. But Morgan is still takin gup space . . .

Grandstander said...

If Morgan was replaced with Bernadina, and Morse replaced Bernadina, that would be the perfect lineup.

Unfortunately, we'll be back to the blahtoon of Kennedy and Guzman tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Nats2005, If his job was on the line, he wouldn't have started a horrific player like Alberto Gonzalez. That guy should have been nowhere near the lineup. I guess making everyone happy is better than winning in Riggleman's eyes.

Anonymous said...

We need some housecleaning for sure. But we also need Zimm to get hot and carry the team for a few weeks. I am trying to think if he has ever done that for a prolonged stretch. He has always had his numbers, and he had that hit streak..and he has the walk-offs. But not sure he ever carried the team.

Anonymous said...

It's a long season everyone, and yes, it's been a particularly gruesome 30-game stretch where we've played last-place baseball. However, with a break here and there, we'd be near .500. We're not getting breaks, we're not getting calls (see definition - "check swing"), and we've been hot & cold with the bats.

With a 50-31 second half (see 2005 1st half Nats), we'd win the wild card and maybe the division. It's not impossible. We just need to string some wins together, get some confidence going, and start playing winning, smart baseball.

Go Nats!

2nd Base is a Problem! said...

I guess Riggleman and Rizzo read this blog!

NatinBeantown said...

I'll have what Anon 3:58 is having. Go Nats!

Nats2005 said...

Anonymous 3:57

Check the stats (from the Nats site, today):

6. A Gonzalez SS 3 14.0 5 1.000
7. A Gonzalez 2B 14 29.0 24 1.000
25. A Kennedy 1B 28 61.0 67 .985
28. C Guzman 2B 49 364.1 215 .972
29. C Guzman SS 14 99.2 66 .970

A DC Wonk said...

Et tu, Mark? (and everybody else)

Revisiting Friday's disaster:

Infielder number 1:

2 errors, one of them leads to three unearned runs, they are his 17th and 18th errors of the season. UZR/150 is 6.7 In four plate appearances, he goes 0-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, leaves 2 men on base.

He's currently hitting .249/.289/.376. His WAR is 0.7 (wRC+ is 78). WPA is -1.33

Infielder number 2:

2 errors, one of them leads to one unearned run, they are his 8th and 9th errors of the season. UZR/150 is 1.4 In five plate appearances, he goes 0-for-3 with a walk, hit by pitch, a run scored, leaves 2 men on base.

He's currently hitting .297/.330/.382 (.297 leads the team for those who have enough PA to qualify for the league lead). His WAR is 0.5 (wRC+ is 91). WPA is -1.14

So what's the conclusion that everybody makes? We have to keep #1 and #2 has got to go.

(It should be obvious to everybody that #1 is Desmond and #2 is Guzman).

I'm just trying to figure out how we can blame yesterday's loss on Guzzie. There must be a way, right?

A DC Wonk said...

Nats2005, you need to add in Desmond, too:

33. I Desmond SS 70 557.1 330 .945

Cwj said...

My Strasburg prediction (unlikely but still fun I think).
8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 11 SO

And of course the Nats will lose 2-0

Knoxville Nat said...

Nats2005 says "Morgan is still taking gup(?)space"

Maybe I watched a different series but I thought Morgan had a pretty decent game or two in Baltimore?

As for Gonzalez at 2nd base, half of this freakin board constantly jumps on Riggleman for errors made by Desmond, Kennedy and Guzman asking that "he shake it up". Okay so tonight the lineup gets a little shake up (I like Pudge in the 2 hole)and there is still no pleasing you a$$holes! When will you people realize that the manager can only do so much? If the players given to him by the front office cannot make the plays or cover territory than it is incumbent on the GM to find better players to take their place. Right now they simply don't exist in our minor league system. We knew coming into the season that Desmond would make a high number of errors. We also knew that Guzman was limited in his range had never played second base and would eventually cost us at some point as an infielder. We also knew that Kennedy was perhaps a second choice in the off season (behind Hudson)and there was question by some if Hudson was really that much better than AK given the price differential for a 1 year player. Remember, Robinson Cano was not available!!

Bottom line to me is the players have to step it up, hitting in the clutch, fielding their position, hitting the cut off man and being in the game mentally. We need to find starting pitching that can go beyond 4 or 5 innings when given a 5 run cushion without promptly giving the runs right back to the opponent.

Go Nats!!

Cwj said...

Knoxville Nat, Well said. The whining does get old.
Let's forget Baltimore, firing Riggs etc. Don't know about you guys but I'm excited for tonight's game.

Anonymous said...

Nats2005, You are missing the point once again. Look at his hitting numbers vs. RHP this year and in his career. Then compare them Wil Nieves numbers, they look very similar. It's not like Gonzalez is an amazing defender who should play because of his defense.

A DC Wonk said...

Right on, Knoxville.

BTW, I also like Pudge at #2. If Nyger can get on, I see some hit-and-runs in our future . . .

Andrew said...

Nice interview Mark on ESPN News!

dj in Fl. said...

Well said Knoxville Nat

We have added pitchers and added pitchers, and not sought out position players to support them.
We continue to have no backups good enough to allow Riggleman to pull anyone in a slump.

Anonymous said...

You guys still laughing? Guzman is on the pine while our superb but geriatric catcher hits second?

K.D. said...

I like Pudge batting second because 1) he will get an extra at bat 2) didn't he hit a homerun off of Hudson this spring? Well said on most of your point Knoxville Nats, though you could lose the name calling.

Michael J. Hayde said...

Okay, that "pick-off" was, what, the 87th blown call we've been handed so far this season? I'm starting to suspect there's some gambling going on amongst the umpires and we're threatening their over/under.

Anonymous said...

I've seen comments on here that we have a low IQ team. I think it's true.

After all these losses and all this misery, after a team meeting with Riggleman, with a .300 hitter at the plate, Morgan gets picked off.

I don't know how these things happen, but this team does have a large number of unusually dumb men.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous8 said: I don't know how these things happen, but this team does have a large number of unusually dumb men.
What, you thought pro ballplayers were clamoring to get into Mensa?

Bonnie Jo said...

Did anyone else see the pregame interview with Steve McCatty? I thought I was going to fall off the couch laughing when Cat mentioned that, when he asked Stras what he thought he could improve on, Stras said, "Yeah, I threw too many strikes." You can take your NLCS MVP from the 90s and shove it, Dibble! Talk about just desserts.

Anonymous8 said...

Anon at 7:42. I didn't make that quote.

Nice DP turned by the Nats middle infield!

Les in NC said...

Do the Nats ever have a team 'plan' against an opposing pitcher? Looks like the Braves are all in agreeance that they aren't waiting for that back breaking curve that is gonna strike 'em out. They are hacking at the first blazing fastball they see in the zone! (except Blanco, he must not have got the memo). It seems our guys are all at the dish with their own plan on how to approach the pitcher, (and it isnt working) maybe if they were to try and execute a team gameplan or even share secrets they might be harboring against pitchers they have had success against in the past, we could present an considerably menacing force.
Just wondering....

Les in NC said...

So now that the 'Stras' has 7 Ks on the night, its got me wondering whats the record for the most strikeouts in one's first 5 games?

Andrew said...

Golden opportunity wasted in the Top of the 7th. Bernadina continues to impress.

Anonymous said...

It'd be nice if you could trust Gonzalez to do anything but strike out with a man on third and one out. With him and Strasburg up, I'd rather see Desmond swing away

Anonymous said...

This is the worst defensive team I've ever seen!

Anonymous8 said...

So, an inning of missed opportunities with the Nats at bat and then on defense, bad and stupid rear their ugly heads with the error and Nyjer missing the cutoff.

Smatt1001 said...

And the defense kills us again.

NatinBeantown said...

Nats getting taken to task for terrible defensive fundamentals by the ESPN guys. Deservedly so. I've not been as hard on Morgan as a lot of commenters, but seriously, in High School we would have taken away the decision from him: he would be required to throw to the SS in cutoff position in every ball hit to CF.

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

I might cry.

Les in NC said...

And then bringing in Burnette to face Blanco is the icing on the cake...

Strasburg running on empty with his arm hanging by threads to his shoulder socket is a better option against a AAA player like Blanco with Hudson behind him. UGH, I'm out. Same time tomorrow? Same ugly Nationals?

JayB said...


You have to ask Riggs why Morgan has not learned how to hit a cut off man or worse why has he not learned what base to throw to. Please Mark, it is time to call it like it is....Rizzo is doing it, how about the media learns to call it like it is too?

Anonymous said...

You have to feel sorry for Strasburg. No run support and poor defense behind him. If I were him and Boras, I'd be looking at my calendar to see when I'm eligible to sign with a team that going to support him.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The Natinals are back.

A DC Wonk said...

Only one solution to all this . . . Guz has to go, right? (He must be somehow involved with all that shoddy defense tonight) ;-)

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

And the kid describes his performance as "not good enough to win the game." Yeah, next time he really should play all nine positions and bat every AB. Then he might be good enough.

Anonymous said...

Tony Plush is getting tough to watch.

Dave said...

@ JayB - I am now convinced that it is pure selfishness / ego driven for Nyjer. He wants to be the man and to often comes up short. Suck it up and be who you are, an average outfielder with a poor arm, but has some speed. As fans we can live with that, not the High School mistakes.

JayB said...

Been saying it for months. Morgan is not an answer in CF for a MLB team. Roger is so make the move is past time.

DFA Harris and Kennedy now. Trade Guz for whatever he brings and pay his full salary. Bring up Orr and Maxwell. Send Ian D to AAA until after the All star break. Move Alberto to SS and Orr to second.

NatinBeantown said...

JayB, if the Nats did anything you just suggested, I'd stop cheering for them immediately. That list would set this team back two years... sell low! abandon youth for AAAA veterens! dump useful pieces with career track records for 50 AB trends!
Fortunately, there's zero chance that Rizzo does those things.

JayB said...

Watch as and learn. Kennedy and Harris are done...they have no value cut your loss and move on. Ian D will be back in a few weeks...He is just lost and needs to reset in the Minors. Morgan....just not a baseball player.....Guzman....he is gone in a few months anyway and also like Harris and Kennedy aging right in front of your eyes. Rizzo made the mistakes in the off we are just paying the bill.

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