Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Game 78: Nats at Braves

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Craig Stammen rejoins the Nationals tonight to face Derek Lowe at Turner Field.
ATLANTA -- Boy, is there a lot of angst out there today.

I suppose in one sense, it's comforting to know how much fans really do care about the Nationals. That's certainly better than the alternative. At the same time, some of the vitriol has been -- quite honestly -- ridiculous. (FYI: Ryan Zimmerman remains one of the best all-around third basemen in the game, Jim Riggleman's job is not in immediate jeopardy, Michael Morse has zero chance of becoming this team's starting shortstop and the answer to all of the Nats' woes is not Pete Orr or Justin Maxwell.)

You know what would calm everyone down, though? A Nationals win tonight. Doesn't matter how they do it, just that they do it. I have a hunch that would leave a lot of people (fans, media members and especially people inside the clubhouse) feeling a lot better about the situation.

There is actually some merit in that line of thinking. Jim Riggleman acknowledged last night he's concerned some players might be tightening up at crucial moments, especially in the field, perhaps worried more about messing something up than simply playing baseball the way they know how. One simple victory might just be the remedy to get everyone relaxed again.

Craig Stammen makes his return to the rotation tonight after posting good numbers in three starts at Class AAA Syracuse. He faces sinkerballer Derek Lowe, who struggled last year against the Nats (1-3, 5.06 ERA in six starts).

Your daily lineup changes: Ian Desmond is on the bench. Alberto Gonzalez starts at shortstop, his third straight start (he went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts the last two days, by the way). Cristian Guzman is back, playing second base but batting seventh. Roger Bernadina bats second and plays right field.

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

Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of showers, 85 degrees, Wind 5 mph out to RF
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Cristian Guzman
SS Alberto Gonzalez
P Craig Stammen

BRAVES (45-32)
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 Derek Lowe

5:32 p.m. -- Jim Riggleman, on giving Ian Desmond the night off: "I've got to get Gonzalez a few games. And Desi, give him a night off. Desi is going to be a special player here for the next 10 or 12 years. But Gonzalez is a part of this ballclub that I can't ignore. Today seems like a good day to do it for him, where I can have him back out there three days in a row so he has a chance to swing the bat, see some pitches and get some of the rust off him. It just felt like a good day to keep Gonzalez in the lineup somewhere."

7:10 p.m. -- Here we go. Derek Lowe starts Nyjer Morgan off with a ball. There are perhaps 25 percent as many fans here tonight as they were last night. What gives? Doesn't Atlanta have Stammen Fever?

7:17 p.m. -- No complaints about Nyjer in the top of the first. He singled and took second on Ryan Zimmerman's groundout. But the leadoff man was stranded at second when Adam Dunn couldn't beat out a slow roller to the right-side hole, fielded by shortstop Yunel Escobar (who was playing the shift on the big man). If you were wondering: Dunn is now 2-for-33 this season with two outs and runners in scoring position.

7:26 p.m. -- Very nice start for Craig Stammen. He retired the side. More importantly, he got three groundball outs. That's the pitcher he's supposed to be. We're scoreless through one.

7:40 p.m. -- Stammen couldn't come through with a clutch hit in the top of the second (he struck out with two outs and two on) but he sure looks impressive on the mound so far. Six batters up, six batters down. The Braves haven't hit a ball out of the infield yet.

7:51 p.m. -- Really, Nyjer? Really? Overrunning a base hit to center and turning it into a triple? Can't you give everyone reason to lay off you for one night? Apparently not. Braves lead 1-0 after three.

8:29 p.m. -- Wow, how about that? A string of clutch hits gives the Nats a 3-1 lead. Nyjer Morgan makes up for that fielding gaffe by stroking an RBI single to left. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman drops a two-run double down the right-field line, scoring Gonzalez and Morgan. It's an offensive explosion! Nats lead 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth.

8:52 p.m. -- The big hits keep on coming. Alberto Gonzalez singles home Willingham in the sixth to make it 4-1 and make Gonzalez 3-for-3 tonight. Derek Lowe is out of the game. Stammen continues to cruise and now takes the mound for the bottom of the sixth holding a three-run lead.

9:00 p.m. -- Really impressive return to the majors for Stammen, who has now thrown six innings of one-run, three-hit ball. He's still only at 72 pitches. Nats still lead 4-1 through six.

9:13 p.m. -- The Hammer strikes and pads the lead. Josh Willingham crushes a pitch from sidewinder Peter Moylan to left-center, a two-run blast that puts the Nationals up 6-1 in the seventh. Can this team now record nine outs without allowing five runs to score?

9:22 p.m. -- Amazing stat of the night: Willingham's homer was the first "outside the park" homer allowed by Moylan since Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off to christen Nationals Park in 2008. He did give up an inside-the-parker in between, and he missed most of that 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Still, pretty amazing. (Thanks to Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal Constitution for digging up that fact.)

9:26 p.m. -- You know it's been a good night when Cristian Guzman has reached base three times without recording a hit. He's been walked, intentionally walked and hit by a pitch.

9:29 p.m. -- You also know it's been a good night when Alberto Gonzalez is 4-for-4. Third time in his career he's had a four-hit game.

9:38 p.m. -- And Stammen takes the mound for the eighth inning sitting on 83 pitches.

9:48 p.m. -- And Stammen can't make it through the eighth. Back-to-back doubles with one out end his evening. Still pretty impressive. His final line: 7.1 ip, 5 h, 2 er, 2 bb, 4 k. Sean Burnett now pitching with the Nats up 7-2.

10:09 p.m. -- All is well in NatsTown again. They've won a ballgame. Final score: 7-2. Huge sighs of relief emanating from the visitors' dugout at Turner Field.


Pete said...

I cringe every time I see Morgan leading off. He sucks!

Nats2005 said...

Morgan STILL leading off? Guaranteed loss.

morgan,really? said...

Wow, I'm glad Riggleman is holding people accountable. Dumb play after dumb play by Morgan but by gosh lets keep trotting him out there. At least he's sitting Desmond

NatsJack in Florida said...

Nyjer Morgan is the single biggest mistake on this team. He provides a false sense of potential achievement that will never get past the boneheadedness he continually displays.

Not to mention his horrible arm and total lack of baseball sense!

Jim Webster said...

Venus Williams out at Wimbledon after 29 unforced errors. Has she been training with the Nats?

Nate said...

Don't forget that Nyjer Morgan clubs baby seals in the offseason, is allergic to apple pie and skippered Hitler's catamaran during the war.

Anonymous said...

Now Guzman will make another 3 boneheaded errors ... as Riggleman's flag slowly sinks, along with the sunset, into the west of boneheaded managing.

Cristian Guzman: 6 errors in 40 games at second base -8 UZR.

Anonymous said...

They're seven games ahead of Pittsburg, 3 ahead of AZ ... more sub 30 winners in the AL too including Baltimore ...

But we'll catch 'em soon by crackeeeeeeee!!!

court said...

Simply remove Nyjer and insert Morse - that's the solution. Bernadina can move over to CF (where he should be anyway since he's our best defender) and into the leadoff spot. Morse protects Willingham and the Nats might actually have a chance. If you do play Nyjer, he HAS to hit 8th so when he's picked off/thrown out, the pitcher is batting instead of the heart of the order.

Riggleman's not going to fired during the year, but at this point, I doubt he's brought back for '11. I'd like to see the runner-up for the Braves job land in DC - either Fredi Gonzalez or Terry Pendleton.

Can't give up on Desmond though, he is the 2B of the future. Espinosa's starting to play well so hopefully he's promoted to SYR soon in preparation to take the SS job next year.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Nyjer Morgan clubs baby seals in the offseason, is allergic to apple pie and skippered Hitler's catamaran during the war.

Nah, maybe his problem is he drinks too much rum and props his leg up under too many bars. ;)

Steve M. said...

Mark Z. wrote:... That's certainly better than the alternative. At the same time, some of the vitriol has been -- quite honestly -- ridiculous. (FYI: Ryan Zimmerman remains one of the best all-around third basemen in the game, Jim Riggleman's job is not in immediate jeopardy, Michael Morse has zero chance of becoming this team's starting shortstop and the answer to all of the Nats' woes is not Pete Orr or Justin Maxwell.)

That other thread was almost unreadable with all the stupidity on there. Wasn't sure if it was humor or some of these people were serious as outlandish as some of those posts were.

I have been one of Nyjer's most vocal critics and in Baltimore we saw the old Nyjer and yesterday we saw the new Nyjer.

Riggleman has to give him some rope to see if yesterday's stupidity is old or new Nyjer. Against leftie pitching though you have to put Morse in RF though (in my opinion) and let Nyjer sit.

Michael Morse unfortunately cooled down in Baltimore and I think was cooled down because he got no consistent playing time. Riggleman has to ride the hot bat while it is hot.

The only hot bats he has right now is Dunn and Bernadina. Bernadina has more HRs in the last month than everyone but Adam Dunn---how crazy is that?

Anonymous said...

This team has no accountability. After what Morgan did yesterday, he's still in the line up leading off? Morgan must have naked pictures of Riggleman sodomizing a goat.

Ernie said...

Morgan and Harris are pretty universally reviled by your readership, Mark. (Maybe not "reviled" exactly, but they're not going to get a lot of Christmas gifts from the NI readership.) Does this feeling seem to be shared up in the press boxes? I don't see a lot of pressure being put on Riggleman about these two in press conferences. Maybe I'm just not watching the right parts, or maybe professional courtesy limits the extent to which questions can be asked about certain athletes. Is the story just too old to press anymore? Is there a reason Riggleman is not made to explain on a nightly basis the presence of Morgan in the leadoff spot, or in the lineup at all? It definitely seems to be a question asked every day by your readers.

cadeck13 said...

Yes, there is a lot of angst. While, as Riggs puts it "our character is getting tested" he needs to realize our patience is getting tested and while these guys are all making the minimum, say, 6 figures(I think the minimum is $400k plus), we continue to line their pockets with our hard-earned $$ and I know I don't make anywhere near what they make, so yeah stringing a few wins together would make me feel better, kinda like I was getting at least a major league team on the field.

I think they're pressing too, but, c'mon guys play like you know what you are doing. Personally, I'd rather see "Lastings Morgan" sit than Desmond. Just my two cents.

Go Nats! You're all we got :)

natsfan1a said...

Ernie, I wouldn't be so quick to make the "universally reviled" assumption based on a sampling of comments here (or elsewhere, for that matter). Those that express such feelings don't necessarily speak for everybody (they don't speak for me, for example).

Mark, yep. Winning always helps. As you may be aware, vitriolic comments are not new to the Natmosphere, particularly during losing streaks.

Nats2005 said...

Gotta second Ernie's comment. Why are the writers not getting on Riggleman about Morgan? There is no excuse for that warmed-over hockey player to be on a major league team: o baseball sense, no baseball (as opposed to mere athletic) skill, an attention span shorter than the half-lie of a mu meson. Rizzo's biggest mistake.

A DC Wonk said...

Cristian Guzman: 6 errors in 40 games at second base -8 UZR

Huh? At http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=728&position=SS it says that Guzman has 0.1 UZR at SS and -1.0 at 2B.

But you know Desmond leads the league in errors, right? And that Guz is batting almost 50 points higher than either Gonzalez or Desmond (which might be useful for a team that just got shut out).

Anonymous said...

I have been slow to jump on the let's run Nyjer Morgan out of town bandwagon, but after last night he makes it hard. I was watching the game and I told my son after the first pickoff attempt by Hudson he would nail him. Sure enough he did. But the thing that really got me was the throw in the seventh. It's like this guy just never learns basic baseball. My son's 14U travel team knows how to hit a cutoff man and the correct base to throw to given the situation. It astounds me that Morgan continues to make mistakes that 14U players don't. The best place for him is the bench for about a week and let Bernadina and Morse handle CF and RF respectively and see how that works out. Maybe we are no better, but I would at least like to see how that works.

Anonymous said...

C'mon folks, how long do you think this site would last if Mark were to ask Jim Riggleman in a room full of reporters, "So Jim, you keep putting Morgan in the lineup even though he sucks. What's he got on you--naked photos?"
Unlike those of us whose only interactions with the Nationals are posts on this blog and shouting at our TVs, Mark has to actually TALK to them on a daily basis. That means he can't ask off the wall, offensive questions ("So, Ian, are you not trying or do you just really suck that bad?") and expect players, coaches, and FO staff to talk to him.
Let it go. Mark's going to ask what he can. You hear the audio files. Half the time no one can get a word in edgewise because of a certain MASN reporter's repetitive queries about what so-and-so brings to the team...

Anonymous said...

Huh? At http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=728&position=SS it says that Guzman has 0.1 UZR at SS and -1.0 at 2B.

I was looking at games started at second base and at baseball reference. Clearly there is some disparity between the rtot.

But you know Desmond leads the league in errors, right? And that Guz is batting almost 50 points higher than either Gonzalez or Desmond (which might be useful for a team that just got shut out).

Gee mr. smarty pants? HE IS A singles hitter? What about that don't you understand? But he doesn't walk? He has no power? Is he driving in runs? Not with a .380 slugging percentage? Is he getting on base? NOT with a .328 OPS? He doesn't walk? So, what good is his .297 BA when his fielding, arm, range are limited to the point of horrendous and horrific?

Clearly you don't know as much a you think dc wonk? And just as clearly you haven't been watching now have you?

Ernie said...

@Anon 4:24 -

I think there are very respectful ways to ask something like "Morgan's OBP is very low for a leadoff hitter. OF course you need to give him time to work out of a bad hitting spell, but at what point do you move him out of the leadoff spot? " Is that being asked? That's all I'm wondering. And to what extent the press (in the pressbox, not at press conferences) is questioning the lineups that Riggleman is putting out there. I'm not really clear how that is an outrageous thing to ask on this site.

It was nice to hear from natsfan1a that someone out there has a contrary view. Personally, I remember loving Willie Harris last May/June before Morgan came over, and being a big fan of Morgan last year and this April. My patience is reaching its end however. I'm curious to know how widespread this feeling is--is it just a few people who post a lot on blogs? Does it include the press? Does it include anyone else who can't be names in print yet?

Steve said...

As with Anon above I have been a Nyjer supporter -- he was the spark for the only watchable period of play last year -- but he's losing me rapidly.

That said, there was never any realistic reason to think this team was going anywhere this year. They are putting some pieces together. They need Desmond to grow from this year's spate of errors and they need Jordan Zimmermann and Jesus Flores to come back from injury as something more than a shadow of what they showed last year. They need to find trade takers for Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham to get some more young pieces, and they need to cut the cord with Cristian Guzman no matter what.

And we need to appreciate every Strasburg start, and support him and Zim while they slog it out with what we can only hope is the story of two future hall-of-famers turning around a morbid franchise.

Anonymous said...

God I dread tonight's game. We are going to get destroyed.

Mark Zuckerman said...

For all of you who want tougher questions asked about Nyjer Morgan, I'll direct you back to this quote from Jim Riggleman the other day in Baltimore. I believe the question that he was answering was something to the effect of: "How much more leash do you have with Nyjer?" Here was Jim's answer...

"I've got a lot of patience with Nyjer. I think one thing we kind of hang our hat on is: Last year when we got Nyjer at this time of the year, Nyjer had been doing OK in Pittsburgh, not having a great start, just kind of treading water. And about this time of the year, he took off. I really was encouraged the last four or five games that he had some better at-bats. He played a very good center field. He kind of did some things that we saw him do last year when we got him in the trade. Again, the glass is half-full. He's just treading water right now, and he knows he hasn't gotten it going yet. This is the time he got it going last year, and he feels like he's ready to get it going. We need him at the top of the lineup, so we're going to be real patient with him."

Dave said...

Man people are riled up!!

Eck, another sinkerballer again tonight. . . if Lowe keeps it down like Hudson did last night Nats are in trouble again. MLB Network highlights of all of the dribblers hit off of Hudson was eyeopening.

Wow said...

That Riggleman quote just hurts. Basically it doesn't matter how awful you are playing, it doesn't matter how many dumb mistakes you make, if I like you, you are gold

HHover said...

Thanks for a reminder about that quote, Mark, but, man, it's a head scratcher--so he doesn't expect Nyjer to throw to the cutoff man before mid-summer?

I know there's only so much a beat reporter can do to call him on his BS, and I do hope he knows it's BS--because if he doesn't, he's dumb as a bag of rocks.

Michael J. Hayde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael J. Hayde said...

What the **** (insert your own chosen expletive here) is all this madness about Nyjer? See, here's the thing. HE DID NOT GET PICKED OFF LAST NIGHT. Say it. Go on. Replays showed he was safe, therefore he WAS NOT PICKED OFF!!! He was "Joyced in reverse" with a bad call. That's not his fault. Why you guys (and Dibble & Carpenter) had to harp on him is beyond my comprehension. His job was to get back to the bag ahead of the throw. He did. The ump blew it, not Nyjer. So, please, enough. Come back when you've got a genuine complaint.

Nats2005 said...

Hey, Hayde, check the box score: Morgan was picked off. If you think Morgan has done anything this year worthy of a major league -- indeed, even a Nats -- uniform, you haven't been watching.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Longer post on Nyjer now up on the homepage, if everyone would like to check it out. I talked to him today about his baserunning, and Riggleman had things to say both about that and about his ill-advised throw from last night.

meixler said...

Nyjer did have that great grab the other day to save the homer. That was beautiful. But yeah, he definitely has too many dumb plays that outnumber his brilliant ones.

I think Bernadina really needs to take advantage of this spot at the top of the lineup. If he can produce in the 2 hole then I think Riggs would give more consideration to benching Nyjer. But Bernie is the only other speed threat we've got so one of them needs to be there.

Nats2005 said...

As I predicted (I'm never wrong) when the lineup was announced, effing Morgan just cost us another game. How long, O Lord?

swang said...

Really? 1-0 and you're going to call the game? I mean, if we lose by 1-0 and make yet another pitcher look like Cy Young, then we've got more issues than Mr. Morgan.

K.D. said...

Way to go Gonzo, and Stammen is rocking tonight.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Are we absolutely sure that Nyjer Morgan wasn't on the grassy knoll in Dallas in 1963?

Smatt1001 said...

And there goes the Hammer!

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

I'm not saying the posters on this site have been harsh on Nyjer, but when I went to post this comment the word verification code read:


Michael J. Hayde said...

Hey, Nats2005: Whoops, a little premature on your part, huh?

Yeah, "the box score" also says Galarraga gave up a hit. I don't deal in box scores, I deal in reality. Try it sometime. Maybe then you'll be "never wrong."

Smatt1001 said...

Stammen is really rocking now-- add in a sac fly RBI.

David said...

7-2 nats, this is exactly what we need, a little healing, alberto gonzalez playing in the field so we don't get any egregious errors, and a great start from Stammen too!

Anonymous said...

Great outing by Stammen! I was surprised how many people didn't want Stammen to be the choice to start today. I know he's been inconsistent, but he's had some nice starts this year and pitched very well last year considering he had bone chips in his elbow. I still think he has a lot of potential. Hopefully, he can string several good outings together.

K.D. said...

Good game all around, other than Nyjer's one bad read of a fly ball, stellar defense. Gonzo was the hitting star, nice surprise. Stammen was a stud, good for him.

Michael J. Hayde said...

"Nyjer's one bad read of a fly ball." I couldn't watch tonight; was listening to Charlie & Dave, though. Charlie said "the ball took a bad hop and went out of Nyjer Morgan's reach." That doesn't sound like an error, or is Charlie putting a positive spin on what actually happened?

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Craig! Maybe we should send some others down to be humbled and fire them up!

HHover said...

Hayde: you can see it here and judge for yourself:


looks like a gaffe and not a bad bounce to me.

natsfan1a said...

Ahhh, that feels *much* better. Atta boys for Craig, 'berto, and the team. (I will admit that I was on eggshells from about the 6th on, counting down the outs.)

Anonymous said...

Not a single post from Nats2005 after he predicted that Morgan had cost us the game?

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