Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Game 84: Padres at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The surprising Padres come to scorching Nationals Park tonight.
The Padres have been playing as well this season as anyone else in the National League, and as the All-Star break approaches, there's little reason to believe these guys can't sustain their level of performance and challenge for the NL West title.

Why? Because the Padres have two things most teams in baseball would kill for: great pitching and great defense. This team owns a major-league-best 3.07 ERA, bolstered both by a talented rotation and an incredibly deep bullpen that features six relievers with ERAs under 2.25. The Padres also play outstanding defense, having posted an MLB-leading .990 team fielding percentage.

Young lefty Clayton Richard, who actually lost to John Lannan back on May 28 at Petco Park, takes the mound for the visitors. Livan Hernandez starts for the Nationals, who may have one thing going for them tonight and in this series: The weather. Not that the local team doesn't think it's brutally hot and humid right now, but can imagine what these pampered souls from San Diego thought when they stepped off the plane and felt the blast of heat?

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

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 97 degrees, Wind 4 mph out to CF
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
P Livan Hernandez

PADRES (49-33)
CF Tony Gwynn Jr.
2B Jerry Hairston Jr.
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Scott Hairston
3B Chase Headley
C Yorvit Torrealba
RF Aaron Cunningham
SS Everth Cabrera
P Clayton Richard

6:48 p.m. -- For those of you wondering about Roger Bernadina, his back (which bothered him over the weekend) is fine and he's available to play tonight. Jim Riggleman didn't put him in the starting lineup because Richard is pitching for San Diego, and Michael Morse has become his regular right fielder against left-handers.

7:07 p.m. -- First pitch from Livan Hernandez to Tony Gwynn Jr. is a ball. The gametime temperature is 99 degrees. Yeah, at 7:07 p.m. That's the hottest it's ever been at first pitch for a Nationals game in D.C. The old record was a cool 94 degrees from a 2008 afternoon game against the Giants.

7:21 p.m. -- Long first inning for Livan Hernandez, who didn't help himself by walking Gwynn to lead off the game, then later throwing a wild pitch that allowed two runners to move up to second and third. That meant Scott Hairston's subsequent fly ball to right field was able to score Gwynn and give the Padres a 1-0 lead.

7:39 p.m. -- Nothing you'd rather see on a 99-degree night than a 32-minute first inning. On the bright side, the Nats have taken a 3-1 lead after taking advantage of Clayton Richard's wildness. Richard issued back-to-back, two-out walks to Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham to load the bases. That set the stage for Ivan Rodriguez to smash a comebacker off Richard's leg for an RBI infield single. Michael Morse added a sharp base hit up the middle to bring home two more runs and give Livo a nice lead to work with as he returns to the mound for the second inning.

7:55 p.m. -- Something you didn't expect tonight: The Nats have put eight men on base in the first two innings alone against Richard. Four of those baserunners have come via walks. The Nats took advantage of the wildness in the first. They didn't do it in the second. With the bases loaded and two outs, Willingham lofted a fly ball to center to end the inning without another run crossing the plate. So it remains 3-1 after two.

8:10 p.m. -- What do you get when you mix two pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs and two offensively challenged lineups? Why, a slugfest, of course! It's 3-2 Nats after 2 1/2 after the Padres pushed across another run against Hernandez in the top of the third (three singles, the last by Adrian Gonzalez). Livo has already thrown 61 pitches in three innings. I know he's a horse and all, but you've got to wonder how deep he's going to go on this sweltering night at the ballpark.

8:29 p.m. -- I don't know if it's coincidence or not -- actually, I'm sure it is -- but Ryan Zimmerman has gone on a tear since being added to the NL "Final Man" All-Star Game ballot. He just crushed a homer off Richard to put the Nats up 4-2 in the fourth. Since Sunday, Zim is now 4-for-7 with two homers, five RBI and a walk. Not bad.

8:52 p.m. -- Ian Desmond getting back on track at the plate. He singled in the third and then homered in the fifth, a solo shot to left. That was his first home run since May 28 (which came in San Diego, off Clayton Richard). Whoa, Desmond owns this guy! Nats now lead 5-2 in the sixth.

9:09 p.m. -- Well, the Nats did their job against Richard. Scored five runs off the lefty in six innings. And they've gotten seven strong innings from Livan so far, thus carrying a 5-2 lead into the seventh-inning stretch. Livo's over 100 pitches. Send him back for the eighth or turn it over to "Clipp 'n Save" right now?

9:13 p.m. -- Let's see ... 99 degrees + Tuesday night + Padres in town = 14,039 paid attendance.

9:40 p.m. -- Well, things just took a dramatic turn for the worse. Where to begin? Well, Riggleman let Livan start the eighth sitting on 104 pitches. He immediately gave up back-to-back singles and was pulled. In came Tyler Clippard, who proceeded to allow back-to-back singles and then a sac fly that made it 5-4. So in came Sean Burnett to face Matt Stairs. Except Bud Black pinch-hit for his pinch-hitter with David Eckstein. Still, Burnett got Eckstein to hit a grounder to second that had double play written all over it. Except Cristian Guzman's feed to Ian Desmond was low, and Desmond's throw to first hit the dugout railing. Desmond was charged with the error (his 21st of the season) and the Padres tied the game 5-5. At what point is it fair to question whether there's something wrong with Clippard and whether it's time for Drew Storen to take over eighth-inning duties full-time?

9:50 p.m. -- Where have we seen this before? After an early explosion, the Nats' bats have gone silent. Nothing doing in the last three innings, aside from a pair of two-out doubles. They struck out six times in the last four innings. So it remains 5-5 as we head to the ninth and Matt Capps comes out to pitch a non-save situation.

10:01 p.m. -- OK, credit where credit's due: Ian Desmond just fired a bullet of a relay throw to the plate to nail Jerry Hairston, who was trying to score the go-ahead run on a double by his brother, Scott. The Nats escape the top of the ninth thanks to the arm of their rookie shortstop. We go to the bottom of the ninth. Luke Gregerson on the mound for San Diego. Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham coming up for the Nats with a chance to win it.

10:04 p.m. -- I think Ryan Zimmerman REALLY wants to go to Anaheim. He just crushed a pitch from Gregerson over the center-field wall for his latest walk-off special. That completed a 3-for-4, two-homer night. Nats win! Nats win! Final score: 6-5.


Brian said...

ANOTHER day off for Bernadina? Is there something the Nats aren't telling us about him? I know we're facing another LHP, but this seems odd...

Section 222 said...

Apologies for an off topic comment -- I just wanted to alert anyone going to the game tomorrow (Wednesday) that I will be singing the National Anthem with a barbershop quartet. So get there early, get your first beer, and settle in by 6:55 if you can. :)

Chris said...

@ Brian

You just answered your own question, so I'm not sure why you would think it's odd.

He tweaked his back Sunday and Morse plays against lefties.

Boom goes the dynamite.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see Morse in there, he needs more PT, the offense could use some more pop.

Jim Webster said...

Who better to pitch on the hottest day of the year than a kid who learned his trade in sweltering Havana.

Traveler8 said...

222, I'm looking forward to hearing you sing!

Les in NC said...

So much for more PT for Kennedy.....
What gives on that situation? Either we're reverting back to what the team was intending for Adam when the season started or we all just got fed a bunch of hogwash. Personally, I don't care either way, but don't tell me one thing then do something else.

JayB said...

"don't tell me one thing then do something else."

@Les in NC....not been a fan too long have you? Still waiting for those International FA signings.....MASN Rizzo Blog says we should expect big things from Nats this year.....right....

Section 222 said...

It does seem like there's somewhat of a disconnect between Rizzo and Riggleman. But remember, tonight we're facing a lefthander. So we'll see Guzman and Morse in the lineup. I expect Kennedy will see more starts against a righthander. However, I'm no huge fan of Guzman, but who would you rather see up with men on base in the 9th inning, even against a RH pither? Guzman or Kennedy. If you answered Kennedy you haven't been paying much attention this year. I'm afraid he hasn't worked out as advertised, at bat or in the field.

Les in NC said...

About Zimmerman being "going on a tear" since being added to the final man ballot, I personally believe that he has lost his focus this year (or lately anyway) and thats why his BA is down a tick and his fielding is a little more erratic. IMHO, being left off of the ASG roster has probably reminded him that nothing can be taken for granted in the "Bigs" and he better earn his spot if thats what he wants. We all know he is capable, and going into his peak years we should expect him to step his game up atleast a bit.

Oh, and while I may not have been a fan since '05, I have been a self proclaiming Washington fan since '07, just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully, Les, that's a ludicrous argument about Zimmerman not being focused, as based on his BA. His .286 average (will be higher still after tonight) is a tick above his career .285 average, and higher than his average in 2007 and 2008. For what it's worth, he's also on pace for more than 30 HR and the exact same number of errors that he had last season, when he won the Gold Glove.

Notwithstanding all of that evidence to the contrary, sure, he's taking things for granted.

Les in NC said...

He has said in the past that he can sometimes lose focus. So why not argue that his focus is the key to him being a career 285 guy and not a career 300 guy that he can be?

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to suggest that as a general proposition, Zimmerman needs to focus in order to be a .300 hitter for his career. Many or most people might agree that succeeding in the sport takes exemplary focus to maximize one's skillset. It's another thing entirely to suggest that a specific set of results is the direct consequence of a lack of focus.

That conclusion belies the fact that Zimmerman was hitting well above .300 for most of the season, despite his early-season hamstring injuries. If you have anything specific to suggest it was a lack of focus that was responsible for his cold June, please share.

Anonymous said...

@ Manassas

I don't know who is causing me more heart burn (though I will never quit watching).

Clippard, who the last two weeks in any meaningful game has stunk. He throws the change up when he should be throwing 75% fast balls. he is the 8th inning man. Why the change ups.

Desmond who has never seen a ball in his pocket ever. He trows so many errors that there is no chance for an out.

Roiggleman who allows these two player s to continue to have the same issue over the last weeks, or Desmond for a whole season. if he was tired of it like I am something would be done. If I preformed my job as a teacher so inconsistently my principal would be all over me, and I would correct it.

These problems the change up and the throwing useless balls away are self induced and are not caused by the opposition. That is why I believe they need to be dealt with.

Les in NC said...

Nothing specific, just an opinion. But the only reason Ryan 'has carried an average of over 300 for much of the season' was because of the incredible April he had. His May average dropped 80 points, then his June average dropped another 40! Ofcourse, not many players can keep an average of .350+ for an entire season but those numbers are alittle eye popping, dont ya think? Now that his ability has been called into question (by not making the ASG) maybe he has something to prove? I guess we'll see as the season progresses.

Meanwhile, back at the park, our defense (or rather the Wizard of ID's defense) has allowed the game to be tied. *sigh*

tappy said...

Would Nieves have made that play at the plate? I'd like to say yes. but...

Anonymous said...

Well that was exciting!

A DC Wonk said...

With regards to Desmond: If I preformed my job as a teacher so inconsistently my principal would be all over me, and I would correct it.

You know, I know lots of teachers who did some stupid stuff their rookie year. And, it's quite possible that Riggleman _is_ all over Desmond, but not publicly. Which is appropriate, imho.

Desmond's mistake here is just part of the learning curve. You need to know when to "eat the ball" as the pivot guy in the potential double play. That comes with experience. (And, he did hit a homer, and threw a bullet -- albeit slightly off-line but close enough -- to stop that run in the ninth).

Cwj said...

Go Nats!

greg said...

to be fair, how many years has he played SS, though? isn't this something that should be learned before you get to the major leagues? is the pivot play really significantly different in the minors than the majors?

Anonymous said...


We all made a studpid mistake our first year, we get yelled at fix it. Throwing the ball away when you have no chance of recording an out is a correctable error, that he has made too many times this year.

However his throw to Pudge though to the inside of the plate was great.

he can be great, he just needs to learn from his mistakes and not make the same one over and over.

I haven't given up on him, just wondering why he isn't learning or being mentored to fix the errors.

Clippard though is a different animal this just started 2 weeks ago his love with the change up. Early in the season 75% fast balls, now 75% change ups. That has to be reversed.

nats rising said...


Do you know why Riggleman doesn't use Gonzalez as a late inning defensive replacement at 2nd or SS? It seems like an obvious late inning move given the fielding challenges faced by both guzman and desmond. Guzman's low throw to desmond paved the way for desmond's error (who should, of course, have eaten the ball when he saw the throw was low).

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