Saturday, July 10, 2010

Game 88: Giants at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The temperature has finally cooled off. The Nationals' bats have not.
Remember when everyone was worried about the Nationals' putrid offensive output? Come on, it's not that hard to remember. It was only a week ago that this team looked incapable of scoring more than two runs a night.

How quickly things have changed, because right now there's nothing hotter in D.C. than the Nats' bats (certainly now that the temperature has finally cooled off to manageable levels). Over their last six games, the Nationals have scored 33 runs. In that time, they've batted a collective .308 with a .377 on-base percentage and a stout .901 OPS.

"I've said it all along: Our offense is pretty good when it's rolling," said Adam Dunn, who is rolling as well as anyone in baseball right now. "Pretty much for the first half, we haven't been on. But I think the last week and a half, we've kind of relaxed a little bit and everyone's locked in."

The Nats will look to continue the offensive surge tonight against Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who one year ago today threw a no-hitter. Pretty cool that he's back on the mound exactly 365 days later.

As reported yesterday, Justin Maxwell has been recalled from Class AAA Syracuse to give the Nationals an extra position player until they need a fifth starter again (July 20 in Cincinnati). Jim Riggleman has wasted no time putting Maxwell right in his starting lineup, but not necessarily where you thought he might. Maxwell is leading off and playing center field tonight, giving Nyjer Morgan the night off against a lefty. Michael Morse is in right field as Riggleman stacks his lineup with right-handed bats.

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: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, Wind 7 mph in from LF
CF Justin Maxwell
2B Cristian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Michael Morse
SS Ian Desmond
P Craig Stammen

GIANTS (45-41)
CF Aaron Rowand
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF Aubrey Huff
C Buster Posey
SS Juan Uribe
1B Travis Ishikawa
3B Pablo Sandoval
RF Nate Schierholtz
P Jonathan Sanchez

6:17 p.m. -- FYI: Nyjer Morgan will be back in the lineup tomorrow, Jim Riggleman said. So this figures to be a one-shot deal for Justin Maxwell, at least until everyone returns from the All-Star break.

7:06 p.m. -- First pitch from Craig Stammen to Aaron Rowand is a strike. Gametime temperature is a chilly 78 degrees. What a change from the last week.

7:09 p.m. -- Whoa, how about this: A scoreless first inning by the Nationals' pitching staff! That's the first time in 10 games they've done that. (The nine straight first innings allowing a run were a franchise record.) Stammen was all over the strike zone, threw seven of his eight pitches for strikes. Also started a 1-6-3 double play.

7:17 p.m. -- Forgot to mention this pregame, but Riggleman said Stammen will most likely start the Nationals' third game in Florida next weekend, with J.D. Martin starting the opener in Cincinnati. That means the rotation post-break will be: 1. Strasburg, 2. Hernandez, 3. Stammen, 4. Martin, 5. Atilano.

7:29 p.m. -- When's the last time the Nats' top two hitters both drew walks in the first inning? Seriously, I wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't happened all season until Justin Maxwell and Cristian Guzman just did it. Maxwell also stole second, then scored on Ryan Zimmerman's roped double to left. Guzman later scored on a wild pitch, putting the Nats up 2-0, though it could have been more had Jonathan Sanchez not struck out Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham on a couple of brilliant pitches on the outside corner. Still, there will be no no-hitter for Sanchez on the one-year anniversary of his feat.

7:44 p.m. -- One reason the Nationals optioned Stammen to Syracuse last month was his penchant for being handed a lead and then giving it right back. Like he just did in the top of the second. He turned a two-out, nobody-on inning into a three-run frame. He did so by walking Pablo Sandoval (who never walks) on four pitches, then allowing an RBI double to No. 8 hitter Nate Schierholtz and a two-run single to the opposing pitcher. Not good. Giants now lead 3-2.

7:53 p.m. -- It's looking like one of those nights where no lead is going to be safe for either team. Michael Morse just crushed an opposite-field homer off Sanchez to lead off the bottom of the second, knotting this one back up 3-3. Can Stammen avoid giving it right back to the Giants in the third? Stay tuned...

8:00 p.m. -- ... Yes, he can! Stammen sets them down 1-2-3 in the third, striking out Freddy Sanchez and getting a pair of groundballs to second.

8:13 p.m. -- Seven in a row retired by Stammen, who has rediscovered his groove. Still 3-3 in the middle of the fourth.

8:26 p.m. -- Ivan Rodriguez has cooled off considerably at the plate in recent weeks (he was hitting .183 over his last 17 games entering tonight). Perhaps the big, RBI double he just roped to left to score Willingham will help Pudge snap out of the funk. At the very least, it put the Nationals back on top, 4-3. Then for good measure, Stammen belted a ground-rule double to left, making it 5-3 and knocking Sanchez out of the game in the fourth.

8:57 p.m. -- Well, at the very least, Stammen can say he departed with the Nats' lead intact. Though it may not be for long. It's now 5-4 in the sixth with one out and a man on second. Sean Burnett will try to pitch out of this and preserve the lead.

9:04 p.m. -- And Burnett gets the job done. Gets Ishikawa to ground out, then after pitching around Sandoval, struck out Schierholtz. Nicely done. Nats still lead 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth.

9:07 p.m. -- Weekly perfect game alert: Travis Wood of the Reds has not allowed anyone to reach base through eight innings in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Roy Halladay hasn't given up a run himself. Yep, it's 0-0 through eight. Might want to tune this one in.

9:30 p.m. -- The perfect game is no longer intact (they've gone to the 10th in Philly, still scoreless) and the Nats' lead in no longer intact. Tyler Clippard served up a homer to Aaron Rowand in the seventh. He's now been scored upon in five of his last seven appearances. Think it's safe to say Clip is officially in a slump. Game now tied 5-5.

9:44 p.m. -- And the wheels have now fallen off completely. Doug Slaten is greeted by a two-run double from Juan Uribe on his first pitch. It's now 8-5 Giants, and Clippard was charged with all four runs. In the last 18 days, his ERA has more than doubled from 1.58 to 3.31. Yikes.

10:02 p.m. -- The Nationals are down to their last six outs, trailing by three. They haven't lacked for opportunities tonight; they've put 12 men on base in seven innings. But they haven't scored since Stammen's double in the fourth.

10:09 p.m. -- Make that: The Nationals are down to their last three outs. Giants relievers have retired seven straight.

10:18 p.m. -- Yeah, this Buster Posey kid looks like a keeper. He's 4-for-5 with a homer, a double and three RBI tonight. The umps reviewed his two-run shot to right-center just now to see if a fan reached over the fence to grab it, but they emerged from the tunnel and upheld the original call. So it's now 10-5 Giants as this game spirals even more out of control for the Nationals.

10:29 p.m. -- It's over. Nats lose 10-5. Not a good ballgame from the home team's perspective. There are some major questions about Clippard right now. We'll see what he and Riggleman have to say about it in a few minutes.


Anonymous8 said...

Well, just as I thought. Maxwell starting and in leadoff.

JMax better reward his "man crush" Rizzo with a big night!

Pathetic if you ask me

Anonymous said...

I don't get this lineup. As you indicated, Mark, the lineup finally perked up a little bit and what do we see: Maxwell and Morse in there. Go figure.

Anonymous8 said...

Nick Johnson injury update:

Can you imagine if the Nats went into 2010 counting on Nick Johnson........24 games played this year with a .167 batting average.

Anon_99 said...

Anyone hear anything? Has Jesus Flores dropped out of sight?

Ckstevenson said...

Why do the Nats need an extra OF as a position player instead of say, an infielder? why spell Nyjer in CF with Maxwell instead of using Bernadina and putting Morse or Willie?

I don't get the logic of the move

JayB said...

logic...what is this logic you speak off?

Anonymous8 said...

Ckstevenson - It is Rizzo's chance to get an extra position player and give his "man crush" another chance to shine.

He is 12 for 38 in the last 10 games but you have to consider he can barely hit in righty/righty matchups so again Rizzo gives him a chance to shine in the classic lefty/righty.

Anonymous said...

I just have to make this comment about nyjer....first off I want to say I just love his hustle and energy he brings. It was sorely needed last year when he became a national.

But I'm really starting to get a little annoyed at some of his mental mistakes. The steal last night with dunn at bat with 2 outs was horrible as far as I'm concerned. Dunn has been on fire and morgan would score on a double from first so what's the point of the steal right there? If he had been called out on that steal I bet riggleman may have benched him.

It seems like he has a me first attitude some times instead of thinking about game situations.

Anonymous said...

LOL anon @ 4:25. I was saying the EXACT same thing to my girl in the stands when he did that. The mental mistakes are killing me. You got to know the situation in that part of the game. Dunn got lucky he got a pitch to hit from Cain. Facts are that Cain pitched a terrible game.

JayB said...

What is this "thinking" your refer to? Morgan and thinking about game that possible in this universe?

David Lint said...

I completely agree with everyone that hates Morgan's mental mistake. I also don't think he should ever see the field versus a lefty so I'm not sad about him sitting tonight.

I'd rather have Bernadina in CF though, instead of Maxwell.

natsfan1a said...

I don't tend to find occurrences at ballgames hate-worthy, but that's just me. That said, I did also comment to my seatmate regarding why Morgan would steal with a big bat at the plate. What do I win? :-)

BinM said...

The promotion of Maxwell gives the Nationals an extra bat & glove for the next 6 games, gratis.
It's unlikely that Maxwell will hit his weight, let alone 'stick' beyond the 20th, so it probably only serves as a warning to Morgan to "straighten up & fly right", because you can be replaced.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Even 1a, the most "optimistic, never criticize anyone" fan is noticing Morgan's mistakes. Morgan must be thinking, "If I've lost 1a, I've lost middle America (or average Nationals fan)!"

lesatcsc said...

There is a huge assumption in the statement "Morgan must be thinking..." Is there any evidence to support the thinking part? :)

Anonymous said...

The promotion of Maxwell gives the Nationals an extra bat & glove for the next 6 games, gratis.

Maxwell's hitting .121. Willie "I'm right where I need to be" Harris is at least now hitting around .180. He should be an extra glove to replace Taveras but Riggleman is now proceeding full speed ahead into full MCM: "man crush mode". Where Morse will get 2 at bats before Harris comes in to replace him. Back to Guzman playing every day somewhere ... and hurting the team with his fielding and dearth of walks (Although, of late he has been walking more when he bats later in the line up?)

Anonymous said...

Morgan to "straighten up & fly right", because you can be replaced.

I'd rather see Boomer Whiting ... or Jorge Padilla who appears to be hitting quite well again for Buffalo.

Anonymous said...

So this figures to be a one-shot deal for Justin Maxwell, at least until everyone returns from the All-Star break.

And we should believe Riggleman when he says this because?

court said...

Whitting's only been in AAA for a few weeks after being promoted from Potomac. While JMax has been truly underwhelming, I have no problem with this temporary promotion considering the way he's been playing recently. I also don't mind him starting tonight against a tough lefty. Bernandina hasn't played an entire season in over two years, so he's probably only good for about 130 games this year (don't know what his current pace would put him at).

The Rigglemonster loves to righty heavy against premier left-handed starters and tonight is just another example of that. Sanchez is pretty filthy.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Craig "Run an Inning" Stammen = Bally Star of 2010.

Les in NC said...

With that bomb, Morse ties the game and resets the game for Stammen. WTG Micheal!

Anonymous said...

Another big whack by Morse. That should earn him at least a week of riding the bench.

Anonymous said...

How many chances does Maxwell get?? This guy will never hit major league pitching.

Sunshine_Bobby_Capenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Anonymous said...
How many chances does Maxwell get?? This guy will never hit major league pitching.

Answer: One more than every other GM would give.

Anonymous8 said...

Stammen looks like the same old guy. A shame. I could hear him curse after that horrific 2nd inning. Guzman saved his butt on that Stammen throw to 2nd to start that double play. Another big RBI hit to a pitcher. Horrendous.

Morse hits a HR and Maxwell strikes out to go with his walk. If Maxwell would stop trying to hit the ball 450 feel at each at bat and work on line drives, he may be more effective.

natsfan1a said...

Anon 5:58, I did wonder at the choice to run there, but I wouldn't say that Nyjer has lost me. I'm a homer, remember? :-)

Anonymous said...

Morse is out of the game in the sixth inning for a pinch runner and now the score is tied. Chalk up another dumb move by Riggleman.

JayB said...

Riggs is managing his way out of a job inning by inning.....did anyone think Clippard was going to get out of that inning after the first walk?

Hope Riggs like managing in AA because that is where is is going next year.

Anonymous said...

So when does Batista get exiled to Syracuse AAA? He has now allowed 6 home runs in 46 innings. Last year he allowed only seven in 74 innings. Aren't two grand slams? For far less Jason Bergmann got thrown off the 40-man and exiled to Syracuse. Another Riggs man crush in action.

Doc said...

Riggleman reacted too slowly to Clippard's performance. A manager should know when his relief pitchers are 'on' and when they are about to self destruct. Peralta would have been a better choice to be in there.

Clipp and Save has become Trip and Cave!

Anonymous said...


Of course Riggleman reacted to late. I told my brother who was sitting with me the moment he came in that we would lead before the inning was up. When the game has been on the line since the O's series he has been worthless.

The last 7 games 6 IP and 11 Runs given up.

He needs to go down to Syracuse and figure out what is wrong. Though I think most people know. He has quit pitching his fast ball for strikes, and is hanging change ups. GO down and fix it. That is five games now in the last 2 weeks he has a blown save. If the Nats hold on to those leads their record would be.500. That is how important what he has done has hurt the team. Riggleman just keeps putting hi,m out there, and in press conference it sounds like he plans to do that in the marlin series.

Why? This is a league of what have you done for me lately.

Anonymous8 said...

Mark - Was the attempted double steal by Desmond (thrown out at 3rd) with Maxwell batting a straight double steal or a missed hit & run?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anon8: I believe that was a straight double steal.

Anonymous8 said...

Mark - Thanks for the quick response.

It was a head scratcher. Maxwell made an awkward swing like trying to connect in a botched
hit-n-run but then again, most of his swings are awkward. Certainly could have been just a bad double steal all the same.

0-4 batting .108 and batting at lower average than SIX pitchers on the Nats roster.

Section 222 said...

Everyone in the park knew Clippard didn't have it tonight after the first walk, except for those who knew after the home run. He was laboring, leaving every pitch up. How could Riggleman leave him out there to get shelled and blow the game? Inexcusable. I also seriously question running for Morse in the 6th inning up by only a run, and having Desmond bunt with a man on second. This game was way over-managed and the Nats paid the price. Too bad because we had a promising start and could very easily have won the game.

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