Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Game 94: Nats at Reds

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Luis Atilano returns to the Nats' rotation tonight to face the Reds' Mike Leake.
CINCINNATI -- It's another warm, muggy day along the banks of the Ohio River, with a chance of evening storms again threatening. Last night's rain really didn't seem to affect anything; both J.D. Martin and Johnny Cueto returned from the 42-minute delay without missing a beat.

The challenge will be upon a pair of rookies, Luis Atilano and Mike Leake, to do the same tonight. These two have already squared off head-to-head this season, with Leake (who made the majors this spring without ever appearing in the minors) beating Atilano 5-1 on June 5 at Nationals Park. Atilano pitched really well that night in a hard-luck, losing effort, allowing just one earned run over seven innings. He returns tonight following a brief, one-start stint at Class AAA Syracuse over the All-Star break. He struggled in that outing and wasn't exactly tearing it up before the break. With several rehabbing pitchers getting closer to rejoining the Nats' rotation, Atilano could be just about out of time to make his case.

Lineup-wise, Jim Riggleman has decided to try Ian Desmond in the 2-hole tonight. It may sound counter-intuitive based on Desmond's overall struggles and low OBP. But he's actually performed best as a No. 2 hitter. In eight games from that spot this season, he's hitting .353 (12-for-34) with a .618 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn have been flip-flopped, something Riggleman has done in the past against left-handed starters but not against right-handers. Ivan Rodriguez also gets bumped to the 7-hole.

Check back for updates throughout the afternoon and evening...

Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 7:10 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 80 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Josh Willingham
RF Roger Bernadina
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
P Luis Atilano

REDS (52-42)
SS Orlando Cabrera
2B Paul Janish
1B Joey Votto
LF Jonny Gomes
RF Jay Bruce
3B Miguel Cairo
CF Drew Stubbs
C Corky Miller
P Mike Leake

3:43 p.m. -- For all you culinary fans out there, I made it to Skyline Chili today for lunch. Had the 3-way (chili, spaghetti, cheese). Outstanding.

5:56 p.m. -- We've got rumbles of thunder overheard and a storm approaching from the west. Hopefully it clears before gametime.

5:58 p.m. -- By the way, happy 22nd birthday to Stephen Strasburg. Too bad he has to wait til tomorrow to pitch.

6:27 p.m. -- It is currently pouring here. Seems unlikely we'll begin on time unless the rain stops in next couple of minutes, because they still have to get the field ready.

6:34 p.m. -- Right on cue, the rain has stopped. They're pulling the tarp back off the infield right now, and they just announced this game is expected to start on time.

7:10 p.m. -- As promised, we are underway right on schedule. Mike Leake greets Nyjer Morgan with a fastball for ball one.

7:14 p.m. -- That didn't take long. Three batters, 11 pitches, two strikeouts and the Nats are retired in order in the top of the first. Luis Atilano now taking the mound.

7:22 p.m. -- Before tonight's game, Jim Riggleman was asked if, given Luis Atilano's struggles in his minor-league start last week, he had any concerns going into this one. Riggleman's answer: "Am I concerned? Yeah." It would appear he had good reason to be, because Atilano just stunk up the joint in the bottom of the first. Walked Orlando Cabrera on five pitches. Walked Paul Janish on five pitches. Then served up a monster, three-run homer to Joey Votto. Yeah, it's already 3-0 before an out has been recorded.

7:31 p.m. -- The first inning has mercifully ended. The Reds didn't score another run, but Atilano did get tagged for a double by Jay Bruce and a couple of long flyouts. He finally struck out Drew Stubbs to end the inning, his pitch count at 31. Nats trail 3-0.

7:54 p.m. -- Yes, that was an RBI hit by the Nationals you just saw. Nyjer Morgan singled to center to score Adam Kennedy. You probably forgot what those look like. Reds still lead 3-1 in the middle of the third.

8:01 p.m. -- And it's raining again. Play will begin in the top of the fourth. We'll see how long this lasts.

8:16 p.m. -- You know it's bad when the opposing pitcher is a lifetime .600 hitter against you. Yeah, that's Mike Leake versus Luis Atilano. He went 2-for-3 in their first meeting last month. And he just smoked an RBI single up the middle in the fourth, adding to the Reds' lead. A run-scoring groundout by Cabrera makes it 5-1 as we head to the fifth.

8:25 p.m. -- Atilano is done after four innings and five runs allowed. His combined pitching line over his last four starts (including the one at Syracuse last week): 15.1 ip, 24 h, 19 er, 10 bb, 7 k. That's not good.

8:30 p.m. -- And here comes the tarp again before Doug Slaten can throw his first pitch in the bottom of the fifth. For what it's worth, this game is official now since the Nats hit in the top of the fifth and are trailing.

9:24 p.m. -- Rain delay update: It's not currently raining, but there's another major cell bearing down on the area, so they're waiting for that to pass before removing the tarp. Still going to be a while.

10:00 p.m. -- It's still raining here, and they just announced it's supposed to keep raining until 10:30 or 10:45. They'll then resume the game 30 minutes after that. Which means this game isn't getting back underway until at least 11 p.m. Anybody got coffee?

10:36 p.m. -- The rain has stopped at last, and the game will resume at 11 p.m. While you wait for the resumption, check out the homepage for news of the Nats' major signing of a top Cuban right-hander, Yuneski Maya, who according to Mike Rizzo could be ready to join a major-league rotation within weeks.

11:10 p.m. -- And we are back after a brief 2-hour, 40-minute delay. Doug Slaten pitching. Willie Harris in right field. Roger Bernadina in center field. Gotta believe Mike Leake won't return for the Reds.

11:45 p.m. -- So let's see ... we resumed play 35 minutes ago, and there still haven't been six outs recorded. Doug Slaten gave up three runs in the bottom of the fifth, and Micah Owings has already given up two in the top of the sixth (thanks to a Ryan Zimmerman homer). Now pitching for Cincinnati: Bill Bray. Remember him?

11:52 p.m. -- I don't know how many of you are still awake watching this, but it's proving to be worth the wait. The Nats have remarkably cut the lead to 8-7 in the middle of the sixth. Michael Morse came off the bench to rope a three-run triple off Bray. Ian Desmond followed with an RBI double. Tyler Clippard now coming on to pitch what is suddenly a competitive ballgame.

12:14 a.m. -- He may not have been pitching in a true setup role, but Clippard appears back in top form. Retired all six he faced in the sixth and seventh, striking out two. That's an encouraging sign.

12:24 a.m. -- After all this, the Nats are now three outs from still losing this game. Reds bullpen has retired seven straight after the six-run rally in the sixth. Matt Capps will pitch the bottom of the eighth, Nats still trailing 8-7.

12:38 a.m. -- Well, at least they kept it interesting. In the end, the Nats can't come all the way back from seven runs down. They lose their fourth straight, 8-7, nearly 5 1/2 hours after this game began. Stephen Strasburg, the last Nats pitcher to win a game, will try to stop the streak later tonight against 10-game winner Bronson Arroyo.


Anonymous said...

Adam Kennedy back at second base, Guess Riggleman is trying to make up for not playing the guy.

court said...

If it were me, I'd give Bernadina a shot at leading off, put Kennedy 6th and Nyjer 8th. I think Nyjer's antics would be more beneficial with the pitcher hitting instead of the heart of the order. If/when he gets thrown out it won't really matter (or matter as much).

Gotta try something different. I do like Dunn 3 and Zim 4, with righty hitting 2nd. Desmond will get more fastballs in the 2 hole instead of pure junk in the 8th spot. But overall can't complain too much (other than the standing complaint that Morse should be in and Nyjer out).

JayB said...

All they need at 2B is a guy who can play D and bunt/Advance runners....it is an amazing thing....try Gonzo until we can do better this winter or better at the trade deadline.

JayB said...

Agreed Morse should be in RF and Roger in CF....but this is Riggs...than is not going to happen even when he is fired his Fantasy team will still have Guz and Kennedy and Morgan with Harris pinch hitting every day.

Anonymous said...

As much as I want Desmond to find success in the two-hole, I am pretty much convinced that his good stats there are only the result of SSS (small sample size)--it's easy to be lucky for like seven games. Morgan and Kennedy shouldn't be in the lineup, as usual, but other than that it seems solid... at least we're not trotting out Harris or (worse) Nieves.

Anonymous said...

Love Skyline, particularly the one downtown right by the ballpark. Did they put a bib on you?

mfeld said...

Line up I'd like to so see the Nats use on a regular basis...

1. Bernadina CF
2. Gonzalez 2B
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Dunn 1B
5. Willingham LF
6. Rodriguez CA
7. Morse RF
8. Desmond SS
9. Pitcher

I feel like this is probably our best hitting and fielding lineup. I'd like to see Desmond and Gonzalez both get ABs at the #2 spot, but I feel like Desmond is maybe a bit too aggressive right now for the #2 spot and will likely strike out too much.

Anonymous said...

Someone should flip-flop Riggleman and a real manager.

Patman said...

I like mfeld's proposed line up. Can't take much more of Kennedy -- struggling in all aspects of the game right now.

Anonymous said...

You should get out to Blue Ash and see "Crosley Field."

Pete said...


Anonymous said...

Can't unload Nook Morgan until after his July 31 bobblehead night. Then the bobblehead can play CF and get caught stealing.

Does Justin Maxwell get to keep the frequent-flyer points?

--Pedro G.

Patman said...

BTW - I read Mark's CSN post -- reporting Dunn wants more than $15 million per yer and more than three years. I say SIGN HIM NOW, 4-years, $60 - $70 million is a bargain compared to other top shelf, left-handed sluggers in their prime.

Bowdenball said...


Which left-handed sluggers that make more than $15 million per year are you referring to? I'll bet most of them play good defense.

Also, Dunn is in his prime now. But he won't be in his prime four years from now. The data shows pretty clearly that sluggers, especially big dudes like Adam, peak at around 29 or 30.

I like Adam and I hope we re-sign him, but this idea that he'll be worth more than $15 million per over the next four years is ludicrous. We don't need to give him that much because I doubt anyone else is that stupid. 3 years, $40 million sounds about right to me.

Patman said...

Bowdenball -- Ryan Howard is almost a statistical match in every category -- even age and size. His contract is for 5-years, $125 million ($19 million this year, escalating up to $25 million per year at the end). I'd take the Big Donkey, and the $$ savings, over Howard.

Bowdenball said...


I'm not sure they're statistical matches, given the fact that Howard's career OPS is fifty points higher than Dunn's and that Howard is generally considered to be a better defensive player.

However, even if they were, Howard's a terrible example, because that contract has been universally trashed by virtually everyone outside of Philly. It's gonna cost the Phillies Jayson Werth and probably Ibanez and Rollins in 2011 and in my opinion was the second-best thing to happen to the Nats franchise this year behind the arrival of Strasburg. The division's big power is soon to be withering on the vine thanks to that deal. Not exactly the model I want us to follow.

Anonymous said...

I still like Hendo's basic lineup:

1. Bernadina
2. Willingham
3. Dunn
4 Zimmerman
5. Morse
6. Desmond
7. IRod
8. Gonzalez
9. pitcher

Anonymous said...

And @Patman,

There's no guarantee that the Nats will be competitive next year or the year after. That's a waste of 2 of Dunn's prime years? Not to mention Willingham. Its not as bad with Zimmerman because he is still only 25. But he will likely not be very happy if things continue as they have when he reaches free agency again ...

Going for top prospects for a franchise completely bereft (outside of Strasburg, Storen and maybe Espinosa and Norris) seems to make a lot of sense. Particularly those who are close to major league ready and still young.

court said...

34 is not 38. Maybe Dunn won't be as good four years from now, but he'll probably be close. He's proven to be remarkably consistent over his career and is worth $15 mil a year. If a four year deal is what it takes, then so be it. Maybe it will be a little more than he's worth, but it's time to start "building" a team. Zim can walk in 3 years, and probably will if the team does not make a real effort to win sooner, rather than later. Plus, any FA's out there would much rather hit in a lineup with Dunn than without. 40-hr guys are a rare commodity in the post-steroid world. Now that he breaks even defensively (and is better than Howard for what it's worth, not to mention younger!) it's time to pay the man (Shirley).

court said...

If you take out Howard's one monster year, he and Dunn are very close to the same (Dunn having a slight edge). Add in the fact that Dunn is more consistent and has put up numbers longer, I'd call it a wash. Now that Dunn is at 1B his UZR is something like -1, where Howard is -5. So let's just debunk the idea that Howard is a better fielder right now. Dunn has room for improvement still, whereas Howard is what he is.

Kenny Williams complained that Rizzo thinks Dunn is Howard. Rizzo thinks it because it's true.

Anonymous said...


Let's agree with Mike Rizzo and say that Dunn is indeed equivalent to Howard.

However, what do you think will get this team over .500 quicker and to the playoffs? Dunn or a top of the rotation young almost MLB ready power pitcher to go with Strasburg and Zimmermann? Look at San Diego. They do not have anyone like Dunn, Zimmerman, or Willingham yet they find themselves in first place?

Its a hard choice, one wrong move and you could step off the cliff. But it does seem that for this team, bereft for so long, top prospects are a good choice to make to get closer to the goal. They aren't going to come in the draft as consistently so the only way to acquire them is by trades.

court said...

Anon, I'd rather trade Willingham for that top young pitcher, than Dunn. I think Willingham's skill set is easier to replace than Dunn's. Also, you're forgetting Adrian Gonzalez on that Pad's team. But I think the Nats' chances of getting a middle of the rotation pitcher on the FA market is better than getting a 40-hr type guy. And there's no guarantee that whatever young pitcher they bring in will work out. But there is basically a guarantee with what Dunn can and will do.

Now if they can trade Dunn and then re-sign him, I'd be all for it. But I don't think that is a realistic scenario.

Anonymous said...

Willingham is one of the best players in the MLB. I think even Nats fans tend to underrate how useful a high-OBP, high-SLG guy like him is, especially with him playing somewhat better defense this year. I doubt we would get the sort of value for him that he is worth.

Mark Zuckerman said...

>raymitten said...
>Love Skyline, particularly the one downtown
>right by the ballpark. Did they put a bib on

Actually, the waitress did ask me if I wanted a bib. I looked at her like she had three heads. Um, no thanks, I'll be OK.

Anonymous said...

I'm more or less okay with Rigg's lineup except I'm still not eager to see Kennedy in there. I'm the eternal Guzman advocate. If the pitchers could sacrifice reliably, 8th is a good enough spot for CG even he does thing he belongs higher.

I like the lineup in Anonymous5:09's posting.Eight guys and a pitcher to be named later. For the current club it's got to be one of two pitchers, though.

And - my Natsinsider T shirt came today. Thanks, Mark.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anon: Glad to hear the T-shirt arrived. How does it look and fit?

Brian said...

7:21 and this game is already over.

phil dunn said...

Luis Atilano, a single A pitcher, masquerading as a major league pitcher. What a joke!

NatsJack in Florida said...

In deference to Tony K. "This team stinks"!

Anonymous said...

Yuneski Maya 28 year old Cuban starting pitcher signed by Nats JayB.

HabsProf said...

Mark - Mentioning the 3-way chili got me thinking about my favourite Midwest franchise: Steak 'n' Shake. Drop by one and grab a shake for me, will ya? I'm stuck out here on the left coast where they've never heard of 'em.

phil dunn said...

The Dibs is very subdued tonight. He either took a couple of Valium before the game or he was silenced. I miss the real Dibs. Come on, Dibs, tell us what you really think--stop the Bobby Carpenter sugar coating.

Anonymous said...

For JayB,


Anonymous said...

Mark -- T shirt is white, very heavy material, fits fine; seems like a typical large. The website picture didn't look quite snow white like the shirt is. I got a large. I'm gonna look good. Thank you.

Atalino - a dog.

Anyone here old enough to have suffered through the Senators? The original Senators, I mean. The ones who went to Minnesota. This is deja vu all over again. Maddening. A few beloved good players and very few wins.

Anonymous said...

Yuniesky Maya Mendiluza.

Doc said...

Mark, re: the bib thing. I live outside of Cinci, and Midwesterners are, shall be say 'bigger' eaters than you sophisticated Easterners.

They really need their bibs. Without their bibs they really can't seriously chow down! Ask Dibs, he played for Cinci for a few years. The Nasty Boys got their reputation because they used to steal each other's food, apart from throwing balls through opposing batters heads!!

Anonymous said...

Mark - ouch! Ordinarily, I'm envious of your job. Tonight, not so much. Good luck making it through tonight (and tomorrow!).

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

I'm old enough to remember Senators I and Senators II. Really, Dunn is the reincarnation of Roy Sievers, and we've got some middle infield stiffs who remind me of Chico Carrasquel, a Venezuelan smoothie who actually really reminds of Gonzo. There are other similarities. We had a great Latin pitcher named Pedro Ramos and another named Camilio Pasqual. Livo could be direct descendents of theirs. That team was terrible up the middle as well and struggled forever without getting a decent center fielder. Plus, ownership was a bunch of baffoons, racists really, followed by the ridiculous skinflint Bob Short for Senators II. At least that team had Teddy Ballgame as manager, who wouldn't run out an Adam Kennedy at second base after the month-full of bonehead plays he's pulled over the weekend. So, yes, there are similarities, especially in the won-lost percentages. I feel like I'm 13 again.

Anonymous said...

Late night catching up on some work is my only excuse for staying up late enough to see this remarkable "back from the dead" comeback. Now we just need to make it all the way. I am so glad that a-hole who drilled Josh got 4 runs hung on him.

Anonymous said...

Marty B. is about to burst a vessel raging about the ineffective Red's bullpen over on WLW.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Michael Morse for Mayor.

It took six innings, a two and a-half hour rain delay, too numerous to count lineup changes but Riggs has finally consented to playing Bernie in center and Morse in right, and Nyjer in the showers.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

Hey, Mark, can this guy Maya catch a flight from Havana to Cincinnati in time to pitch the ninth?

dj in Fl. said...

I can not believe that the "dream team" of so many is in, and everyone has gone to bed and will miss it.
I am sure we will hear from them ust after the lineup is posted tomorrow.
Nice work by Clip again tonight, as well as Zim on the corner.
Now just a couple of runs and we can steal a win.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

@dj in FL: I totally agree. All these GS 1-and-a-halves in DC get tucked in early so they can arise and be at their desks by, oh, 10:30 in the morning. So they can take their coffee breaks at 11 o'clock...

Anonymous said...

The home-plate umpire totally just wanted to get out of there on that last pitch. Not even close

Dave said...

A little bit of fire out of Riggleman on that horrendous call to end the game would have been nice to see.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. But if you are Adam Dunn with two strikes and the game on the line, how the hell do you take that close a pitch? Was it a ball? Probably. But what has earned the Nationals the right to expect a close call?

Plus Adam Dunn is our HORSE! He is one of just two or three guys who can be expected to produce!! So how come he is always...ALWAYS!!...so passive in these situations? I don't get it.

Protect the plate!!! Do the role you are assigned. You strike out enough anyway...doing so now in this circumstance would be more than honorable.


Dave said...

@ rmoore

Dunn doesn't do very well with pitches running down and in. He has a very good eye at the plate and you have Zimmerman up behind him. There is no reason to protect the plate on a ball that is a marginal strike at best.

Anonymous said...

Pardon me..."no reason to protect the plate"? He just looked at called strike three!!! That's reason enough to protect the plate!!! He trusts his "very good eye at the plate" beyond reality!! He took called strike three with the bat on his shoulders!!! HE FAILED IN HIS JOB!!! It was a marginal call but let me repeat...what have the Nationals done to expect marginal calls??

Dave said...

Holly exclamation points. . . Calm down.

Every major leaguer fails at his job more than 50% of the time.

as you said already he strikes out enough already, good take from my standpoint.

Anonymous said...

You can't be 13 again. When you're 13 you can sorta believe people are basically fair and can have fun without interjecting their own warped views. When you're 13 you haven't experienced things like a blogger on a "for fun" baseball blog making stupid, ugly and gratuitous comments about what he imagines "GS one and a halfs" do in the Washington DC area.

Anonymous said...

Sunshine - I never embraced the expansion Senators but the exploits of Pascual, Lemon, Killebrew an the others still live in me. Even today I check the Twins box scores.

hleeo3 said...

To be fair to Dunn he would need to break his wrists to put the bat on that ball. I am totally relying on memory of the strike call but the ball was really inside under his hands, geometrically speaking, no way in hell he could have touched that ball.

Knoxville Nat said...

Anon 7:33,

Speaking of the pre-Twins Senators, the late Jim lemon once told me a good story about his teammate Roy Sievers negotiating his contract with Calvin Griffith. Roy was coming off an outstanding season in 1957, finished third in the MVP vote behind Mantle and Ted Williams. Anyway Roy told Calvin he thought he deserved to have his salary doubled from about $10K to $20K per year. Keep in mind that almost all contracts back then were for one year at a time. Calvin offered him $12,000 and pointed out to Roy that "...we finished last with you we can finish last without you."

Any chance the Lerners are distant relatives of the Griffith family????

Anonymous said...

Dunn has a history of being a most passive slugger even with two strikes and even when the game is close and on the line. Earlier this season after a rash of called third strikes, Mark interviewed Dunn about this apparent proclivity and devoted a separate post about it.

It is difficult for me to understand how anyone can term his action last night "a good take" when it ended a one run game with a loss.

The pitch was a ball but I've seen many worse pitches called a ball and he certainly wouldn't have had to break his wrists to get the bat on the ball.

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