Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Game 107: Nats at Diamondbacks

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nationals look to make it two in a row tonight at Chase Field.
PHOENIX -- Hello again from the Valley of the Sun, which is flexing its considerable summer muscle today. The mercury has climbed back up over the century mark; as I type this, it's 105 degrees outside Chase Field. Thus, the big roof will be closed once again tonight for Game 2 of 4 between the Nationals and Diamondbacks.

Scott Olsen is on the mound, looking to pick up where he left off last week in his return from the DL. That would be another encouraging development for the Nats, who have been getting some quality performances from their starting pitchers over the last week, even as Stephen Strasburg has watched from the dugout.

(Speaking of Strasburg, he's throwing off the bullpen mound here as I type this, the first time he's done that since getting scratched from his start one week ago today. Check the homepage later this evening for a full report on how that went.)

With the Diamondbacks sending newly acquired lefty Joe Saunders to the mound tonight, Jim Riggleman counters with a couple of lineup tweaks that I think should please many of you. Ian Desmond moves up to the 2-hole. Michael Morse starts in right field and bats sixth. And Alberto Gonzalez starts at second base and bats eighth.

Check back throughout the evening for updates...

Where: Chase Field
Gametime: 9:40 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Mostly sunny, 101 degrees outdoors (78 degrees indoors)
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
RF Michael Morse
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Scott Olsen

CF Chris Young
2B Kelly Johnson
RF Justin Upton
1B Adam LaRoche
C Miguel Montero
3B Mark Reynolds
SS Stephen Drew
LF Rusty Ryal
P Joe Saunders

7:47 p.m. -- Your Stephen Strasburg update: He threw what team officials called a "light bullpen session," which means he only threw about 25 pitches, though he threw at full velocity and threw all of his pitches. No problems reported. He'll take tomorrow off aside from playing some light catch, then will throw in a simulated game Thursday. If all goes well, he's scheduled to return from the DL and start next Tuesday against the Marlins at Nationals Park. More detailed report coming shortly...

9:40 p.m. -- And this game is underway with Nyjer Morgan lofting a fly ball to center on Joe Saunders' first pitch of the night.

9:46 p.m. -- Good lord did Ryan Zimmerman crush an 0-2 pitch from Saunders. Straightaway center field. Off the batter's eye. It's 407 feet to the base of the wall out there, and this had to hit at least 35 up the wall, so I'm thinking it's 440 feet minimum. Very reminiscent of Zim's walk-off against Brad Lidge Saturday night. Nats lead 1-0 in the first.

9:53 p.m. -- Really nice first inning for Scott Olsen. Retired the side on two grounders and a flyball. Fourteen pitches, eight strikes for the lefty.

9:59 p.m. -- If Ivan Rodriguez ever wants to play the Pick 3 lottery game, he surely would take his favorite numbers: 4-6-3. Yes, for the 20th time this season, Pudge grounded into a double play, this one ending the top of the second. For comparison's sake, Nyjer Morgan has grounded into 11 double plays. In his career. Nats still lead 1-0 in the middle of the second.

10:06 p.m. -- What started off as a shaky bottom of the second turned into nothing for the Nats to be worried about. Morse and Nyjer butchered LaRoche's drive to right-center -- Morse took a bad angle, Nyjer then was slow to back him up and also bobbled the ball at the fence -- turning a double into a triple. That looked like it would be a problem when Montero sent a fly ball to left that should have been a routine sacrifice fly. But credit Willingham, who did a great job setting himself up to catch the ball while moving forward and then fired a perfect throw to the plate. Pudge applied the tag and LaRoche was D.O.A. A nice 3-2 fastball from Olsen to Mark Reynolds finished the inning and preserved the Nats' 1-0 lead.

10:17 p.m. -- Bad mistake by Olsen to open the third. He left a 1-0 fastball on the inside corner for Stephen Drew, who belted it to right for a solo homer. Olsen bounced back, but the game is now tied 1-1 as we go to the fourth.

10:28 p.m. -- On the bright side, the Nats have put at least one man on base in each of their four innings so far. Unfortunately, they've only scored once (on Zimmerman's homer). Double plays (Pudge, Desmond) ended the second and third. And a Morse flyout and a Pudge groundout ended the fourth with two runners stranded. So far, the Nats are 0-for-7 with runners on base. Not what Jim Riggleman is looking for. The score, however, remains 1-1.

10:40 p.m. -- Oh, those two-out walks will kill you. Scott Olsen put Miguel Montero on with a free pass, and that set the stage for Mark Reynolds to deposit a three-run homer into the INFAMOUS swimming pool in right-center. (Why is it infamous? Because it's famous for negative reasons. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go read the comments in last night's game thread.) Diamondbacks now lead 4-1 after four.

11:03 p.m. -- The Nats are still trailing 4-1 in the sixth because they can't touch Saunders. But they are helping keep this game within striking distance thanks to some fine defense. Nyjer Morgan went deep to left-center to make a nice catch of Chris Young's drive to end the fifth. Ivan Rodriguez just fired a perfect throw to second to nail Kelly Johnson trying to steal. And then there was Willingham's throw to the plate earlier. Good defense can make up for a lot of things. And bad defense can destroy a lot of good things.

11:19 p.m. -- Couple of not-so-good developments to close out the sixth. First, Olsen came out of the game after allowing three singles and sac fly. Next, Collin Balester entered and immediately drilled Mark Reynolds in the head. Reynolds fell in a heap and tossed his helmet aside. After a minute or so on the ground, he got up under his own power and walked off, but he came out of the game for precautionary reasons. This was the second batter Balester has hit in the head in the last two weeks. He also did it to Rickie Weeks in Milwaukee. Not good. D'backs now lead 5-1 heading to the seventh.

11:30 p.m. -- First double switch of the night for Riggleman. Doug Slaten in to pitch, replacing the horribly ineffective Balester. Justin Maxwell now in right field, replacing Morse. So the Nats, trailing by four runs in the seventh, put one of their hottest hitters on the bench for a guy who has been optioned to Class AAA four times previously this year because he can't consistently hit big-league pitching. Have at it, folks.

11:44 p.m. -- This one is just about in the books. The Nats don't have a hit off Saunders (who, I should have mentioned earlier, grew up in Springfield, Va.) since the fourth inning. It's still 6-1 as we go to the bottom of the eighth, and it appears the Nats' only hope is that Kirk Gibson doesn't let Saunders go for the complete game and instead hands things over to his wretched bullpen. Even then, the Nats' chances don't look good.

12:02 a.m. -- That'll do it. Saunders goes the distance and picks up the 6-1 win. Feeble showing from the Nats' lineup tonight: five hits, two walks, a hit batter and one who reached on an error. They went 0-for-12 with a man on base in this one. Not good.


Nate said...

It's always dangerous playing against a guy named Rusty...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you might get an interview with ex Nat Ryan Church while you are there. JTinSC

Anonymous said...

What about Dunn being put on waivers???

Anonymous said...

We're done putting things on wafers? How will I eat my pate? DOes this include KitKats?

Slidell said...

Rather like the lineup tonight; haven't said that too often. Bernie in place of Nyjer would make it even better. Maybe there should be a rule--- get picked off, and you get to sit a day to think about it.

Sam said...

Slidell, I like that rule. One of the fundamental arguments in sabermetrics is that if you have an OBP of 1.000, you score an infinite amount of runs. If you have a SLG of 1.000, you score many, but not infinite. Well, there are some ways of debugging that theory. Case in point: Nyjer Morgan. Sheesh, it's ridiculous how bad he is on the bases.

That being said, I still don't like Desmond hitting second. Willingham or Morse would be better suited there. Even Gonzalez.

natsfan1a said...

Yeah, I hope our guys are all up to date on their tetanus shots.

Too bad he's not a pitching ace. Then he could be Rusty nails...


Nate said...

It's always dangerous playing against a guy named Rusty...

Anonymous said...


Mark, The players and coaches get interviewed after the game I know. DO the umps ever get interviewed? I would love to hear the first base umps explanation of how he saw Willingham out. Even at normal speed it looked like it wasn't close, and on the replay he was safe by about a step. For the one of Pudge at home it looked like he was safe, but that was close enough that I could live with the umps call and leave it alone.

Any word from that ump today or last night?

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

Anyone still doubting that the Hammer has improved his fielding?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Manassas: Generally, umpires only speak after particularly controversial calls or plays that need explanation. Standard judgment calls like out-or-safe usually don't qualify. When umps do talk to the media, it's always through one or two pool reporters who get the info and then pass it on to everyone else in the press box. I've served as pool reporter a handful of times over the years, most notably in that 2005 game in Anaheim when Brendan Donnelly was ejected for having pine tar on his glove, leading to the Frank Robinson-Mike Scioscia confrontation. Tim Tschida and Dale Scott were great to talk to that night.

Anonymous said...


Thanks. I figured they talked little, and last night's call ended up not being consequential. However it was clearly wrong like you said. Tonight the same umpire is calling balls in the left hander's box between that box and the plate a strike. he is doing it for both teams so not a problem as far as I am concerned.

Michael J. Hayde said...

"(Why is it infamous? Because it's famous for negative reasons. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go read the comments in last night's game thread.)"

(In my best Charlie Brown voice) AUUUGGHHHHH!

Alright, Mr. Zuckerman, this is the last time we're going to go over this. "Infamous" ONLY means something that smacks of infamy, and "infamy" means a vile, evil or criminal act or deed. Just because the word "famous" is embedded in "infamous," has no bearing on the fact that "infamous" does not define the "fame" of anything, be it positive or negative.

Are you, or are you not, a journalist? Because you are failing basic vocabulary. Just like I'm failing the ability to predict the start of a 12-game winning streak.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Ok, Mark, I'll bite on the double-switch. I love Morse as much as anybody, but he hasn't exactly hit the cover off the ball tonight. Maybe Riggs figures J-Max is due ... due for what, I can't answer.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Michael J.Hayde: Here's the definition I just found for the infamous word in question, on dictionary.com...

1. having an extremely bad reputation: an infamous city.

They did teach us how to look things up in journalism school.

Michael J. Hayde said...

Postscript: if Balestar keeps hitting batters in the head, he's going to become "infamous."

Michael J. Hayde said...

Yes, I see that dictionary.com ("an Ask.com service") has listed this watered-down definition, no doubt brought on by the continuous misuse of the term over the years. I blame the constant exposure of FDR's "day that will live in infamy" speech, because listeners ASSUME that it means December 7, 1941 will be forever remembered (i.e., especially "famous"), and no one's around to correct that impression.

In any case, I'll stick with Merriam-Webster's more potent definition: "having a reputation of the worst kind: notoriously evil; i.e., "an infamous traitor."


Michael J. Hayde said...

"it appears the Nats' only hope is that Kirk Gibson doesn't let Saunders go for the complete game and instead hands things over to his wretched bullpen."

Now that's funny! To even THINK that Kirk "Could he make it around the basepaths unassisted?" Gibson would take out a pitcher, or indeed any player, that's rolling!

Anonymous said...


Arizona number 30 in the majors in ERA. We manage 4 runs against them in 2 games, and 3 of the runs solo homers. My call for a new hitting coach philosophy continues.

What is the deal with Houston 7 wins in a row now.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

I can't believe Gibson didn't order Saunders to retaliate for Reynolds getting beaned by Bally-Star. Somewhere, Don Drysdale is rolling over in his grave, and Jim Bunning is muttering to himself incoherently.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Gibson didn't order Saunders to retaliate for Reynolds getting beaned by Bally-Star. Somewhere, Don Drysdale is rolling over in his grave, and Jim Bunning is muttering to himself incoherently.

Both Zimmerman and Dunn are good friends of that guy ... and MIke Rizzo came from that organization ... they know its Balester ... if he had been allowed to bat they would have retaliated. He had to be told to go back to the mound by Kirk Gibson when he came in to make sure Reynolds was okay ... was told you've done enough ... get back on the mound.

Balester and the stache belong in the minors ... he has major control issues ... my god I remember the pundits here saying that about Nate Karns? I don't think Karns is as bad as Balester looks right now ... the guy should be given a one-way ticket to the low minors and not Syracuse to work on his problems.

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