Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Game 114: Marlins at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Scott Olsen faces the Marlins tonight at Nationals Park.
Remember when Josh Willingham was putting together the best offensive numbers of his career and looking like a legitimate All-Star candidate? Yeah, not so much anymore.

Willingham is in a world-class slump right now. At the All-Star break, he was hitting .281 with 15 homers, 46 RBI, a .411 on-base percentage and a .913 OPS. In 22 games since then, he's batting a paltry .198 with a really paltry .281 on-base percentage and a really, really paltry .244 slugging percentage. He hasn't homered since July 2.

So "The Hammer," who also looked shaky in left field last night, is taking a seat on the bench tonight. He's replaced for this game by Willie Harris, who despite the overall wretched numbers, is batting .281 with a .410 on-base percentage since July 8.

Scott Olsen takes the mound for the Nationals, looking to beat his former team for the second time this season. He shut out the Marlins over six innings April 30 at Sun Life Stadium. Chris Volstad starts for Florida.

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: Mostly cloudy, 91 degrees, Wind 5 mph in from RF
CF Roger Bernadina
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Morse
2B Adam Kennedy
C Ivan Rodriguez
LF Willie Harris
P Scott Olsen

MARLINS (55-56)
SS Hanley Ramirez
LF Logan Morrison
1B Gaby Sanchez
2B Dan Uggla
CF Cody Ross
RF Mike Stanton
3B Donnie Murphy
C Ronny Paulino
P Chris Volstad

7:07 p.m. -- Scott Olsen starts off Hanley Ramirez with a fastball for strike one, getting this game underway. Really small gathering here.

7:24 p.m. -- Well that was about as ugly as a top of the first is going to get for the Nationals. (Actually, Jason Marquis might beg to differ.) The Marlins raked Olsen for four runs on five hits, including four straight roped grounders through the left side of the infield. Willie Harris didn't help matters by uncorking a throw to the plate that sailed over Pudge's leap (fortunately, Olsen was backing up and caught it on the fly). Olsen wound up facing nine batters before escaping the inning having thrown 32 pitches. Not the way he wanted to start this game against his former team.

7:38 p.m. -- The Nats did manage to get one run back in the bottom of the first, thanks to a leadoff walk and stolen base by Roger Bernadina, followed by a two-out RBI single from Ryan Zimmerman. Zim then stole second to put himself in scoring position, but Michael Morse grounded out to second to end the inning and leave the Nats trailing 4-1.

7:59 p.m. -- And Scott Olsen's night is over already. He faced 15 batters. Ten of them reached (eight hits, two walks, one intentional). His final line: 1 2/3 innings, 8 hits, 7 earned runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout. Combine that with his ragged start in Arizona last week, and over his last two outings, Olsen's ERA has skyrocketed from 3.67 to 5.11. Is his shoulder still a problem? Is he just ineffective? We'll see what he has to say after this one. Oh, the Marlins now lead 7-1.

8:17 p.m. -- The Marlins just made it 8-1 in the third after Ryan Zimmerman uncorked a terrible throw to first that allowed Logan Morrison to score from first (he was running on the pitch). Rather than get into a lot of play-by-play at this point, let's just start throwing some ridiculous stats out there. Like this one: Tonight marks Hanley Ramirez's 81st career game against the Nationals. His totals: .362 average, 24 homers, 63 RBI, .447 OBP, .705 slugging, 1.152 OPS. Yikes.

8:58 p.m. -- It's now 8-3 Marlins in the bottom of the fifth thanks to Adam Dunn's NL-leading 31st homer of the season, a monster shot to straightaway center field. For those keeping track, that was Dunn's seventh homer in 10 games since the (non) trade deadline. Perhaps he's a little more relaxed at the plate? (Or perhaps he realizes he's now playing for a major contract this winter?)

9:03 p.m. -- Michael Morse has now started the Nationals' last eight games ... during which time he's 4-for-28 with five strikeouts and three double plays. For comparison's sake, in his previous 11 games (six of them starts in platoon situations, five of them off the bench) Morse went 12-for-29 with three homers, 10 RBI and a 1.261 OPS. Perhaps this guy is best-suited as a part-time player.

9:20 p.m. -- Yeoman's work once again from Miss Iowa herself: Batista allowed just one run on two hits over 4 1/3 innings of long relief. Pretty impressive. Meanwhile, the Nats are trying to claw their way back into this game. It's now 8-4 after six thanks to Pudge's RBI single in the sixth. They had a chance to make it even closer, but Willie Harris lined right at first baseman Gaby Sanchez for an unassisted double play. Then after Josh Willingham came off the bench to rope a double to left (and immediately had Jason Marquis pinch-run for him), Bernadina sent a long drive to right that was caught at the warning track. So the Nats still trail by four heading to the seventh.

9:27 p.m. -- This Mike Stanton dude is pretty good. After launching a home run off Joel Peralta that ricocheted off the railing at the back of the left-field bleachers right down the line, he's now 4-for-4 with a homer, two doubles and four RBI. Not bad for a washed-up left-handed reliever who once balked in the winning run in his Nats debut. ... What's that? Oh, he's not THAT Mike Stanton? Sorry, my mistake. Marlins up 9-4.

9:33 p.m. -- Er, make it 9-5 after Desmond crushes his second homer of the night. First time he's homered twice in a game.

9:51 p.m. -- And Desmond commits his 27th error of the season. No one else in baseball entered today with more than 17. Yeah. But if you're worried about Desi setting some kind of new record, rest easy. The all-time record for errors in a single season: 122! Set by Herman Long and Billy Shindle, both in the 1890s. Tough official scoring back then, apparently.

10:03 p.m. -- Drew Storen coming on to pitch the top of the ninth on his 23rd birthday. Had a cool conversation with Drew earlier today. When I told him my birthday is tomorrow, he pointed out that August is a great month to have been born. He claims there are more big-leaguers born in August than any other month, attributable to the fact most Little Leagues' cutoff is August 1. Thus, all the kids born in August are older than everyone else in their league. Here's my question: If that's true, how does it explain me never making it to the majors? (I'm sure it has nothing to do with my lack of natural ability.)

10:15 p.m. -- And this ballgame has come to its merciful conclusion at last. Final score: Marlins 9, Nationals 5. Scott Olsen, who pitched about 27 hours ago, takes the loss and falls to 3-4.


JayB said...

Yea, that look at strike three last night sure earned Willie a Start.....When is this madness going to end Mark? Who is making the call on this endless waste of a roster spot?

Ernie said...

I should have known that for the one series that I chose to attend all 3 games Willie Harris looks to start 2 of 3. I have to find a way to look at this optimistically. Umm... At least Brian Bruney can't come in to relieve anymore?

I'm hoping that if I whine about this in advance he will prove me a fool and he hits for the cycle. Call it pre-emptive whining. You wouldn't let me down, would you WIllie Harris?

Anonymous said...

It seems unlikely that Harris will be back JayB. You saw how desperate Rizzo seemed to be in finally getting Guzman's roster spot back. Morgan might make a better utility guy than Harris. He can certainly field a lot better ...

NatsJack in Florida said...

At least he's batting 8th instead of 2nd or 6th.

I have one question. Why can't ANY of our organizational pitchers sacrifice bunt? The only 2 guys on our entire staff that can bunt are Livan and Olsen (maybe Marquis but he's never in the game long enough to bat)and they learned their wares in other organizations.

I've watched them work on it in Spring Training and they don't seem to practice it to the extent that makes them proficient. This is one of my many pet peeves.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Sorry, but as much as I do not like Willie Harris the player (I like him personally), he's three times the defensive outfielder that Morgan is.

JayB said...

Nats pitchers not being able to bunt goes back to Acta and 2007. Frank R. had them bunt and they could do it fine.....This goes to a constant question I have for Rizzo....what is the "Nationals Way" and why is our farm system so poorly trained in the Fundamentals....every year.

Bowdenball said...

Let's look at the bright side ... the Nats weren't going to the playoffs this year no matter what Willingham did in July, August and September, and his superslump could be saving the club millions in arbitration dollars. Dollars that can now be spent on a veteran free agent RF or CF, or someone new to man the middle infield, or a reliever to join Clippard and Storen in the late innings.

Anonymous said...

I agree with NatsJack on the relative defensive merits of Harris and Morgan. Morgan has more potential on range but he can come up with some goofy misplays, especially at or near the warning track.

One other outfield note from me. Bernadina has the range of Morgan and a great arm. But he is very erratic in hitting the cutoff man and a great arm isn't of much use if you can't put the ball where it needs to go.

Anonymous said...

I have the same questions about our farm system and teaching fundamentals as expressed by JayB

NatsJack in Florida said...

I agree, JayB. One only has to look at Desmond to understand either we don't teach solid baseball skills or he's not a very bright player.

My main hope is the adddition of Davey Johnson and the new scouting staff will put an emphasis on baseball instincts when assessing players whether for drafting purposes or trading, free agent types.

Our fundamentals have been lacking since Frank left but remember that he was playing guys who for the most part were veterans.

Anonymous said...

Harris looked lost in right field. His arm isn't the greatest in center (as with Morgan), finally his speed limits his range and UZR. This would not be the case with Morgan. Perhaps limiting his playing time would help his focus? Harris has made his share of goofy errors ... loved seeing him at third base.

Morgan appears to hit better from the left side. Steals bases and can create havoc for opposing pitchers if again, focuses, on his base running and keeps his head in the game. Harris DOES NOT have this ability.

Morgan is a keeper IMHO. Harris is not.

Anonymous said...

I have the same questions about our farm system and teaching fundamentals as expressed by JayB

Rome wasn't built in a day. Year 1 for Rizzo. Noting that Burgess remained in Potomac. Marerro in Harrisburg. Defense and solid baseball skills are being emphasized.

Yet, it is pretty sad when the organization has to rely on players like LIvan and his brother Orlando to emphasize these things and the hard work required to get good at it. Hopefully, Yunieski Maya will exhibit the same attitude in his play. And then there's Pudge.

You can't have enough good role models around ... especially talented guys like these ... still at some point the coaching has to come to the same level as the coaching that players like the Hernandez brothers received in Cuba.

C'mon people!?

NatsJack in Florida said...

With Morgan, we'll be bringing up the rear in the East for as long as he's here. Solidifying our defense up the middle with improved catching, short and 2b and definitely cf will be imperative if this club ever hopes to realize the benefits of the young arms coming up.

Solid pitching and defense is the key to playoff baseball and the defenders we're putting out there now do not measure up by any means.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is just fooling themselves.

Anonymous said...

definitely cf will be imperative if this club ever hopes to realize the benefits of the young arms coming up.

Well Crawford certainly won't help with this. Nor would Werth who will not be "Werth" what he be asking for. Better use that money to sign Dunn.

So, BJ Upton could be the next logical trade candidate. Has he has an off year? Yes, his WAR was over 4 just 2 years ago. But he is still 1.3-1.4 even with the hitting problems he has been having. And he does play a pretty decent CF. Be nice to have someone like Peter Bourjos to bring up and put in the line up as the Angels have ... and there is also Boomer Whiting and JMax.

Anonymous said...

Morgan can create havoc on the bases...sometimes against the opponents and sometimes against his own team. It is unbelievable how many times he has been picked off or thrown out.

When Morgan is "on", he impacts the game positively. But the problem with a half-baked player is that underdone side keeps turning up.

Anonymous said...

No surprise on Willingham. Last year was the same story, close to .300 during the first half and about .220 in the second half. In sum, he is a .260 hitter, with 20-25 home run power and a mediocre left fielder. Beyond that, he's 31 years old so it's probably downhill from here.

Doc said...

Me three, on the lack discipline in the Nats farm system. Desmond is the poster kid for that disgrace. I mean the kid was in the system, for what 6 years? Do you mean to tell me that no one could have helped to work on Desmond's fielding during that period of time???

What do guys like Foli and Johnson (both middle infielders by career)do when they're not BSing with whomever they're BSing with?

Pitchers not being able to lay down a bunt, yeah that's one of my pet peeves too!

Slidell said...

I've been told that the pitchers practice bunting nearly every day. I suspect it is with a coach lobbing it in about 40-50mph. Why not practice against someone throwing a little heat in their side session?

Anonymous said...

Great throw by Willie Harris to home plate. This is a team of Little Leaguers.

JayB said...

Willie Harris just cost us runs on a throw.......What can he do right Mark....Can he not work on throwing in BP? How much do you have to play to make a decent throw?

phil dunn said...

Scott Olsen made $250K in incentives for starting his 11th game of the season tonight, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Does this make you sick or does it make you really sick?

LoveDaNats said...

Scott "Marquis" Olsen?

BallstonNat said...

That throw by Harris sums up this team and is a reflection on the coaching staff. You have to hit the man you're throwing to, or the cut off man. How many times have the Nats handed over bases to teams by air-mailing throws.

Willie brings nothing to the table with the glove or the bat. Willingham has provided nothing with the bat recently, and very little with the glove. Is there any possibility of seeing JMax out in left, with Roger and Morse? His bat might not be there, but at least he has a glove and an arm. Our starting left-fielder tonight is missing a bat and an arm. But he is fantastic at watching pitches go by.

Knoxville Nat said...

Just curious to know, was Bowden still in the GM position when Willie got a two year contract?

Joe Seamhead said...

I think Willie should've been charged with an error on the throw, as Josh should've been charged with the one off his glove last night. Does anyone else think that "official" scoring has gotten way too lenient?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Knoxville Nat: Yes, Bowden was GM when Harris got his two-year, $3 million contract after the 2008 season.

hleeo3 said...

Yes, Bowden gave Willie Harris that contract. That was the year after Willie Harris was our best bench player. You typically don't give bench players more than a 1 year contract... for obvious reasons.

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

If I stop watching, will it hurt less?

Brian said...

Our bullpen will be FRIED after tonight. No worries though, because no one will be watching.

Anonymous said...

Bowden giving Harris $3 million wasn't as dumb as Rizzo giving Marquis $15 million.

Slidell said...

Z'mann's rehab schedule needs to be hustled up a bit. On 2nd thought; to what purpose?
Wonder what Scotty's explanation will be for tonight, beyond saying again that he was just plain awful??

LoveDaNats said...

Hey, the O's are winning. Maybe I'll switch over for a while.

Anonymous said...


Our hitters just need to do the job like the Marlin hitters. No excuse for this pathetic effort again.

The hitters cannot afford to go bad when the the pitching is bad, they must come through, and they haven't as a whole most of the season. .255 is a bad batting aver. RISP is .251

For the game Marlin's RISP is 5 for 9 Nats 1 for 4.

JayB said...

O's did what Nats should have done....get a real manager who will demand guys hit cut off men and focus.....If O's can win with that talent in that division Nats should be doing much better by now. Firing the whole coaching staff is a fair response to this season's under achievement.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 8:05
I am pretty sure Bowden would have offered Marquis 2 year for $25 million and resigned Guzman for another 2 years for $10 million.

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

Mark, it may be true about Michael Morse, but I still think Riggs had to try it to find out. Would've been nice if he'd kept hitting like that, but at least now we know. (or are starting to know--my jury isn't fully in yet)

Richard said...

On a brighter note (and we need one badly!), there's a nice article by Jeff Dewees on "" about Steve Lombardozi's dad, the former Major Leaguer with the same name, watching his son's first AA start today in Harrisburg. Steve Jr. was in his familiar-from-Potomac-Nats lead off spot. He got 2 hits and looked great in a Senators' win. (Lots of great stuff about the Senators on Pennlive.) The Senators re looking very good right now, unlike the mothership.

Anonymous said...

One gets the feeling its all exhibition games from now on. No game really matters, just play out the string for two months and get the thing over with.

Michael J. Hayde said...

JayB: For once I agree. All those wins over the last two weeks merely got Riggs up to his lifetime .440 average. Certainly McCatty ("Perfect mechanics? I don't know what those are") has to be shown the door. He's making Saint look brilliant.

Most, if not all, of the talent is here. We saw it in May before "Jeezus" ever got called up. You watch, though: they'll probably have another hot streak in late September and everyone will be back next Spring, and we'll get more of the same.

Sorry folks, I'm out of Kool-Aid. See you next season... maybe.

Doc said...

Uncle Jimmy being impressed with Willingham's playing with an injury all season doesn't impress me. You hear that a lot about Nats' players from Nats manager and coaches, e.g. Stammmen, Martin, Marquis, etc. Like there's some macho glory in running crippled in LF, while the opposition runs trickle in.

Better to find these things out early, and do something about it. Its old school dumbed-down nonsense to do otherwise.

Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases on a pinch HR--now that's real baseball drama. Willingham letting a fly ball go off his glove, or over his shoulder---all your doing is fooling the fans and helping to destroy a pitching effort.

Cwj said...

The Nats are on pace to win 72 games or so. I'd be curious to know what record some of the Nats "fans" above predicted this team would finish.

Mine was 72-90 :) (Seriously)

JayB said...

81 wins was required this season or they failed in their off season moves and/or way under achieved or as it turns out BOTH.

If Rizzo does not make major changes this off season he is a fool and he is not in my view.

I see changes in the coaching staff with Riggs being fired in May if they do not come out of April above .500

I see Morgan, Willingham both traded.

I see Harris,Kennedy, Neives, cut loose.

I see Steve McCatty fired along with Bull Pen, Bench and 1B coaches.

I see Maxwell, Lannan, Chico, Stammen, traded as parts of a larger deals.

I see a complete turn over of the Orr, Mench, Duncan types and those jobs at AAA being filled by our own home grown talent who have yet to show any real promise but will get the ABs one last year.

I think we will also see major turnover in the player development area. Coaches and teachers there have failed to produced.

Rizzo loves his job, it is all he ever wanted to do in life. He is very lucky to have it and if he fails here he will never get another chance. He knows baseball and what it this franchise should look like....and it is nothing like Natstown 2010.

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