Saturday, September 4, 2010

Game 136: Nats at Pirates

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan faces Paul Maholm in an all-lefty matchup tonight at PNC Park.
PITTSBURGH — Hello once again from beautiful PNC Park, which despite the wretchedness of its regular tenants continues to stand out as the best ballpark in the majors. (Full disclosure: I was born here and grew up a Pirates fan, so my opinion may be slightly biased, though just about every nonpartisan visitor to this park agrees it's tops in the sport.)

Fans in attendance tonight will witness a rarity: A Nats lineup without Adam Dunn. For only the sixth time in 136 games this season, Dunn is not starting. There's been only one game in which he didn't appear at all (May 18 at St. Louis when he had to return to D.C. for a personal matter) so the likelihood is that we'll still see him at some point off the bench. Still, Dunn's absence leaves a pretty major void in the Nats' lineup, which doesn't look nearly as intimidating with Michael Morse batting cleanup and Roger Bernadina hitting fifth.

John Lannan starts for the Nationals, looking to continue his second-half resurgence. In six outings since his return from the minors, the lefty is 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA, having allowed two earned runs or fewer five times. Here's a crazy stat: If Lannan gets the win tonight, he'll improve to 7-6 for the season, which would rank him behind only Livan Hernandez and Tyler Clippard (each with nine wins) on the Nats' pitching staff. Probably says more about everyone else who has pitched out of the rotation this year than anything.

Jim Riggleman, finishing up his two-game suspension, will once again be watching this one alongside Mike Rizzo in a press box suite. John McLaren will manage from the dugout again. Pat Listach begins to serve his two-game suspension tomorrow. Rick Eckstein is expected to coach third base in Listach's absence.

Check back for updates throughout the evening...

Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 63 degrees, Wind 13 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse
LF Roger Bernadina
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Danny Espinosa
RF Justin Maxwell
P John Lannan

PIRATES (45-89)
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Jose Tabata
2B Neil Walker
1B Garrett Jones
3B Pedro Alvarez
RF Lastings Milledge
SS Ronny Cedeno
C Chris Snyder
P Paul Maholm

6:20 p.m. -- Adam Dunn's benching tonight is because he's been battling a minor hamstring injury for about the last 10 days, according to Jim Riggleman. It's not considered serious, but with a lefty on the mound tonight for the Pirates anyway, it made sense to give Dunn a chance to rest.

6:22 p.m. -- You may have noticed Danny Espinosa back in the lineup for the second straight night. Get used to it. Riggleman said the rookie will probably start at least 15 to 20 of the Nats' final 37 games, perhaps more if he gives Ian Desmond a day or two off at shortstop. No formal word on the plan for Wilson Ramos, but I imagine he'll be behind the plate tomorrow night for the series finale.

6:24 p.m. -- And for those who haven't seen it yet on the homepage, a club source says Yunesky Maya will make his major-league debut Tuesday night against the Mets. Maya's addition pushes Scott Olsen to the bullpen for now. Read the full story on

7:05 p.m. -- Tonight's game is underway with a ball from Paul Maholm to Nyjer Morgan.

7:15 p.m. -- To all those who don't believe in the concept of lineup protection, witness the top of the first. With Adam Dunn out of the lineup tonight, Maholm just walked Ryan Zimmerman with two outs so he could face Michael Morse instead. Result: Strikeout. Inning over without your best hitter getting a chance to swing the bat.

7:20 p.m. -- Really nice first inning for John Lannan. He retired the side, got two groundballs and struck out Neil Walker with an 89 mph fastball to end the inning. Scoreless through one.

7:39 p.m. -- Strange bottom of the second, but it doesn't result into any runs. First, Lannan struck out both Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez. So a guy who averages 3.7 strikeouts per nine innings struck out three straight Pirates batters. Probably best that Lannan did, because the next two batters grounded to short, and Ian Desmond booted both balls for his 30th and 31st errors of the season. Chris Snyder then smoked a line drive, but right at Danny Espinosa for the third out.

7:55 p.m. -- Two more strikeouts for Lannan in the third, giving him five for the night. If you're wondering (and I know you are) Lannan's career high is ... 11! He did it April 17, 2008 at the Mets ... in only six innings of work. The Nats went on to lose, 3-2 in 14 innings, and I'm embarrassed to admit I have zero recollection of that game. I'm pretty sure I was there at Shea Stadium for it. You'd think it would ring a bell, but amazingly it doesn't.

8:05 p.m. -- Want to know why the Pirates are on pace to lose 108 games this year? You just saw it on Ivan Rodriguez's two-run single off the right-field wall. First, Lastings Milledge butchered the play (to no one's surprise). Then, Chris Snyder dropped a routine relay throw to the plate, allowing Michael Morse to score and Pudge to advance to second. Horrible baseball right there, but the Nats will take it. They lead 2-0.

8:17 p.m. -- Make it 5-0 thanks to an RBI single by Danny Espinosa (who has now driven in a run on every one of his four big-league hits), a sac fly by Justin Maxwell and an excuse-me single to left by Nyjer Morgan.

9:13 p.m. -- It's the top of the seventh now, the Nats holding an 8-1 lead thanks to a rare display of power from Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge, who in the fourth inning drove a hit off the right-field wall, sent one over the fence altogether in the fifth, only his third homer of the season. Lannan, meanwhile, continues to cruise. Aside from a solo homer by Andrew McCutchen in the fifth, the lefty has been fantastic.

9:34 p.m. -- The Nats now lead 9-1 after a Michael Morse RBI single in the top of the eighth. Lannan is done after seven superb innings. His final line: 7 ip, 5 h, 1 er, 1 bb 7 k. If the Nats hold on to this big lead, his updated totals since returning from Class AA will be 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA and a strong 29-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

10:02 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Nats win 9-2. Lannan improves to 7-6 overall, 5-1 since his return from the minors. Pudge's four RBI are his most in a game since June 15, 2007. Strong performance all around tonight.


Anonymous said...

Maybe its good Riggs is giving Rizzo and Kasten a preview of how weak the lineup looks with Dunn out of it. Dunn needs to be signed.

TimDz said...

Where in the burg' do you come from Mark? Most of my extended family is from Pittsburgh. Great City (just hate their hockey team)...

TimDz said...

Two left fielders...THAT'S a helluva shift...

Mark Zuckerman said...

TimDz: I was born in Mt. Lebanon, though we moved to Phoenix when I was only 2. But since my whole family was from Pittsburgh originally (and since Phoenix only had the Suns at the time) I just took after them and rooted for the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins (sorry, Caps fans).

joemktg said...

Mark: what is the real issue in not having Dunn signed by now?

During Boz's online chat earlier this week, he wrote: "One Nat decision maker, everytime I say "Dunn," responds by saying, "I'm going to get myself a T-shirt made that says, 'Choir,' because when you talk to me about extending him that's who you are preaching to."

It seems to me that the baseball people in the organization wanted Dunn signed, but the non-baseball people (read: ownership) are balking because of the price tag. So two things:
1) Is this assumption true?
2) Are the beat reporters fearful of reporting ownership's reluctance?

Souldrummer said...

Great to see Espinosa getting a second consecutive start at second base. I was hoping Ramos might get a start tonight since he'd caught a strong Lannan start during his last callup.

Why, why, why are we batting Morgan leadoff against a lefty again? He's been a knucklehead, he's not hitting and JMax needs starts, preferably in centerfield where he offers the most value.

The out machines Pudge Rodriguez and Nyjer Morgan hurt us big time last night, and I would have preferred not to see them tonight.

Anonymous said...


You are bang on; this is a head scratcher; why would you not play Ramos against the Pirates? Pudge is an absolute rally killer in the middle of the lineup with his .287 OBP and this after a hot April and May. If Ramos isn't the answer at catcher next year we are in big trouble; lets find out about him now.

HHover said...

Souldrummer and Anon -

I'd expect that Ramos will start tomorrow's day game, and thus don't really think it's that big a deal he's not starting tonight.

Anonymous said...


If he is taking over for Nieves as the backup (2 out of 7 games) it will only give him about 8 games this year; why not have him play 20 games?
what are we trying to find out about pudge?

We already know that he is a terrible hitter at this stage of his career (I am not dissing him he is a first ballot HOF'r).

Sec3MySofa said...

"what are we trying to find out about pudge?"

Whether he can get close enough to 3,000 hits to sign him again after next year.

souldrummer said...

It's not only about "finding out" about Ramos. Part of the deal is that you do want to respect the real humans who are part of this team. I'd like to see Pudge still get 4-5 starts a week and Ramos get 1-2 starts a week. I don't know how loyal you want to be to Wil Nieves during his farewell tour.

HHover said...

Don't get me wrong--I'd like to see Ramos more too.

But two points:

1. Riggs is loyal to his vets, to a fault, so I can't really see this as a surprise.

2. Whether it's 8 starts in Sept. or 20, neither is really enough to get that solid a read on Ramos. That's going to have wait til next year, one way or the other. If they're still just using Ramos as a back up catcher then, I'll join in the hollering.

Mark Zuckerman said...

joemktg said...
Mark: what is the real issue in not having Dunn signed by now?

Honestly, I think it's just a case of a difference of opinion between the club and the player on how much he's worth. Once Dunn wasn't traded at the July 31 deadline, I believed this would extend into the offseason. Dunn has every right to declare free agency and see what other kind of offers are out there. Then, it's up to him whether he feels another team has made a better offer than the Nats. I'm still of the belief he'll be back here in 2011. Eventually, the two sides will find some common ground.

Mark said...

Glad to hear MARK's opinion on Dunn. I think the Nats should offer him arbitration and I think Dunn will accept making it binding arbitration and forgoing Free Agency.

David Josephson of Phoenix said...

Great stadium photo, Mark, probably your best all season. Looks like a terrific place to watch a ballgame. Is Mrs. Z. along for the weekend? I'd love to see some more of her outstanding photography.

Sam said...

Morse hit the catcher when he didn't have the ball! Suspend him for 8 games!

dj in Fl. said...

So suddenly everyone thinks a hall of fame catcher is not good enough for the Nats. You should all hope you do not have an off day at work and your boss sends you off to the home.
Keep it up Pudge, 3,000 hits keeps getting closer.

Sam said...

He's definitely good enough to be a coach. At this point, though, he's just not a good hitter anymore. A few, sparingly hit home runs do not change that. He should be a backup catcher at this point in his career.

Golfersal said...

Hopefully with Riggelman and Rizzo sitting together tonight and watching, Rizzo will hit Riggs over the head and tell him,
"Hey dummy, what in the hell are we letting Nyjer still bat leadoff, he is 0 for 6 in this series and having a tough time break .250."
Then Riggs can hit Rizzo over the end and tell him,
"Hey stupid, why don't you just get rid of him."

Guess it's worth dreaming

Sam said...

Sounds like a Monty Python sketch...except he has two hits tonight, so Riggleman will think he is turning some kind of corner or something...

Michael J. Hayde said...

"Maybe its good Riggs is giving Rizzo and Kasten a preview of how weak the lineup looks with Dunn out of it. Dunn needs to be signed."

@raymitten: Yeah, but they're playing the Pirates! You can see how well that plan's working out!

CBinDC said...

So is this the right room for an argument ? :)

Sam said...

No, no, this is the abuse room.

Rob Dibble's Ghost said...

How about that...pretty much everyone chipped in tonight, except JMax. The best he did was make a long out (Bob Carpenter: "It's into the's caught in front of the bullpen!")that happened to be a sac fly. Otherwise, his Ks and GIDPs did nothing to contribute, which is typical for him. Sorry, but he's just not going to ever hit major league pitching at this rate and I'm sick of watching him try. It's the same story every night.

Sec3MySofa said...

"So is this the right room for an argument?"

I told you once already.

Sec5myBabylon said...

Sam said...
"Sounds like a Monty Python sketch..."
more like Rebo and Zutti.

N. Cognito said...

9-2! What happened?
I thought the game was called after the 6th since the Nats had a 7 run lead.

That was unprofessional of both the Nats and Pirates to score a run in the 8th.

Richard said...

Hey, why didn't any of the early "Rodriguez is a fossil and shouldn't play" people chime back in to say they're dumb as hell and don't really know what the hell they're talking about? Bad form!

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