Sunday, September 5, 2010

Game 137: Nats at Pirates

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jason Marquis looks to continue his upswing today at PNC Park.
PITTSBURGH — Rarely will you find a pitching matchup like we're getting today at PNC Park. In this corner, with a 1-7 record and 8.13 ERA: Jason Marquis! And in this corner, with a 1-10 record and 10.03 ERA: Charlie Morton!

How bad have these two right-handers been? Well, consider that Marquis has been golden compared to Morton, who according to STATS, Inc. is only the third major-league starter ever to carry a 10.00-plus ERA into September. The others: the Pirates' Steve Blass (10.40 ERA in 1973) and ... the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay (10.63 ERA in 2000). Blass' career ended soon after that disastrous season. Halladay's career, of course, took off.

Wilson Ramos gets his second start behind the plate for the Nationals today. Danny Espinosa, however, takes a seat after a couple of impressive performances the last two nights. Adam Dunn returns to the lineup after sitting out last night's game with a sore hamstring.

Check back for updates throughout the afternoon...

Where: PNC Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m.
TV: Ch. 50, MASN2
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 68 degrees, Wind 10 mph out to LF
CF Nyjer Morgan
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Roger Bernadina
RF Michael Morse
2B Adam Kennedy
C Wilson Ramos
P Jason Marquis

PIRATES (45-90)
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Jose Tabata
2B Neil Walker
1B Garrett Jones
3B Pedro Alvarez
RF Ryan Doumit
SS Ronny Cedeno
C Chris Snyder
P Charlie Morton

1:46 p.m. -- We are underway, albeit a few minutes late because of a ceremony here for Bill Mazeroski that ran over. The Pirates unveiled a statue of "Maz" today, one depicting his joyous romp around the bases after hitting the home run that won Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. They love their sports heroes in this town, and Mazeroski ranks right up there with Clemente, Bradshaw, Harris and Lemieux for many fans. Nice, touching ceremony from the Pirates.

1:52 p.m. -- And the Nats immediately take a 1-0 lead, thanks in large part to a great opening at-bat from Nyjer Morgan. After working the count full against Morton, Nyjer fouled off two pitches before finally singling through the left side of the infield on Morton's eighth pitch. He then took second base on an errant pickoff throw, took third on Ian Desmond's sac bunt and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's groundout to short. Jason Marquis now takes the mound owning a 1-0 lead.

2:01 p.m. -- Kind of a strange first inning for Marquis. He fired a fastball high and tight to Jose Tabata, hitting the Pirates No. 2 hitter squarely in the left hand. Tabata fell like a brick and remained on the ground for a couple of minutes before finally shaking it off and trotting down to first. But no harm done, because Michael Morse caught Neil Walker's sinking liner on the run and then fired back to first to double up Tabata and end the inning.

2:20 p.m. -- Couple more baserunners for the Pirates in the second via a single and an error on Marquis (he booted a comebacker from Ronny Cedeno). But the right-hander battled out of it and got Chris Snyder to line out to left to end the inning. Nats still lead 1-0 as we go to the third.

2:28 p.m. -- Nyjer giveth and Nyjer taketh. He just overslid second base on a steal attempt and was tagged out. Sure enough, Ian Desmond follows with a double that would have scored Morgan from either first or second. Instead, it's wasted.

2:37 p.m. -- Three scoreless for Marquis, though he's allowed three hits, has hit a batter and has committed an error. Somehow has managed to get outs when he's needed them. Nats still lead 1-0 after three.

3:29 p.m. -- We're now in the bottom of the fifth, and the Nats have taken a commanding 6-1 lead thanks to a five-run fourth that featured Adam Dunn's 34th homer of the season (and nearly his 35th). Dunn led off the inning and crushed a pitch from Morton (who has since departed) to left for a solo blast. He came back up to bat as the 10th man of the inning and sent a long fly ball to the warning track in center that was finally caught by Andrew McCutchen. No matter, the Nats already had plenty of offense at that point. The Pirates got one run back on Pedro Alvarez's solo homer, but otherwise Marquis has been solid.

3:45 p.m. -- As bad as the Nationals were in 2008 and 2009, I think this current Pirates team is significantly worse. This is just a wretched ballclub. They've now committed three errors in six innings (could be four, but Garrett Jones was spared by the official scorer after booting a sharp grounder. Their pitching staff is a joke. They've got some really nice young players in Alvarez, McCutchen, Walker and Tabata, but there's little else going on outside of those four. Just pathetic. Nats lead 8-1 in the bottom of the sixth.

3:57 p.m. -- That'll do it for Marquis, who churned out six more strong innings today, allowing just the one run on Alvarez's fourth-inning homer. Pretty dramatic turnaround for Marquis. In his first five starts this year, he posted a 14.33 ERA. Over his last four starts, his ERA is 2.25.

4:15 p.m. -- Speaking of guys playing well, Ian Desmond has just been on a tear at the plate for a prolonged stretch now. Over his last 37 games, Desmond is hitting .386 with a .410 on-base percentage, .553 slugging percentage and .963 OPS. Over that time, his season batting average has risen from .247 to .289. Earlier today, Jim Riggleman was saying Desmond deserves consideration for NL Rookie of the Year. There's obviously a really deep and talented pool of candidates this season, from Buster Posey to Jason Heyward to Jaime Garcia to Gaby Sanchez. Can't imagine Desmond's going to top those guys, but he certainly deserves some second-tier votes.

4:45 p.m. -- Ballgame over. Nats win 8-1. Marquis gets the win, improves to 2-7. Morton takes the loss, falls to 1-11. This is the Nats' 59th win of the season, matching their total from both 2008 and 2009. Should be safe to say they'll win at least one of their final 25 games and get to at least 60.


Anonymous said...

How did Morton get his one win?

Doc said...

Only in baseball would a player clicking on all cylinders like Espinosa have to take a seat on the bench. I'll bet Riggleman would have sat the Babe in 1927, to help him get over his frequent strikeouts.

JayB said...


Why....WHY....WHY!!!!!! does Kennedy need to play to this September of yet another lost season? Can you ask Riggleman to explain how this helps the franchise please?

Josh said...

JayB: Farewell tour.

Faraz Shaikh said...

His lone win came against Cubs 6IP 5H 2ER. He has some other 'good' games but all losses. I just hope Nationals don't make him look like Cy Young. I also wish they would put Espinosa in the game after 5 or 6 innings.

JayB said...

@josh....oh yea that's right....Kennedy has been such a key part of this franchise and all the good things that we have built this season.....Riggs is an old losing dead weight around this team and the sooner we dump him the sooner we can turn the corner and become a winning organization.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason why Morgan should be leading off.

JayB said...

In the real world that is true of course but in this Fantasy Island Natstown of Riggs and Rizzo...they think they are going to get his trade value up above a bag of balls.....just get over it and cut him....Milledge can not even start for Pirates.....they both were losers and Bucks are a better organization because they have admitted their error....Rizzo is still too stubborn to admit Morgan is a lost cause.

souldrummer said...

That's my only issue with this lineup. Morgan's not doing enough to warrant a leadoff spot if we're trying to win. If you want to give him some last desperate chance to have a big game going into the offseason, it's worth it I guess.

Can't say I have a problem with Espinosa sitting down. It is a team, and I do think that they will pick up Kennedy's option for next year. He has handled variable playing time with maturity, and he does offer quality at bats. If we can't get Espinosa, I'm glad to see Ramos.

Josh said...

I think people have a tendency to put too much blame on the manager for a team's failure (and give him too much credit when it succeeds). Do managers have an impact on a team's wins and losses? Most definitely. Do I personally think it's dumb to trot out Adam Kennedy, Nyjer Morgan, or even Pudge night after night when we have to find out how some of our best prospects may be able to do in the major leagues in a season during which we have no chance of winning? Hell yes. Do I think Riggleman's obsession with lefty/righty matchups and double switches is annoying? Absolutely. But ultimately, while those things may be bothersome, I doubt that these things have affected our record by more than two or three games (if that) either way. We can be pretty certain of this, because one of the things stat tracking has told us is that virtually every team finishes around .500 in one-run games (the ones where managing style might make an impact): the way you tell the good teams from the bad is how often they're on the receiving end of blowouts. The manager is a convenient culprit for the truth, which is that the Nats stink. Their starting pitching (outside Stras (injured) and Zim'n [who came back right when Stras left]) ranges from mediocre to godawful. Their lineup, outside of a few impact players (Zim, Hammer, Dunn) doesn't get on base; there are too many guaranteed outs and baserunning errors for it to be truly effective. Their defense is among the worst in the league, despite a gold-glove caliber third baseman at catcher. Their bench "depth" is pretty much nonexistent, and includes several sub-0 WAR players. The only bright spot for this team is the bullpen, and by the time the ball gets to them it's usually too late for the Nats to come back. The best way to create a winning attitude (and a winning record) is not to get a "winning manager" but to put a good team on the field that actually wins. Riggleman putting Kennedy on the field in a meaningless game in September doesn't change that, and whether Espinosa played in this game or not would have pretty much no effect on his upcoming ST evaluation.

Bill said...

Re Kennedy: he's at the end of a respectable career, and he's played hard for us this season. So, I think it's reasonable that Riggs give him a couple of starts a week in September. Espinosa should get the bulk of the playing time, however.

Re Morgan: he has not proven to be a satisfactory lead-off hitter, and we don't have a potent enough lineup to tolerate him in the 8 hole for his questionable defense (some awesome catches and some real bone-headed plays too). I'd give Maxwell a shot at seeing what he can do.

MJR said...

Maybe they're giving Morgan enough rope to see if he hangs himself...

Jake said...

I believe you play the hot hand and Espinosa should be out there. Obviously there is no scouting report against Morton so why sit him.

JaneB said...

SO glad that Marquis is becoming the Marquis we hired! Phew. I feel for Morton, though. And let me clear: I love that we are winning and that its a big margin.

Faraz Shaikh said...

I would've left Marquis for another inning or so. His pitch count is only 91 so why was he taken out. Our bullpen has been used a lot. I would prefer to give them rest any chance we get.

We do have a commanding lead. I hope we don't blow it.

Faraz Shaikh said...

For me, NL ROY is Buster Posey. The guy is playing the most demanding position in the game and has excelled at it. It is not just his hitting but catching skills as well that are worthy of recognition. If not him, I would vote for Garcia. Heyward has fallen off my list because he hurt his own chances by playing injured and all. Sanchez has done well too but Posey is the clear winner. To be honest, I can't find any room for Desmond in a top 5 rookies list.

Doc said...

Great job by Marquis! A real competitor.

A little concernded about Storen. All his pitches were up, and his velocity was not quite what it has been. Is he hurt?

Josh said...

Heyward should be ROY far and away. He has over 4 WAR, his OBP is sixth in the NL and defensive metrics say he's the best defensive RF in the league. And he's been doing it all year, Posey came up midway through. Desmond doesn't belong anywhere near a top five rookies list. Hell, I would put Strasburg's abbreviated season before his full one.

As for Marquis, this was a better outing than last time (though he still had some control issues and gave up some very hard-hit balls) but I am not buying him as anything other than a league-average innings eater next year.

Sec3MySofa said...

"they think they are going to get his trade value up above a bag of balls."
Jaybeee, not sure whether you're talking about Morgan or Kennedy, but what possible trade could you have in mind, here? Morgan is finishing a 1-year contract and has got to be about as untradable as you can get, and Kennedy has a 2011 team option for $2MM, $0.5MM buyout--which I wouldn't expect them to exercise just on the off chance they could trade him.
SO I'm confused.

Sec3MySofa said...

"one of the things stat tracking has told us is that virtually every team finishes around .500 in one-run games (the ones where managing style might make an impact)"
@Josh, OK, this has me a little baffled, too. If every team is near .500 in one-run games, and those are the ones the manager's skill is most likely to impactt, then there are no good managers, by that logic. And that is manifestly untrue.
I think managers must make a difference in other games, as well, like the games where a manager's moves might keep a game close, rather than letting them getting blown out.

Anonymous said...

Stats geek. Somebody is determined to have the last word on Marquis. Continuing improvement? Nah!! Helping the team? Nah!!

Josh said...

It's not that there are no good managers, it's that (IMO anyway) they don't have THAT much of an impact on a team's win total. Maybe two or three wins at most, which is around the maximum amount that most teams deviate from .500 in one-run games by the end of the season. That makes sense: if a better manager could really swing a team by ten or fifteen wins (i.e. turn a .500 team into a playoffs shoe-in) don't you think the best ones would be much better paid than they currently are? There is an argument in there that the manager has to affect more than just one-run games, but no matter what the manager does (other than intentionally walk someone) the likely outcome of any pitcher-batter battle is an out... and no manager fiddles enough with the basics (i.e. deliberately playing the worst possible lineup, which neither Riggleman nor any other manager who wants to keep his job has done for awhile) to make those odds seriously different. If you want further proof... look at Torre with the Dodgers. He was a great winner with the Yankees, how come the Dodgers are doing so badly? Lou Piniella? Look at what historically losing Dusty Baker's Reds are doing right now... the GM has a lot more to do with a team's success than the manager. Bobby Cox's Braves have won not because of Bobby Cox, but because they have an amazing farm system and had one of the best starting rotations of all time. Good teams win, bad teams don't. Managers, like every other member of the team, play only a small role in determining what happens.

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