Monday, September 20, 2010

Game 150: Astros at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats open their final homestand of the season tonight against the Astros.
Well, we've reached the final homestand of the season, and it's a long one: Ten games against the Astros, Braves and Phillies before the Nationals head up to New York to finish out the season at Citi Field.

On the surface, this four-game series against Houston might look like the easiest portion of the homestand. Dig deeper, though, and this is going to be anything but easy. The Astros have actually been one of the NL's best teams for nearly four months, going 55-43 since June 1. (I'm sure it's pure coincidence that run began with three straight wins over the Nats.) Houston has also won 19 of its last 27, putting together a strong finish.

Livan Hernandez starts tonight for the Nationals, looking to earn his 11th win and even up his record at .500. Right-hander Bud Norris (8-8, 4.95) starts for Houston, having never faced any Nats hitter before.

Danny Espinosa gets the start at shortstop tonight, with Adam Kennedy at second base and Ian Desmond on the bench.

Check back for updates throughout...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 74 degrees, Wind 9 mph in from LF
SS Danny Espinosa
2B Adam Kennedy
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
CF Roger Bernadina
RF Michael Morse
LF Willie Harris
C Wilson Ramos
P Livan Hernandez

ASTROS (72-77)
CF Jason Bourgeois
2B Jeff Keppinger
RF Hunter Pence
1B Carlos Lee
SS Geoff Blum
3B Chris Johnson
LF Brian Bogusevic
C Humberto Quintero
P Bud Norris

5:55 p.m. -- Meant to post this earlier, but I'm making a bold prediction: Tonight's game will set a new paid attendance low in Nationals history. The current record is 11,191, set April 21 against the Rockies. I'm predicting tonight's game draws less than that.

7:06 p.m. -- And we're underway with a strike from Livan Hernandez to Jason Bourgeois. As expected, the ballpark is empty.

7:09 p.m. -- Danny Espinosa is playing shortstop tonight, only because Ian Desmond is out of the lineup. Jim Riggleman said earlier today there is "no chance" Espinosa and Desmond would swap infield spots next year. So of course Espinosa fields three grounders cleanly in the top of the first, recording all three outs.

7:25 p.m. -- And the Nats take a 2-0 lead to a thundering roar from the crowd. Well, everything except the thundering roar part. With two on and one out, Adam Dunn ropes a double down the right-field line, scoring both Adam Kennedy and Ryan Zimmerman. Those fans who are actually here applauded. But there aren't nearly enough of them to create a sound that could accurately be described as "thundering."

7:38 p.m. -- Still 2-0 after two innings. Livo has retired all six batters he's faced, only one of them hitting the ball out of the infield. He also singled in the bottom of the second but was stranded at first after Michael Bourn made a diving catch of Kennedy's sinking liner to center.

7:48 p.m. -- The Astros are on the board thanks to a well-executed squeeze from Norris in the top of the third. Brian Bogusevic scores to cut the lead to 2-1.

8:02 p.m. -- Still 2-1 through four as both Livo and Norris settle in nicely.

8:30 p.m. -- Yeah, guess I spoke too soon. I went down to the stands for the fifth inning to take some photos. Basically had an entire section to myself, which was probably best since I might have been in danger of taking a tomato in the face that was intended for Livo after he gave up seven runs in the top of the fifth. Yeah, seven runs. Of course, only three of those runs were earned after three errors charged to Adam Dunn, Willie Harris and Roger Bernadina. U-G-L-Y. It's now 8-2 in the sixth, Craig Stammen has come on to pitch and the few fans here are quite restless.

8:45 p.m. -- Nothin' doin' from the Nats since that two-run first. In five innings since, they've produced two singles and a walk. Not exactly putting on a clinic in good, crisp, clean baseball here tonight. 8-2 Astros as we go to the seventh.

8:54 p.m. -- The moment you've all been waiting for: Tonight's paid attendance is ... 10,999. Congrats to those of you who were here to be a part of the smallest crowd in Nationals history.

9:02 p.m. -- Strange moment in the top of the seventh. Carlos Lee hit a little tapper to third, which Ryan Zimmerman charged in, fielded and then threw a bit wide of first. So Lee was safe. But Zimmerman and Riggleman immediately argued with plate umpire Brian Gorman, apparently that the ball hit Lee's bat twice. Replays appeared to show just that. Gorman would have none of it, though, so Blum remained safe, leaving the bases loaded with one out. Stammen made it all a moot point by getting Geoff Blum to foul out and then Johnson to strike out, ending the inning with the score still 8-2.

9:15 p.m. -- Chance for the Nats to get back in it in the bottom of the seventh. Bases loaded. Two outs. Adam Dunn at the plate. Astros manager Brad Mills pulls Norris in favor of lefty Tim Byrdak. ... And Dunn strikes out on three pitches. Inning over.

9:21 p.m. -- If you were wondering (and I know you were), Adam Dunn's OPS against left-handers this season is .738. For comparison's sake, Roger Bernadina's OPS against lefties is .845. (Dunn's OPS against right-handers, of course, is .965, among the best in the league.)

9:24 p.m. -- I should point out that Bernadina has only 49 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers this season.

9:28 p.m. -- You know, no matter what the Nats' record ends up being this year, Anderson Hernandez (who just pinch-hit for the Astros) won't be their starting second baseman next season. That's progress right there, folks.

9:36 p.m. -- And we go to the bottom of the ninth of this thriller. All the Nats need to do is hit a grand slam, then hit a three-run homer, to win this game. Apparently the few thousand who have stuck around til now believe this is an actual possibility.

9:46 p.m. -- This one is in the books, hopefully locked up and hidden away where no one can ever find it again. Final score: Astros 8, Nats 2. Fortunately, barely anyone was here to see it in person. At 62-88, the Nats now need to go 8-4 the rest of the way to get to 70 wins. They need to go 6-6 to get to 68 wins. They need to go 1-11 to avoid 100 losses. At this point, anything seems possible.


natsfan1a said...

¡¡¡¡Livo!!! to the rescue (crosses fingers...)

JayB said...


Have you been watching Kennedy....he is not running out ball, he is not running after lose balls in the OF...he is jogging after pop ups behind Dunn....WHY IS HE PLAYING...give the start to Alberto

swang said...


I understand that you like our young guns much better than any alternatives, but AG isn't better, I'm sorry to say. I didn't get a good impression of him last year, and this year, my impression of him is lower. He's a AAAA player, at best.

Anonymous said...

Both Gonzales and Kennedy will be back next year, JayB. Better get used to it.

JayB said...

Alberto cares....Kennedy has been dog'en it for weeks...why reward that behavior...go back and look at his last him jog after ZimmNN's back pick off while winning runs race around the bases....tell me why he is playing after you see that again.

DCGuy7 said...

Can anyone explain why Bernie is hitting 5th instead of Morse - again?

JayB said...

That us a good question....wonder is anyone is at the game who could help out with these fan observations/Questions?

JayB said...

I'm done after that last homestand...gave the rest of my tickets to charity....Mark are you there?

Richard said...

Bernie is hitting 5th b/c Riggleman loves the alternate right and left handers.

DCGuy7 said...

i'd love to see some analysis of whether that actually makes sense or not, vs things like OPS.

JayB said...

dunn is
lh and so is Roger

Richard said...

Yeah, but so is Willie H.

JayB said...

wish we could pool our cash and each pay $100 a couple times a year and pay to get these type of questions answered....oh wait....never mind....Kennedy is always working hard and runs everything out so there is no story there...I must be wrong about what I saw last Sunday as he jogged after a ball as Fish ran wild around the bases....

Anonymous said...

JayB, you know that when you give your tix to the literacy charity and then pick them up and go to the game yourself, that's illegal. Right?

Aussie Gus said...

JayB, you know you should start your own blog. Everyone really appreciates your insightful comments and pin point analysis. Maybe then you could get to the games and cover all the bases. I've got lots of questions I want answered too, so there is certainly a hole in the market. Maybe we could have a situation where every single question, from every single fan, at every single professional match around the world gets answered by their own personal blogger!

JayB said...

Or maybe we could get some insight from Mark on this disaster of a season and not just quotes from Riggs about how Ian D has made only 6 errors in 32 games so he is all good the fan response to that be of rocket science reporting.....

Anonymous8 said...

Hows about Livan getting off the mound and jogging to 1st. Man, this guys lazy loafing is getting old.

Anonymous8 said...

Willie Harris just blows. I can't stand watching these innings of laziness.

bgib said...

Yikes. Just decided that I'm not going to anymore games this year. They're just not watchable.

Anonymous8 said...

8:02 p.m. -- Still 2-1 through four as both Livo and Norris settle in nicely.
Maybe Norris........

JayB said...

Recall how Mark dutifully reported month after month just what Rizzo said about Flores and Wang making progress and how they would be in MLB games by September....and I said BS.....we need a voice who calls it like it is....not like Stan and Rizzo and Riggs want it to be....Next year we are looking at less than 5000 seats sold for games like this with less than 2000 in the park.....that is the story and that is what I expect hard questions to Nats FO and Ownership I alone?

Mark said...

Really unwatchable. Livan's own laziness to cover 1st set the tone. Livo looked like he was throwing BP.

Yah, reward this guy with a year extension.

JayB said...

You know what would be interesting Mark....interview Barry S. about what 2010 and 2011 should have been in his view....Ask him if he thinks a Season ticket base of under 5,000 and a in the ball park number of 3,0000 was what the fans were promised and the city when the build Lerner this city funded park? Ask Barry if he thinks this plan is acceptable. You and he were there from the start but I bet Barry will speak honestly about what has happened here.

Todd Boss said...

No way Kennedy is back; why would we pay $2M (the value of the club option) for a backup infielder? I'd rather pay Pete Orr the MLB min to provide that service.

Anonymous said...

Hey JayB, here's an idea: Why don't you start your own blog, raise $30,000 from your loyal readers and then "tell it like it is" as much as you want. As an added bonus, you'd disappear from this site, which can certainly function just fine without your presence.

Nats fan in NJ said...

Guys, chill. We are all quite frustrated with how this year has turned out and probably all expected more. And no, not every action has turned out well but it's hard to disagree that this team appears to be past the trough. Has the front office done everything possible? Have all the gambles worked out? No, but at least there is more hope today than 18 months ago. We all want it to be faster and the Lerners/FO still need to put more money where their mouth is. But we are in a better position today than at the beginning of the '09 season.

I don't think blaming Mark is valid. Barry was also good but had his times when we gave him grief for buying too much into Bowden's BS. I, for one, find Mark's reporting (as well as Adam at WaPo) to be pretty good and about as independent as possible considering they can't butcher these guys and still expect access.

Sec3MySofa said...

Jaybee, I've defended you here and elsewhere in the past, and I don't regret it, but I'm done. Yes, the team sucks. We noticed a long time ago. You don't like Riggleman's work--neither do I, frankly. But going after Mark?? No. You're out of control.
Sure, you have a right to--it's a blog, say what you like. But it's moronic. Please quit embarrassing yourself.

Golfersal said...

For Mark,
Hey on your 1st post tonight on the number of people at the game, I can attest to it. As a season ticket holder it's been tough since Strasberg left, nobody is buying tickets at any price. We have club house season tickets in section 208, first row some great tickets. But we haven't been able to come close to selling them, today was a all time low, since 7 in the morning the tickets for first row in clubhouse section with a value of $45 was offered for $19.99 and did not sell. Someone on another site said that he bought Presidents club seats that have a face value of $300 he paid at 3pm $40. Shows how bad things have gotten, people have given up on this club.

Golfersal said...

Yes another splendid night in Nat's town. At this rate the Nats are going to have to pay people to come to the games.
Sorry but sick of some of the comments that Ray Knight is making. Yes in the six inning Espinosa made a great catch but honestly for Knight to make a big deal about how it's OK for him not hitting and making great plays just doesn't cut it in my mind. Between him and Riggleman they remind of us when little johnny in little league either strikes out or misses a easy fly ball that we all have to tell little johnny, "Good try, no problems". Sorry in my mind this doesn't cut it in the major leagues.

In a way it was probably better that Dibble got fired when he did, I honestly don't think he would of made it through the season, he would of out of frustration say something bad.

Sbrent said...

JayB you are without doubt the most irritating thing about this otherwise very enjoyable blog. Why do you have to be such a hostile, negative ass constantly? Dude if you're so unhappy with the blog, by all means stop reading, and PLEASE stop commenting incessantly. The team is hard enough to take without having to take YOU along with it! Give it a freaking rest, man! Please!

CBinDC said...

All season NOTHING Has been said by the Lerners or Kasten about the FANS ......what do they think is the positive from this season ... and if they, like we, think this season has been WORSE NOT BETTER then last season.. ... then how do they plan to make it better next year and how do they plan to make it up to those of us who have had to suffer this season.....YES THEY OWE US

Anonymous8 said...

JayB said...
the city when they build Lerner this city funded park?
The city agreed to build the park as a condition of Washington getting a MLB franchise.

This was long before any ownership groups were identified. When you spin it the way you wrote it, it is as if you are saying DC built it specifically for Lerner. Not true.

CBinDC said...

I did want to add that this site is the best thing to come out of this year ...Great job Mark

Golfersal said...

Mark, you were spot on in your attendance figure. Bob Carpenter just announced that only 10,999 paid attendance for tonight.
So with a season ticket base of around 9,000 it sounds like they didn't sell many tickets for tonight.
Guess I better go to the game tomorrow, won't be able to give away the tickets, the folks on Stubhub will want me to pay someone to take the tickets off my hands

JayB said...

Agreed 8 you are are you enjoying how this season turned out....far cry from what Rizzo and Stan promised....time to stop "reporting" what they say and start telling it like it is.

Anonymous8 said...

JayB, StanK luckily stopped talking. That is great news.

Personaly, I have enjoyed this year more with the little dose of Strasburg and the run-up to May 14th.

Unfortunately, the weak bench and the sub-par defense bit them in the butt.

Tonight is the a lowlight reel of what we all hated about 2010. Lack of hustle and then the errors started.

I will happily be at the Park tomorrow and Wednesday and again over the weekend!

JayB said...

You are a better "fan" than I am 8.....impressive....oh and Mark is a big boy he can take some honest feed back from a customer.....he can do better than what he has provided over the past month.

Anonymous said...

It's been bad enough watching the Nats these last three seasons. Now we gotta read an impertinent complainer ruin this blog.

Sec3MySofa said...

Dude, it's not Mark who's complaining.

Anonymous said...

I was there. The most lifeless performance I have seen by a major league team in 45 years. It was sickening.

I knew the game was over when Dunn came up with the bases loaded. Has anyone COUNTED the number of baserunners he has left on base this year?

While they were in the process of lying down for the Astros, Our Baseball Team shucked and joked with their opponents. All of them. It was a picnic for the Nationals, who did not care who won the game.

This night was a pathetic joke played on the fans by the Nationals. They are all looking at their watch, counting down the stupid days till they can finally play golf and enjoy their money.

The joke was on us.

This is my last post of the season. I'm sick of it.

CapPeterson said...

Just came back from the game. Do I feel better about the team now than I did at this point in the 2009 season? No. The 2009 club got off to a horrendous start under Acta, the season was over by May, but under Riggleman and sparked by Morgan the Nats played entertaining, competitive baseball in June-Sep. This year has been the opposite: entertaining, competitive baseball through May, and then a steady deterioration leading to the death march we are witnessing now.
Look, we know the Nats can't measure up to the Phils in terms of payroll and talent. But the Astros? Not a lot of All-Stars in the lineup they fielded tonight. And, given that their farm system is even worse than ours, there's no reason why the rookies they're playing should be outperforming ours. Please, no more excuses over the next three games about how MLB ruined the Expos, what a bad hand Rigs has been dealt, etc. Let's play like major leaguers and take at least two of three from these guys on our home field.

Natman said...

Easy on Mark JayB. He is a reporter, not a windbag that you get on FoxNews or MSNBC who "tell it like it is." Seriously, he reports and doesn't editorialize too much and lets the comments section do that. I know you are frustrated for many reasons, mostly the fact that once again the Nats told us they were putting a competitive product on the field and did the opposite. But Mark has been good at writing articles here and there talking about the effort, the bullpen, the defense and lack of people. And he is asking questions of the FO and Manager. And BTW he is doing a lot of daily's and has been judicial in going out of town. All-in-all a good effort. And its sad you don't recognize his efforts this year.

JayB said...

Again, Mark is a big boy, he can take the feedback and needs it.....he knows how I feel about the talks....and his most recent effort above this post is long overdue but appreciated none the less.

natsfan1a said...

So, does the money of those of us who feel that Mark has been doing a fine job talk as well? Just curious. (And does it have eyes like on that weird Geico commercial? Hope not, 'cause that's really creepy.)

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