Thursday, September 23, 2010

Game 153: Astros at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ross Detwiler gets a chance to start today at Nationals Park.
Updated with Zimmerman scratched from lineup

When Adam Dunn got hit with a pitch right above his right elbow last night, he described the feeling as "the worst pain I've ever had in baseball." Dunn, though, expressed confidence he'd be back in the Nationals' lineup for today's series finale against the Astros.

Well, Dunn's not in today's lineup. Adam Kennedy will start at first base and bat second. Ian Desmond takes over the third spot, ahead of Ryan Zimmerman and Roger Bernadina. We'll find out what his status is and whether this is anything serious or just a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, Ross Detwiler makes his fourth start of the season and first since August 5, after which he was placed back on the DL with a recurrence of pain in his surgically repaired right hip. Detwiler returned healthy at the start of September, but his rotation spot was gone, so he's made three bullpen appearances in the interim, tossing six scoreless innings in the process. If the former first-round draft pick is going to thrust himself back into the mix for a starting job next spring, today might be his last chance to make a case.

Journeyman Nelson Figueroa starts for Houston. Why does his name sound familiar? Because he's the former Mets pitcher who in 2008 referred to Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge as "softball girls" after those two started up some encouraging chants from the dugout at Shea Stadium. I wonder if word will circulate to Figueroa that Livan Hernandez, Miguel Batista and Joel Peralta were taking hacks at neon yellow softballs with metal bats this afternoon.

Check back for updates throughout...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:35 p.m.
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Partly cloudy, 89 degrees, Wind 8 mph out to CF
2B Danny Espinosa
1B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond
RF Michael Morse

LF Roger Bernadina
C Wilson Ramos
CF Justin Maxwell
3B Alberto Gonzalez
P Ross Detwiler

ASTROS (73-79)
CF Jason Bourgeois
2B Jeff Keppinger
RF Hunter Pence
1B Carlos Lee
LF Jason Michaels
3B Chris Johnson
SS Angel Sanchez
C Humberto Quintero
P Nelson Figueroa

3:40 p.m. -- Nats lineup change: Ryan Zimmerman has been scratched with a strained ribcage muscle. His status is day-to-day. So that leaves the Nats without both Zimmerman and Dunn, who is out today not because of the elbow but because of a lingering hamstring issue, according to Jim Riggleman.

4:37 p.m. -- Ross Detwiler starts off Jason Bourgeois with a strike, and this game is underway. Apologies in advance for the likely lack of as many game updates as usual while I work on the Kasten story.

4:45 p.m. -- Rough start for Detwiler, who allowed a leadoff single to Bourgeois, then a stolen base, then an RBI double to deep center to Jeff Keppinger. But he avoided further damage, so it's 1-0 Astros as we head to the bottom of the first.

5:01 p.m. -- Michael Morse clubs his 13th homer of the season, a solo shot to right, to tie the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second.

5:11 p.m. -- Holy cow, what a play by Ian Desmond to snag Bourgeois' line drive in the hole and then fire back across his body to double up Figueroa at first base.

5:45 p.m. -- 2-1 Astros now in the fifth after they scored an unearned run. Desmond went way to his left to get to a Pence grounder, then tried to make a difficult backhand flip to Espinosa for the force out at second base. The throw, though, was high and pulled Espinosa off the bag, allowing the go-ahead run to score on what was charged as an error to Desmond.

6:00 p.m. -- The official scorer has changed the call on that play to an infield single. So no error on Desmond, but an added earned run for Detwiler, whose day is done. His final line: 6 ip, 7 h, 2 er, 2 bb, 0 k, 1 hbp. He threw 79 pitches, 45 strikes. All in all, pretty good for a guy who hadn't been stretched out in more than a month.

6:05 p.m. -- Michael Morse to the rescue again. Two-run, two-out double to left scores Espinosa and Desmond and gives the Nats a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Pressed into cleanup duties with both Zimmerman and Dunn sidelined, Morse has now driven in all three runs today.

6:08 p.m. -- Make it 5-2 after Roger Bernadina crushes a two-run, opposite-field homer into the visitors bullpen. Who needs Zim-Dunn-Willingham when you've got a 3-4-5 of Desmond-Morse-Bernadina? It should also be noted that Detwiler is now in line to earn only his second career win.

6:13 p.m. -- Your update from the first day of the Florida instructional league in Viera: Bryce Harper went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in his professional debut. On the bright side, Jesus Flores homered.

6:18 p.m. --  The Nats aren't even missing Zimmerman in the field. Alberto Gonzalez just made a Zim-esque play, diving far to his right to snag Carlos Lee's hot shot, then hopping to his feet and throwing a strike to first to end the top of the seventh with the 5-2 lead intact.

6:27 p.m. --  Today's paid attendance: 14,633, easily the largest crowd of the series. Still, this entire, four-game series drew 49,738. That's only about 4,000 more than the Phillies drew for last night's game alone.

6:29 p.m. --  Danny Espinosa goes deep again. Two-run shot to left off Gustavo Chacin. So the rookie now has six homers in 20 career games.

6:33 p.m. -- Show of hands: How many of you predicted that without Zimmerman or Dunn in the lineup, the Nats would score seven runs today? Liars.

6:35 p.m. -- So it's 7-2 heading to the eighth, and Drew Storen is on from the bullpen. Hmm, not exactly closer duties here.

6:42 p.m. -- 1-2-3 eighth for Storen. Nice bounce back from his previous two appearances.

6:56 p.m. -- We go to the ninth, and coming on to close this one (albeit with a five-run lead) is none other than ... Collin Balester.

7:06 p.m. -- So much for the Astros as the hottest team in baseball. The Nats just took three of four against them, capped by today's 7-2 victory. Detwiler gets his second career win in the process. And don't look now, but the Nats will be shooting for their first four-game winning streak of the season tomorrow against the Braves. At 65-88, they need to finish 5-4 to get to 70 wins.

7:45 p.m. --  Because of the Stan Kasten news (and an analysis piece I'm currently working on) I'm not doing a traditional postgame story tonight. But here's some of the best material gathered from the clubhouse following this victory...

On winning without Zimmerman or Dunn in lineup today: "You know, we've been on the other side of that sometimes. We've run into other clubs who didn't have a couple middle-of-the-order guys, and they beat us. It's very uplifting to the other club when that happens, I'm sure. And it's somewhat uplifting for us. I think today the story of the game was defense. We really played good defense. Every infielder was involved in a really good play."

On Detwiler allowing two runs over six innings in his first start since early August: "Physically, he was fine. He could have gone a couple more [innings]. But he's still building his arm strength. He's been shut down for a little while now and been in the bullpen. I think he was pitching today. He wasn't trying to blow the ball by anybody. He changed speeds good. He got groundballs when he needed to. And we made the plays for him."

On the Nats' infield defense: "With defense like that, it just takes so much pressure off me. I can go out there, induce contact and know that there's going to be an out made."

On having to pitch more than throw today: "I know I'm not throwing as hard right now as I will be in the future. I don't have everything in there, because I haven't had a full season. Really, moving the ball in and out was huge for me today. Ramos did such a great job with that today, throwing the changeup. I think that was my most important pitch today."

On winning without Zimmerman and Dunn: "Days like this, we take advantage. Let those guys rest. Those guys have played every day. They're our workhorses. Zim, I mean, he's like Cal Ripken out there. You can't get him out of the game. It was good to get them rest and get the win."

On adjusting to pitchers' adjustments since becoming everyday right fielder: "It's a totally different game when you're playing every day. You're getting a lot of at-bats. They're learning how to pitch to you. You can make little adjustments during the game. But at the same time, you don't want to change your approach and feed into what they're doing to you. I'm learning to deal with that right now."

On when and how he strained his ribcage muscle: "Playing 150-something games. I can't tell you one time or anything. [It's bothered me] for a few days. But it's to the point now where I'll give it a couple days of rest."

On teammates winning without him or Dunn: "That's what we expect. That's what they expect from themselves, I'm sure, too. We have a young team that has some very good players on it. I think today showed what kind of depth we have and what kind of team we can have moving forward."


natsfan1a said...

I had a feeling about Dunn's plunking.

Verrry interresting about the softball bp. I'm sure it's just a coincidence. (wink wink, nudge nudge) Wonder whether the bats and balls may have been courtesy of the Long Haul Bombers. I think their tour had a DC stop again this summer. I saw them before a Nats game (last year, I think?) and they put on quite a show. Guze got a (signed) bat or two from them, if memory serves.

joemktg said...

RT @SI_JonHeyman: stan kasten resigned from the #nats today.

natsfan1a said...

Say, weren't Figueroa and Livo teammates in New York? hmmmm... Well played, Livo. ;-)

Steve M. said...

Wow, first Boswell's article in the Post today and now this from SI and Jon Heyman:

Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten resigned Thursday, according to sources. There was no immediate reason given for his resignation. He will remain through the end of the season.

Kasten, 58, had been the Nationals' president since 2006 and prior to that he was president of the Atlanta Braves. Kasten was one of the key architects of the Braves' run of success that resulted in 14 consecutive division titles and the 1995 World Series championship.

Read more:

Anonymous said...

O/U on attendance today... 10,500.

natsfan1a said...

What would be the point of resigning with only 10 games to go, unless he'd gotten an offer somewhere else and needed to commit now. And why break the story with a national rather than a local outlet?

Steve M. said...

natsfan1a - He gave his 2 weeks notice like any good employee (lol).

HHover said...

Bernadina bats 5th, huh? Classic autopilot managing by Riggs--a RHP is starting, so he moves the slumping lefty up and moves down the righty Morse.

Never mind that Morse's BA is 100 pts better over the last 10 games than Roger, with 2 HRs, and 40 pts better on the season vs. righties.


As for Kasten - I've never had very strong feelings about him one way or the other, but I can't say he's improved my opinion of him by the manner of his exit: the team fails on its expected show of improvement this year, and so he runs for the door before the bus stops moving, with a "nyah-nyah, it's not my fault" yelled over his shoulder.

The answer to your question, natsfan1a, is that this announcement is that he's doing damage control on his reputation in the business.

Steve M. said...

They should hire Frank Robinson as team President since Kasten will be gone.

I see Kasten leaving as good news/bad news. Just hope they don't hire another brown-noser in a key position (Kasten wasn't). They don't need someone that will tell the Lerners what they want to hear, they need to hire someone who will tell Lerner what they need to hear!

N. Cognito said...

Steve M. said...
"They should hire Frank Robinson as team President since Kasten will be gone."

Can you remind us all which nights you are performing at the Comedy Club. :)

Doc said...

Riggleman's shuffling of the BA, makes even less sense with Dunn out. His take on R/L hitters, vs. R/L pitchers has even less merit with with Morse and Bernie being the shufflees.

Guess Riggleman prefers his own baseball delusions to actual stats. That's the kind of attitude that gets a mediocre manager fired.

Anonymous said...

Figueroa never referred to Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge as "softball girls." He said their cheering was like girls at a softball game. Check the video.

Tcostant said...

No Dunn or Zimmerman, I'm glad I stayed at work rather than heading to D.C. for that.

JayB said...


Are the Nats worried about Ross D. Fastball...he has lost at least 4-5 MPH since being drafted and pitching 3 outs that first year. FX numbers from last year at this time have him topping out at 94 MPH...this year he is at 90 and rarely a 91 or so.....what are they saying about this....

Anonymous said...

Wonder where Natsjack is with our Florida Instructional League (plus Harper) update?

Anonymous said...

HAH!! I just love it ... Rizzo again contradicts Giggleman. "I like competition, I like guys fighting over things. Nothing is set in stone."

Giggleman: "no chance Espinosa competes for shortstop"

And the FO wants the Nats to return to Giggleman's Island? Isn't it time to switch the channel?

Anonymous said...

Great news! Lexus seats are dropping $50 next year (season ticket holders). Red Carpet Rewards continued, and more.

Dryw Loves the Nats said...

Michael Morse!!!

dj in Fl. said...

Sure as heck looks like Riggs knew exactly what he was doing with todays lineup.

LoveDaNats said...

These boys are on fire! Fun to watch.

Faraz Shaikh said...

September truly is like no other month when it comes to baseball. I would say better than October, especially for us Nats fans.

Doc said...

The code to decipher for the Nats in 2011 is Morse!!!!

Michael J. Hayde said...

"Drew Storen is on from the bullpen. Hmm, not exactly closer duties here."

I like how Riggs compared this situation to that of Wetteland and Rivera. Exactly right: in the absence of Capps, you go with the guy who has more MLB mileage.

How many sports writers/columnists thought "Not exactly closer duties here" every time Rivera relieved in the 8th inning during his debut year? Liars.

Doc said...

Any votes for Ballystar for closer next year??
Just wondering.

natsfan1a said...

Gotta say I was cheering like a softball girl watching that one on tv. Good pitching, good defense, and some timely hitting. Niiiice...

Anonymous8 said...

These last 3 wins are big as the Nats are back over .500 at home at 38-37

Michael J. Hayde said...

"Any votes for Ballystar for closer next year??"

Based on this game, no. Last thing we need is another high-wire act. ("Paging Mr. Chad Cordero, your trademark lawyer is on line one.")

No doubt the job will be Storen's one day, but as Riggs said, it doesn't have to be next week or even next year.

natsfan1a said...

Yeah, I'd be inclined to vote "no," too.

Anonymous said...

The defense was sparkling today! Fun game to watch and an unexpected win with zim and dunn out of the line-up.

Anonymous said...

At this point, the closer role is Burnett's to lose.

Anonymous said...

Storen will close next year. Its okay to have a lefty-righty closer combo. Used to be the thing many managers tried to have back-in-the day. Burnett and Storen are both young enough to make that work.

Bally and Bisensius? Either they are trade bait or they make someone else "trade bait" by outperforming them.

The Nationals clearly need more assets to get to .500 and above.

Golfersal said...

When I sat in my seat in section 208, everyone was talking about the lineup and using the words, Triple A to show how bad it was.
But it's funny things clicked, I really feel that maybe, just maybe Rizzo could be correct on Dunn. He isn't that great and never does anything clutch wise.
I feel that Morse can replace Dunn at first, give us better fielding and better all around hitting. Yes he will have 25 less homeruns but will give us something that Dunn hasn't given, consistency

I am really surprised that it took the Nationals so long to realize his worth. He has been great all year.

Unknown said...

I am really grateful for today's win but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Our infield defense can be pretty solid, just like today if Espinosa maintains his range, Desmond cuts down on his errors, and Ryan keeps doing what he does best. Since Danny's addition I am not as much worried about infield defense as outfield. Morse has played some good baseball all season long. Nice clutch hitting lately, good show of power, and everything. But with him and Hammer as part of our OF, I would be worried about our defense on daily basis. Another issue would be speed on base paths. Only Bernie is capable of providing us with 30+ steals. I don't think Morse is fast enough to be a threat and neither Hammer.

Don't get me wrong. The matches like today's make me wish also that we would see a completely 'home grown' (not really, Bernie was FA, and Hammer and Morse came via trade) OF that can produce everyday at the big level. But...

JaneB said...

I was on a plane when this game was played but in had almost as much fun reading these posts about it as I might have had in the stands. Hurrah for these guys producing the way they did. I had seen Dunn was out...but if I'd known Zim was out too, I'd have said it was the astros game. So glad I was wrong, I laughed out loud at the " show of hands...". Also at the idea that the Lerners would or should bring in Frank as president. Which made N. Cognito's remark even funnier.
I'm so g,ad Morse is doing so well, and that Danny has turned a corner.
Go Nats! Now I just have to decide if I hate the phillies fans enough to want the braves to win. I'm torn. I

natsfan1a said...

JaneB, I was doing some similar soul-searching last night. I despise the Phillies Phiefdom more, but then there's that whole tomahawk-chop thing.


Now I just have to decide if I hate the phillies fans enough to want the braves to win. I'm torn.

Anonymous said...

"Today's paid attendance: 14,633, easily the largest crowd of the series. Still, this entire, four-game series drew 49,738. That's only about 4,000 more than the Phillies drew for last night's game alone."

One word: SAD, the fan base here stinks!

N. Cognito said...

Anonymous said...
"Today's paid attendance: 14,633, easily the largest crowd of the series. Still, this entire, four-game series drew 49,738. That's only about 4,000 more than the Phillies drew for last night's game alone."

"One word: SAD, the fan base here stinks!"

What do you think the Phillies would draw with the same record we have? You must be another Philly moron or just an angry little person.

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