Saturday, April 2, 2011

Game 2: Braves at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
John Lannan faces Tommy Hanson today at Nationals Park.
Though Jim Riggleman insisted all spring Ivan Rodriguez would be his Opening Day catcher, the Nationals manager never said Pudge would be his everyday catcher. There has been an understanding all along that Wilson Ramos would be getting a significant number of at-bats, and eventually taking over as the team's No. 1 catcher.

So it's not really a surprise that Ramos is behind the plate today in only the season's second game. I don't think he's suddenly become the everyday guy himself, but if it wasn't clear already, it should be now: Ramos is at the very least splitting the job with Rodriguez.

John Lannan takes the mound for the Nationals, facing a Braves lineup that is unchanged from Opening Day. Right-hander Tommy Hanson starts for Atlanta. Plenty of updates to come...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m.
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Scattered storms, 48 degrees, Wind 10 mph LF to RF
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
LF Michael Morse
CF Rick Ankiel
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
P John Lannan

LF Martin Prado
CF Nate McLouth
3B Chipper Jones
C Brian McCann
2B Dan Uggla
RF Jason Heyward
SS Alex Gonzalez
1B Freddie Freeman
P Tommy Hanson
12:15 p.m. -- The catching situation was the main topic of discussion pregame, and Jim Riggleman said the plan is to have Rodriguez and Ramos split the job 50-50 for now, starting every other day. It's pretty much the same thing they did last September. Riggleman doesn't want to refer to either guy as the starter, but instead is saying the team has "two No. 1's" behind the plate. Pudge is handling this all very well, and he had some good things to say a few minutes ago. Check back soon for a full article on that.

12:19 p.m. -- One other pregame news item: Tom Gorzelanny will make his first start of the season next Saturday against the Mets. He was available out of the bullpen Thursday, and he'll be available again today in that role. At some point in the next few days, Gorzelanny will likely throw a simulated game, putting him in line for his first start of the year.

12:46 p.m. -- Here comes the rain. The tarp is on the field, fans have been instructed to head to the concourses and the start of the game will be delayed.

1:36 p.m. -- And after a short delay, we're underway with a strike from John Lannan to Martin Prado.

1:42 p.m. -- Nice first inning for Lannan. He allowed a two-out single to Chipper Jones, but that's all. Especially nice job striking out Nate McLouth on a 3-2 fastball. Thirteen pitches, eight strikes for Lannan.

1:52 p.m. -- I mentioned after Thursday's game that the key to whole Jayson Werth batting second experiment is whether Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse can drive him in. So far this season, they haven't been able to do that. Despite Werth hustling to turn a one-out single to left-center into a double, then moving to third on Ryan Zimmerman's flyball to right, the $126 million man wound up stranded when LaRoche tapped back to the mound. So LaRoche and Morse are now a combined 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position this season. Obviously, that's a minuscule sample size. But it's something to watch.

2:02 p.m. -- Danny Espinosa helps save the day. I think you'll be hearing that phrase a few times over the next several years. With runners on first and second and one out in the top of the second, Espinosa went to his left to make a diving stop of Freddie Freeman's hard grounder. You could tell Espinosa was immediately thinking double play, but he couldn't get to his feet quite fast enough and had to settle for the out at first. Still, it helped prevent the Braves from scoring, because Tommy Hanson followed with a weak grounder to second. So we're still scoreless heading to the bottom of the second.

2:14 p.m. -- Hey, what do you know: The Nationals have scored a run! They were the last team in baseball to do that. And all it took was a walk, a wild pickoff attempt, a weak grounder to the right side and a sac fly. Hey, they'll take whatever they can get. Actually, they almost got another one after Ramos singled, Lannan drew a walk and Desmond smoked a ball down the third-base line. Chipper Jones, though, made a nice play to snag the ball and then race to third just in time to beat a sliding Ramos (who runs pretty well for a catcher, by the way). So the Nats lead 1-0 as we go to the third.

2:24 p.m. -- So much for that lead. The Braves just got the run back in the top of the third when Nate McLouth barely got grazed by an inside fastball, then took second when Lannan's pitch in the dirt got away from Ramos. Chipper singled to center, and that made it 1-1. On the bright side, Espinosa made a fantastic, diving stop of Prado's line drive to his right. And Zimmerman made a nice play on Uggla's grounder to end the inning.

2:36 p.m. -- Look out, the Nats' lineup is on fire! Werth leads off the third with his second double of the day (making him 3-for-6 now in his Nats career). Zim was drilled in the left shoulder, once again bringing up LaRoche and Morse with runners in scoring position. Technically, neither got a hit. But each hit fly balls deep enough to right field to advance Werth, who ultimately scored on Morse's sac fly. Moments later, Rick Ankiel (who swung from his heels and missed a 3-0 fastball from Hanson) tagged Hanson's 3-1 offering over the right-center field scoreboard. Just like that, the Nats have taken a 4-1 lead.

2:51 p.m. -- And we've got our second delay of the game. This time, it's hailing. Pretty intense system rolling through. Hopefully it won't last long.

3:21 p.m. -- OK, the skies are clearing and the tarp is being removed. We should have baseball in the next 20-25 minutes. The question then is whether to keep Lannan in the game or remove him. For what it's worth, Tom Gorzelanny is available today out of the pen. Might make sense to get a couple of innings out of him if the Nats don't want to send Lannan back out after the delay.

3:28 p.m. -- Looks like Lannan will stay in the game. He's playing catch in right field right now.

3:35 p.m. -- The Braves, on the other hand, are going to pull Hanson and go with right-hander Cristhian Martinez instead.

3:45 p.m. -- And we're back. Martinez facing Werth after a 55-minute delay.

3:50 p.m. -- Missed opportunity there. After Werth reached on an error by Chipper Jones and Zimmerman walked, LaRoche came up with the bases loaded and two outs. He tapped a weak grounder to second to end the inning. LaRoche is now 0-for-3 today and 0-for-4 for the season with runners in scoring position.

4:02 p.m. -- Lannan retired the side in the fifth, but he's done for the day. Final line: 5 ip, 5 h, 1 r, 1 bb, 3 k, 68 pitches, 38 strikes. Wasn't especially sharp, but he got the job done and is in line for the line. Chad Gaudin now pitching.

4:05 p.m. -- And Gaudin joins the list of relievers who gave up a home run to the first batter they faced as a member of the Nationals. Dan Uggla crushed his first pitch to left. Sean Burnett had it happen to him a couple summers ago in Florida, and I know there were a couple others the last few years. Nats now lead only 4-2.

4:19 p.m. -- Well, that turned into an interesting inning. Gaudin was yanked after issuing a one-out walk to Gonzalez. Doug Slaten entered and immediately gave up a deep fly ball to right field that Werth completely lost sight of. Turned into a double. So now Riggleman pulled off his first double-switch of the season, which of course included Morse getting taken out of the game in favor of Laynce Nix. Enter Tyler Clippard, who fell behind in the count to pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad yet somehow struck him out on a 92 mph fastball right down the heart of the plate. Prado flied out to deep left, so somehow the Nats still lead 4-2 as we go to the bottom of the sixth.

4:35 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 21,941.

4:41 p.m. -- For the second straight day, Clippard gets the job done and prevents the Braves from rallying. He got out of the sixth, and he got out of the seventh, inducing a 4-6-3 double play from Chipper and then getting Uggla to fly out to end the inning. Still 4-2 at the seventh-inning stretch.

4:55 p.m. -- Wow, all kinds of strategy coming into play in the bottom of the seventh. With Zimmerman on third and one out, the pitcher's spot (previously held by Morse) came up. Riggleman sent up Jerry Hairston to face George Sherrill, who immediately issued an intentional walk. So now Ankiel (historically terrible against lefties) had to face Sherrill in a huge spot. But here's one way to get around that: Squeeze bunt! Dropped a perfect one in front of the plate, scoring Zim and making it 5-2 as we head to the eighth. And now Drew Storen will pitch this inning, meaning Sean Burnett is in position to be the closer today. Makes sense, because McLouth, Chipper and McCann are all likely to bat in the ninth for Atlanta.

5:04 p.m. -- Storen got Heyward to start the inning, but then served up a solo homer to Alex Gonzalez on an 0-1 slider. He bounced back to strike out Freeman on three pitches. But when Eric Hinske came up to pinch-hit, Riggleman decided to go to Burnett. Got the final out of the eighth on one pitch. He'll need to get three more in the ninth for the save.

5:20 p.m. --  The Nats get the run back, thanks to a bouncer from Zimmerman off Chipper's glove. Desmond raced around to score from second, putting the Nats up 6-3 as we go to the ninth. Burnett will face the top of the order: Prado, McLouth, Jones. If anyone gets on, McCann.

5:28 p.m. -- Ballgame. Nats win 6-3. Lannan gets the win. Burnett gets the save. Ankiel gets the credit for both homering and dropping that perfect squeeze bunt. And give an assist to Riggleman, who did a fair bit of managing today and pretty much made all the right moves in the end.


masnstinks said...

When I look at the Braves line up I am very afraid. I think that they are going to give the Fillies a tough time this season. It will be interesting to see if Ankiel can be a second lead-off, Espi moves him over, Ramos gets him in.

Anonymous said...

Whats up with the Nationals giving out opening day baseball caps with NO opening day 2011 on them?

JaneB said...

Anon at 11:04, I noticed the same thing Thursday. My bet is that they ordered a boatload and we will see those caps again. But it was nice -- SO NICE -- to see them on so many heads the other day!

Tim said...

I seem to recall that last season Lannan often woudl pitch to Nieves and in spring training there was a mention that he preffered to pitch to Ramos. Any beef between Pudge and Lannan?

meixler said...

Hi Everybody. I've been a long time follower of this blog but only an every-now-and-again poster. Today, I ask for your help in something that is only slightly baseball related. I, Matt Meixler, am a contestant in Brian Wilson's Beard Bracket ( and I would greatly appreciate your support. Yes, this is shameless self promotion and I completely understand if you hate me for it. I promise not to make a habit of it. I was just hoping some of you would be willing to help a fellow D.C. sports fan out.

Also: Go Nats! I think a curly W is in our not-too-distant future.

Anonymous said...

Isn't shamless self promotion what life is about?

meixler said...

I was hoping some of you would see things that way!

Les in NC said...

Does the catching situation carry over a prevailing thought from last year that Lannan just didn't want Pudge catching him (or visa-versa)? IIRC, Lannan and Pudge may have only been teamed up together once or twice.

Just wonderin'.

Les in NC said...

Espinosa is tremendous!!

Carl in 309 said...

And so is Ankiel!

Anonymous8 said...

I just saw Werth smile after Ankiel came into the dugout after that HR. So Werth does smile!

MicheleS said...

Finally! Some Offense! Espinosa is looking good as the ROY!

Anonymous said...

Now, we get to see if Rizzo's plan will work ... a small, but decent lead. Can the pitching and defense hold a lead against a top team like the Braves?

Mark'd said...

John Lannan with a Sac Bunt!

tmb said...

Game Official Bitches!!!

Sam said...

That's a fine start by Lannan. If not for the rain, he could have gone at least one more (although, we don't know what would have happened in the 5th). I'll take it.

JD said...

but if he pitched the 5th why did they take him out after only 68 pitches?

Wally said...

These pitching changes haven't .... uhmm.... gone so well.

Sam said...

Because Jim Riggleman manages like he is constantly on drugs.

Navy Nats Fan said...

They took him out because of the rain delay - he warmed up twice, and the first one (before the game) was extended because the start was also delayed by rain. So he did pitch the 5th, and by the way Gaudin, Slaten, and Clippard are stinking up the 6th, I bet Riggleman is wishing he had given Lannan the 6th too....

Wally said...

Attaboy, Clip

JD said...

3 pitching changes and one double switch later we are out of the inning; yeah Riggs is in mid season form and Navy Nats Fan; your point would be valid if they hadn't brought Lannan back after the delay but since they did and he was effective they probably should have stayed with him.

Wally said...

JD - I agree with you. To bring him back for just the 1 inning means that he was trying to give him the potential win only. That is risky health wise and unnecessary. His pitch count was very low for a normal start and he was effective. Either he can go longer, or bring out Gorzy.

Navy Nats Fan said...

JD - I think they just wanted to leave him in long enough to have a chance at getting the win and were planning to only leave him in for one inning. Of course, that was Lannan's only 1-2-3 inning all day. I agree - as well as he pitched the 5th I would have let him at least start the 6th.

Steve said...

The quota on "old-fashioned country hardball" has been reached and exceeded, F.P.

Navy Nats Fan said...

Steve - turn down the TV and listen to Charlie and Dave on 106.7 - reception is so much better this year than on 1500 last year, and the intelligence (baseball and otherwise) is much higher.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, we won't end up marooned on Giggleman's Double Switch Island this early in the season.

JD said...

Morse would be nice in this spot. Oh yeah; Riggleman double switched him out of the game.

MicheleS said...

Nice Bunt Squeeze! I am thinking that Nyjer would never have gotten that one done!

Mark'd said...


Steve said...

Thanks, Navy. I guess I've got a radio around here somewhere. Haven't listened to games on the radio since hearing the Braves crew in south Georgia in the early 1990s.

Anonymous said...

The Stairs/Nix situation is odd and seems to creates a hole on the bench. It would be nice to have another RH bat (that is not a catcher), fortunately Ankiel got the job done in this instance.

dj in Fl. said...

There is a reason Riggs is managing and none of us are. I bet not one of the arm chair managers saw that bunt coming. Great job Riggs!

He got Clip in to end the rally, and the defensive replacement needed at this juncture.
A solid double switch.

Gonats said...

Storen, be a STOPPER! Looks like BP sometimes with him.

JD said...

dj in FL

sometimes even stupid moves work.

Anonymous8 said...

dj - The squeeze worked well with the element of surprise and executed perfectly by Ankiel and Zim.

Not sure how Riggles can trust Storen in the closer role at this point in time, and thank goodness there was a 3 run lead when he gave up that HR.

Still upset that the Nats seem to still have all close calls by the umps going the way of the Braves. I thought that only happened because of Bobby Cox!

Steve said...

Happy farewell season, Chipper.

sjm308 said...

Amazing, we are up 5-3 in an excellent game and all you guys do is b#%ch about Riggs. I like that he has kept the bullpen responsible so far. If you screw up, you are coming out. Great shot of McCaty and Pudge talking to Storen after the 8th. Storen was pissed but guess what, you gave up a homerun and Riggs went with the lefty knowing Atl. had no one RH pinch hitters in the dugout. Really hoping Burnett will thrive in this role and handle these last 3 outs! Zimm!! up 6-3 how sweet it is.

Go Nats!!

Navy Nats Fan said...

I can't decide about Chipper Jones - I was pretty impressed with the way he has come back from knee surgery, but on that bouncer by Zimmerman he just suddenly looked old.

Steve said...

Chipper didn't look so hot on the earlier error in the other direction either, Navy. It's certainly early (and cold, which I'm sure doesn't help). But the clock is certainly ticking on him.

Anonymous said...

Tough start to the season with the bat for Desmond, nice to see he's finding ways to contribute through hustle.

Navy Nats Fan said...

I'll take that performance from the team for another 160 games, please!

Anonymous8 said...

Nice WIN and awesome defense! Desmond, Espi, and Burnett!!!!

FP did have a good one on Burnett's hot shot grounder by Prado, did Burnett get the ball or did the ball get him?

MicheleS said...

Sweet! The first win is in the books..

Mark'd said...

Good team defense!

sjm308 said...

Nice win and glad to see Mark agrees with me on Riggs. He made lots of moves today in a tense game and almost all of them worked.How about Desmond, 0-8 and yet he made several solid plays in the field and the play on the 9th inning on the 2nd base side was super. Has a relief pitcher ever won the gold glove? (Just kidding but man those were two fine plays.)

Loved the way this game was played today. We look like we can play with anyone this year.

Anonymous said...

161 - 1 is looking more realistic for NATS...


Mark'd said...

SJM, all you guys??? I think it is more like a few that clearly don't like him. Also, it is Ok to be an armchair QB as it doesn't mean you want the guy gone.

Cwj said...

Great and interesting game.
My take on the Bullpen through 2 games:

Burnett should be the full-time 9th inning closer. A gold glove potential as well :)

Clippard is shining in high leverage situations, and should stay in that role to work the 7th/8th innings when the game is on the line (perfect setup man).

Storen should be used cautiously in spot setup to get his confidence back.

N. Cognito said...

The inane blabbering in the TV booth is greatly suppresed this year - what a relief.

Anonymous8 said...

CWJ, totally agree with your thoughts on the 'pen.

Also, nice to say the words, The Nats are tied in the standings with the Braves!!!!

Ramos called a great game and hitting a cool .750 with those 3 doinks.

Mark'd said...

Having Nix in LF in crucial late innings is a downgrade from previous years.

Anonymous said...

I was at the game and don't know why Wilson Ramos was sent back to first after stealing second on a swinging strike three. Can someone explain?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 6:49 p.m.
re: Ramos sent back to first after stealing 2nd

I was watching on MASN and FP and Bobby Carpenter said that the catcher interefered with Laynce Nix's swing on the play (he wasn't allowed enough room for a follow-through) and it was automatically a dead ball play. Riggleman came out to argue - apparently saying that the catcher and the Braves shouldn't benefit from their own 'foul' as it were, but the ump was un-persuaded.

It was nice to see some (relative) speed from the Catcher position, though.

Mark in Arlington

SCNatsFan said...

was dissappointed how quick Gaudin got the hook; if you are going to have that little faith in the guy then release him and bring up Balestar.

At least you were all spared the ATL broadcast... homers at their worst. Not good plays by Burnett in the 9th, just hard hit balls that found the glove. Maybe that is true, but had a Brave done it they there would already be a statue out front of the stadium being constructed.

Good to get the first curly W in the books, now the first series win.

Joe Seamhead said...

They reversed the Chipper error call and ruled it a hit. It would have stayed an E-5 on anybody else.

Grandstander said...


I actually loved how Riggs handled the pitching changes there. As soon as it was evident someone couldn't get the job done, they were pulled. Accountability. Why let him stay up there and lose you the game?

I think Riggs actually managed this game pretty well, though I'd imagine if that suicide squeeze didn't work, I'd be singing a different tune. But a win will brighten anyone's hindsight on a game.

Back to .500!

A DC Wonk said...

A number of folks have suggested that since Lannan had pitched the 5th, he should have pitched the 6th since he only had 68 pitches (or, conversely, that putting him out for the 5th was "only" to get a win).

I disagree with both of that. First of all, putting him out in the fifth means one less inning for the bullpen. As for why he was taken out of the sixth, it's possible that although the pitch count was only 68, all the extra warming up is sort-of-equivalent to a number of extra pitches, which may have been close enough to his first-game of the season (particularly with the cold weather).

N. Cognito said...

The actual ruling by the umpire was that Nix interfered with the throw by the Atlanta catcher.

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