Sunday, April 3, 2011

Game 3: Braves at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jordan Zimmermann face Tim Hudson in the rubber match of this series.
Few pitchers in baseball have owned the Nationals over the years like Tim Hudson, who enters today's game with a 10-2 record and 1.91 ERA in 18 career starts against this franchise. There's something about the way the Braves' veteran right-hander mixes up his pitches that has always fooled members of the Nationals lineup.

Ah, but that was before Jayson Werth, Rick Ankiel, Laynce Nix and Matt Stairs joined the club. Check out those newcomers' lifetime numbers against Hudson: Werth (7-for-20, HR, 6 RBI), Ankiel (3-for-6, RBI), Nix (6-for-14, 2B, RBI), Stairs (5-for-6, 2 2B). Perhaps the tide is about to turn in this previously lopsided match-up.

Jordan Zimmermann makes his season debut for the Nationals, coming off a fantastic spring in which he was scored upon in only four of his six Grapefruit League starts. Scouts and opposing teams raved about the right-hander's stuff this spring. Now we'll see if it translates into the regular season.

It's a gorgeous (if a bit chilly) day on South Capitol Street. Updates to come all afternoon, so check back often...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN, Ch. 50
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM)
Weather: Mostly sunny, 55 degrees, Wind 11 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 Ivan Rodriguez
P Jordan Zimmermann

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 Tim Hudson
1:36 p.m. -- Jordan Zimmermann fires a 92 mph fastball past Martin Prado for strike one, and we are underway on a sunny, 53-degree afternoon in the nation's capital.

1:45 p.m. -- The first signs of shaky defense this season help give the Braves an early 1-0 lead. Danny Espinosa had trouble handling two grounders in the top of the first. The first, on a hard-hit ball by Prado, turned into an infield single. The second should have produced a simple 4-6-3 double play. But Espinosa booted it and could only get the out at first. That extended the inning and allowed Brian McCann to bloop an RBI single to left-center. Zimmermann gets charged with the run, but it wasn't entirely his fault.

1:58 p.m. -- Wow, lots happening there in the bottom of the first. Ian Desmond struck out, falling to 0-for-10 with three K's to begin his season. Jayson Werth, though, drew a walk (he's now reached base in six of his first 10 plate appearances). A wild pitch moved Werth to second, bringing Adam LaRoche to the plate for his sixth consecutive at-bat with a runner in scoring position. And for the first time, he delivered, sending a single to left. Except Werth collided with Chipper Jones in front of third base and was easily thrown out at the plate. Fortunately, third base ump Jim Reynolds was on top of the play from the beginning and immediately called interference on Jones. So Werth scores, LaRoche gets his first RBI and the Nats and Braves are tied 1-1 after one.

2:12 p.m. -- Ivan Rodriguez may have 3,000 hits in his sights, but there's another milestone fast approaching. After hitting into a 6-4-3 double play just now, Pudge has grounded into 332 double plays in his career. That's only 18 shy of the all-time record (owned by Cal Ripken). To be fair, the top five guys on that list are Ripken, Pudge, Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski and Dave Winfield (all Hall of Famers or likely Hall of Famers). It's a record that only be accomplished from playing in this game for a long time, which means you also have to be a really good player. Still, Pudge is piling up these GIDP's at a pretty fast rate these days.

2:16 p.m. -- Real quick top of the third for Zimmermann. He's thrown only 43 pitches (29 strikes) so far, nice efficiency.

2:26 p.m. -- Zimmermann has really settled into a groove here. He's retired 10 of 11 and has needed only 49 pitches to get through four innings. Fastball velocity (92-93) isn't quite where it was during spring training (94-96) but it's been effective enough so far today. Still 1-1 as we go to the bottom of the fourth.

2:46 p.m. -- The defense has not been sharp today, and it finally cost the Nats in the fifth. Werth and Ankiel couldn't track down Alex Gonzalez's drive to right-center (looked like each guy called the other off). Gonzalez scored on Freddie Freeman's groundout. Zimmermann then walked Hudson, a real no-no made worse when Prado doubled to right-center and Espinosa mishandled the relay throw, allowing Hudson to score. That officially goes down as the first Nationals error of the season, though Espinosa has made at least three poor plays in the field today. Not a real crisp showing, and because of it, the Braves now lead 3-1.

2:59 p.m. -- Despite the defensive woes, the Nats have only allowed three runs through six innings. Eventually, the offense is going to have to do something against Hudson, who has retired 11 straight without breaking a sweat. Bottom of the sixth coming up, top of the order due up for the Nats. Seems like an opportune time to make something happen.

3:04 p.m. -- Or not. Hudson retires the side in the sixth, making it 14 in a row retired. Though Desmond did very nearly reach base for the first time this season. He lofted a little looper into shallow right-center, only to be robbed by Dan Uggla, who made a fantastic, over-the-shoulder, diving catch. Seriously, that was about the best play you'll ever see a second baseman make. And it was made by Dan Uggla???

3:06 p.m. --  Ladies and gentlemen, now sprinting in from the right field bullpen to the Ultimate Warrior's theme song (that's a late '80s/early '90s WWF reference for all you non-wrestling fans): Todd Coffey. Love it.

3:20 p.m. -- Today's paid attendance: 22,210.

3:24 p.m. -- Well, that wasn't pretty. After retiring the first two batters he faced with ease, Coffey allowed a double and then walked McLouth on four pitches. Jim Riggleman summoned Doug Slaten to face Chipper, and Slaten responded by falling behind 3-0 and ultimately walking Jones. That loaded the bases, and with the shift on, Brian McCann dumped a slow roller past the vacant shortstop hole to score two and put the Braves up 5-1. It's been a bad start to the season for Slaten, who to that point had made three appearances, faced four batters and not recorded one out. (He did wind up getting Uggla to fly out to end the inning.) If Sean Burnett is going to be the closer (or sort-of closer), Slaten is going to have to be able to get lefties out in the seventh and eighth innings. So far, he hasn't come close to doing it.

3:31 p.m. -- Tim Hudson just mowing down the Nats lineup. Seventeen in a row retired. He hasn't put a man on base since the second. Just continuing his dominance of this franchise. We go to the top of the eighth, and now making his big-league debut is Brian Broderick. Nats trail 5-1.

3:46 p.m. -- And the wheels have officially fallen off. Broderick won't soon forget his MLB debut, much as he'd probably like to. Allowed three runs on two hits, a walk, some really bad defense and a bases-loaded balk you had to see to believe. He went into his full wind-up and throwing motion ... and never let go of the ball. Yeah, you kind of have to do that in this sport. It's now 8-1 Atlanta, and the fans are restless.

3:51 p.m. -- Make it 9-1 as Chad Gaudin enters and gives up a double to Chipper.

3:52 p.m. -- Make it 10-1 as Gaudin serves up a single off the right-field wall to McCann. Is this good?

3:56 p.m. -- Make it 11-1 as Gaudin takes a line drive off his shoulder that caroms into right field. Is this good?

4:04 p.m. -- Hey, the Nats score to trim the lead to 11-2! But Ian Desmond still doesn't have a hit this season.

4:13 p.m. -- Is it over yet? Nope, Nats still have to bat in the bottom of the ninth.

4:24 p.m. -- Now it's official. Nats lose 11-2. Jordan Zimmermann takes a very hard-luck loss. In three games, Nationals starting pitchers have a 2.60 ERA. Relievers: 8.38 ERA.


Mr. Doggett said...

Love these kinds of games. If they win, we get to say it means a lot. If we lose, we can easily shrug it off.

But I guess that's pretty much true about every game.

Grandstander said...

So your two predicted outcomes for this game are them winning and us losing?

Man, I thought I was pessimistic.

Doc said...

Guess we may get to see Ramos PH.

I was hoping, in spite of the statements yesterday on alternating Cs, that we'd get to see W. Ramos' hot hand from yesterday!!!

Rob Dibble's Ghost said...

I believe Pudge has pretty good numbers lifetime against Hudson.

Rob Dibble's Ghost said...

16-36 for a .444 average, to be exact.

ehay2k said...

Just some comments on the new Nats (feel free to disgree - in a civil manner please):

In terms of team changes, I loved Nyjer in '09, because he carried the team with his energy, but I was VERY over him in 2010. He still brought a lot of energy, but also kept repeating the same knucklehead plays. (At age 30, you REALLY should know how to hit the cutoff man, and how to execute the SuiSqueeze.) I wish him well, but I will say I have seen these types of playes, in every sport, and it usually does not end well.

As for Dunn, I was really not pleased that we let him go, and more upset at the way it happened - we could have gotten a lot more if we'd traded him last year. (On that second point, I am still not pleased.) At any rate, he is a DH which is where he belongs because he has neother the range nor the glove to play in the field. (Sorry Dunner, it's just true) . Laroche has proven in just 2 games what a defensive liability Dunn was at 1b. I used to think that Dunn's miscues at 1b were more than wiped out by his power at the plate, However, I now believe that is not the case.

The defensive upgrades at CF and 1B are huge for us this year, more than making up for any offiensive decrease (if there actually is any, because Ankiel seems to be an upgrade over Morgan.) With a young pitching staff, giving the opposing team an extra out, and an extra man base, is really asking for trouble. Without a good defense behind them, our pitchers are afraid to let anyone hit the ball, and get into a rut of nibbling around the plate, walking folks. Let a guy get on base with what should have been an out (by a 1b with decent range and glove), and the young pitchers get rattled. I saw that a few times last year.

Get caught stealing (EVEN if the pitcher is batting with 2 outs) and you have put your team, and the pitcher's psyche, in a hole. We are not a good enough team to survive that. In fact, we lost a LOT of close games last year where you have to wonder if we'd just played solid baseball on the bases and in the field, we would have won. In the first game, Desi led off the inning either 3 or 4 times. That means the number 8 hitter didn't screw up. Just saying.

To me, the changes we made were not popular, but that is exactly why I respect the guys who made them. If the Lerners just wanted to fill seats ans save $$ and not win, they would have paid Dunn half of what they gave Werth, for just over half the contract life, and they would have made more money with fans of the Big Donkey coming out to see him hit, and the Nats lose. That is not what is happening.

While it is still too early too see if their plans will work, there is no doubt that they are trying to improve, and are not cheap.

Theophilus said...

Especially if your pitcher is batting w/ two outs -- not "even." If you get caught stealing w/ two outs, the pitcher leads off, which is horrendous.

Anonymous said...

Is it too late to predict 161 - 1?


A DC Wonk said...

ehay2k -- wise words. I completely agree with your analysis, both of the team, and the wisdom of Rizzo/Lerner on the changes over the last year and a half.

Doc said...

@ Rob Dibble's Ghost: Thanks for the research on Pudge and Hudson.

Not sure that's why non-sabermetricnut Riggleman has him in there, but at least it makes us feel better that Pudge will be able to put up a good fight against Hudson!

Goooooooooooo Nats!!!!

dj in Fl. said...

ehay2k -
right on point

Rizzo appears to actually have a plan that is in our best interest

phil dunn said...

Recall how the Nats ruined Lastings Milledge by forcing him to bat leadoff in 2009? Milledge never recovered. I fear they are doing the same to Desmond, who is obviously ill equiped to bat leadoff.

Anonymous said...

The mlb network (India Incorporated) must be completely overwhelmed. You can't even really get to the web site.

TimDz said...

Nice to see them come right back in the bottom half of the first...23 pitches by Hudson ...

SCNatsFan said...

Its not like Pudge even makes them work for DPs anymore; its just tailor made ball after tailor made ball. Glad he's saying the right things because it getting old watching him just beat balls into the dirt.

That and I have to listen to the horrific homers that are the Braves announcers.

Wally said...

You know, not to keep bashing Pudge, but does anyone think his exagerrated set up does his pitcher no favors? I mean, the umpire seems like he is squeezing Zimm anyway, but Pudge isn't helping him but setting up so far on a corner so that if Zimm misses his spot, but still has the ball over the plate, it doesn't look like it to the ump.

SCNatsFan said...

Zimm sure has been squeezed today. Werth isn't doing his pitchers and favors either.

One thing for sure when they play like this they aren't alot of fun to watch.

Cwj said...

Hmmm, Desmond can't handle short hops. Not good, with aggressive outfield arms like Werth.

Cwj said...

Oh and the Umpires are squeezing the Nats' pitchers. That's a shame.
Frustrating though.

LoveDaNats said...

In the last three games, Slaten has shown me it's time to recall Balester.

Exposremains said...

It really seems to me that the Braves paid the umpires for this series. All the calls are in their favor safe/out ball and stikes and noiw there getting calls overturned. Its the same old thing, favor the winning team. Riggleman last year talked about getting respect that hasn't happened yet.

Anonymous said...

Pudge is totally washed up. He can't hit anymore.

Jeeves said...

I must have posted half a dozen times that Balester should be here instead of Coffey. I want Ramos to play most of the time. I want Kimbell instead of, well, most of them.
And I'm not negative about this team. Still think they will win eighty-four or more. But, please put the best team out there.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, hitters score runs, pitchers win games. Nats "vaunted" bullpen implodes in a replay of 2005-2010. In answer to your repeated question, Mark, "Is this good?" the answer, obviously, is a resounding NO!

JaneB said...

From where wr were sitting, we don't know why they left Heyward in after he wad called out at second when he mowed down Espinosa and killed the chance for a double play. Can someone explain please?

Doc said...

We need some relief, from our middle relief!!!

BallyStar and Kimball are only short air ride away!

Let's find a LHer while were at it!!!

Steve said...

Jane, radio crew speculated that 2B umpire was overruled by 3B umpire -- and TV replays show Heyward beat the throw, even before the ball was dropped.

Tim said...

Mark, I didn't read everyone's comments, but you really need to get out of the press box and go take pictures like you did this Spring. Works like a charm!

The Zuckerman Effect needs to be tested in the regukar season!

dj in Fl. said...

I do believe our future relief corp is still here in Fl. Maybe they could grab the morning southbound train. Heck, I'll drive em south if needed.

I am disapointed in the support Zim got, or didn't get. Seemed to be a lack of concentration.

JaneB said...

Tim is right! I kept trying to post during the game to get the heck outta the press box and into the stands, Mark, but I couldn't get a good signal.

Thanks for the explanation, Steve.

PS. I still love these guys. Even after today.

dryw said...

I'm with you. We've got to love our boys! I'm still pleased with the way the season has started overall and am willing to believe they're going to straighten out some of the sloppy play from today FAST.

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