Sunday, September 11, 2011

Game 144: Astros at Nats

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Stephen Strasburg makes his second start of the season today at Nationals Park.
It's Sept. 11 in the nation's capital, and while this date surely brings back awful memories from 10 years ago, I believe it also brings back some incredibly inspiring memories of watching baseball in the days and weeks following the tragedy. Baseball helped bring Americans back together in a way I'm not sure any other sport (or maybe any other social institution) could have done.

So while today is a national day of remembrance for those who lost their lives 10 years ago, it's also a day to bring us all together, and I can't think of a better forum for that than a ballgame in Washington, D.C.

Stephen Strasburg, of course, will be on the mound for the Nationals, taking the ball for his second start back from Tommy John surgery. After cruising through his five-inning return on Tuesday, the right-hander could be allowed to go a bit deeper this afternoon. Davey Johnson said he'll play it by ear but certainly sounded comfortable with the idea of Strasburg going six innings as long as his pitch count doesn't get too high.

Plenty of updates to come...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN, Ch. 50
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Partly cloudy, 80 degrees, Wind 5 mph in from RF
SS Ian Desmond
CF Rick Ankiel
3B Ryan Zimmerman
LF Michael Morse
RF Jayson Werth
2B Danny Espinosa
1B Chris Marrero
C Wilson Ramos
P Stephen Strasburg

ASTROS (49-96)
CF Jordan Schafer
3B Jimmy Paredes
LF J.D. Martinez
1B Carlos Lee
RF Brian Bogusevic
2B Matt Downs
SS Clint Barmes
C Carlos Corporan
P Henry Sosa
1:37 p.m. -- And we are underway with a 94-mph fastball from Stephen Strasburg to Jordan Schafer for strike one. On another note, Jayson Werth is starting in center field and Rick Ankiel is in right field, the opposite of what had been announced this morning.

1:50 p.m. -- Kind of a rocky top of the first for Strasburg. He was all over the place, needing 31 pitches (19 strikes) to face five batters. His fastball topped out at 97 but was more consistently in the 95-96 range. He did record a pair of strikeouts on changeups but allowed two singles (one a grounder up the middle and off second base, then Carlos Lee's line drive RBI single to center). It's 1-0 Astros as we go to the bottom of the first.

1:55 p.m. -- And then Henry Sosa only needs seven pitches to retire the side in the bottom of the first.

2:06 p.m. -- Strasburg really didn't look so comfortable out there during the second inning. His fastball was consistently in the 92-93 range. (That could be because he's throwing sinkers, not four-seamers, we'll have to see after the game what he was doing.) But Wilson Ramos felt the need to check on him, as did Danny Espinosa and eventually Steve McCatty. Tom Gorzelanny began warming in the pen at one point. Still, Strasburg battled out of it, striking out Carlos Corporan and getting Sosa to fly out. Through two innings, he's allowed one run on three singles (only one of them sharply hit) and struck out three (all on changeups). Already at 46 pitches, 30 strikes. Nats still trail 1-0.

2:16 p.m. -- Chris Marrero continues to produce with men on base. He sent a sac fly to right for his fourth RBI in seven plate appearances, scoring Werth from third to make this a 1-1 game. Danny Espinosa also snapped out of his 0-for-15 funk with a sharp double down the left-field line. So this is now a tie game after two.

2:24 p.m. -- That's more like it. Strasburg starting to find his grove now. He retired the side in the third and has set down six Astros in a row. His fastball was up to 96-97 mph in the third inning and he's become more efficient. Through three, he's got four strikeouts, no walks and has thrown 39 of 57 pitches for strikes.

2:31 p.m. -- Ian Desmond, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Zimmerman to the rescue! Back-to-back-to-back homers to open the bottom of the third. Desmond sent a line drive to left for his eighth of the season. Ankiel impressive took a ball to the bullpen in left-center, an opposite-field shot for his ninth of the year. And then Zimmerman found his favorite landing spot in the Red Porch. That's the first time the Nats have hit three straight homers since July 11, 2009, when Nick Johnson, Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn did it in Houston against this same Astros team. That also happened to be Manny Acta's last win as manager. It's now 4-1 Nats.

2:39 p.m. -- Wow, Davey Johnson is sending up Corey Brown to pinch-hit for Strasburg. He's done after only three innings and 57 pitches (only one more than last time). His final line: 3 ip, 3 h, 1 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 4 k, 57 pitches, 39 strikes.

3:05 p.m. -- Nice job so far by Tom Gorzelanny in relief of Strasburg. He's tossed two scoreless innings, striking out three. The Nats are still up 5-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth.

3:14 p.m. -- Nice day for Chris Marrero, who is starting to produce at the plate with some consistency. He's 2-for-2 with a single, an RBI double and a sac fly. And in 14 big-league games, he's now hitting .306 with seven RBI.

3:21 p.m. -- Credit to Gorzelanny, who really did an admirable job in relief of Strasburg. Threw three scoreless innings, and needed only 39 pitches to do it. Because Strasburg didn't go the minimum five innings, he can't qualify for the win. So if the Nats hang on -- they still lead 5-1 -- Gorzelanny will get the W.

3:25 p.m. -- Steve Lombardozzi is not looking real comfortable hitting at this level yet. He just grounded out weakly to short while pinch-hitting for Gorzelanny. That makes him 0-for-12 since his promotion from Syracuse. Not the way he wanted to start his career.

3:30 p.m. -- A tough end to the season for Class AA Harrisburg, which was just swept by Richmond in the Eastern League playoffs. Really difficult to blame the Senators, who were forced to play the entire series on the road after their ballpark was flooded earlier this week. ... Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman drives in another run, putting the Nats up 6-1 after six. Sean Burnett now in from the bullpen.

3:42 p.m. -- Official paid attendance: 24,238. That's by far the smallest crowd to see Strasburg pitch at Nationals Park since he debuted last season.

3:48 p.m. -- Actually, I stand corrected. Strasburg's final home start last season (Aug. 15 against the Diamondbacks) drew only 21,695.

3:55 p.m. -- Wow are the Nats on fire at the plate today or what? It's now 8-1 after RBI singles from Laynce Nix and Ian Desmond in the bottom of the seventh. That came after a scary moment in which Wilson Ramos was hit by a pitch in the brim of his helmet. Ramos, thankfully, appears to be OK.

4:23 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Nats win 8-2. Strasburg gets his work in, but Gorzelanny gets the win with three scoreless innings of relief.


lesatcsc said...

Although I like Werth/Espinosa in the 5/6 holes better than Gomes/Espinosa, it is still a combination likely to result in 4-6 strikeouts. That's a lot of key ABs where the ball will not be put in play. The Nats really need to find a bat for one of these spots in the order that hits with some authority and doesn't strikeout 140+ times.

Here's hoping Stras' rehab continues to progress! Go Nats go!

Anonymous said...

Espinosa needs to take a seat on the bench and sit there for a week or so. Otherwise, he's going to fall below the Mendoza Line by the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how danny is going to improve his hitting by watching from the bench. The more ML pitchers he sees, the better

Mark'd said...

Anon, a mental rest may be what Espi needs

Mark'd said...

At least flip flop Marrero and Espinosa . Your highest OBP batters are Morse, Zim and Werth. Need someone to drive them in.

LoveDaNats said...

Come on, Nats! We need a win! Don't let me say I attended the last Nats win last Friday night. I know you're tired, physically and mentally, but reach down and find that spark that you and I both know is there!

Doc said...

It's time for Espi to take seat. He will come back successfully again, and again next year.

But right now he's playing tired. Nothing to be gained from pushing something that can't be pushed any more.

He's just not making contact with the ball.

Mark'd said...

Nice 7 pitch inning by that hack Does. Unreal.

Anonymous8 said...

Mark'd, you must have auto-correct on. I think the Hack you refer to is SOSA not DOES but then again maybe you do mean DOES.

Werth with a crazy bloop over the pitchers head for a single. That is nice!

Espinosa needed to start BTW, LOL

baseballswami said...

So - another strike- out festival for the Nats today? (And I don't mean that in a good way.) Earth to Nats - we are playing the ASTROS!

baseballswami said...

Ha! I no sooner posted my highly negative comments and they hit the ball. Better start planning some really ugly comments if it's going to create some hitterish-ness!

Anonymous said...

Danny nice 2b i rest my case.

gonatsgo said...

Marrero might not have the best defensive tools that I have ever seen, not bad mind you - but the kid appears to be a very smart hitter. He seems to have learned a good approach coming up from somewhere. I hope he doesn't lose it now that he is here.

Anonymous said...


baseballswami said...

Back to Back Jacks!!!!!

LoveDaNats said...

I don't believe what I just saw!

baseballswami said...

I do not believe what I just saw!!

waddu eye no said...


LoveDaNats said...

Great minds think alike!

David Moore said...

Marrero is a big leaguer. Proving it this fall.

waddu eye no said...

the third inning giveth, the the third inning taketh away. but too bad ss is leaving.

Anonymous said...

2b by danny inches from a homer. U were saying?

baseballswami said...

Anon 2b - 2 hard hit by Danny. Marrero showing some power how. The big boys hearing footsteps behind them yet?

gonatsgo said...

I really like the way Marrero takes pitches and uses his head at the plate.

Gonat said...

David Moore said...
Marrero is a big leaguer. Proving it this fall.

September 11, 2011 2:38 PM

There have been some good discussions on him. Interestingly the teams have tried to make adjustments for him with more breaking pitches and change of speeds and coming inside and he has made good adjustments so far. Still need to see more and so far so good as he has had 3 good games in a row with nice RBIs

Gorzo with a nice 3 inning appearance.

A DC Wonk said...

Blast from the recent past:

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

I hate to judge this guy after just three innings, but Chris Marrero seems to be a guy who was born to be a Nat. Just what we need: another free-swinging, big strikeout guy who commits two errors in three innings. Haven't we done the Adam Dunn thing before?

What, exactly, does this guy bring to the party?

I'm listening...

Among other things -- we should learn to not judge so quickly.

Marrero's been smart at the plate for pretty much all of his games so far (he seems to almost always been able to "go the other way" when there's a guy on second) -- and, note, he's the youngest Nat up there (still not 23).

As I posted last week: I really like his quiet consistency (reached base 13 games out of 14 that he's played) -- although, if he keeps hitting like that, it won't be so quiet anymore.

baseballswami said...

Nice non-stressful win. Hope Ramos is ok - that could have been a disaster.

Mark'd said...

I think most comments on Marrero are cautiously optimistic. Not sure if he has Freddie Freeman star quality or how he will fit in next year. I like the idea of Marrero being platooned with LaRoche and learning in the Majors.

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch Strasburg (got home late). Sounds like he struggled big-time and didn't feel good physically. Is there any follow up to this? How is he? Sounded like Davey wanted to be extra-careful with him today.

Gorzo's outing was lights out. Sometimes he is just overpowering.

I'm still not a believer in Marrero. No punch AT ALL, and not a good fielder.

Morse has not looked good back in left field. He is a liabiliy out there... MUCH better fielder at first base. He'll be 30 soon and I'll bet he is traded during the winter, although I'd really like to keep him. He flat-out can hit.

NatsLady said...

Pictures of the Nats as Smurfs are on Twitter. Really fun. (I know, not baseball.)

baseballswami said...

Anon6:05 - I don't know which Marrero you are watching but the one I was watching had plenty of pop today when he crushed one to the outfield and sac flied on another one. Also - he is a very smart hitter with a mature approach. One of the most consistent performances I have seen by a call up.Not a brilliant defender yet, but a real ball player.

Drew8 said...

Update on two swingin' 37-year-olds:

Johnny Damon has passed Doc Cramer for 62nd place at 2,706 hits. With his next 50 hits he'll pass about 10 more fine hitters and a few greats -- including Lou Gehrig.

Derek Jeter, who is hitting .297, is now in serious company. He's 20th on the all-time list with 3,071 hits.

Jeter has two more years on his contract and an additional player option for the year he turns 40.
That means Jeter will pass some of the very tallest trees in the forest.

Of course, decline accelerates as a clean player approaches 40, but with 443 more hits Jeter would reach Tris Speaker, who ranks 5th all time with 3,514 hits.

I'm not a Yankees fan, but the numbers put the lie to the canard that Jeter is merely a good player hyped by NY media. He has great career value, as well as great peak value in October.

sjm308 said...

I am confused. Where are the rants with capital letters? Where are the snide negative comments with no solutions just hate from the anons?

It wasn't a great game but we now have 67 win. Just 8 more and I will consider it a good (not great) season with improvement from 59 wins to 75 in two years.

I am thinking we need to keep Marrero up next year and he certainly can learn more playing at this level two or three times a week and working with LaRoche then going back to Syracuse. Not sure he is the answer but he certainly has had a nice start. I am too lazy to go to the minor league numbers but how many HR's did he have this year. That is the only thing I have not seen yet. Also feeling for Lombardozzi although I was not sure he was the answer. I along with a couple others have been supporting Desmond and while he is not an All-Star, he has shown improvement for two straight years and he has also had a nice couple of weeks back at lead-off. Did not like him swinging at the first pitch of the game today but he kinda made up for that later.

In my plans for next year I keep Lombardozzi & dump Cora and Keep Marrera and let Gomes go. There certainly will be lots of moves and decisions as we continue to get closer to a playoff caliber team.

8 more wins guys - Please!!!!

Drew8 said...

SJM -- I agree with you that eight more wins would put a positive gloss on the season. That will be tough, though, with the beasts of the East the rest of the way.

Chris Marrero hit 14 homers at Syracuse this year. The year before he hit 18 at Harrisburg. His career high is 23 in 2007, a year he split between Hagerstown and Potomac.

As for Desmond, I don't see how you can conclude that "he' has shown improvement for two straight years."

2010 avg. .269; 2011 avg. 244
2010 OBP .308; 2011 OBP .290
2010 slugging .392; 2011 .354
2010 OPS .700; 2011 .643

If you want to consider his errors, OK, he's down from 34 in 2010 to 22 in 2011. Now he's only second to last among National League shortstops.

Ian Desmond hardly ever walks, which means he rarely gets on base. His career on base percentage is .289! That is worse than Rob Deer or Dave Kingman.

Ian Desmond is a nice kid -- but an atrocious choice as a leadoff hitter.

A leadoff hitter's job is to get on base. Chris Marrero would be a better choice than Ian.

sjm308 said...

Drew8 - thanks for the stats and I should have been more clear on Desmond, I was clearly just talking about errors but I did not realize he was still so low in the NL. My eyes tell me he has great range but you can't argue with the numbers either. I guess I am just stubborn about him and I can't explain why. I do like his leadership or what I hear about that in others writing. Hard to argue with what you have presented, I am guessing they have to try Danny at SS and Lombardozzi at 2nd at sometime in these last few weeks. It still will be a small sample so I guess spring training will be where a final decision is made (unless someone is traded). Didn't we get a SS for Marquis this season? and how did he end up?

8 more wins!!!

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