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An encouraging 4-5

Apr 16, 2010, 12:25 AM EDT

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Matt Capps and Ivan Rodriguez celebrate after securing the Nats' 7-5 win.

PHILADELPHIA — Admit it, if someone said two weeks ago the Nationals would open the season 4-5 (with six of those games coming against the Phillies) you would have jumped for joy.

They'd never fully admit it, but there are probably people inside the Nationals' clubhouse who felt the same way, knowing what a daunting path they faced in the season's opening stanza.

Three at home against the Phillies. Three on the road in New York. And then three more on the road at Philadelphia. Throw in the fact they've gotten one quality start from their rotation, own a collective 7.04 ERA, a .233 team batting average and have been outscored 63-40.

Doesn't 4-5 sound pretty good right about now?

"It's encouraging, because I don't think we've played that good of baseball," manager Jim Riggleman said following today's dramatic 7-5 win at Citizens Bank Park. "I think we've played hard. I think we've played with great effort and intensity. But as far as getting the combination of pitching and hitting, we've done that only a couple of times. But we've got four wins. I think we've got to look at that as aRead more ยป

  1. Anonymous - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:35 AM

    One quality start?I thought that the criterion was either 2 ER in 5 innings, or 3 in 6. Olson gave us 1 ER in 5, then ran out of gas. I would award him a QS along with Livo.

  2. Sec3mysofa - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:45 AM

    8:35 Anon, it's six innings.

  3. TBC - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:47 AM

    Three ER or less in 6 IP is the definition of a quality start. 2 ER in 5 IP is good, but it's not a quality start.

  4. Mr. Doggett - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:49 AM

    Mark, don't forget that today's comeback victory is even more impressive after suffering that humiliation last night. One can already tell that this team has character…something that past Nats teams have seemingly lacked.

  5. Wally - Apr 16, 2010 at 1:13 AM

    I have seen a difference in them this year, which is smarter play. Not quite all the way to smart yet, but smarter than last year. While they also appear to be playing better defense, more or less, I am referring to smarter defense. Taking an out at first instead of a ridiculous attempt to get a lead runner that results in no one out and everyone advancing. When a pitcher wants to sacrifice, let him sacrifice and get the out instead of pitching too cute, hoping for a strikeout and walking him instead. Also avoiding stupid baserunning mistakes. This helps avoid turning a bad situation into an insurmountable one, and gives them a chance to hang around in case the tide changes, like today. Maybe this is due to Riggleman or maybe it is due to some of these vets like Pudge and Kennedy, or some combination. I hope that it continues, because when their pitching starts to show some reversion to the mean, they have a chance to roll off some wins.Almost makes you believe in this sabermetrics stuff.

  6. Suicide Squeeze - Apr 16, 2010 at 1:33 AM

    I think we should recognize the positive role Riggleman has played. Like everyone else, I raised an eyebrow at times in Spring Training, but there's no question in my mind that this Nats manager has gotten MORE out of the team than his predecessor, who seemed to make the team less than its sum total. There's always a slew of reasons, of course, why a team does or does not perform, but if you slam a manager when the team underperforms, than he should be praised when they over perform.

  7. Aeoliano - Apr 16, 2010 at 2:13 AM

    Mark, What do you know about this?Washington Nationals placed RHP Garrett Mock on the 15-Day disabled list retroactive to April 11, 2010. Cervical spine injury.

  8. Anonymous - Apr 16, 2010 at 2:32 AM

    Aeoliano/Periculum,Before posting the same question around here, NJ and elsewhere, why don't you spend a few minutes to read the posts they've already written on the subject. Your commenting frequency leads me to believe you have the time to scan the home page for at least 10 seconds.

  9. Andrew - Apr 16, 2010 at 4:22 AM

    I like the 4-5 record and hate the team stats. Isn't that called winning ugly????????

  10. Andrew - Apr 16, 2010 at 4:27 AM

    Mark Zuckerman said… Admit it, if someone said two weeks ago the Nationals would open the season 4-5 (with six of those games coming against the Phillies) you would have jumped for joy.I admit I have no problem with it. Also, a team that stays on a 4-5 pace will end up with 72 Wins 90 Losses which is not far off from the expert picks.

  11. Matt - Apr 16, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    Suicide Squeeze — I definitely agree with you. I think it goes beyond a new mentality for the team — he's also made a number of in-game moves which have really paid off. I haven't been keeping an exhaustive list, but off the top of my head, tonight, he brought in Matt Capps in for 1.2, sent out a decoy for Capps so that IRod got pitched to, brought in a less-than-100% Zimm to pinch hit, and called for a sac bunt from Desmond which ultimately lead to a run. On Sunday in New York, he brout in a number of defensive replacements (including Willie Harris to make the game saving catch). I'm sure there's more. Maybe it's just a lucky run, but however it's happening it sure seems to be working…

  12. Anonymous - Apr 16, 2010 at 6:14 AM

    "Your commenting frequency leads me to believe you have the time to scan the home page for at least 10 seconds."Love how anonymous posters love to excoriate others for things they are likely guilty of. How many anonymous imbeciles like the one above does it take to screw in a light bulb? 10. One to hold the bulb and nine to rotate the ladder.

  13. Leslie - Apr 16, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    Of course Andrew,I have no problem with it, too…I know it is not easy, but Nats will definitely getting better no doubt. Let us wait and see…

  14. Anonymous - Apr 16, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    I'll take it. Things won't always look this encouraging, but I think we've got ourselves a major league. I wasn't so sure a couple of days ago.

  15. natsfan1a - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    On the defense front, I'm glad the Harris/Guzman misplay didn't come back to bite them in the…well, you know. But other than that, it was pretty clean, yes, and nice to see the pitching and offense show up at the same time. I'll definitely take the road trip outcome. :-)On another note, I was happy to see that the Astros won as well. I felt bad for their fans, because we know how that feels, and we know what all the media gurus must have been saying…

  16. TBC - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    I like the 4-5 record and hate the team stats. Isn't that called winning ugly????????I'll take winning ugly over losing pretty any day of the week.

  17. Tcostant - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    Good writtens Philly – happy we won't see you for a while!

  18. Andrew - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    TBC – Absolutely! It's all about the W's!!!!

  19. Traveler8 - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    @Tcostant: "Good writtens Philly" seems like a nice Malapropism to compliment Mark on his strong evaluation on the season to date, and as well as getting over the first big Philadelphia bump! Yes, and back home to Brewers, Rocks, and Dodgers.

  20. Anonymous3MySofa - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    As opposed to "well-ridden fillies"?

  21. Sec3MyAnonymous - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    Riggleman "sent out a decoy for Capps so that IRod got pitched to"– I don't think he was bluffing, I think he was praying hard for Rodriguez to get a hit. You can't let Capps hit there, even if he is .250 lifetime. Pudge's 2 RBI were huge, as we saw.

  22. Positively Half St. - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    I have said a couple of times since Spring Training that I think we are due a year in which the Nats have the luck of a record better than the stat models would predict, because they have been on the bad luck end the last several.The Nats have a run-differential only slightly better than the 1-8 Astros and the 1-9 Orioles (oy). They will have to improve, or their record is very likely to sag as they revert to the mean (of what a record would be with that kind of play). We just need to keep the optimistic thought that they are not yet playing to even their modest abilities, and perhaps will even the run differential some, too.

  23. K.D. - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    By the way, how about "one of the worst moves this off-season", that hobbled, gray-beard Pudge Rodriguez. Hope he keeps it up and makes the media (not you Mark) eat their words, and give him a little credit (and not just because he is over 30). Also, loved Olsen's fire out on the mound, he was on a mission.

  24. Mark Zuckerman - Apr 16, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Sec3MyAnonymous: Riggleman acknowledged postgame that he would not have pinch-hit for Capps no matter what. During the Pudge AB, Capps was down in the batting cage taking some practice hacks. Said it was the most nervous he'd been in baseball in a long time.

  25. natsfan1a - Apr 16, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    K.D., good point re. Olsen. He went a little F-Rod after the RBI hit, and he looked to have carried that fire off the mound with him as well. I liked seeing him front and center next to Riggleman once he'd pulled himself together. On a related note, Dibble commented that Zimm had barked back at some Phoolies Phans who were riding Olsen after he was pulled. I seem to recall a similar story related to Lannan's ejection in his first start (if memory serves, Schneider was the barker in that case).

  26. natsfan1a - Apr 16, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    Hey, I just realized – the Mets are all alone in the cellar at present. :-)

  27. SpringfieldFan - Apr 16, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    "Mark Zuckerman said… Sec3MyAnonymous: Riggleman acknowledged postgame that he would not have pinch-hit for Capps no matter what. During the Pudge AB, Capps was down in the batting cage taking some practice hacks. Said it was the most nervous he'd been in baseball in a long time."That is AWESOME.

  28. Carl in 309 - Apr 16, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    Shifting gears, today the NYTimes reported that they will start posting baseball stats that reflect part of the sabermetrics craze. See Though I can't imagine not looking for traditional ERA, RBI, batting average, etc., stats, I'm attracted to this representation of "value" in baseball (I count myself among the fans of Michael Lewis' Moneyball). Curious about Mark's and fellow readers viewpoint in this regard.Interesting to note that Nats own Adam Dunn makes one of the NYTimes-published lists for the 2009 season: 9th on their list "batting runs".

  29. Big Oil - Apr 16, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    I felt compelled to comment and have to agree with SpringfieldFan — very very cool account Mark.

  30. The Great Unwashed - Apr 16, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    Here's one other thing to add about Riggleman's game management that I think is positive for this team: the number of steals. We all know Nyjer will steal because that's his game. But when Willingham, Harris, and Pudge have steals too, it's definitely a step in the right direction. It's become a legitimate threat, especially when the Nats had taken the lead late in yesterday's game. I liked Manny, but was frustrated with his game calling at times because he rarely used the running game. It's nice to see it happening now. Imagine what this team could be if they made even modest improvements, such as raising their collective batting average to .260 and lowering their overall ERA from 7.00 to 5.00. I'm not expecting miracles, but it's doable.

  31. PANatsFan - Apr 16, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    Mark, one quibble:They played 6 road games against the Phillies.

  32. NatsNut - Apr 16, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    @Mr. Dogget, re: "One can already tell that this team has character…something that past Nats teams have seemingly lacked."It's a good point, but I'd have to argue that our 2007 team was the scrappiest, most character-filled team I've seen yet. Projected to lose 120, they only lost 89, bumped the Marlins down to the cellar, and walked away with 4th in the NL East.If this team even approaches the character of that team, I'll be very happy NatsNut.

  33. Sunderland - Apr 16, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Riggleman sending a decoy out to the on deck circle didn't fool anyone, especially Charlie Manuel. The bases were loaded, that's why Pudge was being pitched to. Capps was pitching the 9th, everyone knew that.And leaving Olsen in to face the righty Castro in the 6th was a tough decision. If Olsen was only 10 – 12 pitches into that inning, maybe. But he was 20+ pitches into that inning, Clippard was ready, leaving Olsen in was a gutsy call by Riggleman, and it bit him.But this is a multi-faceted decision, and I'm not gonna rip Riggleman over it. Showing confidence in Olsen, letting the other starters know we wants to give them full opportunity to succeed, that's the upside to this decision.That's why managing for the long haul is tough. To just win yesterday, like it was a game 7, he calls on Clippard for sure.And yes, 4 -5 right now is great.Winning ugly is still winning.And any day is a good day when the Mets are the bottom dwellers.

  34. natsfan1a - Apr 16, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    It's easier to put on a running game when you have runners. Just saying…

  35. David - Apr 16, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    @carl in 309,if you're interested in Sabermetrics, look at how much worse the team's OPS for and against are overall compared to with RISP

  36. OutsideTheLaw - Apr 16, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    Rigg's move yesterday in the 9th was nice too. Tavares PR for Willingham, steals second to get into scoring position, scores on IRod single. Then swaps Harris from right to left for Tavares to play right on D in bottom of 9th. Basic stuff, but completely on top of every move.

  37. Matt - Apr 16, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    @Sunderland: It was 2nd and 3rd. First was open for the free pass.



x-WASHINGTON 87 63 -- 0
ATLANTA 75 76 12.5
MIAMI 73 77 14.0
NEW YORK 73 79 15.0
Through Tuesday's early games
x-Clinched division title
WED: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
THU: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.


As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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