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Playing (and managing) to win

Apr 17, 2010, 3:45 AM EST


Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ian Desmond's perfect sac bunt keyed the Nats' 3-run eighth.

Little did Jim Riggleman realize it when Adam Dunn was ejected in the first inning, but that surprise development was going to force the Nationals manager to reach deep into his bag of tricks in order to pull off tonight's 5-3 win over the Brewers.

By the time Matt Capps struck out Corey Hart to end this one, Riggleman had used three different third basemen, two different first basemen, two different right fielders and every member of his bench not named Ivan Rodriguez. He asked one his best young hitters to lay down a sacrifice bunt, his All-Star slugger to serve as a decoy in the on-deck circle and his closer to record the final two outs one day after throwing 33 pitches.

This is what it's going to take for the Nationals, as currently constructed, to win ballgames. Riggleman understands this, so he's finding a way to use all 25 players at his disposal in a manner that maximizes every ounce of talent they've got.

"There's a lot of players on this team able to play a lot of positions, and able to do it well," Dunn said. "It gives Riggs so much leeway to make moves that a lot of managers don't get to make. Our team'sRead more ยป

  1. No, I'm not sucking up - Apr 17, 2010 at 3:49 AM

    ooo, nice shot on the bunt, Mark.

  2. Craig - Apr 17, 2010 at 3:51 AM

    Fantastic picture! We need to see some albums of your shots.

  3. Farid Rushdi - Apr 17, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    Did you use some white-out to draw that ball in?Seriously, nice image.Last season, the Nationals won their fifth game of the season on April 29th–to go along with 15 losses.I am not suggesting this is a plus-.500 team, but Riggleman is managing in a way that an 81-win season is just unlikely (which is a long way from "when hell freezes over).Kudos, Jim. Keep it up.

  4. Andrew - Apr 17, 2010 at 4:15 AM

    Did you take that photo all the way up there in the Press Box?Nice to see them balls bounce in the Nats direction. When things aren't going well, that Kennedy hit past Fielder would have found its way to Fielder's glove.5-5 Nice!

  5. Andrew - Apr 17, 2010 at 4:23 AM

    The Orioles drop to 1-10. Milledge has a walkoff single for the Pirates and FLop drives in all the Cardinals runs with a Grand Slam in a Card 4-3 win over the Mets.

  6. Sam - Apr 17, 2010 at 4:53 AM

    "Stat-heads" aren't arguing that teams shouldn't bunt or play "small ball" ever. In fact, in the situation that Desmond bunted, it probably wasn't a bad move. The point is, bunting generally does hurt you (unless a pitcher is up). There are certain situations in which doing "small ball" things help and some in which doing those things do not help. So called "stat-heads" only quantify and explain which situations would benefit from bunting.

  7. Nattydread - Apr 17, 2010 at 7:19 AM

    …and Capps and Rauch lead the league in saves with 5 each.

  8. natsfan1a - Apr 17, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    And the Mets are still alone in the cellar. :-)

  9. NatsGirl - Apr 17, 2010 at 11:11 AM

    It's my understanding that the Japanese style (method? system?) of baseball is much more "small ball" with emphasis on advancing runners and doing what needs to be done for the team to win, and very little thought to the accomplishments or stats of the individual player. It looks like this the way the Nats have been playing, lately. I mean, the sac bunt never improves one's personal stats, but sure can help the team in the right situation.Anyone watch Pro Yakyu?

  10. Positively Half St. - Apr 17, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    It would be great to go over .500 today. Please make it happen, guys.

  11. Anonymous - Apr 17, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    These ain't your daddys Nats anymore!! JTinSC

  12. Tcostant - Apr 17, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    The smartest managing to win move was keeping John Lannan away from the Phils, his numbers vs. that team are just plain bad. Smart move holding him back the extra day.Not sure what the spam is all about that Sun posted?

  13. Section 222 - Apr 17, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Riggleman's move heavy style of managing definitely keeps all of his players involved in the game and ready. It's been very interesting how Gonzales, Nieves, and others have stepped up. The loss of Zim for a few games may very well pay surprising dividends as the

  14. Section 222 - Apr 17, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    duh. …. as the season goes forward.

  15. Anonymous8 - Apr 17, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    This team showed a lot of fight. After falling behind in the 8th on what could have been a disaster on Alberto Gonzalez's errant throw putting men on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, the team limited the damage to 1 run and a 3-2 deficit.In the bottom of the 8th, those 3 runs scored made this the best inning of the season so far!Bruney who looked like he was going to be shelled got out with NO earned runs in the 8th and Riggleman's one batter strategy in the 9th with Burnett going lefty to lefty was the way you play this game.The steal by Kennedy off of Hawkins which allowed him to score that 1 run that gave the Nats a 2 run lead, was huge. Riggleman, with the game on the line, made ALL of the right moves.My only real negative was the earlier opportunities in the game squandered and the Guzy untimely double play and horrible pinch hit at-bat by Maxwell. I TiVO'd and re-watched and Justin is totally lost. He reminds me of a kid in rec ball who only walks or strikes out. Rizzo better quickly evaluate this situation before it turns into the same disaster as in 2009 when Maxwell never got a hit in his first stint with the Nats. We can all love this kid but I would rather do it watching him in Syracuse if he can't be productive here. Sending Bernadina who was "hot" back to Syracuse in favor of Maxwell didn't make sense to me to get that extra righy bat.Also to the critics of bunting, I don't like giving up outs but if you have players who bunt for hits like Nyjer Morgan, I say go for it!

  16. Janner33 - Apr 17, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    @Wally – if you add a (iv) All of the above, I would gladly vote for that one!

  17. Anonymous - Apr 17, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    I have bad mouthed this club so far during this season. But, they are finally starting to look like a team. Hang in there until we get some more pitching support from the minors and also improved pitching from our staff.

  18. Anonymous - Apr 17, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    For those of you who thought Philly fans behaved poorly in DC, they do so in Philly as well.http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Phillies-fan-allegedly-throws-up-on-11-year-ol?urn=mlb,234711

  19. Hendo - Apr 17, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    I'm on board with small ball at the right time. Last night in the eighth inning was the right time.

  20. CoverageisLacking - Apr 17, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    "No worries. There's a lot more to this team than Zimmerman. And it helps when the guy moving all the chess pieces around knows how best to use them."Many of the people who defended Acta last year questioned what he could have done differently. They said that nothing was his fault, because the team was awful.Well, last night was a textbook example of what a manager can do when he actually thinks and doesn't just push buttons. No way does Acta bluff by putting Zim in the on-deck circle. And Mark you didn't mention Riggleman's decision to put in Burnett to start the 9th to face the lefty leading off, since the Brewers only had lefthanded batters on the bench. NO WAY does Acta do that; Burnett isn't the 9th inning guy, after all. It's refreshing to have a real manager here. And it does make a difference.

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