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Another one that could have been

May 6, 2010, 3:41 AM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Luis Atilano labored from the start, setting the tone for the Nats' 7-6 loss.

Three times in their last 10 games the Nationals have lost in extra innings, all by one run. These are the losses that sting a little deeper, linger a little longer.

So excuse the Nats for feeling like they let another one slip away tonight, this 7-6, 10-inning loss to the Braves that could have easily gone the other way.

"Losing's losing, but when you lose and you came back and fought and kind of scratched and clawed, it hurts a little bit," Josh Willingham said. "But we'll be fine tomorrow. You've got to have a quick turnaround."

Willingham provided the most inspiring moment of the evening for the 15,616 at Nationals Park, delivering a pinch-hit, two-run single in the eighth to tie the game and ultimately send it to extra innings. But his insertion into the game by Jim Riggleman also played a role in the manager's strategy two innings later when this one was decided.

Fast-forward to the bottom of the 10th, the Nationals now trailing by a run after Matt Capps allowed his first run in 10 appearances. When Cristian Guzman led off against Braves closer Billy Wagner with a base hit up the middle, the table was set for either a game-tying or a game-winning rally.

Riggleman just had to decide which way to play it: Go for the tie, or go for the win. He chose to go for the win, opening himself up to some mild second-guessing when that plan failed.

Rather than have Ian Desmond bunt Guzman over to second, putting a runner in scoring position with one out, Riggleman instead let his rookie shortstop swing away. Desmond sent a fly ball to right field for the first out. Backup catcher Wil Nieves, summoned to pinch-hit forRead more ยป

  1. Aussie Guy - May 6, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    Over the past few years I've always felt really deflatd by this type of loss. It's felt like just another blow to my Nats Pride. But now I feel sort of angry, like, damn, we are so close. It's still not a good feeling, but it's better to lose and be good, than lose and be bad.

  2. Dryw - May 6, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Ok, the ten-inning loss stung, but it stings a lot less when the team is still over .500 and I can feel confident that it was an aberration and not the start of a losing streak. It was disappointing last night, but last night is over, and I can't wait to see what the guys will do tonight!

  3. Doc - May 6, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    Great article Mark. What's a manager to do? Nieves is your only pinch hitter left on the bench!

  4. Sunderland - May 6, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Mark, you're are right on when you note that Riggleman has pushed plenty of correct buttons. Really good analysis on his 10th inning strategy. Thanks.

  5. Section 109 - May 6, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Agreed, thank you for the illuminating analysis, Mark. Minor point, but I wish the FO wd come up with a new song to play when we end with a loss. "Don't Worry, Be Happy" isn't the attitude this team is taking, and I'm glad of it.

  6. bumsfan4 - May 6, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    Mark: Why did Riggs have Capps in at all, let alone go two innings last night after closing on Tuesday? I am afraid he and Clippard will be burned out by mid-June at this rate.

  7. Uncle Atom - May 6, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    Excellent anaylsis Mark. Riggs has impressed me a lot so far this season.Song to play after a loss. How about The Police – I Can't I Can't I Can't Stand Losing

  8. alm1000 - May 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    Yesterday I praised Riggs for all his moves in that game.I have no problem with his decision in the bottom of the 10th. But I do question 2 things. First and foremost, why did he have Harris batting before Desi? I see no logical reason for it. Harris should be batting 8th when he is starting. It was a mistake and it cost us big time in the first when Harris made the 3rd out with 2 on and Desi in the on deck circle. Desi rips a hit to open the second that could have scored runs in the first. I know you can't assume he would have gotten the same pitch or got a hit if he batted in the first BUT, he had a much better chance of doing so that Willie. Big mistake!The other move is using Capps for a second inning. I am not sure what he should have done but using him for a full 2 innings means he is likely not available today and we are at the beginning of a 20 game stretch with no days off so again 2 innings was a bad idea.

  9. Carl the Big Fool - May 6, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    How about Dunn striking out without swinging at a single pitch in the bottom of the 9th? You're a home run hitter, big guy, and if you hit one now, we win. Walks are nice in the grand scheme of things, but not right now. Swing the damn bat.

  10. phil dunn - May 6, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    Mark, Your prediction of 1.6 million attendance for the Nats this season might be optimistic. Beautiful baseball weather and a winning record and the attendance continues to wither away. Stan thought DC area baseball fans would put up with a terrible team as long as there was the allure of the new stadium. That was just plain dumb. Any town that has been without baseball for 30 year isn't going to build a fan base with a lousy product on the field.

  11. Ephesius Remsen Hammersley - May 6, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    I do not agree with Jim using Capps for two innings last night.Also, while the number of tickets sold (the only thing importnat to the Lerners) was 15,616 it was more like 3,616 and that wouold be generous,it was a beautiful night an virtually no one was at the game…they must have all been getting prepared for Redskins min-camp this weekend!! PATHETIC FAN SUPPORT.

  12. Richard - May 6, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    I'm glad someone commented on Dunn not swinging in 9th. Very strange. Lack of fan support is hard to understand.

  13. Aeoliano - May 6, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    I think Riggleman just didn't want to trot Miguel Batista out there again knowing what would happen: sending him to AAA where he appears to really belong and what he was signed to do.

  14. Barney - May 6, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    Peric – come on, man. You constantly take shots at the same targets, even when they haven't done anything to justify it. Take shots when the ammo's there, but otherwise try and be positive.And no, Arnesen's not getting called up to spot start on Sunday ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. Pete - May 6, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    I may be the only person happy that Nieves didn't get a hit there. I didn't want to see another "Who? Wil Nieves!" advertisement on MASN.

  16. Ephesius Remsen Hammersley - May 6, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    Mark – Any word on Saturday's starter??



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