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"We just played terrible baseball"

May 21, 2010, 4:09 AM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Nyjer Morgan watches Ike Davis' fourth-inning drive carom off the wall.

Those were the words of Jim Riggleman following tonight's 10-7 loss to the Mets, a game that wasn't nearly as compelling as the final score would indicate. The Nationals trailed 10-1 in the sixth inning, having gotten poor pitching, poor defense and poor baserunning. That they mounted a late rally and actually had the tying run at the plate in the eighth only made the earlier sloppiness sting more.

Riggleman had some words for his players afterward. He wouldn't reveal exactly what he said, but rest assured it included several words that can't be printed in a family blog.

"I'll let you run with your imagination on that," the manager said.

No one was allowed to leave Nationals Park tonight feeling good about their performance, but Luis Atilano's ragged start certainly set the tone for the evening. The rookie right-hander was roughed up for seven runs (six earned) and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, continuing a downward trend since his impressive big-league debut four weeks ago.

It's no secret someone from the current rotation is going to lose his job when Stephen Strasburg arrives in two weeks or so. Atilano is beginning to make a case for being the odd man out when that rosterRead more »

  1. Souldrummer - May 21, 2010 at 4:20 AM

    Thanks Mark for your insight on this stuff. Not only did Atilano hurt his cause but Batista helped his. He ate up two innings that helped save the bullpen and made sure that he didn't have to burn Burnett too much. The Mets mop up folks didn't do so well and made Frankie come out of the bullpen. You hope that they come out angry and win the series against the Birds, but this was one ugly, ugly effort that I was borderline embarassed to attend with all the Mets at the park.

  2. meixler - May 21, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    These team simply can't wait until they're down big to put up an effective offense. They need to start thinking that when the game starts they're already down by 9 or 10 runs. Then we'll start winning games 7-2. Also, I wouldn't mind seeing Nyjer ride the bench for a little bit. Put Bernadina in center and maybe let Morse patrol RF for a period to see if he can get his bat going with regular ABs.

  3. Witboy - May 21, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    Mark,I have a somewhat radical idea about the pitching staff. When Strasburg is promoted, and we get some other arms off the DL, there will be a numbers crunch. Livan Hernandez and Scott Olsen have provided much needed stability and production to the rotation. John Lannan, Jason Marquis, and Chien Ming Wang have proven track records as effective starters. Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Ross Detwiler are all thoroughbreds with starting pitcher repertoires who should not have their growth stunted by pitching out of the bullpen or spending any more time in AAA. As such, I was thinking it might be a good idea for this team to employ a six man rotation. It is a little out of the ordinary but i think it accomplishes some very good things.It would reduce the total innings that would be compiled by Zimmermann, Wang, Detwiler (who are all coming off injuries), and Strasburg (who has a strict inning limit for the season, and is still not accustomed to pitching every five days). In addition, it would slightly minimize the damage if one or more of the starters is not effective (such as Lannan or Marquis so far this year). I think if they considered this approach they might find that it will help W's and L's, player development, and in the chance we sneak into the playoffs… our starters wont be overworked, and we wont have a philosophical dilemma about pitching strasburg into the postseason. Obviously this does not solve everything (I did mention eight names after all), but if you get the chance to ask either Riggleman or Rizzo about this concept I would be eager to hear their thoughts. I would also be very interested in hearing what you think about the situation.

  4. Anonymous8 - May 21, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    The score was 3-1 going into the 5th inning. Atilano had nothing left and couldn't be yanked soon enough which made that inning the difference in the game. The Nats made Valdes for his 1st 4 innings look like a Cy Young contender.Another game the defense let the pitchers down and Atilano had to throw more than he should have.

  5. D'Gourds - May 21, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    Ugh–what a horrible performance. I hope Riggs threw some bats into the shower ie–Bull Durham. Atilano has been absolutely terrible. He's pitching to avoid contact and that leads to his high BB's which kill him. It WAS too good to be true. He needs a lot of work. Send him down NOW! And while they're at it, why not send down Tyler "I can't pick up a routine bunted ball" Walker. He is so mediocre. Why not give Andrew Kown a shot–he's been terrific down on the farm. Wierd thing is that after pitching really well in AAA with a 2.5 ERA and 2:1 k:BB ratio, they for some reason have demoted him to AA Harrisburg. Mark, do you know why?Lastly, I love Dunn but his error was a big factor in why we lost. IF we somehow surge and are in contention for a wildcard spot in July, we should trade for Lance Berkeman, put him at first and move Dunn back to right.

  6. Doc - May 21, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Is that Lastings Millege or Nyjer Morgan out there in center field? Wad's going on with Morgan? It's not the same game as last year.

  7. D'Gourds - May 21, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    I know! What is up with Tony Plush? He's really been very disappointing this year in the field, on the bases and at the plate. He should have made a better throe to third on that base rnning gaffe by the Mets and he sood like a statue during a calld strike three with the bases loaded to end an inning. That's not the Tony Plush I fell in love with last year.

  8. Anonymous - May 21, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    Yes, Doc, I'm with you. I'm over Morgan. I'd like to see a new outfield lineup for a bit. He's a one-man ESPN Sports Center blunders reel.

  9. Anonymous - May 21, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    After the game, I enjoyed Ray Knight's comment that the team is frustrated because they only have two dependable starters, Livo and Olsen (who would have said that going into the season!?)..but it is true, unless we are bringing up 3 Strasburg's in June, we still are 2 starters away from being a REAL major league team. The last two nights have beenembarrasing defensively as well, Nyjer Morgan needs to be sat on the bench for several games until he gets his head out of his you know what! He just plain stinks at the plate and in the field, I like how Dibble tried to blame the ballpark coniguration on Nyjer's miscues but correct me if I am wrong, Nyjer has played more than the last two games at Nats Park, right!? Zimmerman's lame fielding attempts last night also show the team's shortcomings have worn down the most stallwort warriors we have. The pendilum is dangerously swinging in the opposite direction from the winning ways of the begining of the season…time to make some changes in the roster or the season could be lost…the only saving grace is we have 3 games upcoming with the BlOws's.

  10. Anonymous - May 21, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    Our outfielders need to practice fielding balls off the wall so they don't keep rolling back to the infield.

  11. JayB - May 21, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    I would sit Morgan for a week or so….Put Roger in CF and Morse in RF….Morgan is completely out of control and has forgotten how to play within his skill set….let him refocus and put him back in if the Roger and Morse are not getting it done.

  12. Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 - May 21, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    Some of the anonymous posters seem to have drunk a bit more of the April/early May koolaid than they should have. This team is way better than last year and still could "only" go 75/78 -87/84, a vast improvement. Trust Riggleman to sort out Nyjer. As for Dunn his defense is better at 1st than RF. As for trading with Houston (Oswalt, Berkman), they're "rebuilding" and would want too much from us.

  13. Richard - May 21, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    I think the comment re "the only saving grace is we have 3 games upcoming with the BlOw's" is asking the fates to step up and smack you in the face .. and the way the Nats are playing right now, look out! … On the strange fielding front, whassup him Zimmerman's throwing? Last year he got over the wild throwing but lately it's back — he looks to be flipping it almost side arm and the firstbasemen arm putting on an acrobatics show trying to catch 'em. What's wrong with straghtening up after one of his terrific stops to his right and firing a strong throw? It almost seems like, psychologically, he's afraid to fire it.

  14. Arlington Big Fish - May 21, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    And on another subject entirely, is the Cordero who served up the walk-off grand slam in the Reds-Braves game last night our old friend The Chief?

  15. Arlington Big Fish - May 21, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    Disregard previous question: I see it's Francisco, not Chad.

  16. Janner33 - May 21, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    Arlington, nope it wasn't… Francisco Cordero I believe. Turned on the game in the 9th to see the Braves get crushed and lose ground in the standings, but saw a W instead. My bad!

  17. Steve M. - May 21, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    JayB said… I would sit Morgan for a week or so….Put Roger in CF and Morse in RF….Morgan is completely out of control and has forgotten how to play within his skill set….let him refocus and put him back in if the Roger and Morse are not getting it done. JayB, I rarely agree with you but you are right. Drastic measures with Nyjer. He is out of control. He makes the highlight reels for all the wrong reasons. Didn't he learn anything on Wednesday? Just look at how he is standing on the warning track in Mark's photo! Add to that how he gets doubled off first on a line drive in front of him in the 1st inning. He missed 2 cutoffs in the game. After I got back from the stadium I fast forwarded on my TiVo to see how bad it all looked. Dibble reiterated the same thoughts when he over shot the cutoff man in the 3rd inning and later in the game. Not sure what to make of the ball hit to Nyjer that was thrown for a force to Zim at 3rd as I would say Zim should have come off the bag instead of stretching like a 1st baseman and then Zim still could have made the play.It wasn't just Nyjer so not looking to pin a Loss on him. Desmond had a few blunders, Zim too, but those were more of the physical errors not the mental errors that Tony FLUSH keeps making.Atilano has shown in the past he can work his way out of trouble and on this day he couldn't because his defense let him down over and over again. Atilano had 3 walks to go with the 9 hits and the one huge error so his freebies finally caught up with him.

  18. Steve M. - May 21, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Nyjer needs a taste of what AAA is like to relearn basic skills in the same manner the team did last year with Lastings Milledge.Only problem is, your choices now are Kevin Mench or Nyjer Morgan. Mench is not a leadoff which is why you probably have to just let Nyjer ride the pine another day like they did to him on Monday.

  19. Jack T. in Florida - May 21, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Is it Nyjer Logan or Nook Morgan?

  20. U-Hoo - May 21, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    Witboy — I like your thinking on the six-man rotation, but I think it would be better to trade a starting arm or two for a legit right fielder.

  21. Section 222 - May 21, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    I agree with all the criticism of Morgan. He's hurting the team right now, at bat, on the base paths, and in the field. Perhaps Zim shouldn't have stretched on that play last night, but if Morgan had made even a half decent throw he wouldn't have had to. Morgan threw the ball on the run and off balance when he had plenty of time to set and throw a strike. It was a really bad play. And he needs to spend some time practicing in the outfield. There's no excuse for two balls bouncing away from him in his home park on two successive days. Witboy has an interesting idea with a six man rotation, but it's not at all realistic unless we're going to give up a bench player, which I don't think would be a good idea given how much and how well Riggs is using the bench right now. Our bullpen is already overworked, and replacing a reliever with another starter will only make that worse.

  22. The Great Unwashed - May 21, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    I agree with everyone's comments on Nyjer, but it shouldn't be a surprise. Correct me if I'm wrong but when he played for the Pirates, he didn't become an everyday player until he was 27 (which is older than most) and I think he was also a corner outfielder. Maybe the Nats have him in a role he's not suited for. They caught lightning in a bottle with him last year, but this year he's regressed to what he really is. But then again, he's filling two roles (leadoff and CF) that the Nats don't have otherwise so maybe we'll just have to live with it for now. It kind of stinks though.Here are a few other things to consider about the blunders on the field last night:Desmond was error-prone in the minors, so why do people think he'll play error-free now that he's made it to the bigs? Maybe he'll settle down in the long run, but he's still new to the show.Zimmmerman slipped. It happens. How many other big plays has he made otherwise? He's allowed to make a mistake now and then as far as I'm concerned. Besides, the other defensive miscues and poor pitching were what really lost the game.Dunn has played a decent 1st base, but at best he's average. And I would go as far as to say he's better at 1st than in LF. The Nats are putting up with his defensive liabilities in exchange for his power bat and his threat in the line up. We saw how the team played without him. When he came back, the Nats won the first game. We'll see this kind of stuff from him again over the course of the season. And while Dunn's throw was a little high, the ball was still in Desmond's glove. I'm not sure you can blame that one on Dunn.And here's one positive take-away: Jim Riggleman addressed the team afterward and made sure they knew their sloppy play isn't acceptable. Manny wouldn't have done that. Sure they've sunk back down to .500, but overall this team is playing better than they were under Manny. I'll take that for now.

  23. Doc - May 21, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    Hey Mark, what are the coaches doing in this current downturn? Isn't McClaren supposed to be helping the outfielders (Morgan???), and whose running the running game, if anyone? The whole team needs to get a grip, and Riggs needs to bring back corporal punishment.

  24. Mssr. Anonymous - May 21, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    Not everyone is going to pitch like Livan. I'm not even sure how Livan if pitching like Livan? If there is any luck associated with this season then there it is. Because of Livan and the spectre of Strasburg we have seen some less than good pitchers suddenly, out of nowhere, start consistently throwing quality starts!? Including Atilano? Where did it come from? As far as Morgan. He is what he is. He is going to have some bad games just like Desmond. I have noted that he has become somewhat tentative of late? Even on the base paths. That can most certainly adversely affect your game right? Stop the damned incessant bellyaching. You all sound like Jack LaLanne at the Harbor Hut. Let the young players play its the only way to find out about them. Absolutely do not bring in Guzman, Harris and other veterans who are terrible in places like center field and right just because of an off night. And besides, there is some strange "energy" out there the last two night? Not sure what it is or where it came from?

  25. Anonymous - May 21, 2010 at 5:34 PM

    I think we are seeing too much TPlush and not enough Nyjer Morgan right now, this guy is turning into Southeast Jerome aka Portis without the costumes. Maybe we need to do in CF what we aren doing in RF, rotate people in and out, my proposal is the CF rotation is: Morgan, Harris and Bernadina and the RF rotation is Morse, Bernadina and Guzman, that way everyone's bat stays fresh and no one let's their offensive slump ruin their attitude in the field and bability to get routine fly balls!!!

  26. Anonymous - May 21, 2010 at 6:46 PM

    Morgan looks terrible in the outfield, at bat, and on the bases. Not the same player as last year. Zimmerman has gotten too cocky in the field. Those sidearm and underhand throws have got to go. Riggleman needs to talk to him.And, I am sick of Carpenter and Dibble fawning over these guys all the time. They are terrible. Give me the radio guys anytime.

  27. Doc - May 21, 2010 at 7:02 PM

    Nyj needs to change his nickname from Tony Plush to Flash, as in 'Flash In The Pan'! He can always change it back when things improve.

  28. This is the Crabby Appleton Nats site. - May 21, 2010 at 7:12 PM

    What a bunch of Crabby Appletons. You'd think they'd appreciate a .500 record? No, not this surly bunch or reprobates.





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