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Just what the doctor ordered

Jun 30, 2010, 3:50 AM EST


Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn congratulates Alberto Gonzalez upon scoring in the fifth.

ATLANTA — Could you see it, feel it, hear it, the moment Tyler Clippard struck out Yunel Escobar to end tonight's game?

Yes, that was a tangible sigh of relief emanating from the Nationals' dugout. Rest easy, everyone. They've won a ballgame again.

Actually, the Nats did more than win a ballgame tonight. They won an incredibly well-played ballgame against a top opponent. Few victories this season can match this 7-2 triumph over the Braves for sheer execution top-to-bottom. Amazingly, this was only the sixth time this year they won a game by five or more runs.

"That's about as clean a game as we've played in a while," Jim Riggleman said, adding: "It's encouraging to remind ourselves that we can play like that."

Everyone needs a little reminder once in a while, especially when the last week had been so trying. It wasn't just the fact the Nationals had lost five in a row. They've been through longer losing streaks before. It was the manner in which they lost those five games. Four of them by one run. Three of them blown leads in Baltimore. Monday's seventh-inning meltdown with Stephen Strasburg on the mound.

If ever the Nats needed a game like this, tonight was the night.

"I don't think we ever felt pressure," Ryan Zimmerman said. "It sucks losing four or five or however many in a row. Whether we've won five in a row or lost five in a row, I think we have the same amount ofRead more ยป

  1. WillC - Jun 30, 2010 at 5:39 AM

    Anyone notice the BIG difference in the lineup tonight vs. last 20 games or so. That's right. No Desmond. Of course Gonzalez isn't going to produce like this every night, but I do hope that Desmond is benched for a few more games to learn his lesson. I feel like another big error from Desmond will make this good feeling all gone again, if he plays tomorrow. As for Stammen, only big hurdle for him the entire season has been getting over the first inning. He definitely did a good job tonight. Hopefully he keeps it up.

  2. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 7:32 AM

    What "lesson" is Desmond going to learn? As far as I can tell he's working as hard as he can. You can only expect someone to try as hard as they can. You don't beat them when they're trying hard and failing, that's just discouraging. Desmond seems like a class act. Sometimes people just need time to learn, dig? I'm sure you did on some job in your life, I know I have.

  3. The Great Unwashed - Jun 30, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    If Desmond got the night off for making errors, then why doesn't Riggleman sit Morgan for repeatedly getting picked off first and/or missing the cutoff man?If Riggleman wants to make a statement by giving someone the night off, then he needs to do it with more than one player. Desmond makes errors but to me it's not for lack of effort. In contrast, Morgan keeps making the same mistakes. This uneven justice makes no sense to me.

  4. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    Great UnwashedDesmond wasn't benched for making errors. He was benched to give AG successive starts and a few more at bats so that he will be sharper coming off the bench to pinch hit.

  5. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    A day without a Desmond is a great thing maybe we can make this a regular occurance by sitting him 3-4 days per week like he should have been from the start. Zim's comment about not feeling pressure is priceless..in a sad way..seriously we won one game how about winning more than one in a row and then you can talk about the pressure being lifted!! Great leader…NOT!

  6. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    The point is Desmond wasn't benched for making a mistake as a punishment, he was benched because he was pressing and Riggs gave him a night off. Gonzo did a great job, the offense was a pleasant surprise the defense is always there.

  7. We Need a Bat - Jun 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    Desmond needs to play most every day, whether it be in the big leagues or AAA. While I'm not totally sold on Desi as a lock to be a great shortstop (ahem, Mike Rizzo), he is a promising prospect. I think you keep running him out there at keast to the break, and see where you are at that point. If he's going 0 for 5 every night and not fielding his position, you take a long, hard look at sending him down to work on fundamentals and get some success under his belt. Desi is entirely different than Morgan, who it seems to me makes mistakes because he's hot dogging. He's also an older guy. Like countless others, I want to see more Bernadina in CF and Morse in RF for a few weeks and see how that goes.

  8. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    Anyone else notice that Nyjer was hard charging again in (false) hopes of gunning out the runner at home? He was expecting the ball to bounce instead of skip as it did.Had he done the prudent thing and just played the ball and limit the runner to a single while allowing the run to score, there would have been no triple. Fortunately it didn't hurt but it does show another exmple of his "aggressive" hockey style nature overshadowing a natural baseball style.

  9. Bowdenball - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Mark-Just out of curiosity- any idea why did the Nats use Clippard last night in a five-run game? Guy's got 49 innings already, and we're not even at the 81-game mark. Seemed unnecessary. Was it because they felt the need to be 100% sure we locked down the win to end the streak as quickly as possible? If that was the case, why not Capps? He's only thrown 1.3 of an inning since June 22. Or maybe Storen, to start "grooming" him for the closer role down the road by giving him a 9th inning 5 run lead situation? Or really, anyone who's not piling up the innings like Clip.Don't want to seem nitpitcky- I'm delighted with the win, liked the lineup yesterday from Riggleman and most of the managerial decisions as well. Just curious if you knew anything there. It struck me as very unusual.

  10. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    For what its worth, I believe they sent Clip out to get him "back on the horse" after his implosion in Baltimore.

  11. Geppington - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    Gotta believe it was to get him back on track after the baltimore outings.

  12. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    I would guess that Riggleman called on Clippard last night to get him back on the horse ASAP after his terrible performance in Baltimore over the weekend. As far as Riggleman's concerned, the health of Clippard's head is much more important than the health of his arm. In fact, Riggleman would probably blow out Clippard's arm entirely if that's what it took to get his head right. But if he keeps managing like that, by the end of the season Rizzo will be handing Riggleman his head on a platter.

  13. Bowdenball - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    Yeah, guess that makes sense, or at least as much sense as anything else. Also, I wonder if there's something about Clippard (a converted starter) that leads the Nats F.O. to believe he can handle a heavier workload than most relievers. That's why I figured I'd ask, Mark being privy to some inside info and all.

  14. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    What's the odds on Desmond being back at SS tonite? And what kind of reward does Gonzalez get for playing errorless ball and going 4 for 4? And what about Guzman quietly going to 7th in the order and walking twice and getting hit by a pitch? Desmonds probably back in the lineup and one of these two guys sits. I don't get it.

  15. Big Cat - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    No, the reason Clippard was in the game is because Rigg's fanny is so tight you couldn't pull a pin out of it with a tractor. The man makes me nervous just watching

  16. JayB - Jun 30, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Roger CFPudge CZim 3BDunn 1BJosh LFMorse RFGonzo SSOrr 2B (need to stabilize the D for a week)PitcherFBJ has a nice rational for Ian D to AAA for a few weeks (same as I called for a few days back)…needs to get his head cleared and work on things in low pressure setting. Same is needed for Morgan. If that does not happen I second the calls for both Ian and Morgan to sit for a week and reflect on what they need to do be earn back into the line up. DFA Harris and Kennedy now and reward AAAA vets for a few weeks with some time in the show. By July trade deadline all excuses are expired and RIZZO must make some major roster decisions.And NO MARK…this will not fix the team but it will improve the product in the short run.

  17. b - Jun 30, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    Great game for Stammen. He was consistently down in the zone and without being too geeky, he "pitched to contact." Before he was always nibbling, getting behing and then having to serve up the 88mph straight one right down the middle. You're a sinkerballer Craig. Throw the ball low and let it work for you. If they hit a bunch of ground balls through the holes….well so be it, you just go to the Hotel bar and forget about it

  18. Knoxville Nat - Jun 30, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    "….but it will improve the product in the short run."Sounds like an idea that comes straight out of Capital Hill, one without any rhyme or reason to it. Just show the people (Nats fans) that management (government) is doing something, anything no matter how poorly conceived(I mean really, Pete Orr?) it may be so we can quiet the unruly masses.

  19. Chris - Jun 30, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Pete Orr? Pete effing Orr? The next person who mentions him gets donkey punched. I'm serious.

  20. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 30, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    Good call, Chris. I'll back you 100% on this unless the guys as big as Adam Dunn.

  21. Anonymous8 - Jun 30, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    A few years ago when the team had LoDuca playing LF or 1st base I felt sorry for the pitchers that had to look at the lineup card and see LoDuca behind him in the field.The pitcher basically can't say a word but you know he has to think about throwing an outside pitch to a leftie so he doesn't go opposite field and hit it near LoDuca in left.A pitcher needs the confidence that he has guys that can play defense behind him.Riggleman had the right idea on Tuesday of shoring up the defense behind Strasburg by going with Gonzo at 2nd, and it was Desmond at SS that botched the tailor-made double play. It happens.Last night, the ball found Willingham on a sinking liner to left and he made a nice diving catch and that sharp bouncing ball to Dunn who snagged it and got the runner out and saved a sure double. Clearly, of all the players on the 25 man, that is the best Riggleman could write out for a defensive team while giving him Willingham and Dunn for power. Of course in the 9th, he HAD to put Kennedy at 1st instead of Morse. Riggleman almost did everything correct on Tuesday except his 9th inning move of Kennedy. The team stepped up behind Stammen. Besides Livan on Saturday, every pitcher since last Wednesday has deserved a "W".My analysis on Desmond is how I feel about Dunn and Willingham. Are they so much of a + as an offensive player that you write them in while you know defensively they may cost you.Right now, Desmond is in an offensive slump so the answer is send him to AAA for a few weeks to get back on track. DFA Kennedy too as he adds nothing. The middle infield has cost this team dearly this year.

  22. Anonymous8 - Jun 30, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    JayB – Watch out what you wish for. If you DFA Willie Harris, you are left with Willingham, Morgan, Bernadina, and Morse. Don't expect Guzy back in RF after that missed catch in Houston.Any changes in the outfield brings back Justin Maxwell who is not a guy you want back on this team so with the depth of outfielders in the system, you are stuck with Willie Harris.Rizzo has that "man crush" on Justin Maxwell so given the choice, I keep Willie Harris.When you DFA Adam Kennedy, who takes his spot on the roster? Pete Orr is not much of a defensive upgrade although Orr is a better pinch hitter.

  23. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 30, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Don't look now but Maxwell has raised his average to .288 and his OBP to .400. You WILL be seeing him back on the roster pretty soon.

  24. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    After the Strasburg loss on the Desmond error the other day, Ray Knight said Desmond was going to be a star in this league. Then Dibble said Desmond was going to be a star in this league.Does anyone on this board believe this?

  25. Big Cat - Jun 30, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    Yeah, I saw that Maxwell is doing good in AAA. Good lord, haven't we seen that he can't play at the big league level. Trade him while you can get something for him. too bad Marrero can't play anything but first base…he can flat out hit and will be a good major league hitter. I think as he matures he will give you 15-20 bombs also

  26. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    BIG CAT – Well said, but man crushes sometimes cloud the judgment. There were those that applauded that 345 foot HR pulled to LF last year that landed in the flower pots just out of the reach of the leftfielder to win the game for the Nats as the coming out party for the great Justin Maxwell. It was a great moment at the time. As they say, this is now and that was then, what have you done for me lately?A .288 average in AAA doesn't excite me. Sorry JMax. See you in September.

  27. Doc - Jun 30, 2010 at 3:28 PM

    Quick check suggests that the Nats infield has more errors than the whole Cinci team–no wonder their pitchers are doing better.I have some confidence that Desi will learn. Don't think that Morgan wants to. If they sit Morgan, they should tell him they are tired of his dumb play. Riggleman needs to stop buying into Morgan's excuse of 'dumb' being 'aggressive'.

  28. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 3:28 PM

    While I am a fan of Gonzo, I think his future is at 2B, not SS. You guys must think that once you call up a rookie he plays like he's in his prime — give the kid some time. Let's not discount how much Guzzie playing 2B for the first time affects Desmond at SS.

  29. TheMichael - Jun 30, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    If Gonzo's future on this team is anything more than a platoon IF, then we are destined for mediocrity at best.

  30. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    Roger CFPudge CZim 3BDunn 1BJosh LFMorse RFGonzo SSOrr 2B (need to stabilize the D for a week)PitcherOrr is hitting .240 in Syracuse!? He DOES NOT field as well as Gonzalezand is just another Kennedy? Why? That's pretty silly if you ask me?OBP lineup.Bernadina CFWillingham LFDunn 1BZimmerman 3BMorse RFRodriguez CDesmond SSGonzalez 2BThis is the best line up for getting on base … should improve the fielding. But as Mark said, Riggleman does not make up line ups based on performance. Respecting the veterans must always come first.

  31. natsfan1a - Jun 30, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    Carrying forward for Ernie and sec3. I think this subscription link is still valid:http://tinyurl.com/2elcqcl

  32. Anonymous - Jun 30, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    Don't look now but Maxwell has raised his average to .288 and his OBP to .400. You WILL be seeing him back on the roster pretty soon.You didn't happen to check Boomer Whiting's did you? He is doing MUCH BETTER OBP wise. He has around 21 stolen bases. He has committed no errors. JMax looks worst with his 4 errors. Trade the guy would ya?

  33. GRClarkdc - Jun 30, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    Desmond needs to sit not for lack of effort or physical errors, but for mental ones. He admitted that when he threw the ball away in Baltimore with no prayer of a play that he had decided to go there before the ball was hit no matter what — great that he anticipated, but bad judgment for attempting the throw. And he loses concentration — I could say because he's planning his post-game quote, but that would be unfair. But he does need to learn that to be as good as he thinks he is he has to be accountable, and not to run off at the mouth after 3 bad losses in a row by saying how well the team is playing (and by implication him, the ML leader in errors). Desmond is not 21 — he is 25 in Sept. We need to find out if he is the real deal — part of that process is making sure he gets the lesson on accountability — like Bobby Cox did to Andruw Jones in his rookie season by pulling him mid-inning after dogging it after an easy pop and letting it drop. Some players can learn that with a gentle word, some need to be benched so they can think about why. Desmond has made so many mental mistakes this season that Riggs' gentle words seem to have had no effect; in fact Desmond has decided he's the team spokesman; got to earn that is the lesson.

  34. Ron In Reston - Jun 30, 2010 at 7:17 PM

    Ok, I hesitated in posting this because I, too, am disappointed in Desmond's play. That being said:In his first three full seasons at shortstop, this player had 44, 31 and 26 errors while batting .267 .252 .288.This next player, in his first three full seasons at shortstop had 25, 26 and 26 errors while batting .318 .304 .282.This next player, in his first three full seasons at SS made 25, 20 and 24 errors while batting .258 .211 .230.Finally, this player, in his first three full seasons at SS made 22, 18 and 9 errors while batting .314 .292 .324.So maybe we give Desi a little bit of a break since this is only his FIRST full season at shortstop.Oh, you want to know who the players are? The first three are all in the Hall of Fame. Robin Yount, Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith. The last one is a lock for first ballot enshrinement, Derek Jeter….and I hate the Yankees, but i respect talent.So, Anonymous @ 10:22, yes Desmond could be a star in this league…..could. He needs the right coaching both in the field and at the plate. If he doesn't come around, that's a shame. Or maybe we move him to CF a la Yount and make a HOFer out of him….

  35. Bowdenball - Jun 30, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    Ron in Reston:I notice that you didn't include on-base or power numbers for those guys. And you also acted like those averages are close to where Desmond is right now. They're not, with the exception of Ozzie Smith's, who was then and continued to be thought of as a defensive SS without parallel.Desmond's first season doesn't look remotely like those.Also, Desmond is 24 going on 25. How old were those guys in their first three seasons?

  36. Steve M. - Jun 30, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    Bernadina CFWillingham LFDunn 1BZimmerman 3BMorse RFRodriguez CDesmond SSGonzalez 2B——————–Nice lineup but Bernadina will not flourish at the top of the lineup. Maybe the #2, just don't see him as leadoff which is why the team is stuck with Morgan as he is pesty to the opponents and if he can play with his brain clicked in then he needs to stay for now.Hows about Boomer Whiting for Willie Harris and Chase Lambin for Adam Kennedy?This bench needs to get shakin up a little bit more.

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