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Anatomy of a winning rally

Jul 2, 2010, 3:58 AM EDT


Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Smiles were aplenty following this 2-1, walk-off win.

It takes a lot for the Nationals to manufacture a run these days. They certainly haven't been coming easily for a club that has averaged 2.95 runs over its last 19 games and has been held to two runs or less nine times during that stretch.

So when the Nats twice managed to push a man across the plate in the final three innings of tonight's nip-and-tuck, 2-1 victory over the Mets, it was cause for legitimate celebration on South Capitol Street.

This win would not have been possible without a fantastic pitching performance from Livan Hernandez (seven innings of one-run ball), not to mention effective relief from Drew Storen and Matt Capps. And Nyjer Morgan's two-out, RBI single off Johan Santana in the seventh constituted as clutch a hit as any Nationals batter has collected all season.

But we're going to focus here on the ninth-inning rally that ultimately sealed this victory, because it featured four consecutive quality plate appearances, all of which were necessary to push the winning run across. Let's break it down…

1. WILLIE HARRIS: WALK
Admit it: How many of you were groaning when you saw Harris step to the plate with one out and nobody on to face left-hander Pedro Feliciano? Harris, owner of a .155 batting average. Harris, owner of one hit in his last 24 at-bats. Harris, who had only 14 previous plateRead more »

  1. Sam - Jul 2, 2010 at 4:09 AM

    The walk was huge. It set the tone for the rest of the inning. Excellent at-bat by Willie to get the rally started.

  2. Sec$39.99 - Jul 2, 2010 at 4:28 AM

    I don't disagree, but how come when Nats pitchers walk a guy, it's not a great at-bat by the opposing player, it's just [bad] pitching?

  3. Doc - Jul 2, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    Outstanding end-game analysis, Mark! Just really a great piece of writing. Thanks!

  4. Brandon - Jul 2, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    Hey Mark,Given what happened with the D-Backs, will you provide any insight of Rizzo's relationship with Josh Byrnes? Josh's wiki says he grew up in DC.

  5. K.D. - Jul 2, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    Thanks Mark, haven't had a chance to watch the replay on MLB. Great recap.

  6. Joe Seamhead - Jul 2, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Today is Morgan's 30th birthday. I thought he was younger then that.

  7. Anonymous - Jul 2, 2010 at 12:54 PM

    Very nicely done – again- Mark. Thank you. In my mind the story of the game is three words: Livan Livan Livan.

  8. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    Carrying forward:Maybe we could bash Debbi Taylor for saying that Kenny G is one of the best saxophone players of all time? (Sorry, Kenny G fans, but…dang) —Who to bash? It's quite a nit but a line drive single instead of a sac fly makes a better highlight.

  9. Richard - Jul 2, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Yes, great article.Re who to bash, I hope Guzman's hitting, which he's doing again this year, and his defense at 2nd base, especially the last couple of nights, will quiet the Guzman-bashers for a day or two. He even drew some walks and got a HBP the other night. … On another subject, I, like Adam Dunn, hate the talk this time of year of the Nats dumping the few hitters they have for pitching prospects. Good lord, they struggle to score now. IMHO, removing the oft injured Nic Johnson from the #2 position in the batting order this time last year was a blow to the offense, which, if memory serves, was a strong suit last year up to that point. It was the pitching that was the main problem. I wish the Nats would at least put an end to the trade-Adam-Dunn talk with a contract extension; of course, Adam and his agent have something to say about that, too.

  10. Souldrummer - Jul 2, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    @RichardI can understand the fatigue on Adam Dunn trade talk. Trading Nick Johnson was responsible and necessary, though. He got injured with Florida and he has barely played for the Yankees as a free agent. Getting an okay prospect for him was necessary and responsible given where we were as a team. Plus, the reason that Dunn has value and is worthy of resigning is that moving Nick Johnson cleared a spot for Dunn to move to the infield where his defense doesn't hurt us as much. It's the lack of production from 2B and CF that are our problems for the most part. That and waiting out Desmond's necessary growing pains.

  11. Steve M. - Jul 2, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    Richard – I have been squawking about a Adam Dunn extension for 2 months now. Sure, April he was slumping and now he is proving to be Top 5 and his 1st base defense has been decent. He makes everyone around him in the order better. For his detractors, yes he hasn't been clutch with RISP.Still needs to be a part of the future here!

  12. Steve M. - Jul 2, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    On Guzman, he has shown 2 days in a row that his defense at 2nd gives him much better range than Kennedy.Guzman is also better in the 2nd hole than Bernadina since he is a switch hitter.

  13. natscan reduxit - Jul 2, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    … great win, fabulous and fantastic. I whooped out loud and my kids thought I was nuts. Way to:Go Nats!!… and now for something completely different. Ever wonder who controls MLB? Ever wonder why players never have anything to say that doesn’t involve baseball? (And that goes for most every other pro sport as well, so it’s not a baseball only issue.) Maybe y’all should read this:http://www.thenation.com/blog/36959/vacuum-tony-la-russa-loves-arizona%E2%80%99s-sb-1070

  14. Souldrummer - Jul 2, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    @MarkThe other part of this rally that needs to be explained is that it was inexplicable that the Mets would leave Feliciano in to pitch to Guzman. Feliciano's job is to get out lefties. He's supposed to be able to retire Harris and Morgan. Not retiring Harris was his fault. Morgan was kind of bad luck for him on the drag bunt. But Jerry did not flip Guzman around for reasons unfathomable to me a Nats fan, and certainly most Mets fans. He brings in a righty to flip Guzman to his weaker side one batter earlier and this might be a different story.I'm not always a fan of Riggles' game management (see Alberto Gonzalez pinch hitting against Santana and basically wasting a position player with Bernadina coming in solely for defense), but his minor questionable moves often pale in comparison to Jerry's flagrant headscratching ones.

  15. THE METS HATE WILLIE....AND SO IT GOES - Jul 2, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    Come on, we all held our breath with Willie Harris up. If Willie struck out on the 3-2 pitch (which was so close to a strike), we all know we would be yelling and screaming.The good news is that this maybe gives Willie some confidence. A .155 batting average is abominable for a bench player. It will be interesting the direction Willie goes to next. Is "2008 Willie" out there?

  16. Big Cat - Jul 2, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    ok Atilano….lets keep it going. Twirl a shutout and we'll go extra innings…..lets go

  17. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Geez, again with the politics and baseball. We all have in common our love of the Nats. No doubt there are differing views among us on religion, politics, and other hot-button issues. Frankly, I have no desire to know the views of baseball forum participants on those issues, nor do I wish to air my own views here. I trust that forum denizens have sufficient initiative and savvy to know where they might read editorials and discussions on such issues without any pointers from me, should they wish to do so.

  18. natscan reduxit - Jul 2, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    … you’re right about the politics, natsfan. I should have listened to my own mind when it told me not to hit ‘send’. But I thought since it was directly involved with the game, the players and the way the league operates, maybe it would pass muster. … somewhere there is a place for these conversations. I’ll keep looking.

  19. NatinBeantown - Jul 2, 2010 at 7:21 PM

    Mark,Congrats on your 500th post! Can you get to 1000 by the end of the season, or are we in for a swoon in the dog days of August? :)

  20. Kevin Trainor - Jul 2, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    Natscan, you might try FJB. He had a post not too long ago about the Arizona immigration brouhaha that put me off the site for about a month. Post linked at Beltway Baseball.

  21. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    Thanks, natscan. Apologies if I was intemperate in my reply.

  22. Mark Zuckerman - Jul 2, 2010 at 11:59 PM

    NatinBeantown: Thanks! I honestly had no idea I'd reached 500 posts. I certainly intend to keep up at this same pace the rest of the season. Not sure if that will get me to 1,000 by October, but you never know.I do know that I am closing in on another, more-impressive milestone, one that is directly attributable to all of you who have been coming to this site over the last five months. I'll make note of it in a couple weeks when it happens!

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

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NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
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