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Game 81: Mets at Nats

Jul 2, 2010, 7:26 PM EDT


Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
After last night's walk-off win, the Nats attempt to make it two in a row.

It's kind of hard to believe the Nationals will hit the midway point of the season tonight. Really, doesn't it seem like that Opening Day fiasco against the Phillies just happened yesterday?

But there it is in bold type at the top of this post: Game 81. The Nats have gotten to this point in unconventional fashion, winning 20 of their first 35 games and then losing 30 of their last 45. But if they beat the Mets tonight, they'll sit at 36-45. That's a 72-win pace, a 13-game improvement over last year. Deep down, wouldn't you all take that at the end of 2010?

Luis Atilano faces lefty Jonathon Niese tonight. Jim Riggleman sticks with his same lineup from last night, aside from Ivan Rodriguez taking over again behind the plate and Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman flip-flopping spots. Center fielder Angel Pagan returns for the Mets after sitting out last night with muscle spasms in his side, but shortstop Jose Reyes remains out with his own oblique/back injury.

Check back for updates before, during and after the game…

METS at NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Sunny, 79 degrees, Wind 5 mph in from CF

STARTING LINEUPS
NATIONALS (35-45)
CF Nyjer Morgan
2B Cristian Guzman
1B Adam Dunn
3B Ryan Zimmerman

Read more »

  1. Knoxville Nat - Jul 2, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    With this lineup two of the first three batters are lefthanded,I wonder if Riggleman has ever considered switching Dunn and Willingham in order to give more spacing between LH batters?

  2. Sunderland - Jul 2, 2010 at 7:38 PM

    Knox Nat, I think what Riggleman is trying to do when he uses this lineup (against left handed pitchers) is to get a right handed bat (Willingham) behind Zimmerman, so pitchers have to pitch to Zimmerman.So he wants a right handed bat behind Zim. That's the main thing the Dunn / Zimm switch is buying him.

  3. HHover - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    Riggs' line-up philosophy:1. Treat "leftie pitcher, rightie batter" (and vice versa) as if it were one of the 10 commandments2. Bench your hot hitters, start the cold onesA few weeks ago, Willie Harris was exhibit A of that philosophy, and tonight, it's Michael Morse. Riggs wouldn't start Morse when he was hot 2-3 weeks ago but now that he's cooled off (.214 in last 10 games), he gets 2 starts in a row. Bernadina sits for the 2d night, because he's a leftie, and hey, he's hitting .296 in his last 10 games.

  4. Section 222 - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    @Sunderland is right. Riggs has said as much. With men on and first base open, a LH pitcher is going to be very tempted to walk Zim and pitch to Dunn if we keep the standard lineup. Seems like a smart move to me. Let's hope that Morse can show some pop tonight. Another win would be very sweet after the pain of the last few weeks.

  5. Anonymous - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:11 PM

    Would I accept a 13 game improvement….hell no! Anything less than .500 is a failure this team has the pieces to improve more than 13 games and with te prospect of losing key pieces to trade or free agency before the 2011 season, te team will be rebuilding again next season..it is funny how this towns media can rationalize horrible into mediocre and mediocre into sucess! Take to curly W glasses of and look at this team, it is a hideous sight!!

  6. Jimmy D - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Jimmy D - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:18 PM

    "That's a 72-win pace, a 13-game improvement over last year. Deep down, wouldn't you all take that at the end of 2010?"Yes, without question. Lots of good stuff this year, even if this is our fate. A bullpen that can give us a chance to win, including a rookie reliever in Storen that looks to be the real deal; a legitimate ace for years to come in Strasburg and the increased fan base that came with it; an emerging right/center-fielder in the making in Roger Bernadina; many quality starts from youngster Atilano and I expect more from Stammen after that mid-season gut-check; Zimmerman continuing to establish himself on the elite level; and the drafting of another phenom in Bryce Harper. I'd add the development of Desmond at SS (though I know many disagree). The guy was one of the most clutch hitters we had through the first 30 or so games this year. Of course, I'd love to have something positive about every position, but we are talking about a team that has just come off back-to-back 100 loss seasons. All of the above are solid building blocks for moving forward. Maybe Dunn gets a contract extension and becomes another solid piece of the base (I hope so). Maybe the same happens with Willingham (I'm less optimistic for him – I think he is gone before the trade deadline). Then you have the eventual return of Jesus Flores to study behind Pudge, and Wang and Jordan Zimmermann coming off the DL in the next few months. I like where it is going. 70-some-odd wins would be a successful year for us. You have to crawl before you can walk, as they say – being a fan of a new team, being built from scratch, is not for the impatient.

  8. Knoxville Nat - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:23 PM

    Anon, 4:11 said "Anything less than .500 is a failure…."Sorry but I don't think you are being realistic in your expectations. To go to .500 this season the Nats would have to win 22 more games this year than last season or a 37% increase. That kind of improvement from one season to the next is almost unheard of in MLB. While I believe that the team is better talent wise this year especially in the bullpen, I don't think we are 37% better. In fact we still have many holes in our lineup as everyone is aware of. If we win 72 games this year, 13 more than last year, that would represent a 22% increase and as Mark suggested yes I would be happy with that given the roster that we have and the lack of major league ready players in our minor league system.

  9. JayB - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    70 Wins is not good enough….not even close…..look at the run diff from last year and they should not have lost anywhere hear 103 with that team…..500 or Riggs is toast.

  10. JayB - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:33 PM

    "To go to .500 this season the Nats would have to win 22 more games this year than last season or a 37% increase."….JUST CHECK OUT SD this year vs. last year! It can be done and is being done…one really big problem in this town is low expectations….Lerners eat that up every year and fail to spend what is needed….just like last winter and 2B and RF

  11. greg - Jul 2, 2010 at 8:47 PM

    the difference between "can be done" and "reasonable expectations" can be immensely vast.you "can" fall off a 20 story building and survive, but is it reasonable to expect it?you "can" go from 4-12 to the superbowl, but is it a reasonable expectation?not that many people have accused you of being reasonable, jayb, but there it is.

  12. natsfan1a - Jul 2, 2010 at 9:03 PM

    Well said, Knoxville Nat.

  13. JayB - Jul 2, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    70 wins is good for you two….really that is all you expect after 6 years in DC and 4 of ownership milking profits that have them at the top of all MLB teams (Forbes)….this is the problem, why should Lerners do any more than 70 wins ever?

  14. A DC Wonk - Jul 2, 2010 at 9:27 PM

    San Diego didn't have the main problem that the Nats have — years of MLB running the team and killing off the entire farm system. Was there a *single* decent prospect in the entire system before Zimmerman was drafted? That's an awfully big hole to crawl out of.

  15. sbrent - Jul 2, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    I'd like to see them sustain a .500 average for the second half of the season, which I guess would result in 75 or 76 wins for the whole season.

  16. Sam - Jul 2, 2010 at 9:45 PM

    Honestly, if anyone thinks this team is a .500 team right now, I feel sorry for you. You're wrong, and your extremely high expectations will be letdown time and time again. The reason why the Nationals hovered around .500 for a while is because Ivan Rodriguez, Ian Desmond, and Cristian Guzman over-achieved. A lot. Let's look at the bright side, though. We know that Rodriguez, Guzman, and Desmond can't hit worth a crap, and we know they won't be in the team's long-term plans (maybe Desmond as a backup utility infielder).

  17. Chris - Jul 2, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    JayB, If it's not good enough, then go away. And NEVER come back.Signed, All of Nats Nation

  18. A DC Wonk - Jul 2, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    "We know that Rodriguez, Guzman, and Desmond can't hit worth a crap"Uhh, who's we? Desmond hit over .350 in AAA last year — as for whether he can hit MLB pitching, the jury's still out. As for the Guz that so many people around here like to trash, since the beginning of 2001, he's hit under .270 only twice. Pudge has hit under .275 only once in the last 15 years. It was last year, and so nobody knows whether it was the beginning of his downfall, or an anomaly. But I guess if you insist on looking at half empty glasses . . . . In any event, I'd love to hit as crappy as that!

  19. Steve M. - Jul 2, 2010 at 10:34 PM

    Agree with DC Wonk. It is as if there wasn't a Farm System at all. It took the Devil Rays/Rays 10 years to get there! This team will be ready to compete in 2011 if Lerners and Rizzo get serious. Why hasn't Adam Dunn and Matt Capps been extended so they can concentrate on Shortstop and RF and 1 more stud starting pitcher to make a real run at it. I say Shortstop so they can move Desmond to 2nd Base which he will be better at.I am also hoping Jesus Flores will return and Jordan Zimmermann will be the Jordan Zimmerman we saw in April 2009.

  20. Jim Webster - Jul 2, 2010 at 11:23 PM

    Yechhh … the fashion guru who gave 'em the "patriotic" white caps must be the same one who designed the pajamas for the Phils and Astros in the 60s.

  21. Doc - Jul 2, 2010 at 11:29 PM

    Morgan caught stealing again. Two problems here: #1 Morgan has lost a step; and #2 poor management on Riggleman's part to not put a stop to it. Both Morgan and Riggleman suffer from delusions!

  22. HHover - Jul 2, 2010 at 11:37 PM

    What Nyjer giveth, Nyjer taketh away.He's obviously unable to see his own limitations (the strength of his arm, the speed of his legs), and Riggleman needs to tell him – you get caught stealing again, you sit. Middle of the game, it doesn't matter–you come out.

  23. Slidell - Jul 3, 2010 at 12:02 AM

    ANOTHER one off the lower part of the wall; at least the 6th one this year for Nyjer. Plenty of time to get under it.

  24. Anonymous - Jul 3, 2010 at 12:19 AM

    A DC wonk,Bernadina and Desmond were already in the Expos system when they moved to Washington. You do like Desmond, don't you?Really, apart from Zim, the Bowden regime did not distinguish itself in drafting and developing. Detwiler, Marrero, most of the high-round draft choices have not developed yet. It's not unreasonable to expect more of the 2006-2007 classes to be knocking on the big club's door than we've seen so far. Of course, the 800 lb. elephant nobody wants to talk about is our abysmal record in signing and developing international talent.

  25. Anonymous - Jul 3, 2010 at 12:35 AM

    "8:26 p.m. — Tonight's out-of-nowhere Cy Young clone vs. the Nats: Jonathon Niese. He just established a new career high with eight strikeouts. And we're only through four innings."Really a coincidence that all these guys just happen to have great nights, right?

  26. Les in NC - Jul 3, 2010 at 12:36 AM

    Can we fire Ekstein now? This is incredibly embarassing! Wait, lets tip our F'n caps to a wonder.. no masterfully pitched game, and try and get 'em tomorrow. UGH.

  27. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me - Jul 3, 2010 at 1:14 AM

    To be fair, Jonothan Niese has not exactly come out of nowhere, Mark. He's 4-and-0 with a 2.67 ERA since coming off the DL. And that's going to be 5-and-0 when this game is finished. He actually could be the Mets' best starter right now, Johan the Overrated not withstanding.

  28. Knoxville Nat - Jul 3, 2010 at 1:38 AM

    JayB,I never said 70 wins would be good enough for me. I did say I would be happy with a 22% improvement this year vs. last season. Yes I do want to see the team continue to improve, and make no misstake, overall it is improving. Look at the won loss record at the all star break last season and look at it afterwards as well. Do you not see some improvement? Where is the team this year compared to where it was this point last season? Do you not see any improvement?As for San Diego and their improvement…kudos to them! But go back and read the rest of my post at 4:23 PM that you quote, a 37% improvement from one year to the next is ALMOST unheard of". I didn't say it couldn't be done it is just very rare that it happens.Bottom line JayB is that your expectations are very unrealistic and you need to get yourself grounded back to reality. As DC Wonk and others have said under MLB ownership our minor league system was virtually barren and the past 6 years, especially the last 4, we have operated much like an expansion team.

  29. Les in NC - Jul 3, 2010 at 1:53 AM

    Hey, look! Neither Morgan or Morse struck out tonight, so they should be able to stay in the lineup for tomorrow right?

  30. Anonymous - Jul 3, 2010 at 2:12 AM

    Can someone please explain to me why these retards on MASN keep saying that Bernadina's run didn't mean anything?!?! There was a man on 3rd, was there not? They were down 2 runs, were they not? Maybe my math's not so sharp, but it occurs to me that Bernadina was the TYING EFFING RUN. That doesn't matter? The run that KEEPS YOU FROM LOSING THE GD GAME doesn't matter? Idiots.

  31. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Jul 3, 2010 at 2:18 AM

    Roger Bernadina…born to be a Nat.

  32. Anonymous - Jul 3, 2010 at 2:21 AM

    Ok, I re-wound it. Men on 1 & 2. I'll take a couple deep breaths, but I still hate Bob & Ray.

  33. K.D. - Jul 3, 2010 at 2:43 AM

    Hey we had a chance, clutch hits in the ninth, good relief pitching from the bullpen. On the other hand I have never seen so many base-running blunders by basically two players (Bernadina & Morgan)on one team. It has got to drive the veterans on this team nuts, not to mention the fans.

  34. Steve M. - Jul 3, 2010 at 2:56 AM

    I just got back from the game and watched my TiVo for the Post-game.1) Nyjer sliding past 2nd. He has to use his feet as an anchor and dig his toes in so he doesn't slide by the base. Sliding over 5 feet past the base is ridiculous. He did it several times last year too.2) That Cora triple past Michael Morse was a catchable play. ESPN highlights just flashed Brett Gardener of the Yankees making the same play in LF. Bernadina probably makes that play. Oh well.3) Bernadina getting picked off at 2nd is now the laugher in the Mets Clubhouse. It can't happen. That is a High School play.4) The Nats showed heart in that comeback.5) Desmond played solid which is good to see. Nyjer other than the caught stealing was sharp too. Bullpen was great.

  35. Ernie - Jul 3, 2010 at 3:13 AM

    I just got back from the game as well. We have the "Abe" quarter-season package of tickets. It has to be the one with the worst record. Add in the handful of extra games I've gone to this year and the Nats are 6-12 when I'm in the stadium. 6-12? What am I saying? If I were a starting pitcher I'd be the ace of this staff!A few more thoughts:1. Nyjer Morgan is afraid of the wall in center field. Has been since the Pagan inside-the-park-homerun.2. Michael Morse is clueless in right field. He missed the catch on the triple but at least two other times broke the wrong way on fly balls and nearly missed the put-outs. He reminded me of Adam Dunn out there. The Morse/Maxwell lovefest has to end. These guys are terrible. At least Bernadina can run and has an arm. But see #3.3. I have been asking for weeks but have never gotten an answer: Is there anyone on this team in charge of coaching baserunning? Tonight I think I figured it out. There is not. Pitiful.I'm leaving for a 2-week vacation. At this point I need a bigger break from this team than I do from work. I wonder if I'll know half the roster when I get back to town.

  36. Anonymous - Jul 3, 2010 at 3:37 AM

    I wonder if I'll know half the roster when I get back to town. Real Nats fans hope not.

  37. LoveDaNats - Jul 3, 2010 at 3:42 AM

    @ ErnieI've attended 7 games so far this year and have yet to see a Nats win, even with Strasburg pitching twice! I feel your pain. I keep thinking maybe if I play my cards right, the Nats will pay me not to come.

  38. Anonymous - Jul 3, 2010 at 3:55 AM

    In the press conference after the game, Riggleman said of Bernadina: well, he's a young player, it's a learning experience. You must be kidding me. I knew not to get picked off to end a game when I was TEN (10) years old.This is a low-IQ team. Not baseball IQ, intelligence quotient IQ. These are dumb men.When the pitcher gets a ground ball with two outs, on 29 clubs, he starts walking to the dugout. On the Nats the pitcher holds his breath.There must be a statistic showing the percent of times a team fails to convert double plays. I bet the Nats lead all teams all time in this stat.We are becoming the Orioles, finding new and more embarrassing ways to fail every night. Contrary to all the garbage we're reading, this is not a short-term trend that will naturally turn around. It is ALREADY A 2 AND 1/2 SEASON TREND AND THERE IS NO REASON IT CANNOT LAST FIVE YEARS, OR TEN, JUST LIKE BALTIMORE.I think we're already seeing a Strasburg attendance effect, and it's not what we wanted. I expected a big crowd tonight and we had 24K. I think people are guessing when Stras will start and only planning to go to those games. After we strand him another game tomorrow without run support, that trend will get worse too.One of the worst nights ever at Nats Park. This team is in trouble. Novelty gags like El Duque only make the whole sickening debacle worse.

  39. Anonymous - Jul 3, 2010 at 4:05 AM

    I am 1-1 in games. including the 1-0 loss to the Royals.@ Manassas fanMy big beef is the same as someone mentioned earlier the strike outs. We make every teams pitchers look great. We have well over 100 more strikes out than our pitchers have done.We are not high in the league with homers, so our strike outs should be much lower.Eckstein can go as far as I am concerned, I see the hitting is far inferior to last year's team, and since we are getting better pitching you would think that with the same hitting we would be near a .500 team.

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