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Game 96: Nats at Reds

Jul 22, 2010, 2:16 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
It's another scorcher at Great American Ball Park for the series finale.

CINCINNATI — No sense beating around the bush on this one, because it's surely going to be the hot topic of debate here for the next two hours before the game starts: Cristian Guzman is batting fifth today. Willie Harris is batting sixth.

Yep, Josh Willingham, Ivan Rodriguez and Ian Desmond all have the day off, leaving Jim Riggleman with this makeshift lineup that I have a hunch won't be popular with the fan base.

That said, think back only 13 days ago when Stephen Strasburg pitched against the Giants and Riggleman fielded a lineup that included a 5-6-7-8 of Guzman, Harris, Adam Kennedy and Wil Nieves. Everyone was up in arms that afternoon … until that dynamic quartet combined to go 6-for-12 with three walks and three RBI and helped lead the Nats to a blowout victory.

So it's entirely possible lightning will strike twice. Then again, Guzman and Harris each homered last night. What are the odds of that happening again?

Check back for updates throughout the afternoon…

Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 12:35 p.m.
TV: MASN, MLB Network (outside D.C. area)
Radio: WFED-1500 AM, WWFD-820 AM
Weather: Chance of storms, 85 degrees, Wind 7 mph RF to LF

CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn


  1. Brian - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    and in unrelated news, the work output in the Washington DC area will increase by 600% this afternoon

  2. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    are we trying to include willie harris to the white sox or something? play Morse GDit!

  3. Bowdenball - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    Great idea- start a lineup with only two guys who will finish the season with double digit home run totals. That's always a great move when you're playing in one of the easiest parks to hit the ball out of in the league. Let's small-ball Edinson Volquez in GABP! This is seriously a new low for the Riggleman era, and that's saying something. He should be fired the moment that lineup card reaches the ump.

  4. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    Mark… In that Giants game Dunn homered twice but Wil did get a big 2 run single to right.I just don't understand the infatuation with Kennedy and Harris. It totally baffles all of us. I understand the left/right issue but these guys have proven all year long that they are strictly bench guys and bad ones at that.

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

    I'd suggest, cynically perhaps, that Harris and Kennedy have been talked about as trade bait, and the Nats are in the position of a used car dealer trying to polish up and show off some lemons while getting you to overlook their fundamental defects. How better to do that than to give two struggling hitters the chance to hit a cheap HR in a park that gives them up very easily?

  6. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    @NatsJack Totally AGREE! I don't know why they don't just waive Harris and Kennedy at this point. They bring too little to the table and we have other options.Bring Maxwell back and give him a shot (maybe in CF, too) and play Morse MORE! Give Desmond an everyday 2nd baseman to rely on and stop over-managing the bullpen. Let's find out who can play for next year.

  7. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    There isn't one contender that would have ANY interest in these two guys. Maybe it's Rigglemans way of showing Rizzo how little he has to work with.

  8. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    Baffling lineup. Does Riggleman realize this game is in Cincinnati?This is one of the most HR friendly parks in the league and Riggleman goes with Harris (yes, even blind squirrels find nuts ONCE in a while), Kennedy and Morgan. While he leaves Willingham, Morse and Desmond on the bench. It doesn't make any sense.

  9. HHover - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    NatsJack – Maybe you wouldn't be interested, but Kennedy's name in particular has come up–he's cheap, with a proven and decent career record that might cause some teams desperate for backup IFers to overlook his bad #s this year.

  10. Michael J. Hayde - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    As Kilgore has pointed out, Morse is viewed as an off-the-bench player; a go-to guy when the number 6, 7 and/or 8 batters are on base during the late innings and you need them to score. He fills that role exceptionally, and that's who he is. All the whining and breast-beating isn't going to change Rizzo's and Rigg's minds.

  11. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    Are we running low on sunflower seeds because that's all we can expect for him.

  12. TheMichael - Jul 22, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    We let so many others play beyond failure, I don't understand why they won't give Morse the same opportunity? Do I think he's the long-term answer? No. Do I think he deserves as much as an opportunity as Morgan, Bernadina, Harris, Maxwell, etc…? Yes

  13. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    I wonder of these lineups are solely the decision of the field manager, or are they the result of an organizational decision/philosophy. I find it hard to believe that a field manager would want to risk his job by not putting his currently best performing players on the field. I understand why Pudge needs the days off, but the rest of it is baffling to me.

  14. Bowdenball - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:03 PM

    At least there's a little good news from the other dugout- I believe Joey Votto is taking the afternoon off.I wonder how fast Pete Rose can get on the phone to his bookie to bet the under.

  15. Todd Boss - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    Volquez = tough righty arm with power.Willingham, Desmond and Pudge == righty only hitters with bad splits.Kennedy, Harris and Guzman == lefty or switch hitters.Is this really that big of a surprise? Remember back in the 90s when Davey Johnson would load up the powerful O's lineup with every righty bat he had when Randy Johnson came to town? Riggleman is just playing the matchups. I hope it pays off.

  16. HHover - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    Sunflower seeds would be nice, and Rizzo probably also wouldn't mind saving some $$$.Kennedy signed for $1.25M this year and $2M option next year, with a $500K buyout. Since I doubt the Nats will want to pick him up next year, they stand to save $1M or more by moving him.

  17. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    The money would be nice. We have to round up as much cash as we can to throw that $12-14$ Million signing bonus at Harper.

  18. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    @Todd Boss-who can forget Jeff Reboulet taking the Big Unit deep. Johnson looked like his head was going to explode.

  19. Wcoastpete - Jul 22, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    MORSE is a .300 lifetime hitter, last I checked that was pretty good. We have 60 + games left this year, lets find out what he can do.

  20. Knoxville Nat - Jul 22, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Morse has had what, 10 or more years in pro ball? Look at his career stats, there must be a reason why he hasn't been a regular at the major league level anywhere he has played. I read a post earlier perhaps here or on NJ that essentially said give MM 10 consecutive days in the lineup and he will be back to a .220 level or something as the pitchers will figure him out. Maybe so maybe not but I think Michael Hayde has got it right. Rizzo and Riggs think of Morse as a late inning PH specialist needed when there are RISP. Besides, both Harris and Nyjer have been playing pretty well of late.

  21. Wcoastpete - Jul 22, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    Knox, looked into Morse. broke into bigs in 2005 and went down with shoulder injury beginning of 2007 game back late 2008 and traded to us last year for Langerhans (thank god hes gone). He also jumped around from infield to outfield, I agree his is clutch late inning hitter as it has been proven time and time again this year. My point is our season is over so lets see what we got for next year. Harris is a career .242 hitter and hitting .182 this year. Maybe Morse is the next Jason Werth. The only reason for playing Harris in my opinion is if they are trying to package him in a trade.

  22. Dave - Jul 22, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    I used to like reading the comments but this is getting dumb, we get it, Lerner is cheap, Harris and Kennedy suck, Riggleman couldn't manage HS, where are the IFA's, blah blah blah.And don't give me that well they keep doing it crap.

  23. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    Nice talk Dave,I wouldn't say that Riggleman couldn't manage HS … however his approach and use of the talent on this team frightens me. His obsession with Guzman, Harris and Maxwell is well … I don't know … Here we are with a chance to split a series with division leading Cincinnati? And what does Riggleman do? Ask yourself, do you want this guy managing your top prospects as they arrive? My answer is patently no.

  24. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    MORSE is a .300 lifetime hitter, last I checked that was pretty good. We have 60 + games left this year, lets find out what he can do.Morse has always been known for his WcoastPete with Seattle. They did not "get rid" of him because they didn't like him but more because he wanted a change of scenery after spending so much time in AAA (demolishing the minors with his bat) and the same was true here with Langerhans. Both GMs worked to honor their requests. The problem with Morse is that he has never had a position. He came up as a shortstop. It was decided that didn't work, and I believe McLaren/Riggleman may have managed him then. He is very tall, apparently not good for MI. He can play all around the infield. He is probably best in left field after that. Right field is newer to him but he appears to be better than Guzman out there. That said, he has an arm and some speed. Willingham is an ex catcher. What does that tell you? I believe Morse could be another Hammer, perhaps better given his minor league stats. With Jim Riggleman managing and blindly favoring Guzman, Harris, and Maxwell it seems doubtful he will be given that chance. It would require Rizzo to terminate his services.

  25. natscan reduxit - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    … one wonders (and I'm that one) how long it'll be before Riggs and Rizzo discover bone chips in Mike Morse's [insert anatomical location here], and thus provide us with the real reason he never gets played.Go Nats!!

  26. Sec3MySofa - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    And then, sometimes a given organization just gets their impression of a guy into it's collective head — "He's (not) a starter." — "He's (not) a bench guy." — and a fresh look in a new system brings out talents that weren't hidden so much as just never fostered. It's probably true Morse *is* a bench guy, I guess, but fwiw, I'm not convinced. Certainly, "another Hammer" is a bit of a stretch, but even if he has one good season, you're ahead on the deal. That said, every team *needs* good bench guys. It's like another position, not just the second string.

  27. SBrent - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    I'm with Dave. Why must some of us keep pounding the table day after day after day with the same 3 or 4 points? We've all heard you by now. We're beating dead horses.

  28. Bowdenball - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    Dave-I sympathize, and it can get tiresome to read the negativity sometimes. But at the same time, this is as good an outlet as any for the fan base to make its feelings known. A lot of us appreciate having a forum to express our displeasure … especially since I suspect that some of that displeasure makes its way to the front office, given the high visibility of Mark's web site.To be honest, I find it encouraging that the Nats are developing an engaged, passionate fan base that blows a gasket about lineup decisions for a late July afternoon game in Ohio. I doubt there were many conversations like this going on in 2006 and 2007.Also, it appears we're lighting a fire under the guys today, at least so far!

  29. Sec3MySofa - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    @Bowdenball–good point, but yeah, there were. Same song, just a few new drummers.

  30. HHover - Jul 22, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    there must be a reason why he hasn't been a regular at the major league level anywhere he has played …. Rizzo and Riggs think of Morse as a late inning PH specialist needed when there are RISPI've seen this argument too, and there's something to be said for it–it's hard to believe that if this guy really were an everyday player he wouldn't have become one by now, and Rizzo and Riggs surely know more about him than we do. That said, this line of argument essentially asks us to trust their decisions about personnel management. And the more I see of their decisions, the less inclined I am to just trust them. If it's still possible (even if improbable) that Morse could be more than a late inning replacement/PH, the Nats have reached the pt in the season when they don't have much left to lose by finding out. If that really is all he can be, I question whether a team that's 15 games out really needs such a player on their roster, and might not be better use that slot to give some prospect a look-see.

  31. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    Okay…so maybe a blind squirrel can find nuts two days in a row… ;)Great game so far. I'd love to see Harris perform well, and I'll continue to hope that he makes me eat my words.

  32. Michael J. Hayde - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:08 PM

    "Okay…so maybe a blind squirrel can find nuts two days in a row… ;)"Looks to me like the same three blind squirrels have been finding nuts all day.

  33. Dave - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    @ Anon 1.06The info in my post was not my point of view, I was just describing the general attitude of the posters which comes up every Article that Mark types. Riggleman is a HS coach = Sarcasm FWIW.@ BowdenballI don't mind the negativity or the increasing passion in the fanbase (I am one of them), that is what the interwebs are for; its the repetition of it that is tedious. Maybe I would feel different if it was all positive, but I doubt it.Oops, I guess this means I am still reading the comments!!

  34. Knoxville Nat - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    Mark,I don't know that Lannan has done anything at Harrisburg to merit a call up as of yet. My hunch is that it will be Chico on Sunday and that Detwiler is not too far behind him.

  35. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    We keep harping on the same themes because the Nats keep trotting out the same people we've been complaining about. I can tell you that my next big bi-ch will be if they trot out Batista to start Sunday in lieu of Chico. I am afraid that Rigglemans affinity for vetrans will cause that to happen.Hopefully. Rizzo will step in and call up Chico.

  36. Steve - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    I know there's a separate story link on it, but is no one else troubled by the part of the Atilano injury story about this having been an issue for weeks? Was he hiding the injury? Was he getting told to tough it out?

  37. Bowdenball - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Dave-Can't speak for others, but every time I heard someone make the slightest negative comment about Zimm during his June slide, I was hear defending him and singing his praises to the heavens. And it happened a lot in June. Same thing goes for those who undervalue Hammer, which happens quite a bit.I'll repeat the positive and the negative. I'm an equal opportunity regurgitator.

  38. NatinBeantown - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    Off topic: I see that Chief Cordero signed with the Mets today. Citi might be one of the best ballparks for him to find some success if he can ease into a setup role for KRod. Good luck to him from this Nats fan.And this is a happy day for Livo-lovers everywhere. Hope he keeps it up.

  39. Peanuts and Cracker Jack - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    Ten and a half pitches per inning works for me!

  40. Arlington Big Fish - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    GameTrak says Livo has only 73 pitches thru 7. That's amazing, but even more amazing is that 54 of them are for strikes. Actually, that's more than more amazing: it's astounding.

  41. Arlington Big Fish - Jul 22, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    Oops. Make that GameDay

  42. Michael J. Hayde - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    "I gotta say, I really liked Bray when he was part of the infamous Kearns-Lopez trade in 2006. But he hasn't impressed me one bit this week."Two words: bone chips.

  43. Jim Webster - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:01 PM

    Sure has been a terrible lineup today through 7 1/2. If Riggs hadn't messed up so badly we might be leading by 16 instead of only 6.

  44. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Credit for this game goes to Livan. A well pitched game at the pace that he's pitched really helps the defense.Holy cow! are we starting a streak?!Oh that's right. Stammen followed by Martin. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

  45. Arlington Big Fish - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    Big Bad Dunn: 4 strikeouts by 4 different pitchers today. I think that constitutes a new standard for offensive futility. But then, there's the homer. Is he making himself more — or less — valuable, contract-wise, with a performance like this?

  46. Les in NC - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    An amazing pitching performance by Livan today! Simply amazing. And the bats weren't to bad either….

  47. Bowdenball - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    Jim-Don't get carried away. If you want to play that game, I'm pretty sure that you could track through the first 90 games of the season and point out PLENTY of times that Riggs played Harris, Kennedy and others and we lost while producing next to nothing offensively.Cheers to the guys for a great win and an impressive split on the road against a real tough club. Hope they can keep it going this weekend in Milwaukee.

  48. A DC Wonk - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    What a bunch of whiners! Hello?? We're in the midst of a 24-day stretch with 23 games. Everyone sweat gallons of perspiration last night. Today is a day game in July following the night game.As Todd Boss pointed out: Willingham, Desmond and Pudge == righty only hitters with bad splits.Kennedy, Harris and Guzman == lefty or switch hitters.So, this lineup seems pretty logical, and, actually, fairly smart by Riggs. The righties get to rest against a righty on a day game in the midst a big stretch.But, no . . . the commenters here think only short term: what have you done for me lately, and why aren't the best players playing today, with no thought of the rest of the season.Yes, I agree with a number of others . . . sometimes these comments get pretty predictable.

  49. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    Jim-It helps playing in the bandbox … Meanwhile, Harris raised his average to .197 while Kennedy raised his today to .250 and a good game in the field. Morse is still hitting .328 and .364 against right-handed pitching.

  50. nats rising - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    Suddenly, a wealth of good news for the Nats this week: a new cuban pitcher, back to back wins led by the starting core, Stras and Livan, the under performers show signs of life (Willie, Kennedy, Morgan), Dunn gets the big home run today, a day off for the bullpen, Zimmermann and Detwiler on the fast track back, and best of all, earning an away split after being down 0-2 against a top NL team.

  51. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    @DCWonk,Dear Mr. Know-it-All,get your facts straight please?Kennedy, Harris and Guzman == lefty or switch hitters.Guzman 0-4 with 2 K's. He is terrible batting left-handed against right handed pitchers. T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E he is a right-handed hitter … okay?Guzman again had trouble fielding his position at shortstop and was replaced in the late innings by Desmond.Harris raised his average with 2 hits in the bandbox to a robust .197. Kennedy is now at .250 and had a good day.Michael Morse is still hitting .328 and .368 against right handed pitching. Uhhm, logical? Sure for a minor league or iinstructional team … although I have to agree with playing Kennedy more as long as his fielding is like today.

  52. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:49 PM

    Remember when the Nats' FO was trashed, absolutely trashed for signing Hernandez? Funny how things work out.

  53. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    When Morgan is on it sparks the whole offense. When he isn't things do not go as well. Its as simple as that Wonkster.

  54. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    Right now Livo has pushed ahead of Pudge (another questionable signing but most of the baseball establishment) for team MVP. Amazing.

  55. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    I guess we dreamed that Guzman hit a 2 run homer last night off a right hander while batting left handed, huh.

  56. rmoore446 - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:22 PM

    Good point NatsJack about Guzman's homer last night. As for Harris, his bat has been heating up for the last week and he's been on base every time I look up. I'd like to see more Morse too but I understand Riggs logic.

  57. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:24 PM

    Incoming, Natsjack. Just a matter of minutes. But thanks for making that point.

  58. natsfan1a - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    Bowdenball, high site visibility or not, I tend to doubt that Rizzo and Riggleman take the time to read all of the blog comments/screeds. If they do read them, they must not give a rat's patoot about the opinions therein as it doesn't seem to affect their decision-making (nor should it, imho). Me, I just tend to scroll through the more repetitious, vitriolic comments, unless I need a good laugh. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have a feeling that we may not be hearing from the haters for a day or two, though…On another, more important note, this just in: I still love Livo. My only regret is that I missed the first three innings of the game, having been out to lunch (no, really). Guess I'll have to catch the replay.

  59. Souldrummer - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    After reading the above comments here and some (from some of the same people?) on other sites we need to coin a new term for the Morse lobby: Complaining about Morse's playing time is Beating a Dead Morse. And just about as usefl.

  60. rmoore446 - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    Good one Souldrummer

  61. natsfan1a - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:28 PM

    That's good, Souldrummer.

  62. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    And another point for Guzman hitting against right handers. He's hitting .272 against them, not exactly the Mendoza line.

  63. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    NatsJack, you're my hero. Guzman doesn't deserve the pounding he takes here (and elsewhere). Thanks for an alternative and more generous point of view. The facts make it even better.

  64. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 22, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    Don't get too excited. I'm just glad everything hit his way today was right at him and not to his right or left. A 4' x 8' piece of plywood covers as much territory.But the man can hit.

  65. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 9:02 PM

    And that's the point. He brings something useful to the team.

  66. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 9:48 PM

    I guess we dreamed that Guzman hit a 2 run homer last night off a right hander while batting left handed, huh.Yeah, and Atilano looked like CY Young when he first started out this year … Guzman still has an OBP of .324 even with the meager 14 walks along with a .697 OPS? Batting left against right-handed pitching … he has raised his batting average to .271. Is that worth his fielding gaffes at second base? That seems unfathomable. They are better off with Kennedy hitting .250. Its kind of hilarious to hear Riggleman attribute Guzman's playing time to "hot hitting? Against left-handed pitching Kennedy is hitting .348 with a .444 OBP and an .879 OPS. Yes, he's worst against the right-handed pitching but the fact that he hits lefties that well should be a sign that perhaps Riggleman plays favorites? Doesn't look at his talent for what it is?

  67. Anonymous - Jul 22, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Bottom line this team will forever be mired in last place, the basement of the NL East with Guzman at second base starting and Willie Harris hitting sub-mendoza utility starter. Or with JMax in center field. Last place that's the bottom line. Its not "hating" its facts.

  68. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 23, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    You must be speaking for yourself when describing Atilano. I and everyone else on this site saw him as a minor league commodity filling a spot on a depleted starting staff.Guzman's OBP is 4th among starters, and he's walked 5 more times than Desmond, neither of which is saying much.But he still remains one of the only professional hitters on the team despite your assesment.

  69. A DC Wonk - Jul 23, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    Hey Anon? Do you have a name?Dear Mr. Know-it-All, get your facts straight please?Which facts didn't I have right?And you ignored this part of what I wrote: We're in the midst of a 24-day stretch with 23 games. Everyone sweat gallons of perspiration last night. Today is a day game in July following the night game.So, Mr Manager who do you rest and who do you put in?Gee, how about right handed guys who have been playing almost every day this season? And how about replace them with some lefties? Just for one day.This isn't rocket science.As for trashing Guz specifically — as noted above, he's fourth in OBP amongst regulars on the team. And his fielding? His UZR numbers at 2B ain't great, but they are higher than Kennedy's.



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