Skip to content

Clean game, but missed opportunities

Mar 31, 2011, 11:33 PM EDT

The season was barely 15 minutes old, and plenty among the announced crowd of 39,055 at Nationals Park hadn’t even settled into their seats when the home team faced its first real test of 2011.

Already trailing the Braves 1-0, the Nationals had just seen Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman produce back-to-back singles, putting runners on the corners with one out and the heart of the lineup due up.

The whole notion of having Werth bat second is predicated upon the idea that Zimmerman and the guys behind him can take advantage of their opportunities with men on base. As much attention is thrust upon Werth and Zimmerman, the Nationals know what they’re going to get from those two stars. The real unknown is what they’re going to get from Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in the 4-, 5- and 6-holes.

So when LaRoche and Morse squandered that first-inning opportunity Thursday afternoon — popping out and grounding out, respectively — you couldn’t help but wonder if this was an omen of things to come. The Nationals would get only a couple more legitimate scoring opportunities, but none as good as that first one, and they never did push a man across the plate during a 2-0 loss.

“We had some chances to break the game open,” Werth said. “That game could have been a lot different.”

Read my full analysis of today’s loss on CSNwashington.com.

  1. JayB - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    Nice work here Mark…..That was a very different team out there…..defense does not go into a slump (Ian D still a huge problem in my view but…) so I was very please with what I saw. I think the area they need to improve in Manager….Riggs just over manages…..He ground the pace into the ground by bringing in Slaten. Why?…My new seats are right on the field even with Jason W…..his body language told everyone watching that he viewed that move as giving up…..When Livo ways pitching in that inning he had was focused and moving with ever pitch…..with Slaten…he had his glove on his knee and stood still….with the next change of pitcher he closed his arms and kicked the grass and put both hands on his knees with each pitch….Riggs is just not the right guy for a talented team…..we are getting talent but standing still with Riggs.

  2. Feel Wood - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    So Mark, did any of your media brethren or sisthren ask Riggleman about his not using Stairs in that pinch hitting opportunity in the 7th? Simple question. "Jim, you kept Matt Stairs on the team to be a big bat off the bench in clutch situations. It would seem that the 7th inning was a situation tailor made for Stairs. Can you take us through your reasoning for using Nix rather than Stairs there?"

  3. JayB - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    Yes that has been well documented in several places on the web…….just another example of over managing……..put the best player in the game……Riggs is fine for now but he will always be a losing manager….always has been…I think he has the worst win lose in baseball….other than Acta….in both cases you get what you pay for….

  4. Andrew - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:30 AM

    Feel Wood, Riggleman said he was afraid if they brought in Stairs instead of Nix they would have walked him to pitch to Desmond and Riggs didn't want that.The 1st inning was the key inning and lost opportunity to put the Nats on the board after Werth and Zim's hits and the matchup looked great for LaRoche.On a good note, great bullpen work outside of Slaton and the defense was excellent.

  5. naterial guy - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:34 AM

    idiotsSome people here will always believe they know so much. Then they make make posts like these about Riggleman and prove they know nothing.

  6. masnstinks - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    It was opening day(yes!) – nice home crowd despite the weather (which was even colder than you think it was if you weren't there). The defense was clean and crisp, the offense made contact and created some scoring chances, Livo retired a big bunch of batters in a row. We didn't win, but we didn't beat ourselves either. A nice change.

  7. naterial guy - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:37 AM

    "his body language told everyone watching that he viewed that move as giving up…."seriously? Switching pitchers caused that. Gee I thought our lack of offense might have played a small role somewhere there.

  8. Drew8 - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    This team is going to hit. If it allows two runs and makes no errors, I'll gladly take it.Every. Single. Time.

  9. Mark'd - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:12 AM

    Drew8, sign me up too.

  10. Exposremains - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    I'm no expert but I just think the lineup is wrong. Put Espinosa at the top and move everybody down a spot. Desmond was a good 2 hitter why change that. Werth didnt hit 2nd on Phillies why chnage that? Morse is to unproven to be batting 5th. Ankiel is not good enough to be 6th. Of course Espinosa might not work either which shows what the Nats are lacking a leadoff hitter.Anybody would like to see that lineup?

  11. FS - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:35 AM

    I was at the game, enjoyed being back at the stadium after a long time. Great ball game. Too bad we were at the losing end but saw some amazing stuff from Livan. Those 60 and 62 mph curveballs will never be forgotten. Overall defense was great. Almost everyone played solid defense behind Livo and co. I must agree with JayB on two things. Desmond was the only weak link (if there was one, for his almost 1st throwing error and McCann's hit in 7th). Riggleman did seem to over-manage by removing Livan. The counterpoint to his move could be Heyward's stats against Livan and the lefty-lefty match-up. It is another issue that Slaten failed to do his job and Clippard had to come in to clean up his mess.If I were to grade the team's performance today,Pitching: A-Defense: A-Offense: CAnother most noticeable difference between the two teams were the velocity displayed by the relievers. While Braves pitchers were consistently throwing 90+ mph, only Clippard and Burnett threw few pitches in the low 90's. I am not making any conclusions based on this, just stating what seemed obvious to me.I am just glad to have baseball back.

  12. Anonymous - Apr 1, 2011 at 2:15 AM

    Also, was it just me (us, if I'm speaking for all of Anonymous), or did Morse seem to be getting a good read, good jump, and good routes on defense? Could he be a plus fielder with some practice?

  13. Anonymous - Apr 1, 2011 at 3:09 AM

    "Riggleman said he was afraid if they brought in Stairs instead of Nix they would have walked him to pitch to Desmond and Riggs didn't want that."Wow, Riggleman showing a lot of confidence there in Desmond's ability to hit with two men on, isn't he? Better to let Nix strike out so Desmond can lead off the next inning. Don't put too much pressure on the kid now. Smart managing, Riggleman style.

  14. Nataholic - Apr 1, 2011 at 4:18 AM

    I'm not so sure there is anything positive about 'looking good while losing.' You're still losing and your record still shows a loss. That kind of thinking shows the mentality of Nationals fans after 5 years of bad baseball. It also foreshadows a lot of empty seats at the ballpark this year. I don't hear these 'happy we looked good while losing' sentiments from more successful teams like the Braves, Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox fans.

  15. Nataholic - Apr 1, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    BTW, great report Mark. I really like this new direction for the blog. I know it would have been too much work to do this kind of video last year, but I feel like you are providing more information and good information for this team in tight informative posts and now video. I'm a huge fan of your work and one day I hope to meet you and tell you that to your face. Keep up the great work!!!

  16. DCJohn - Apr 1, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Patience is the watch word. Someone gave pitching and defense A-s. That's what we all cried for in the offseason. Keeping teams to two runs a game will win pennants. Let's see if they can do it again on Saturday and Sunday.

  17. N. Cognito - Apr 1, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    A ton of no-shows yesterday. It might have been the weather, but I think they found out Wilbon was going to be there, making his first and last trip to Nats Park.The decorum of this board does not permit me to attach the appropriate adjectives necessary to describe Wilbon. In fact, the English language may not contain the appropriate adjectives necessary to describe Wilbon.

  18. Jeeves - Apr 1, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    The offense is going to be fine. But like JD asked in the last post, why not Ramos and Stairs in the seventh? And I did not accept Riggleman's reason for using Nix. Ramos has been hitting much beter than Rodriquez, so use him in that situation. Although, admittedly Pudge didn't have that bad an at bat.

  19. Anonymous8 - Apr 1, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Jeeves, the Riggleman question on Stairs was answered above and whether we like it or not, if it worked, we wouldn't be questioning the Nix move.The Hairston move was clever to burn him so they brought in the RH pitcher to bring out Stairs, I mean Nix. That left Ramos available with Stairs if needed later in the game along with Cora.

  20. Ernie - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Not much to add about the game, except maybe that as I was keeping score I noticed that a lot of the guys were taking more pitches than usual. I think there were 7 or 8 batters in a row in the 4th-6th innings where the count went to at least 2-2, and most worked it full. Much better than last year!I haven't seen much said about the new look of the stadium – the repainted dugouts, the new look to the scoreboard, the minimal role of Clint (maybe just for opening day), and what seemed to me to be less organ music and more videos on the scoreboard between innings. I know it's not pure baseball, but it's all part of the experience. I felt like it all seemed a little more professional, to match the play on the field. But I missed some of the goofiness too… No complaints. It was a fun day despite the wet and cold. Will be even bettwhen the sun comes out this weekend!

  21. Nattydread - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    160+ games people. You're gonna lose some. I hate losing as much as the next person. But this was a good game. Good pitching, nice defense, we were always a swing of the bat from being back in it. Roche's diving grab and Werths' outfield plays showed how different the team is. The team outlasted a good pitcher by going deep into counts. Livo pulled it together and the bullpen held. OK. Now lets hope we can put runs on the board next time.

  22. Bowdenball - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    Exposremain:You're correct that your lineup would be more in line with "traditional" lineups. But it wouldn't be as effective.It's been shown that the best lineups have their best hitters having earlier. The reason is simple- you want you best hitters to more plate appearances. Play around on this websites with the Nats' numbers:http://www.baseballmusings.com/cgi-bin/LineupAnalysis.pyMy guess is that you'll find that no matter who else you use, Werth should be batting second- or even first- every single time.

  23. Bowdenball - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Natalohic:This team being built to start competing in 2012 and to peak in 2013-2015. If you don't want to experience optimism while we're losing, I don't know what to tell you. It is what it is. Hopefully we can all enjoy the process of building a winner.

  24. Theophilus - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Ramos is your backup catcher, for crying out loud. He's not going to be a pinch hitter, nor is Pudge, unless it's the 12th or 13th inning. Riggelman managed the seventh according to "conventional wisdom." It's called "conventional baseball wisdom" because, over time, it has proven to make the most sense and be the most successful. Ninety-eight percent of managerial decisions are made according to "conventional baseball wisdom" (which now includes reams of individual statistics). There are two reasons one team wins and the other doesn't: (A) One team has better players; (B) as someone said on this list a few days ago, attributing to Lefty Driesell, "the sun don't shine on the same dog's butt every day." Every once in a while you get a manager who regularly ignores "conventional baseball wisdom," like Phil Regan, and he lasts half a season.Somebody else needs to cram their complaint about Desmond on McCann's bleeder: it was (A) on the outfield grass and (B) five feet to the right of second base.If this is going to be the level of bitching for the next 161 games it's gonna be a long season.

  25. JD - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Theophilus, Here is my thinking: You brought in Stairs for one purpose and that is to have a power bat off the bench in a close game. The reasoning for using a lesser hitter is completely flawed; with the top of the order coming up there was not going to be another opportunity to use Stairs in this game; if Atlanta chooses to walk Stairs then you have the tying runs on base with the top of the order coming up. So what is Riggleman saying; I don't trust Desmond? In conclusion; I understand that Stairs will probably NOT hit a game tying homer most of the time but if given the appropriate chances he very well might alter 3 or 4 games in the course of the year BUT you have to give him the chances; you can lose by 2 runs without having used your main power pinch hitter at all.

  26. Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    I agree with Drew8 and said pretty much the same thing on NATS Journal. This team will win 79 games this year and look better doing it than last year's version. The question is will the defense play the way they played yesterday consistently. Desmond's "near error" (near counts only in horseshoes) was saved by LaRoche. Two plays Big Donkey does not make. The other was that dazzler to the right of 1st with Livo covering. It is going to be another long season for JayB I fear.

  27. erocks33 - Apr 1, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    "Feel Wood, Riggleman said he was afraid if they brought in Stairs instead of Nix they would have walked him to pitch to Desmond and Riggs didn't want that."Well, then, they better stop playing Riggs' MASN commercial. You know, the one where he says stuff like, "Stats say that Desmond doesn't hit well in day games." Or, "Stats say that Desmond doesn't do this or that well." During this part, the video shows Desi striking out or tapping weakly to the pitcher. And then Riggs says, "Should I pinch hit for him?" Then the video shows Desi getting the game winning hit and Riggs says, "No."But seriously, I was impressed by both teams yesterday. Great pitching, great fielding, terrible umpiring. Let's hope the Nats can hit Hudson tomorrow!

  28. Nataholic - Apr 1, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Hard core fans, like those who come here, can appreciate pretty baseball. But let's face it, they were going to come to these games regardless of how pretty the baseball being played is. All I am saying is that the seats will be empty until we see winning baseball. Pretty is not good enough. This situation has nothing to do with optimism. Who cares about optimism? Saying, 'one day the Nationals might be good' is not as satisfying as saying, 'man these guys are winners.' In 2005, the team wasn't always pretty, but man they were winners. The Cincinnati Reds seem to be another example of that type of team. I'm not trying to go into a raving rant. I like pretty baseball. They played it yesterday in the field. But I think the bar of expectations for this team should be higher than what everyone on here is saying.

  29. Steve M. - Apr 1, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    Very enjoyable watching the "new look" Nats. So many positives to pull from the game.Batters worked a lot of full counts and showed good plate discipline. LaRoche was a pleasure to watch with the glove as was Werth. Great hustle all around. Pitching was superb as Livan dazzled in the '80s and Clippard, Coffey and Burnett all did their jobs.Clutch hitting with men in scoring position was lacking hence missing the opportunities, but in a well played game, 1 team will win and 1 team will lose. I saw the Dodgers/Giants game last night and it had the same feel in a 2-1 pitchers duel.This should give us all increased optimism for the next 161 games.

  30. DFL - Apr 1, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    No need to slit your wrists. 161 games to go.

  31. Anonymous - Apr 1, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    "In 2005, the team wasn't always pretty, but man they were winners."For two months, May and June, they were. But for the rest of the season they were losers, and not pretty either. Just goes to show how long you can live off of a briefly good first impression.

  32. Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 1, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    I have a question. How come when they don't get hits, our pitching was good, but when we don't get hits, it's just missed opportunities?

  33. ChicagoNatsGirl - Apr 1, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    On a lighter note, I loved it that there's a bottle of "Moonlight Path" lotion from Bath and Body Works over Livo's right shoulder in that clip. While not my favorite scent from Bath and Body Works, I'm glad it works for Livo.

  34. 320R2S15 - Apr 1, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    All in all, it was good. We are slowly creeping to respectability. I do on the other hand agree with nataholic, in the big picture, it is a shame that we are where we are, and I believe it all has to do with ownership. MLB handed the team to the wrong group, but, they did it, and we are now in the position of eating the elephant one bite at a time. The good news is that we seem to be doing it. The Nats looked like a real MBT yesterday against a great pitcher and a real good team. I am satisfid with that…..now what are we going to do about the shortstop?

  35. Knoxville Nat - Apr 1, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Well it has only taken one game for JayB to start with his second guessing of Riggleman.Why did he bring in Slaten….because he wanted a left handed pitcher to pitch to the left handed batter (Heyward)….a move that 99% of MLB managers would have made (Acta being the exception). Why did he send Nix up to PH instead of Stairs, because like most good managers he was thinking not only in the present but also in the future, in this case the 9th inning. Riggs explained his reasoning after the game and it makes perfect sense, they pitch around Stairs and bring up Desmond, he of the .211 BA against Moylan. Riggs thought a LH bat such as Nix would get a better opportunity against Moylan than either Stairs or Desmond and that is all there is to it. Perfectly logical reasoning in my opinion.Please JayB….give it at least a month before you start with the constant second guessing again this season.

  36. masnstinks - Apr 1, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    Did you see what happened at the Dodgers game? Drunken fans beating people into oblivion? Also – what happened to Holliday from StL? You go to work and look what you miss knowing. Crazy first day. Can't see Nats fans doing that – too chill. Unless it's some obnoxious Philadelphian.City of Brotherly-Love my A@#$$. There were "fans" in front of us yesterday that barely had a pulse. Don't actually know why they were there.

  37. Another_Sam - Apr 1, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    I'm not going to disect and overanalyze every move of every game. My feeling on overmanaging is well proclaimed here. [But -- what an inexplicable move we saw yesterday.] Now that the regular season is here I'm into the zen of the game. Give me a beer. Play ball.Yesterday was deja vu [all over again] IMHO. Very nice, professional performance from Livan. No run support. No clutch hitting. Strange managerial moves. We've seen it all before. I listened to the hometown call-in post game terrestial radio show — never again. The guy was a shill for the club, the players, the ownership, the stadium operators, and so on. And not very knowledgable. Very poor.On to tomorrow.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 72 53 --
ATLANTA 66 61 7.0
MIAMI 63 63 9.5
NEW YORK 60 68 13.5
PHILADELPHIA 56 71 17.0
Through Wednesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: Diamondbacks at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter