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Game of inches

May 14, 2011, 5:12 AM EDT

Associated Press photo
Omar Infante’s nifty slide around Wilson Ramos proved the difference tonight.

The Nationals don’t play a lot of lopsided games these days. No, every contest seems to come down to one or two critical moments late. A big at-bat with runners in scoring position. A 3-2 pitch from a reliever in a tight spot. A drive to the warning track that puts pressure on an outfielder to make or miss the catch. A bang-bang play on the bases.

And then on Friday night, all of the above — and more — converged during one epic ballgame that felt like it should have resulted in a Nationals victory yet ultimately left a bitter taste in the home team’s mouths.

“A ballgame like that, I hate to lose that game,” manager Jim Riggleman said following the 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Marlins. “I know they’re agonizing over it. But that was good baseball.”

Indeed, it’s tough to place blame on anyone for this loss. Sure, the Nationals could have used a clutch hit from Adam LaRoche with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth instead of a weak grounder to second. And sure, a better showing from left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (who lasted only 4 2/3 innings) might have put less strain on already overtaxed bullpen and not forced Riggleman to use rookie Brian Broderick during the fateful 11th.

But there were far more positives than negatives, from the Nationals’ perspective, during this game. Laynce Nix’s three hits, including a game-tying double in the eighth. Drew Storen’s dominant two innings of relief, extending his streak of scoreless innings to 20. And, of course, Roger Bernadina’s Play of the Year on a drive to deep center.
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  1. Anonymous - May 14, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    Shark Dives Deep But Fish Sticks Fin In.

  2. Anonymous - May 14, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    Mark only one bad play desmonds steal in theNinth took the bat from werths hands. He will learn to stay put next time.

  3. joemktg - May 14, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    That, ladies and gentlemen, was a GREAT baseball game.

  4. natsfan1a - May 14, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    Great piece, Mark. Loved The Catch. I think I'll be watching that highlight a few times…

  5. masnstinks - May 14, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Call me an incurable optimist –but, even though these close games and extra inning losses are killer, I am sensing that these games, and especially this ridiculous nl-east road/home series are bringing this team together and toughening them up. They seem to be gelling as a team, where each and every player is important. They don't give up or give in – some of these things are coming down to a lucky fluke here and there. Maybe these games are dues that are being paid now that will pay off in the second half. This schedule has been brutal – nl east pitching is just filthy. Everyone thinks the al east is the toughest division in mlb – disagree – just look at who you have to face to run the philly,marlins, braves gauntlet like we have to.

  6. Doc - May 14, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    No question about it, the Nats are playing good ball.Bernadina's catch demonstrtated that he's doing the over-the-shoulder stuff that separates the LFs from the CFs.There defense is quietly going up the ladder, and looks like it will soon be hanging out with the Phillies and the Reds.

  7. Andrew - May 14, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6545539&categoryid=2378529Bernadina's ROGGERY of Stanton. Vote this the top Web Gem of the Week on http://www.ESPN.com/MLB

  8. SonnyG10 - May 14, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Much as I hate the loss, this was a great baseball game.

  9. Mr Old Style - May 14, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    The only other catch that I can think of that happened at the Nationals ballpark that compares is the Reed Johnson catch from a few years ago for the Cubs. I was in the bathroom for that one. Can't believe I saw The catch last night from 106. I had chills seeing that. Still do.

  10. Anonymous8 - May 14, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    SonnyG10, I am with you! Couldn't sleep so watching ESPN Baseball Tonight and MLB Quick Pitch this morning. Nice to see the Nats making top highlights on both networks. 2 comebacks during the game and the Sharkadina catch, Werth to Hairston to Ramos almost play, Nix clutch hits, Morse almost WalkOff HR, Bernadina clutch 2 RBI double, Espi defense, and more.The negative was heart of the order lack of hitting from the 3 to 5 spot going 0-12 with 4 K's.

  11. masnstinks - May 14, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    If you weren't on the losing end of a couple of games, this last week had lots of exciting plays. Things have definitely not been boring. Werth and Laroche play good defense but have really got to start contributing with the bat more. Stairs needs to get out of the way of this team – 2 singles this year and a few walks. Morse almost walked off last night – he has more of a chance of it than Stairs now. It has been unexpected to see Nix and Cora fighting to play , Hairston holding his own, Bernie is a spark that we've needed. No stat for that – it's intangible. Desi is settling in, pitching mostly very good. Maybe they needed to see that they CAN play without zim.

  12. natsfan1a - May 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    Thanks for the heads up on the poll, Andrew. Here's a link to the vote page (poll is on right-hand side of page):http://espn.go.com/mlb/baseballtonightRight now Betancourt is edging Bernadina by 2%.

  13. Andrew - May 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    Real quotes on the Bernadina catch:Roger Bernadina: "When that guy hit the ball, I said S*%#, then I ran back and the only thing I could do is dive. It was the only play"Tyler Clippard: "Greatest catch of all time. Best catch I've ever seen."Ian Desmond: "Unbelievable. It's like beating a dead horse for me. A few people asked me how excited I was to have him here the other day; This kid brings so much energy. He's such a talented ballplayer. I'm pulling for him more than anybody out there. I definitely don't think that will be the last spectacular catch we'll see him make."Bob Carpenter: "That is one of the best catches you will ever see on a ball hit over an outfielder's head WOW!"Charlie Slowes: "Maybe the best catch we have ever seen here at Nationals Park!….Unbelievable!"Jim Riggleman: "That thing had an extra gear. I couldn't believe he caught it."Greg Dobbs: “We couldn’t believe it. I wish I had an ounce of his athleticism. He’s special. It was an amazing catch, especially the ball being hit so hard off Stanton’s bat. You know those balls are going to carry because he gets good back spin. Bernadina never gave up on it.Fake quote:Nats GM: "So glad I put Bernadina on the Opening Day roster instead of Matt Stairs"

  14. Feel Wood - May 14, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    In the top of the eleventh, after getting Stanton on a weak groundout and giving up a ground ball single up the middle to Infante, Broderick faced pinch hitter Dobbs and took him to a 1-2 count. At that point, Nationals Overmanager Jim Riggleman felt the need to interrupt the flow of the game and visit the mound. One wonders what great gem of importance he just had to interject at that point. Alas we'll never know because none of the august reporters present were moved to ask him after the game. But this we do know: Broderick's next pitch, fueled by Riggleman's words of inspiration, yielded the double down the right field line that cost the game. Well played, Riggleman.

  15. HHover - May 14, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    mlbtraderumors.com is reporting (per nats twitter feed) that Broderick has been DFA and Kimball called up. Hurrah!Sorry Broderick didn't pan out, but the bull pen was in need of a shakeup.

  16. Unkyd - May 14, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    I wrote this, this morning…was gonna save it as a comeback to the next Eyeore posting, but it works with this positive thread, as well:Sorry… I just can't be too too discouraged, at this point. I entered this season looking forward to 2013, expecting a better grade of mediocrity than last year, chasing 81 wins, on the way to sniffing around the wild card race, in '12. In that context, I'm seeing about what I'm looking for.Offensively, I think the guys we have now will play better, over the balance of the season… Werth's signing was about the changing expectations for the team… as much about challenging the rest of the organization, and serving notice to the rest of MLB that "We're gonna play Baseball, in this town, and some of the rest of you could do much worse than get involved with us, over the next couple of years!!". Attitude. Jayson won't bat for the same numbers here, as in Philly…. different park…bigger. But when Zim gets back, and the youngsters find just a little more consistent groove, his patient approach will pay off, at the plate, as he'll get more pitches to hit. Until then, I hope he'll get a little more aggressive, without overhauling his approach. He is what we thought he was, once he gets a little more support. I'm thinking LaRoche might be in need of more extensive treatment, on that shoulder, although nobody's mentioned him having problems throwing, in a few weeks, now…. maybe his "notoriously slow" start has simply been exacerbated by the shoulder. Worst case: he gets the work done, and we get a few weeks of peeks at Marerro…it's about time he gets a look-see, anyway. LaRoche isn't under contract for '13, right?Defensively….. C'mon, man! No complaints! If Desi maintains his new found focus this infield is set! And, for years to come, at that! And with Werth and Oppo, we're almost there in the outfield, as well. Maybe Bernie is a long term answer, maybe elite depth… Perez, Brown…. When you consider we have the better part of two years to evaluate and make deals, we'll be likely to be working from a position of strength, buying and selling with an eye toward continuing success, rather than scratching to assemble the AAAA squads of the last few years. Keep drafting pitchers, Rizzo! They're the coin of the realm… Let's just not make any desperate deals… The wind is beginning to fill our sails, and we'll soon be running before the wind!

  17. Manassas Nats Fan - May 14, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    Hey Feel WoodI had the Riggleman visit as the two plays I thought were awful. The kid hadn't really done anything bad until after the visit. Nothing was gained going out on a 1-2 count. He was doing fine. Leave him alone. OVer managing there for sure. The other one was when Desmond swing on the first pitch (something I actually like normally), but not when Bernie is trying to steal a base to get in scoring position. Of course he singles to right later. Maybe had Bernie stole the base he scores. Ray knight was livid at Desmond for not allowing Bernie to steal as was I.The only play that was negative was Ramos doing a swipe tag. We learned in little league you swipe when the ball is late, and the glove to the ground when on time or early. Ramos forgot that rule.

  18. Andrew - May 14, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    HHover said… the bull pen was in need of a shakeup. …May 14, 2011 11:03 AM _____________________________We are essentially at the 1/4 mark in the season and it took Rizzo this long to see it?There haven't been too many days on NatsInsider without the observation that this is a 4 man bullpen. Who can really succeed as a 4 man bullpen? Slaten is an ineffective LOOGY and not worth the spot, Henry Rodriguez is a mess, the team had no confidence in Brian Broderick which leaves you with Coffey, Clippard, Burnett, and Storen.Kimball is far from a sure thing so while Rizzo made a move, the only move that would be an instant upgrade would be Ross Detwiler for Slaten to groom to a Jonny Venters role.

  19. UNTERP.NAT - May 14, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Manassas Nats Fan said… The other one was when Desmond swing on the first pitch (something I actually like normally), but not when Bernie is trying to steal a base to get in scoring position.You are so right. When guys are trying to steal and you foul it off, what's the point? That was damn stupid if you ask me…

  20. Unkyd - May 14, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    I meant to include, above, that I don't see any advantage to keeping Broderick and HenRod. They won't settle in if you don't pitch them, and you can't pitch them til they settle in. "That's some catch, that Catch-22…). Brodericks gone, if you're not gonna pitch Rod… Let him go, too. Bring up Ballystar. And I'm finally in the Detweiler-to-the-'pen camp…. That would be more heat than anyone's ever seen in a BP!!!

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