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A sloppy end to a sparkling streak

Jun 19, 2011, 10:28 PM EDT

Associated Press photo
Ryan Zimmerman is thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

The ball bounced right to Ryan Zimmerman, and as he turned to throw to second base, everyone in the crowd of 35,439 at Nationals Park must have had the same thought: Tailor-made double play. He always makes that play.

And then the ball came out of Zimmerman’s hand, sailed past a lunging Danny Espinosa and skipped into right field for the first of three Nationals errors on the afternoon.

“We played sloppy, and that’s what cost us,” Zimmerman said later, after the Nationals had lost 7-4 to the Orioles and seen their winning streak snapped at eight. “Obviously, I have to make that play. That kind of changes the momentum of the whole game.”

Zimmerman’s second-inning error alone didn’t alter the outcome of the game, but he’s right: It did set a tone of sloppy baseball that stood in stark contrast to the crisp play this team had exhibited throughout its winning streak and even before that.

Very little about this game resembled those that preceded it. A Nationals club that had put itself on the precipice of a .500 record via quality pitching, flawless defense and timely hitting exhibited none of
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  1. Mark'd - Jun 19, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    All good things must come to an end. Now they need to start a new winning streak.

  2. Unkyd - Jun 19, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    Still and all I would have HATED to play error-free, have Gorzy go 7 strong, and lose 1-0, only getting a couple of baserunners…like so many others, this year. This way just feels like an off day, rather than the same ol'….GO NATS!!!!

  3. Section 222 - Jun 19, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    Thanks for telling it like it is Mark. Riggleman was in denial after the game, claiming that both the Ramos and Werth errors weren't that bad, and ignoring all the other dropped balls that weren't called errors. And the MASN crew was its usual sunny self, everyone covering for Zim. Zim's arm is a real concern. I'm starting to see 1B in his future I'm afraid.Riggleman also seemed to say that he left Gorzelanny in to bat in the bottom of the 4th because "there are repurcussions for taking a starter out" before the fifth inning. That's pretty sad. It's one thing when you have the lead, but if you're trailing, you've got to take the opportunity to score runs in that situation since Gorzelanny is going to pitch one more inning max anyway. Then he compounded the mistake by leaving Gorzelanny in too long in the 5th, especially since the middle relievers in the bullpen were very well rested and there's an off day tomorrow. Such a shame to throw away a a chance to tie the game then let the game get out of hand. Here's hoping a day off clears everyone's head. This team has been fun to watch the past few weeks.

  4. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:17 AM

    Repercussions?I don't know what's going on in Riggleman's head. Pinch hitting for a pitcher, already on a pitch count, who isn't pitching particularly well, can be pinch hit for to extend a big inning, is the easiest decision for a manager to make. Add to that tomorrow is an off day so you had some room to extend the bullpen.This is precisely the reason why Riggleman is one of the worst managers in major league baseball and he as the winning percentage to prove it.

  5. JaneB - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    Playing ball as cleanly as they have been can't be a fluke. They will find their groove again. I, too, was wishing Riggleman had pulled Gorzelany in the 4th to get those guys a fighting chance ti come home. It was jus as bad when he put in Stairs for another sure out. Oh well.

  6. SonnyG10 - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    There will always be days like today. Like FP said, its hard to keep the extreme concentration going and when good streaks end it usually is ugly. I'm hoping today was the anomoly and not the norm. Like Mark'd said…lets start a new streak. Go Nats!!!!!!

  7. baseballswami - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    AAAH – the nats lose one and we are back to the riggleman hater's club. Didn't take long, did it? Ugly game today, day off tomorrow, start again. At least this time, we know what's possible. I don't know if that will make it easier — or much harder. Ankiel to the DL was the only play there, since it does not appear that Stairs is going anywhere. Glad to see Bixler was spared the chopping block this time.

  8. Dale - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    I wholeheartedly agree with 222's post. Zimmerman's throwing motion has been very awkward since his return, obviously something that was not fixed during his rehab. Now if we can all acknowledge that Jason Werth is NOT the best case for lead off for this team. No one dared to change the order during this experiment as long as the streak continued but some of the flaws are too apparent. Indeed it looks like Werth deserves some time out of the lineup to get his mind refocussed, because he looks lost at the plate and in the field as well.I am not at all negative at this point, it's just that a few things need tweaking.

  9. dj in Fl. - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    To much glad handing Saturday night and the boys were just not sharp out of the box today.Lets schedule that gala before an off day next year. Hope they have great rounds of golf tomorrow and come back fresh and ready to crank up another streak.

  10. Section 222 - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    @baseballswami — Give it a rest. Questioning some of the decisions made in this game doesn't make you a "Riggleman hater." This is one place where Nats fans, and yes, I am a big time fan and a STH, can discuss the team and strategy with an intelligent readership that isn't simply team apologists and boosters. Mark's writing sets the tone — well informed and savvy. If all you want is "Go Nats!" comments, I'm sure you find them elsewhere.

  11. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    I don't think Jim Riggleman is a good manager. I didn't before the streak, during the streak or now. His winning percentage is what it is and it's not a small sample size.Things like the Gorzelanny 4th inning decision today and the constant use of Matt Stairs just reinforce my opinion of him.

  12. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Jun 20, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    For what it's worth, I'm with Section 222 on this one — and I am a big pro-Riggs guy. But on this one he misread the tea leaves. Gorzy wasn't sharp, was on a pitch count and this was a chance to find lightning in a bottle. In Riggs' defense, however, there were two out at the time. It was a one-shot deal. With Anky DL'd, it probably would have been Stares. He probably would have looked at a third strike or flied out weakly (as he did later). But I agree Riggs should have hit for Gorzy at that point.That's all right. We miss King Felix in the M's series so we should be able to at least take two of three from them. I still like the way this team is playing.

  13. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    >>>In Riggs' defense, however, there were two out at the time.<<<Well then, you ph for Gorzelanny so that he doesn't put us further behind in the 5th! Either way, I'm good.I'm getting the impression that Riggleman wouldn't take Gorzelanny out because of one of those unwritten rules, ie starters going at least five innings in "close" games, and that just upsets me even more. Riggleman would adhere to an unwritten rule rather than watch what's happening on the field.

  14. Drew8 - Jun 20, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    I hope this game was just a one-off stinker and the guys tighten it back up on Tuesday. Coupla points:1. It's been duly reported that Zim is changing his throwing motion so that he does not aggravate the injury. It's not Steve Blass/Steve Sax/Mackey Sasser/Mark Wohlers/Rick Ankiel/Chuck Knoblauch/Dontrelle Willis/ Disease.It's just a new technique. He'll get it down.2. The failings of Detwiler and Maya put the Nats in a bind today.Gorzelanny wasn't ready to pitch. At Syracuse the other night he threw only 70 pitches and gave up four runs in four innings. He needed another rehab start.Unfortunately the Nats didn't have any good options. I'd say Yunesky Maya pitched like Maya Rudolph, but she's probably a better athlete.

  15. sjm308 - Jun 20, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    Also agree that Riggs might have misplayed this one. Not sure who would have been sent up but with the bullpen dealing the way it has it was time to make the change. If we can win 2 of 3 from the Mariners that would be great. Amazing that the Riggs haters are back so quickly but I am not surprised. Even though I end with a go Nats after ever post I agree with 222 that this is a place to talk about baseball and I am also a sth and while I am happy with our direction, I also see that there is work to be done.Go Nats!

  16. Section 222 - Jun 20, 2011 at 1:24 AM

    Anon 9:13, It's more than an impression. Riggleman as much as admitted it in the post-game show. He wanted to give Gorzelanny the opportunity to go five innings. Embarrassing. If we're ahead, fine. But not when we're behind.Sunshine, I'm not so sure it would have been Stairs (though I agree with you that if it had been, it would have been a sure out). But he sent up Hairston to PH for Burnett in the 7th against a RH pitcher. Even Riggs seems to be losing confidence in Stairs (who he sent up with the bases empty in the 9th). By the way, does Stairs lead a charmed life or what? Every time he might be on the chopping block, someone goes on the DH. Still, he really has to go.

  17. Drew8 - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:02 AM

    Aw, heck, it's just one game. Now for something we shouldn't leave unremarked.From the churches to the jails, tonight all is silence in the world.This is from September 1978 and the joyful noise is from 4:10 to 6:35.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH_NvYPBDY0

  18. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:10 AM

    Zimmerman played poorly. throwing error, and then a NO Throw on a slow Reynolds who was 3-4 steps from the bag. Looked like he was afraid to throw it; or at least, a bad decision not to make the throw. All in the same inning.Zimmerman mainly responsible for this loss. His throw absolutely sucks.

  19. HHover - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:14 AM

    Criticizing Riggs is of course fair game, and you can question the decision to leave in Gorzo if you want. But it was a 2 out situation, it was early in the game, and he didn't have great options on the bench. (Would you really have felt better if Stairs had made his obligatory out 5 innings earlier?)Given the fact that there was plenty of other blame to go around – 3 errors! – it seems to me that you focus on that managerial decision only if you're already itching to break out the "worst manager in the big leagues" chorus. Which is exactly what Anon's been waiting 8 games to do.

  20. natsfan1a - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    With all due respect, horse hockey. Neither shouting "Go Nats" nor armchair managing is particularly indicative of intelligence or lack thereof. There are all kinds of people in this world and there are all kinds on this blog. All express themselves in their own unique ways (even the trolls, I suppose, though imo things go a lot more smoothly when people don't react to them). The Nats lost. I know it's been a while, but that happens sometimes. The sun will rise again in the morning. Baseball will be played again on Tuesday night. Maybe we can all get along until then, maybe not. Happy father's day to all the fathers (and fathers-to-be) here. For those who are lucky enough to still have a father on this earth, I hope you had an opportunity to talk to or spend time with them today. That's a heck of a lot more important than a ballgame. imho.I am a big time fan and a STH, can discuss the team and strategy with an intelligent readership that isn't simply team apologists and boosters. Mark's writing sets the tone — well informed and savvy. If all you want is "Go Nats!" comments, I'm sure you find them elsewhere.

  21. natsfan1a - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:23 AM

    I suppose I should have indicated that the final paragraph there was a quote. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day. :-)

  22. Wally - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:28 AM

    It is a testament to how bad things have been the last six years that we doubt what we are seeing. Hey, I get it and am susceptible to it, too. Bad game today. Would have been nice to get to .500.But here is what is true and can't be taken away. We have been on a great role, and moved into relevancy. We haven't become a bad fielding team again because we played sloppily today. We have some young guys that are real players. Zim is back and everyone's responding to his presence. Can we stay in the hunt all year? Probably not. Is it possible? Hell yes, and not knowing is awesome. it hasn't been since the dream of 2005 that we could say that.I am not being pollyanna. The team has flaws and will struggle for offense all year. The pitching may regress. Riggs, … It seems like that topic has been covered pretty well. Ok, I understand and discussing it all is interesting and enjoyable.But it has been a good ride so far, and worth enjoying.

  23. Grandstander - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:30 AM

    222 brought up a point I wanted to broach. He PH Hairston against a righty in a situation that screams Matt Stairs. Ultimately Stairs had his chance later in the game, but I was shocked not to see Stairs come out there with a righty on the mound. I think Riggs has finally cooled to him and that may be the end when Ank comes off the DL. The Gorzo move, in hindsight, yeah, it's an easy call. But he was probably thinking, "do I really want to put this game in the hands of Cole Kimball and Colin Balester?"I've seen him make way stupider moves than that so I don't need to jump all over him for that one. The way the offense has been going it wasn't unreasonable to think you could get another critical inning out of your starter and hope for some electricity later in the game.I'm also 100% with 222 on the "Riggleman hate". It's perfectly acceptable criticism to question managerial decisions and anything else about the team. It doesn't make you "negative", it makes you a fan. We're all invested in this team and we get a chance to write what we think and talk about it with others. If you say, "Riggleman sucks. He needs to go." That adds nothing. It's just as stupid as saying, "Riggleman is great, lay off him." As long as you elaborate on your points and bring evidence to the table, I don't think any comment is wrong or out of line or "hate". In the end, I agree with what someone said earlier (can't remember who, sorry!). I feel better having the streak come to an end this way than a well-played, well-pitched 1-0 heartbreaker. Every once in awhile, you're gonna play a stinker. The offense still managed to put 4 runs on the board, the damage could have been MUCH worse, and hey, on Tuesday, we start a new streak!

  24. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:36 AM

    It's easier for the manager to make good decisions than it is to not commit errors. A manager making a good decision doesn't require a catch or a throw. It just requires a good baseball mind and paying attention.And ph'ing for Gorzelanny might not have produced runs in the 4th. That's not entirely the point. Making the right decision won't always produce good results…but you should still do it.Gorzelanny's play was reason enough to remove him from the game and Riggleman should have seen that. The fact that the bench is short and Stairs is a part of it is more Rizzo's fault than Riggleman but that changes nothing about that 4th inning decision.Gorzelanny should not have come out for the 5th inning, period. As much as I think Riggleman is a bad manager, I have an even lower opinion of Tom Gorzelanny and, by extension, Mike Rizzo because he traded for him.And don't even get me started on Yunesky Maya and what he does to my opinion of Mike Rizzo!

  25. Unkyd - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    Respectful horse hockey… My favorite kind!!!You go, natsfan1a!

  26. N. Cognito - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    Anonymous said… "I don't think Jim Riggleman is a good manager. I didn't before the streak, during the streak or now. His winning percentage is what it is and it's not a small sample size."I'm not on the Riggleman bandwagon, but you have to recognize that his record came with some pretty bad teams.

  27. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:43 AM

    >>>I'm not on the Riggleman bandwagon, but you have to recognize that his record came with some pretty bad teams. <<<So, he only gets managerial jobs with losing teams isn't indicative of anything?

  28. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:59 AM

    Ultimately, the bigger problem with this team is Rizzo not Riggleman. Riggleman is just a symptom. Rizzo is the illness.Oh, and I'm Anon 8:17, 8:59, 9:13, 10:36 and 10:43.

  29. Unkyd - Jun 20, 2011 at 3:09 AM

    You clever anon, you…. I had no idea they were all you…

  30. CBinDC - Jun 20, 2011 at 3:40 AM

    I thought they put an end to horse hockey when you could no longer nail the skates to the hooves.

  31. Unkyd - Jun 20, 2011 at 3:56 AM

    CB…. Velcro. ;-)

  32. dj in Fl. - Jun 20, 2011 at 3:57 AM

    Jason Reid posing as Anonymous tonight ?

  33. dryw - Jun 20, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    Unkyd,Velcro! Of course! That makes perfect sense.On a more baseball-related topic, I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow. The next couple of days are really going to say something about this team and whether it's for real–and the past couple of days (8 of them…) give me reason to hope that I've never had before.

  34. UNTERP.NAT - Jun 20, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    This is my take on the game. I no this won't make any sense, but I am glad they lost. It doesn't matter how they lost, but it's emotionally draining with all the euphoria and was inevitable anyway. Give it a break on the Riggleman bashing. We all know he's a player's manager and stuck in a time warp…

  35. UNTERP.NAT - Jun 20, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    The other thing, everyone on this board should thank their lucky stars that the Orioles didn't sweep the Nats. They had like two hundred hits and only came up with enough runs in game three. Also, for all the Riggleman bashers, it's hypocritical to always bash him when they lose and not praise him when they do win which they have been doing a lot lately. Bravo Riggleman for keep this team together…

  36. UNTERP.NAT - Jun 20, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    "keeping"

  37. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Every bad manager will have an occasional winning streak. Every good manager will have an occasional losing streak. But over time, the record becomes the measure of the man. What's Riggleman's career record again? Oh, that's right, worst W-L record in MLB history of anyone who's managed 10 years or more. Consistently underperforms his team's Pythagorean W-L record. 10+ years with a variety of teams is not a small sample size, folks. Face it. Riggleman is just not a good manager.

  38. Gonat - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    The Nats weren't going to win every game and what I saw was almost a full team that was "off" and sluggish. My theory was the team had its Dream Foundation Gala on Saturday night which kept many of the players out late and they had to be tired especially with a day game on Sunday where the homes team was scheduled to arrive 4 hours before game time so that would be 9:30AM.This is the same as when the team has a long road trip or travel day that fatigue will set in.While I also agree that Gorzelanny could have been pulled in the 4th for a pinch-hitter, the Nats pinch-hitting has been poor and it was 2 outs but I had the same thought as that inning was unfolding.2 games below .500 and the hot Mariners coming to town. Go Nats!!!!

  39. baseballswami - Jun 20, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Section 222 – I am not at all sure that Riggs is a perfect manager, nor do I think that no one should be able to question his decisions. Just really fed up with the constant drone of everything in the universe being his fault. We no sooner lose one game after an 8 game winning streak and it's an excuse to start in again. Ok – I get it, you think Riggs is terrible – do you have anything else to say about the game or the team? I, for one , was amazed at Sunday, June 19th, in DC/metro sports – soccer at RFK – USA won, US OPEN at congressional – record breaking day, UVA in the college world series – UVA won in a very tense game Nats/Orioles on south capitol street. Amazing. Was travel horrible yesterday? I hope the Nats get a good mental health today and are ready for the M's tomorrow night. Oh — I forgot to shout Go Nats!

  40. Mark'd - Jun 20, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    The team wasn't blown out and we all hoped they had a comeback in them. In the end, yes, they lost. Not a big deal when you look at the bigger picture. By the way, 15 teams lost yesterday!

  41. natsfan1a - Jun 20, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    Actually, CB, I believe it ended when this guy retired.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman_T._PotterRight you are, Mark'd. Hope the Nats put this stinker behind them and come out on the right end Tuesday night. Go NATS!! (Wait, did my IQ just drop a few points? :-))CBinDC said… I thought they put an end to horse hockey when you could no longer nail the skates to the hooves.

  42. Unkyd - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Nice reference 1a! I guess my Python line slipped by unnoticed, in the angst and anxiety, yesterday…..

  43. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    As does the fact that he *has* managed even (mostly) bad teams for ten (10) years.You know what they call the person who graduates last in their class in medical school?Doctor.******************Anonymous said…>>>I'm not on the Riggleman bandwagon, but you have to recognize that his record came with some pretty bad teams. <<<————–So, he only gets managerial jobs with losing teams isn't indicative of anything?June 19, 2011 10:43 PM

  44. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    *As is the fact … Please don't hurt me, 1a…

  45. Natslifer - Jun 20, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Here are the impressions that are sticking with me:- Great attendance so far in the homestand with fans who are into the game – we can hopefully see the future of the in stadium experience as the team steadily improves. We've always known D.C. can be a baseball town. Might not last with Seattle but so far so good.- I'm a huge Zimmy fan but believe the throwing thing is mostly mental. Wasn't the ab injury this year? He's been air-mailing throws with a funky delivery for several years now (my [unfortunate to watch but still] most memorable one was him plunking a woman in the first row of seats during infield warmup in the middle of a game last year). This just means he's not perfect – but I also strongly believe it'll get fixed (or he'll just start sidearming everything).

  46. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    I went Friday and even though we won Jason Marquis was getting smashed out there. I hope that was just him having a bad game. Other than that what a great exciting game. Win or lose it least it has become entertaining. Every time Gorzellany pitches you only have about a 25 percent chance of winning. As for Matt Stairs, he must have photos of Riggleman doing some bad stuff.

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