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Game 97: Nats at Astros

Jul 19, 2011, 8:50 PM EDT

US Presswire file photo
Jordan Zimmermann faces J.A. Happ tonight at Minute Maid Park.

Though his team managed to scrape together five runs last night, Davey Johnson is making one significant tweak to tonight's lineup against the Astros: Danny Espinosa will lead off, with Ian Desmond bumped all the way up to the No. 2 slot.

The primary reason for this: J.A. Happ is starting for Houston, amazingly the first left-hander to start against the Nationals since Johnson took over as manager. And since Roger Bernadina doesn't fare all that well against lefties (career .225 average), it seems like a logical move to bump him down to the 7-hole and go instead with Espinosa (career .277 average vs. lefties).

But there's another byproduct of this: Desmond moving up to the No. 2 slot. He's fared much better up there in his career (slash line: .282/.319/.396) than he has when he's hit eighth (.236/.286/.344). Perhaps this switch might help get Desmond going.

Jordan Zimmermann makes his first start of the second half, as the countdown to his 160-inning limit begins. He enters tonight at 115 innings, so figure seven or eight more outings before he's shut down.

I'm not in Houston for this series, so please enjoy the game and conversation among yourselves…

NATIONALS at ASTROS
Where: Minute Maid Park
Gametime: 8:05 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 185
Weather: Dome (Outside: 87 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from RF)

STARTING LINEUPS
NATIONALS (48-48)
2B Danny Espinosa
SS Ian Desmond
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Michael Morse

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222 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. A DC Wonk - Jul 20, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    So, here's a question for those who keep pushing W-L record as a way to "prove" that Marquis is better than Livo.If Marquis is 8-4, and JZim is 6-8, does that tell us Marquis is better than JZim?

  2. m20832 - Jul 20, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    let's get 'em today boys for the series! GYFNG!!

  3. Gonat - Jul 20, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Ian Desmond with the #1 Web Gem last night on that play in deep short.

  4. Gonat - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    A DC Wonk said… So, here's a question for those who keep pushing W-L record as a way to "prove" that Marquis is better than Livo.If Marquis is 8-4, and JZim is 6-8, does that tell us Marquis is better than JZim? July 20, 2011 8:49 AM _____________________________If we were in the 1970's, I think everyone would say "yes". Obviously the answer is no but JZim has the league 4th best ERA and he wasn't chosen as an All Star because W/L still means a lot.A little surprised on how Davey is usually so nice talking about his players and chopped up JZim pretty well. I chalk up JZim's problems in the 2nd inning on that shot to the leg.

  5. A DC Wonk - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Proof that the Nats are the Real Kardiac Kids(at least to my minimal understanding)I was poking around FanGraphs, and found that the Nats have the highest "pLI" in the league of any team. This is "player Leverage Index", which, basically means: how important that at bat is, how high a pressure situation it is, etc.Basically — if I'm understanding this — that means that the Nats (on average, per at bat for the entire season) have more nail-biting games than anyone in the league.(Am I understanding that correctly?)Further, phLI is off the charts compared to everybody else (meaning: our pinch hitters are in higher pressure situations than anyone) — which would mean that a decent pinch hitter or two for the Nats would mean more (make a difference more) than for other teams(The Nats also have the third lowest BABIP — what's up with that?)

  6. Gonat - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    DC Wonk, it sure feels that way. Kardiac Kids.

  7. NatsLady - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    DC Wonk — Seems about right. .500 team (not too many blowouts either way).

  8. Gonat - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Mark'd said… Interesting approach by Davey. I would kept it simple and just flip flipped Bernie and Desi. Espi is .182 leading off. July 19, 2011 4:58 PM ________________________________Difference yesterday is how bad Espi looked in the game. Put him in leadoff just changed the whole dynamic. It helped Desmond.

  9. A DC Wonk - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    NatsLady said… DC Wonk — Seems about right. .500 team (not too many blowouts either way).But I'm thinking that, perhaps, some teams are .500 and they do have blowouts either way. I *think* the stats are telling us that, even for .500 teams, they are "in" more games than average. Or, to put another way: both their wins and their losses are closer than other teams.Now — given their miserable team batting average, if they could only just get some hitting . . .

  10. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    (The Nats also have the third lowest BABIP — what's up with that?)a lot of routine ground balls to the second baseman?

  11. A DC Wonk - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Sec 3, My Sofa said… (The Nats also have the third lowest BABIP — what's up with that?) a lot of routine ground balls to the second baseman?But even routine ground balls should find "the hole" with the same approx average as other teams, no?

  12. Gonat - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Steve M. said… I think it would be a big mistake to move a Gold Glove calibre player in Espinosa over to shortstop. You change the player sometimes by changing positions. It could affect his entire mindset. Trading Desmond at this point doesn't make sense as you are selling low anyway.July 19, 2011 10:52 AM ___________________________This is a point resonating with me now. I think you find comfort at positions and batting orders. The only player succeeding at leadoff is Bernadina. I also hate the thought of changing Espinosa from 2nd to Shortstop.I think if the team makes change it should be to find a new Shortstop by trade or free agency.

  13. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    Or, to put another way: both their wins and their losses are closer than other teams.So is there a stat for the average margin in games, MLB-wide? Maybe average score differential during a game, say, at the end of each inning? Some games are close for 7 or 8 or more, and then become blowouts, which is not the same as first-inning blowouts that get close with a big inning.

  14. natsfan1a - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    ahem…yeah. :-) Nice job on the PBP, though.Speaking of PBP, I'll get to watch today's game in real-time (yay!), which won't be the case on Friday or Saturday (we interrupt this post for a statement regarding my platform: the games are too dang late). Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, we need Good Livo on the mound and some hits with RISP in the top half of innings. (Feel free to strand 'em in the bottom half – if you even get any base runners at all, which you shouldn't feel obligated to do.) Then, a curly w and series win in the books and off to LaLa Land and an off day. 'kay thanks.Sec 3, My Sofa said… Coffey starts hot but cools off fast. He whiffs Cliff Johnson, he can-of-corns (1a will get me for that verb) Barmes (and the Shark is CAAAAALLLLLLLLING fly balls), and gets a ground ball from Quintero, but past Zimm in the hole for a single, then walks the pinch-hitter Bogacevic. Is it me, or Zimmerman playing in a step extra tonight? Burnett warming. Bourn singles, UH-gain, over Zimmerman, for one run, 7-5 now. Angel Sanchez up with first and second, and the crowd, IN HOUSTON, is actually getting into it. Been a while since you've heard that, I think. July 19, 2011 10:18 PM

  15. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    All right, 1a. You have the booth, it looks like, for this day game. Go get 'em, kid.

  16. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    A DC Wonk said… Sec 3, My Sofa said… (The Nats also have the third lowest BABIP — what's up with that?) ————————— a lot of routine ground balls to the second baseman?***************************But even routine ground balls should find "the hole" with the same approx average as other teams, no?———————————-Not my expertise, but I was thinking that if they don't hit the ball well, fewer fall in, line drives being more likely to find a hole than slow three-hoppers, usually.

  17. Manassas Nats Fan - Jul 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    D.X. Wonk I know the facts you say are true, another reason they blow many saves is they are up only by 1 run so if you give up any it is blown. However, when they are called they need to perform better as a group. Ole Kerosine does a lot better when we are behind than ahead when he does in, so that is how I would use him.

  18. A DC Wonk - Jul 20, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Manassas Nats Fan said… D.X. Wonk I know the facts you say are true, another reason they blow many saves is they are up only by 1 run so if you give up any it is blown. However, when they are called they need to perform better as a group. My question, really, is how are they performing? I really don't know. I'm just saying that "blown saves" is a pretty crude measure — after all, it is possible to to have 12 blown saves and to win all 12 games, in which case the "poor performance" isn't effecting the bottom line (yet).Here's another example. Burnett leads the team with 6 blown saves in 43 appearances. That stinks and he's hurting the team.But Clippard is right behind with 5 blown saves (also in 43 appearances). Does that mean he's almost as bad as Burnett? No way. But we need to look at other stats to show that.For example: Clippard vs Burnett:ERA: 1.82 vs 5.50WHIP: 0.83 vs 1.46BAA: .148 vs .267My point is that if you look at blown saves here, the two pitchers might look comparable. It's completely misleading. Now — does anybody know how to look at those other stats (WHIP, BAA, Pct runners stranded, etc.) for the entire team, but only relievers? (I have no idea!)

  19. natsfan1a - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    Sorry, no can do. The tv set is in the basement and the 'puter is upstairs (two flights). Maybe someone else will be able to pinch hit. Sec 3, My Sofa said… All right, 1a. You have the booth, it looks like, for this day game. Go get 'em, kid. July 20, 2011 9:53 AM

  20. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Altuve debuts for Astros vs. veteran LivanBy Jon Star/MLB.com | 7/20/2011The Astros made headlines on Tuesday by executing a trade ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline. Houston sent Jeff Keppinger to San Francisco in exchange for two Minor League right-handers, but it wasn't Keppinger's exit that is generating buzz. Instead it is the anticipated arrival of the highly touted Double-A prospect Jose Altuve, who joined the Astros on Tuesday night.Manager Brad Mills said that the second baseman will be in the lineup on Wednesday."Right now I plan on playing him at second base. He's going to get significant playing time, there's no doubt about that," Mills said. "We're not bringing a guy up here who has done what he's done to sit. If he's healthy, he's going to play for the most part. He'll be the second baseman tomorrow."Altuve, 21, led the Minors with a combined batting average of .389 between Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. He hit .408 in 52 games at Lancaster before hitting .361 in 35 games at Corpus. He also has a combined 10 home runs and 24 stolen bases between the two stops.General manager Ed Wade expressed excitement regarding Altuve's promotion."He brings enthusiasm and speed and ability," Wade said." I'm hoping that he gets a lot of chances to play here and guys feed off that energy. He has a chance to experience what the big leagues are all about and hopefully accelerate his process to stay here."While Altuve's presence shakes up the Astros' lineup, Nationals manager Davey Johnson is tinkering with his own order. Johnson bumped Danny Espinosa to the leadoff spot from his regular spot in the two-hole and elevated Ian Desmond from eighth to second while dropping Roger Bernadina from his traditional leadoff spot to seventh.Though Johnson acknowledged the changes may not be permanent, he felt the alterations were worth a look."Desmond has swung the bat well the last couple of weeks," said Johnson. "He's going to get more at-bats [hitting second], and that's what he needs. I thought about it before now. It wasn't something I just woke up in the middle of the night. It's not a major thing."The Nationals' new-look lineup will attempt to support Livan Hernandez, who is looking to regain his rhythm after consecutive rough outings. The veteran right-hander has tallied just 9 2/3 innings over his last two starts, allowing 12 runs (nine earned) and 18 hits. He is just 2-7 in his last nine decisions dating back to May 3.

  22. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 79 15.0
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Sunday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (4) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 67 2.5
y-ST. LOUIS 87 69 4.5
-------------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 71 7.0 --
PITTSBURGH 84 71 7.0 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 11.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
Full season schedule

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