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Red-hot Cincinnati brings Nats back to earth

Apr 7, 2013, 10:31 PM EDT

Associated Press
Ian Desmond reacts after striking out in the third inning.

CINCINNATI — If the last 48 hours of baseball between the Nationals and Reds are any indication, there are two conclusions to draw about these well-constructed ballclubs: 1) There’s a good chance they could see each other again, with the stakes much higher, in October, and 2) Those games figure to be tightly contested and come down to a couple of key moments.

That much was obvious both Saturday and Sunday afternoons as the Nats and Reds traded blows during the final two games of a highly entertaining series. (Friday night’s 15-0 whitewashing by Cincinnati was a fluke aberration more than anything.)

On Saturday, it was the Nationals coming up big with the game on the line late. On Sunday, the tables were turned.

Thanks to an aggressive approach against Stephen Strasburg and one ill-fated decision by Danny Epsinosa, the Reds pulled off a 6-3 victory to capture this early-April series between NL powerhouses and send the Nationals home no longer in first place in the NL East.

“They obviously have a good team,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “Every guy in their lineup is pretty much like us: Guys hit the ball out of the ballpark and give good, disciplined at-bats. … But we didn’t put our best foot forward.”
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  1. ehay2k - Apr 7, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    Cohesive ball club we have here, and everyone stands accountable. Very good to see.4-2 is pretty good, in fact, do that all season and I believe you are at a measly 108-54. I'll take that. :-)

  2. Exposremains - Apr 7, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    I think the Reds have a team built for their ballpark. Most of their HRs are flyball in other parks but most of Nats HRs were true HRs. It Also seems like the Reds know the way this infield reacts much better than the Nats.

  3. Gonat - Apr 7, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    From the previous thread last night, the Nats probably were never going to go to Arbitration with Lannan as they would've re-negotiated a new contract with him.

  4. MicheleS - Apr 7, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    I hate that ballpark. Oy, it's probably as bad as Coors Field. (note to Davey, DO NOT LET HAREN PICTH IN DENVER).It was a pretty poopy weekend (Blow out, Bad Defense, poor decisions, etc), but I will take a few good things out of this weekend. DSPAN can get on base. Love it, once the others start clicking he is going to be running around the bases a lot – good for his Cardio.Werth. I am guessing that wrist is pretty good. making good contact and hitting ball solid.DET is a flat out Stud on the mound now. He looked terrific yesterday. Ian is a stand up guy for taking the heat for yesterday and all of them being accountable for today.We have TWO count them TWO great catchers. Good for Wilson and Kurt, both did fine jobs.

  5. Candide - Apr 7, 2013 at 11:55 PM

    One nice thing we took away from this game: Strasburg's change-up to Votto – so filthy it should be buried in a landfill.

  6. SonnyG10 - Apr 7, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    Good wrapup Michele, I concur. We are going to be ok.

  7. SonnyG10 - Apr 7, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    Good one Candide.

  8. Manassas Nats' Fan - Apr 7, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    analysr are over Espi. Always at the stadium take. 2 outs over throwing home in 5th of tied game.

  9. Nattering Nat - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    We've still got a darn good club, lots of things to like, like our two first-rate catchers, the starting corps, the mental toughness of this group, etc.But the poor decisions prompt me to ask a question. No doubt about Desi's and Espi's athleticism, toughness, etc. What about their decision-making IQ at this point? Espi says he didn't realize they were positioned half-way to get a DP in the sixth. Really? I have no doubts about Zimm at 3rd or LaRoche, but I don't quite know what to make of those other two. Take Harper's throw home yesterday–he wasn't contrite, he's 20, everyone says he's still learning. Is that still the case for Espi and, to a lesser extent, since he's older, Desi? I have tended to think Davey has a smart club as well as a talented one. A few plays in this series, which can easily be excused if they get their act together again soon, at least make me question the assumption.

  10. ehay2k - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    Nice find Candide. Thanks for sharing.

  11. baseballswami - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:14 AM

    Interesting how many aces had horrible days today, some of them the second one. Also – yesterday was bad for closers. Just weird, but on some level I think if it happens to Dickey, Cain, Verlander, well then…. Love the catchers. The team did not seem to feel the need for much practice in Viera. Is that showing? Or are they just trying too hard and not having fun? Glad to get the heck out of that place. Boys need to regroup.

  12. SonnyG10 - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:16 AM

    Nattering Nat, I think our club is so young that all of them are still learning. There are going to be mistakes like we've had this series, but there are also going to be great plays. Over the season I believe we are good enough that the good play will far outweigh the mistakes. Just my opinion.

  13. SonnyG10 - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    baseballswami said… The team did not seem to feel the need for much practice in Viera. Is that showing? Or are they just trying too hard and not having fun? Glad to get the heck out of that place. Boys need to regroup.April 07, 2013 8:14 PMI think the prolonged spring training may have disrupted the preparation. I expect them to get it together as they settle into the season.

  14. baseballswami - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:28 AM

    I don't know. It was longer but several of our starters began later. Seems like much was made of getting done and leaving, they are pros and don't need many reps, etc. msybe it was too casual? Although, maybe if they take this series hard it will set a tone for the rest if the season.

  15. BigCat - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:48 AM

    If you give good teams extra outs you are flirting with disaster. If Stra fields that ball or lets it go for espi in the first inning the Reds probably don't score. Don't fault espi for his play at the plate. He has a cannon and can make that play. The Reds are a very good team. They beat us two out of three fair and square. Bring on the Sox

  16. MicheleS - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    Swami, deep breathes buddy. Spring training was just WAY too long. and as Big Cat said, reds are a good team, Bring on the Sox.

  17. baseballswami - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:05 AM

    Too early in the season for the ledge. Lots of baseball to go. Weird weekend , not just for the Nats. John Lannan pitched better than Halladay or Hamels.

  18. Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:18 AM

    Where is everybody getting this"no need to practice in Viera" stuff? Whatever. We're 4-2. We may go to .500 this month. I hope not, but if we do I'm not heading down to Rock Creek to jump off a bridge. We got this, folks.Ok, this crap that none of us goes on to the game thread is getting to much like " I won't go to any more Phillies games" mentality.Why not? Because of the so called Legion of Doom? Well, all I gotta say is…BS! It's our blog, not these chump change punks' blog. I love this blog and most of the folks that post on it. Anybody that knows me knows that I don't back down in the real world. (Hell,though he didn't know me at the time, sjm308 saw me take on a Phillies fan that booed the Nats in our section last year. That page has turned in our park). Mark has provided this blog for Nats Insiders. As to Steve Hayes, I met him. Here's the story:I was sitting on an airplane one day ready for departure when this guy Steve Hayes comes and sits next to me, running his mouth before he's even in his seatSeeing my Curly "W" hat, SH says, "Lets talk about the Nats."Now, I don't really want to talk to this guy, nor listen to his nugatory babble, so I say, "I'll tell you what. If you can answer one question that I have and I'll talk to you, Ok?"SH says, "OK, shoot."I said,"I live in the country with a huge pasture in back of my house where there are horses, cows, and deer living. Now, even though they all eat the same grass, the horse stools are baseball sized lumps, the cows' are big pies, and the deer's are little nuggets. Now, why is that?"SH says, "Why, I don't know, why is that?" I answer "Well, why would I want to talk baseball with you, boy? You don't know nothing about sh**!"

  19. Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:22 AM

    It's our turf.

  20. timeless46 - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    Hasn't Hamels now had two poor outings in a row? It apparently was a tough day for a lot of good pitchers today. I don't like the mental mistakes, but appreciate our guys stepping up to take responsibility.Wish we were playing a game tomorrow! Go Nats.

  21. DJB - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:35 AM

    The sour taste is still in my mouth. But talking about the positives first, Det has turned into a mentally tough pitcher who will probably be a number 2 on our team when all is said and done. Ramos, especially, showed fight as well. But overall the play this weekend reminded me of the divisional series. Poor pitching under pressure(with the exception of Stammen and Det) and poor defense up the middle when it counted. As to Espi, the play at home was simply inexcusable – you always take the dp in that situation and he knows it. When do you pull the cord on him? As to Stras, he is the ace, and it was his responsibility to intimidate after the Friday-night massacre. The losing didn't bother me because I think the Reds are a better team, but the way we lost was simply unacceptable after what happened in October. To let them come back in the second game and the egg laid by Stras indicates a mentally weak team, and other teams will sense it. Now grab your cojones, Nats, and play hardnosed, tough baseball. The season has just begun.

  22. UnkyD - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:39 AM

    Cat… I will fault Espi for not knowing the play, but that should stick in his mind. I don't think he'll do that again. And Desi was right to admit to not communicating… Those guys should be calling out "get two!", in that situation… Head in the game, fellers… School was in session, this weekend… I think these guys will ace the subsequent quizzes…

  23. Oldguy - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:39 AM

    Jared Weaver first inning. RA Dickey. Red Sox "likely to finish 4th or 5th." Etc. etc. Lots of weird stuff going on. Oh, and Verlander. Never won his two first starts. It's April, folks. Even the cherry blossoms are late.

  24. baseballswami - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:39 AM

    It will be interesting to see how they react to a tough weekend. They always have seemed to play better loose- afraid they might be tied up in a few knots. And by the way, expressing concern or wondering what's going on is not a fan crime. Just like daring to question Davey's decisions every now and then is not a hanging offense. Now the vile , nasty spewing??? That is not ok.

  25. Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:42 AM

    A good time for a day off, timeless46.Just to clarify about my earlier post about taking on a Phillies fan. I didn't resort to fist-a-cuffs. There was a guy behind me booing the Nats. I turned around and said " You can't do that here anymore." He said, " Yes I can." I said," No you can't, and here's why." And I stood up, pointed at him and started yelling,"Last place Phillies! Last place Phillies!" And appealed to our whole section to join in, which they did. He shut up for the rest of the game. It turned out, sjm308 was in the row behind the Phillies fan. Anyway, it's our park, and it's our blog.

  26. mick - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:47 AM

    Joe seam, I love it…. well done my friend

  27. baseballswami - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:53 AM

    Wow- fan swagger!

  28. Gonat - Apr 8, 2013 at 2:09 AM

    Buster Olney's Power Rankings are out and it's:1) Reds2) Nationals3) Tigers4) BravesI don't think the Reds are the better team but they were for this series for several factors including Haren was bad, Stras had an off-day, and the Nats defense were rusty.If this was the post-season, Haren wouldn't be pitching and I'd expect the Nats defense to be much better.

  29. peric - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:00 AM

    Also, Nats got AJ Cole back for the Beast, now SEA Beast, so they DID get something – a potential #2 starter in 2015. Yes, plus two other pitchers to develop … BUT, the reason it was deemed safe to part with Morse was because of the development of prospect Tyler Moore.BOTTOM LINE: Rizzo made the mistake that is considered the ultimate sin to any engineer: with Span he attempted to fix something that really wasn't even close to be broken. Period. End of story. And, like any engineer he will pay for that mistake.

  30. Rich P. - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:09 AM

    CF/leadoff was broken for the Nats every single day since April 2005.

  31. peric - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:18 AM

    CF/leadoff was broken for the Nats every single day since April 2005.Really? Explain how they won 98 games with Harper scoring almost 100 runs over part of the season with Werth leading off only AFTER coming back from a broken wrist?WRONG ANSWER dude.

  32. sjm308 - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:20 AM

    Seamhead – great to remember you doing that and how I had no idea who you were at the time!! I was actually by myself at that game and told my son how impressed I was and I think I actually posted about it on here.Anyway, as great as that was, I chose now to skip the in-game threads. It is just too ridiculous, too negative and honestly too stupid. When you look at all the intelligent stuff that is written on here the in-game stuff is just not worth stressing over. I love your passion, don't always agree with your thoughts but you are what Nats Insider is all about. Keep up the great work and Kevin and I will hopefully see you on the 13th.Go Nats!!! ps: after spending 18 years in West Virginia, I do know about cow piles and deer pellets.

  33. sjm308 - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:23 AM

    Peric – harper did a great job last year in CF. I believe the reasoning for moving him to LF and obtaining Span is that he will spend much less energy in a corner outfield position and be able to harness that energy into his offensive production. Seems like that is working so far. Span has made at least 4 plays that I don't think Harper would have gotten to, and Harper is hitting even better than last year. I know you want Moore in the lineup but it just isn't going to happen. Find another cause brother. You have lots to offer.

  34. peric - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    Span has made at least 4 plays that I don't think Harper would have gotten to, and Harper is hitting even better than last year. I know you want Moore in the lineup but it just isn't going to happen.sjm308,In the end its all about offense and that's Davey's thing. In other words: we shall see. Davey is letting Rizzo set the starting lineup at the beginning of the year . Last year it was Davey that put Werth in the leadoff and Harper batting second remember? And the result? 98 game won.We shall se what we shall see … ~smiles~

  35. peric - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:31 AM

    In the end Davey is going to set the starting lineup before this season ends and I am willing to bet you that the lineup will be big inning offense oriented.

  36. sjm308 - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:32 AM

    Thanks Peric and at least you didn't tell me to go take a nap!! On a non-related topic. How is the bike riding in Napa? Will be there a couple days before going to watch our lads beat up on the World Champions in May. Will try and bike before a winery visit.

  37. peric - Apr 8, 2013 at 5:14 AM

    Yes, it should be good sjm308 … just beware the traffic … some folks I know from Chico won't ride the PCH because of the traffic. Too many drivers "texting" while driving as well as talking … swerving … Many more in the north then down in the much less populated central coast …

  38. Drew - Apr 8, 2013 at 5:23 AM

    On an encouraging note: The middle infield prospects on the farm are off to brisk starts. In addition to Rendon, we have Walters with 3 homers in Syracuse, Kobernus (who played outfield today) hitting over .600, and Martinson the RBI machine with 5 in 3 games at Potomac.I'm not suggesting Danny's on the hot seat. I'm just curious how this will all shake out. I think by the end of this season Rendon and Walters will be ready for the big leagues.

  39. nats guy - Apr 8, 2013 at 5:49 AM

    Peric,I see that Cliff Clavins has repopulated your soul. Do you know everything about everything!!! I guess we should bow down to your omnipotence. I am awed that you should deign to honor us with your all seeing all knowing being. What a treat it is for us to read every single day. Wow I have learned so much. Thanks for the education.

  40. Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2013 at 6:41 AM

    Who would have thought that it would be the shortstop position that would struggle the first week? Desmond,I'm confident, will come around, but he has had a rough week in the field.sjm308, I won't be there Thursday. I'll be there Tues & Fri with tickets from our partial plan (sec311), planning to buy at the gate Sat( cheap seats), and bought other tix Sun to take my youngest grandson for his 7th birthday (sec315).Hate to concede the game threads completely. We'll see how it unfolds.You are right about one thing, it has been pretty bad.

  41. NatsLady - Apr 8, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    Morse hit a two-run bomb yesterday. He also struck out 4 times and left 5 on base, including the final K where they walked Kendrys Morales in front of him in the top of the 10th. Span is doing his job, getting on base (.444 OBP).

  42. Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2013 at 7:07 AM

    Nats Lady, do you know what our record was last year while Morse was out? BTW-What are you doing up?

  43. Laddie Blah Blah - Apr 8, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    "Nats Lady, do you know what our record was last year while Morse was out?"Never mind that. When he came back he stank so bad that he, himself, asked Davey to take him out of the lineup because he "was hurting the team" (his words, not mine). The Nats were doing fine without him (all of April and May), and did fine even when he was hurting them (June).It wasn't until July that he starting making contributions on offense. Without him, the Nats offense is doing even better this year than last. They don't need him. That's not just my opinion, but, obviously, it is also Rizzo's and Davey's. Even if they're wrong, the guy is gone and ain't comin' back.Get over it.

  44. Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2013 at 7:59 AM

    It was a question asked out of statistical curiosity and NL is great with statistics of all kinds. I never advocated keeping him over ALR, nor do I have any delusions of him returning. I actually am thrilled with having Span here to set the table. Why the attitude?

  45. Laddie Blah Blah - Apr 8, 2013 at 8:00 AM

    "Well, why would I want to talk baseball with you, boy? You don't know nothing about sh**!"Best analytical comment of baseball's first week. LOL.The Nats are the best team in baseball. They didn't play like it in Cincy, but they are young and still learning. Harper is so young he gets a pass. Up until yesterday, Danny had been playing great defense. His error was mental. I think he learned his lesson.They will tighten it up. You learn more from losing than when you win.

  46. Laddie Blah Blah - Apr 8, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    "Why the attitude?"What attitude? That comment was in support of your own regarding Morse.

  47. Joe Seamhead - Apr 8, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    Sorry if I was overly sensitive, but the The Rizzo bashing over the Morse decision is deluded IMO, thus the curiosity regarding how well we did when he was out of the lineup.I loved Morse for many of his contributions,but I seem to remember that we had a great record even while he was out.

  48. Laddie Blah Blah - Apr 8, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    "I seem to remember that we had a great record even while he was out."Exactly. And we will have a better record this year without him, than we did last year with him. Rizzo did the right thing, not only for the good of the Nats, but for Morse, as well. Big Mike would be sitting on the bench here, like Tyler Moore, instead of lighting it up in Seattle in his walk year.Mike thanked Rizzo last winter when he left. He knows it was for the best for him, and Rizzo knew it was best for the team. Rizzo bashing is hilarious, when you look what he has done with this team in just 3 years.Show me a GM who has done a better job.

  49. baseballswami - Apr 8, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Don 't any of you ever sleep? So I actually saw Morse make a great play in the outfield on Plays of the Week! Not just a DH after all. Anyway – losing is one thing, but I did not like the way the Nats played this weekend. Hope things come back together soon. But just to pour more gas on the fire- Stras made comments his first start about working with Rsmos – Suzuki was the battery mate on both of the poorly pitched games. Coincidence?

  50. DJB - Apr 8, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    I do think, given LaRoche's early lack of production and his back spasms,the Morse trade was a mistake in the short run at least. From a Sabre point of view, a run is a run, whether saved or earned. The idea was that, even if LaRoche didn't hit like he did last year, his defense would save unearned runs. I was in support of that. I can't complain about Span. The problem last year was plate approach, and I think he sees a lot of pitches. Now he needs to steal more. In his comments after the game, Stras implied that he believed the Reds were reading him out of the stretch. If he thought that, he needed to plug one of their batters. Did he hit a batter, I don't remember? It's about playing tough baseball and making them uncomfortable in the box. Finally, I do think they need to move Rendon and prospects up as quickly as possible. I just don't think Espi is going to cut it. His swing is not appropriate for the big leagues.

  51. SteveRep44 - Apr 8, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    I'm not inclined to be overly concerned about this weekend's events. Every mistake made in that park is exponentially magnified.Winning there again won't be of high priority as long as Nats finish with better record. And, with realignment, Reds won't have Astros to pad their win total.It's too soon to lift the plastic cover on the Espi Panic Button. Give him to that first traditional 'milepost' — Memorial Day. There HAS to be a reduction in those frustrating "HUH?" moments when you can't begin to imagine what he's thinking out there.

  52. natsfan1a - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    Haven't read them but I don't usually read the comments there after losses, and I don't tend to participate in game threads in real time other than on occasion during spring training. That said, doesn't sound like I missed much there. Or maybe I did miss a bunch of, er, stuff, but that's okay. :-)That said, hope that people don't go from not being inclined to participate in game threads to not reading comments at all. Would be a shame to see this site and community have an exodus along the lines of what happened at the WaPo site.Ok, this crap that none of us goes on to the game thread is getting to much like "I won't go to any more Phillies games" mentality.

  53. Rabbit34 - Apr 8, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    A little blip by our pitchers and we are dead ducks.

  54. Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa - Apr 8, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    We spend way too much time in here talking about how to spend our time talking in here. IMO.If I'm channel surfing, and stop at a movie, and it's not interesting, I change the channel. It's not a moral judgement, or a political statement; I just got bored.

  55. natsfan1a - Apr 8, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    A pastime which your comment reflects. ;-)Speaking only for myself, I can and do scroll past comments that do not interest me. But I also think that ad hominem attacks need to be addressed. On a somewhat related note, I do also have an issue with posters telling people on a Nats blog which other team(s) they should root for and why. But that reflects my own general issue about people telling me what to think and do. :-)Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa said… We spend way too much time in here talking about how to spend our time talking in here. IMO. If I'm channel surfing, and stop at a movie, and it's not interesting, I change the channel. It's not a moral judgement, or a political statement; I just got bored. April 08, 2013 12:00 PM

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