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Defensive gems keep Nationals’ hopes alive

Sep 5, 2013, 12:13 AM EST

Associated Press AP

PHILADELPHIA — If the Nationals’ season ends Sept. 29 in disappointing fashion, they undoubtedly will look back at the countless games they lost because they couldn’t deliver in key situations, whether at the plate, on the mound or especially in the field.

If, however, the Nationals somehow are able to extend their season into October — and the odds are still stacked against them, though not to the point of impossibility — they might well look back at Wednesday night’s 3-2 victory and rejoice over their ability to execute multiple highlight-reel defensive plays at critical moments.

“We haven’t had that many games where those breaks have gone our way,” reliever Craig Stammen said. “It’s usually the other way around. So it’s finally fun to be on that side like it was last year.”

A tense, taut win at Citizens Bank Park gave the Nationals a series victory, moved them to 71-68 and — thanks to the Cardinals’ wild, 16-inning triumph over the Reds — brought them to within 6 1/2 games of the NL’s final Wild Card berth.

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  1. nats128 - Sep 5, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    Mark is working O/T! Im so excited I cant sleep! 6.5 back.

  2. Drew - Sep 5, 2013 at 1:28 AM

    The call-ups are coming up big. Let’s hope the Reds channel Gene Mauch’s Foldin’ Phils of 1964.

  3. Drew - Sep 5, 2013 at 1:35 AM

    P.S. Since the new site is allowing me to post about once a week, here’s a catch-up note:

    Harper is one homer from Craig Counsell and 714 from Henry Aaron.

  4. laddieblahblah - Sep 5, 2013 at 5:39 AM

    Corey Brown has looked really, really good, so far. His big problem this past season at Syracuse was his awful strikeout rate – right around 33% of the time, just about as bad as Espinosa’s K rate. But when Brown makes contact, the results are a lot more productive than they are for Danny. The Nats seem to have called Brown up just when he is in one of those hitting zones he occasionally lapses into.

    Have not seen him play this year, so I have no idea why so many Ks. Thus far, he has looked disciplined and selective at the plate, with 3 ABs and 3 missiles off the barrel. Would love to see that guy make it as the 4th outfielder next year. He is finally showing the fans and the Nats what kind of baseball talent he has.

    The one area where he really needed to improve was in using his speed to steal bases, and he did that, with 12 steals in 16 attempts at Syracuse. Last night, he showed off that new skill, as well.

    Mostly because of his dreadful strikeout rate, I had written him off, at almost 28, as being a permanent, minor league, organizational depth kind of non-entity. He seems determined to prove me wrong, and I sure hope he does.

    The guy can play. He would be a big, big upgrade over every other 4th outfielder the Nats have used this year, and can play all 3 OF positions at a plus level, including CF. And he generates real power with that compact swing.

    He looks like one of those late bloomers, and the perfect guy to fill a big hole on the bench. He is the mirror opposite of Hairston’s effectiveness against lefties, as Corey hits righties much better than lefties. Next year, the Nats could have 2 power hitting guys off the bench, one for lefties and the other for righties. And if one of the Nats starters goes down, we would not have to look at Lombo, TyMo, Kobernus, or Hairston trying to fill in.

    Cut down the Ks, Corey!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 5, 2013 at 8:19 AM

      That sure double he ran down to hold to a single was a huge play.

      Brown’s problem is the extremes. Long slumps and long hot streaks. As I suggested a few months ago was a callup so the Nats could ride his hot strea k and Rizzo didn’t do it. When he is cold he swings and misses like he can’t recognize the pitches. Scouts say he is overmatched by the better pitchers who can bust him inside with off-speed. Where he can take advantage is that they don’t have a scouting report on him and he has turned on mistake pitches.

      While I like Corey, he projects at best as a Bernadina replacement or at worse a huge upgrade to Tracy. He is now out of options for 2014. I still believe the Nats 4th outfielder needs to be a RH. Also I’m hoping LaRoche becomes the Chad Tracy. This is Corey’s audition. Good luck!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 5, 2013 at 8:21 AM

        Laddie, Hairston stinks and was a huge mistake. Why did Davey leave him in for Defense? Luck, nobody hit a ball his way.

      • laddieblahblah - Sep 5, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        That could account for the extremes in his performance. They will soon test him with inside stuff, so we’ll see. His strikeout rate this past season was horrendous, but when he gets hot, he blisters the ball for a week or two before coming back to earth. His split against righties this past season was .270, so they did not really shut him down. Against lefties he only hit about .210, with less power, so the inside busting appears to work a lot better for lefties than righties, as you would expect.

        A .270 hitter with power against righties sounds a lot better to me than the options they’ve had off the bench up to now. I think he is a better defender than Bernie, and is way better than any other 4th outfielder they’ve had under Davey. I see him as a possible platoon player, or replacement fill-in in case of injury, as a pinch-runner, and a pinch-hitter specialist against righties. He can’t hit righties, so every day is not in the cards for Corey, unless he figures them out. Heck, Bryce has a similar problem with lefties, at least for now.

        I see them keeping both Corey and Hairston, with Lombo and TyMo, as the main bench guys. Maybe TyMo becomes the starter and ALR rides the bench, or maybe the new guy platoons them (that’s what I would do, even though TyMo hits righties better than lefties). I don’t see them keeping Tracy, either, not when they’ve got either Brown or Hairston off the bench.

        I know you don’t like Hairston, and they may wish to upgrade there. Willingham will be a free agent, I think, and so will Morse. I’d love to see Willingham back, but would pass on Morse.

        Fun, fun game last night. If they had played defense like that all year, they might be leading the division.

      • laddieblahblah - Sep 5, 2013 at 11:52 AM

        Ghost, that should have been “he can’t hit lefties,” not “righties.”

  5. Joe Seamhead - Sep 5, 2013 at 7:01 AM

    Ageed re: Corey Brown. He really can play all 3 OF positions well, though he is best as a centerfielder.

    Speaking of outfielders, Billy Burns ended up with some great combined stats between the Suns and Senators. He hit .315. Had 72 steals in 79 attempts, but even more impressive in 540 PA he only had 54 strikeouts. He has no home run power, but he is an outstanding defensive outfielder.he is said to be the fastest player in the Nats organization.

    • laddieblahblah - Sep 5, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      I like him, too. He actually has 74 steals in 81 attempts now. He is very disciplined at the plate and drew 72 walks vs. only 54 Ks, so far. His OBP for A and AA, combined, was a gaudy .425. It was so high that his OPS is actually over .800 (.808). Walking the guy is like giving up a double, or even a triple, since he steals both 2nd and, then, 3rd so often.

      Check it out:

      He has performed at a higher level with each promotion, and has replaced the previous incumbent as the new leadoff hitter every time he has been promoted – replacing Michael Taylor at Potomac and then Brian Goodwin at Harrisburg. He looks like Rizzo’s leadoff man of the future. Switch hitter, too.

      OK, no power, but his speed makes up for that. He even stole home at least once that I remember, this year. I think they give him a real good look next spring, and bring him up in September, if not sooner. He stays at Harrisburg to start the year, but moves up by June if he keeps performing as he has this year. He is the kind of player who can ignite an offense and juice up the crowd – a kind of “Mini Me” version of Bryce.

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 5, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    I would prefer a collapse of one of the team we are chasing, instead of this see-saw affair we have seen last few days. Only that (along with more wins on our part) sets us up for postseason.

    Anyways, nice to see Hamilton vs Molina again. Molina might have had a case on interference by Cozart. I also did not understand why third (or fourth) pitch was not a strike. I thought Cozart attempted bunt but failed.

  7. natsjackinfl - Sep 5, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Joe. Re: Burns. In the eyes of the Nats evaluators, Burns has surpassed Goodwin and is expected to be the center fielder at Syracuse next year.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 5, 2013 at 8:23 AM

      That’s breaking news. Wow!

    • laddieblahblah - Sep 5, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      Not surprised, at all. See my comments, above, re Mr. Burns.

  8. ArVAFan - Sep 5, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    Nice. We get two of the MLB top plays of the day. The Onion’s play at home takes top honors. So someone is paying attention (but not in Cleveland. Their announced attendance last night was under 10,000.)

  9. Doc - Sep 5, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    There were three Ramos’ that won the game last night.

    There was Wilson Ramos with the lead off single, Kobernus Ramos that stole third and ran home with the winning run, and Onion Ramos who made that unbelievable tag on the Philthy, Chase Piddley.

    I agree about Corey Brown. Be nice to see him as bench strength next year.

    If Harps doesn’t start hitting lefties, TyMo needs to platoon with him on a regular basis.

    • bowdenball - Sep 5, 2013 at 8:58 AM

      It would be crazy to platoon Moore in LF (where he’s terrible) when there’s another lefty playing a position Moore can actually field competently who also can’t hit left-handed pitching.

      Also, not sure where this came from. Harper didn’t play yesterday and he went 1 for 3 with a walk last time the Nats faced a lefty starter.

  10. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 5, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    NatsJack re Burns, very interesting. My concern is his physique; it’s not like he’s going to grow into a more powerful hitter, which I think is necessary for him to be more than a backup. There haven’t been many Bret Butlers in the majors, though if Burns could become Butler that would be a very welcome development.

    Just looking at the stat sheet the most noticeable development has been the evolution of Michael Taylor at Potomac — 41 2B, 87 RBI are really nice nos. Plus he has real athlete size and is only 22. Between Burns, Taylor and a mediocre season at Harrisburg I think Goodwin’s future is as a moveable piece.

    • natsjackinfl - Sep 5, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      Yes. Notice that I only referred to Syracuse for Burns. And Taylor is definitely developing, which would make Goodwin and his questionable maturity rate expendable.

  11. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 5, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Doc — that would be “three Ramoses,” not “three Ramos’.”

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 5, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    I see Hairston as a big mistake and I think he needs to be replaced next season. To think Rizzo took him instead of Morse as a short-term bandaid was a mistake. Hairston has made 1 impactful play.with the HR in Chicago and a few doink singles. I’m not even sure if Hairston is an upgrade over TyMo defensively.

  13. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 5, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    Boswell has good quotes today. From McCatty “Early in the season we had 5 guys on the bench all hitting .150.” “Just let our pitchers hit for themselves” Johnson said.

    Boz claims Ryan Zimmerman is ranked by FanGraphs as “the worst defensive player in baseball”. Boz points to the early season problems with leftys in the bullpen, Espi at below Mendoza, and the pitching struggles of Storen and Haren.

    Boz, yes, yes, and yes. What else do you have for us that we don’t know.

    • nats106 - Sep 5, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      Even worse than Pedro Alvarez?

  14. Doc - Sep 5, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Correctomundo, Theophilus! Ramoses it is. Early in the morning, as it were.

    Another plurality suffix might be as in Ramoi. I expect that the Ramoses/Ramoi to appear out of the dugout like sprites late in the ball game, when the Big Ramoi gets on base.

    Then the Ramoi, aka Kobernus and Solerno, return to their nesting places on the bench, ready to cause havoc to enemy forces in the next game!

  15. Section 222 - Sep 5, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    I bring greetings from 308 who has yet to make the migration to WordPress. He’s still reading though and says to tell the regular commenters: “I kinda miss them.” We miss you too 308, and hope you’ll rejoin the fray soon.





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