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Oh, so close to history

Sep 10, 2013, 12:28 AM EDT

Associated Press Associated Press

NEW YORK — The ball careened off Zach Lutz’s bat at a 45-degree angle and straight down the first-base line, where Adam LaRoche could only attempt an all-out diving attempt that was just a split-second late. And when the ball landed and left a poof of white chalk, Gio Gonzalez knew his bid for history was up in smoke as well.

There are 1-hitters, and then there are 1-hitters like Gonzalez tossed Monday night to lead the Nationals to a 9-0 thumping of the Mets, where the difference between a spot in the record books and merely a dominant performance came down to that poof of chalk behind first base at Citi Field and umpire John Hirschbeck’s (correct) call of a fair ball and thus a clean base hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“I’m begging with [Hirschbeck]: ‘Make something up. Tell ‘em I called timeout before the pitch. Or interference. Something,'” a surprisingly disconsolate LaRoche said later. “Ah, it just makes me sick.”

Based on the vibe inside the Nationals’ clubhouse, you might have thought this game had been lost, not won in dominating fashion. The Nats did, after all, club five home runs in the game’s first five innings. They did, after all, win for the 20th time in 29 games to improve to 5 games over the .500 mark, matching their high-water point of the season. And they did, after all, gain a game in the NL Wild Card standings thanks to the Reds’ 2-0 loss to the Cubs, leaving them 7 games back with 19 to play.

Oh, yeah. They also saw Gonzalez toss only the second complete-game, 1-hitter since the Nationals arrived in D.C. nine years ago.

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  1. David Proctor - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    Want to repost this link. Great article from Kilgore on Ryan Zimmerman. Very insightful, from both Kilgore and Zimmerman himself.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2013/09/09/after-doubts-ryan-zimmerman-wants-to-stay-at-third-base/

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2013 at 7:31 AM

      I responded in the previous thread. Good read.

  2. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    I posted this under the last thread, pretty much by mistake, not having realized Mark had moved on:

    I’m happy Gonzalez threw strikes (for a change) but let’s not get all dramatic about beating a lineup the other 29 teams wouldn’t have sent to a split-squad Spring Training road game. If they lose either of the next two games it’s an embarrassment.

    • adcwonk - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      No it’s not. Even the worst teams can beat the best teams one out of three. In fact, before the Nats, the Mets played three against Cleveland and won one. And before that they played the Braves and won one.

      Further, it’s only the second time the Mets have been shutout since before Memorial Day.

      Sheesh — even with a 9-0 win you’re complaining about the Nats.

      • NatsLady - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:02 AM

        Case in point. Cubs beat the Reds. Just happened last night, it was in the list of scores.

    • bowdenball - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      adcwonk and NatsLady are right. MLB is not the NBA. The better teams don’t beat the worse teams 90% of the time- if they did the Astros and Marlins wouldn’t have .333 and .378 winning percentages.

      And the Mets aren’t even one of the worst teams- they’re only 14 games under .500 and there are 5 teams in the NL alone that have a worse run differential than the Mets’ -53. Sure, they don’t have Wright at the moment, but we don’t have Harper. And the series is in NY too. We might even be the underdogs tomorrow night for Wheeler vs. Haren.

  3. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 10, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    I wasn’t talking about the team — I was talking about the lineup. Only Murphy might be a starter on another major league team (but at a different position); none of the pitchers belonged in the major leagues. The Italian national team would have had a better chance. Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game against the ’64 Mets, who had a better lineup than the Mets threw out last night, and finished 53-109. Coincidence? Compare to Felix Hernandez against Rays.

    I agree, it was the best game, statistically, Gonzalez has had all year. He has had, overall, better, more impressive performances.

    • adcwonk - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:11 AM

      Really? You’re reaching to the 1964 Mets? Try this one on for size: in the last series of the season, with the Cards closing furiously on the Phillies, the Cards (you know – -the team that won the WS over the Yankees that year) and played the Mets. In the first game of the series, Bob Gibson lost to the Mets 1-0. How’d that happen?

      As for “only Murphy might be a starter”, you’re wrong there, too.

      The Mets are starting Dillon Gee tonight, who over his last 10 starts is 5-2 with a sparkling 1.94 ERA, going at least 7 innings in all 10 games. It’d be an embarrassment to lose to him? Boy, the Braves must really suck — they lost to Gee just last week when the Mets were using almost the identical lineup they had last night.

      You’re really liking this idea to set up artificial bars so you can criticize the Nats, eh?

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        oh snap! nice post Wonk!

    • bowdenball - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      The Mets- these Mets, the roster you think has one regular major leaguer on it- won 1 of 3 in Atlanta and 1 of 3 in Cleveland last week. Those are ROAD wins against one team that will win its division and another that’s in the thick of the AL wild card race. Prior to that they took 2 of 3 from the Nats in DC and split with the Phillies at home. Yet you think it would be an “embarrassment” if the Nats didn’t sweep the series?

      What that tells me is that you either don’t understand how baseball works and how often lesser teams outscore better teams over 27 measly outs, or you just feel the need to poop on everything this Nationals team does.

  4. natsfan1a - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Have been away for several days and just saw this. I miss you, too, sjm. Come on in; the water’s fine. :-)

    p.s. Not sure whether this was already addressed but you shouldn’t have to log in to read the whole list of comments on a thread, as you’d noted earlier. Just click on the link showing the total number of comments (currently says “8 comments” on this thread), and it should expand to show you all of them.

    p.s.2 Not sure whether this was already addressed as well but you also don’t need to do anything special to post the fancy blue hyperlinks on here. Just cut and paste your link (http://www.WHATEVER) on a separate line and it will be linked automatically. Now I don’t have anything to teach you when we finally meet, but we could put faces to monikers anyway. Speaking of which, not sure that I’ll make it to any games before the finale on Sept. 22, for which we have tix. We have another commitment for this Sunday, which is when we usually go.

    p.s.3 Totally unrelated and random comment, and as previously told to a few friends offlist. It’s not the offseason yet, but I wanted to make a book report while it’s still fresh in my mind. I recently picked up a book at a library sale: “Last Days of Summer,” by Steve Kluger. It’s an epistolary novel, with the plot being advanced by way of letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings, etc. The setting is WWII era Brooklyn, but the protagonist, a precocious 12-year-old boy, doesn’t root for the Dodgers. He’s a Giants fan, and he idolizes one player in particular – irascible third baseman Charlie (don’t call me Chucky) Banks.

    I started reading it the afternoon I bought it, while waiting for a project to come in, and continued reading straight through (he had me at “lovable losers”). What’s it about? Baseball, role models, family, faith, coming of age, and 353 pages. There are great characters, funny and spot-on dialogue (can it be dialogue if it’s in correspondence?), as well as some heartstring-tugging developments. I didn’t want it to end.

    p.s.4 I think I’m done now.

    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.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Whoa – there’s a “WHATEVER” site? I did not know that. Oops.

      p.s. The book I recommended does have some adult language, fwiw.

  5. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Wonk, don’t change the subject.

    The point is, we shouldn’t be enjoying a good baseball game, because the next game might not be as good, and then what would happen, huh? You might look foolish for liking a team that didn’t win, or enjoying a game.

  6. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Now I don’t have anything to teach you when we finally meet,

    Because English has now literally abandoned grammar and spelling, and using words like “literally” literally.

  7. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Whoa – there’s a “WHATEVER” site? I did not know that. Oops.

    No, somebody is just squatting on the domain name. Unsurprisingly.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      Ah, that would be a good one. Literally.

  8. natsfan1a - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Literally.

    p.s. The dialogue in the book I recommended does feature deliberate [on the part of the author] grammatical and spelling infelicities. Some might find that jarring. I didn’t. At least, not after I got used to it.

    p.s.2 Another totally unrelated and even more random comment. If you get a chance to see Merle Haggard live, go (unless you hate country music, in which case, whatever). :-)

    • naterialguy - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      “in which case, whatever)”- hey isn’t there a website for that?

  9. ArVAFan - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    Back on the game: good to see that Gio didn’t get flustered after the hit. Sign of maturity, and good for the long run. Better luck next time. And I think there will be one.

    On R Zimmerman: it must have been tough walking into the clubhouse every day past the 16 x 20 glossies of fantastic defensive plays and wondering “will I ever do that again?” or “It’s June (July, August) and I still don’t feel 100%–I wonder if the doctors are wrong and this is as good as it gets?” But I’m glad he seems to be on the other side of that, and making up for lost time. Should be an entertaining final homestand.

  10. Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    wonk, I just don’t get you. You seem personally insulted when someone says something negative about the Nats. Lighten up. Different strokes for different folks. If anything, this season has taught us that the oft maligned LoD had a point. Maybe next year we’ll all be a little more accepting of opposing views.

    Theo is right, last night’s Mets lineup was not Murderers’ Row. No Wright, true. And no Byrd, no Buck. No Ike Davis (well, he’s lousy anyway). Still, it’s the same team that took 2 of 3 from the Nats just over a week ago. Better to win than to lose, right?

    After tonight, we’ll have completed eight 18 game sets in this season and have one left. I’m working on a post analyzing where things went wrong this year. Yes, yes, I know, we still have a mathematical chance, but it’s pretty clear from the traffic here that the air has long since gone out of the season. Looking at those 18 game sets leads to some surprising conclusions about this WSOB year. Stay tuned.

    • adcwonk - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:05 AM

      “wonk, I just don’t get you. You seem personally insulted when someone says something negative about the Nats.”

      Nope — that’s not it. But saying something negative ought to at least be a fair criticism. To say that “the Nats should be embarrassed if they don’t sweep the Mets” makes no sense at all. (I guess the Braves are embarrassed, eh?) It’s just downright silly, and if someone really believes that, they know nothing about MLB.

      To say that Gio’s 1-hitter was worth nothing because the Mets-blah-blah makes no sense either (see, e.g., the Mets getting shut out only one other time since late May).

      Think about it: Gio throws a one-hitter and we’re not supposed to be happy about it? What does it mean to be a fan?

      If you want to say: Gio pitched a terrific game, although it was against a weak hitting team, fine. If you want to say: eh, it was no big deal, and then exaggerate how bad the Mets are — well, that’s just not a fair (or accurate) comment.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:33 AM

        Put another way, it’s not the criticism, per se, that folks object to. It’s this guy.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:35 AM

        Somehow, he doesn’t seem so bad in Italian.

    • natsjackinfl - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      I stopped reading Theo’s posts weeks ago.

      • Sec 309 - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        What took you so long?

  11. Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Jack, no offense, but you’ve been basically absent for the last several months. Every now and then you come by to take a potshot at a player or another poster, but that’s about it. I don’t blame you for being disappointed in this season, or tired of the level of discussion here. Lots of us are. But for you to criticize others for being negative is the pot calling the kettle black at this point. I look forward to your returning with informative and upbeat posts over the offseason and next spring training.

    Theo may have overstated his point about the Nats having to be embarrassed if they don’t sweep this series, but he’s made some good contributions recently. He’s a thoughtful fan, though a depressed one, as many of us are.

    • adcwonk - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      When depressed fans contintually “poop” on the team (as someone above so eloquently put it ;-) ) — it just adds to the depression, no? Spreads it around.

      • Sec 309 - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:35 AM

        Theopoopus.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:00 PM

        Concur in part and dissent in part.

        We’re playing out the string in here. There’s been nothing new to say since about late July, at least as far as the Nats’ season is concerned. The game in front of us is all we have left. So it gets tiresome to hear the same complaints recycled over and over, for seven months running. It’s not only boring, which it would be if nobody here cared; it’s irritating an open wound. Nobody likes that. They’re rubbing salt into a dead horse. (Hey, I like that one.)

        But they have every right to be boring, just as we have every right to tell them to stuff it, or try to explain yet again why they’re wrong, or leave if we don’t like it. People have gotten awfully touchy, in both directions, in here. If you’re the one who threw it at the fan in the first place, don’t complain if it gets on you, too.

        If someone gives you 100 reasons why a given (fair) coin flip will come up heads, it’s still a 50-50 proposition; if it does come up heads, they weren’t “right” in any significant sense, and lots of the “They SUCK” stuff amounts to no more than that.

        Some of it doesn’t, and those folks were right, this team was over-rated.

      • Sec 309 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        That’s no reason to under-rate or poop on what they’re doing now. Haters can’t make the adjustment.

  12. Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    All I’m saying is that folks have every right to be depressed about what happened this year, and share their feelings, and their analysis too. Everyone handles their depression differently. At times like this, it would be nice if those virtual drinks were real.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      And where might they get a list of those virtual drinks, Deuces?

      Why, right here:

      http://prettyfrickenbueno.wordpress.com/

    • NatsLady - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      If you have a “right” to be depressed because a bunch of athletes don’t meet your expectations, then I have a “right” to be totally excited by 20-9, and to enjoy watching them play good baseball. Which I am doing. :)

      • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:07 PM

        Absolutely you have that right NL. You go girl!

    • adcwonk - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      “All I’m saying is that folks have every right to be depressed about what happened this year”

      I’m not arguing with that.

      But, then, don’t I also have a right to respond to what I think are unfair and unfounded criticisms?

      • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        Yes, of course you do. There’s just a angry tone in your responses that seems unnecessary. And I particularly object to people who question whether those who poop are true fans. Everyone poops. Some just poop more often than others.

      • Sec 309 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        Śure, we all read that book as kids. What’s annoying is posters like Section 222 who think that their poop doesn’t smell.

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    By talking about rights of posters, aren’t posts about opinions invalid?

    As far as I can tell, Theo made a post and Wonk replied to it. That’s all there is to it.

  14. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    But to get back to the topic for a second, I recall Chipper Jones saying (was it just last year?) “It feels like the baseball gods have turned their backs on us.”

    I think maybe this is what that looks like.

    OTOH, the expression “baseball gods” — plural — means there is more than one, maybe many more. What if they don’t all agree? Pantheons are famous for politics and infighting. Maybe, like Ulysses, we still have a patroness, as well as enemies, on Olympus.

  15. NatsLady - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Jayson Werth isn’t “playing out the string.” That is a man on a mission. I don’t think Ryan Zimmerman is, either–he has something to prove. Denard Span certainly isn’t playing out the string. Desi may be slumping, sort of, but that man isn’t CAPABLE of playing out the string. Harper will probably trash Davey’s office to get in the line-up. LaRoche is sick as a dog and has been since July, but he’s still taking his walks. So, who exactly is playing out the string? I ain’t seeing it.

    • Chazz - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      To clarify, when I said “us,” I meant us, not the team.

  16. jd - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    NatsLady,

    I am with you 100%. I like a lot of what I see lately and I do believe that this team has finally found an identity and things bode well for next year. It’s hard to be entirely optimistic as far as playoff chances this year but it hasn’t diminished from my enjoyment of good baseball by my favorite team.

    BTW,

    ALR is sick with what? what are you basing that statement on?

    • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      NL is convinced ALR is ill. Even after it has been reported, and confirmed by ALR, that his weight loss is a side effect of the medication he takes for ADD.

      • jd - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        Sec222,

        I was wandering if there was some info out there I missed regarding an ALR illness. He’s having a really bad year compared to his lifetime stats but at the same time he had a really strong year last year so the question is do we expect something like this year again next year or something closer to .265 .337 .474 (career numbers)?

        If I was a betting man I wouldn’t expect Adam to reverse a normal decline which comes with aging but then again I would never have thought Werth capable of putting together the kind of year he has.

  17. natsfan1a - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    If “playing out the string” refers to sec3 @ noonish, I believe he was talking about commenters rather than players. Of course, I could be wrong. :-)

    • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      That was my impression too. No one seems to be questioning the effort the players are giving at this point. It’s actually quite impressive, considering how slim the chances of post season play are.

      In that connection, I’ve been wondering about Span’s resurgence. Assume he continues his hot hot hitting and finishes the season with numbers close to his career averages, which was basically how he played last year. I know that all the games count equally etc etc, but it still doesn’t seem quite right to say he delivered what was advertised considering how big a part he played in digging the hole the Nats found themselves in. In other words, does a hot August and September really make up for how disappointing the rest of his season was?

    • Chazz - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:28 PM

      but you so seldom are.

  18. Theophilus T.S. - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    I have been a baseball fan for almost sixty years. I rooted for the Tigers in hope of some reward until I realized in the 70s that (A) I was living in DC and (B) the Orioles, not the Tigers, were playing the game the right way. I loved watching the Nats in 2005 when they were improving (but not enough to go to RFK) and in 2010 and 20ll when they were improving and in 2012 when they were good. This year, everybody in my household agreed in May-June there was no point in spending $150 to go a Nats game if there was a reasonable probability they were going to stink — meaning not only lose but also play bad baseball. I’ve turned off any number of games when they puked on the field in the first three innings and watched NCIS rather than self-immolation by a team playing not only poorly but below the level of their ability and nonetheless denying there was anything fundamentally wrong.

    I’m dee-lighted, as HHH would say, they are now playing better baseball but is a hollow thrill, because the object of the season appears to be lost. There is reason to be optimistic about next season, especially if Zimmerman finds his throwing arm where he left it and management refocuses on developing the whole roster not just one or two pieces at a time.

    My theory of games was formed by Bo Schembechler: you beat the crap out of the teams that are crappy and any game you lose is a tragedy, particularly if you are partly responsible through poor play, poor preparation. The notion that losing is acceptable just because you’re not going to go 162-0 is NOT acceptable if the reason is you played poorly and have no idea how you’re going to get better. Sometimes you play well and lose — that is why no team wins 116 games. But far too many of this season’s are traceable to a point in the game where someone has a brain fart — even in the midst of an otherwise acceptable performance — as in the game (Marlins?) where Gonzalez stared into the ether while the lead run stole second base.

    Beating the Mets lineup they field yesterday — not speaking necessarily of the team but the eight guys that trotted out to the field — ain’t exactly a big deal. Gonzalez’s starts against the Reds in April and the Giants in May stand out more, to me. I admit I’m not a big fan of his — he’s going to finish the year with, probably, fewer than 200 innings again and he’s one of the players with the biggest gap between his talent and what he produces. Great arm, great motion — one of the best in baseball — and great stuff but there are bugs in his software. Every time he goes out however, I root hard for him to have a good game, like yesterday. When he does it’s cause for celebration if not necessarily champagne.

    And I’ll bet the Braves, collectively, were embarrassed about losing two out of three to the Mets, except they were/are so far out in front that it didn’t make any difference.

    • Sec 309 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      Theopoopus, a hater who can’t make the adjustment. Cuz haters gotta hate.

      • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:37 PM

        Welcome back Feel.

    • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      I’ll take a thoughtful post by Theo any day over a ridiculous response like the one just posted by 309.

      Speaking of former home teams, the Bucs finally got their 82nd win last night. Just imagine what it’s been like to be a Pirates fan over the past two decades. Now that would be depressing. Barring a collapse, the Nats are about to have their 3rd straight winning season. So it could be worse.

  19. jd - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    Theo,

    I agree with some of what you say about Gio but not your conclusions. I agree that Gio doesn’t throw enough innings because he throws too many pitches per inning. I don’t know if it’s a question of trusting his stuff or just wildness.

    What I don’t agree with is your conclusion that his overall results are not up to par. Gio was of the top 3 pitchers in the NL based on all metrics and agreed upon by most neutral pundits. It’s not reasonable to focus in on 2 or 3 or even 5 games and conclude based on that. King Felix, Verlander, Wainwright etc have all had several games where the results weren’t good. Overall Gio is an excellent no. 2 or 3 starter, one of the best in baseball.

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

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

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TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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THU: 2:30 p.m.
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