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Nats stop the running game at last

Sep 11, 2013, 10:49 AM EST

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NEW YORK — The two most important moments from Tuesday night’s win weren’t home runs by Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. They weren’t scoreless innings of relief from Tyler Clippard and Rafael Soriano. And they weren’t LaRoche and Scott Hairston crossing the plate with insurance runs in the top of the ninth.

No, the two most important moments came in the bottom of the sixth and the bottom of the seventh when Wilson Ramos threw out Matt den Dekker and Eric Young Jr. trying to steal second base.

Just ask the Nationals’ manager.

“I thought those were key plays in the ballgame,” Davey Johnson said. “Those were huge outs.”

Huge, not only because each came with the Nationals clinging to a 1-run lead in a game they absolutely had to win to keep their scant playoff hopes alive, but because each came with a relief pitcher on the mound who has struggled to stop the running game in the past.

It’s been a team-wide problem since last season, but Craig Stammen and Drew Storen have been among the Nationals’ worst culprits.

Stammen had allowed 37-of-41 baserunners to successfully steal off him in his career until this year’s All-Star break. Since then, 3-of-7 runners have been caught, including den Dekker during the sixth inning Tuesday.

“Just paying more attention to it,” the right-hander said. “And I’m getting a little better at it, too, knowing the situations when they’re going to run, when you can get away with being a little slower and making a better pitch.”

Storen, meanwhile, had allowed a staggering 15-of-16 baserunners to steal off him in his career (including 13 straight) prior to Tuesday night, when Young was thrown out in the seventh inning.

“I’m just more excited I got the out,” Storen said. “It’s part of the adjustment. It’s more of an overall remodeling, and that just happens to be part of it.”

Both pitchers were quick to give credit to Ramos, whose arm certainly played a major role in both caught-stealing attempts, but the catcher gave credit back to a Nationals pitching staff that has made a point to rectify this ongoing problem.

“Last year, a lot of guys stole,” Ramos said. “So this year, we worked in spring training on the pitchers trying to be more quick to the plate, change their time. That’s good. All of us, we can help the pitchers to try to get those guys out. It’s very important for them.”

  1. laddieblahblah - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    With all due respect to Ramos, the Nats staff did not come out of ST holding runners on any better than they were last year at holding runners on. The quicker deliveries to the plate are a recent development, and both Stammen and Storen showed great improvement last night with correcting what had been a chronic problem for almost the entire staff.

    Somebody has been working them lately, and that work is now paying off. Credit must go to someone on Davey’s management team for working this out with the staff. That transformation did not happen by magic. Of course, the players deserve credit for successfully making the adjustment, but so does management.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      Well said. It would have been 3 for 3 if Lombo got in front of the baserunner on the 1st steal attempt instead of behind him.

      No matter how quick the pitcher is to homeplate the catcher and infielder must execute the throw and tag.

  2. Section 222 - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Here’s a comment from that Reds fan blog that 1a linked to earlier that shows how folks are looking at things from the other side of the fence:

    “Someone stated in the game thread that the Reds would be in a dogfight with Washington the last week of the year due to their “cake” schedule the rest of the way. I would like to point out that the Nationals’ last two weeks they play the Braves, Marlins, Cards, and D-backs. I don’t know anyone that would consider that schedule “cake”. Honestly, if you compare our remaining games with the Nats’, we actually have the easier schedule.

    We have 16 games left. The Nats have 18. Our playoffs magic number right now (Reds wins + Nats losses) is 12. Not saying it couldn’t happen, but it would take a monumental collapse by the Reds to do it.”

  3. Section 222 - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Not to be a party pooper, but one game and two pitchers does not mean the problem is solved. It was a big problem last year that wasn’t properly addressed in ST, regardless of what Ramos says. Let’s hope the other pitchers were taking note last night and that the new management team really rides herd on them in Florida next spring.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 11, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      True. Ramos was being much too kind with that BS.

    • provotrout - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:19 PM

      Ramos has caught 10 stealing in the last 30 games, so it’s a larger trend than simply one or two games. He’s playing at a very high level and has been for over a month straight.

  4. Section 222 - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Old friend (?) Zach Duke is now pitching for the Reds. He came up on Aug. 30 and has been used in 6 games already, mostly as a LOOGY. In 4.1 innings pitched, he has given up 3 hits and 0 runs, including the last 5 appearances where he hasn’t allowed a single batter to reach base.

    His ERA for the year is down to 7.20.

  5. breakbad1 - Sep 11, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    A complete hype story. Just basically untrue (not you, Mark, I mean the PR machine at Nats Park.)

    It reminds me of the meth addict, looking up from his cardboard mattress in a flop house, toothless and gaunt, telling his distraught wife, “Don’t worry, honey, I haven’t used in over two minutes.”

  6. Doc - Sep 11, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    Good stuff about catching the runners.

    So wad took so long to stop it—it’s been going on for 3 years!!!!

    If they worked on it in ST, seems like a long delay till now. Like Davey says, some of these guys are slow learners.

    Here’s to watching the Reds fall apart! GooooooooooooooooooNats!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 11, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    A game of “ifs”. If the Nats can win tonight and tomorrow regardless of what the Reds do the Wild Card is down to 5 1/2 before Friday’s games. Reds put out Latos against the Brewers Lohse. This could get interesting.

    Nats have to almost win out and Davey has to use his deep bench and bullpen and manage like it’s Game 4. Yes, use JZim to throw 97 gas on Friday if you need him like Game 4. All players at the ready. Game 4s the rest of the way and I hope Davey bruises some egos.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:33 PM

      I like to look at it as having to win, not 18 games in a row, but 1 game in a row: tonight’s. They have to win one game. They can do that. Tomorrow will be the same–win one game.

  8. Section 222 - Sep 11, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    You’ve drunk the Kool-Aid Ghost!

    You realize that our next off day is Sept. 26, right? We’ve played five games of a 20 games in 20 days stretch. So I’d be very careful about throwing JZnn or any other starter out there like it was Game 4. Maybe in the last week of the season, but not yet. The Nats are going to have to win out without extraordinary measures like that. Because if you do something like that, you markedly reduce the chances of winning out.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      Just a 1 inning side session is what that is equivalent too. He only threw 5 innings yesterday. I want to see Davey go for it and he managed well yesterday against Nats killer Dillon Gee!

      Note to self, more Kool-Aid!

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        Heck, he might even pick up an extra win that way. If they don’t juggle the rotation, he only gets 3 more starts.

      • Section 222 - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:35 PM

        Maybe, but if throwing an inning in relief is equivalent to a side session, why don’t teams use their veteran aces in that role on a regular basis? Surely Verlander, Kershaw, King Felix, and Cliff Lee are a better option than the guys who usually pitch the 6th or 7th innings for their clubs.

        I’d much rather see JZnn have stellar outings in his last three starts and get to 20 wins (not that the win stat really means anything, but he deserves whatever extra push it will give him in his next contract negotiation.)

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:41 PM

        Because they are much, much more likely to get hurt in a game than in the bullpen, and it’s hard to control what happens on the field to a bullpen.

        In this case, I think it’s a radical, but justified, suggestion.

  9. Whynat - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    In a fit of optimism several weeks ago I arranged tickets to all three Braves games next week.

    Of course catching the Braves is an impossibility, and catching the Reds is about the same as hitting a specific number on Roulette with one spin (I do enjoy Roulette). But , I’m still scoreboard watching in mid-Sept.

    Regardless of that, I still plan to cheer Werth’s quest for a monster season. Will Span still be streaking? Is the old Zim back or is Zim just old? There’s still plenty of fun and interest for me at the ballpark.

    Editors note: I am the legion-of-rose-colored-glasses-wearing-sports-blogger archetype.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:22 PM

      Me, too. Glug glug….ahh

      Editors note: I am the legion-of-rose-colored-glasses-wearing-sports-blogger archetype.

  10. Doc - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    Yeah Ghost, I think Davey should bruise ALR’s ego a bit.

    There is no common sense/sabermetrics reason why ALR should be batting 4th/5th.

  11. letswin3 - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    On the “caught stealing” issue……FP Santangelo commented seconds before they got Young, that Drew was like 1.3 seconds to the plate (almost a half second faster than his historic slowness), probably due to his stint at AAA and his newly modified leg-kick. But, (and maybe I’m off-base here) Wilson Ramos also looked to me to have been exerting just a wee-bit more effort and an elevated sense of urgency on his throws too. Could it be a combination of pitchers finding new ways to get faster and catchers feeling that there is now a fighting chance if they can just give it the full 100%? Others, like Strass, seem to have a new awareness of guys on first too….I think he threw over like 3 times during one at bat a few days ago……maybe those were bench calls, but something is finally changing, at least from an awareness perspective. So maybe Davey is right in saying that they are slow learners. Our next manager will hopefully scream, yell and break a few things when his players forget the importance of remembering that runners on first base can quickly become runs scored by seeing-eye singles and Texas-league bloops, when they waltz over to second because of indifference. Like someone said earlier, this has been as issue since at least 2011. I’m convinced that Davey’s contention that players know what to do, when to do it and what the price is if they don’t could only be enhanced by a manager willing to call out a few guys occasionally………I don’t think Gio has failed to cover first since Werth called him out in front of everyone, if that’s a proper comparrison. Not all players have the confidence of a Jason Werth, but managers are paid to see that every facet of the game is maximized. I ain’t gonna miss Davey.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:48 PM

      Actually, Gio sorta did fail to get over. If LaRoche had come up with that lone hit, Gio was still standing on the mound with his mouth open. Yes, it happened fast, but even FP pointed it out, pointedly.

      Personally, I don’t believe temper tantrums and taking it out on the furniture works. Just my 2 ¢

  12. NatsLady - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    What concerns me about tonight’s game is the heat/humidity. Haren has problems with the heat, it was mentioned before his last start. This has to be managed. Keep him off the basepaths, hitters have to be aware and extend innings so he can get a break, stuff like that.

    The weather is supposed to break tomorrow–although I would prefer NOT to try to figure out when to re-schedule a rainout. It should be perfect when the guys come home.

  13. Doc - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Correctomundo letswin3!

    It’s time for a hell-fire damnation manager; not sure there are many around these player’s managers days!

  14. NatsLady - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Reds leading 6-0. I think we have to be happy the Cubbies got 2 of 3. Let’s win tonight, keep it at five in the loss column! Go Nats.

  15. secretwasianman - Sep 11, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    ALR up changing channels





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