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Instant analysis: Nats 5, Marlins 4

Sep 22, 2013, 10:30 PM EDT

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Game in a nutshell: A long and emotional day at the ballpark began with a tribute to Davey Johnson (managing for the last time at Nationals Park), continued with a frustrating, 4-2 loss by the home team in the doubleheader opener. The Reds’ win in Pittsburgh left the Nats’ season on life support heading into the nightcap, but they responded by taking a 4-3 lead into the eighth inning thanks to Stephen Strasburg’s quality start and Denard Span’s two-run single. But Tyler Clippard gave up back-to-back doubles in the top of the eighth, leaving this game tied and very much up in the air. To the rescue came Jayson Werth, who led off the bottom of the  ninth with a double. Eury Perez pinch-ran for Werth and wound up on the front end of a double-steal. Wilson Ramos then tagged a sharp grounder to third, which Chris Coghlan booted to bring the winning run home. Thus, the Nationals hit the road for the final week of the season, trailing by the Reds and Pirates by five games with six to play. They need a miracle, but they are still mathematically alive.

Hitting highlight: It actually occurred on the bases, not at the plate, but it still counts as an offensive highlight, so we’ll commend Ian Desmond for swiping second base in the bottom of the seventh and in the process notching his second consecutive 20-20 season. Desmond truly has blossomed into one of the best all-around shortstops in baseball, combining power, speed and spectacular defense like few others at his position. Only one other player in Nationals history has recorded one 20-20 season: Alfonso Soriano, who of course doubled Desmond’s feat and went 40-40 in 2006.

Pitching highlight: Making his first start in 14 days, Strasburg took the mound with at least some semblance of uncertainty surrounding him. And that uncertainty was probably justified, given the long layoff due to forearm tightness. Strasburg did look rusty, especially early on. He gave up leadoff hits in his first three innings, including a double to Donovan Solano and a homer to Justin Ruggiano. He did find his groove as the night wore on, though, and along the way recorded the 500th strikeout of his career. He reached that milestone in only 426 1/3 innings, faster than all but two pitchers in MLB history: Kerry Wood (404 2/3) and Mark Prior (421 2/3). Those aren’t necessarily names any young pitcher wants to be associated with, considering the manner in which each career was derailed by arm injuries. But a full three years removed now from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg certainly appears healthy and poised to continue his ascension next season.

Key stat: The Nationals’ total attendance this season was 2,652,422 (an average of 32,746). That’s the most in the six-year history of Nationals Park, but slightly below the 2,731,993 total from the inaugural 2005 season at RFK Stadium.

Up next: The home portion of their season now complete, the Nationals head out for a 6-game road trip to wrap things up. It begins at 8:15 p.m. Monday in St. Louis when Tanner Roark tries to improve to 8-0 in his career. Ace Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    Would have been nice to have Bryce Harper bookend the (home) season with HRs, but take a W however you get it.

  2. David Proctor - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:37 PM

    Calling the season on life support is generous. I think the hand is on the plug.

    But hey, 84 wins. I could legitimately seeing us win 87 or 88. That seemed impossible not that long ago (and would’ve gotten us into the playoffs last year). So much went wrong and we’re still going to finish with a respectable record. Imagine next year when Rizzo closes some of those holes (bullpen, bench, 5th starter).

    • nats128 - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:43 PM

      I think the bullpen parts and 5th starter are part of the system. The bench stinks and needds a total overhaul. Im still concerned about Laroche and how he will be for next season.

  3. nats128 - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Kudos to Davey for 2 key calls by him in Kobernus pinch-running and Eury Perez pinch-running. This was something we gave Davey grief for early in the season for not using the speed off the bench in situations like that.

    Nice to see it in Home game #81. Better late than never.

    • adcwonk - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:50 PM

      He didn’t have Kobernus and Eury most of the season. There’s nobody else off the bench with anywhere near that speed.

      • David Proctor - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:51 PM

        Bernadina.

      • adcwonk - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:54 PM

        Point taken. But I’d also add, it’s a pretty big gamble to stick in a guy who’s sub-.200 in a tie game and taking out a big gun.

        As Charlie and Dave were musing in the 9th when Eury went in to PR and Werth came out: now they have to win this right here!

      • Section 222 - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:05 PM

        There were also several times when Kobernus was on the bench and Davey didn’t use him to run for ALR or Ramos. Speed can win games as Billy Hamilton is showing, and Davey has been asleep at the switch late in games. But tonight he wasn’t and that was a very good thing.

        Glad they could win the last home game. Nice to send everyone home happy.

      • nats128 - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:12 PM

        Thank you David. How soon they forget. smh

      • nats128 - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:15 PM

        Sect222, thats my point. BTW, Hamilton still isnt good defensively which is why its tough to give him a bench spot. You need 1 speed demon on your bench who can play defense and also get some hits.

        Speed won this game when you consider Span, Desi, Eury and Kobernus. There pitchers were agitated when these guys were on base.

  4. adcwonk - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    “Stras getting ready to give his Dan Haren impersonation and lose this one early.”

    Why do you bother?

    “Strasburg has been really mediocre this year.”

    His ERA is 3.02, better than any starter on the Nats. His WHIP is better than any starter on the Nats. More K’s than any starter. Lowest hits per 9 IP of any starter. Fewest HR’s of any of the 4 main starters.

    That doesn’t quite fit the description of “mediocre”, does it?

    • nats128 - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:18 PM

      Why bother. Read past him. The 2 knocks on Stras this year has been his ability to make all of his starts and also the issue with him getting rattled and agitated. On strictly underlying stats starting with ERA, he’s the best on the Nats by almost a 1/4 run per 9. Not Strasburg’s fault the run support has been poor for him and many times the bullpen.

  5. Baseballswami - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    So happy for the fans who were at the park- they sounded loud and proud and were rewarded. 84 wins to date. Many a day I feared we would not see that number.

    • therealjohnc - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:46 PM

      The crowd was sparse, but enthusiastic. The diehards! Never give up! Never surrender!

  6. David Proctor - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    I think it would be a big mistake to go within the organization for the 5th starter. Roark and Jordan have looked good, but there are sample size issues. They’re good depth, but I wouldn’t pencil them into the rotation just yet.

    I also think Rizzo goes outside of the organization for an established LOOGY. He may look within the system for some help otherwise.

    Hairston and Lombardozzi will be back. Hairston gets a lot of hate on here, but he hits lefites. He’s solid in his role. Lombo has been our best pinch hitter. Tracy will obviously be gone. I suspect Moore goes back to AAA too, although it’s possible that our next manager platoons he and LaRoche. It’ll be interesting.

    • nats128 - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:55 PM

      I agree on Roark given his sample size however the sample size on Taylor Jordan is fairly large. Once he gets that slider going and creates an out pitch against the lefties he could be top of the rotation.

      The bigger question to me is Detwiler. Can he be counted on?

      • David Proctor - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:58 PM

        No, which is part of the reason I think you have to get a veteran. You pencil it in as Stras, Gio, JZimm, Det, Veteran and whenever one of those guys go down you have a great backup option in Taylor Jordan. Whereas, if you don’t sign a veteran, you’re left with who exactly? Roark maybe, but I don’t like having to rely on him like that.

  7. nats128 - Sep 22, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    The official scorer didnt give Ramos a RBI on the game winner. There was only 1 out and you cant assume the 3rd baseman throws out Eury even on a perfect throw to home which makes that a E5 Fielders Choice with a RBI.

    I dont get it. Hope they correct it.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_09_22_miamlb_wasmlb_2&mode=box

    • sjm308 - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:40 PM

      Agree that there was no way he was going to throw out Perez who was running on contact. Add the fact that Ramos smoked the ball and the infield was playing in. I guess it still is an error but that run was coming home and an rbi is appropriate.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      agreed. I was thinking that at the time, I’m surprised they scored it that way.

  8. sjm308 - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    Nice way to end the home season and what a difference from early in the season. At one point, it was not uncommon for us to have as many as four (4) position players in the lineup hitting at .200 or lower. I just looked and our top 6 batters are at .280 or higher (ok, Harper slipped to .279 but still). I think Rendon will only get better and while Werth might not duplicate what he has done, I don’t think he will slip much. If, and its a big if, but if LaRoche turns in around in a contract year I think our offense will be just fine. No more Espinosa, no more Tracy, no more Bernadina. I realize we are still in this mathematically but I just want to win these last two series and leave this season with 88 wins.

    Go Nats!!

  9. Sonny G 10 - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:45 PM

    After Edwin Jackson last year and Dan Haren this year, I’m not sure I can take another veteran pitcher on a one year contract. That’s about as long as we could sign someone because of the power arms we have coming up in the system. Dan Haren was IMO one quarter of the major problems we had this year. The other three were Ryan Zimmerman’s injury taking most of the season to heal, Bryce Harper’s injuries, and Espinosa’s failure to hit this year. The bench and bullpen were problems, but not on the same level. Hopefully, Ryan and Bryce will be fully healed next year and we have Rendon to cover Espi’s hitting woes. With three of the worst four problems fixed for next year, we might not need to find a veteran pitcher. OTOH, we need Jayson Werth continue his level of play and Denard Span to keep up his hitting. Big question mark is Adam LaRoche. How will he play. I wish Tyler had gotten more time in at first base to see if he can handle that full time.

  10. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 22, 2013 at 11:49 PM

    A J Burnett for fifth starter? or is that out of our budget?

  11. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    On the free-agent-starter question…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/sports/baseball/in-the-market-for-another-liriano.html?pagewanted=1&ref=baseball

  12. Steady Eddie - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    NIers and sec 313ers should be proud to hear that during the late inning rallies, Terrence was leading the N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS! cheer in front of secs. 132-133-134. First time this season I’ve heard him do that. Think he reads NI?

  13. Steady Eddie - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    Crowd was pretty tiny (maybe 12-14k actual butts in the seats) but knowledgeable and responsive. Quiet and a little appropriately sullen early on — 2-0 Fish? Really, Stras? — but really loud for the numbers during the rallies and should have been rallies. Big standing O for Desi even before the official scorer posted SB for his 20th. (Wasn’t announced as such until the inning was over. Appreciative crowd especially for their size.

  14. Baseballswami - Sep 23, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    It’s way past time to either play Moore or trade him. We are letting a valuable resource go to waste. He gets a bad rap for defense but I have seen no evidence that he would cost us. He was on the back end of a Zim web gem and handled it well. I am in favor or Det and Roark as 4 and 5. Surely they won’t give worse results than these expensive one year rentals have. Really need a loogy and to replace Tracy. Zim stays at third- Rendon stays at second? Espi? Lombo? Should be interesting to see how the new manager handles things– one that does not have teacher’s pets.

  15. kdiddyiam - Sep 23, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Reblogged this on kdiddyiam.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 58 49 --
ATLANTA 58 52 1.5
MIAMI 53 56 6.0
NEW YORK 52 57 7.0
PHILADELPHIA 49 61 10.5
Through Friday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 12:35 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Braves 7:35 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

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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