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This time, aggressive baserunning pays off

Apr 8, 2014, 11:57 PM EDT

AP AP

We’ve already seen in this young season the Nationals run themselves out of a potential victory with some over-aggressiveness on the bases. Painful as their 2-1 loss to the Braves in Friday’s home opener was, players insisted they’ll benefit in the long run if they keep applying pressure the way new manager Matt Williams has preached.

The payoff came Tuesday night during a 5-0 win over the Marlins, a win sparked in large part by a sixth-inning sequence in which Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper combined to swipe three bases off pitches in the dirt.

“There’s wise times to do it, and times when the score will dictate whether to try and take the extra base,” LaRoche said. “We were in position all day today to go take that extra base, if possible, and take some extra chances. So again, that’s what Matty’s been preaching all spring training. Obviously, be heads-up and know the situation. But when there’s an opportunity, take a chance there and put pressure on them.”

That LaRoche made key contributions to this victory not with his bat and not with his glove but with his legs only added to the drama. The veteran first baseman not only took two of the extra bases on Henderson Alvarez’s sixth-inning wild pitches, he also scored all the way from first on Anthony Rendon’s double in the bottom of the eighth.

“Doesn’t happen too often,” he said of his big night on the bases. “So, yes, when I do, I soak that up. Yeah, not every day do I get to go take an extra base or go first-to-home. I told Rendon after the game, I said: ‘Hey, way to swing it, but next time put that ball in the seats because I don’t know if I can hold up at 34 years old with you guys running me that much.'”

The biggest moment came in the sixth, with LaRoche on first and Harper on third, with two outs and Ian Desmond at the plate. During a pregame scouting meeting, Nationals coaches noted that while it was difficult to steal off Alvarez, he did have a tendency to throw a lot of pitches in the dirt. Members of the lineup were instructed to be ready to bolt if they reached base and Alvarez’s command was off.

“That’s something we talked about before the game,” Williams said. “If we get an opportunity to do that, be ready for it and be alive for it. It’s a part of the gameplan going in.”

Sure enough, Alvarez’s 2-0 pitch bounced and dribbled about five feet away from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. LaRoche never hesitated; he immediately took off for second base.

“There’s two ways to do that,” LaRoche said. “You either see it off of him and see where it’s bouncing, or read it out of their hand and when there’s a trajectory that’s going to put it in the dirt, you take off early. Everybody’s a little different, but I like the fact that the offense is thinking that way and thinking take the extra base, thinking about moving on balls in the dirt, stealing bases. And if we do it enough, good things are going to happen.”

Saltalamacchia’s throw actually had LaRoche beat by a couple of inches, but second baseman Jeff Baker couldn’t make a clean catch-and-tag, so LaRoche was safe. And as that all played out, Harper took off from third base, scoring without even drawing a throw.

Moments later, LaRoche took third base on another wild pitch, putting him in position to score on Rendon’s RBI single.

Just like that, the Nationals turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-0 lead, one that helped spur them to a well-earned victory Tuesday night.

“We have to make sure that we take advantage of those opportunities,” Williams said. “So as long as we’re prepared for it and we’re expecting it, then we’re able to do it. If you don’t expect it, then you’re a tick late all the time. It’s something that, those little things within the game, we want to make sure we’re good at. Advancing on a ball in the dirt if it gets away from the catcher, things like that.”

  1. Eric - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:31 AM

    What I really love about Williams’ comments is that they could get in Alvarez’ head. I’m not sure if he likes to work low and has success that way; if he does, we just exploited the hell out of it, which may give him pause next time. If it does, will be leave things up? If not, will we eat him up on the bases again?

  2. Sonny G 10 - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:10 AM

    I like the aggressive style of play. As long as there is a reasonable chance to be successful where it takes a perfect throw to get a runner out, I say go for it. Rochie’s steal was such a play. However, against Alanta the other day, I was against sending Rochie home on the hit to left field because he had no chance to make it. The Barves didn’t need to make a perfect throw to get him.

  3. Candide - Apr 9, 2014 at 2:55 AM

    Helps to know your opponent, too. Against bad teams, aggressive play can often lead to more runs when the other guy doesn’t catch the low throw to second. Against good teams, it can often lead to the end of the inning.

  4. laddieblahblah - Apr 9, 2014 at 3:38 AM

    Another example of Matt’s attention to the little things. His players are listening. MW has made this edition of the Nats a different kind of team – alert, opportunistic, and aggressive. We will see how many more runs the Nats score this year, than last, after the final game is played, using, essentially, the same starting position players as last year.

    I also like the way he manages the pitching staff, seeming to always know the matchup numbers for certain hitters against each of his pitchers, and playing the odds as best he can.

    And I have Rendon as hitting first, second, sixth, seventh and eigth in the lineup, thus far. Matt seems to use Anthony as the trump card in his deck. Werth is ensconced in the 3-hole, and is second only to Rendon in hits. He adjusts his 4-5 guys (ALR, RZ) and now seems to have Desi slotted in the 6-7 holes. Harper shuttles between the 2-hole and the 6-hole. There will be another shuffle when Ramos returns.

    The guy is always figuring the odds, and going with those which give the team the best chance to win. It’s working, even with the loss of Ramos and the uncertainty surrounding RZ.

    Lobaton called an excellent game yesterday. I don’t know how he learned the strengths and weaknesses of the staff so quickly, or how he has come so soon to reading the hitters, but the entire staff is just shutting people down. Rizzo and his scouts apparently knew exactly what they were doing in going after Lobaton. If he hits, that’s gravy.

    • nats128 - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:29 AM

      Stacking lefties at 1-2 is gutsy when you consider how they can be neutralized with a good LOOGY who can stay in to pitch against both Span and Harper. 1 for 8 from the 1-2 batters with no walks.

      • laddieblahblah - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        It would be interesting to hear MW discuss his reasoning there. They were 1-2 against a starter who had been hit pretty hard and who was wild. Maybe he figured they could get on against that guy, one way or the other, and use their sped to get over. That approach did produce Harper’s run. But what do I know?

      • nats128 - Apr 9, 2014 at 3:09 PM

        I’m fine with Span in leadoff and hope Harper finds his spot. Span needs to get going himself. Need baserunners on base for Werth, LaRoche and Desmond.

    • natinalsgo - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:53 AM

      Lobaton really was good behind the plate and his framing was commented on by FP many times.

      Look at LaRoche slash so far (small sample size alert) .348/.500/.652/1.152

      Werth, LaRoche, and big RBI guy Rendon are getting it done. When Desi and Harp get going this will be one of the best offenses in the league.

      • laddieblahblah - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        Yeah. I think Desi is close. With Harper it is inevitable. I wonder how many thought ALR would bounce back from last year like this? I didn’t. And now they’ve got him going WILD on the base paths. What’s next for Moses? Will the miracles ever cease?

        I really did expect Werth to be just as good as last year. He might even be better. He’s gotten started a lot earlier this time around. The 2 old vets, ALR and Werth, don’t let anything faze them. They both look really comfortable out there.

        I wonder how much Rendon’s light-hearted approach to the game has affected the club house.

        I predicted a possible breakout year for Rendon, Harper, Ramos and Stras. So far, only Rendon is really doing it. I think Ramos will have to postpone his coming out another year. Harper and Stras have been struggling. When those two get it together…

        And yet, they are 5 – 2 with all the hiccups and setbacks. And that’s not counting RZ’s problems. The team is stronger, tougher, and better than last year’s.

        I give Matt a lot of the credit.

      • natinalsgo - Apr 9, 2014 at 1:53 PM

        Tonights lineup should be full of mystery! Werth just is free and easy. Can Danny just watch and observe of what he could be with that approach. Werth is a big guy and certainly can poke them out. He knows his spots and when to pounce.

  5. Faraz Shaikh - Apr 9, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Good job winning. do try to last more than six innings aces.

    • nats128 - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:38 AM

      Agreed. 101 pitches over 6 innings in a league where you face a pitcher is alot of pitches.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        my faith in gio being first nats pitcher to throw a no-hitter is very shaky lately. :P

    • tcostant - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      Williams said in the post game that Gio would have gone out for the 7th to face at least the first hitter (a lefty) and only pulled the plug because we scored more runs and the inning was long.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:54 AM

        still 100 + pitches is too many for six innings of work.

      • tcostant - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:24 AM

        Agreed – to many.

  6. natinalsgo - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:15 AM

    On the play that LaRoche took off to 2nd was prompted by Desmond who was the batter was waving him on and if Baker holds on to the ball he’s a dead duck and of course Harp walks home from 3rd. That was just luck and Baker was charged an error.

    The difference in this game was the aggressiveness was done on 2 out plays where it’s more appropriate.

    • nats128 - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:36 AM

      No stolen bases were awarded to the Nats in the game. I also liked the aggressiveness because it worked. If the 2nd baseman holds on to the ball the 6th inning ends with no runs scored and a 1-0 lead with Gio exiting the game.

      I dont see where any new mindset played into this. Desmond thought the ball got further away from the catcher which is why Bryce came down the line and stopped and only scored when the 2nd baseman dropped the ball.

  7. masterfishkeeper - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    On an unrelated note, I see Matt Moore may need TJ surgery. The article listed Nate Karns as a possible replacement, but I see that Karns is off to a rough start in AAA: 7.1 innings, 11 hits, 10 walks.

    • natinalsgo - Apr 9, 2014 at 7:55 AM

      Yes, it looks that way as a possibility.

      I also saw another Brave needs TJ surgery. Corey Gearin who is a reliever.

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 9, 2014 at 8:02 AM

    Re: pitch count, Wms’s post-game comments make it clear he won’t be passing out bouquets to Gonzalez — even for performances like last night’s — until he starts pitching into or thru the seventh.

    • natsjackinfl - Apr 9, 2014 at 8:23 AM

      Just another reason to really like Matt Williams.

      • knoxvillenat - Apr 9, 2014 at 8:49 AM

        +1

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:01 AM

        I liked Matt Williams in 1989. I said so then.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:01 AM

        (ducking)

      • Eric - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        I was 12 and even I could see he would be the Nats manager someday. I’ll go find the book report I wrote on the subject. You’ll need to pardon the handwriting, though.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:51 AM

        frontrunner (just kidding)

        Sec 3 My Sofa – Apr 9, 2014 at 9:01 AM

        I liked Matt Williams in 1989. I said so then.

    • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      Jeez. Gio pitched six innings of shut-out ball, retiring the last 10 guys he faced.

      It’s still the first week in April, and it was chilly last night.

      What does he want, a superman? Of course, Gio would have preferred to put away guys fast than he did, but he was facing a hot batting team (leading MLB hitting before they faced him).

      So, the heck with MW on that comment, I’d give Gio a bouquet. If fact, he got player of the game last night, didn’t he?

      Sheesh.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:55 AM

        adcwonk, that’s kind of the other side of it but I like that MW is pushing his guys towards always getting better.

        This game was way closer than the score tells. The defense was the best I’ve seen from this team in a long time. Pitching, defense, athleticism and timely hitting.

      • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        Absolutely the game was closer than the score tell (I was there!)

        But I think Gio, in the first three innings, didn’t have all his stuff. He was struggling to get going, and he was trying, but couldn’t, put guys away.

        So, from my watching the game, the way I saw it was: this was a lot harder for Gio than his line score made it look. He struggled for 3 innings before he got his groove, and still threw six shutout innings against the hottest hitting team in baseball. It wasn’t that he was nibbling, he was having trouble getting it over at times, and a lot of guys were fouling off two-strike pitches.

        Let me put it this way: when a pitcher gives up a run or two in the first, and then settles down and throws only shutout innings, we praise him.

        Well, then even more so we should praise Gio — because in his struggles he didn’t allow *any* runs, and then threw only shutout innings.

        And — again– it was a chilly night on the first weekend in April, for crying out loud. It’s not like it’s his 12th start and were in late May or June.

        Bottom line, for me, is this: Gio has the 5th best ERA and WHIP in NL right now. I wish all the starting pitchers on the Nats were needing that much improvement in their performance.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:20 AM

        All very good points adcwonk. In my mind I’m giving him a pass. Cardinal sins are walking pitchers, leadoff batters and the guy in from of Stanton.

        Gio was guilty of 1 of the 3, Blevins very guilty of 1 of the 3 and nobody walked the pitcher.

      • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        Funny you mention that. My Wonkling already knows: “what’s the cardinal sin in pitching?”

        And she replies: “walking the leadoff batter”.

        (And, yeah, walking the guy in front Stanton is up there, too!)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        McCatty’s expression was priceless.

        By the way, MLB Network did a splice and dice of Rendon’s Gem on the bunt with an overlay of RZim and it was crazy similar. Then they cut to Zim with a big wad of gum in his mouth turning and walking away looking expressionless.

        Anyone see the players reactions from anyone who was there? That play and Span’s dashes to balls and Desi on Hechevarria were potentially game changers. Just spectacular defense.

      • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        As I was sitting in 308 (which is between home plate and 3rd base), I had an awesome view of the throw.

        I’ll tell ya’, as the play was developing, I didn’t think Rendon would get him. And, you’re right: it was a custom-made carbon-copy RZ play from 7 years ago.

        Then they cut to Zim with a big wad of gum in his mouth turning and walking away looking expressionless.

        Gulp . . . .

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        Keep in mind the cut and paste could have been from any shot in the dugout but if you assume it was simultaneous then you make your own impression of what you saw. RZim has never been a rah rah guy and those are his words but that play was huge in a 3-0 game as bases would have been loaded.

      • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        Yes, Span completely owned CF last night. This is one aspect of the game that is much more clearly seen in person than on TV.

        Re: his “mad dashes”, he got to the spot so quickly, that he slowed up and glided to each catch.

        It was like: anything hit to the right of Harper, or to the left of Werth, was gobbled up by a vaccum. Span’s fielding was really a thing of beauty last night. His catches only didn’t look spectacular from a web-gem point of view, because he was so fast and made his plays look easy.

        You’re right — our defense looked extremely sharp last night.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        Doesn’t it remind you of 2012 a little bit. Great pitching, great defense, hitting star emerges. Only this was a 5-0 win and feels like 1-0

      • sjm308 - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        Wonk – pretty good seats huh.

      • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:35 AM

        Indeed!

      • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:35 AM

        Indeed! I was surprised to find them for $9 on stubhub!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:50 AM

      Theo, I missed that but very glad Williams said that. Did you see Cat’s face after he walked Baker in front of Stanton! Gio walked the tightrope and won.

      I want to change Gio too but do we accept him for what he is? This was the Braves recipe for success for years in that you give me 6 and let the bullpen finish up the last 3 innings. Only problem as I pointed out is that burned their bullpen in 2010 and counting forward. I don’t think you want your entire staff thinking going 6 is good enough but do we accept Gio on this and take the W and head to the next game.

      • Eric - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        My vote: don’t change Gio. Sure, he has a tendency to run up his pitch count, but he’s also quite capable of going deep. I seriously doubt any of our core 3 pitchers think 6 is “good enough,” and I suspect Fister is the same way.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        I want to change everyone Eric and yet I think you are right in regards to Gio. The basic stats are amazing and you take the W with a smile. Cy Young voters look at power stats in ERA, Ks and they like the Ws and Gio is on a 2-0 start with a 0.75 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. With a 8.3 K9!

  9. sjm308 - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    Really nice win

    Mark doesn’t mention LaRoche’s running on the first run but I think his going for 2nd made is certain that Werth would score and I love going up 1-0 even though he was a dead duck at 2nd. I think LaRoche commented later that he would not have done that if it was late in the game, or we were behind. Very smart!!

    Question – do others on here like the way Williams is constantly moving people around in the line-up? At first I thought it was going to cause problems but maybe its good for certain players. I realize he has kept Span at #1 and Werth pretty much at 3 or 4 but he sure has moved everyone else.

    Finally – I purposely did not go back to last nights article, because I am pretty sure if anyone did comment on what I wrote it would not be to congratulate me on my insight.
    I want to make clear that there are some wonderful minds on here and I have learned so much more reading comments by Ghost, Gonat, 222, laddie and others. I might have been a little rough and I apologize. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back as much as you wish and I will deal with that. Its on me, not you.

    Go Nats!!

    • Brookstoor - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      You made some good points in that post but it’s obvious you don’t want to stifle conversation and you got that across. There is a lot of good discussion on this board and a good amount of other things I don’t find good but I accept that I can be easily annoyed.

      As to your question, I’m with you, I thought I wouldn’t be in to as much line up shuffling but I don’t mind it at all. Rendon can hit anywhere in the line up and make it stronger. I think Harper won’t land in his preferred spot until he turns it on. There will be lots more shuffling, too.

    • Candide - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      sjm – just for the record, I also have little time or patience for the back-and-forth about who said what when and the need to go back and find that perfect quote that shows just how smart we all are.

      If there’s one thing I know about baseball, it’s that it can humble you in a hurry, as I was almost instantly reminded last night when I remarked that LaRoche was TOOTBLANed on the play that drove Werth in; it was like F.P. saw what I’d typed and jumped on it immediately – and he wasn’t the last.

      (I can’t help it – I just like that word, “TOOTBLAN.” TOOTBLAN, TOOTBLAN, TOOTBLAN…)

      I have a friend whose greatest joy in life is when he can say, “I was talking with and he agreed I was right when I said…” I cut him some slack because he has Asperger’s syndrome, but he has no earthly idea how annoying it is.

      Yes, we all make predictions here. And we’ll all make correct ones (even me) and, being human, we’ll all make incorrect, even stupid ones (especially me). But if any of us were so smart that our opinions could stand day-to-day scrutiny, we wouldn’t be here; we’d be running our own MLB clubs, for a lot more money than we get paid to do this.

      TOOTBLAN

      • natsfan1a - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:48 AM

        As I’ve shared before, one of my favorite things about baseball is the rich lexicon. I have numerous baseball dictionaries and terminology guides, but “tootblan” is a term I’d not encountered, so thanks for that, Candide. :-)

      • jd - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:09 AM

        SJM and Candide,

        I agree with you 100%.

        Ghost,

        There is no question that you have a good understanding of the game and your insights are worth reading. I am not sure why it’s so important to you to have a fan club and to be proven right constantly but whatever makes you happy is ok with me.

        And the rest of you, before you jump down my throat and point out that I made some inaccurate predictions in the past. save your breath. I fully admit that I made some predictions which proved inaccurate and you know what? it doesn’t bother me in the least. I am a baseball fan. not a GM.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:18 AM

        No lie… I just learned what LOOGY stood for.. lol.. and its a shame becuz ive been around baseball all the time (I tried to play it but I was … uhm, just not good)… just never made the connection… so I would say stuff like ‘ bring in the lefty for 1 out… and then 2 years ago, my uncle was like why not just say LOOGY…

        We cried laughing for a whole day becuz it just didn’t dawn on me…

        I bet will be the same thing when I figure out the acronym for TOOTBLAN.. :)

    • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:59 AM

      sjm, you have a good point. Folks trying to prove they were right from so long ago, or whatever, gets tiresome.

      On the other hand, I can see some situations where I think it’s reasonable.

      To give an example: last year (or was in 2012?) Steady Eddie and I were sitting together at a game, and we noticed that RZ got blown away by three fastballs in a row. It looked awful. It was obvious that both the pitcher and the batter knew what was coming, and RZ just couldn’t get the bat around fast enough.

      So, after the game I posted that. I wasn’t suggesting RZ had an injury, or making any grand pronouncements. I Just posted my observations of the game (there are some aspects on can see better at the stadium than on TV — for example, how much ground Span covers, and, like last night, it seems like no matter how far the batter hits it, and how fast Span needs to run, that Span ends up slowing down his glide as he catches it smoothly). And, among my observations of the game was the obvious thing that we that saw: RZ clearly couldn’t get the bat around in time for the pitches, and looked awful at that late inning at bat.

      We were both promptly blasted for criticizing RZ as though we had made a medical diagnosis. Others said that a sore shoulder would have nothing to do with his swinging, only this throwing, and we clearly didn’t know anything about injuries, or swinging. Others told us to quite dumping on him. Eddie and I both tried to defend ourselves with: “hey, I’m just writing what I saw”. We were blasted some more.

      It was shortly afterwards, that RZ admitted his shoulder was hindering his ability to swing.

      So, yeah, in that case I probably went back and quoted myself, not so much to prove I was right, but to show that a little objectivity is a useful thing, and to show that the harsh critics were blind to the obvious.

      I’m human. I don’t feel a need to pat myself on the back. But when it is implied that I am stupid or biased for saying “x”, and then “x” comes to pass, it’s my nature to come back and explain: “see, I wasn’t stupid.” In other words, I don’t have to prove I’m smart, but, in my weakness, I feel an urge to disprove an accusation that I’m stupid or otherwise don’t know what I’m talking about in a case where I do know what I was talking about.

      Does that make sense?

      Unless this whole thing makes me stupid ;-)

      • sjm308 - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        makes sense and you didn’t repeat the whole thing 5 or 6 times

      • Steady Eddie - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        Wonk, it was indeed 2012, late June against the Rays (we took 2/3, including that game). The memorable “weird wuss” series.

  10. ehay2k - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    Anyone need tickets to game tonight? Got a couple extra I can’t use. Section 129 about 18 rows behind home dugout. Free, although feel free to buy me a hot dog tonite. ;-) Look on NIDO spreadsheet for info to contact me

    • ehay2k - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      You will need to see my full entry for tonight’s game.

  11. ehay2k - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    On topic now — while the Nats’ aggressive baserunning paid off, I was very happy to see Gio catch Hechavarria stealing. He was going on first move, as a lot of base stealers did against us last year, and Gio stepped over and tossed to first. That is huge. MW and staff are going to make sure the word gets out that the Nats are not so easy to run on anymore.

    • sjm308 - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      ehay2k – totally agree and I bet there are stats for this but don’t you think almost all our pitchers are throwing over more this season? It was obviously a point that needed work and you have to give Williams a lot of credit.

    • ehay2k - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      +1 and still ROFL

    • annapmagistra - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      +1Hahahaha

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      I saw that earlier and died laughing…

    • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      One sentence left me a bit startled:

      “Colon — one of only four active big leaguers who was actually alive when Aaron hit No. 715…”

      The amazing line of the game: Justin Heyward, 0-for-5, left 5 men on base in his last two at bats (the last, of course, being a fly ball to the warning track with bases loaded and two out in the ninth).

      Although the best line goes to old guy Colon: 7 IP, 6 H, 5 K, 0 BB, 0 R.

  12. sjm308 - Apr 9, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    Thanks for those two comments – I hate to think what was printed last night and in hindsight, I should just keep those sorts of things to myself. It might not have helped that I spent time with my youngest son at Queen Vic down on H Street (where his team won the weekly trivia contest – $50 gift card!!!). I know many of you really care about beer on here (ha!) and I had a very nice Bellehaven Ale from Scotland along with several Newcastles which were on special during the trivia. No sports at all, or music from the 50’s-60’s so I was little help. I did get Bing Crosby singing Toura Loura Loura/Toura Loura Lye but did not know the Movie.

    Back to baseball

    Go Nats! I feel a sweep coming on

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    we should aim to gain some more ground on braves given their offensive slow start.

    • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      We should, but . . . Atlanta has the second best ERA in the league. And they’re playing the Mets. So, it might not be so easy.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:27 AM

        and we have the third best and our offense is not dead like Braves. we are facing off against them this weekend, right? hope we do better than we did last weekend.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        My thoughts on the Mets are they are better than they look on paper but their fatal flaw is they neglected their bullpen and that will make winning a frustrating event.

        Juan Lagares, Granderson and David Wright are three very good players and their starters are better than average.

        The Braves already look better than advertised but they carry that anchor known as the Uptons. Harper has a higher batting average then Heyward by the way and Freddie Freeman can’t do it all himself.

      • sjm308 - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:36 AM

        I agree with Ghost that not only are the Mets better than people thought but I think the Marlins and Phillies will also prove to be better as well. This is not saying we are not better as well but I don’t think its going to be a slam dunk when we go against anyone in our division. Look at all the young pitching in this division. Marlins Mets and Braves all have excellent starting pitching. Add the Braves bullpen and that is what takes them to another level. I think we are on that same level and do not understand why I get so nervous when we play the Braves (but I do).
        Three games is noway an indication of how this season will play out but I would like to see us at least split with the Braves as a minimum this year.

        Go Nats!!

      • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:43 AM

        I think the recent pitching injuries to the Mets, as well as their atrocious bullpen, will prove way to much for them to overcome.

        The young pitching of the Marlins does scare me — they will be thorns in the side of the Nats for years to come.

        Phils strike me as too old and fragile, but, I admit, I haven’t even looked at them this year yet.

        The Braves have been pitching incredibly — early season fluke? Can they sustain it? I don’t think so. OTOH, I also think they will break out of their weak hitting. In the meantime, we can only be happy that the Uptons get so much playing time. (They both have played every game, and together batting .182). Heyward, as you note, is batting .107 (!!). Gattis is batting .188. That’s not going to last too much longer . . .

      • jd - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        Ghost,

        I think Alderson knew when he lost Harvey that he wasn’t going to be contending in a big way this year any way and therefore he wanted to hold off spending big for a year. With Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergard anchoring their rotation next year I bet they go hard after assets like Stanton and they will surely augment their bullpen which is a disaster.

        I agree with the school of thought that the Marlins are the team to watch. I love their young starters and their young regulars like Yelich, Ozuna and Etcheverria look like the real deal to me. I don’t love Baker at 2nd and I think Garret Jones and Saltalamachia are just so so.

        I think the Braves will still have major starting pitching issues. Don’t let 1st week successes full you. I don’t think Harang became great all of the sudden and their lineup has some holes as you mentioned as well.

        The Phills will sink to the bottom IMO.

    • jd - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      Our offense is still not operating on all cylinders. Harper, Span, Espinosa and even Desmond are still scuffling. Zim and Ramos are injured. My point is that there’s lots of room for improvement which is encouraging even if it’s possible that others like LaRoche, Werth and Rendon might slip a bit.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        jd, on your 11:01 post I agree they knew it wasn’t going to be their year and I agree but if they had a bullpen and a 1st baseman they’d be a team to watch. Next year look out.

        Totally agree on your assessment of the Marlins including their players. They will certainly be better than last year unless they trade Stanton in July.

  14. Dwayne Yancey - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    I find these wins over the Marlins and the Mets before them necessary but emotionally unsatisfying. When the Nationals show they can beat the Braves more times than the Braves beat them, then I’ll feel differently.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      Well said but you beat the teams you’re supposed to but you are right, have to beat the Braves. Play each game like 1 run will win it and put together the best starting lineup.

    • adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      I hear ya’.

      There are two parts to winning a division:

      (a) you must beat on the weaker teams

      check. The Nats seems to be taking care of business on that end.

      (b) you have to at least split with the top teams

      ummm . . . Nats failed miserably at that last year. Jury (obviously) still out on that this year. But we’re not a top team until we can do that. And we haven’t shown it.

      Not yet at least ;-)

  15. Steady Eddie - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    One thing about the moveable lineup — just my guess/speculation, but I suspect that the guys are open to it as long as they understand or at least sense how it’s a strategic response to what we’re facing on the other team — rotation, defense, bullpen — as well as how the Nats’ hitters are doing. If they know it’s mostly about putting together the ingredients of team chemistry to maximize their effectiveness that day, they’d mostly be happy to buy in.

    Otherwise the Davey “know what to expect every day” formula can get inflexible if some of the pieces aren’t working out. MW’s approach puts less of a premium on predictability which in turn can loosen things up.

    • JW - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      I suspect that most if not all these guys don’t really care where they are in the order as long as they’re in it somewhere. And that includes Werth and Span. Same goes for the rotation.

    • Eric - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      According to Grant Paulsen’s and Danny Rouhier’s review of Chalk Talk yesterday, Williams said he’s in pursuit of a more or less daily line up, and that the moving around of guys is how he’s hunting for it.

  16. adcwonk - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    A new Wonkling Story:

    (Super-quick background: my teenager daughter went from being completely uninterested in any TV sport, to being a die-hard baseball fan in the space of one week in May 2012. I posted her awesome, and awesomely funny, observations during the season. She learned *so much* about baseball, but she only knew what she saw during Nats games. So, for example, by the end of May she could recite the Nats batting order in her sleep, knew (by face) each Nat, but when inter-league play started, she had no idea what it was because she had never heard of the “American League”. I posted dozens of such stories during that season. Someone here, I can’t remember who, dubbed her the “Wonkling” for which I am very grateful)

    (She once walked into the house, saw me watching the game (Nats were in the field) and said, “hey, do we have a new catcher?” How did she know that? She saw the catcher’s face, through his facemask, from the “behind the pitcher” camera angle! Blew me away).

    OK, so, on to this year:

    My dear Wonkling is abroad for the school year (learning in Israel) but we have to text every day so I can fill her in on what the Nats are doing.

    Last night, she was hilarious. She was busy so we only had a short exchange. I texted her and told her we were at the game. She said “send pix”.

    So, I sent a pic of the field. (We were in sec 308). He response: “why didn’t you move to the better seats already?”

    I sent her a pic of the scoreboard (to show her that the Nats were winning). At that moment, Rendon was up (actually, it was one pitch before he hit that two-run double). A pic of Rendon was on the scoreboard.

    So, she gets the pic, and she writes back: “Is that Rendon?” (because he could only see his scoreboard pic, she couldn’t see the writing)

    I said yes.

    She replied: “he’s gained some weight since last year” !!

  17. 3on2out - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Love the Wonkling stories, Wonk!

  18. tcostant - Apr 9, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    LaRoche should have been out, the guy dropped the ball. The way to “steal” a run there is once LaRoche sees the throw to second – STOP. By stopping you trade an out for a run, as Harper would score before the 3rd out. If you don’t thing that is a good trade, know that this happens all the time in baseball when a guy rounds first and second on a single with a guy at second base, hoping the ball is cutoff so that the run can score.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 9, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      Very good point that was the Jamey Carroll play in Spring Training and can be effective. If Baker secures that throw it’s Nats walking to the dugout with no runs scored. In football they call that a broken play that went for big yardage.

    • sjm308 - Apr 9, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      I heard LaRoche say that he would not take that chance if we were behind in the game. Agree with tacosant that he probably should have just stopped. We were lucky there and that is also part of the game.

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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)...

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