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Nats’ defensive mistakes add up in loss to Cardinals

Apr 18, 2014, 12:09 AM EDT

Photo by The Associated Press Photo by The Associated Press

In what ended up a 8-0 blowout loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night, a game in which they mustered only two hits off Adam Wainwright, a lot went wrong for the Nationals besides their play in the field.

But after four defensive errors in one game – and an MLB-worst 20 total through their first 16 outings – it’s hard not to look at those simple mistakes as representing a very serious problem. The Nationals simply are not playing fundamentally sound baseball at this point in the season, and it’s costing them.

“It was a sloppy game,” Adam LaRoche said. “We have a really good defensive club, is the thing. It’s not showing right now, but I have a feeling that by the end of the year those numbers are going to be our specialty. We are just too good defensively to make the kind of errors we are.”

Two of the errors were committed by Ian Desmond, including one on the first play of the game where he dropped a groundball hit directly to him by leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter.

Kolten Wong then reached on the next play thanks to a late throw by pitcher Taylor Jordan to first. Jordan bobbled the ball taking it out of his glove and was a split second behind the runner.

The Cardinals would score three runs in the inning and never look back. With Wainwright on the mound, they didn’t need much.

“The defensive issues, again those happen,” Matt Williams said. “It just seems like it’s happening an extraordinary amount to us.”

Desmond’s second error came in the fourth inning and also helped lead to a Cardinals’ run. With one out and Jhonny Peralta on second, Desmond one-hopped a throw to first on a Jon Jay groundball. Jay was safe with Peralta having moved to third.

The very next at-bat saw the team’s third error, though it was on a technicality. Danny Espinosa couldn’t turn a double play on a throw from Desmond at second base, and dropped the ball while attempting the throw to first as Jay slid into him. He was a victim of the newly enforced ‘transfer rule,’ which has drawn controversy of late, but rules are rules.

Desmond’s two errors give him seven on the season through just 16 games. For a player with a not-so-distant history of defensive troubles, Desmond is frustrated those days are not completely behind him.

“If I ever want to be the captain of this team – and I do – I have to be better than that. I’ve been in some dark places defensively, and this is right there with them,” Desmond said.

“The errors in the past have made me who I am today. These are gonna make me a better man, too. Just got to keep fighting through it.”

The Nats’ fourth error was inconsequential to the outcome of the game, but was committed by an unlikely source. Jayson Werth lost a flyball in the lights in the eighth inning, a mistake that allowed Yadier Molina to reach second. That error did not lead to a run.

For the Nationals, their four errors are the most for the team since they had five on July 15, 2011 in a game against the Braves. Since moving to Washington in 2005, the Nats have now committed four errors or more 12 different times.

Williams appeared upset after a long delay before his postgame media session. He acknowledged addressing his team about the defensive mistakes in the clubhouse after the loss, but stopped short of revealing what he said.

Williams is now looking forward to tomorrow to see if his team can start cleaning it up.

“What do you do now? You have one choice and that’s to concentrate on tomorrow,” Williams said. “They’re mistakes. So we’ll continue to work. That’s all we can do.”

“I’ve said it all year, regardless good, bad or indifferent, this one’s over now and we have to look forward to tomorrow’s game, against a very tough team and we’re going to have to play well to beat them, just like we had to today and we didn’t do that.”

  1. sunshinebobby - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:34 AM

    I’ll get raked here, but I still believe in Desi. Instead of benching him, Matty Boy oughta name him captain today to boost his confidence. He owns up to his shortcomings and always gives 120 percent. Plus, this kicking nicotine cannot be easy on him. In fact, it’s got to be a b—h. But he’s a keeper. We lost to Wainwright. So what? So will at least 19 other teams this year. The guy was unhittable.

    I’m chalking our woes up to lousy starting pitching, lousy defense and cold weather. Desi is only a part of one of those factors.

    Put the C on his jersey.

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:41 AM

      +1

    • unkyd59 - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:40 AM

      +1

      And long may his captainship wave!!

  2. breakbad1 - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:43 AM

    I have commented in the past about the Nats being an unusually “mental” team.

    A mental team is one that makes strange mental mistakes at the worst possible times, and tends to psychologize everything. A mental team doesn’t go out there and play, they go out there and over-think.

    The two bone-head pickoffs at the home opener were classic characteristics of a mental team; so were the decisions to send LaRoche to his doom opening day, and sending the doomed Lobaton opening week Saturday. We’ve had lots more mental mistakes–especially on the basepaths–in this young season.

    One season Espi is recording menacing Nats commercials, saying how he glares in the opposing dugout when he comes to the plate, “just to make sure they’re looking.” This year he approaches the plate like some kind of Zen-master, doing his breathing exercises, and “being in the moment.” That’s a mental player: one day taunting, next day trance. Mental players tend to have really high highs and really low lows, just like Espi.

    The Game 5 meltdown was the work of a mental team, and the first six games in this year’s Braves series were also a mental team’s handiwork. The Cardinals are the least-mental team in baseball; the Nats are near the top in terms of “mental team” ratings.

    Our two Zimms define the term, “mental player.” RZ is in the process of over-thinking himself into the American League, and JZ doesn’t over-analyze anything. Harper is a highly-mental player, throwing things and getting in disputes with umps and running into objects and pick-offs. Desi–mental. Rendon says his job is too see the ball and hit it, and not to over-think–these are the words of a non-mental player. Strasburg is a highly mental player—he may pretend things don’t bother him anymore, but one can see that they do.

    I would say the most mental player in baseball is Yasiel Puig and the least mental is Jayson Werth.

    Mental teams and players take basic things and make them infinitely more complex. Effective teams keep simple things simple, and even simplify complex things.

    I’m already hearing the phrase, “It’s early” from the broadcast booth. But it’s never early for a mental team.

    • habs3 - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:24 AM

      Excellent post – some very valid points.

    • Burnedonce - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:44 AM

      Amen! We’re suppose to have one of the best rotations in baseball. Other than JZimm, they all look worried on the mound. Always thinking worrying. Wainwright doesn’t worry nor did most of our starting competition this past week. Just dealing. Will we ever get out of our heads? Seems it’s like a habit that will be hard to break.

    • dgourds - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:15 AM

      Interesting post. This is exactly what makes a manager great — understanding the psyche of his team and coaxing individuals to overcome their mental demons and play unconscious.

  3. nats2005 - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:48 AM

    Cards were -140 today and should have been higher.

    It’s one loss, but we have to start playing like an elite team when we play elite teams.

    Our record against the Barves, Cards, and Dodgers in 2013/2014 is dreadful.

    We are not going to win the division continuing that trend.

    Since 2013, we are now 7 – 18 versus the braves (.280)

    0 – 7 versus the Cards (.000)

    and 1 – 5 versus the Dodgers.

    That is a win percentage of 8 – 30 (.210)

    Diz

  4. breakbad1 - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:08 AM

    The idiot commentators kept saying, well, you have to remember, it was cold, and the Nats were coming off a travel day. Wasn’t it cold for the Cardinals? Didn’t they just travel to Washington–or am I wrong and maybe they were here to play the Wizards on Wednesday?

    • David Proctor - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:16 AM

      It was a lame excuse. But, the Cardinals arrived in DC around 7pm last night. The Nationals arrived around 4am. I don’t believe it had any impact on the game though.

      • Sonny G 10 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:50 AM

        I really do think it had an impact on the game. Lack of sleep or insufficient rest will cause both mental and physical errors. The thing of it is is that all teams will have to deal with scheduling problems. You would hope things even out over the season. The Cards had a chance to get good rest and the Nats didn’t. Another time, maybe it will be the other way around. Of course this doesn’t mean that if the Nats had gotten proper rest they would have beat the Cards. They might have lost anyways. The Cardinals are tough, especially when Wainwright is pitching.

  5. unkyd59 - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:57 AM

    I understand they play them again, today….

    GO YOU FREAKIN’ NATS GOGOGOGOGOGO!!!!!!!

  6. MicheleS - Apr 18, 2014 at 6:50 AM

    Ooof, that was a stinker, but today’s a new day and they just have to put that one behind them. Glad I was finally able to meet Candide and his lovely wife!

    Jack, please bring some warm weather, it’s been brutal.

    • natsfan1a - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Glad I was busy and recorded it. I think maybe I’ll just be deleting this one without watching…

  7. unterp - Apr 18, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    I’ll keep it simple. Most of the team, and when I say most with the exception of two or three players who I will not name, are overrated. This team at best, and even including last season, is an 81-85 win team at its best. The overrated comes thinking that they are an 87-97 win team…

  8. habs3 - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:21 AM

    I think Taylor’s audition is over.

    You can toss the chewing tobacco, late arrival home, excuses aside. This team over 16 games has shown that it is a poor fielding team. This team either lacks skill or is not focused. Whatever the reason they are going down the same path as the as the 2013 version .

    I do not want to hear the “its still early” BS. That reasoning did not work last year and it will not work this year. This team is mentally weak.

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:24 AM

      Who’s Taylor?

      • laddieblahblah - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:48 AM

        I think he means Taylor Jordan.

    • therealjohnc - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      As I said in the other thread in response to this comment:

      I thought Taylor Jordan was OK last night. Not great, but OK. He didn’t give up a lot of hard contact, but the contact he gave up either resulted in cheap hits (Peralta’s floating, lob toss double that hit just inside the LF line; another floater just over Desmond’s glove) or circus music from the defense. It wasn’t just the errors; there were so many bad plays that weren’t even scored as errors. On Peralta’s double, Harper made a bullet throw out of the corner that Espinosa fumbled on what would have been a bang-bang play at second. No one has even mentioned Desmond having a “Hamlet” moment on a grounder in the hole (by Wainwright, of all people) with a runner on first. Desmond goes to his backhand, picks it, and: thinks about throwing to second, doesn’t; thinks about throwing to first; doesn’t; and finally checks to see if the runner from first overran second, which he hadn’t. And so Desmond ended up just standing there holding onto a fairly routine grounder off the bat of the opposing pitcher. Somehow that ended up being scored as a hit.

      That’s not Jordan’s fault. If his team (including Taylor Jordan fielding his position) had played defense behind him, we’re talking about a hard luck loss (say 2-0) loss. With a bit more luck on batted balls in play, it would have been a tight, tense scoreless affair and who knows what happens next? But alas, the circus music came to Nats Town instead.

      • habs3 - Apr 18, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        point taken

  9. Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:22 AM

    I’ve worn a Nats hat almost everyday since 2005. And I will wear one today, go to the game tonight, wear one tomorrow and the next day and the days after that.I am a Nats fan and will continue to be. That said, they are really playing like crap and I am very disappointed in so many phases of this team right now.I had high expectations from these guys, now I’m hoping that they can get it together to play competitive baseball against somebody other than the Mets and Marlins. I felt that Mike Rizzo went out and plugged some holes and gave our new manager a team with all of the pieces in place to compete for the gold ring. Then Fister never even got out of camp. Then Ramos went down on opening day. Then RZimm couldn’t make the routine throws, his shoulder hurt, then he looked better, but broke his hand. Then the starters couldn’t get through the first inning without putting us in a deep hole. 20 errors in 16 games? Stupid, yes, stupid base running mistakes? Shaky 3rd base coach decisions. Etc, etc, etc… Ad nausea. MAKE IT STOP!!!

    And for this they raised the beer prices

    GYFNG!!!

    • karlkolchak - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:57 AM

      I agree with most of what you say. If fact, it is particularly irritating that it is the regulars that have committed most of these dumb errors. Maybe you should have taken that $100 million extension, Ian

  10. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    If there’s a positive anywhere it’s that yesterday is over. My glass is still more than 1/2 full. I do believe the starters will find their consistency and get on a roll.

    All teams will lose their share of ugly games and its all part of those 50+ that all teams lose. Yesterday was just another of those 50+. It’s what you do today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that, and so on and so on.

    There are some here like the comment at 6:58AM that this team is “81-85 win team at its best”. That poster is entitled to his opinion. I don’t buy it. There is a difference between “overrated” and “under achieving”. This team is “under achieving” and that’s what Matt Williams will have to find the fix for.

    • laddieblahblah - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:51 AM

      Totally agree. And whatever I might otherwise have to add has probably already been said by Matt in his post-game meeting with the team.

      • Natsfool - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:05 AM

        Don’t buy this at all. The most “mental” of our pitchers is on the mound tonight. This is a certain blowout, and, no, it’s not early. This has been happening for over a year. The Cards won’t take lack of performance. They have a deep farm for this reason. Screw up and you go down, and that includes a wannabe captain. They don’t do mental.

    • scnatsfan - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:07 AM

      In theory I agree, but the same argument could have been made last year and that roll came to late to get us into the postseason.

      Then again it doesn’t matter right now because unless the Marlins or Mets were our opponent in the playoffs we wouldn’t win.

      • NatsLady - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:16 AM

        My opinion is that there is VASTLY too much worrying about the playoffs in April. Get the wins. Worry about postseaon matchups in September.

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:43 AM

      I agree with you,Steve, but it’s my gawd-given American right to gripe after those ugly games and streaks. Right now we all worry more that it’s a trend. This team has as much potential as any other one, but they surely aren’t showing it right now.As to posts calling for the blowing up the team, or claims that they area .500 team are posts I don’t agree with, and try not to even address, though they have a gawd-given right to their gripes, too.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:52 AM

        Joe, if I posted yesterday it wouldn’t have been nice either. They played like c***

  11. NatsLady - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:15 AM

    Boz with a thoughtful article on April baseball.

    Should we panic–YET?

    • Natsfool - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:49 AM

      No disrespect to Boswell, but the article is bull. It’s April of 2014. These problems started in October of 2012. No, it’s not to early to make serious changes. For one, we can send Desi temporarily down to AAA.

      • Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:15 AM

        That may be the most questionable suggestion that I have ever read on here, but you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. I’m sure glad that you’re not the GM, and that’s just my opinion.

  12. 6ID20 - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    I haven’t checked, but I’m certain that most of these errors and the sloppiest fielding games have occurred in games against the Braves and Cards. That’s because it’s impossible to field a baseball with a tight sphincter.

    • dgourds - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      +1

  13. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    Yes, I decided to rewatch the 2nd inning of last night’s game because it showed the different managerial strategies of both managers in what was still only a 3 run game at that point.

    The Nats found themselves back in the game in the bottom of the 2nd inning last night based on a leadoff walk. You are supposed to make them pay for leadoff walks. Desi gets that infield single and all of a sudden you have 2 on and no out.

    What’s your strategy looking at the bottom of the order coming up? You have Espi, McLouth, Lobaton and TeeJay coming up who are a combined 1-20 with RISP this season and out of that foursome have produced only 2 RBIs combined this season.

    Espi’s 1 at-bat would be the key. This is what the Nats prepared all Spring Training for this situation. Espi is batting left-handed. His job is to get a hit but if not has to drive the ball right-side to make a productive out and move the runners up.

    Here we go and we roll forward.

    Espi got himself into a 2-0 hitters count and then swung at a pitch low in the zone and shot it out to Leftfield for an easy flyout. Instead of spitting on that ball he swung at a pitcher’s pitch and didn’t work the count. The runners didn’t get moved up and Waino is then back in control. McLouth then grounds out moving up the runners then Matheny walks Lobaton to pitch to Taylor Jordan with 2 outs and bases loaded.

    That would be the only threat of the night for the Nationals. That was the inning to analyze and see approach and execution. Matt Williams can’t bat for these guys. Should Espinosa have taken the 2-0 pitch because it wasn’t the pitch he needed? Should he have bunted? Should he have waited for a pitch on the inner half of the plate to drive to the right-side?

    If you recorded the game or have the MLB.TV ticket, watch that inning again.

    • NatsLady - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:30 AM

      Very good points. I also felt the disappointment of that inning. The Nats were “only” down 3-0 at that point, and that was when the come back should have started.

    • alexva6 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:00 AM

      I fail to see where this inning showed the managerial strategies of the managers. I’d expect that Matheny wouldn’t have bunted and that Williams would have walked the 8 hitter.

      It’s easy to take a look at a situation the next day and say what he should have done, you don’t have that luxury when you’re in real time.

      I’m in agreement with your 7:42 post, it’s what you do today and onward that matters.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:04 AM

        alexva6, that was the inning. It’s what the emphasis of Spring Training was for these exact situations and it wasn’t executed. That game could have turned at that point. It didn’t. I went back to analyze as I was in realtime as it was unfolding.

    • dgourds - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      Don’t forget that Taylor Jordan NEVER TOOK HIS BAT OFF HIS SHOULDERS THE ENTIRE ATBAT! I don’t care if he’s a pitcher. Swing the f#@ki#5 bat!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:58 AM

        Yes, and who knows how BABIP will play out.

  14. nats106 - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:34 AM

    That was a really raw game last night. Not so great for the home team, but we hung in there until the bottom of the 8th, which is longer than some of the Nats players did.

    Anyway, it was so cold last night we left early and hit a comedy club near Half St. Pretty funny so I thought I’d share some of the lines I remember:

    Hey, watched the Nationals on TV tonight. Didn’t realize they were having a 3 Stooges marathon. Whoa!

    Speaking of the 3 Stooges, how about our fielders: Moe Larry and Shemp. Looks like Curly was playing for the Cardinals Hey!

    Thanks goodness for the errors category, otherwise we wouldn’t have won any categories on the box score. Badaboom!

    I just lived through the DC version of “Hot Tub Time Machine” and I was transported back to the 2009 Nationals. I don’t know which movies was worse-the original or the sequel. Oooh!

    I’m not saying it was cold last night, but I saw archeologists inspecting Jayson Werth thinking that he was a frozen wooly mammoth being sent with the T Rex to the Natural History Museum. Hey!

    I hear that Nate McClouth had bad 80’s songs as his walk up. I was waiting for “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner. Double entendre there? Hey HO.

    Come back tonight-I’ll be here all weekend!

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:52 AM

      Too funny,106, especially about McLouth’s walk up.
      Speaking of which, did somebody really say that Span wouldn’t have caught that ball in CF that McLouth made a nice catch on? Surely, you jest, and yes, I called you Shirley.

      • nats106 - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        Ha-I was waiting for someone to tell me to not quit my day job!

        I know the catch you are referring to. I like McLouth, but frankly I think he made the catch look more difficult than it really was. Span is so graceful out there-I’m glad to see his rehab going well. We need our starters back!

  15. JayB - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    next 25 games will tell me if managers make a difference. Matt just told them it was NOT EARLY…Baseball does not JUST HAPPEN…..That they DO HAVE THEIR HEADS UP THERE $$S and that he is PISSED AT THEIR EFFORT and PREPARATION. Exact opposite to what Davey told them at the same time with the same issues.

    My feeling is the team will respond to the change and win 8 of the next 10 and be in first place in the east after next 25 games.

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:53 AM

      Oh, you were in the locker room and heard all of this?

    • 6ID20 - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:25 AM

      There’s nothing wrong with their effort and preparation. Nothing wrong with it last year either. The problem is that they’re playing too tight, individually ( most of them, not all) and collectively. Same problem as last year. They need to loosen up and just play baseball. They did that last year, finally, but it came too late. The thing is, a manager can’t just tell the team to “loosen up” and have it happen. Davey tried to model the behavior for them last year, and eventually it worked. Now we get to see if a drill sergeant attitude works any better. I’m betting it won’t.

  16. bowdenball - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:51 AM

    Chase, without knowing precisely what the problem is, would you say it’s time for our readers to crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside?

    • nats106 - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:56 AM

      Walking Dead returns in October. So does playoff baseball. You heard it hear first.

  17. stoatva - Apr 18, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    What is it about the Cardinals? Although it had no impact on the game whatsoever I found myself shaking my head when Matheny made a defensive switch in the top of the eighth (iirc) and Shane Robinson promptly ran down and caught a foul pop down the right field line which Craig never reaches in a million years. They probably don’t actually do the right thing, every time, but it sure feels like it when we play them.

    • stoatva - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:21 AM

      Also, I found myself thinking over and over and over again how different this lineup is with Ramos in it. Yes, Span and RZim too, but missing Wili’s bat is devastating.

      • Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        Not just his bat, either. He calls a better game, in my opinion. The Lobaton is a 2nd string catcher, as is Leon.and before I get jumped on, yes, I know what Jose did with the Rays last year.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        Agreed, he sure was missed last night because with LaRoche on 2nd and Desi on 1st it would have been most likely Ramos coming to bat instead of Espinosa.

        This bottom of the lineup is doing nothing offensively with runners on base. 1 for 20 in RISP situations and that is .050 BA and while you can expect that go up, the question is when? McLouth and Lobaton both have a history of producing in Hi Lev spots.

  18. Joe Seamhead - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    When both Ramos and Zimm return the bottom of the order will be much more effective. Who will be 6,7, and 8?

  19. stoatva - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    I believe my jaw hit the concourse last night when they were calling out the line score last night and I heard that the Cards left 15 on base. Sort of neatly encapsulates what I meant when I told my wife that the game was “8-0, but it’s not as close as it sounds.”

    • stoatva - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      Did I mention this was last night?

      Sheesh.

      • snerdblurter - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        Very weird game. Easily could’ve been 3-2 if our boys come through in the 2nd and don’t kick the ball all over the field the rest of the way or 14-0 if the Cards didn’t leave so many. I guess you could say that about every game though…

  20. chaz11963 - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Check out Twitter #YouGotThisDesi quite inspirational. Go Nats!

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