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Deconstructing the ninth-inning rally

Apr 24, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

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The Nationals have produced enough late rallies already this season — they’ve got seven come-from-behind victories in 22 games — that they don’t ever feel a sense of panic, or feel like all hope is lost. But last night’s bottom-of-the-ninth drama was particularly out-of-the-blue given the situation.

Trailing 4-1 and showing little sign of life at the end of a long, cold night at the ballpark, the Nationals somehow turned what looked like a certain demoralizing loss and a series sweep at the hands of the Angels into their most-dramatic win to date.

What remained of a crowd of 22,504 jumped for joy in the empty aisles at Nationals Park. The guys in the center of the diamond celebrated, mobbing Adam LaRoche following his game-winning hit. But nobody in the clubhouse afterward suggested they ever expected anything else from a club that is making a habit out of this stuff.

“I’ve played on teams where it’s just a feeling,” said Jayson Werth, who tied the game with a 2-run double and then scored the winning run on LaRoche’s single. “You can’t really explain it, but there’s confidence there. You don’t ever feel out. I feel it on this team for sure.”

How did this latest rally happen? Let’s deconstruct it, at-bat by at-bat…

1. Jose Lobaton homers
The Nationals’ No. 2 catcher, pressed into everyday services since Wilson Ramos broke a bone in his left hand on Opening Day, got off to a rough start but has been swinging a better bat in the last week. He fell behind in the count 0-2 leading off the ninth last night, taking two strikes from Ernesto Frieri, but then he pounced on the Angels closer’s 0-2 pitch and hammered a line-drive homer down the right-field line.

“I feel like the Lobaton at-bat was the spark we needed,” Werth said. “It seemed like we were just … the last few days really, we can’t get it going. We had our chances. That was the hit we needed.”

2. Denard Span singles
After pinch-hitter Zach Walters struck out, Span stepped to the plate recognizing the need to get on base and allow the tying run to get to the plate. He, too, took a couple of strikes from Frieri and fell behind in the count, 1-2, but then lashed a single up the middle to help set up the winning rally.

3. Anthony Rendon walks
Few young hitters have the batting eye and advanced approach that Rendon displays, and he put it all together in this key at-bat. He took two strikes from Frieri, putting himself in a quick 0-2 hole, then did a nice job not expanding the zone despite his predicament. Rendon took a fastball low, fouled off a tough pitch on the outside corner, took two more balls that were well out of the zone and then took a 3-2 fastball just outside to draw the walk that kept the rally going and brought Werth to the plate now representing the winning run.

4. Jayson Werth doubles
Unlike the previous batters, Frieri immediately fell behind in the count. He fired three straight balls to Werth, who now found himself in an interesting situation: With the count 3-0 against a fast-fading pitcher, would he take the next pitch no matter what or take his chances if he saw something he liked?

Matt Williams gave him the green light. “I trust him that if he’s going to miss on a swing, it’s going to be hit hard to his pull side,” the manager said. “And if it’s not a pitch he can do it with, he’s not going to swing at it. He’s a veteran player. I trust the fact he’s done it a couple times this year: one was a homer, one was a double. He’s comfortable with it. He knows what pitch to pick and how to go about doing it.”

Werth indeed has been an effective hitter in that situation. In fact, since joining the Nationals in 2011, he has put a 3-0 pitch into play nine times. His stats on those swings: 7-for-9 with a double, two homers and nine RBI.

“Some guys are comfortable swinging 3-0, some guys aren’t,” he said. “Sometimes even if you feel comfortable swinging 3-0, you don’t really feel it. But I felt it and I went for it.”

Remembering former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s mantra for swings on 3-0 — “Aim for the foul pole” — Werth did just that. He didn’t get the ball up in the air, but he drilled a rocket of a grounder past a diving David Freese at third base, down the line. It caromed to the side, and by the time left fielder J.B. Shuck could retrieve the ball, both Span and Rendon had scored to tie the game.

“It was one of those situations where you hit into a double play right there, it’s probably the worst play you’ve ever seen,” Werth said. “If you get a hit, it’s the best. I’m glad it worked out, that’s for sure.”

5. Adam LaRoche singles
With Frieri clearly ineffective, Angels manager Mike Scioscia pulled his closer and summoned fellow right-hander Fernando Salas to face LaRoche. The veteran slugger had faced Salas four times before, though he had yet to produce a hit off him. But LaRoche knew Salas’ repertoire, so he didn’t think he’d be fooled by anything.

“In that situation, just trying to hit something hard,” he said. “I know he’s got a good changeup, so I can’t really sell out on the fastball. Tried to put a good swing on something.”

Salas’ first-pitch fastball was up and out over the plate. LaRoche, a pull hitter through most of his career, has been effective so far this season at taking those pitches the other way. And sure enough, he stayed on this one to perfection, lining the ball over the shortstop’s head and into left-center field for the game-winner.

“We’ve seen that from Adam all year: the ability to hit the ball over the shortstop’s head,” Williams said. “That’s the key for him to have success and driving runs in.”

Just like that, the Nationals turned what surely looked like a difficult loss at the end of a frustrating series into their most-uplifting win of the year.

“Last night we’re sitting here talking about how bad we are, tonight it’s a different story,” Werth said. “Crazy game.”

101 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. laddieblahblah - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Don’t believe I’ve ever seen a bigger smile on Adam’s face.

    • Joe Seamhead - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      Ain’t it the truth?

  2. Eric - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    My buddy’s DVR cut off the the Angels’ 4th run plated in the top of the ninth…D’oh!

    I saw the recap on ESPN, but it’s nice to read a detailed account…thanks Mark!

    • Eric - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      That should read: “…cut off immediately after the Angels’ 4th run plated…”

    • Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      I always record Nats Extra right after the 3 hour block for the game for exactly that reason. :-) And add 1.5 hours in case the game goes into extras or has a lot of pitching changes in the late innings.

      • Sonny G 10 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM

        I do that also

      • natsfan1a - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        At some point, I got in the habit of bracketing and setting the DVR for about 4 hours total (including the game). Now, what with challenges (or non-challenges) and replays, I’m extending the recording time to 4.5 hours total. What [stinks] is when a replay or another game broadcast is scheduled to follow the recorded game immediately, and my DVR is nearly full already. Yeah, sure, I could probably figure out how to program the DVR by selecting clock times instead of by selecting each program in turn, or maybe add more memory to the DVR. But what do you want? I’m a Luddite. Plus, if I was going to expand memory, I’d be inclined to upgrade my own memory before I expanded the DVR’s. 😉

      • Eric - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        Yeah, it was a total rookie mistake. A friend of mine with whom I chat on FB private messaging through most games turned us on to the concept of including Nats Extra in the DVR recording, as he got burned on Span’s walk off against the Cards last Sunday 😉.

  3. micksback1 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    I was all set to go off, beginning with Harper’s bunt attempt, but the Nats did something that contending teams are suppose to do now and then and that was to win a huge game when they needed it the most. having said that, the errors, wild pitches, etc.. need to end now. It really would have sucked if the nats had been swept in their park last night, now at 12-19, it is time to get going. Desi’s 215 average is UNACCEPTABLE!

    • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      So, what do you wanna do, get rid of Desi?

      Look, all players have slumps. When it happens in April, it drops the BA way down. It happens.

      But he’s won two silver sluggers in the past two years. He’ll get out of this slump.

  4. micksback1 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    meant 12-10

  5. micksback1 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    I will stand by what I posted yesterday about Desi, bench him a few games period. that will light a fire under him, he is an automatic out right now or a DP waiting to happen. it would do both him and the team good to sit a few, clear his head and get his ass in gear.

    • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:58 AM

      Look, all players have slumps. When it happens in April, it drops the BA way down. It happens.

      But he’s won two silver sluggers in the past two years. He’ll get out of this slump.

    • jd - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:02 AM

      In fairness Mick, Desmond has been close to an automatic out for most of the year but then especially during the past 10 days or so, so have Span, Werth and Harper and really Rendon has slumped as well. In truth only Espinosa has kept above water lately. You can’t bench them all.

      I don’t think Desi needs a fire lit under him, on the contrary I think both he and Harper need to relax, it’s not football or hockey. Baseball is all about concentration and focus and you won’t perform if you are all tense and upset.

      • unkyd59 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:43 AM


    • bowdenball - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      Light a fire under him? Do you seriously think his slump is due to lack of effort and preparedness? Have you not watched him on and off the field for the last several seasons?

    • letswin3 - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      Guys, with all due respect, it’s not a “get his attention” thing. And baseball isn’t “all about concentration and focus” … hitting and fielding are about SKILLS. If it was all about concentration and focus, I could do it (I concentrate and focus on a major league level, but my hitting, fielding running and throwing leave a little to be desired). These guys are just experiencing STS syndrome (that’s a short-term slump). and it’s no different that the hundreds of thousand other STS’ that have been experienced by others. It will improve without benching, sending em down or alternative dungeon therapy. Moreover, I’ve considered it a possibility that the absence of Zimm, Span (glad he’s back), Ramos and Fister may have been reason for some of the remaining guys to try to overcompensate. So relax a little, which is likely what some of these guys need to also consider.

      • letswin3 - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        Of course I meant Zim with one “m”.

      • Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:08 PM

        Like you, i’m a one tool player — typing at a computer. Or maybe two — reading blogs, and commenting on them.

  6. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    LaRoche has beaten the shift on a number of occasions this year. Teams should learn he’s a player who, if you play the percentages, there’s a good percentage chance he’ll beat them. Assume that LaRoche is, overall, a .270 hitter. What do you suppose his average is if he’s trying to hit the ball the other way? He is not a “pull the ball or die” fellow like Ryan Howard. Within his limitations, a smart hitter.

    • Eric - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      I love seeing LaRoche beat the shift.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    I enjoyed the recap and that was a win to savor.

    The Angels are a team of under-performers that got healthy at the expense of the Nats which included poor defense, poor bullpen execution and management, and untimely hitting for 26 innings.

    Winning game 1’s of series are of utmost importance. Nats need to get momentum in these series like they’ve done to the Marlins and Mets. You can demoralize your opponents and it starts in Game 1’s of series.

    • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      I heard MW make a good point the other night, when it was brought up that the Nats had a gazillion scoring opportunities and didn’t score. He said that it wasn’t as bad a sign as everyone’s making it out to be, because — the good side — the Nats were _getting_ those scoring opportunities (as opposed to not getting anybody in scoring position). And that with the law of BABIP they will score.

      An interesting take. FWIW.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:12 AM

        I’ve heard many managers say that and it’s the qualities of those ABs that were poor for 26 of the 27 inning of the Angels series.
        In 2012 the Nats were making their luck.

      • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:25 AM

        Also in the FWIW category:

        Nats (and NL in parens)
        RISP: .223 (.238)
        2 out RISP: .174 (.210)
        Late and Close: .318 (.237)
        High Leverage: .256 (.245)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        That explains all the lack of leads early but coming behind late.

      • Eric - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM

        So they’re only very very very clutch; rarely just clutch.

        Maybe we can remove one “very” and upgrade “rarely” to “sometimes”? Would certainly make me a more relaxed person 😉.

      • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM


      • natsfan1a - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        Our team, is a very very very clutch team,
        with players who go yard,
        life used to be so hard…

        (Don’t mind me. It’s hereditary. Thanks, Dad.)

        “So they’re only very very very clutch; rarely just clutch.”

      • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        A reference to 40+ years ago, and probably almost everyone here gets it. . . .

  8. Joe Seamhead - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Steve, I agree with everything you posted. Over the next several weeks the play teams that it is very important for them to beat, as these are the teams that they are “supposed” to beat.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      Here’s where the Nats stand that if they win tonight they are back to a .565 winning % that is what is considered a postseason lock and that is a 92 win season.

      Like you said Joe, it’s now the “supposed” to beat teams coming up and tonight gets the team back on pace.

      The first 11 days of May look tough with an unpredictable Phoolies team, Dodgers and then to Oakland. Ramos and RZim and Fister will all be back in the 1st half of May.

      They just need to hover here and get healthy and get on a roll because May 12th and on should be feasting time.

      • letswin3 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:03 PM

        There ya go ……perspective. I didn’t know about the .565% winning percentage rule of thumb, but I like it. I’m also guilty of probably expecting too much from these guys, but that helps me keep my head. Thanks for this tidbit, and thanks to you and all the others who have shared your in depth knowledge of the game and some of it’s nuanced beauty. I’m a pretty good student of the game, but learning new insights into the game always provides the enlightenment that so many of us seek.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Since the Wild Card system has been introduced a .565 winning percentage giving 92 wins was almost a virtual lock. With 2 Wild Cards that’s figured to be a certainty to get you in.

        The goal is still winning the Division and hoping others falter.

        The Dodgers, Giants, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, Braves and Nats are your top tier teams and all look capable right now of winning 90+.

  9. adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Wonk’s Thursday’s Thidbits

    The Giants, after scoring only 15 runs in 8 games, scored 12 last night (and escaped with a 12-10 win). With the help of two 450+ ft homers by Morse. In case you were wondering: yes, it was at Coors field.

    Martin Perez (who?) pitched his second consecutive shutout (which followed an 8 inning scoreless start), and so has a 26 scoreless inning streak going. He plays for the Rangers.

    Astros played 11 non-pitchers last night — none of them are batting above .250 (but, only four of them were below .200, an improvement!)

    David Ortiz played in his 1,643rd game as a designated hitter, matching Harold Baines’ major-league record

    Orioles’ Nelson Cruz’s grand slam was his 7th of his career.

    Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista has walked 27 times, and has reached safely in all 21 games this season (OBA: .484) — the entire SD Padres team has walked 49 times.

    Michael Wacha had 9 K’s through three innings. But he walked as many batters in the 4th inning as he had in his previous four starts (three), in addition to two singles, and thus ended his shortest outing of his career (4 IP, 3H, 2R, 5BB, 10 K’s). It’s only the fourth time in history a pitcher threw ten K’s in a start lasting 4 innings or less — but the third time in the last 13 months (Smoky Joe Wood (1909), Felix Hernandez (2013) and Danny Salazar (2014)).

    The last time Zack Greinke (4-0; last night: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 11 K) allowed more than 2 ER was last July. Seventeen straight games, longest streak in the Modern Era.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      Zach Greinke is on a roll. Teams can’t figure him out and his K/BB ratio and WHIP are excellent.

  10. chaz11963 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    If they can take 4/6 against the Padres and Astros, they will be 16-12 for April and off to a good start, especially considering all the injuries, bad luck, and set backs.

  11. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Speaking of LaRoche – he is doing something this year early that he didn’t do last year… hit oppo boppo… That is great for us. That 9th inning was 1 of the ages…

    Now lets get back to Nats baseball and kick the Padres behinds…

    • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Did you notice that he swung on the first pitch? 😉

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        HAHAHA… Cuz you know I hate that…. when it doesn’t work.. *looking at you Desi*

      • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        Yep — couldn’t resist the tease.

        Here’s more — Desi is batting .212, right?

        Of balls put into play on a first pitch, he’s batting he’s 5-12 (.417) with a double and 2 HR’s. So, he’s one guy I never begrudge swinging at the first pitch. That’s the way he rolls and he’s pretty successful at it.

        Lifetime, Ian is .374 on first pitches.

  12. jd - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    I can’t believe people are still talking in terms of winning 3 of 4 or 4 of 6. I just want to win tonight’s game. The lineup is still scuffling badly (9th inning not withstanding), the starting pitching has been very inconsistent and the pen and the bench have both been hit or miss. Before we treat other teams as lesser opponents we really need to start playing better ourselves.

    • unkyd59 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:42 AM


    • bowdenball - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      I could be wrong, jd, but I’m fairly certain that fans looking ahead at the schedule won’t impact how the team plays at all.

      By the way the Nats’ bullpen has been arguably the best in the National League this season. They have a collective 2.08 ERA. The only lower bullpen ERA is the Padres who play their home games in the most pitcher-friendly park in the league, and they’ve also thrown 11.2 fewer bullpen innings than the Nats. Hit or miss?

      • jd - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        You are getting very sarcastic. My point was simply that we are in no position to look at anyone down at this stage. We aren’t playing well enough to do that.

        The bullpen ERA may be good but the bullpen has also blown an inordinate amount of games at this early stage led by our 8th inning specialist (before you jump down my throat I want to say that I am a big Clippard supporter and expect him to pitch well in the long run. I acknowledge that Storen and Soriano have been excellent so far by my point about the pen stands.

      • bowdenball - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:52 AM

        Sorry, but I don’t think your point about the pen stands. All bullpens give up runs and blow games. Ours has done those things less than most.

        Yes, Clippard has struggled. But on the whole they’ve been outstanding and I don’t think it’s fair to classify them as hit-or-miss. You wouldn’t say the Rockies best in the league offense is “hit or miss” just because Drew Stubbs hasn’t been very good.

      • jd - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:01 PM

        We’ll just have to disagree then. Because Clippard ain’t Drew Stubbs, he is one of the corner stones of the Nats bullpen and if you take his 2 blown saves and at least 3 other games where he has given up runs in a tie situation which directly led to a loss this in itself has to qualify the bullpen less than ‘outstanding’.

      • NatsLady - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM

        A good bullpen is nice, but as a team the Nats are hitting .192/.291/.272 (last 7 days, not including pitchers). That’s LAST in MLB.

    • bowdenball - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      Also, the Nats have the highest OBP from their pinch-hitters in the league. So I don’t think calling the bench “hit or miss” is particularly fair either.

      • jd - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        Fair point. Frandsen has been very good, Mc.Clouth not so much (.257 OBP), Tyler Moore awful, Espinosa was good when he was coming off the bench.

  13. natsfan1a - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    “1. Jose Lobaton homers”

    I did not see that coming. Went to bed at the pitching change in the top of the 9th, with the score at 4-1. Was pleasantly surprised to find a happy game results email in my in-box this a.m. Had set the DVR to record the game, postgame, and an extra program, just in case the game went longer. I decided not to read the gamer but to watch the rest of the game “cold.”

    I figured that maybe they loaded them up and someone hit a grand slam, or maybe they strung some hits together and it went extra innings. Was fun to watch and see how it developed without knowing what happened (except for the final score, of course).

    Important question: Did they get Kolko after Werth left the field? Because I thought I saw (was it Clip and Stammen?) coming up behind him with the cooler as the program went to a commercial. Anyhoo. Nice win.

  14. philipd763 - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Michael Morse last night–2 home runs and 4 RBI’s. The Nats could use his big bat (I did NOT say his glove) in our offense starved lineup!!! Good to see The Beast is back.

    • therealjohnc - Apr 24, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      Of course the Nats could use Morse’s April 2014 bat. They could have used his April 2013 bat, too! His bat for the other five months of the 2013 season would have killed them, even worse than LaRoche’s 2013 bat. I wish Mikey Mo well, but oh my gosh the Nats have on the whole been better off without him (especially considering the money they saved and the players they got back). Without Adam Dunn, too, for that matter – and I really liked the big Dunn-key.

      Of course as fans we all tend to do this. Every few years Emilio Bonifacio goes through a hot streak like the one he’s on right now. I remember the last time he did this, in 2011, there were a lot of fans who were sarcastically saying ‘wow, where could the Nats find a player like that.” Of course, to get a player like that, or like the April 2013/2014 version of Morse, you have to also have kept the player through all the crappy production in between. Crappy production that gets forgotten during the hot streak :-)

  15. philipd763 - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    My observation regarding the Angels series; Mike Trout is the real deal; the jury is still out on Bryce Harper.

  16. snerdblurter - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    Listened on the radio last night and just saw the condensed version this morning. Great win boys.

    Seriously though, whats going on in Harper’s head right now? It’s like he’s completely distracted and his mind is a million miles away. Bunting with two strikes (did we get a postgame explanation on that?), being completely asleep in left field on that double that led off the 7th, and then going 1/2 speed on that slow roller to first in the 8th that he ended up baaaaarely beating after Pujols muffed it and the pitcher missed the throw?

    Slumping or underperforming is one thing, but this kid is completely spacing out on a nightly basis. Granted that he’s only 21 (yada yada yada) and armchair psychology is a pointless exercise, but he’s clearly not injured (see: running to 1st in the 8th last night and that throw that almost got trout at home), so I’m wondering if he’s got something going on outside of baseball that is wearing on his mind (family issues? being away from his gf?). Or maybe he’s finally beginning to realize how much of a grind it is to play day-in and day-out for a full 162 game season. Either way, I hope everything’s OK with him and he gets is all worked out asap.

    • stoatva - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      Hope he doesn’t go all Ricky Williams on us!

    • nats106 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      I saw comments last night about Harper not charging the ball on a base hit, allowing Ibanez to score. While I didn’t think that was too much of a deal (222 also commented that it was nitpicking) I’d like to get comments on the double that Freese hit earlier in the game. It really appeared that there was no effort to cut the ball off, even though it was rolling pretty slowly in the gap. Did anyone see that on TV? It really appeared that Harper had a play, but apparently not since there was no discussion on it. Anybody at the game have an opinion?

      I’m sure everybody is kind of done with harping on the whole Harper thing, but I’d like to know if anyone saw it that way as well or if there was no way that was going to be cut off.


      • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        I happened to see that play on TV (with commentary) and heard it on the radio live with Charlie and Dave.

        C&D seemed to think that Harper actually lost the ball and didn’t see where it was landing (that’s how they announced it as it was happening live). I’m not sure how they could know that — I guess they were guessing by looking at where Harper was looking, which you couldn’t tell on TV. Frustratingly, on TV, you just couldn’t see Harper till the end, and neither FP nor Carpenter said anything about why Harper wasn’t in the picture.

      • Eric - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        Hrm. FWIW, I will say that imo Charlie and Dave are pretty good about not pulling their punches. If Harp were lollygagging, I would expect them, at best, to keep mum. They wouldn’t provide an explanation if they didn’t think there clearly was one.

      • snerdblurter - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:35 PM

        The way C&D described it (and the fact that it was the first pitch of the inning), I almost felt like he wasn’t paying attention and wasnt ready… it was a pretty low line drive so I didnt think the lights came into play… hopefully not beating a dead horse with this, but thought it warranted mentioning (along with running out the dribbler to first in the 8th).

    • scbilly - Apr 24, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      I agree with FP that the bunt K looked like a case of overthinking – sometimes nobody expects you to do something because it’s a really bad idea. I wonder if finding out he’d been voted “most overrated” by his peers just before the season started has gotten into his head because he’s certainly seemed distracted ever since.

  17. thelatencn - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    Thinking about Werth’s double, it seems to me that there have been several doubles off the left field wall jut on this homestand, both for us and the other guys. In each case that I recall, the left fielder has initially retreated, presumedly in order to be in position in case the ball missed the jut and went all the way to the wall. That cost time in getting to the ball where it actually went, in short left field, and in more than one case resulted in runners scoring easily from second.

    Wouldn’t it make sense, on balls hit past a diving 3rd baseman, for the lf to play on the assumption that it WILL hit the jut, since if it was far enough to the right to miss it, the 3rd baseman would have fielded it, or at least knocked it down?

    • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Interesting observation. I wonder if our LF’ers could learn to play the wall to a slight advantage as, e.g., the Fenway left-fielders play their wall with experience.

    • Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      Certainly seems that way. I noticed that Bryce looked a lot more ready for the carom on Pujols’ double than the LF for the Angels did on Werth’s hit. You don’t want to come in too quickly and let the ball skip past you into the corner for a triple, but with experience Bryce will get better at judging the likely path of the hit.

  18. nats106 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Thanks Wonk. Someone else told me they couldn’t see Harper in the picture as well. It was sort of similar to Werth’s misplayed ball that he apparently lost in the lights. It’s just kind of weird that it seems to be happening to guys who should be able to pick up on a ball. If it was a new stadium, or new lights installed, I could understand.

    Just seems rather odd.

    • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      Yeah — it did seem odd.

      Also odd, or frustrating, was the TV guys completely either ignoring it or missing it.

      Another complaint about the TV guys — which was mentioned during the thread:

      Excuses for errors based on player playing “different positions” then they are used to, due to injuries and some players filling in for others.

      Who?! Who’s out of position? Espi’s been playing second for years. Rendon played a lot of second last year, and he played 3rd his career before that. So who were they talking about? And the leader of the team in errors has been runner up at gold glove the last two years (Ian).

      I don’t mind “homers” for announcers. But one can root for a team and still be objective. Sheesh . . .

      • nats106 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        Maybe a commentary on the defensive positioning coach? You would think they would be able to make adjustments like that and not miss a beat. Ah, well. It’s time to move on. It will be warmer tonight and I have 3 straight days of games to attend (albeit Friday night will be in Salem VA.) Hillcats @ Red Sox

      • natsfan1a - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        I’ve not seen each game in its entirety, and I’m way behind on reading posts and comments. That said, a couple of times on different broadcasts recently, FP talked about players needing to adjust to the shifts. Specifically, he mentioned a given player’s need to adjust to other players being positioned at different places on the field in relation to his location than had been the case in the past. (Is that about as clear as mud? Plus, you know, the “to” at the end and all. Oh, well. Onward.) I didn’t see it as an excuse but rather an attempt to understand or give insight. But that’s just me. And I am a homer and all. So there’s that. :-)

        “Excuses for errors based on player playing “different positions” then they are used to, due to injuries and some players filling in for others.

        Who?! Who’s out of position? Espi’s been playing second for years. Rendon played a lot of second last year, and he played 3rd his career before that. So who were they talking about? And the leader of the team in errors has been runner up at gold glove the last two years (Ian).”

      • Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:21 PM

        106, I’ve been to the park in Salem! Very fun atmosphere.

    • snerdblurter - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      I just watched Freese’s double again. It never got higher than 10 feet off the ground. There’s no way Harper lost it in the lights like Charlie & Dave said. He just wasnt paying attention and wasn’t ready. Must’ve been picking dandelions out there…

      • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        Note my words — I didn’t say that C&D said that Harper lost it in the lights — they didn’t use the word lights (to the best of my recollection). They were saying that Harper had lost the ball and didn’t see where it was.

        Now, I don’t know if the following was the case, but I have seen, every once in a while, a guy losing a line drive against the crowd (i.e., losing sight of the ball with the crowd as the background).

        I don’t know if that’s what happened, and I don’t know what C&D saw, but they did say that Harper didn’t know where the ball was, and they didn’t say “lights” (I don’t think).

  19. natsfan1a - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    On another note, just noticed this item on, er, another site…cough…regarding Livo’s role(s) with the team. Atta way, Nats. (Hey, maybe Livo could add another role and replace Screech? Oh, yeah. Right. the kids like the eagle. Okay, um, never mind that one then. Hey? What about inflatable Screech? Not him either? All right, um, never mind.)

    • Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM

      Watch out, people might start blaming Livo for those bad 1st innings.

    • chaz11963 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:37 PM


      “Hernandez, perhaps the most recognizable former Nationals player, spent spring training with the team in Viera as a coach but his regular season role was undefined. On Wednesday, General Manager Mike Rizzo provided clarity: “He’s kinda an ambassador/confidant/coach/jack of all trades.””

      Oh… of course… got it not… perfectly clear. (!)

  20. Candide - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Okay, chaning the subject.

    The “transfer play” that LaRoche got charged with an error.

    He clearly caught the ball in his gloved hand, clearly had control of it. Okay, so he dropped it on the transfer, but as FP pointed out, if he NEVER transfers it to his bare hand – say on the third out of the inning, he flips it into the stands, is it still an error?

    Maybe charge him with the error for not getting the DP (except that you can’t be charged with an error for not completing a DP). But if he’d continued to hold the ball in his gloved hand, then walked over to the pitcher and dropped it from his gloved hand into the pitcher’s glove, then what?

    Seems to me they’re trying to make a formal rule on something that has to be an umpire’s judgment – did the fielder have control of the ball at some point, or not?

    Am I missing something here (“Probably,” chimes in everyone else…).

    • Eric - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      That was just straight up absurd.

      – ball goes into mitt
      – mitt closes ENTIRELY
      – mitt stays closed
      – mitt still closed as throwing hand comes up to it
      – mitt opens
      – mitt hand gently flicks ball to throwing hand
      – ball bobbled and dropped.

      Just insane to give error there. It’s like a parody. It’s a Leslie Neilson call, bro!

      • NatsLady - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        It was cold. Maybe he needed a little pine tar.

      • Eric - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:49 PM


      • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        Eric: you described well exactly what happened.

        I can’t remember it it was FP & Carp, or Charlie and Dave (or perhaps both of them): they were saying “what was so wrong with the way the rule has been called in the past 130 years that suddenly this winter they decided they needed to look into it again?”

        Candide, you asked an easy one: if he NEVER transfers it to his bare hand – say on the third out of the inning, he flips it into the stands, is it still an error?

        That’s easy, dude! If there is an appearance of bobbling when he tosses it into the stands, it’s an error! 😉

      • letswin3 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        Actually, I saw the “never transferred to his hand transfer” the other night. It might have been an earlier Angels game, not sure, but I’m positive of what I saw. A shortstop catches a line drive, looks a runner back when considering a double-play, walks over to the pitcher and tosses the ball to the pitcher (from only his glove hand), without ever touching the ball with his throwing hand. So the question is … if the pitcher drops it, and the runner advances, was an error committed …. and if there was indeed an error, who committed it. And a final question is, when the SS transfers the ball to the pitcher without using his throwing hand, is that an error that awards first base to the hitter? It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

  21. natsfan1a - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    Um, that they’re trying to kill baseball? I enjoyed FP’s musing about flipping the ball into the stands. Rather Seinfeldian.

    “Am I missing something here (“Probably,” chimes in everyone else…).”

  22. Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    This transfer rule idiocy seems to have come about because of replay. Please correct me if I have this wrong —

    (1) The rule does and always has required the ball to be transferred to the throwing hand cleanly for a batter to be out.
    (2) No one has been enforcing that technical rule for ages because it’s stupid. Umpires have just decided whether the fielder had control of the ball in the glove before he dropped it on the transfer.
    (3) Now, with replay going into effect, they realized that challenges could be made on an out call and the replay umps in NYC would be forced to overturn the call because replays will show that a clean transfer was not made.
    (4) So the word has gone out the umps to start enforcing the transfer rule. And they’ve been doing it. To absurd effect.

    Seems to me the only solution is the change the rule because it’s ridiculous. Any rule that leads to literally dozens of crazy outcomes over the course of just a month of play cannot be right.

    Also, one question on the interpretation of the rule. If the flyout is not complete until the ball is tranferred to the throwing hand correctly, how come runners on third can tag up as soon as the ball hits the mitt, and how come a runner is out at first if the ball beats him there even though a proper transfer has not been made?

    • letswin3 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      Yep, and what about the “web gems” we’ve all seen when a second baseman barely reaches a hard-hit ground ball and gloves it and makes the glove-flip to the SS for an out at second base? Is that no longer an out because there was no clear transfer? If a rule is goofy, they need to impose the “goofy rule” by killing it, and relegate it to the history books for some enterprising fan in the 2080’s to pull out for a big laugh.

      • Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        The absurdities multiply, but your example would only be a problem if the 2B catches a line drive and flips it for a DP.

      • letswin3 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        I should have said that it would be for a “force out” at second. Since I’ve obviously not provided a clear transfer of thought here, am I to be charged with an error too?

      • natsfan1a - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        I was thinking (I know. I know. Don’t think. It can only hurt the ballclub). But I digress. I was thinking last night that this enforcement could have an adverse effect on “web gems,” among other things.

    • 6ID20 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      A proper transfer is any transfer where the ball doesn’t hit the ground before a throw or flip is made to another fielder. So your question about why the runner is out at first if the throw beats him is irrelevant. Doesn’t matter if the transfer was proper or not. Proper transfer determines safe or out at second base, not first. If the throw to second beats the runner and the turn is made without the ball hitting the ground, the runner is out.

      On the sac fly, the runner has always been free to leave the base as soon as the ball hits the glove. That hasn’t changed. What changes with the new interpretation of the transfer rule is that fielders will have to be more deliberate with their transfers so they don’t drop the ball, which will give the runners a better chance of beating the throw.

  23. letswin3 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    You know, if this “transfer rule” is ever reviewed by a Senate Investigating Committee, they will want to get down to the genesis of the problem … who was it that created this ridiculous abomination? Was it a committee of baseball executives at the winter meetings or was it a suggestion of the shift manager at ShoeTown? Regardless of who came up with it, MLB needs to swiftly relegate it to the dustbin of baseball nostalgia.

  24. secretwasianman - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    Great comeback. If the Nats get any less than 5 out of the next 6 then we know they are just mediocre.

    • jd - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      I think 7 out of the next 6 is an absolute minimum.

    • Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      I know you’re just being deliberately provocative because that’s your schtick, but you know that’s just absurd, right?

      • Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:41 PM

        My comment was directed to swm, by the way, not jd.

      • therealjohnc - Apr 24, 2014 at 4:56 PM

        Yeah, he knows. Trolls gonna troll.

    • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Because any team that can’t play .833 ball is mediocre!

  25. Section 222 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    So rules of baseball can be found here:

    Can someone locate this so-called transfer rule? Because the definition of CATCH on p.13 seems perfectly reasonable and inconsistent with the transfer idiocy that’s been sweeping the game.

  26. micksback1 - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    I notice that there are many who cherry pick stats that make their point, but also omit stats or belittle stats that refute their points. I post that Desi should sit a few games and I base it on facts and one of them is a litle old thing called a batting average.. Desi has not hit well at all so far this season. Other players who have slumped a little have hit, Werth, Bryce and Span. However each of them are batting over 250 where Desi has not only yet to be at 250, he has dropped at 217. The other question I pose is,then when do you sit a player? Sitting a few games will only help him in my view. If he is hitless tonight and if he KO’s at least twice, he should sit out the last 2 games and rest. his back up, Frandsen is hitting the ball well and frankly the infield would not miss a beat and one would not have to worry about where the ball is going to end up after a throw from short. In addition to his hitting struggles, 9 errors in 22 games is more than enough of a reason to rest a player a few games. This is why their is a bench gang and why the Nats spent some serious money on getting Frandsen, McClouth and others.

    • adcwonk - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:00 PM

      The other question I pose is,then when do you sit a player?

      That’s a fair question. I think the answer is based on a lot of things: the player’s attitude, the quality of his at bats (i.e., a player could be smoking the ball and not getting hits), his history, and so forth. BA is only one measure of how well a player is batting. I haven’t seen enough games myself to see what Ian’s at bats look like.

  27. Candide - Apr 24, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    So strict application of the transfer rule leads to idiotic results, such as last night. Charles Dickens probably never saw a game of baseball (or base-ball, as it was known back then) in his life, but he knew something about stupid rules. From Oliver Twist

    If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass – a idiot.

    • letswin3 - Apr 24, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      I/m pretty sure it was Bee Bumble and The Stingers that did Bumble Boogie. And I have it on good authority that they thought this new rule was idiotic too.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 24, 2014 at 7:15 PM

        So, that’s the buzz?

  28. NatsLady - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:22 PM

    Man, would it be nice if every home run weren’t a SOLO.

    Desi is in a complete funk. The line stops moving whenever he comes to the plate.





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