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Lobaton, Stammen lament ‘slow death’ loss

Apr 25, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

In a marathon game of 12 innings – four hours and 14 minutes of baseball – the Nationals ended up taking their 11th loss of the season at the hands of a former teammate. The Padres have had major troubles scoring runs this season, but they broke through on a Xavier Nady RBI single in the top of the 12th.

In order for Nady to knock in the run, however, he would need some help from the Nationals. Once again, as has become a trend this year, the Nats made a costly defensive error that helped expedite their defeat.

This time it was a throwing mistake by catcher Jose Lobaton that allowed the go-ahead run – Jedd Gyorko – to advance from second to third. Gyorko attempted to steal second with two outs and was gifted third base as Lobaton’s throw sailed into center field. Relief pitcher Craig Stammen would then allow a single to Nady up the middle to give the Padres a 4-3 lead.

Lobaton – who has seven hits and a home run in his last four games – explained the error after the loss:

“I just got a bad throw. I got the ball pretty good, and as soon as I threw the ball, I was like, ah, that what a bad throw. And then they got a base hit. Nothing I can do right now. Just get ready for tomorrow.”

Though it gave Gyorko an easier trip to home, manager Matt Williams believes he would have scored from second anyways. Gyorko isn’t a speedster with three stolen bases in 148 career MLB games, but the ball was not hardly hit. Center fielder Denard Span would have needed to make a very good throw to home to prevent the run.

“Xavier got a hit and he came through for his team in that situation,” Williams said. “It would have been the same thing if the man had been on second. There wouldn’t have been a chance to throw him out anyway.”

Stammen was pitching his third inning as the Nats and Padres moved through extras. His first two frames were perfect and he recorded an out before Gyorko singled.

Stammen expressed frustration with the way it ended.

“I didn’t have a chance [to field Nady's hit]. Unless I was Wilt Chamberlin, I might have got it. It was frustrating. I guess you’d rather be beat on homers or doubles or something like that. Slow death I guess it went tonight.”

The Nationals lead the major leagues with 25 errors in 23 games.

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 25, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Slow Death Loss is what it dealt like.

  2. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 25, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Bigger issue is the men left on bases and situational hitting with RISP… Please guys, shape it up!

  3. texnat1 - Apr 25, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    While frustrating, last night’s loss was largely bad luck.

    The only lasting concerns it gives me is that our manager may not be up to the task.

    • therealjohnc - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      Agreed on the bad luck. So many time the Nats hit line drive outs in crucial situations, and the Padres get the go-ahead run on a ground ball chopped up the middle. Baseball can be an unjust sport, and you just have to live with that sometimes.

      I wasn’t a MW backer during the management hunt, but as far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on him. Has he made moves I wouldn’t have made? Sure. I’m not egotistical enough to think that means that I was right and he was wrong. My litmus test on managing moves is whether I can understand why a move was done or not done, whether or not I would have made the same choice.

      • texnat1 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:11 AM

        I’m not writing him off either.

        But out of curiosity, can you understand why Walters was not instructed to bunt? With MW instead apparently just hoping he would hit a grounder to 2nd?

      • therealjohnc - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        On Walters? Yes. Walters had a total of nine sacrifice hits in five minor league seasons, so I’m assuming that he is essentially a mediocre bunter (not great, not terrible). You’ve got a slow runner on second in Lobaton so not only does Walters have to bunt fair, and get it down on the ground, but it has to be a good enough bunt that you’re not going to get Lobaton thrown out at third (figuring the SS would cover on the wheel play) – THAT would be a disaster, because not only have you given up the out, you no longer have a runner in scoring position.

        PR for Lobaton? Well, if you PR for Lobaton the only options are pitchers – who even if they are stretched out and ready are not experienced baserunners. AND you burn your backup catcher. And even if you PH a pitcher for Walters to bunt, any gains that you have in bunting proficiency are more than offset by the fact that the defense can completely sell out for the bunt. Any pitchers on our staff that you send up in that situation? Livo could do it (heck Livo DID do it), but he’s not available. Maybe Zimmermann? Who started, and therefore wasn’t available. And on top of all that, with Walters out of the game if it doesn’t work you are essentially committing to putting a pitcher in the field because the bench was fried.

        So you’re likely stuck with Walters at the plate and Lobaton at second. Bunting has a lot of risks attached to it even if successful, and there’s a good chance it won’t be. And although (IF the bunt works) you increase somewhat the chance of scoring the run for the next batter (because the infield will be in and some outs will score the run), you are tossing away any possibility of Walters actually driving the run in. And if the next batter whiffs (which he did) or pops up then you are back to needing a hit or circus music to drive the run in. And with Lobaton running and the infield in, there’s a risk that Lobaton gets himself thrown out at the plate anyway even if the ball gets put in play on the ground.

        I think that the “grounder to second” was more a shorthand for noting that even if he doesn’t bunt Walters may advance the runner, and he has a chance to win the game outright. There are a LOT of moving parts in that decision, and so I’m OK with Williams deciding the way he did.

      • Eric - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:54 AM

        Nice post johnc

      • jd - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:59 AM

        Exceptional and reasonable analysis. and I especially like and embrace the following

        :”I’m not egotistical enough to think that means that I was right and he was wrong”.

        That’s what I’ve been trying to tell Mrs. B I would have not bunted with Lobaton in the 8th but I understand the decision to do so and I would have bunted Walters in the 10th but you explains the perils of bunting very well so clearly you can disagree with the decisions but it does take certain chutzpah to to say that the manager screwed up.

      • mauimo22 - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:12 PM

        Is it possible to put a PR in for Lobo and let Sandy Leon finish out the game if the PR doesn’t score? Let’s get some speed on the bases when the game is on the line!

      • therealjohnc - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:59 PM

        mauim22, it’s possible – but the only bench options left at that point were Sandy Leon, Tyler Moore, and the starting pitchers (minus JZim). The bullpen crew pretty much had already been used (Blevins, Clippard, Soriano, Stammen), or were on emergency standby. I’m not entirely sure that Strasburg, Gio, Roark or Taylor Jordan are that much faster than Lobaton. In addition, they aren’t experienced baserunners where Lobaton is at least a veteran. And finally – do you really want to put Strasburg or Gio into a situation where they might pull a hamstring running the bases?

        Remember that McLouth and Frandsen had already been used, and Walters was at the plate. All would normally be solid PR options for Lobaton, but none were available.

    • mauimo22 - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      Winners seem to make their own luck! Errors and mental brain toots rarely win.

  4. stoatva - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    I am not a grammar nazi, especially when it comes to blogs rather than newspapers, but the phrase ” the ball was not hardly hit” made me giggle a bit.

    • NatsLady - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Same here.

    • unkyd59 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      I have to confess (sorry, Chase) that goofs like that make me wince, and scroll down, not from fellow commentors, but from the actual writer, in the group. This is MY problem, for being so anal about it… and I would have mentioned it, if nobody else had… Still a good post, Chase, and informative…nothing a proof read wouldn’t settle…. Sorry for mentioning it, really, but I couldn’t help it…. GYFNGOGOGO!!!!!

      • unkyd59 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:41 PM

        WOULDN’T have mentioned it…

  5. Doc - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Many questions about the game, but I’m still wondering why Espi was switched out towards the end, and Walters and Rendon stayed in??

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

      It was so Walters could hit in the pitcher’s position in the battimg order. Straight double switch stuff.

      • Doc - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        Thanks tcostant.

      • texnat1 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        Yep. Espi was the one double switched because he had just batted. Thus, taking him off allowed the maximum amount of ABs until the pitcher would come up again.

  6. natsguy - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    2014 vs 2013
    Some of these things are just like the others, some of these things are really the same.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    I have confidence in MW but he reminds me of a politcian who ran a campaign on “smart aggression and putting the pressure on the other team” and hes not living up to his campaign promises. It’s the other team turning the tables, ie Pujols and Gyorko stealing.

    • Eric - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      I think what’s lost in all this is the horrendous base running errors early on. It seems plausible to me that lack of execution has forced MW to back off the aggression, at least for now.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Eric agreed but you don’t go 180. The problem is the team’s best baserunners (Desi and McLouth) aren’t getting on base. Span isn’t a good baserunner and MW has already figured that out. That doesn’t leave you many options other than Espi, Harp and Werth and their opportunities haven’t been there much.

      • Hiram Hover - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        I am disappointed to see Harp still making so many gaffes on the basepaths.

        Yes, he’s young, and he will mature further.

        But learning what not to do is the starting point, and he seems a little slow on the uptake. He has one SB, 2 CS, and 1 PO this year (yesterday’s game ending out wasn’t scored a PO).

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Glove to hand transfer rule changed by MLB starting today. Back to the way it should be!

    • NatsLady - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      Thanks. ALR’s agent needs to get on their case so they take that error off his record.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        No kidding. It cost the Indians a game early in the season. We were discussing it last night that players got self-conscious about it which caused so many of them.

        In your point they can’t change the unearned runs but should consider some type of scoring adjustment to remove all those errors from the fielders records. Bot sure how they do it but thank the lord they jumped on this quickly. It was becoming epidemic!

    • therealjohnc - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:44 AM

      Heh. It’s OK until the Red Sox get their ox gored on the MLB Network; THEN it has to change. I’ll take it, though.

    • Hiram Hover - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Did anyone ever interview umps to see how they felt about it?

      Some of their calls seemed so egregious, even as an application of the new interpretation, that I kinda wondered if they weren’t trying to provoke a backlash and a return to the old approach.

    • natsfan1a - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      Good news.

  9. Eric - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Looks like it’s back to the old school w/the transfer rule!

    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/mlb-makes-1st-major-adjustment-of-replay-era-tweaks-transfer-rule-042514

    • Eric - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Doh! I’ll update the sheet with a drink owed to you, Ghost.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:04 PM

        Eric, you at least linked a credible source!

      • unkyd59 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:52 PM

        Ghost, from where I sit, you ARE a credible source, ;)

  10. jd - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Interesting reading from Keith Law:

    “Harper is the Nationals’ best player, which makes Matt Williams’ frequent demotions of Harper to the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup even more mystifying — and is cause to wonder whether Williams is up to the job of running the team if he can’t even identify who his best hitter is.

    Harper has accumulated more WAR through his age-20 season than all but five players in MLB history; three of them are in the Hall of Fame, and the others are Trout and A-Rod. Only two players hit more homers before their age-21 season: Mel Ott and Tony Conigliaro. Only Ott and Mickey Mantle drew more walks. I think the backlash against Harper, in addition to lacking any rational basis, has obscured what a remarkable start he’s had to his career — and he has every facet required to get better as he enters his early 20s.”

    • Hiram Hover - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:20 PM

      KLaw, like too many other commentators, is confusing two things:

      Saying that Harper has nearly historic talent for his age is not the same thing as saying he is currently the “best hitter” on the Nats.

      The former is true. The latter is not.

      • texnat1 - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        Agreed. Though he is certainly currently hitting better than Desmond, who was above him in the order last night.

        More broadly, KLaw has been attacking MW for batting Harper too low since opening day, so that is probably where he is coming from here.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Hiram, good reply. MW is trying to take the pressure off of Harp.

        Just wondering if you flip flop Desi and Espi. Is say no as Espi has been like an ambush specialist in the 7.

        When Desi gets hot he can carry this team. He’s not seeing the ball well and they are killing him on the outside pitch. Tonight hopefully is Desi’s night.

      • Eric - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Hopefully the rain won’t prevent us from finding out.

        I say yes re: Espi/Desi (er, more like Harp Desi Espi). I think last night 5, 6, 7 should’ve been Harp, Espi, Desi.

      • bowdenball - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        Harper was the Nationals’ second-best hitter by virtually any reasonable measure last year, at age 20. The best hitter last year by most of those measures turns 35 next month. If you are a person who puts more stock in large sample sizes, trends and aging curves than three weeks’ worth of games it’s totally reasonable to say that Harper is the team’s best hitter. Certainly he is no worse than second.

        However, he is definitely not the best or second best or even fourth or fifth best hitter when they are facing a left-handed starter. Williams has been batting Harper somewhere between 2 and 5 vs RHP for the most part. So I don’t think it’s fair to criticize him on this particular point.

      • Hiram Hover - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        bowdenball

        Unlike KLaw, you’re approaching the question the right way. If you want to know if Harp is the best hitter on the Nats, you have to compare him to … other Nats, not to other 20-21 year olds over the last 100 years.

        Yes, Harper was 2d best to Werth last year, who is also better than Harp this year.

        So at most, Harp is 2d best, and that’s if you don’t give any special weight to his 2014 #s. While his 89 PA this year aren’t enough to draw firm conclusions, they don’t mean nothing either, and he’s not off to a good start.

        Both he and his manager think he’s scuffling, and the #s bear it out–he’s barely above league average in wRC+, ranking fourth on the team behind ALR, Werth, and Rendon.

        I’m not saying I necessarily endorse MW’s approach of pushing him down further in the order to take pressure off him. But there is some sense to it, and it certainly doesn’t prove that MW is unfit to be a MLB manager, which seems to me KLaw’s opinion.

    • adcwonk - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Did Keith Law forget that Harper’s accumulated WAR happened in 2012 and 2013, but that MW is managing in 2014, and that four regular Nats (plus RZ) have a higher SLG than him?

      Or that Harper is batting .191 in his last 9 games?

      • bowdenball - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:04 PM

        adcwonk-

        Who is the best hitter on the Tigers?

        Before you answer, don’t forget that Miguel Cabrera won the MVP in 2012 and 2013, but that Don Kelly is managing in 2014, and that six regular Tigers have higher SLG and OBP than Miguel Cabrera.

      • adcwonk - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        Well done! Of course, Harper is not a double-MVP winner (yet).

        Going quickly by WPA — Cabrera was more than 5 ahead of any other player on his team last year. His last two years were 6+, and close to 5. Harper, OTOH, while perhaps setting records for 20-year olds, was not even the top WPA guy on the Nats — for either year. He was around 2 each of the past two years.

        I’d love for Harper to be a Cabrera some day. Perhaps he can. But he’s not there in April 2014.

      • jd - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        bowdenball.

        I think you mean Brad Ausmus.

    • NatsLady - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      Oh, that looks miserable. Also, it’s going to be a mob scene on Metro, I think some basketball team might be playing…Oh, well, I waited all winter for this.

  11. NatsLady - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    I had a little laugh with this one.

    • Section 222 - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:25 PM

      Good stuff NL, thanks.

  12. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Harper is on the cusp of a breakout. He’s gone from “hopeless” to “searching.” “Hopeless” had nothing to do w/ where he hit — it was universal.

  13. ehay2k - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Have we had a rainout yet? I think not. I’d be OK giving our guys a break.

    • NatsLady - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:16 PM

      Only the rainout of the Tigers exhibition game.

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