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Observations from another come-from-behind win

May 13, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

AP AP

If you weren’t able to stay awake through the conclusion of the Nationals’ 6-5 victory over the Diamondbacks late last night … well, you can be excused. It’s tough to ask anyone to stay up well past midnight for a mid-May ballgame out west.

You’re in luck, though, because your humble beat reporter is paid to stay up and watch these games, then offer the following observations on yet another dramatic, come-from-behind win for the Nats…

— This was the Nationals’ 11th comeback victory of the season. They’ve won 20 total games. That’s a fairly staggering rate, but this team isn’t showing many signs of disrupting the trend, so might as well just accept it as the defining characteristic of the 2014 Nats.

The big blows came in the top of the ninth, via a couple of surprising bats: Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen. Espinosa absolutely hammered a 1-0 fastball from Arizona closer Addison Reed, sending it on a beeline over the right-field wall in approximately 3.5 seconds, to tie the game 5-5. Moments later, Frandsen belted a 2-0 fastball from Reed well over the fence in left-center to give the Nats the lead, his first home run since Aug. 31, 2013.

Throw in an earlier home run by Tyler Moore, and the biggest stars on this night were the guys currently being asked to fill in for injured regulars.

The Nationals entered the season touting their bench as a significant upgrade over last year’s unit, but while collectively those reserves have done well off the bench so far, they haven’t quite been able to make up for the significant losses of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. That’s going to have to change if this team is going to continue to hold the fort until those big guys return from the DL.

Moore should get the bulk of the playing time at first base while LaRoche heals from a strained quad. He has shown throughout his brief career that he’s more potent at the plate when getting consistent at-bats than he is when getting sporadic playing time. Counting last night’s game, Moore now boasts a .901 OPS when he’s in the Nationals’ lineup this season, compared to a scant .258 OPS when he comes off the bench.

Espinosa, meanwhile, had cooled off significantly since his impressive start to the season, entering last night’s game in a 7-for-48, zero-walk, 21-strikeout slump. Then came his laser beam of a homer in the ninth, perhaps the hardest he has hit a ball all year. The Nats don’t need him to keep homering, but they do need him to produce at an acceptable level until Zimmerman returns from his broken thumb.

Then there’s Frandsen, who has been perhaps the biggest surprise contributor to this club so far in 2014. Signed on the final day of spring training after getting released by the Phillies, the 31-year-old is hitting a nondescript .267 overall but is hitting a robust .357 (5-for-14) with five RBI in high-leverage situations.

— As has been pointed out before, the late-game offensive heroics wouldn’t have been possible without another shutdown performance from the Nationals’ bullpen, which collectively tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

Jerry Blevins entered with two outs in the sixth and got Gerardo Parra to ground out. Aaron Barrett struck out MVP finalist Paul Goldschmidt and got Miguel Montero to ground into a double play to end the seventh. Tyler Clippard retired the side in the eighth to continue his recent upswing (eight consecutive scoreless appearances). And Rafael Soriano bounced back from his first blown save of the season to toss a scoreless ninth and wrap up this victory.

It may have been a rough weekend in Oakland, but the Nats bullpen remains one of this team’s true strengths.

— The stellar relief performance was necessary because Jordan Zimmermann labored through an uncharacteristically sub-par outing. Though on closer inspection, it may not have been that uncharacteristic after all.

Zimmermann was pitching on a full week’s rest thanks to off-days and the return of Doug Fister from the DL, and that hasn’t been a good thing for the right-hander throughout his career.

Zimmermann has made 61 starts on normal, four days’ rest, during which he has posted a 2.99 ERA while averaging 6.4 innings per appearance. He has made 60 starts on extra rest, with an ERA that jumps up to 3.89 while averaging only 5.8 innings.

Is it possible for a pitcher’s arm to feel “too good” when he takes the mound? In some cases, yes. And Zimmermann’s track record in these situations certainly suggests it applies to him.

  1. NatsLady - May 13, 2014 at 6:54 AM

    Laboring is the right word for JZ. He looked sweaty and frustrated. Plus he shook Ramos off a lot.

    A nasty flu is making its way through the Mets’ clubhouse. Wilmer Flores (shortstop, I know you’ve heard of him, the one who isn’t Ruben Tejada) has been out for a few days and they just put Gonzalez German on the DL. That’s after Lucas Duda was hospitalized with it last week. Hope they don’t bring it south with them…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      FP I think figured it out. JZim could not grip the ball and his breaking pitches weren’t breaking. MW needed to pull him earlier.

      I’ve seen that before.

      Nats bullpen beats their bullpen.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 8:25 AM

        Mark Z also pointed out the extra rest impact on JZim’s performance.

        That 2 out double by Prado that Span couldn’t reach also seemed to rattle JZim.

        We’ve seen enough Nats pitchers get agitated and let it affect them.

  2. Doc - May 13, 2014 at 6:55 AM

    Great analysis Mark!

    Hope Espi doesn’t get too homer happy, now that he is leading the team in HRs.

    In ’12 a bunch of guys kept holding the fort off the bench when the big guys were injured; let’s see if we can do it again.

    Mark, If Matty is looking at your stats for TyMo he should be thinking of keeping him in the lineup.

    • ArVAFan - May 13, 2014 at 6:59 AM

      I gave up and went to bed after the 8th. Obviously, the Nats did not! Great game for a winter replay.

      Even after Adam comes back, even if Tyler gets stale on the bench, we will have a sense of how TyMo would play as our regular first baseman in 2015. So far, so good (I know, small sample size, but better a good small sample than a bad one).

      • Sonny G 10 - May 13, 2014 at 5:06 PM

        I’ve really liked how TYMo looks at first base. He makes good stretches and nicely digs balls out of the dirt.

  3. NatsLady - May 13, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    Also,

    • ArVAFan - May 13, 2014 at 7:48 AM

      So now he’ll be allowed in the dugout?

      • nats128 - May 13, 2014 at 9:10 AM

        Not sure if your joking. He was in the dugout in Nats Park this past week. He just didn’t travel with the team because of his doctors appointment.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 13, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        I think that was a joke relating to him not having been able to shower.

      • secretwasianman - May 13, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        Would MW suspend him if he didn’t take a shower?

  4. sjm308 - May 13, 2014 at 7:07 AM

    Woooo Hoooo

    What a nice homecoming.

    Nothing like 23 hours of travel and coming home to a win!!
    Have to wait until the 21st for my first live baseball but I can still root them back into first place now.

    Go Nats!!!

  5. sjm308 - May 13, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    Eric:

    I really don’t think most of this group needs that craft beer report from Italy.
    How can I email that to you?

    No doubt that the wines clearly outshone the beer on this trip. Oh, there was some pretty amazing architecture, history, and art and food as well.

    Ciao

    • Eric - May 13, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Hi sjm. E-mail is

      ickyfoot dot com

      eric at

      Looking forward to it!

    • scmargenau - May 13, 2014 at 10:06 PM

      Ummm – yes we do! Sharing caring

  6. chaz11963 - May 13, 2014 at 7:30 AM

    That was another great come from behind win; shows great heart and perseverance. I continue to be perplexed by the starting pitching; supposedly one of the best rotations in baseball this year. Something has got to change there.

  7. sjm308 - May 13, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    I realize that everyone is still holding their breath on Fister BUT, if he was rushed back just a tad, and if he does settle in to the role most people expect and we can now stay healthy, then everyone will pitch with their accustomed rest and things will evolve where we slowly pull away with the NL East. At the worst, right now, we are still in the playoffs which is a hell of a lot better than not being in the playoffs.

    Go Nats!!

    • NatsLady - May 13, 2014 at 8:18 AM

      The Cards are not looking great right now. If you had the Cubs laying 17 on them last night and Daniel Descalso finishing up the 9th inning for them, cash in your ticket.

      But that’s a tough NL West. I’d rather win our Division than chance being shut out like we were last year by three playoff teams coming out of the NL Central.

  8. natsfan1a - May 13, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    Yes! A happy game results email. And a morning analysis by our humble beat reporter. (One more late night start and it’s back to “normal.” Yes! Yawn.)

    • NatsLady - May 13, 2014 at 8:14 AM

      See, now, I love the late night starts. I was home by 9:30 and got to watch the WHOLE game on my very own TV. ;)

      • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 9:00 AM

        We have quite the different hours, NL! I was falling asleep on my couch by 9:30, and was asleep in bed when the Nats were up 4-3 . . .

  9. Hiram Hover - May 13, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    Kudos all around!

    BP comes thru to pick up JZimm, and 3 of 4 HRs from guys who started the season on the bench or in the minors.

  10. sunshinebobby - May 13, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    Great win, but I’m of two minds about Espi. Great that he;s hitting home runs. But it looks to me like he’s back in that all-or-nothing mode he was in most of last season. I’d much prefer he cut down the K’s, shorten his swing, hit .260 … instead of the 150-K, 30 HR pace he’s on right now. Maybe I’m asking too much. Maybe he really is an Adam Dunn who can field.

    • Hiram Hover - May 13, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      I agree about his reversion to a HR-or-bust swing. I hope he fixes it, but in the meantime, we’ll just have to enjoy the HRs when he does connect.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        Last night in the 9th was not the long looping swing. Yes, its longer than his Spring Training swing as his “load” is bringing the bat back a little further where he has swing from that point. I personally like his set and swing with the steady bat taking away all that movement and going direct to the ball.

        Danny loves the longball. If you take out all the HRs and bunt hits this year, there’s not much in between. I’m curious to see how Danny is swinging tonight.

      • Hiram Hover - May 13, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        Thanks, Ghost. I didn’t stay up to watch the end, but went back and watched the video and see what you mean.

        I do think we’re seeing more and more of that big loopy swing as the season goes on, but you’re right, that was not it.

      • laddieblahblah - May 13, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        The pitch that Danny hit was low and in, but over the plate. On his previous AB, they struck him out looking at a pitch in and under his hands. They were probably trying to duplicate the earlier strike-out pitch, but missed the spot. Low and over the inner half is Danny’s wheelhouse, as he showed again, last night.

        Danny has cut down on his swing from the left side, but has lost the plate discipline he had exhibited earlier this year. I think Ghost is right about the shorter swing from the left side, but Danny is losing some of the advantage gained by swinging at junk – hence the higher K rate compared to earlier in the year. He still has a tendency to over-swing from the right side, though. Two steps forward, one step back, but he is still making progress – only hitting around .240, but that beats the heck out of .160.

        Don’t look now, but he leads the team in homers.

      • senators5 - May 13, 2014 at 12:40 PM

        Trust me, I am not an DE fan, BUT the one obvious improvement for him to date is that he is swinging the bat, good or bad. Last year he led the world in backward Ks so hit or miss at least he is swinging the bat.

      • natszee - May 13, 2014 at 3:56 PM

        Danny is still trying to find himself. May stats (including last night):

        Danny Espinosa, IF, 5-35/0 BB/17K/.143 OBP

        And yes, he has 3 HR in May (4 RBI) but I still want April Danny back!

  11. tcostant - May 13, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    In retrospect, it might have been better to give Doug Fister another rehab start with all these off days. He really never got to the 5th inning in rehab and another start might have been better for him. And then the rest of these guys could have avoided going on a weeks of rest.

    • NatsLady - May 13, 2014 at 9:10 AM

      I hear what you are saying, but Fister is a veteran and should know his body and his state of readiness. He probably knows it better than the Nats coaching staff/trainers who are dealing with him for the first time. At a certain point, you have to let him go if he says he’s ready and hope he’s not over-eager to impress his new team.

      Myself, I think they messed up by not configuring his rehab so he started on Tuesday (the start Treinen made). However, perhaps they wanted him to make his debut in an AL park, with the DH against a team he knows well.

  12. Theophilus T.S. - May 13, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    I don’t buy the “too much rest” excuse for Z’mann. He ripped through the first two innings, then — when he should have been in his grove — started to implode, giving away the lead twice. He’s giving up more than four runs per nine innings (earned or not, he’s allowed 51 hits in 42 innings) and the opposition is hitting a hair under .300 against him. From all appearances, just another Nats supposed-ace pitcher sloughing toward mediocrity. They need much, much more from him if they’re going anywhere this year.

  13. Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_05_12_wasmlb_arimlb_1&mode=video&content_id=32820801&tcid=vpp_copy_32820801

    That’s the Prado double past Span. Play around with freeze frame. At the 5 second mark you can see where Span and Werth are. The ball drops down on grass about the 8 second mark.

    • nats128 - May 13, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Off the bat Im thinking routine for Span. I think he was sensing the wall and slowed up a split second. Concussions will do that to you.

    • flnatsfan - May 13, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      That is a loooong way to run. It would have been a highlight reel catch if he would have made it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 9:22 AM

        Speaking of hilight reel, Pollack’s robbery of Ramos smash didn’t make the hilight reel.

    • Joe Seamhead - May 13, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      So Span doesn’t get to one, or two, or even six balls a year that are hit where he isn’t still doesn’t mean that he should routinely play deeper, other then when a no doubles defense is called for, (which incidentally is often called for by the bench).He covers, and catches, most balls anywhere in his territory that are to the wall. If he sets up in a deeper position a ton of balls will fall in front of him, and you’d lose the assistance that Span is able to give to the corner outfielders. Think of the outfield as an arc contained by the wall. By putting Span close to the wall you are neutralizing the advantage of his ability to read and get a jump on the ball off of the bat.Sometimes the hitters hit the ball where they ain’t. Sometimes even with his wheels Denard can’t get to every one of them, but there are no more then a couple of guys in the league that get to more of them.Spectators always think that outfielders should’ve gotten to every ball the finds a spot.Like I said last night Ghost, you are usually right but I disagree 100% on how you would change how Denard plays the outfield. Just my opinion.

    • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 11:16 AM

      I agree with Joe. It ‘looks like he thought he had a bead on the ball, and then slowed just a tad because of the wall. It happens. I wouldn’t change a thing about how he positions himself. He’s too good to mess with success. I’ll happily live with his aversion to diving and his wall paranoia, as opposed to the adventures we had with Lastings, Nyjer, and even the Shark.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 11:30 AM

        Agreed, and that tad was the difference. 5 steps is all I’m talking about. Go back and check when I made the similar comments his 1st month with the Nats and he moved back.

        I think it’s an unfamiliarity with road parks and why I have him back 5 steps. If he was in a more conservative “no doubles” on Saturday in the 9th inning it would have been game over and that’s on MW as no way Span gets to that ball.

        On TV you see the ball come off the bat and think “Oh Span has this”. Lately he’s been a few feet short on may.

        His Fangraphs has him as 10th in UZR and 9th in Range. Who’s above him in Range: AJ Pollack

        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=cf&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2014&month=0&season1=2014&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=21,d

        The tradeoffs with players is if you’re great on offense they can make exceptions on defense. Denard is Top 10 in his position at defense but Denard is currently at a .295 OBP which is 3rd worst in the MLB at leadoff and only better than Cincy and Cleveland.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 13, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        UZR has about as much validity with me as a plug nickel.

      • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        Aren’t defensive metrics notoriously inaccurate for small sample sizes, like 38 games? Something tells me that Carlos Gomez is not going to be in the middle of the pack at the end of the season. Also, wouldn’t moving back 5 steps just move Span’s range, rather than increase it?

        Finally, are you saying that Span followed your advice early in the season and has now moved back in, or that you now want him to move an additional five steps back, on second thought? Can you really tell his positioning that specifically from watching on TV? That’s impressive. When exactly did he move back in?

        So was he playing too shallow when he made this catch?

        http://m.mlb.com/video/v32637961/ladwsh-span-makes-a-leaping-catch-before-the-wall/?query=span

        Or this one?

        http://m.mlb.com/video/v32469563/wshhou-span-makes-a-great-grab-on-tals-hill/?query=span

        How about this one? Looks like he couldn’t have made it if he was playing five steps deeper:

        http://m.mlb.com/video/v32802041/wshoak-span-makes-a-great-sliding-catch-in-center/?query=span

        These are all in the last two weeks, by the way. Lots more out there to review.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 14, 2014 at 5:44 PM

        Sec222, like i said “on the road”. The play against the Dodgers was in Nats Park. He was playing deep in Houston and knew he wasn’t going to hit a wall and the 3rd video was him coming in a few steps.

        I specifically referring to road stadiums with big outfields. He was playing back in Houston luckily.

  14. bowdenball - May 13, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    A psychologist could write a fascinating study comparing National fans and media treatment of Jordan Zimmermann to the treatment of Stephen Strasburg. If Strasburg had an outing like JZ’s last night there would be cries to burn him at the stake this morning. But Zimm just “had a hard time gripping the ball” or got too much rest.

    I’m not saying those things are wrong; I’m saying Strasburg is entitled to the same benefit of the doubt.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 9:28 AM

      I agree with you. Stras gave up 2 runs in the 1st inning and was getting hammered here. I responded to one troll to let the game play out and that was all Stras gave up.

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 13, 2014 at 9:49 AM

        Please tell me where it is written that a pitcher who puts his team two or three runs behind so they can score a comeback win is a great pitcher, or even a very good one. Very good (or “far above the ordinary”) pitchers like Seaver, Halladay, etc., put a chokehold on the game from the first inning on. I’m not saying Strasburg isn’t a good pitcher, just that there are obvious flaws in his approach, else how are we supposed to explain getting lit up early and exiting for the clubhouse after six, or six and a fraction, innings? I bank on a win every game he starts but I’m glad I’m not betting money on it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 9:59 AM

        You are looking for a shutdown Ace and that’s what we all want. The only one doing that seems to be this guy Fanner Roark but he has also been inconsistent.

        I know what you are talking about hoping we can see that total domination but JZim in his last start looked dominant until the rains came. He blanked the Dodgers over those 4 innings.

        Many feared he’d be over-amp’d with too much rest. I still think the turning point was that Prado double with 2 outs as JZim was doing fine and he looked frustrated.

        The good news if there was any is that he didn’t let the game get away. I think MW could have yanked him when the game was 4-3 lead.

      • bowdenball - May 13, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        Theophilus-

        Considering you just trashed Zimm I think it’s obvious that my comment wasn’t about you. It was about the people who judge Strasburg and Zimm differently. You prefer to just complain about everyone who doesn’t pitch like a first ballot Hall of Famer every time out, which is so silly that it doesn’t really merit a response.

    • Hiram Hover - May 13, 2014 at 9:42 AM

      +1.

    • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      Very good point.

  15. ArVAFan - May 13, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    For your morning entertainment:

    http://wapc.mlb.com/cutfour/2014/05/13/75273440/technically-matt-dominguez-reached-base-on-a-wardrobe-malfuction

    Unlike the pointy-ball teams, we can have our wardrobe malfunctions right in the game! (and yes, I was joking about Bryce not being able to shower).

    • flnatsfan - May 13, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      Hahaha! Wow! What are the odds of that?

    • natsfan1a - May 13, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      If memory serves, Ryan Zimmerman had a “ball in jersey” event back in the day.

      • ArVAFan - May 13, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        Yes, I recall that. And he stood around afterwards looking as if he had drunk sour milk. I’m sure there is (good-natured) locker room teasing after something like that happens.

        That’s why we keep going to the games–you never know when you’ll see something memorable.

    • NatsLady - May 13, 2014 at 1:02 PM

      THAT was funny!

  16. adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Yeah — starting pitching isn’t stellar, but it’s plenty good enough.

    The big picture bottom line problem for the Nats — injuries.

    Consider: only *two* starters last night had a BA of over .250 (Rendon and Werth). In the meantime Harper (.289), RZ (.364), and ALR (.319, and 3rd in the league in OBP) are on DL.

    As others have written, we just have to hope the backups hold the fort well enough until our big boomers come back. (Getting production out of Ramos would help, too).

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      “adcwonk – May 13, 2014 at 10:00 AM
      Yeah — starting pitching isn’t stellar, but it’s plenty good enough.”

      Well yes and consider that overall the Nats starters/bullpen rank 6th in the Majors with a 3.36 ERA.

      By the way, the Padres are a surprising 3.08 ERA and 3rd in the Majors and they play in a pitchers park and don’t score runs.

      It’s all always about balance.

      • laddieblahblah - May 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        I would only add that the defense behind those guys could have been a lot better. The starters ERA is padded by runs that were charged to them but were really the responsibility of the sloppy defensive play behind them. The most recent example was Desi’s failure to throw out an Oakland runner on what was an easy play. He was late with his throw over to 1b, and the runner was credited with a “hit” and Desi was not charged with an error. But if Desi makes that routine play, Norris never comes to bat in that inning, and does not go 3-0 with Gio serving up a meatball down the middle for a 3-run homer.

        Then there were the defensive miscues in the Oakland game where they blew that 3-1 lead. Probably no one has catalogued all of the defensive sloppiness, but any Nats fan knows the D has been lacking this year, especially in the IF. The starters stats would look a lot better if the gloves had played solid defense behind them.

        And Ryan has been out. What happens to the left side IF defense when he returns with a damaged thumb on his throwing hand to augment his damaged right shoulder? The starters are expected to pitch and induce easy outs for the D, not to cover for incompetent/injured defenders. Pitching is tough enough as it is. Time for the defense to cover for outings where the starter may not have his best command. It is a 2-way street, or should be.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        I’m with your line if thinking. Pitching and defense, not pitching or defense. The doubleplays and JZim’s comebacker were the defensive highlights.

        Werth looked much better last night which was good to see.

    • hitmeimopen - May 13, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      I hate negative predictions but does anyone recognize the elephant in the room? We can postulate over Stras’ lame starts and JZ’s meltdowns all we want but to have to rely on Soriano gives me hives. He is a cancer and there is no disguising it.

      • Hiram Hover - May 13, 2014 at 10:46 AM

        1.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 87.5% LOB, 8 of 9 in save opportunities.

        I’d say he’s disguising it pretty well.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 13, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        At this point in time, I’ll take Soriano over anybody else that we have to close out games, worts and all. That said, he does scare the crap out me sometimes. But, I really don’t believe Storen would be any better day in and day out. And Barrett may end up being the guy at some point, but again, I wouldn’t trust him as the everyday closer yet.

      • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        Soriano is a cancer? That is rich. Kimbrell has blown more saves than he has. K-Rod, who leads the league in saves, has blown the same number. If you think he’s the elephant in the room, you need glasses.

      • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        Excuse me?

        He’s had 15 appearances and allowed runs in exactly one of them.

        Or did I just take troll bait?

      • 6ID20 - May 13, 2014 at 11:52 AM

        Soriano is like Clippard. Both have been getting by on smoke and mirrors for years. There will always be occasions where that approach fails. And every time they take the mound there will be the chance that it’s one of those occasions.

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 13, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        If an MLB pitcher manages to get by on ‘smoke and mirrors’ against MLB hitters for ‘years’ wouldn’t that suggest either: (a) it’s something more than ‘smoke and mirrors'; or (b) it’s pretty good ‘smoke and mirrors’? Just asking.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Of course, over the long-term it’s called “stuff”.

      • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        +1 !

      • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        For years? Let’s just take, say, the last five years, including this one:

        The four complete years (2010-2013) include an all star appearance, a Rolaids best reliever award, a top 10 cy young finish, and two top-20 MVP finishes, three years of 40+ saves (including leading the league once).

        And this year: 15 appearances of one inning, allowing runs only once, and 8 times facing the minimum 3 batters, top 7 in saves

        (Oh, and in top 25 of all time for games played by a pitcher).

        Wow — that’s quite a collection of smoke and mirrors!

      • Candide - May 13, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        He’s just really really really really really really really really lucky.

        But actually, he’s a bum

  17. laddieblahblah - May 13, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Mark beat me to it with this commentary about the bench last night. It was not just last night’s game. I had a comment just about ready to post regarding that blown game in Oakland. The Nats 3 runs were produced by the bench – the solo HR, one of the singles, and the 2-run double were all produced by the bench, with Span’s single being the only participation in that 3-run rally by any regular.

    Then Soriano blew the save and Storen the game, so I didn’t post that comment then. But the Nats should be 2-2 on this road trip, with both wins largely attributable to the offensive contributions of the bench. Their leading HR hitter is a bench guy (Espinosa), Moore has another 3 in a very limited role, so far, Walters has 2 clutch PH homers, and Frandsen’s last night was already their 3rd PH homer of the season, none more clutch than that one.

    Hairston has been on the DL himself, but has contributed to the offense, as well, since returning. Lobaton and Leon have both homered and filled in for Ramos while the Buffalo recuperated.

    None of the bench guys is as good as any of the players they are subbing for (Harper, Ryan, La Roche and, until recently, Ramos), but they have been playing well enough to carry the team in enough games to be acknowledged for their efforts. Good to see Mark do that.

    The only real offensive laggard in that group has been McClouth, and I keep hoping he breaks out. Thought he was on the verge when he hit that HR of his own. He has been a solid defender, though.

    This year’s bench has been far superior to what the Nats had last year. The Nats need some of the remaining regulars to step it up, offensively and defensively, and this team will be fine.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      Frandsen in true pinch-hitting roles has been spectacular. His defense in LF has been solid and he hit the GW last night. If he could just tone down the over-aggressive baserunning I’d like him even better.

  18. soonernat - May 13, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    I was lucky enough to be at the game last night….I love it when my travel schedule coincides with the Nats!

    First about JZimm – he was absolutely dominant the first 3 innings or so…94/95 and low. It was hard to tell from my seats but it looked like he started missing up in the zone and that’s when they hit him. I counted less than 10 “bad” pitches but they seemed to connect on all of them. I did find in interesting when he and Ramos had to “talk” about pitch selection, not something we have seen much from JZimm in the past.

    I must admit that I thought Span was going to get that first double in the right center gap. I saw it heading that way and told the D’back fans next to me “watch this” and damned if that ball kept going. It was about the only spot that Span couldn’t reach. He did not appear to “flinch” or show any hesitancy from where I was sitting or when watching the replays.

    Don’t know if you saw it on the MASN broadcast or not but after Rendon hit in the 6th or 7th and ended the inning he was talking to Tarasco at first (waiting on his gear to go into the field) and he kept stretching like his lower back was tight. Probably nothing but it is interesting watch you can catch watching a game live instead of on MLB.tv! Like the D’backs mascot race….they don’t have Presidents they have old players (Randy Johnson, Luis Gonzales, Mark Grace and one Matt Williams). Well Matt Williams took the lead and was running away with the race until he got to the Nats dugout when he stopped and stared and pointed. The real Matt Williams told him to keep going but by then it was all over! The D’backs also had a very nice video tribute to our manager and when it was over he stepped to the top step and tipped his hat to genuine applause from the crowd.

    Looking forward to seeing Stras pitch tonight. It will be my first time to see him in person. I’ll try not to jinx him!!

    • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 11:24 AM

      I love these in person reports. Very cool! Thanks for writing. Wish they had shown the big headed D’Backs legends race on MASN. Or maybe they did, and I missed it.

      • Eric - May 13, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        They showed at least the end of the big headed D’Backs race…FP mock-lamented that MW didn’t win.

        +1 on in-person reports…very enjoyable!

  19. natsfan1a - May 13, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    Seconding, um, thirding on the in-person reports. Always fun to read!

  20. Eric - May 13, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    OK, my new goal for the season is to have 30 wins by the end of May, which happens to coincide with game 55 of the season, AKA, 1 game more than a third of the season. It means we’ll have to go 10 – 7 for the rest of the month.

    It’s a tall order, but we seem to have the weakness of schedule to make it a reasonable possibility…maybe something like this:
    @Dbacks 1 – 1 (aka, win the series)
    Mets 2 – 1
    Reds 2 – 1
    @Pirates 2 – 2
    Marlins 2 – 1
    Rangers 1 – 1 (series closer is in June)

    It’s not a lot of room for error, but my hopes for April were met (split with Cards, at least 3 games over .500 on May 1 and we were 4 over)…let’s see what the rest of May brings.

    • Eric - May 13, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      Er, and of course, as with last month, this is my HOPE for May, not my goal…I misspoke in that first sentence ;).

    • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      Winning series is what makes a winning team. Let’s hope the Nats start doing it.

      • Eric - May 13, 2014 at 11:51 AM

        Indeed. The biggest issue with my hoped-for outcome is that any slip ups (e.g., a series loss) necessitate at least one sweep or taking at least 3 of 4 from the Pirates in their yard. A single collapse like in Oakland will require two sweeps or a sweep in Pittsburg to recover, all but putting 30 wins out of reach before June.

        If they can maintain even an 85 or 86 win pace through the end of the month, that wouldn’t be terrible, so long as no one else catches fire. But, I’m taking hope here, not expectations ;)

  21. Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Better effective smoke and mirrors than gasoline on a regular basis (see, e.g., H-Rod, Gascanrahan when he was here, Lidge, Storen in the first half of last year, etc.).

  22. zmunchkin - May 13, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    MeThinks getting by on smoke and mirrors means that the guy knows how to pitch instead of (or in addition to) how to throw.

    • NatsLady - May 13, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      Mo was “smoke and mirrors,” face it. He wasn’t a flame-thrower, and everyone knew in advance what pitch he ws going to throw. Him and his smoke and mirrors are going to the Hall of Fame in five years.

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ON THE RADIO

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

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

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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