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Injured, unproductive and back at .500

May 24, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT

AP AP

PITTSBURGH — The Washington Nationals, a team that only two months ago headed north from Florida with a loaded roster and the loftiest of expectations, fielded a lineup Friday night that featured one player with a batting average over .277. And that was their pitcher.

Their cleanup man was hitting .182. The highest batting average among their 6, 7 and 8 hitters was .179. Those three players have combined for six RBI.

So, in one respect, the real surprise isn’t the fact a team without Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche is currently a .500 club, but the fact its record isn’t even worse.

“There’s no question we want to have those guys back,” center fielder Denard Span said. “But once 7 o’clock starts, I’m not thinking about that. We’ve got to find a way to win. That’s why there’s a 40-man roster. Guys have got to pull up some slack.”

Trouble is, guys aren’t picking up the slack. They certainly weren’t Friday night during another frustrating loss, this one by a 4-3 margin to the Pirates. Those aforementioned 6-7-8 hitters — Greg Dobbs, Zach Walters and Nate McLouth — went a combined 1-for-8 with four strikeouts.

It’s not fair to place blame on three players who weren’t supposed to find themselves in this situation — Dobbs and Walters weren’t even on the Opening Day roster — but the Nationals have no choice right now but to ask them to deliver in key spots at the plate. And the results have been all too predictable.

When a team goes 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and needed a bloop single to snap an 0-for-25, 3-day skid in that department, it’s awfully hard not to wonder if things would be different if any (or all) of the injured stars were in the lineup instead of on the DL. Much as the Nationals’ manager tries.

“I’m not gonna even think about going there, because it’s not fair to the guys that are in here right now that are busting their tails every day to get this job done,” Matt Williams said. “We certainly would welcome and want those guys back as soon as possible. But it’s not fair to that group that sits in that locker room there, to say: ‘Boy, if we had our guys…’ Because they’re busting their fannies. We’ll continue to do that.”

The Nationals appear close to getting at least one of those injured players back, with LaRoche going 1-for-3 with a walk and playing seven innings at Class AA Harrisburg on Friday and emerging healthy. He’s expected to be activated as soon as he becomes eligible Sunday.

But they’ll still be forced to proceed awhile longer without Zimmerman and Harper. And so the pressure will fall on other, healthy regulars to start producing in big spots.

That didn’t happen Friday, and it hasn’t been happening for several weeks. The Nationals are now hitting a collective .212 with runners in scoring position, fifth-worst in the majors, despite ranking 12th in the sport in plate appearances with runners on second or third.

In other words: They’re giving themselves opportunities. They’re just not making the most of them.

“I just think when we get in those situations, we have to just maybe take a deep breath, relax and remember the pitcher on the mound, he’s the one on the ropes,” said Span, who tapped a comebacker with two on and two out in a 1-run game in the eighth. “I’m guilty of it as well. All of us, we just have to bear down a little bit, be selective in those situations. All you can do is put a good swing on the ball and hope that it falls. And right now, it’s just not falling.”

The Nationals certainly could use some more dominant performances out of a rotation that ranks 16th in the majors despite talent that suggests it should rank in the sport’s top 5. To wit: Jordan Zimmermann’s 4-run, 6-inning start on Friday, which could have better just a bit better.

But the biggest reason the Nationals now find themselves the epitome of mediocre — 24-24, 3 1/2 games back in the NL East — is their lack of offensive production when they’ve needed it most.

The return of key injured players surely will help. But until that happens, this team will have to find some way to pick up the slack.

“I think you can point to a lot of things that will contribute to our 24-24 (record),” Williams said. “And it doesn’t deter us in any stretch from being ready to play tomorrow and being ready to play the rest of our games. … I’m not shocked. I’m hopeful and I’m excited and enthusiastic about what’s to come. And that’s all I can say about it.”

  1. Fred mertz - May 24, 2014 at 12:57 AM

    Why not bring up Souza and play him everyday in left until Harper returns? He’s tearing up AAA.

    • mauimo22 - May 24, 2014 at 7:33 AM

      I totally agree! He’s a great hitter. And why the heck isn’t TyMo isn’t playing 1st every day? Why Dobbs – a guy that was unconditionally released?
      Time for our Young Guns to shine:

      Sousa – LF
      Moore – 1B

      • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 7:40 AM

        Have you looked at Tyler’s stats?

    • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 8:15 AM

      Didn’t Souza hit terribly when he was up s few weeks ago?

      • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 8:16 AM

        Tiny sample, but 1-8 with 3 Ks and a walk.

  2. wmlsays - May 24, 2014 at 3:10 AM

    Rizzo, like McPhee, excels at creating paper tigers. In theory, it was good. In practice, it underachieved. And then, it spiraled downward. Rizzo’s picks, lately, have been good, but nowhere near great. The team overachieved in one year, and has settled down to being run of the mill decent. Not exciting. Not even a lot of fun.

    • chaz11963 - May 24, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      They have been plagued by injuries all year. The team hasn’t played together since opening day.

  3. Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 5:24 AM

    I looked at the starting lineup for the Nats before the game last night and just had a feeling of general resignation that they would probably lose with the team that they were sending out there. I mean there were backups to the backups playing with Dobbs at first and Walters at third.I looked and half the order wasn’t even hitting their weight. Folks, it isn’t that these guys don’t have heart, or that they’re not trying their best. Hell, if anything, many of them are trying too hard. No, it isn’t lack of effort, it is quite simply a collective lack of talent. McLouth, Dobbs, Hairston, Espinosa, Moore, Loboton,and Frandsen, are each adequate bench players, but let’s face it, when you send several of those players out to start games night after night you are going to be hard pressed to win consistently. Then when any combination of Werth, Span, Ramos,Rendon, or Desmond go flat the task gets even tougher. There is no room for error, which is unrealistic.

    Meanwhile the Braves again find a way to win.

    I am still hopeful that as guys return from the DL that this team will be able to make a serious run for the division crown, but they need to find a way to at least play .500 ball until then.

    • NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 6:22 AM

      The Braves were 1-12 RISP (0-11 RISP going into the 8th inning). They just had a luckier day. Their pitcher only gave up two runs, so they won 3-2. If JZ had only given up two runs, that would have been our score, too.

      • Nats Amore - May 24, 2014 at 7:22 AM

        As others have pointed out, one can’t assume that a game would have played out in exactly the same way if a certain event hadn’t occurred. I think the most definitive statement that can be made here is that without Znn’s mistake to Alvareaz, the Nat’s chances would have been much better.

    • chaz11963 - May 24, 2014 at 9:41 AM

      Well said… completely agree.

  4. Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 6:31 AM

    NL, the Braves have played pretty poor ball for most of the season, but the Nats have not been able to take advantage of it. If they keep having luckier days then us, they are going to pull a way. The Nats need to make their own luck.

    • NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 7:03 AM

      The Nats have made their own luck plenty of times. Look at all the late-inning comebacks. They need TALENT to be on the field. Right now, they’re “lucky” to be at .500.

    • Candide - May 24, 2014 at 8:19 AM

      …the Braves have played pretty poor ball for most of the season…

      This reminds me of the comment a few days ago about how Soriano really isn’t very good, he’s just getting by with smoke and mirrors, he’s been just lucky. For how many years now?

      Even though they’ve played “pretty poor ball,” the Braves are now SEVEN games over .500.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        The Braves had a streak between 4/29 and 5/7 when they lost 8 out of 9 games and they really were playing pretty poor ball.

  5. NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 7:01 AM

    Ramos is starting to hit. Desi is starting to hit. Werth has been steady, one hit, one or two walks a game. He’s tried for the long ball, been unlucky but you can see the strength is there. Span’s back on track. That’s the “good.”

    The bullpen is crazy good right now, so good that it’s almost like Kimbrel–you simply expect them to hold the game and are shocked when they don’t. I’ve been hard on Detwiler, but in actuality, he didn’t blow any more games than Clip did with his bad April. So maybe he’ll bring it around, at least for a while.

    Honestly, I don’t get the criticism of Rizzo. He did everything anyone could have expected, cleaned out the bullpen and got a reliable lefty (Blevins), shored up the bench, got a backup catcher, acquired Fister, developed a small city of pitching talent, etc. He didn’t break Ramos’ hand, Harper’s thumb or Ryan’s thumb. Yes, of course there were going to be injuries, but if we had the injuries more spaced out we’d be fine.

    If we had seven out of eight, but Moore instead of LaRoche for two weeks, we’d be fine.
    If we had seven out of eight, but Espinosa instead of Zim for two weeks, we’d be fine.
    If we had seven out of eight, but Lobaton/Leon instead of Ramos/Lobaton for two weeks, we’d be fine.
    If we had seven out of eight, but McLouth instead of Harper for two weeks, we’d be fine.

    And et cetera. Rizzo had a plan, and a backup for each player. What he didn’t have, what you can’t really expect him to have, is a plan to back up three or four regulars at the same time and for 6-8 weeks at a time.

    As for Williams, he’s a rookie. He’s made in-game mistakes (every manager does, Davey did) and I wonder about the errors and mental mistakes, but with the veterans we have on this team, I’m not sure how much the manager actually influences those. Veterans are supposed to know how to prepare themselves, how to play the FIRST inning of games….It remains to be seen how Williams will develop.

    • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 7:17 AM

      I agree with your entire post. Actually much of it is pretty much what I said on my earlier post. Incidentally, I also don’t agree with the Rizzo bashing. As to Matt Williams? The jury is still out on him. I may question some of his moves, but it is still way too early to pass judgement on the guy, especially with all of the injuries that he has had to deal with. (That said, folks seem to have forgotten how many injuries the 2012 Nats had , and what an overall great job Davey did do that year in spite of them).

      • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 7:50 AM

        People often like facts to back up statements made.Regarding injuries in 2012, the year the Nats won the most games in the regular season, look at these numbers of games that some of the Nats missed due to injury:

        Ryan Zimmerman 17
        Ian Desmond 32
        Michael Morse 60
        Jayson Werth 81
        Wilson Ramos 137

        This, of course, doesn’t include the Strasburg shutdown, and various other shorter times missed by a few others.

      • Candide - May 24, 2014 at 8:44 AM

        Regarding injuries in 2012, the year the Nats won the most games in the regular season, look at these numbers of games that some of the Nats missed due to injury:

        Okay, but how many games were, say, RZimm, Morse, Ramos all sitting on the shelf at the same time in 2012? Which is what we’ve had this season with RZimm, Harper, and LaRoche all on the DL simultaneously.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 9:05 AM

        “Okay, but how many games were, say, RZimm, Morse, Ramos all sitting on the shelf at the same time in 2012? Which is what we’ve had this season with RZimm, Harper, and LaRoche all on the DL simultaneously”.

        Well, I’m pretty sure that Werth and Ramos were out 60 games simultaneously, with Desi’s and Morse’s mixed in there, too. The likes of ALR, Tyler Moore, Chad Tracy, and Steve Lombardozzi came through, along with the early bringing up of Harper.

        I was just complimenting the job that team did to overcome the adversity.I hope that this team, whose bench earlier appeared stronger than 2012’s, will be able to do the same thing.

    • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 7:45 AM

      Excellent post, NL.

      I like Williams so far. How many “bad” decisions has he made where historical outcomes or probabilities *definitively* showed he was wrong? I’m sure there are some, but in a lot of cases it’s seemed as though it’s been a matter of a percent here and a percent there. At that point, individual strengths and weaknesses, both on our team and the opponent’s, loom large in the decision.

      I think all in all he’s done a great job under unbelievably difficult circumstances.

    • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      yes, but our starting 8 haven’t played together for a couple of years now. Harper/Zimm/Ramos have not had the durability of a Desmond. Span is a collision away from a career ending injury. Werth and Rendon have a history of injury. Incredibly talented but high risk lineup in that not one or two stars will be injured but several critical pieces. The price of risk.

  6. Candide - May 24, 2014 at 7:57 AM

    Was anyone else as annoyed as I was with FP last night? All that business about how the Nats were “grinding it out,” and finding a way to come back. What I saw was the Pirates trying hard to let the Nats back in the game – 6 walks, 2 HBP, and a wild pitch to let in a run – and the Nats graciously declining the invitation by failing to execute. Carpenter nailed it when he said that when you’re going good and you have bases loaded with no outs, you expect a big inning; when you’re going bad, you just hope for one run. Which is what the Nats got last night.

    The only grinding I was aware of last night was my teeth.

    • NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 8:18 AM

      It depends on how you look at it. JZ put the Nats in a 4 run hole. We gaveTHEM plenty of chances also, and they never added on or busted out the game.

      The Nats had a 5% chance to win at the end of the 5th inning. They “ground” it back, if you will, to a 25% chance, when Grilli walked the leadoff batter in the top of the ninth. At that point the 3,4,5 hitters were up (Werth, Ramos, Desi). They didn’t deliver, although it did take the Harrison making another web gem to get the Pirates out of the game.

      • NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 8:25 AM

        Honestly, this is the type of game Davey and last year’s Nats would have given up on, with the low probability of winning and backups to the backups in the game. I know we didn’t win, but there is fight in this team. What was frustrating to me was the two chances we had where we couldn’t get a big inning together early in the game, especially Ramos’ GIDP. But they are getting paid on the other side, and they made the plays.

      • Candide - May 24, 2014 at 8:32 AM

        They “ground” it back, if you will, to a 25% chance, when Grilli walked the leadoff batter in the top of the ninth. At that point the 3,4,5 hitters were up (Werth, Ramos, Desi).

        Again, the Nats didn’t grind out a thing. The Pirates invited the Nats back into the game with the walk, and the Nats graciously turned down the offer. It’s one thing when the likes of Dobbs, Walters, Espinosa, and the other denizens of Death Valley don’t deliver. But when the remaining uninjured regulars go into a slump, you’re in big trouble. And claiming that they’re “grinding it out” when they’re doing nothing of the kind is turning a blind eye to the truth: that right now, this is a lineup consisting of slumping regulars and AAAA hitters who’ve scored two runs or less in 5 of their last 12 games.

      • NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        Candide, that was exactly my point. The Nats’ backups “ground it out” until the top of the 9th when the 3,4,5 guys didn’t deliver. Ramos GIDP in the 3rd, Span also, with GIDP didn’t deliver (and he knew it). Rendon is slumping. Those are your regular, starting guys. So although I agree 100% that the lack of LaRoche, Harper and Zim hurts badly, and especially because with Ramos, Harper and Zim it’s such a long period, but in this game it wasn’t the backups’ “fault.”

        As for whether the other side tried to give you the game, that’s irrelevant unless Kershaw or Kimbrel is pitching. The other side ALWAYS lets you back in the game. A starting pitcher makes, on average, 30-40 “mistake” pitches per game. The question is whether you have enough talent in the game to hit those mistakes, and whether your defense can cover the mistakes your own pitcher will make.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 9:17 AM

        “Candide, that was exactly my point. The Nats’ backups “ground it out” until the top of the 9th when the 3,4,5 guys didn’t deliver. Ramos GIDP in the 3rd, Span also, with GIDP didn’t deliver (and he knew it). Rendon is slumping. Those are your regular, starting guys. So although I agree 100% that the lack of LaRoche, Harper and Zim hurts badly, and especially because with Ramos, Harper and Zim it’s such a long period, but in this game it wasn’t the backups’ “fault.”

        I agree that the starters didn’t come through. They left a small village on the bases.BTW, though Span also was guilty of not getting a timely hit with runners on base, he did not GIDP last night. He did lead off an inning with a double, got to 2nd another time with one out, but nobody drove him home either time.I really didn’t like Rendon giving up an out by bunting so early in the game, but if Werth or Ramos had driven Span in it would have been more palatable.

      • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        Good point, NL…that this team does not give up. Just need an extended period when 1-2 of your A players are injuried rather than 3-4

    • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      I think they were grinding. Just because you grind doesn’t mean you’ll win.

      My favorite exchange was when the bases were loaded and FP said, “we have a rally going!”

      Carp replied, “don’t you have to score before calling it a rally?”

      FP: “When you’re scuffling, bases loaded is a rally.”

      Another good one was when one of our bloops to the outfield dropped. FP was like, “OK, folks, get the family and gather ’round the TV: a Nats hit dropped in!”

      Carp, “Seriously. I thought McCutchen was gonna put on a cape and fly in to catch that.”

      LMAO! ::: facepalm :::

      • Candide - May 24, 2014 at 8:40 AM

        Yeah, those were a couple of pretty good exchanges. I think Carp must have heard the bitching about him being such a homer and decided to balance things out a bit.

        Following Mark’s twitter feed last night was interesting. Every time a Nat failed to deliver with RISP, he tweeted the updated numbers:

        Mark Zuckerman ‏@ZuckermanCSN 11h
        0-for-6 tonight, 0-for-24 since Tuesday with RISP.

        Mark Zuckerman ‏@ZuckermanCSN 11h
        0-for-7, 0-for-25.

        Mark Zuckerman ‏@ZuckermanCSN 10h
        BREAKING: The streak is over. Zach Walters bloops a single to shallow CF with 2 on. First #Nats hit with RISP in 26 at-bats.

        I think he’s getting as frustrated as the rest of us.

        And, BTW, Walters’ hit with a runner in scoring position didn’t score the runner who was in scoring position. That’s life in NatsTown these days.

      • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        I think so, too, re Mark and the announcers (FP, Carp, Charlie, and Dave) getting frustrated. Charlie and Dave in particular are usually very open about it and seem to have a fairly low threshold.

        Even FP admitted at one point that he generally expects anything we put in play to get caught or a play to be made, i.e. he basically expects us not to get hits.

        Not sure if you noticed, but Carp’s parting words last night were something like, “goodnight from a very frustrated booth.”

        Then Ray Knight proceeded to tear down the team (reasonably, imo), except JZinn, who he generally propped up, which I found strange.

      • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        +++++ I was at a good movie…”Cher’…recommend….but sounds like some good entertainment on the More Angelos S…t Network (MASN)

    • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      “The only grinding I was aware of last night was my teeth”

      HA!.

    • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      We don’t have enough of our criitical starters to grind it out. Great talented players but High risk signings or picks with a proclivity for injury

  7. rabbit433 - May 24, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    Wow, all good posts!

  8. edshelton2013 - May 24, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    Candide:
    I totally agree re: FP. He’s paid to be an optimist but he comes across as an apologist after every lousy AB.
    Meanwhile, these games are like watching “Groundhog’s Day” every night: same poor stats with LOB/RISP.
    I need a break–my cat hides when he sees me coming.

  9. NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    And no, I wasn’t annoyed with FP last night. He’s a good analyst. He takes it to the granular level, trying to scope out what pitch the guy will throw in what count, how the defense is positioned, stuff like that. He does his homework and I learn a lot from him.

    There’s only so many times you can point out RISP. I get that. If I didn’t, I could read the comments on the game posts. I don’t need FP to tell me what I can read from a box score, I need his expertise as a former player to clue me in on what I wouldn’t pick up–and he does that.

    • Candide - May 24, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      Don’t misunderstand – I love FP. That pitch that got away from Clippard, where he remarked that it was a “good take” by the batter was a classic (I know, he’s used it before…). He has a sharp sense of humor, and does pick up a lot of little things – he does what a color analyst is supposed to do, and does it very well. And he and Carp seem to play together very well.

      I just thought his repeated comments about the Nats “grinding it out” when they weren’t doing anything of the kind – they simply were not executing, period – got to be somewhat annoying. I know he can’t sit there and say, “These boys are playing lousy ball and the whole bunch of them need to get sent back to Syracuse,” but don’t try to tell me that even when they aren’t doing the big things that win games (defense, pitching, and 3-run homers) they’re doing all the little things they need to do to win a game in the expectation that they’ll all add up – which is what I think of when I hear a team is “grinding it out.”

      And I’m not trying to suggest that the opposite is true either – that they’re just mailing it in.

      I guess what I’m trying to get across here is that when I think of a team grinding it out, I think of a team that’s constantly putting some kind of pressure on the other guys, in the expectation that the other team will crack at some point. I don’t see that with this team. I just see a team where half the lineup is overmatched and half of the rest are slumping.

  10. edshelton2013 - May 24, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    I think FP’s definition of “grinding” includes walks and HBPs. He assumes you “earned” the walk and “took one for the team” by getting hit. Now if we could only string together a hit or two, we’d have an actual rally!

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 24, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      I think you hit on the difference there, along with NL’s point on F.P.’s granularity. Some people measure output, others look at outcomes. You can make a case for doing either in this case, but they aren’t the same.

  11. Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Can somebody please remind me how to post with the italics?

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 24, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      Post normally, then take off your reading glasses. At that point everything looks squiggly. Viola – italics!

    • NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      italics

      without the spaces.

      • NatsLady - May 24, 2014 at 9:24 AM

        Ah, that didn’t work. It’s too smart.

    • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      <i>italicized words</I>

      • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 9:34 AM

        Oops, second one was supposed to be </i>

        The “i” can be upper or lower case, but you might not be able to mix them as I did in the example.

        NL, you need to encode the brackets as HTML entities, e.g., &lt; for <

      • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 9:35 AM

        &gt; for >

        Think of it as lt stands for “less than” and gt stand for “greater than”

    • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      P.S. – the syntax for bold is similar, FYI:
      <b>bold words </b>

      • Joe Seamhead - May 24, 2014 at 9:55 AM

        Thank you, Eric!

      • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        You’re welcome!

        Did I mention you can combine them? ;). Just be sure to close tags in the opposite order that you open then.

        <i&gt<b> bold italics </b>&lt/i>

        Not
        <i&gt<b> bold italics </i>&lt/b>

      • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 10:01 AM

        Doh! Hopefully you get the idea. Hard to do so many HTML entities on a phone.

      • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 10:36 AM

        get out your html for beginners book

  12. Section 222 - May 24, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    Great posts this morning. Humor makes it feel a little better. All I can say is that the Nats appear to be singlehandedly resurrecting the Pirates’ season.

    One thought on the game. Not surprisingly, I was glad to Espi spend a night on the bench, hopefully thinking about how he can K less often. But Walters looked completely overmatched out there. I have a feeling it doesn’t matter what position he plays, he’s not ready for primetime yet.

    I learned listening to the postgame show on the radio that the Pirates were very shorthanded in the bullpen last night. Both Watson and Melancon were unavailable due to lots of work in the previous week. Too bad we couldn’t take advantage. Desi’s drive to right in the 9th looked more weakly hit than it was. I was surprised to see Harrison going back back back…

    Some notes from within the park. The Pirates’ fans reception to our NATS NATS NATS cheer was mostly good natured amusement. Though two of our runs were on a sac fly and a wild pitch, we did get to do it three times which was fun. The last time, we decided to do it before the call on the field was confirmed, and if it had been overturned, we would take it back — STAN, STAN, STAN. Fortunately, that was not necessary.

    The group leader also invited surrounding Pirates fans to play a “Tyler Clippard game” where everyone guesses how many pitches he will throw in the inning. Closest without going over wins a bag of Cracker Jack. There were some knowledgable guesses in the low 20s, but Tyler crossed everyone up with a quick inning on 14 pitches.

    The crowd’s reception for the return of Grilli was impressive — standing and cheering. The PA announcer declared, “It’s Time for Some Grilled Cheese!” and the crowd went wild. The scoreboard showed a funny video of him making a Grilled Cheese sandwich. Speaking the scoreboard, it’s a lot smaller than ours, and not in HD. But they do have some cute pre-recorded features like a kid interviewing a player each night (if you were a superhero, who would you be?), and a fan competing with a player and trying to guess more correct answers to a random question. Thursday’s was name every Will Farrell movie you can. Last night’s was name as many celebrities living or dead named George that you can. Andrew McCutcheon’s first answer was George Costanza, for which he did not get credit.

    Strangely, even though the scoreboard is small and low tech compared to ours, you can actually hear their spokesmodel quite clearly over the PA.

    I did discover one thing about PNC Park that is a real problem — no cupholders in the upper deck. What’s up with that?

    Lots of folks fired up for the Strasburg vs. Cole pitching matchup tonight. The cashier in the pizza place I went to before the game asked me about it. Time for Stras to pitch like the ace he’s supposed to be. It would be nice after tonight to not have to say, “if only our pitcher had given up 2 runs instead of 4.”

    • Eric - May 24, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      Great on site report, dueces, thanks for sharing!

    • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 10:38 AM

      great stuff from one the best ballparks in the country. I was there on one of those baseball tours in 2011.
      Try a Permanti if you dare.

  13. Ghost of Steve M. - May 24, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    Today is a new day.

    • Candide - May 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      Just hoping it’s not Groundhog Day…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 24, 2014 at 9:58 AM

        Nats are in every game. Clearly they win these games with the regulars.

  14. rmoore446 - May 24, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    FP does provide some very good insights on the nuances that I haven’t heard from other color commentators. He also annoys me with some regularity which I can cure with my mute button on the remote but I always return eventually because he does provide some value and he is the best TV color analyst the Nats have ever had.

    Part of the problem is that color commentators are in this era apparently expected to chatter constantly. This is a trend in football broadcasts as well. It’s as if they are paid by the word or think they are on radio. Anyone who talks unscripted that much over a three hour period is going to sound banal, repetitive, or otherwise annoying at times.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 24, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      I thought FP’s comments on all the cigarette butts he had to avoid while jogging were pretty funny.

  15. habs3 - May 24, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    I know Rizzo cleaned out the bench from last year but exactly how did he improve the bench. Please show me where he strengthened the bench. We have 2 players who were DFA’d, one player who was salary dump (Hairston) and another player that is costing us $5mm a year on. I read some of the posts above. They are implying that we should not expect much from players such as McLouth, Hairston and Walters because they are bench players and not expected to play regularly. For $5mma year McLouth is paid like a regular and should play as such.

    The recent spate of injuries has identified this team’s core weakness which is its bench. We cannot rely on the regulars because several are injury prone. Therefore we need to focus on having a strong bench. Rizzo has not focused on this area . I do not consider overpaying for McLouth as strengthening the bench. Not when you compound or compliment the McLouth signing with two DFA’s and a salary dump. Common Rizzo focus on the team’s core weaknesses. Leave the pitching alone.

    If I am the GM I would focus

    • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      Frandsen/McLouth are/will be +
      Dobbs TBD

      The Nats just have too many injury prone stars in Harp/Zimm/Ramos (and Werth/Span/Rendon with a history). We are an awesome team with them, but when you have 2-3 of your “A” players missing 1/3 or your season, it is not possible to play at pre-season expectations.
      Desmond is the exception of course….incredibly durable.

    • therealjohnc - May 24, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      McLouth has struggled, no two ways about it. For the month of April Lobaton and Espinosa were a godsend to this team, and they are both bench players (they are getting more p/t because the starters are injured). You probably haven’t noticed, but Hairston has actually been pretty good. He’s hitting .421 – .500 against LHP, which is his primary raison d’etre. Tyler Moore has been disappointing offensively but has been a pleasant surprise defensively.

      And those are your bench players as the team was set up. Walters, Souza, Leon and Dobbs have underwhelmed, but the first three of those were supposed to be in AAA (Leon and Souza were sent back) and Dobbs is a LH fill in until some of the injured players come back.

  16. Another_Sam - May 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    Here’s some negative stuff I’d like to hear you guys thoughts on:

    Just as I exposed the elephant in the room regarding RZ’s inability throw — even to the extent of whipping it around after a strikeout — how about another elephant in the room: Strasberg is just another pitcher. Stopper he ain’t. IMHO. I hope I’m wrong.

    • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      You are wrong.

    • David Proctor - May 24, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      Strasburg has been a stopper plenty of times. The problem is that we expect him to be a stopper every time because the team never seems to be on a roll. That’s an unfair expectation.

    • therealjohnc - May 24, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      He is “just another pitcher” … whose ERA is the best among the Nats’ starters and whose Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) stat is a sterling 2.42. His K/BB is best of the Nats starters except Fister, and Fister has only had 3 starts.

      The problem with Stras critics is that they get so hung up on what he isn’t (the best pitcher in baseball) that they completely lose track of what he is (a legitimate #1 starter, one of the better pitchers in baseball).

  17. Candide - May 24, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    Stopper he ain’t. IMHO. I hope I’m wrong.

    There are very, very few real stoppers, at least by my definition.

    A good pitcher is one who when his team scores only a run or two, gets a tough loss.

    A stopper is one who, when his team scores only one or two runs, hangs a tough loss on the other guy.

    • therealjohnc - May 24, 2014 at 5:17 PM

      Sometimes the other guy, the one who gets a tough loss, IS a stopper. Walter Johnson, the famous big train, a finalist in the “best pitcher of all time” conversation, set the major league record for wins in 1-0 games (38). He also holds the major league record for most 1-0 losses in major league history (26).

      A pitcher can’t control everything else that happens in the game – which is one of many reasons why the W/L stat is not taken very seriously any more.

      • Candide - May 26, 2014 at 8:13 AM

        …set the major league record for wins in 1-0 games (38). He also holds the major league record for most 1-0 losses in major league history (26).

        Proof that Johnson was a stopper. He won 38 of 64 1-0 decisions over his career. that’s a .594 winning percentage. That’s the equivalent of a team’s winning 96 games over a 162-game season.

        No, he didn’t win them all – nobody does. But find anyone else who did that well over his career when only getting one run of support.

        That’s a stopper. Case closed.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 73 54 --
ATLANTA 68 61 6.0
MIAMI 64 63 9.0
NEW YORK 60 69 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 57 71 17.5
Through Friday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Nats at Mariners, 10:10 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

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.

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