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Same old, same old

Jun 19, 2014, 11:52 PM EDT

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It’s one thing to consistently lose to a good team. It’s quite another to consistently get beaten up at a rate that suggests there is a vast talent difference between the two clubs, which nobody believes is the case when the Nationals play the Braves.

But the numbers don’t lie, and the numbers at this point are staggering. After Thursday night’s 3-0 loss on South Capitol Street, the Nationals are 7-19 against their chief division rivals over the last two seasons. That’s a .269 winning percentage. Throw the equally dominant Cardinals into the mix, and the Nats are now 9-30 against those two traditional NL powers since 2013. That’s a .231 winning percentage, which equates to a 37-win pace over a full season.

Small sample size, yes, but for all intents and purposes a Nationals club that looks and plays like a legitimate contender against everybody else in the world somehow looks and plays like the worst team in baseball history when matched up with Atlanta and St. Louis.

“I don’t know what it is,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “You’ve got to think losing that many games, it’s not all coincidence. They play us tough, plain and simple. They come up with some big hits, and we seem to not get a whole lot of action on the basepaths. I don’t know what it is. At this point, between them and St. Louis, we’re just kind of snakebit.”

Whether this vast disparity in results is merely the product of poor execution and perhaps some poor luck, or whether there’s something more disturbing — something mental — going on, is a matter of opinion.

“I don’t have the history, so I don’t buy into that,” rookie manager Matt Williams said. “I think that if we execute, if we do things properly, we’ve got a chance to win every day, regardless who we play. Tonight they got us, and we’ll be ready tomorrow. You can’t look any further than that. You can’t peek around the corner and you can’t look back.”

There are, of course, three more games to be played this weekend. Win two of them, and the Nationals will maintain their 1 1/2-game lead in the NL East. Even if they win only once, they’ll trail the Braves by a mere 1/2-game, with the season not yet halfway completed.

But each time they lose to this opponent, the challenge becomes all the more daunting. It’s a fine line. The Nats have to start playing good baseball and winning these games, yet the last thing they want to do is start trying too hard to win these games, because that only makes things worse.

“I don’t think anything is psychological,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “They’re winning games. Just like two years ago when they couldn’t beat us. Just something that happens in baseball. Just continue to go out there and try and win each game.”

It’s easier said than done. The Nationals didn’t necessarily play poor baseball Thursday night. They were clean in the field. They got a good, if not great, pitching performance from Jordan Zimmermann (two runs over seven innings). And they were dominated by good pitching, headlined by Maryland native Gavin Floyd, who tossed six innings of shutout ball before unfortunately departing in the seventh with what later was diagnosed as a fractured bone in his surgically repaired elbow.

At the same time, the Nats squandered what few opportunities they had at the plate. After Floyd left the game, they stranded Jayson Werth on second base with three straight groundballs to short from the heart of their lineup. They also saw more than a few of their guys flail away helplessly at breaking balls well out of the strike zone.

“When we do have opportunities, we need to execute,” LaRoche said. “When we get pitches to hit, we need to not miss them. Probably a combination of that, being more patient. Defensively, it seems like when we play these guys, regardless of how we change our defensive placement, they find a way to find holes. That’s just kind of been their track record against us. So it’s not necessarily the longball or the double, it’s just a lot of well-placed singles. They continue to do it, and we don’t.”

In the end, there is no explanation for the vast disparity in results when these two teams play. On paper, they look evenly matched. On the field, it has been no contest for 1 1/2 seasons now.

And there’s no telling when — or if — the script will change.

“I wish I could tell you, but I have no idea,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you anyway.”
  1. habs3 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:20 AM

    Excellent post. Difficult to rationalize our record with Atlanta and St Louis. The results speak for themselves. As I said in an earlier post we played well tonight. Just one thing. Our hitters on average are inferior to Atlanta’s pitchers and for that matter St Louis’. Correct that and you solve the problem. How you correct it I don’t know. One player who is not the answer is McClouth. Can we please pay him and send him home. The same for Dobbs.

    It amazes me the players that Atlanta gets off the scrap heap. They must have first class scouting.

  2. David Proctor - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:39 AM

    The same scouting that paid BJ Upton 75 million? Or how about Aaron Harang, who looked spectacular early but now has a 5.09 ERA over his last 11 starts. Meaning he had FOUR great starts prior to that and then went back to being Aaron Harang. Don’t forget Ervin Santana. 14 million dollars for a 4.12 ERA and a 4.83 over his last 11 (that’s TWO great starts prior to that). Floyd has been great, but he’s had an ERA of under 4 once in his entire career and that was in 2008. Regression was probably coming for him, just as it did for Harang. So please explain to me what such great talent they’ve scouted?

    The Braves are 29th in the NL in runs scored and they are quickly dropping in the pitching ranks as guys like Harang continue to regress toward their career numbers. Their bullpen is middle of the pack, not elite as it was last year.

    I think the head-to-head matchups between the Nats and Braves have convinced people the Braves are some great team. They’re not. They have a worse record than the Nats. Some teams match up well against certain teams. That doesn’t mean that team is better. The transitive property doesn’t work in baseball. If it did, it would go like this: The Phillies swept the Braves, we swept the Phillies, therefore we are better than the Braves. But that doesn’t work. The Phillies aren’t better than the Braves.

    Head-to-head matchups mean very little beyond what they mean in the standings. They don’t prove one team is better than another. They certainly help, but it’s not the end all be all. And as of right now, lest we forget, the Nationals have a better record and are in first place. If that’s the case at the end of the season, I don’t care if we go 0-19 against the Braves. And that wouldn’t mean one iota as to who the better team is. I’ll take the 162 game sample over the 19 game head-to-head sample and I’ll damn sure take it over the 7 games so far this year.

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:46 AM

      Well, there always has to be a narrative. Previously, it was that the Nats couldn’t beat the good teams. Then they beat the Giants in their house. Now it’s they can’t beat the Cards and Atlanta. Until they do. Then there will be another narrative. I don’t mind McLouth, he has some defensive value. I’m not seeing why Dobbs is on the team. I assume he won’t be when Harper comes back.

      • David Proctor - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:55 AM

        Ah yes, the “can’t beat good teams” narrative. Of course, if the Braves are good, so are the Marlins. 5-3 against them. We took 2/3 from the Dodgers and 3/4 from the Giants. The Cards and Braves aren’t the only good teams around, but those teams fit the narrative.

        McLouth is okay. He hasn’t been as awful offensively lately. He just had a really, really bad April that dragged his overall numbers now and I’m not sure he’ll ever be able to recover this season it was so bad. Since May, he’s been hitting around .260 with a solid OBP and some stolen bases. With the defense, that’s all I can ask.

        As for Dobbs, he’s useless. I guess they want T-Mo to get regular ABs at Syracuse. Neither are any good.

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 6:46 AM

      The Yankees have beaten the Blue Jays 16 straight times at Yankee Stadium. This year they are 5-1 so far this year. Last year they were 14-5. So they’re 19-6 over two seasons. Hmmmmm….. Yanks must really be in Toronto’s head….

      The 16 losses mark the longest road losing streak by any Major League club vs. a single opponent since the Orioles dropped the same number of games against Toronto from Aug. 8, 2009 to June 15, 2011. It’s also the longest home winning streak for the Yankees since they won 19 in a row against Cleveland from June 10, 1960 to April 21, 1962.

      Toronto’s record in New York gets even worse when dating to 2011 with a total of two wins in 27 games. The Blue Jays have lost 10 consecutive season series on the road in New York, with a 29-66 record over that span. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, New York’s all-time record vs. Toronto at the current Yankee Stadium (38-11) is the best for any Major League team vs. an opponent at any stadium — minimum 30 games.

      Toronto is in first place, in case you aren’t following the AL East.

      • Another_Sam - Jun 20, 2014 at 6:56 AM

        From the previous thread – I’m with you, NL. I read the postings and I thought there’d been a shift in the space-time continuum. Then I looked at the standings: the Nats are in first place and the score of tonight’s game is 0-0. Play ball.

      • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:19 AM

        Anyone can do this. There is a special place on Baseball Reference for it.

        The Nats own, if you will, the following teams (2012-14)

        Tm	G	W	L	W-L% ▾	RS	RA	hmW-L	rdW-L
        HOU	12	11	1	.917	54	38	5-1	6-0
        NYM	43	31	12	.721	204	148	13-8	18-4
        CHC	14	10	4	.714	74	54	5-2	5-2
        SFG	16	11	5	.688	80	60	5-1	6-4
        ARI	15	10	5	.667	63	49	4-2	6-3
        
        
      • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:26 AM

        That was for ten games or more (we had some sweeps of AL teams). The Mets must REALLY hate to see us coming to Citi Field. I don’t remember losing to the Astros, might have to look that one up. Such a shame they moved to the AL.

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:00 AM

      “Head-to-head matchups mean very little beyond what they mean in the standings. They don’t prove one team is better than another. They certainly help, but it’s not the end all be all.”

      The be-all and end-all is who wins when all the dust settles and the last out is made. If the Nats go 6 -13 against the Braves this year, or even worse, the standings will not have the Nats at the top of the NL East at the end of this year any more than they were atop the NL East standings at the end of last year, despite their late season surge then, and they know it.

      And I know that they have the better team.

      None of that matters if you don’t prove it on the field, and the Nats just can’t seem to do that. Once again, they wasted a terrific effort from JZ when the Braves got lucky and had a Texas Leaguer and a weak 4-bouncer help them to a 2-run 3rd inning. Funny, but I just knew the Nats would not come back from that, just because they do not come back against the Braves or the Cards.

      JZ just completed 2 games worth of shutout ball for the Nats, and, since then, has allowed only 3 runs in his last 2 starts, both losses for him, against the Cards and Braves. Against anyone else, those are probably 2 more games in the win column for Jordan. The Nats bats repaid Jordan’s scoreless inning streak by handing him one of their own against lesser talents like Lynn and Floyd.

      They can do better than that, and its about d*mn time they did. If they don’t beat a mediocrity like Minor tonight, behind Stras, then that monkey will not only still be on their back, he is liable to start peeing down the back of their necks, just to remind them that he is still there.

      • scmargenau - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:16 AM

        +1

      • bowdenball - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:40 AM

        Fan ultimatums are the best. What are you gonna do if they lose tonight? Ask for a refund on your tickets for the rest of the season? Picket outside the stadium?

      • bowdenball - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        Also, the Nats came back from a 2-0 deficit vs the Cards on April 20 of this year. Who needs facts when there’s a narrative, though, right?

  3. ArVAFan - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    Off topic, but inquiring minds want to know. Did anyone take the Nats trip to St. Louis? Spouse & I are going on the Nats trip to Chicago next weekend (figuring the behind the scenes tour of Wrigley will be worth it, plus three games in two days. . . . that are NOT against the Braves or Cards.)

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:23 AM

      Nope, didn’t go to St. Louis, but am going to see the Nats in Milwaukee and Chicago. Not going on the sponsored trips though, I’ll be with family when I’m not at the games–and I’ll be dragging relatives with me. I went to Wrigley (and Target Field) on my last trip to the Midwest, but I’ve never been to Miller Park.

  4. Nats fool - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    The Nats are in first….for now. The problem is that the Braves usually get hot after beating us. I would predict we’re down by 4 by the All-Star break. If I’m wrong, I’ll come on and admit it.

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:37 AM

      They could get hot. But it’s probably more a function of their schedule. Atlanta won’t see a team with a record over .500 until July 21 (if the Marlins are over .500 at that point), and not until July 29 if you don’t count the Fish. After us, here is their schedule

      3 @ HOU
      4 @ PHI (that might not be a lock for them…)
      3 vs NYM
      3 va ARI
      4 @ NYM
      3 @ CHC

      All Star Break

      3 vs PHI
      4 vs MIA
      3 vs SDP

      Then they head west for the Dodgers, Padres and M’s. Then it’s August & we go to them.

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:45 AM

      Just for comparison on strength of schedule, the Nats have six against Milwaukee, four against the O’s, and six against the Rockies in that period. Rockies are under .500 at this point (but Coors is, well, Coors), and also need to beat up on the Cubs (seven) and Phillies (three).

    • alexva6 - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      no need to come back, nobody takes these predictions seriously.

  5. laddieblahblah - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    “I don’t think anything is psychological.” Ryan needs to have his head examined. And all those psychologists may as well fold up their tents and tell their patients to take up voodoo, instead. Zimmerman has a degree from UVa and he doesn’t think “anything” is psychological? Does that mean he has no mind? Cogito, ergo sum. If you think, you are a psychological being. It goes with the territory. Start dealing with it.

    Denial is not a therapy, it is a symptom.

    First off, all my best to Gavin Floyd. He pitched his heart out last night, and maybe his arm, too. I hope it isn’t as bad as it looked. I hate “the Braves,” but they are an abstraction. Floyd is a real baseball warrior who came all the way back from TJ surgery at the ripe old age (for a BB pitcher) of 31. A tip of my curly W hat to Mr. Floyd. May he get well ASAP.

    The Nats must enjoy having that monkey up there, because the bats did nothing to knock it off.

    I must say that Espinosa continues to impress me with his new approach. He was sent down last year with a .160 BA, and is now hitting above .230, and around .270 from the right side. When his new lefty swing is not working for him, he bunts to get on – and very successfully, too. Danny is now more about doing what he can to help the team win. He deserves praise for his new approach at the plate, as does Schu for helping him to change it. I guess Zimmerman must think Schu used voodoo, because changing Danny’s mind about how to approach hitting could not possibly have had anything to do with it, right? Does anyone buy that, other than the UVa grad?

    Desmond is the new head case. Nats fans, the truth is that Espinosa’s BA from the right side is over 40 points higher than Desmond’s. Desmond ended last year hitting in the .270s. While Danny has upped his hitting game, Ian has lost over 40 points on his. I haven’t checked the latest numbers, but Desi is even striking out more often than Danny.

    Last night he had moved that left shoulder slightly more open, again, and tried to hit everything to LF. Floyd let one go where he either lost his grip or missed his release point. He had been pitching the Nats outside breakers all night, but this one was not only outside of the strike zone, it looked to be outside of the LH batter’s box, as well. Gattis reached for it but he could not come close to getting his glove on it.

    Never mind, Desmond not only swung at it and missed it by 2 ft. for strike 3, he actually tried to pull that pitch to LF, as well. Someone in the Nats family has got to pull Ian aside and tell him he does not have to hit a HR every time the Nats fall behind. Even great hitters like Tulo hit the outside pitch to the opposite field and take what the game gives them. The last time I checked Tulo has a BA about 150 points higher than Desmond’s with better power numbers, as well, by playing the game on its own terms and letting the game come to him.

    You play the game, or else it will play you. Desmond needs an intervention, or maybe Zimmerman can make him a voodoo doll.

    • Dave - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      To be perfectly accurate, I don’t think Zim has a degree from UVA. I think he joined the Nats before he finished.

    • Dave - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:21 AM

      However, I do think Zim is much smarter than your reductio ad absurdum interpretation of his remarks.

  6. edshelton2013 - Jun 20, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    Here in SC, MASN is blacked out when we play the Barves and I’m forced to listen to their announcers.
    A couple of their comments from last night:
    –“JZimm is the true ace of this staff, not Strasburg, with no disrespect intended”.
    –On Desmond missing a curve three feel out of the zone: “He went up thinking I’m swinging at the first pitch regardless”.
    They’re professional and don’t come across as homers, especially Chip Caray.

    • knoxvillenat - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      ed,

      Same situation here in Tennessee, MASN is blacked out when the Nats play the Braves, and the Reds for that matter. I heard the same observations and IIRC Caray mentioned in one of Desmond’s strikeouts that he swung and missed at a pitch in the LH batters box.

      As for their announcers, Paul Byrd wasn’t bad and Caray as you said is professional but the rest of them, especially that Joe Simpson, are just downright awful homers and seldom if ever will recognize the opposing team players for their accomplishments or talent on the field.

  7. sjm308 - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    Couple of thoughts.

    I agree with DP about the record at the end of the year being the most important statistic and I have said before that if we just beat up on the teams with poor records I can deal with losing to Braves, Cards etc. BUT, it still hurts to have a team in your division consistently have your number. I think that if we can get two games in this series I will be very happy. Going Saturday and it looks like there will be a lot of NI influence at that game.

    I also want to agree with Laddie but with a different look at the word “psychological”. I coached for way too long and saw this way too many times. It really is all about belief in yourself (psyche). These athletes are the elite of their profession. They would not be in the major leagues without strong self confidence (yes, even Dobbs). I don’t think anyone can explain why we have stumbled against the Braves from a mental position but I am betting the Braves enjoy seeing the Nationals on their schedule right now. There really is no explanation, when you look at the rosters of these teams, why the Braves “own” the Nationals, nor is there a reason why the Phillies swept the Braves. It’s just athletics. For some reason, I am guessing here, the Nationals have just a tiny little doubt in their minds when we play these guys. When my teams swam against UNC or UVA who were loaded with All-Americans and looked to have few weaknesses, it was next to impossible to get my troops to actually think they had a chance and yet that was my job. I had certain kids who bought in and others that you could just tell were defeated before they hit the water. This is an apples to oranges comparison because I am certain Desmond does feel like he can hit that homerun (even though he should be trying for the single to right field), and I think all of our Nationals go into each game expecting to win. Bottom line to me is that our team does not look like it is in panic mode. Look at how Clippard bounced back the very next night. He will be ready to hold that lead tonight in the 8th inning. If you want to really look at strong self belief, watch Soriano. He should never be able to get people out with the stuff he is throwing up there and yet he has such a strong belief that they will not hit him that it works!! Walk a guy in the 9th of a close game, no problem, I will get the next guy. Two men on, not an issue, the next guy will fail. You might not like Soriano, but you have to appreciate his approach mentally.

    Go Nats!!

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:21 AM

      I agree the team doesn’t look like it’s in panic mode. But I also fee that certain players, in particular Desi and Ryan, are a bit lost right now. The Barves plan against Desi was simple, no fastballs. No first pitch fastballs, and then, no fastballs AT ALL until he proves he can hit the off-speed stuff. And no strikes (or very few). They’re treating him like the rawest rookie. Desi CAN hit a slider, he can hit a changeup, I’ve seen him do it. He does that a couple of times today and he’ll get some fastballs, but he needs to lay off, and that’s not his style.

      I do feel bad for Gavin Floyd as a person and a player, working his way back at not a young age and now facing another lost season. I don’t feel sorry for the Barves, because they knew what they were getting into, signing an injured pitcher. Rizzo does that all the time, and you take your chances.

      As for Ryan, he’s a pro, and he’s gotten a zillion accolades for his pro attitude about changing positions, etc. But he’s not HITTING. And his throws, whew! Luckily Desi and Anthony go deep into left field to cut them, and THEY both have cannons.

      However, of all people that I don’t thing are “mental,” Ryan would be pretty close to top on my list. He’s been around a long time, slumps, injuries, last-place teams… I wonder if he’s still in pain, and it’s affecting his hitting as well as his throws.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:29 AM

        Good analysis on Desi, NL.

        I would only take exception to those who conclude that this is a sign of Desi being a head case–unless you think he’s always a head case, because this is always what he does.

        Hard to fault him for falling for Floyd’s CB last night, when Floyd was making much more patient hitters look foolish with it as well.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:34 AM

        Uhm… everyone’s plan against Desi is and has been the same thing.. Not just the Braves… But at what does he learn that EVERYONE knows that you don’t have to throw him strikes as he will flail at anything..

        Lets be honest here…. Floyd threw obvious balls and Desi did what was predictable, swing away….

      • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:48 AM

        Well, so did JZ. I was working and missed parts of the game. But I turned it on when JZ was in a jam, and had Simmons on a 2-2 count and FP says, “right here he should throw a ball and make him chase it.” And he did, and he did, and he was out of the inning.

  8. natsguy - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:02 AM

    Boy that Kool Aid must taste really good this morning.

  9. natsguy - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    No, the season isn’t over. Yes the Braves are in the Nats heads. It is time this weekend to get them out and play some good ball. By the way the Nats are in the Giants heads.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:14 AM

      Unless you’re in the Nats’ heads yourself, you have no idea what else is in there.

      Maybe it’s psychological. Maybe it’s not. But the idea that internet commenters know what these guys are really thinking is ridiculous.

      • natsjackinfl - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:49 AM

        And another +1

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:35 AM

        and I see your 2nd +1 and raise you another +1

  10. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    Seems we are always ‘tipping our hat’ to these middling pitchers.. Floyd is yet another pitcher the Nats have faced that seemed to ‘get on’ against us… Floyd is terrible and always has been (Last 10 games, he has only recorded 2 wins) … but he is having a decent year and seemed to baffle the Nats… Granted, he had some help with a lot of our pathetic at bats (looking at you Desi — really, swinging at obvious balls… when will you realize that pitchers aren’t throwing you Ks…)

    That game was more than frustrating…

    But I do hope GF is okay… Hate to see anyone succumb to injury…

    • therealjohnc - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      Floyd isn’t terrible, FWIW.

      And if you’re using pitcher wins as a measure of quality, I guess you think that JZim has been “terrible” in his last two starts, since he got hung with losses in both of them.

      • Dave - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        Thanks for pointing out the uselessness of the pitcher “win” stat. It shows absolutely nothing about how good a pitcher is or how well he performs.

        In the Astros game the other day, I’m glad Barrett came in and got a single out right before the Nats went ahead. But did the Bear win the game? Hardly. Yet he gets the “win.”

        Blown save/win. That’s all that needs to be said.

  11. nats106 - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Nats106 was actually Nats136 last night. But as they said, same old same old. Positives from the game:

    My tailgate party was excellent. Lots of food and beer and moonshine.
    I got there after the 4th inning or whenever the Braves scored so I wasn’t subjected to the Tomahawk chop stuff
    Zimmermann was again extraordinary.

    I will say this, after a reserve catcher talked trash, you would have thought that the position players would have waken up, but they allowed the Braves to not only take our house, but they moved into the master bedroom with everything intact.

    Wake up, damn it and hit the ball.

    • tcostant - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:44 AM

      But the Brats and Sauage were excellent. Your a great host, best tailgate of the year!

  12. nats1924 - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    Its so painful I can barely watch these games against the Braves. Gavin Floyd for crying out loud!!

    This is where we need Stras to be the man. If he is going to be a true ace, we need the following stat line

    8IP
    8-10k’s
    0 runs
    1 BB’s
    3 Hits

    …Nats win 4-0

    Lets go Nats!

    • nats106 - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:21 AM

      I wish you could be right about tonight’s outcome. Last night when the Nats were batting, I thought I heard the crack of the bat. My mistake-it was only thunder from a far away storm.

      I guess the rest of the Nats are on that limited hit plan that Harper is on.

      • nats1924 - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:28 AM

        lol, good one

    • Another_Sam - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:33 AM

      1924 – right on about SS. Show some hate. Make those hitters fear you. Dominate. The stats are good but the vibe is lacking

      And above – the Braves are in the heads of NI posters; that’s for sure.

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:37 AM

      I so agree with you on Stras. If ever there was a day for his no-hitter, this is it. The weather has cooled off, it’s going to be 80 and partly cloudy at 7 p.m. He’s at home facing guys (except La Stella) who love to strike out.

      Small sample size (of course) but Jayson and ALR have eaten Mike Minor’s face in the past.

  13. bowdenball - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    If you want to complain about the Nats’ record against the Braves, that’s fine. But throwing the Cardinals in there reeks of cherry-picking. Why the Cardinals as a “traditional NL power” and not the Giants? The Giants have won two World Series in the last four seasons and currently lead their division. That doesn’t count as an NL power?

    Oh, right. We beat the snot out of the Giants on a regular basis, so we can’t include them. It would ruin the narrative!

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:30 AM

      Yeah, I never understand why people keep saying the Braves and the Cardinals.. Like what do the Cards have to do with this Braves series…

      I don’t care about the Cards right now… I only care about what the Nats are doing (or not) to the Braves…

  14. tcostant - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Starting out with a loss in the first game of series doesn’t help!

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      As I said in the Game Thread, it was the best game of the four to lose, with Sunday’s game being second best becaused it’s getaway day and you wan to rest up for the Brewers.

      If we had been leading the game 3-2, 4-2, 5-2 who would you use for the 8th and 9th (assuming JZ was done)? That would mean Sori and Clip pitching three straight, perhaps losing the game, perhaps not, but definitely NOT being available for Friday or even for Saturday if they had long innings, which they are perfectly capable of having.

      This way, they got a rest. So did Storen. Blevins was far from great, but he didn’t lose the game. Barrett gets to rescue an inning for the third straight night, increasing his confidence level. Let’s see, he stranded inherited runners in three games (6 in all), since he let three score in that 10-inning loss to Miami (of course, he’s come in with two outs, but still). The more often he can do that, the more it frees Storen up for other innings.

      I’d like to win tonight. Not saying it’s a MUST WIN, but tomorrow with be the harder task with Teheran up. He’s beatable, but not easily. Santana’s been a mess recently, and Roark’s been solid. If we win tonight and somehow on Saturday, there is a chance to win the series. But I would take a split.

      I wonder if Floyd knew he was going down, maybe even before the game, and pitched his arm off with those curves. I might have, in his situation.

  15. edshelton2013 - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    If we make the playoffs, we’ll likely face the Cards, Barves or Giants.. Let’s learn to beat them during the regular season if we want to get past the first round.
    Re: long-term extensions: JZimm looks like he’s worth the big bucks. Desmond, his errors have decreased but his plate approach is much worse. Rizzo, are you watching?

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:12 AM

      his plate approach is much worse.

      Curious – what do you think that means?

      His results this year aren’t as good as the last couple of years, but the approach is is similar, and in some respects actually better–he’s swinging at fewer first pitches, seeing slightly more pitches overall, and walking a bit more.

  16. philipd763 - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    The Nats have had serious offensive problems for two seasons because they can’t hit good pitching. Their stats are misleading because they beat up on teams with inferior pitching. First, they had a hitting coach who never played professional baseball. Now they have a hitting coach who was a career .240 hitter with no power. How can a hitting coach teach hitting when he himself couldn’t hit??? When Eckstein was fired, Rizzo went cheap and brought Rick Shu up from the minors instead of hiring a first class hitting coach from outside the organization. Maybe this isn’t the problem…. all I know is the team has a bunch of underachieving hitters and it’s painful to watch their futility.

    • realdealnats - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Well Phillpd763, that mean’s you’d have to be a whale to read Moby Dick.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        Not necessarily … it could mean you have to have played in the majors to criticize the players, because obviously, you wouldn’t know enough otherwise.

    • chaz11963 - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:20 AM

      All teams have problems hitting good pitching. That’s why it’s good pitching. Same for inferior pitchers; they get hit because they’re not pitching well. Say what you want about Gavin, but he pitched a good game last night. he kept the Nats off balance with well placed curve balls. If anything, the Nat have a tendency to try TOO hard. Plus, we are missing two of our best hitters. Take 2 of the best hitters out of any MLB lineup and see how they do. I think the Nats are doing really well considering all the injuries suffered to this point. It’s a testament to the talent level of this team that they can get through all of that and still be in 1st place in the division. Imagine what they would have done if the lineup had stayed mostly whole (like the Braves), and imagine what they will do once we finally get everyone back for the first time since Opening day.

      • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        I keep saying that but it never seems to penetrate. Good pitchers are good pitchers BECAUSE they pitch so well hitters can’t hit them–even good hitters. The Rockies are not the Padres, the Rockies are a good hitting team (even outside of Coors) with Tulo and Blackmon, etc., and they just got no-hit by Kershaw, it would have been a perfect game but for Hanley’s error.

        We are missing two of our best hitters, one a lefty. Ramos would be in the lineup 80% of the time and Harper every day. If we had even a MONTH with our full line-up, day in day out, and the pitching was close to what we’ve had (no reason so expect not), we’d have a six game lead and be 10 over .500 at this point. Yes, I do think losing them cost us seven wins. I’m not counting Fister and Gio being out a month each, but that also cost because Taylor Jordan didn’t cut it.

        Currently on DL (games missed).
        Ramos (8), Harper (44)

        Previously on DL (games missed).
        Zimmerman (44), LaRoche (14), Ramos (32), Hairston (26), Span (7)

        Other than Danny, we didn’t have a weak link in the planned lineup (and he wasn’t IN the orginally planned starting lineup). We didn’t start off the season planing to play B.J. Upton or Dan Uggla. Rizzo built a starting lineup that was solid 1-8: Span, Rendon, Werth, Harper, Zim, ALR, Zim, Desi. That is a truly scary lineup, balanced, fast (except Zim and LaRoche), with power (except Span) and smarts. If we are lucky we’ll see that lineup the first week of JULY.

      • Section 222 - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:13 PM

        So NL, I’m not following this. I guess I’m dense because you keep saying it and it hasn’t penetrated. At least it hasn’t penetrated in a way that makes sense to me. In your view, we’re a good hitting team, so if a pitcher beats us he’s by definition a good pitcher, whether he’s Shelby Miller or Zack Greinke. At the same time, Ramos and Harper being out of the lineup has cost us 7 games already, so I guess that means that we would have won some of those games where good pitchers beat us, which would mean they aren’t actually that good. Is that it?

        Look, Gavin Floyd pitched well last night. No doubt about it. He totally fooled some of our hitters with his curveball. But there’s nothing wrong with complaining that the Nats got only three hits and no runs against Gavin Floyd, for goodness sakes. He’s not Kershaw, or Greinke, or Wacha, or even Mike Minor. And don’t forget, he only pitched six innings.

        That doesn’t mean you’re wrong that generally we’re doing pretty well in light of our injuries. But all teams face injuries. Certainly the Braves have. The Nats showed out West and even on Tuesday night against Houston that they can hit good pitching and score a lot of runs without Ramos and Harper. But the bats went silent against the Cards and they went silent last night (and last night there was no excuse of being tired after a long trip like there was in St. Louis.). They need to start hitting, and claiming that every one who stymies them must be a good pitcher and that’s what good pitchers do is silly.

  17. Joe Seamhead - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    I wasn’t able to watch the game last night, but will be going tonight. I sure hope Stras just mows them down.
    I read somewhere this a.m. that Ryan misjudged a blooper on Heyward’s hit, and someone on here felt that Span should’ve gotten to another one. Can anybody comment, or fill me in on how they saw it, please? Also, I am starting to feel more than a little concern for the results that Jerry Blevins has been getting. What say you all?

  18. realdealnats - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    Well I certainly was wrong about last night.

    But I’m still glad we got these guys for three more games.

    What I think is actually worse than playing Atlanta and losing, is losing and then thinking about it from all the different angles. I’d rather keep playing them until we break through this short term mental block, and to do that, I’d like to play them, a lot, right now.

    Call me crazy.

  19. Nats fool - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    It is obvious to all but the most ardent kool aid drinkers that it is mental. That makes Stras’s start scary, because he is like a flighty thoroughbred. Tonight could be real ugly. I expect the Barves to pounce on him. As to Desmond, good hitters adjust. He does not. Work a trade with the Astros to get Altuve. Do we have a prospect that can play ss? If not, package Gio to get a good one. The two primary head cases are then gone. You have a better contact hitter at second. And Espinosa is riding pine. Storen is safely tucked away for now.

    • NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      The Astros are not trading Altuve. It would take Rendon to get Altuve. He is on a terrific contract, long-term and VERY team-friendly, he’s young, and he’s an All-Star. They are just starting to get good, they can afford him, and they don’t need any more prospects, they have had the first round pick for three years in a row, and are just now starting to bring them up. They are not trading Altuve any more than we would trade Rendon. Why does this keep coming up?

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:43 AM

        NL, it’s fantasy baseball mentality.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:51 AM

        That was a more reasonable reply than the commenter deserved.

        The idea of getting rid of Desmond is ludicrous. He had a slow start to the season at the plate, but in May-June, he’s been approaching the kind of overall offensive #s he put up in 2012-13.

        Even in what is a down season for him, he’s more productive on offense than most MLB SS.

      • natsbro - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        Haha it looks like that comment was deleted…silly though yes I agree..don’t know why it keeps coming up. The thought of trading Desmond is absurd IMO

  20. Dave - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    My favorite line in Mark’s post is the very last line in the quote from Fredi, about when the script will change:

    “I wish I could tell you, but I have no idea,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you anyway.”

    Sounds like Fredi doesn’t think this mismatch is a permanent thing.

  21. NatsLady - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    As regards Blevins, he’s been very good at certain times, I mean really good. Coming in and knocking out some really tough lefty hitters. Other times, it’s like he’s almost not there. I’m not really worried about him, though, he seems to get pumped for the clutch situations.

    But I would take Cedeño over Detwiler in a minute, maybe less. Detwiler is about to go the Lannan route, which is, downhill. Yeah, he’ll get a starter’s job with some bottom-feeding team, he won’t cut it there, get traded again to another bottom feeding team, not cut it there either, get sent to the bullpen, get released, accept a minor-league assignment and become one of those guys in Triple-A that’s pitching so your prospects can get a final polishing before they’re promoted.

    At the risk of getting like the worser half of the posters, Detwiler is the only guy I would tag with “mental.” Maybe he does have some hidden injury. But if he’s not injured, he’s not making his case to be a starter by failing to go even TWO innings. You want a guy in the bullpen who wants to be there, who’s striving and working to get and stay in the majors.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      NL, I agree with your likely future scenario for Detwiler. I think Ross feels like he got no respect coming into spring training when he expressed his surprise that there was a competition for the # 5 spot, then felt even less respected when he was shifted to the bullpen.His general demeanor on the mound has been that of a guy just going through the motions. Given a choice, I also agree with you regarding Cedeno .Detwiler has become dead weight on this club.
      On Blevins, on Oakland blogs last year they all loved the guy, but said that he drove them nuts in that you never knew which Jerry was going to show upon any given night. He had some hot and not so hot spells. Here he has been overall pretty effective in tight games, but also his overall stats are looking worse as the season goes on.I think it is very important for this team for him to be reliable.

      • veejh - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        He’s a LOOGY. Period.

  22. edshelton2013 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    I agree that Altuve would be too costly. What about Dexter Fowler in CF and let Span walk at the end of this year?
    He’s hitting almost .300 with .390 OBP. That’s what a top lead-off hitter needs to do.

  23. nats106 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Here’s one reason we don’t want Dexter Fowler

    http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=&sid=t547&t=p_pbp&pid=572191

  24. jd - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    nats106,

    You may be right. Pretty soon the Nats will have to reverse course between Goodwin who is just not hitting at AAA and Taylor.

    The strike out rate for Taylor is a bit alarming to me but he does look like an exciting prospect.

  25. edshelton2013 - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    nats106:
    I agree that Michael Taylor could be our future CF but he’ll need to prove he’s ready next April.
    Fowler’s already proving his worth at the next level.

    • nats106 - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:05 PM

      Thanks for the comments-I fully agree. saw Taylor play last year and his development from Potomac to now has been remarkable. I see him potentially as a fast track 5 tool player. Of course, if you apply the peter principle, you rise to your level of incompetence. He may never get out of AAA-who knows. (Yes, K rate is a concern and will probably continue to be when he moves up to Syracuse) I just see this guy as a highly motivated player who can get there based upon his trajectory.

      Heck, based upon Tyler Moore’s numbers in Potomac and Harrisburg, I figured he’d be a fixture at 1st for the foreseeable future already.
      Oh well, wrong again!

  26. micksback1 - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Thank you mark for your blog today, yesterday, i took grief from a few of the exerts in here for suggesting “mental block” I am glad i am not the only one who clearly sees this.

  27. Dave - Jun 20, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    That is a really sleazy thing to say about Gio. And actually not at all true.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 75 57 --
ATLANTA 70 64 6.0
MIAMI 65 67 10.0
NEW YORK 62 72 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 61 72 14.5
Through Thursday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
FRI: Nats at Mariners, 10:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Mariners, 9:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Mariners, 4:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Dodgers, 8:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 4:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
Full season schedule

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TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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