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Nats take down Garza with 5-run first inning

Jul 20, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

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After watching his team rack up 11 hits Friday night yet only push two runs across the plate, Nationals manager Matt Williams could only shake his head and ponder the mysteries of this great game.

“That’s baseball, dude,” he muttered following a 4-2 loss to the Brewers.

Baseball taketh away, but it also giveth as Williams and the Nationals found out Saturday night. Despite only one well-struck ball, they somehow managed to score five runs in the first inning Saturday night, knock out Milwaukee starter Matt Garza and cruise on their way to an 8-3 victory that moved them back into a first-place tie with the Braves.

“You need some luck every now and then, too,” said Ryan Zimmerman, whose groundball single up the middle brought home two of his team’s runs in the big opening inning.

There perhaps was some luck involved this time, though give some credit to a Nationals lineup that made Garza work, forcing the veteran to throw 42 pitches to eight batters, drawing a pair of walks while also delivering three hits with two strikes.

The explosion began innocently enough, with Denard Span lofting a leadoff single into shallow right field to cap a 7-pitch at-bat. When Anthony Rendon struck out on three pitches, Garza looked like he had everything in control.

But then Jayson Werth blooped a double to right, and that’s when things started to fall apart for the Milwaukee starter. Garza walked Adam LaRoche, served up Zimmerman’s 2-run single on 1-2 pitch, walked Bryce Harper and then watched helplessly as Ian Desmond beat out a dribbler to shortstop.

And when Wilson Ramos laced his own 2-run single to center, Garza’s night came an abrupt — and historic — conclusion. He is the first starting pitcher the Nationals have knocked out after only one-third of an inning, with no injury forcing the departure.

“I felt fine,” Garza told reporters. “Nothing felt off. Just started off the game with a gem shot single, another bad break and then Zim hit a four-hopper up the middle. … They battled. They fouled off a lot of pitches.”

It may sound simple, but the Nationals did have to strike a balance in that inning, recognizing Garza’s command wasn’t on while also taking advantages of what opportunities they did get to swing the bat.

“You want to be aggressive; we’ve got an opportunity for a crooked number there,” Williams said. “I think the big at-bat there was Wilson. He got behind, got to two strikes and hit a slider. That’s a big cushion there and extended the inning. … You never count on putting up that many runs in the first inning, but it certainly provides cushion for your pitcher and lets him relax and go to work.”

Ramos’ 2-run single was only the first of three hits on the night for the Nationals catcher, who drove in another run in the third and now is hitting .295 for the season, including .349 when batting eighth in their lineup.

Not everyone is comfortable hitting eighth in the NL, with opponents often pitching around you to get to the pitcher in the on-deck circle. Ramos, though, has never worried about that and approaches his at-bats as an 8-hitter no different.

“For me, I came to this team hitting most of the time in the 8-hole,” he said. “Every time I go up there, I’m just looking for one pitch. I’m looking for one pitch, make a good swing, put the ball in play and see what happens. I don’t care if I’m hitting fourth, fifth, sixth. I just go out there and try to do my job.”

Ramos and the Nationals didn’t let up once they drove Garza out of the game. They added three more runs off Marco Estrada, ensuring a potent Brewers lineup wouldn’t so much as sniff the possibility of a comeback.

“You can’t stop,” Zimmerman said. “The hardest thing to do, and the biggest thing you need to do, is keep piling on runs, especially with a team like that that can score runs. I thought we did a good job of doing that. But getting a lot of runs in the first inning is a big help.”

  1. Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    New posted:

    Very nice night at Nats Park tonight. It occurred to me as Roark carved up the Braves — how many times have we heard excuses for Gio, or Stras, or JZnn — “oh, he had extra rest so he wasn’t as sharp, oh, the rotation got scrambled and that messed things up for him”? Stras has 20 starts this year other than his first and the one last night which involved lots of rest. In 12 of them he had 4 days rest, in 7 he had 5 days rest. Look at Tanner Roark. He’s had 18 starts this year other than his first and the one tonight. Only 12 of them were on 4 or 5 days rest. He’s had 3 on 6 days rest, one on 7 days, and one on 8 days. He just goes out there whenever they tell him to and does his job. Very impressive tonight.

    I said to my friend after Braun’s homerun: “Just watch, some folks on NI in all seriousness will blame that on the wave.” You guys are hilarious.

    • 6ID20 - Jul 20, 2014 at 8:44 AM

      It was quite hilarious watching the idiot waving masses who had been ignoring the game for five minutes suddenly have to shift gears and start booing when they realized Ryan Braun was at the plate. Then Braun homered and that stopped all waves for the rest of the game. Maybe that’s what it takes.

      Those Nats Nats Nats cheerboy narcissists under the broadcast booth like to brag about how the players can hear their little cheer. So why is it unreasonable to think that players notice the much louder noise from the wave that is totally out of sync with what’s going on in the game? Whether it affects their concentration or not, who knows? But it’s reasonable to think that it could.

      If the wave is what people are coming to the game to do, why don’t they ever do it between innings? Maybe they should replace Take On Me in the seventh inning stretch with the wave. Then all those idiots doing it could watch themselves doing it on the big screen. Because that’s what it’s all about, right? Hey, look at me! I’m ignoring your stupid game! In your face! U! S! A! Run, Teddy, Run and all that jazz.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:10 AM

        Have you thought about an anger management course? Or maybe a yoga class?

      • Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:35 AM

        Geez., did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed today? Hope you feel better now.

        Next time, just yell GET OFF MY LAWN three times. It’s faster and takes less energy.

      • nats128 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:07 AM

        Heres my theory. Boy Band playing after the game brings out more young families which brings a different game atmosphere. It actually was a much funner crowd then I can remember in a while.

        An hour before game time the cheapest tickets available was $52.

      • coollikelivo - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:07 AM

        I used to sit in sec 313 and saw the origin of the “Nats Nats Nats” chant. It was started by an obnoxious Mets fan (maybe he was legitimately shifting his allegiance) who actually yelled at my kid one game for not joining in. After 2 years of that we moved to more civilized seats in no small part because it had become unbearable. It is almost as bad as Orioles fans chanting “O” in the middle of the National Anthem. All 3 things (wave, “Nats Nats Nats”, and “O”) should be banned and shunned at OUR park!

      • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:45 AM

        By the way. The girl who sang the national anthem was AMAZING. Everybody in beer line stopped and after listening attentively gave a huge ovation. Dang near teared me up.

    • zmunchkin - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      Roark is a control pitcher and not a power pitcher. And it is typically power pitchers who are not as sharp with extra rest. Extra rest makes them stronger, which means they throw harder, which then leads to pitches not being placed correctly (typically higher).

      So unless both Stras and JZimm completely change the kind of pitcher they are, they are subject to being less effective with extra rest.

      • Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:56 AM

        I thought it was sinker ball pitchers who were less sharp.

        All this stuff is overrated and overstated. Years ago, pitchers went with three days rest all the time. Now the norm is 4, but with off days 5 is relatively frequent. Power pitchers seem to do ok with that. I wonder why.

        Ok, I understand there’s a routine and getting out of it sometimes bothers guys, but an extra day of rest ought to be welcomed by most pitchers. And the main point is that I’m impressed with Roark’s unflappability. (He’s a power pitcher too, by the way.) Just give him the ball and he’ll do his job.

  2. therealjohnc - Jul 20, 2014 at 12:53 AM

    After tonight, the Nationals move to 3rd in the NL in runs scored per game – trailing only the Rockies and the Brewers. Go Nats!

  3. rabbit433 - Jul 20, 2014 at 7:20 AM

    Yes, maybe there was some luck collecting 5 runs in the first inning. But, things happen if you only HIT the ball. Just a couple of strikeouts and we could have had nothing. Keep striking the ball guys.

  4. Doc - Jul 20, 2014 at 7:22 AM

    Time to dispel the myth about hitting too low in the order is too difficult for good hitters.

    The Buffalo is hitting .349 in the 8th spot; and Desi is leading the team in RBIs from #7.

    It belongs in the baseball stats ash can, along with ‘only tall pitchers can dominate’.

    And MW is right, Friday’s 4-2 game, where the Nats hit the ball the right way and lost, vs.Saturday’s, where a bunch of bingles gives us 5 to win, demonstrates that you just have to keep playing your game.

    The Buffalo also demonstrates that looking for a pitch to drive is what hitting is mostly about.

    • sjm308 - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Doc – we were talking about batting order up in 308 last night and I think that even when Harper starts to crush the ball our lineup is really working right now. The only guy who concerns me is LaRoche. He is definitely slumping but I like Harper hitting behind Zimm and Ramos behind Desmond. You get through the first four and your 2nd four are maybe even more intimidating. Not sure how the left/right thing plays but we also have that throughout the lineup.

      Was anyone else surprised that Werth got some late inning rest but Zimmerman did not?

      And while I should just give this a rest, I want dueces to know that I will still dislike the wave no matter how philosophical he is. Its not like I stand up and scream “no wave” but if I want to dislike something, I have just as much right to do that as the people doing the stupid wave. I go to a game to appreciate the skills of the players, the strategy of the game and the people around me. I do not go to a game to stand up at various intervals and yell as peer pressure forces people to do. Yes, I dislike beer vendors walking down our aisle (although the two in 308 are very aware of the game and do a nice job of staying low during action), Yes, the people that decide to leave their seats in the middle of a pitch bother me more than the wave, but our usher is really good now at keeping people at the top of 308 until a break in the action so its pretty peaceful where we sit. I just never have and never will like the wave and am old enough now that I don’t even worry about what others think of that.

      Go Nats! win this series

      • Joe Seamhead - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        I am not a fan of the wave. Period. Nor do I like canned cheers, but they seem to be less prevalent at Nats Stadium than they used to be. That said, there are some other distractions at the park that I find entertaining. Some of them add to the character of the individual stadium. Even the cheerleader Terrence is amusing to me, and, no, he doesn’t start the wave. Then again, Terrence is never up in sec. 311. We have “Bob” up in the area of sec. 311 announcing every pitching change and pinch hitter, sometimes with a mic that of course is hooked up to nothing. I found old Wild Bill Hagy to be a riot at old Memorial Stadium, as were some of the vendors. Little by little, this park is developing its own cast of characters and I love it, but to me the wave is something that I wish that I could just wave good by to.

      • unkyd59 - Jul 20, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        Hate the wave… But generally don’t even notice it. Last night I commented on it only because it actually startled me (in a WTF?! kind of way), when I saw several red shirts jump to their feet just before JB released the ball. Yes, a player’s focus should be impervious to these distractions, but the difference between painting the low inside corner, and leaving it up and over is minuscule… If you’re rooting for the home team… Be aware enough to not jack with your own pitcher who’s having enough trouble already…

      • Eric - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        Yeah, took me by surprise, too, unkyd. Hard to blame the wave for Blevins giving up runs given recent history, but seeing it streak through the president’s club seats as one of our pitchers starts his delivery was…strange.

      • Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:06 AM

        As long as you don’s stand up and scream “no wave” (an act this is as futile as hoping H-Rod will finally find control), you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. Life is too short to fume about it though. In my opinion.

      • Eric - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        So people are entitled to stand up in coordinated, serial fashion and yell “woo,” but not stand up and yell “don’t do that?”

        I disagree, although I think both are equally lame.

      • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        I do think its a bit bold and disrespectful to visitors. It certainly distracts the game (especially if u have kids)

        That said, kids love it. It’s fun and cool for little people with short attention spans.

        So I did the wave and silently blamed the Braun HR on myself for participating. I owe ev1 a beer.

    • Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      I’ve never heard that myth Doc. What I have heard is that some otherwise good hitters are not suited for it because they don’t have the patience to wait for a good pitch. Desi is a prime example. The Buffalo does just fine there, and he seems fine with being there which is an advantage too.

      It’s so great to have a “bottom of the order” that is as imposing as we have now. The days of Frandson, Espi, and Lobotan coming up in the bottom of the 9th are fortunately a distant memory.

  5. Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    There’s no more guaranteed conversation starter here than the wave. Mission accomplished. :-)

    Yesterday someone commented that he couldn’t wait to see what the Strasburg lovers would come up with to say he’s still a good pitcher. Well how about this ranking system:

    http://60ft6in.com/factor12/2014-factor12/

    Stras is No. 12 and JZnn is No. 25, in all of baseball. And look who’s number 37. Tanner Roark, ladies and gentleman.

    • masterfishkeeper - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      Interesting site, but Fister being ranked low (something like 122) makes me think it’s not all that good of a ranking system.

      • Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:34 AM

        Maybe someone smarter than me can figure out why that is. Maybe because Ks seem to be highly valued. Still, looking at the top 20 makes me think it’s pretty reputable.

      • Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:38 AM

        By the way, Fister’s at 98, Gio’s at 86. Remember, we’re talking about all 30 teams here. And relievers are included, though IP plays a role. Here’s the description of the stat:

        http://60ft6in.com/factor12/

    • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:59 AM

      Stats suk. We all know fister and Roark are our aces :-)

    • 6ID20 - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      He admits it. Section 222 is a troll. The very definition of one.

  6. nats128 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    Can we just do the wave when the other teams pitcher is pitching and we are all good. Your not helping your team distracting your pitcher who already stinks.

    • Section 222 - Jul 20, 2014 at 10:46 AM

      I don’t disagree. You’re swimming upstream though. Odds are, the folks that start the wave out in the outfield or Upper Infield Gallery seats don’t read this blog.

      • scmargenau - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        Lol. Everytime I find somebody who seems like a legit fan I ask if they are a nats insider. Usually draws blank stares. We are a small community apparently.

        Mark should run an ad behind home plate :-)

      • IsawTeddywin - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        Actually, odds are they don’t even know who’s pitching, and don’t care

      • nats128 - Jul 20, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        Yes, I agree. Whats NatsInsider?

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