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Brain cramp

Aug 11, 2014, 1:16 AM EST

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ATLANTA — He had been alternately dominant and maddening, striking out some batters at will yet unable to put away others, fighting for his life to get through the fifth inning with only one run on the scoreboard despite a massively high pitch count.

And when he got Jason Heyward to tap a grounder to the right side of the infield, Gio Gonzalez thought for a moment he had escaped and kept his Nationals tied with the Braves in the rubber game of this key weekend series between division rivals. Except for one small problem: He never bothered to cover first base. Which proved significant when Danny Espinosa fielded the ball and found nobody to whom he could throw it.

Emilio Bonifacio scampered home, the surprisingly small crowd of 18,191 roared and the Braves took a lead they would not give back en route to a frustrating 3-1 loss by the Nationals.

“We had a shot at getting him at first base, certainly,” manager Matt Williams said. “And there was nobody there. Ultimately, that’s the difference in the game.”

Both Gonzalez and first baseman Adam LaRoche, whose lunging stab at the ball hit to his right came up short, took blame for the gaffe.

“I should’ve got over there, simple as that,” said Gonzalez, who has been burned by that same mistake before. “There’s no excuse. You’ve got to get over on that play, keep your team in the game.”

“I was a little conscious about trying to get off (the base) as far as I could,” said LaRoche, who was upset he didn’t notice how Espinosa was in position to make a fairly easy play. “If it looks like I have any chance to go after it, I did. And I turn around and Danny is right there. I should’ve got a better read on the ball, and obviously [Gonzalez] should have been over there. Just very typical of the way we give up runs against these guys. … They push those runs across in some odd ways against us.”

Indeed, the two runs the Braves scored that the Nationals didn’t in this game weren’t the result of good swings or well-stuck balls. Heyward’s grounder in the fifth brought home the go-ahead run, and then Evan Gattis’ bloop, opposite-field single off Jerry Blevins in the eighth brought home a key insurance run.

That Gattis hit came on Blevins’ 36th pitch of the night, an unusually high total for the left-hander, who had to that point pitched brilliantly in striking out five of the first six batters he faced. But when the Braves put two on with two out in the eighth and Gattis stepped to the plate, more than a few eyes turned to the Nationals dugout, assuming Williams would emerge to make a pitching change and summon a right-hander.

Williams, though, stuck with Blevins, hoping his lefty could get one more out against a fearsome right-handed slugger. Blevins did do just about everything in his power, getting Gattis to barely make contact and bloop the ball to shallow right field. But it was perfectly placed, and just enough to get the run home and spoil an otherwise fantastic relief appearance.

“That’s the way of the reliever, I guess,” Blevins said. “I felt great, and I have for the last few outings. I feel like I pitched well. Unfortunately I gave up that run. A 2-run lead there, too, against (Braves closer Craig) Kimbrel coming in, it’s a lot bigger deal than a 1-run lead. It was a big run.”

Williams’ explanation for not making a pitching change there: Setup man Tyler Clippard had pitched the last three days, while fellow right-handers Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano had pitched two of the last three days. Had the score been 1-1, instead of 2-1, he might have used a different strategy.

“We’ve got an off-day tomorrow, but we’re at that point one run away from tying it,” Williams said. “And the way we’ve been going, we have a couple of guys we don’t want to go to if we don’t have to. But he made a good pitch. It was a little blooper. That happens sometimes. He made the pitches he wanted to make on Gattis, and he squeezed one in there. Down a run there, we’re not going to go to the back-of-our-bullpen guys again.”

Failed fundamentals or debatable bullpen use aside, the Nationals weren’t going to win this game scoring only one run. That’s all they managed against Braves lefty Alex Wood, who struck out 12 over 7 1/3 innings, throwing a whopping 124 pitches to help give his own overworked bullpen a breather.

At the end of the night, though, it was hard to look past the Nationals’ pitching mistakes, especially the unsatisfying performance put forth by Gonzalez on a night when his team needed something more.

“He did a good job,” Ian Desmond said. “Five innings. We have a bullpen good enough to keep us afloat. It’s not like he gave up a 10-spot. He was effective. We just didn’t score any runs. If we win the game, nobody’s talking about Gio coming out of the game with 100 pitches or whatever. It’s up to us as an offense when he doesn’t have his good nights to pick him up, and we didn’t do that.”

116 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. pchuck69 - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:45 AM

    Before we get to Matt Williams’ repeated issues with pitchers, let’s not forget that Williams had LaRoche batting cleanup. LaRoche, before this game, was batting 1 for 11 with 6 strikeouts against Wood (1 for 15 with 10ks now). This was the player Williams batted cleanup. Note that Fredi Gonzalez walked the #3 hitter to specifically get to LaRoche, who proceeded to strike out, which should have been a surprise to no one.

    FYI, before last night’s game, Kevin Frandsen was 5 for 10 against Wood.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:18 AM

      Every time someone makes mention what LaRoche is batting against a particular lefty pitcher, there is 3 or 4 posters each time that go back to give stats that ALR hits lefties as good as righties.

      While that’s true, there are certain pitchers that a batter just can’t hit. Wood over LaRoche is one of those. With all that said, if Williams puts Frandsen at 1st he is probably crushed with criticism if he makes that move. Very rarely does a Manager win in the court of public opinion.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Aug 11, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    Over the last 7 games leadoff hitter Denard Span has 15 hits in 32 AB’s. He has been stranded on base 13 times over that time. He has been stranded 10 out of the last 11 times he has reached base.15 hits in 7 games and he has only been driven in twice. Think about it.

    • scmargenau - Aug 11, 2014 at 5:50 AM

      Wow joe. That’s just shocking.

      What’s your suggestion?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:12 AM

        The lack of production out of the 3 hole recently hasn’t helped. Span got on yesterday with 2 doubles and was stranded each time.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:21 AM

        Just mentioning a bad current trend.Span has been doing everything you want your leadoff hitter to do, except to score runs. Last night he had 2 doubles, but again nobody drove him. The “SpanDon” show has been on hold.

        The chant from the Brave’s fans directed at a 21 year old kid was despicable.

        Gio not covering first was a huge disappointment.ALR was not without fault on the play, but the pitcher has to cover on that play. Pitchers learn that in basic high school drills and practice it throughout their careers. You think there is any question whether Doug Fister would’ve covered?

    • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:30 AM

      That’s a tid bit deceptive as span often is hitting singles in bar stretch with at least one out (not leading off). Otherwise I agree with the concern but it’s not like anyone (maybe the buffalo?) has the ability to get a simple base knock more regularly than Rendon and werth. Also could not agree more regarding the Harper chant. The bats will come back, just have to hope they are more regularly on than off…

  3. laddieblahblah - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:19 AM

    Matt Williams did not strike out 13 times, nor fail to get even a single hit with RISPs. ALR took the golden sombrero, not Matt Williams. Gio struggled, but the Braves only scored 3 runs. And how many games have the Nats won, all year, when scoring only 1 run, themselves? And how many have they lost when scoring at least 4?

    This one is on the offense. Zim is out, and Werth and Harp are playing at something less than 100%. The Nats did not lose the game because of one play, nor because of a poor performance by the pitching staff. The main reason they lost is because of a team-wide inability to hit in the clutch with RISP, a weakness that has plagued them all year long.

    I don’t know how Werth got hurt, but he is a very key guy in that offense. He, Zim, and La Roche are the guys the Nats need to perform at a high level to win. All are either way past their primes (Werth, La Roche) or hampered by chronic injury (Zim). That is why this year is important to this team. Those guys will not be any younger or healthier next year, and ALR may very well be gone because Zim can no longer play a credible 3rd base.

    We all saw how Harper’s thumb is still bothering him when he checked his swing Saturday night. My guess is that his knee is still bothering him, too. Souza may have given the offense a lift, but now he’s out, as well. Desmond has finally been squaring up the ball, but he cannot carry the offense.

    Until and unless the offense begins to click, then the staff and the defense will have to carry them to the playoffs. Maybe, by then, some of the old guys will be better, and a couple of the new guys (Rendon, Harp, Ramos, Souza) will come on.

    Williams is doing a heckuva job with a team that can’t hit with RISPs. All the Braves needed to win last night was to score 2 runs. Matt has been coaching the Nats and managing them to play small ball just because you cannot count on the 3-run homer, and they have played that type of game better than they ever have, thanks to him.

    Of course, whenever they lose, the manager gets the blame. It goes with the territory, but there is nothing much Matt can do about the age of his key veterans, and the injuries to his younger guys. And don’t forget that both Gio and Stras have had either an injury (Gio’s shoulder) or an operation (Stras’ elbow).

    Not making excuses, just putting things in perspective. And they are still in first place with only 7 weeks to go., despite all of that. Where were they at this time, last year?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:51 AM

      The one mistake Matty made was bringing Gio out to pitch the 5th. He was already at 88 pitches over 4 innings. He was going to face the top of the order.

      The math was simple. Gio was averaging exactly 22 pitches per inning. Even if he gets through the 5th you only gain 1 net inning but the chances were as I wrote at the end of the 4th inning Gio wouldn’t be successful. He LABORED through the 4th inning throwing 33 pitches.

      There’s just no advantage to bring him back out. It was the perfect place for Detwiler.

      The rest of what you say is correct. The Nats bats were awful as a collective group.You aren’t going to win in that game scoring 1 run.

      • laddieblahblah - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:01 AM

        Granted all of that, Ghost, how do the Nats win if they can’t score more than 1 run? And what if La Roche stays home on that play, as he said he should have, himself?

        The Nats, this year, have had an awful time winning close games and extra inning games because they do not come through with enough clutch hits with RISPs. We can dissect every little thing in a particular game, but the one overriding thing that dominates the season is the lack of timely hitting, and the plague of swings and misses all up and down the batting order.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:06 AM

        Absolutely, can’t win that game with just 1 run.

        Gio has made this mistake not covering 1st more than once before. Werth chewed him the last time publicly. He is so thick. Yes, ALR probably should have stayed home but Gio gets to watch Fister every 5th day and watch how its done. Gio wasn’t there, end of story.

      • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        Actually the math would point to two smooth innings following the rough one if you are looking at the game play

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:39 AM

        You are wrong. His 5th inning was the exact lineup order that started the game. All you had to do is look at Gio’s 1st inning.

        Bonifacio-LaStella-Freeman-JUpton etc. etc.

      • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        And the third when he threw 13 pitches

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        He threw 33 pitches in the 4th. Why is the 3rd inning relevant. He was at 88 pitches and averaging 22 pitches per inning.

        It wasn’t looking good for Gio. You take an optimist’s view, I take a realist’s view. If he got through the 5th and that’s a big IF, the math says he finishes at 110 pitches and is done for the night.

      • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        Nothing wrong with that… Going to a long man in the 5th handcuffs you if you get anyone on in the 6th because Gio was up 4th. He has pitched a 1-run heart pounding game, can also be looked at as having thrown only 88 pitches, and had rebounded well from a 30 pitch first inning to fly through the next two. In game trends would favor him rebounding and getting pulled with a runner on in the 6th. The “realist” view was just that – he had managed better than he had in any recent start save Cincinnati.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:36 AM

        Follow Gio’s career how he fares after 33 pitch innings with a 88 pitch count and get back to me. You aren’t thinking properly if you think he was going to pitch 12 to 15 pitches in the 5th inning.

      • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:55 AM

        Hence the in-game management. He’s been awful mostly recently…

  4. rabbit433 - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:39 AM

    Well, it’s Gonzalez is one big brain cramp and SS serves up watermelons.

  5. NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Myself, I was glad the boys came out with one game, because a sweep would have left us only up 1.5. That’s starting to look like a big swing as we approach mid-August.

    I agree with Desi–you are not going to win games with only one run, and Gio wasn’t that bad. Sorry, Ghost, it would be nuts to take him out after four innings, approx 80 pitches and only one run (and that was a solo homer). Unless he’s injured (or semi-injured) he stays in. You kill your bullpen if you keep doing that. Stras stayed in for five innings even after he gave up seven runs, and he should (though that last homer, to La Stella, grrrr…).

    As for leaving Blevins in, I regard that as one of Williams’ minor sins. He was down 2-1, knowing Kimbrel was coming in. Percentages were not in the Nats favor, and be honest, say they managed one run against Kimbrel, do you think the boys wanted to play another extra-innng game, with Werth hurting, and the bullpen exhausted?

    We as fans get all exercised because it’s Atlanta, why can’t we beat them, etc. etc. If we lose the Division by one game, there will be a lot of games you can point to. I doubt this one will stick in anyone’s memory (except, hopefully, Gio’s). Hopefully LaRoche will be more alert, he was probably operating on habit, which is what you do when you are fatigued.

    The time to win the game was not when Gio brain-cramped or Blevins gave up a bloop to Gattis, it was when 12 batters struck out against Wood, and they couldn’t bring Span (or Rendon) home. We weren’t close to sniffing the “magic” four runs. As FP said, the boys were tired, and tired hitters swing. Lotta bad swings last night, and they kept walking Werth… And Danny didn’t look so great hitting right-handed.

    Get up to New York, have a nice off-day, go shopping, whatever. REST. Sweep the Mutts, because the Buccos will play us tough, they always do. They are in a tight race of their own.

    People, there are no perfect teams. Look at the Tigers, who have been odds-on WS favorites for most of the year. They can’t seem to get the Royals out of their hair. First they were up by 8 games. The Royals took the Division lead and then the Tigers beat them back and were up by 6+ games. Now, oops, here are the Royals again, within 1/2 game, and Ausmus is tearing his hair out (and getting ejected). Oakland can’t pull away from the Angels despite trading away their future.

    Our boys are good and they are tough and they are resilient. They aren’t perfect, and without Zim, they aren’t dominant, but they are d### good and we fans should be having fun.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:56 AM

      I disagree with you NatsLady. You have to look ahead and think ahead as that’s a managers job. It was 88 pitches after Gio just labored through a 33 pitch 4th inning.

      You are talking about adding 1 additional inning to the total output of your bullpen but you pick that back up if you are behind because it’s a road game and you don’t pitch the bottom of the 9th if you are behind on the road.

      As it turned out you still had to relieve Gio and you saved net/net almost nothing but what could have been 6 to 10 pitches. That’s all you saved.

      Was that worth it?

      • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:10 AM

        I think Williams was looking ahead. He was looking at Stammen going three innings when he just went three two days ago, and Clip not available and, etc. If Gio could have a quick innning, say 10 pitches, he could possibly even get a couple of outs in the sixth. We’ve seen this many, many times with Gio through the years.

        Unless his shoulder is barking, you leave him in. I was 100% for not having Roark hit for himself in the 6th inning the other day, so I’m not always in favor of leaving the guy in and I’m not always in agreement with Williams. But this time, I am. In the event, Gio got two outs, so Stammen only had to get one.

        Williams was looking at what could be another tie game and extra innings, with Wood on his game. He’s watching his hitters K after K. I don’t fault him for Gio, and and I barely ding him for Blevins. Fredi left Wood in for 124 pitches. I have a feeling he might regret that down the road.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:17 AM

        You really think Gio could get through that inning with 10 pitches?

        Do you realize that Gio threw 70 pitches collectively to the lefty batters?

        He was going to face Bonifacio batting rightie than 2 lefties in LaStella and Freeman.

        The 5th inning was not going to set up well.

      • jd - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:24 AM


        Gio threw 13 pitches in the 2nd and 13 in the 3rd so it’s not inconceivable that he could have had a quick inning in the 5th. I am with NatsLady here. You can’t take your starter who has given up just 1 run and 88 pitches out after 4 innings.

        On another note, I watched the play at 1st several times and I’m not convinced that Gio would have beaten the runner to 1st base, similarly ALR made the right move to go for the ball. No excuse for not covering 1st by Gio but I think the Braves simply got lucky there. BTW Gio pitched great in the 5th after the 1st 2 men got on base.

        BTW, Fredi is absolutely going to ruin Wood’s career. How do you let a 23 year old pitch 120 pitches into the 8th inning? he also had 110 pitch game 2 starts ago. No wonder all their starters are out with arm injuries.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:30 AM

        Sorry JD. I disagree. You can use the 1st inning as your guide. That’s what he was going to face in the 5th.

        And of course Gio would have beaten the runner to 1st if he played his position properly. This is inexcusable. He has done this before. I guess Werth publicly getting in his grill last year didn’t remind him to keep his head in the game. Inexcuseable.

        Yes, Fredi will ruin Wood. That’s the Braves way.

  6. acsportsfn - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:50 AM

    Good points Laddie…I don’t always agree with Williams, but for a rookie manager he’s done ok. A blg bopper should be on Rizzo’s to do list this winter. Where you’re going to put him and how you’re going to get him would be interesting. Then there is the getting money to pay him problem thanks to the MASN deal.

  7. NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    As for Harper, let ’em chant. If they bother to come to the ballpark, let ’em chant. It’s part of the game and I bet it fires him up. Remember Werth saying when he heard the first “Werth-less” chant? He was in HS basketball. As he said about the Filly fans, “I’m always up for a good Werth-less chant.” Barves fans aren’t going to chant “Dan-ny s##ks”, because Espinosa’s nothing to them. He’s not going to beat them. Harper can, and he will, and they know it.

    • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:57 AM

      Plus, any chant that’s not the Tomahawk chop is a vast improvement.

      • nats128 - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:34 AM

        I agree.

        Copying from another site, the root etymology of a Tomahawk chop was a violent way for a Native American to kill someone and any use is extremely racist. It is probably the most racist public display in sports, and most of these idiots have no idea what they are doing. They are incited by the Tomahawk Chop music played over the speaker system in the stadium. How do they get away with this in an era where the name of a football team (Redskins) gets a public debate while there is no mention of the Atlanta Braves in the same conversation. Double standard? Of course.

      • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:54 AM

        128, I so much agree. The problem is, fans don’t associate bending the elbow while holding a piece of red foam with the violence of previous centuries.

        This isn’t war. This isn’t the Native Americans trying to keep their land any way possible, with knives against gunfire, and using terror as a weapon.

        Unfortunately, in sports, using hostile images to intimidate your opponents goes a long way back–and even more unfortunately, the “hostile images” include not only Lions and Tigers, but Indian warriors (and caricatures thereof). I don’t know how much that stuff affects modern professional players, who are (or should be) intensely competitive no matter what uniform they wear. It’s a fan thing, and as a fan thing, it needs to go.

      • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:05 AM

        Further, now that you got me started, they incorporate “The Chop” in all sorts of inappropriate contexts. “This is Why We Chop.” Yes, they capitalize it. It’s a slogan for, believe it or not, charitable events, and it runs all through their minor leagues. They’ve made (or rather, kept) a violent and racist image as part of their culture.

        Think about it. Why do “We Chop”? Because that’s how Native Americans killed people.

  8. micksback1 - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    I actually have little problem with Gio, I though he pitched well and the bottom line to me is he really only gave up 1 run. Maybe he should have covered the bag, but ALR should no where his 2nd baseman is before the pitch. ALR played a stinko of a game on that play and his at bats were horrid. I do not expect any player to win every battle. At least do not KO 4 times in a game. Bryce continues to under achieve at the plate. He gave Braves fans what they wanted. Sure, Gio may be 0-7 verse Braves, but he at least pitched well enough to win and keep his team in the game, Blevins just sucks period, I do not like him.

    Overall, I said before the series I will be happy with 1 win and I am, I will take 3.5 lead.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:03 AM

      You kill your bullpen with Gio’s approach. A 33 pitch inning to retire the bottom of the Barves order sealed the deal.

      He lasted 4 2/3 inning. 7 of his 19 starts have been at 5 innings or less. He is killing this bullpen with 38% of his starts where the bullpen has to go 4 or more innings.

      Even worse, after the All Star break in his 5 starts he has been pulled before the 5th inning 3 of the 5 starts.

      • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:17 AM

        Great. You say Gio is killing the BP with his short outings and then you say Williams should have pulled him after four innings.

        WHY is Gio struggling, that is the question. It’s not as if he was born yesterday. Where is his curve? Is his shoulder bothering him? Has he not re-built his core and legs after the month off?

        If he’s not mixing his pitches well (as suggested earlier) is that because he doesn’t trust his curve or because Ramos didn’t call a good game? (I’m getting déjà vu writing this, seems like the same thing happened last year with Gio.)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:25 AM

        Now we are talking. That’s the part of the problem was the plan going into this game. Gio and Ramos and McCatty and Weidemaier have to game plan this batter by batter.

        He only threw his curve 6 times to the lefty batters of the 70 pitches.

        That used to be his bread and butter pitch against lefties.

        The curve was working. He got 5 for strikes out of the 6 he threw and 2 were swing & miss. Why didn’t he throw more?

  9. micksback1 - Aug 11, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    finally, don’t blame MW for not sitting ALR down and placing Frandsen instead. ALR is a veteran player who has been hitting well of late, I am sure MW did not expect his clean up guy to play his worst game of the season. Gio at least gave his team a chance, ALR made life easy for the Braves with his terrible at bats

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:14 AM

      I don’t blame MW for playing ALR. He probably pondered sitting LaRoche.

      • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:27 AM

        I think he might have, I think he might have played Frandsen and put the new kid in for Werth, etc., and I definitely think Lobaton should have gone instead of Ramos. Yes, he did just have three days off for paternity leave, but I think you have to consider the effect of catching 22 innings (8 on Friday and 16 Sat-Sun).

        Why didn’t Williams play the “B” team? National TV? “BIG” Division game? Probably. Should he consider those factors? In an ideal world, no. But in this world, he will.

        With 18K attendance, I believe Atlanta fans have spoken. They don’t think their team is bound for the off-season. Or if it is, they don’t care.

      • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:36 AM

        Ooops, that was 24 innings for Ramos. Where is my math???? Someone find it for me, please!

    • pchuck69 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      Wrong, wrong, wrong. Matt Williams starting LaRoche PLUS batting him cleanup was the original sin of the game. LaRoche clearly, CLEARLY, doesn’t see Wood at all. Just look at the numbers, now 1 for 15 with 10 striikeouts.

      Why would you expect last night to be the time when he suddenly starts seeing him?

      • dcwx61 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:57 AM

        Bat Span Cleanup then ;)))))

  10. Joe Seamhead - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    From a different blog:
    “Too bad Span can’t drive himself home”

    • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:32 AM

      He almost did. That double against the well–he’s probably trying to. You think it’s fun for him to get on base only to be doubled off or get forced off? I love Anthony but the kid needs a break. Unfortunately, the only guy we have who can more-or-less play third base is Frandsen. If it were me, I would start giving Danny or Cabrera some reps there.

      • npb99 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:20 AM

        I’m surprised at how little MW has rested his regulars. I recall that being one of his objectives, to give starters regular rest. But JW is being ground to the bone – his age is increasingly showing. And Rendon and Desi could probably use some relief too.

  11. nats128 - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    Watching Gio Gonzalez pitch recently is like watching paint dry. Its excruciating. 2 runs over 4 2/3 innings is about a 4.00 ERA. Nothing good about that.

  12. natsfan1a - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    Didn’t see any of the game, as we were out until almost 10 pm. Did hear Desi’s dinger on the radio as we drove home. After we got home, I went to bed (with the DVR set). Awoke to an unhappy game results email. Dang. Eh, tonight – wait, tomorrow is another game.

  13. Joe Seamhead - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    Maybe it is time to to really start stretching Ross Det out some. The team needs an effective LH starter. I am beginning to think Gio and Det might need to change roles, though I hate to see a guy get his chain yanked like that.I think something is obviously wrong with Gio, and unlike others, I don’t think it’s all between his ears.

    On the Span not scoring issue, the trend started in July. Since July1st he has reached base by hit, or walk, 72 times yet has only scored 24 runs, but over the past 10 games it has been really bad. What makes it all the more disturbing is the number of XBHs he had during that stretch that have gone for nought.As Laddie said, this dearth of timely hitting is the biggest reason for their the W-L record since Zim went back down.

    • nats128 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:07 AM

      “The team needs an effective LH starter.”

      Thats not true. The team needs 5 effective starters. Period. End of story.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:11 AM


      • dcwx61 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:01 PM

        The team needs to advance the lead off hitter…period, period.
        Well, they were tired yesterday.
        LaRoche is streaky, Werth is hurt, Zimm is hurt..I believe our bench must provide the help they are here to give.
        Too, too bad about Crash Davis Souza

  14. BurnedOnce - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    I’m struck by the language in Gio’s comments and maybe all or most players talk this way, but I think it reflects a sense of identity or lack of identity with the team when a player makes a comment in second person vs first person. “You’ve got to make that play for your team” vs. “I’ve got to make that play for my team.” Like he’s not part of the team or he’s there as a consultant.

    He admits the mistake but then distances with the “you” language. By comparison ALR’s comments are all “I, me, we and us”, projecting a sense of “Our team”

    Granted these are edited comments but I notice Gio regularly talks in that second person way. It strikes me as a lack of real ownership for his actions.

  15. edshelton2013 - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Per Laddie at 7:19:
    “the reason we lost is a team-wide inability to hit with RISP, a weakness that has plagued them all year”.

    Telling stat: Nats are 26TH our of 30 teams with RISP. They’re also 15th out of 30 in total RBIs.
    I guess this says we’re driving in runners from first base and hitting a lot of solo HRs.

    • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      That would be interesting if true. But it isn’t. The Nats are not great, but they are 19th out of 30 teams RISP (.249) and if you take out pitchers, they are 14th (.257).

      Some pretty bad teams are ahead of the Nats. Rockes (1st). DBacks (8th). White Sox (11th). Rangers! (12th).

      You can look it up.

      • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:16 AM

        *Rockies* (EDIT FUNCTION). My point is bad teams can be great at RISP. Guess who’s BELOW the Nats in RISP:

        The A’s (19th) eerp–the “best” team in baseball. Atlanta (18th), etc. RISP is, for me, not the best measure of a team’s performance.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:27 AM

        NatsLady, your stats aren’t for RISP. That’s just team BA at .249

      • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:29 AM

        Oh, turtles, Fangraphs messed me up! I HATE when they change my criteria after I have it all set up (they think they know what I want!!!

        Anyway, the Nats are 23rd in RISP with a .247 BA. Not great. but not 26th. Sorry about that. If I put the pitchers back in it’s 25th, so that’s close to what was said above. The numbers above are the overal ranks and batting averages.

        We are suffering from Zim’s absence.

        The question is whether you should reasonably expect the team’s BA RISP to be higher than it is otherwise. So (not counting pitchers) Nats have a .257 BA overall and a .247 BA RISP.

        Atlanta has a .253 BA overall and .257 RISP. Guess they are just a better team. (Sigh). If we could just get that RISP up to .257 we would be in first place.

      • dcwx61 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        those teams can’t pitch…Nats have the balance second tier teams dont have

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      Did you know that the difference between the Nats being the 7th best in RISP in the NL is just .009 on their batting average? The Braves are only .004 better than the Nats

      The Nats are one of the best in RISP score efficiency which is scoring with multiple men on base and productive outs.

      The Nats are 4th best in the NL in runs scored while in RISP situations at 3.16 per game. Only the Dodgers, Rockies and Brewers are better.

      • scmargenau - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:01 AM

        Ok then. All is cheery. We are all set to win the World Series.

        Come on man. Things need to improve.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        Yes, things can always improve. My biggest concern isn’t 1 game’s hitting, it’s 2 games of poor starting pitching.

      • scmargenau - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        Mines league cellar Risp. Streaky/older hitters. Bad plate approach, avg hitting, and no real power bat…then pitching.

    • scmargenau - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      25 NY Mets 3.69 3.67 3.00 3.58 3.78 3.65
      26 Philadelphia 3.72 2.33 4.00 3.61 3.84 3.27
      27 Washington 3.75 3.33 4.00 3.67 3.83 3.38
      28 Tampa Bay 3.79 2.67 3.00 4.02 3.55 3.60
      29 Pittsburgh 3.79 4.00 5.00 3.95 3.62 3.55
      30 Minnesota 3.83 4.00 5.00 4.07 3.61 3.84


      NL data is wrong below

  16. jd - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    There was also a lot of criticism last night for using Blevins mainly by Mrs. B. A few things.

    1) No other reliever was available. Unlike Fredi MW actually cares about his pitchers arms.
    2) Blevins pitched very well last night.
    3) The pitch Gattis hit for an RBI single was a great pitch (curve on the outer edge). Gattis barely got a piece of it to dunk it into right field.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      Your #2 is wrong. 1 earned run over 2 innings stinks.

      MrsB wasn’t wrong. Blevins pitched great in the 7th. The 8th inning wasn’t great. Walking Chris Johnson in the 8th and then the Pena single set up the situation where you could get beat by lucky BABIP which is exactly what happened. The pitch to Gattis was great and unlucky but the issue wasn’t Gattis, the issue was walking Chris Johnson.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        I normally don’t respond to foolishness… but I find it funny how people like to accuse me of stuff that simply isn’t true… Kinda laughable…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:55 AM

        Blevins walks Johnson then strikes out Laird for 2 outs. He then throws a center cut pitch to Ramiro Pena that he was lucky was just a single.

        You see Gattis lurking in the dugout. You better get out Pena because if you don’t you have to face Gattis.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:58 AM

        I remember the hit by Pena… I remember cringing and thinking whew… But the hit by Gattis just pissed me off as I started thinking about the Nats and their bench and their pinch hitters…

        I cant even bring up our friend… cuz I will get angry all over again…

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:41 AM

      Wow, I come on to the scene just to see my name mentioned… I don’t know how I ‘mainly’ criticized Blevins… By saying that every time he comes in the game, I feel MW concedes – well Blevins pitched again last night… to a righty, when he is a LOOGY and gave up a hit.. so please, tell me how you want to spin that… Let me guess Gattis got a ‘lucky’ hit, right? No, he got a solid hit and drove the ball against a guy who has horrible splits vs righties… and fyi – since you obviously neglected to read it, I also complemented Blevins for his first inning. I just knew as soon as he would face a righty what would happen… And I think there were others who said way more… But I love this ‘selective’ stuff that you like to do…

      1. Other relievers WERE available. I hope you really don’t believe the bs that you speak…
      2. Blevins pitched well against the lefties that he face sure… it was good to see him
      3. Gattis got a clutch hit… It wasn’t nothing ‘great’ about the pitch as if it was ‘great’, it would have been a strike.. I will say that I thought the blue missed an obvious strike for Blevins that should have ended the inning…

      I also said that I guess that MW is saving the BP… So you go ahead and cherry pick so you can try to debate something as purposeless as what you are trying to insinuate…

      Try again, JD… Try aagain…

      • nats128 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:46 AM

        In the boxscore it doesnt matter that Gattis nubbed a ball on a good pitch because in the boxscore its still a RBI hit. I agree that the issue with Blevins wasnt Gattis, it was walking Chris Johnson. If he gets Johnson, the inning is over at Laird and never gets to Gattis stepping in to the batters box.

      • jd - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:50 AM

        Gattis got a solid hit? in what universe?

      • jd - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:50 AM

        Gattis got a solid hit? in what universe?

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:50 AM

        You know, I actually forgot about the walk to Johnson… Thanks for that reminder..

        But as I said before, I thought the blue squeezed Blevins on a K that should have ended the inning…

      • jd - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        1). No they weren’t unless you want to do Fredi and use your pitchers 3 days in a row. Just because you don’t agree with me doesn’t make you right and me wrong regardless if you call it BS.
        3) It wasn’t nothing great? – what does that mean?

        Blevins has pitched like crap on many occasions.Last nigh wasn’t one of them.

      • dcwx61 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        agree with a day off no need to use a relief pitcher in a position that he isn’t here to do…

    • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:44 AM

      I think the knock for leaving him in vs Gattis is that Gattis has ridiculous splits against lefties. With that said it was a really good pitch and a Texas leaguer.

      Good enough game by Gio for us to be able to win if we had any decent innings (we had a ton of lasers to the warning track that ended up as fly outs, thought woods was on the ropes in the 3rd/4th as his pitch count was closer to gio’s then). The risp stat might be deceiving given that it’s a percentage but definitely telling to a certain extent. I fear wood’s arm will fall off with that motion and with fredi’s management… Also still pissed about that checked swing call. Did the ump ever get asked about that?

    • NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:56 AM

      NL only.

      Games with starts over 100 pitches. ATL – 56. WSN – 42.
      Over 120 pitches ATL – 2, WSN – 0.
      Average PC ATL – 98.8 WSN – 94.7

      Baseball Prospectus keeps a “Pitcher Abuse” list. (I’m not sure if you need a subscription to see it, because I have one).

      There are lots of factors (overall pitches for the season, pitches per start, etc.). Colbert is at the top of the list. Of course, bear in mind that the “abused” pitchers tend to be the best pitchers, because they go out there time after time and give good starts. Anyway, the first Nats pitcher on the list is Stras, who is at No. 62. Fister is 66th, Gio is 74th, Roark at 87, JZim comes in at 99th. Matty has not been overusing the starters by that measure.

      So then you would ask, is Matty abusing the bullpen? Unfortunately, they don’t keep this for relievers. I would have to develop my own.

      Here is what I would look at.

      Times a reliever worked with runners on base and the game within 1-2 runs, even if they were his own runners – stressful
      Times a reliever had no runners on base (either his own or others) – non stressful.
      Quality of the opposing batters (they do track this).
      Days rest on average between appearances.
      Number of times with more than one consecutive appearance.
      Pitch counts and innings worked.
      Workload of the reliever in previous seasons.
      Any reports of injury.

      If I were working for the team I would have a big chart on the board with this information, overall and within the last couple of weeks. McCatty probably has it all in his head, but I’d back it up with numbers.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:02 AM

        No human being can keep all that in his head (and that’s not a knock on Steve McCatty). If they don’t have something like that on paper (i.e., in the computer), then they don’t really have it.

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:09 AM

        That is a lot of info to keep in 1s head but I bet the team probably does track it… It would be fascinating if that was something that the league kept track of…

  17. scnatsfan - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    Gio and SS seem to pitch worse the more guys they strike out

    • nats128 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:42 AM

      It sure does seem like thats true.

  18. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    At any rate… I thought Gio should have come out at the end of the 4th… He labored with over 30 pitches and wasn’t crisp/sharp at all… Not sure at this point if Gio is hurt or not… But if he is, then they need to sit him down as its not just him that is affected when he labors thru innings… Its also the C (whether it be Ramos or Lobo) having to crouch so much for so long, the defense having to exert more energy, and a few other things…

    110 pitches in 4 innings is just not good… No way to cut it… If he is missing a pitch, I hope he finds it…

    And I wouldn’t have been upset if A LaRoche would have sat but I understand why he didn’t… I don’t fault MW at all for that one… My only real peeve with MW yesterday was not pulling Gio earlier… but as I said yesterday, Nats were 0 for whatever in RISP… That hurt the team something serious…

    I hope they enjoy the well-needed day off and am glad to still be up 3.5 games… will have my Dodger blue on tonight…

    • jd - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      88 pitches through 4. 1 run and 7 k’s. And he made the pitches to get out of the 5th inning.

      You start taking starters out after 4 innings and your bullpen will start imploding real soon.

      • nats128 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:01 AM

        Im with Ghost. You already knew per Gio’s pitch count he wasnt going to be long for the game any way. Why not pull him as MrsB says. You are adding 1 inning to the bullpen. 1 inning.

        Gio got pulled in the 4th inning twice in the past 2 weeks.

        The problem is Gio.

      • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:03 AM

        Think he was also due up 4th the next inning? I’d imagine that played in

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM

        88 pitches thru 4 and in the 4th inning he threw over 30 pitches… The box score doesn’t always tell the whole story…

        But I guess, nats128, that the BP pitching against 2 more batters, at least, is gonna kill them… I mean cuz seeing as how someone ended coming out in the 5th anyway…

  19. nats128 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Worst call of the night was that check swing called strike by the homeplate ump on Rendon. It wasn’t even close and the homeplate ump shouldnt have ruled on that. It should have been an appeal to 1st base.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:54 AM

      That was despicable… Seriously… I don’t understand why home plate umps are allowed to even call whether a batter swings or not when they should be paying attention to the SZ…

      That should be up to the 1st base and 3rd base blue…

    • snerdblurter - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      Agreed. I’m usually pretty objective and will always notice when we catch a break, but we seem to be getting hosed in important spots on a pretty regular basis these days. Pitchers getting squeezed, batters falling behind in counts on pitches 8 inches off the plate, bizarro runner interference calls, questionable replay decisions, etc… they say it evens out over the course of the year, but with 7 weeks left, it sure doesnt seem like it. Maybe they’re just stockpiling good karma for the postseason. I guess I’m ok with that.

  20. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Nats 2014 Overall: .249 BA, .382 SLG.
    Nats 2014 w/RISP: .239 BA, .371 SLG.

    Think about what that means per 100 ABs. One fewer hit with RISP. One fewer base. That’s all.

    The problem isn’t that the Nats don’t hit well with RISP, they simply hit about what they do in general. If you want better hitting with RISP, you need better hitting overall. And, probably, fewer SOs, but that’s another story.

    • dcwx61 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      now that’s the rub.

  21. Eric - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    NL – great post at 7:43 this morning.

    Joe – I absolutely share your greater confidence in Fister’s fielding than Gio’s; I also agree Gio’s issues aren’t between his ears. I’m not even convinced he’s hurt/kinda hurt.

    Ghost, I seem to recall you pulling up data on a pitcher’s break and spin. How are those attributes looking for Gio since he came back? I ask because I wonder if hitters are doing a better job of hitting or laying off his curve, as appropriate, and he’s simply struggling to adapt. If so, his spin and break might be in line with his usual numbers.

    On the other hand, it’s not breaking or spinning like it used to, I start to wonder about loss of feel (see: Zinn, May slider), injury, or things worse than that.

    • Eric - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM

      Just on hold until the court hears the case later this month…so not a permanent loss for the Nats, at least not yet…

    • micksback1 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      Angelos really is a horse ass, I wish the Lerners would go for his throat

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:13 AM


      • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:32 AM


      • npb99 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        The Lerners are known for being very aggressive landlords for corporate tenants in DC. Even supposedly battle-hardened DC law firms don’t relish negotiating with the Lerners. I sure hope the Lerners bring that same take no prisoners approach to dealing with Angelos.

    • dcwx61 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      well you can at least say he hasn’t aged gracefully. He looks like an aged thing from the fantastic 4 (what was the rock guy’s name )

  22. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Rafael Montero is supposed to replace de Grom for the start tomorrow in NY

  23. micksback1 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    I do not think Gio has an injury. I say that because the first 3 innings he pitched like a hall of famer, great command, his fast ball was crisp and if he was injured, this would not have been evident. Gio suffers from his own emotions, he continues to let things effect his mindset. I think the at bat to Upton is a good example. Instead of rethinking his pitch selection while Upton was fouling off pitches, Gio stayed stubborn and continued to throw the same pitches to him. This is where McCatty has to step in with Gio.

    just my theory

    • jd - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:20 AM


      Yes and no. Gio’s game plan was to attack the Braves aggressive hitters with high heat out of the strike zone and it worked great the 1st time around the order even if he did throw too many pitches. I think he would have been fine if used his curve more the 2nd time around. Many of the Braves hitters started laying off the high heat or fouling it off. The change up to Upton was a good call but in a really lousy location.

      Gio really needs to mix up his pitches better. I don’t know why he didn’t use his curve more, it was working.

  24. NatsLady - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Absolutely LOVING the discussion this morning. A lot to be said for the different takes on the same rotation and game. Made me think and do research (some of it incorrect!). Gotta get off for a while to write a couple of articles, but, this is a great site with a great bunch of knowlegable fans. Thanks to Mark and everyone who takes the time to inform and enlighten.

    • npb99 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      And thanks for your consistently measured and insightful contributions, NL.

  25. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    Like everyone else, I’d like to see Gonzalez succeed — not for his own sake but for the team’s. I have no idea how he managed to win 20+ in 2012 (w/ a footnote that he flopped when the pressure of the playoffs was on). I’ll give him the benefit of one more start — mostly because I think in light of Atlanta’s schedule the Nats can go through the rotation one more time without losing too much ground. I’m afraid for Gonzalez’s health; he seems to be suffering from some brain-wasting disease and should be put on the 360-day disabled list. If he doesn’t pull out of this swoon quickly I agree Detwiler should be given a chance.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 11, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      Why on Earth should Detwiler be given a chance to replace Gio? He certainly has done nothing to earn a promotion, much less ahead of Gio. Ross has a lower ERA (3.38 to 4.00), but ERA doesn’t measure relief pitchers well because many of the runs they allow are charged to other pitchers. Ross’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is worse than Gio’s (4.32 to 3.17), his WHIP is higher (1.375 to 1.306), he gives up more home runs, he strikes out fewer hitters, and his K/BB ratio is worse.

      As maddening as Gio can be to watch cometimes, Detwiler has been right there (or worse) with him. Suffice it to say, “he’s doing a worse job, let’s promote him” doesn’t seem like a good strategy to me.

      Gio’s not getting replaced in the rotation by any of the available options. It’s just not going to happen. And, given the available options, that’s probably the right call.

  26. Eric - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    With regard to pulling Gio after the 4th, ‘only one more inning’ for the pen involves having an extra guy throw however many warm up pitches, as well as however many pitches to get through the inning itself.

    I really think that MW is keeping our first place status in mind and is preserving the bullpen as much as possible.

    Reinforcing that is something I noticed this weekend that I think will be significant over the next couple of weeks:

    We just came off a head-to-head match up with the Braves where we lost the series, yet they only gained one game in the standings. On that basis, if we were to lose three 3-game series in a row and the Braves were to win three 3-game series in a row, we’d still be a half game up. If the Braves win tonight, we’d be tied. If the Braves lose tonight, we’d be a full game up.

    The Braves would have a pretty tough road ahead even if there were were schedule parity.

    The pressure is still very squarely on them. I think MW is using that fact to avoid burning out the bullpen.

    • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      I said this above but the reason to not go to stammen or Det is that ideally you get a batter on in the 6th and can pinch hit for Gio then. Not to mention Gio had rebounded from a 29 pitch first inning to throw two 13 pitch innings and this way you would have the long man set up to bridge the game. I’m less worried about stressing the pen if I’m me last night, more worried about finding offensive production

      • 6ID20 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        There is such a thing as a double switch. Did you sleep through the Riggleman era?

      • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Even worse… Who are you pulling in the double switch? Because the only viable options were up even sooner

    • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      I said this above but the reason to not go to stammen or Det is that ideally you get a batter on in the 6th and can pinch hit for Gio then. Not to mention Gio had rebounded from a 29 pitch first inning to throw two 13 pitch innings and this way you would have the long man set up to bridge the game. I’m less worried about stressing the pen if I’m MW last night, more worried about finding offensive production

      • Eric - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:39 AM


      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        You all are missing the big picture and it happened, you had to bring in Stammen in the 5th because Gio couldn’t get out of it.

        What did you gain net/net? Probably 8 to 10 extra pitches is all you gained. Stammen had to get up and warm-up as it was.

      • coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        A shut down fifth doesn’t fix a 1-1 tie for us

      • dcwx61 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:11 PM


  27. coop202 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Did the ump ever address the checked swing call?

  28. dcwx61 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    We still have amongst the leagues top 3 starters in fister/Zimm/Roark
    and Stras/Gio have been inconsistent but no worse than another team’s 4/5 (not even the great Dan Haren of the stacked dodgers).

    Eugene hit it out of the park…need better contact by the big guns but ALR is streaky, Werth/Zimm/Harp are hurt.
    Move Ramos up and find someone on the bench (yes even Frandsen) that can give the big 4 some rest.





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