Skip to content

Instant analysis: Nats 5, Pirates 4

Aug 15, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

USA Today Sports Images USA Today Sports Images

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: After a sweep of the Mets that catapulted them to a 6-game lead in the NL East, the Nationals returned home for the first of 10 games in 10 days on South Capitol Street. They faced a Pirates club that holds the NL’s best record since May 2, but they quickly seized control of this one and never let it go.

The Nationals pounced on right-hander Charlie Morton, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first, then adding two more in the bottom of the third to open up a 5-0 lead. Impressive as it was, they easily could have scored even more, putting 14 men on base in the game’s first five innings.

No matter. Despite a brief hiccup in the top of the fourth, Tanner Roark was effective (if not efficient). More importantly, the Nationals bullpen was lights-out. Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard combined to retire all seven batters they faced, setting the stage for Rafael Soriano to secure his 29th save (though it only came after he allowed a two-out RBI single to Pedro Alvarez and put the tying runner on third).

Thus the Nationals opened this long homestand in style, winning their fourth straight and improving to a season-best 14 games over the .500 mark.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: When the first six batters you send to the plate in a ballgame all reach safely, odds are this will be a good night for your team. Indeed, the Nationals were all over Morton in the bottom of the first. Denard Span singled. Asdrubal Cabrera walked. Anthony Rendon singled. Adam LaRoche singled home a run. Ian Desmond walked. And Bryce Harper drove home two more runs with a single. The damage could’ve been worse had Span not been thrown out trying to steal third base (an ill-advised gamble) and Wilson Ramos not grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw. As it was, three runs were good enough to get this game started on the right foot.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This was kind of a strange night for Roark. He only had one clean inning, but he was scored upon in only one frame: a 3-run fourth in which nothing went right for the right-hander. Roark gave up a double to Neil Walker, then grooved a slider to Starling Marte that wound up over the fence. A walk to Travis Snider proved costly when Pedro Alvarez doubled to right-center, bringing Snider home (though Wilson Ramos would’ve had him at the plate had he been able to handle a short-hop throw). Roark settled down after that, but his pitch count was shot. Having already thrown 107 pitches for the night, he was pulled with two outs in the sixth. It was the first time he failed to complete six innings in his last eight starts.

KEY STAT: Denard Span now has 13 games this season with three or more hits.

UP NEXT: The series continues Saturday night when a pair of left-handers take the hill. Gio Gonzalez will try to bounce back from a ragged start in Atlanta. He’ll be opposed by the Pirates’ Jeff Locke.

  1. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    Great game… Think it’s safe to say that Sori will be unavailable tomorrow… :-)

    And they say baseball is boring….

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:14 PM

      Great game? Nah, great win!

      • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:15 PM

        Lol, of course… That goes without saying… But it was a great game.. Gotta love the 9th inning…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:28 PM

        This game should have been a blowout laugher. I don’t like that Matty felt the need to go with the A bullpen.

    • natszee - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:55 PM

      To Quote Billy Joel:

      “Working too hard can give you
      A heart attack, ack, ack, ack, ack, ack
      You ought-a know by now”

      Anthony’s Song should be Sori’s walk out song!

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    Breathe in breathe out.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Walters up to bat with a walkoff situation.

  4. David Proctor - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    What’s the magic number now?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:22 PM

      You can’t be serious.

    • manassasnatsfan - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:00 PM

      36 but who is counting

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:04 PM

      For the record, it’s now 36.
      (games in a season +1) – (wins, 1st team) – (losses, 2nd team) = magic number
      (162 + 1) – 67 – 60 = 36

  5. Danny - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    That was almost catastrophic!!

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:57 PM

      Horseshoes and hand grenades, my friend…

  6. Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    Ewww Oakland…. Ewwwww….

  7. MicheleS - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Wooo hooooo

  8. dcwx61 - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:20 PM

    Might not be a bad time to experiment with other closer options (Clipp/Storen) before the playoffs.

    • David Proctor - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:32 PM

      Soriano has had 49 appearances. He’s faced the minimum 26 times. He’s faced one over the minimum 12 times. That’s 38/49 times he’s allowed one baserunner or less in his outings. Kimbrel has 23 innings facing the minimum in the same number of appearances. He’s allowed one baserunner or less in 35/49 appearances. That’s right, Soriano has been better there

      Would you replace Kimbrel?

      • scmargenau - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:44 PM

        Amazing. Great info

      • manassasnatsfan - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:02 PM

        I keep telling people no matter who your closer is you will never be satisfied.

      • dcwx61 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:08 PM

        Statistics can be so deceiving, can’t they.
        I wouldn’t replace Huston Street.
        Kimbrel has had 40 save opportunities and 4 blown saves. Soriano has had 32 save opportunities and 4 blown saves.
        But the point is not to replace anyone but to complement and make your team as good as it can be by helping your closer when he may need some help (overwork, bad day).
        Not a sermon, just a thought

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

        Exactly MSN, to quote a recent post by a infrequent commenter:

        “Keep the damn ball down. This is when he has problems. Keep the ball low. It is not rocket science.”

      • Mike - Aug 16, 2014 at 6:35 AM

        Great stats! Soriano is not the most like able and that bothers fans. His placid demeanor followed by the untuck come across as arrogant. However, he has been great, just not as dominant the past two weeks.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    Wow, Matty says Span has the Green Light on his own to steal. I have a problem with that on stealing 3rd as that’s twice he got caught in situations you can’t have it happen in.

    • ptindc - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:32 PM

      What’s the old adage, “never make your first out at third base?”

      • natinalsgo - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:37 PM

        ptindc, that is it. Don’t make the 1st or 3rd out at 3rd base. It tells me that he needs some coaching. That’s twice he’s done that this month and it explains why Asdrubal wasn’t running because it wasn’t a double steal.

        I lived through the days when Riggleman had Nyjer greenlighted. Span has done a great job stealing 2nd base. I would sit him down and tell him that stealing 3rd base is only on the coach’s call.

      • dcwx61 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:14 PM

        or the third out at first base

  10. natinalsgo - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:33 PM

    Just left the game and got cell service. I’m just glad Soriano had a 2 run lead to work with.

    • manassasnatsfan - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:03 PM

      They don’t have wifi at the stadium do they?

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

        indeed they do.

      • Section 222 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:05 AM

        They do, but its either lousy, or so overtaxed by the thousands of smart phone users that it’s virtually worthless. Maybe it depends on where you sit.

      • natinalsgo - Aug 16, 2014 at 9:43 PM

        I’ve tried all the Wifi that opens on my phone.

  11. scmargenau - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Matt is getting more confident in his post game pressers

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      14 games over .500 and a 6 game lead and finding a way to win close games, I would be confident also.

      I’m concerned that he’s leaning too much on Clippard. Need to get Detwiler and Thornton worked in.

      • David Proctor - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:43 PM

        Clippard and Soriano are both probably unavailable tomorrow.

        It works out though as Gio is pitching, so we won’t have a save situation to worry about.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:00 PM

        Yeah, WTH has Detwiler been lately? He was right in the middle after that 4-inning thing, and then nothing, or next to nothing, of significance for the past couple of weeks.

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

        playing catch with Espinosa ??

  12. coollikelivo - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    As I said to my beloved who was watching here with me, I just felt like we had it under control the whole time, and as it turns out we did. I did not feel that way in other games even with a mid-game lead. I hope my feelings reflect the team’s mental state too. Pirates are a good, but maybe not great, team, especially missing McCutchen, but we are building a serious streak here and we should enjoy it fully while it is sneaking up on us.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:58 PM

      Hear, hear!

    • stoatva - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      I was sweating the ninth inning at the park.

    • dcwx61 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:16 PM

      you are cool like livo, dude….I got a wee bit nervous in inning number 9.

  13. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    Indians beat the Oreos on a walkoff

  14. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    Beltre 4-4 tonight against the Angels and breaks up a doubleplay like he’s playing for a playoff team. How nice would it be to have this guy. He makes it look very easy.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:57 PM

      These guys on MLB are hilarious…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:59 PM

        Harold Reynolds is drinking something good.

    • dcwx61 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:16 PM

      got to pay a lot for future hall of famers.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:01 AM

      Seriously, then, Ghost, what do you honestly think it would cost the Nats to get him? Rendon + Giolito + 2 AA prospects?

      • NatsLady - Aug 16, 2014 at 7:09 AM

        They weren’t selling. Said they want Betre to retire as a Ranger and go into their hall of fame.

  15. manassasnatsfan - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:05 PM

    Watching Dodgers, love Vin Scully.

  16. stoatva - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:14 PM

    Another 0 for 3 for Trout. Average down to .292

    Just saying.

  17. Section 222 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    Home from the game, and opening up a cold one with my bottle opener cap. One of better giveaways in a while. You can’t open a beer bottle with a bobblehead can you?

    Very entertaining game, lots of interesting action and strategy. I was surprised that MW used both Clip and Soriano in a third straight game. Seems like Thornton could have been used in the 8th, saving Clip to close tomorrow. But hopefully the gamble will pay off with a blowout tomorrow.

    Span’s attempted steal of third in the first was very ill-advised, and almost came back to bite us. Nice to see Bryce get a couple of knocks. And Taylor was very smooth in RF.

    Best of all was being back in Nats Park with nearly 37,000 souls on a gorgeous and temperate summer evening. Lots of Bucs fans in attendance, as you could probably tell after Marte’s homer. A few of the Pirates fans near us tried to do a P I R A T E S cheer after their run. Pretty funny. And for all you wave haters, they did it during the bottom of an inning, so you should be happy about that at least. Just a great atmosphere out there, and I was very glad to sit with Steady Eddie tonight. Couldn’t ask for a more knowledgable companion at a game.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:47 PM

      So I was out on other engagements in SW, and came home on Metro green line about the sixth inning, and WTH, it was FULL of Nats and Pirates fans. In the Sixth Inning. Of a 5-3 game.

      So I commented to my better section, “WTH?? It’s the sixth inning! What are all these people doing here??”

      None of them would make eye contact. Clearly, they were shamed. Well, people don’t make eye contact with me on metro normally, so that’s not really dispositive, but I could tell they were ashamed. Because, come on. Sixth inning. 5-3. Perfect weather. Where the heck else have you got to be?

      • Section 222 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:03 AM

        Funny you say that because it sure looked like most people stayed in the park for the whole game. Very big crowd tonight. There’s always going to be some people who leave early, but it’s definitely not like there was a mass exodus. Not at all.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:42 PM

        Well, several dozen would make a metro train look crowded, but not be much missed out of a full-ish house. It’s 1/10 of a percent, really.

  18. stoatva - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    The Wave was my least favorite part of the game.

    • Section 222 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:42 PM

      Don’t let things you can’t control get you down. :-) The wave is not going away.

      • stoatva - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:49 PM

        Grr.

      • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        I am going to Hogwarts just to learn to put a jinx on people who do the wave when their own team is in the field.

  19. stoatva - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    As exhilarating as Michael Taylor’s debut was, he is not getting good looks at the plate.

    • Soul Possession, Sec 3 My Sofa - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:58 PM

      He looked OK yesterday. Just OK, that’s all, but still. For a guy in his third day on the job, he’ll be OK.

      • Danny - Aug 16, 2014 at 4:03 AM

        He’s not ready.

  20. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    Morse with a 3 run HR off of Hamels.

  21. Joe Seamhead - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:03 AM

    I also just got home. Soriano sure makes for some excitement.

    Anyway two thought after watching the replays just now:

    Martin made a great play and throw to get Span. Turns out to have been a bad time to attempt the steal, but ,folks, again I’m telling you to get used to it. Matt Williams makes it clear again that this is the style of play that he is encouraging, and if Span is going to be aggressive then there are going to be times when he gets caught stealing and it will look bad. Get used to it, but he, and others, will be successful more often than not.

    Second, I just watched the replay several times of the play at the plate. I was wrong in the game blog; the relay throw wasn’t that bad, actually it was a good throw. Wilson dropped the ball. Even if he had held on to it, it would’ve been a very close play. I love Ramos, but I still think that is a flaw in his game.

    Also in the 9th after Marte led off with a 0-2 single, Soriano had Snider 2-2 and a tipped ball on what would’ve been strike three got dropped, Not saying it was an easy play to catch the tipped ball. Of course on the next pitch he grounded to first, advancing Marte, who eventually scored. The luck of the draw sometimes.

    • MicheleS - Aug 16, 2014 at 9:01 AM

      Joe, was listening to Phil Wood on the way home and he made a valid point about that throw. Wilson has been a LOT better this year with that throw, he chalked last nights drop to the new Catcher collision rule, he said it looked like Wilson looked down a quick second to check where his feet were so he wouldn’t get the blocking the plate replay.

      I am all for protecting the catcher, but they need to make some adjustments on that rule, I understand the College game has a good rule for this and I can’t believe I am saying this, but Harold Reynolds did a demo the other night and he actually had some good suggestions on how to tweak it.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 16, 2014 at 9:30 AM

        I heard Phil’ s post game show on the play at the plate and it was all a bunch of baloney. Wilson was in front of the plate, slightly to the first base side. Woods said that Wilson first looked down to see where his feet were. What play was he looking at?I came home watched the replay.I just watched it again. The only time Ramos looked at his feet was after he dropped the ball. Phil also said that it was a problem earlier in Wilson’s career and that this was the only time that it has happened this year, which is also incorrect.
        As too Cabrera’s short hop throw to the plate? A pea to the mitt probably would have been better on that play, but the short hop was a perfectly direct throw. Your catcher is supposed to make that catch.If you could ask Wilson I feel quite sure that he would agree.

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 16, 2014 at 9:33 AM

        Michele, Watch the play and think about what Phil Woods said, and how wrong he was:

        http://m.mlb.com/video/v35385497/pitwsh-alvarez-doubles-to-plate-snider-in-the-4th/?c_id=mlb

      • Joe Seamhead - Aug 16, 2014 at 9:41 AM

        I agree that the rule change as MLB has applied it is flawed and needs to be adjusted. Sorry I didn’t see Reynolds’ tweak piece. I’ll look for it later.

  22. Section 222 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    Dee Gordon is a helluva base stealer. And he slides feet first.

  23. senatorsurvivor - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    I love the way we are just going about our business, playing with confidence, and seemingly having fun. The pressure is on everyone else.

Archives

ON THE RADIO

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

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

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

Follow us on Twitter