Sunday, May 17, 2009

Defensive Lapse

Cheers were heard all around Nationals Park. Folks were going wild!! Two runners had just scored the game tying and go ahead runs in the 8th inning. And Sadly, Fans Of Our Washington Nationals sat in their seats stunned. Bewildered over what they had just witnessed. Those loud noises being reverberated around the South Capitol Street Ballpark were from Phillie Fanatics. Visitors from Our Most Disliked Rival--The Defending Champions. All of whom had taken over Washington's Ballpark this weekend, stomping and rooting their team on to victory. In fact, four consecutive times--a series sweep. The latest of which happened in the most stunning of fashions.

Our Washington Nationals were winning 6 to 5--ahead by one heading to the top of the 8th inning. The time of worry for so many Washington Fans this season. Recurring troubles from our bullpen that rose again when Mr. Enthusiasm started this key frame on the perfect low note. Having Philadelphia's dangerous Jayson Werth down 0-2 in the count--Julian Tavarez inexplicably surrendered a two strike single by serving a hittable pitch over the plate. A concern that was even worse when Our Number 50 walked the next hitter, Shane Victorino, on five pitches. Another deteriorating scenario that would soon lead to The Defensive Miscue Of This Game.

As Julian Tavarez slammed HIS right pitching hand into HIS left glove hand in disgust--Our Manager Manny Acta slowly walked to the mound with HIS hands sternly placed inside his coat jacket pockets. The indication that Manny was pissed, upset over yet another reliever not getting the job done. A now no outs--runners on first and second situation with Bling-Bling!! coming in to pitch. The latest bullpen effort to stop the bleeding. The resultant play to be dissected for some time.

On the very first pitch that Jesus Colome threw to Pedro Feliz--The Phillies 3rd Baseman laid down a terrific bunt moving slowly on the grass, near the 3rd baseline between the pitcher's mound and the bag. One of those you better GIVE YOUR ALL EFFORTS to get the batter out. Skill which Ryan Zimmerman has the ability to make the play. The chance denied when Jesus Colome quickly snatched the ball from The Z-Man's glove--moments before the rolling baseball entered his mitt. The confusion which directly led to THE GAME CHANGING MOMENT FOR THIS DAY. As Our Number 43 picked up the ball, Zimmerman ran through Colome's bare handed pick up of the baseball. The important IGNI-SECOND when Anderson Hernandez lost track of the play.

Believing Our Number 11 had simply missed the baseball, Our Second Baseman--covering first base to get the hard charging Feliz--stepped off the base--thinking the play was over. ANDERSON HERNANDEZ NEVER REALIZED JESUS COLOME HAD THROWN A PERFECT STRIKE TO FIRST BASE. Giving up on the play, Colome's on target throw sailed past Hernandez, past Feliz and all the way down into the right field corner--where Adam Dunn had failed to back up the play. Anderson nearly got hit in the head with Bling-Bling's Toss and was scared out his wits he would injured upon realizing a hardball was heading his way. Of all things to be hurt, disabled FOR NOT PAYING ATTENTION.

A brutal error that found both Werth and Victorino scoring easily the 6th and 7th runs of the game for Philadelphia. And despite what Manny Acta said in the post-game press conference that Anderson Hernandez told him that he lost the baseball in the white shirts sitting along the 3rd base stands--television replays clearly showed--Anderson had simply lost sight of what was actually happening on the field. He EXPECTED Zimmerman to make the play, not Colome--and his mental error had set The Philadelphia Faithful into a FRENZY. Two of whom sitting directly to The African Queen's and my left in Section 218 stated: "Are you guys really that bad?"

We remained silent--not giving in to an obvious challenge. While inwardly consoling ourselves that Our Washington Nationals had found YET ANOTHER WAY TO LOSE A BALLGAME--frustratingly so--to The Philadelphia Phillies and their very loud and obnoxious fans.

No it turned out to not be a good afternoon at Nationals Park. Another blown save, another deflating loss. The third straight day that Our South Capitol Street Ballpark turned into Citizen Bank Park South. No question about it--The Phillie Fans took over this weekend and Sohna and I found it saddening to be out gunned, out cheered and out manned by Philadelphia's so called finest. But we where there, cheering Our Washington Nationals on--supporting them through four straight losses. And when that day does come when DC's Team is an elite franchise and Philadelphia or any other visiting ballclub's fans DO NOT control Nationals Park, please give credit to those that suffered through another visiting sweep--keeping hope alive when so many others have already given up. Those that will claim to have been there all along--standing behind Our Washington Nationals. False bravado proclaimed by front runners that only support a winner--not caring about the growing pains.

Final Score from Nationals Park where it wasn't just the bullpen this time--a DEFENSIVE LAPSE turned this latest game around. The Philadelphia Phillies 8 and Our Washington Nationals 6 in another bad loss. Manny stated after the game, we might as well lose with fresher talent than just the same old, same old. So you gotta believe even more changes are coming--not just the emergency call-up of Ross Detwiler to pitch Monday Night against The Pittsburgh Pirates.

Bring It On--and when you do so--can we please add Jason Bergmann now? Jason has got to be better than some of the many we have currently.

Washington now with 11 Wins and 25 Losses--sinking deeper into a ever larger growing crevase. A plunge that may be difficult to recover from in 2009.

Game Notes & Highlights

Jordan Zimmermann had no command of his pitches today. Everything up in the strike zone. He really struggled, but what's important to understand is that J-Z is striking out far more hitters than walking them (32 to 11). He has all the tools. HIs ERA is not that significant for a rookie learning to pitch in The Big Leagues. Of all the issues Our Washington Nationals may well have right now--Our Number 27 is the least of their worries. That young man can pitch, he just needs more experience. Never have I seen a guy battle every single hitter he faces like Jordan Zimmermann. When he figures it all out, he's going to be outstanding--that I have no doubt.

"The Guz" continues to wield a hot bat. Three more singles today, now batting a League High .381. But Cristian Guzman does not qualify for the National League lead--because he missed so much time on the disabled list earlier. One of the biggest free swingers in the game, no one can say Our Number 15 is not one of the best players on our team. What a difference from his 2005 campaign--which was arguably one of the worst seasons EVER by any starting shortstop. He might not have been doing so before--but Guzman is certainly earning his money over the past two campaigns.

Nick Johnson two more hits today--now batting .333. Guzman and Johnson combining for 5 of Washington's 6 scores today. Can we please finally end the Alex Cintron Experiment? A weak pinch hit ground out for Zimmermann in the bottom of the 5th. Sorry, but he's not helping right now. And we need ALL HANDS ON DECK!!

Effort which Adam Dunn performed late this afternoon in the most unexpected way. New Nats Killer Raul Ibanez RIPPED a liner to deep right field, near the Out Of Town Scoreboard. Not known for his defensive prowess, Our Number 44 ran as fast as his thick legs would take him and JUST WHEN EVERYONE THOUGHT the screaming baseball would sail right past him, Dunn leaped as high as his bulky weight would take him--like all of maybe 10 inches (Michael Jordan he is not)--and SNARED THE LINER IN HIS LEFT HAND--his glove hand for what was truly THE DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THIS GAME!! For all his deficiencies in the field, well documented here, you have to give Adam Dunn GREAT CREDIT for hustling all the way and making the best of a very difficult catch. Well done for the big guy with not a lot of speed moving forward or sideways.

Lower attendance certainly means more seats available to purchase and with DC's Team struggling on the field of play--Philadelphia Patrons are going to find Nationals Park an attractive outlet for those PHILLY FANS who can't normally sit at Sold Out Citizens Bank Park. It's the nature of the beast. When you are good, coming off a World Series Championship--you travel well. Washington, DC--just 150 Minutes away by car from the so called City Of Brotherly Love--makes for the perfect destination stop--especially on a weekend. The opportunity to take over a visiting ballpark. One in which--the home fans have wilted on--sadly so for The African Queen and I.

Before today's game, The African Queen and I attended The Smithsonian Institute's Meeting in Conference Room 4 at Nationals Park. The 11AM Get Together with Team President Stan Kasten, Interim GM Mike Rizzo, Our Manager Manny Acta, Pitcher Garrett Mock and Roving Instructor, Spring Training Coach (and Multiple Gold Glove Winner in his playing days) Devon White headlining an impressive hour long Q & A with some seriously minded Smithsonian Associates. This may well have been the best give and take involving Our Washington Nationals in some time. Really some great questions and well moderated by Phil Hochberg. The long time Public Address Announcer at RFK/Fed Ex Field for The Washington Redskins and lawyer to many professional sports leagues and teams.

Much more coming on this event in the next few days (I just need to transcribe the meeting), but the most noteworthy comment coming from Mike Rizzo. Asked if Stephen Strasburg is drafted and signed by Our Washington Nationals in the upcoming June Draft--can fans expect Strasburg to be in a Washington Nationals Uniform this season?

MIke Rizzo: "Strasburg cannot pitch in The Major Leagues this season." Rizzo went on to say that Stephen needs to learn the professional game and Washington wouldn't want to overwork him early after such a demanding Senior Collegiate Career. It's possible (and this is our speculation), Washington might shut him down when signed, just to give him a break. Rizzo didn't deny that when Sohna and I chatted with him briefly today.

While attending The Smithsonian Associates Meeting, the video monitors around Nationals Park showed the upcoming Signature Sunday's Player Schedule. When this program first started in 2008, The Main HDTV Scoreboard would display the Sunday participants during the previous Saturday's Home Game. Is it possible this listing could continue for 2009? It's very helpful. And we would imagine if fans knew IN ADVANCE that Garrett Mock, Austin Kearns, Jesus Flores and John Lannan were available before deciding to attend--that might well better interest some fans in purchasing tickets. Just a thought, not a complaint.

Today was also Kids Giveaway Day. The first 10,000 Children 12 and Under received a very nice Nationals Curly "W" Red Jersey Drawstring Bag--courtesy of Smithfield. Really, it was nice and many children seemed to enjoy the gift.

Of course this was also Kids Run The Bases Day. During each Sunday Home Game, children can run the bases as their parents watch after the conclusion of the ball game.

Washington Capitals Captain, Chris Clark (yeah, the hockey team), was on hand at Nationals Park today in Presidents Club. And was interviewed by Clint during a break in play. Clark received a very nice ovation from the 29, 577--the largest baseball crowd since Opening Day.

And what do you do when you are wearing a short sleeve jersey and shorts during a well below normal spring day with temperatures barely reaching 55 Degrees? Well, if you are NatPack Member Ray, you wear a stylish Red, White & Blue Scarf around your neck. Sohna and I noticed him earlier on the field during the Tee-Shirt Launch, but when Ray and Clint showed up in nearby Section 217 to hand out Red NatsTown Tee Shirts as Randon Acts Of Red--the sight of Ray with his scarf on was too good to not pass up. Ray's aviator shades adding to his image.

TEDDY WAS WINNING ALL THE WAY in the 4th inning Presidents Race. In fact, the crowd cheering on his lead may well have been the loudest of this day. EVERYONE WAS UP ON THEIR FEET, possibly expecting the impossible. It was loud!! But Teddy, well out in front, tripped running down the right field line--to the dismay of many. The sighs of disbelief spreading as ABE again took advantage of opportunity and easily beat out Tom for Victory.

Finally--And that 1924 Washington Senators World Series Pennant above The HDTV Scoreboard? It might well be pretty close to flying off--AGAIN. Attached for yesterday's doubleheader--today--the strong winds were whipping that banner something awful. Someone's got to fix that--and soon--before it flies away.

Tonight's InGame Photos--Evan Vucci (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)


NatsGuy said...


It is getting very hard to be a NATS fan. We need to hear something from the FO about what they plan to do. There needs to be some kind of movement.

I think there also has to be infield everyday until they start playing well enough to prove they don't need it.

The ownership needs to make some kind of amends for this flawed team, whether it is financial or otherwise. This pitching staff is not even close to being of major league quality.

All this being said these guys can really hit. If they had had these bats in 2005 they probably would have made the playoffs.

Time is short for the FO or there won't be much left of the fan base but you, AQ, me, and a few other die hards. Most people aren't that patient.

paul said...

In Little League one time I backed up a play between 3rd and home and threw a strike to 2nd to try to nab the batter taking an extra base. Our daydreaming second basemen, who always played second by straddling second base and never moving, didn't see the ball coming. I plunked him in the stomach with a perfect throw. The adults laughed; the players screamed in anger at the kid.

I guess that is sort of what happened with Hernandez today. But he is a big leaguer.

Chris said...

Philly fans hate bandwagoners, so I will be happy to single you out as a die hard when the day comes.

(Living here these last two years I've picked up the Caps as a second hockey team, since we don't play in the same division, and that has definitely been a chance to respect the old timers.)

I made it to both Saturday games but none of the others. The early game was especially fun, like having one's own personal ballpark. As always, a lovely facility and friendly fans from both teams.

Tom said...

My grandson son and I were out in the leftfield stands near the foulpole. It was prime Phillies territory. We were outnumbered it seemed 200 to 2. It was a bit discouraging to say the least.
It still was a great day at the ballpark, as they all are.
I'll take a cool May day over a 90 degree day any time. I also enjoy the fact that great seats are available the day of the game. We were glad the rains ended halfway up on our trip from Richmond.
You could sense something bad coming in the 8th. A hit off an 0-2 count on the leadoff batter, followed by the obligatory base on balls. I sure would have liked Colome to yield to Zimmerman, a gold glove caliber player, whose been in the game for 8 innings.
These are growing pains that we should be past by now. To have them occuring with such regularity can test a good man's (or woman's) soul.
I have faith that the good readers of this blog will be pulling their socks up, donning their Nats caps, jerseys and jackets, and hoping we can reverse our fortunes against the Pirates this week. How about we do to them what the Phillies did to us this weekend ?
Listening to the obnoxious Phillies fans woof, chant, bellow and howl on their way out of our park, reminded me of that old line,
"Yeah, I remember my first beer too"
Go Nats

John R. said...

I know it's logical to blame Hernandez for missing the play at First Base. And, yes, as a major leaguer he needs to be held to the highest standards. But it sure looked to me like it was Zimmerman that was throwing the ball to First Base. He even went through the motions of a throw, but of course he did not have the ball in his hand. So, I can totally understand why Hernandez was confused. I WAS Confused! It looked like Zimmerman had picked up the ball and decided not to throw it. So, when the ball comes out of Colome's hand it sure surprised me.

phil dunton said...

SBF--My observation of the four game series seems to be that at least half of those in attendance were Phillies fans. Do you share my view? It looks like Kasten's marketing efforts in the Philadelphia area are productive. It's too bad they don't work in DC.

JT said...

This was the first game I attended this season, and it was a nice day for a game, and we enjoyed it up until that 8th inning, even though we were mostly surrounded by Phillie fans.

As for that play, I thought it was terrible that Colome got the error on that. I can see where the play was confusing but I was sitting just past 3B, so I had a pretty good view of Colome snatching the ball from under Zimmerman's glove. But to give him an error because Hernandez lost track of the ball seems silly.

It also didn't help that Hernandez was caught stealing in the 3rd a pitch before Nieves drew a walk. I'm not saying that turns into a run, but it really doesn't help. Not a good game for him at all.

On a concessions front, I was very disappointed to walk all around the main level and not find a vendor selling veggie dogs. They're pretty much standard at ballparks these days, but not at the one in DC. And if they tell me that they didn't sell last season, that's because they never had them available. And I didn't see the veggie chili on the menu at Ben's Chili Bowl either.

SenatorNat said...

Had the Nationals stockpiling of pitchers, their Number One goal since 2005, in fact, paid off in gold, this franchise would be in trememdous shape: consider a healthy John Patterson, Shawn Hill, throwing with Matt Chico, Garrett Mock, Jason Bergmann, and now John Lannan, Shairon Martis, and Jordan Zimmerman. Throw in Ross Detwiler in his second full year, having won 12-15 games in 2008 already, and without changing ANY of their trades since moving here, Nats are firmly entrenched in NL East first place, with a 25-11 record. (Of course, they would not be drafting number one this year, since they would not have lost 102 games in 2008, but so be it.)

Point: they stockpiled alright, but the majority of the young pitchers are mediocre at best. This forces the brass to begin the process with this year's draft with Strasburg and someone else, even Crowe, at 10.

The team is 3 starters and two relievers away from contending: that presumes preserving current core of young players in the everyday line-up, and the break-out of someone from down on the farm like Justin Maxwell.

This will take two years to happen, in all likelihood. In the meantime, they need to attempt to shore up the 40 errors; and 30 unearned runs given up,along with 14 wild-pitches, as much as is possible As to the errors in the field, Gonzalez owns 6 and Hernandez 4, Cintron 1, and Guz 5 I believe. That is an extraordinary number from the middle infielder positions, normally among your most reliable. Milledge has several too. Thus, over time, as Cintron joins Gonzalez and Milledge as no longer on the roster (and that has to happen as his PH record is absurd), fielding can and should solidify.

As to unearned runs, hit batsmen, WP's, walks generally, the pitching corps outside of Lannan, Z-Mann, and Martis could not man a decent Double A team. But, there are still ways to cut down on the circus acts...

Manny is unimaginative to the core - Tony LaRussa would have Z-Mann pitch simulated first inning in the pen, to shake off his nervous energy after 3 shaky first innings in a row; Tony L. would hit AHernandez first, and move everyone back one, playing Williamham, not Kearns everyday, in order to cut-down on Z hitting into double plays, and to set up better base-running options.

Point is that Tony L would not allow this 6-9 LOB every game by the Nats. We could have won 4 more games thus far despite atrocious pitching had we plated just a small percentage of all those runners left on third thus far this year. How about the squeeze or the suicide - c'mon, mix it up, Manny - he runs ONLY by the book, and that telegraphs every move. Dukes makes more mistakes on basepaths than good player should, but his instincts are to push the envelope a bit, and keep the other team on edge.

Tony L. does not send a hurt Olsen on the mound to lose one for the team if he has Garrett Mock in the bullpen - start him, and you essentially get the same results, plus you don't risk permanently damaging Olsen. Same with pushing Beimel, whose hip-flexer clearly not healed.

He does not insist on playing Kearns despite his horrid record in the clutch in 2008-9 when he has Williamham and Harris. Get serious.

He does not send Cintron up 25 times to pinch-hit, often with runners on, despite his 0-17 and 1 for 25 - indeed, he is ordered down for Bergmann, so the bullpen has another arm.

(Finally, speaking of players looking like they are throwing with three arms, as Hernandez apparently saw yesterday, didn't Walter Johnson throw with three arms, according to Statutory Plaza at Nats Park?)

If Nats lose 30 before winning 15, coinciding with the end of this home stand, then predict brass will strongly consider replacing Manny with interim manager Tim Foli for balance of 2009. And, that, while it cannot pitch, might help mitigate a ridiculous situation.

Ridiculous since the team has an interesting decent player in the field at every position (presuming Williamham starts over Kearns), all young, and yet is on pace to win fewer games than last year!

No one could have expected Guz, Johnson(!); Z; Dunn; Dukes; Flores to ALL be off to such sterling starts, AND the team be as bad as last year...Nats have the best, truest new park in the land, and fans who really get their Red On (Phillies red, that is...)

Trust in fact that Manny being Manny does not work. All to change.

JT said...

At the end of the post you mentioned the banner nearly flying away, which does need to be fixed. The picture of the scoreboard also reminded me that the Curly-W clock on the scoreboard is also screwed up. It seemed like it would stop for up to half an hour at a time, then mostly catch up, but not quite. It seemed really chintzy that a major league team has a clock that doesn't work.

chet baker sings said...

I agree with SenatorNat and would add this:

Why does Acta insist on sending out Cabrera for the fifth innings?? Almost every time Cabrera goes out for the fifth he gets shelled! Its clear to me that as things stand Cabrera can only go four innings.

Manny Acta is a very poor manager and I'm tired of all the excusemaking...At what point does one accept that with Acta at the helm its just not happening? This team needs an experienced old hand like Davey Johnson.. someone that knows the game inside and out and has actually accomplished something as a manager.. I never agreed with bringing Acta in and I'm sick and tired of people justifying him by arguing that our team is just so awful that no one could do any better...

Brian said...

FYI...Guzmzan is the league leader in the NL for hitting with his .381 average. A player needs at least 3.1 plate appearances per game to qualify, and Guzman meets that criteria, even with his stint on the DL.

Aunt Lo said...

Regarding the Hernandez brain freeze... I haven't read why he was over at first base to begin with? Where was Nick Johnson? Or whoever was playing first that day...

NatsGuy said...

Man I really feel for Detwiler and the bats tonight. This is awful. Can't go on any longer. It has to be fixed. Inexperienced minor leaguers with talent can't be any worse. Zech Zinicola for starters.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Aunt Lo--Nick Johnson had charged in for the bunt play. It was Anderson Hernandez's job to man first base. Johnson was in the direct line of fire on Colome's throw and dived to the ground to give Jesus a clean line of sight..