Monday, June 28, 2010
What happened in the bottom of the 7th inning when The Braves plated five runs was immaterial because this ball game was decided in the top of the 7th inning at Turner Field in Atlanta when the bat was taken out of Ian Desmond's hands.
After Roger Bernadina doubled leading off for Our Washington Nationals, Our Number Six was ordered to sacrifice bunt, not step up to the plate and attempt to drive the go-head run home. Not given the opportunity to be a gamer.
Our Washington Nationals were locked up a scoreless duel with The Atlanta Braves at that time. Tim Hudson was throwing is usual great stuff on the mound for The Brav-OS. Stephen Strasburg, although not overly sharp, had matched Atlanta's ace through six complete innings of zeros. But now was Our Number 37's time to go. His time to head toward the dugout and stay there.
Knowing Washington's Bullpen has been overused during this latest losing streak.
Knowing, once again, a huge crowd of 42,889 came to The Braves home ballpark tonight to see baseball's latest phenom.
What any knowing fan rooting for Washington needed to understand--was that Our Washington Nationals needed to win this game.
And when Desmond was signaled to give himself up for out number one in the top of the 7th--only to advance Bernadina to 3rd Base--the probability for D.C.'s Team to put the go-ahead run on the board was lessened exponentially.
Alberto Gonzalez was the next scheduled hitter for Washington. As sharp of a fielder as Our Number 12 is (and he was a part of two well turned double plays this evening), Alberto can barely hit his weight. Desmond, despite his slump of late at the plate, has been pretty good with runners in scoring position most all season. Considering that the swift Roger Bernadina can score as easily from second base as from 3rd (and fast enough to score from 1st on some well placed base hits)--why give up an easy out with Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg the next available scheduled batters?
This decision from a team that's having trouble scoring any runs late--sometimes at all?
That makes no sense even though Our Manager Jim Riggleman did, at first, bluff by placing Adam Kennedy in the on deck circle to bat for Strasburg.
Tim Hudson is one especially good pitcher. When his sinker is working, he's virtually impossible to score a single run on. This top of the 7th inning was Our Washington Nationals sole chance this evening to pull ahead. Washington then coming up short by wasting an out with Desmond at the plate and deciding to keep Stephen Strasburg in the game--unnecessarily--with two outs.
Even though Our Number 37 had only thrown 73 pitches through six complete to that point, he most definitely was not in complete control. He should have been taken out for a pinch hitter. He should have been given the opportunity to record a win after Bernadina doubled leading off the top of the 7th. He also should have been sat down so one of his teammates could have a better chance to get him the lead. Not sent out to the mound in the bottom of the 7th to suffer another bad loss--just because Washington's bullpen has been overused of late.
The point of any baseball game is to win.
Stephen Strasburg is developing fine on his own. What this 21-Year Old has accomplished over his first five starts in his Big League Career is remarkable. But Our Washington Nationals shouldn't keep pushing him out there with the thought only Strasburg can keep them in any ball game. That's not going to satisfy anyone in the long run. And it didn't come close to recording a Curly "W" tonight when Stephen was hit hard in the bottom of the 7th.
If Stephen Strasburg is truly our future, then let him go out ON TOP with a tie or a lead for now--not suffer while his teammates catch up to his greatness. Again, he deserved better tonight and was denied.
Final Score from Turner Field where The Number 1 Overall Pick in the 2009 Draft was stifled by not just The Brav-OS, but a veteran pitcher in Tim Hudson who understands how to win: The Atlanta Braves 5 and Our Washington Nationals 0. Loss Number 43 of 2010 is not the real subject matter here, Washington's offense against Tim Hudson is. D.C.'s Team was given their one true chance to push ahead in the top of the 7th against a hurler that has always dominated them. But played the game conservatively, bunting with an RBI man at the plate, and letting their phenom pitcher bat with two outs and a runner on 3rd in a scoreless affair. All at the very point, Stephen Strasburg should have been taking a rest and preserved. Not forsaken, in the HOPES of garnering a victory.
Those days will surely come for Stephen Strasburg. Unfortunately, today was not one of those days. He shouldn't have been placed in such a predicament on the mound.
Drawing big crowds are nice and that's again why so many people showed up in Atlanta this evening (42,889).
But the object of this game, and any game for that matter, is for Our Washington Nationals to win.
A great talent like Strasburg should not be thrown out there late--just because there is a feeling no one else is better available in relief. If you give our hitters a chance to make a difference. If you let our batting order decide a close ballgame. If you don't give up an out in a scoreless game, unnecessarily, simply to move a fast runner already in scoring position 90 feet farther to 3rd. And if you don't let two weak hitters step to the plate afterwards-- you might actually find the go ahead hit--the go ahead run. You might find a few more gamers to trust with a game on the line.
Stephen Strasburg is a rookie, but he has shown to be a gamer. What Our Washington Nationals need to find out is how many other gamers exist on their roster? Players that can be difference makers in close ball games. Handed the opportunity in the top of the 7th inning tonight to mature, Ian Desmond's bat was taken out of his hands at Turner Field in Atlanta by a managerial decison. So no one found out whether this rookie shortstop can really develop into a gamer himself.
By letting your batters swing their bats, only then will Our Washington Nationals be able to overcome all obstacles and develop multiple gamers themselves. Players to trust with any game on the line--in any situation.
P.S. Just one footnote--Roger Bernadina has really stepped up his game in June. Our Number 2 has always been an excellent fielder, but now for the first time in his career, Roger appears to be hitting with confidence. He seems relaxed. The results showing Bernadina now spraying multiple hits to the opposite field--sometimes with power. The positive signs of a man that finally understands how to hit in The Big Leagues. He's been mighty impressive over the last month. And it reminds me of Mark Scialabba, now Washington's Director of Minor League Operations, telling Nats320 last year that Bernadina had failed initially at every level of the professional game, but never gave up and rightfully graduated due to his hard work. Maybe, just maybe, Roger Bernadina is becoming a legitimate Major League Baseball Player.
Tonight's InGame Photo--Kevin C. Cox (Getty Images)