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When Walking Makes Sense

Walks, walks, walks. The Nats survived all of them.

But Luis Ayala? They couldn't survive their own worst reliever.

The 5-4 game Washington lost today in 13 innings produced a laundry list of oddities -- though, indeed, most of them were buried under the rubble of Ayala's latest implosion.

Still, they're worth listing, if only because blogs are the best place yet known to catalog the unusual and/or forgotten.

Among the best parts of today's epic game, not to be overlooked:

* Ryan Zimmerman's 12-pitch at bat, which included six foul balls, against Eric Gagne in the eighth

* Following back-to-back home runs by Austin Kearns and Lastings Milledge

* Milledge's 3-for-6 day, which extends his hit streak to 11

* John Lannan's six-inning one-hitter

The Nats were able to endure all of the walks, too -- all 13 of them. That's tied for the most issued by any team in the majors this season. (Seattle walked 13 on May 12 against Texas in a 10-inning game.) Lannan walked two in the third and escaped. Jesus Colome walked two in the 10th and escaped. Charlie Manning walked two in the 11th and escaped.

But then came Ayala for the 13th.

He faced one batter, Gabe Kapler, who hit a walk-off homer.

Bring on the latest round of Ayala analysis:

Here's this from pitching coach Randy St. Claire:

"I think he's putting some pressure on himself with his free agent year... You're a professional athlete, you've got a contract coming up. You're a six-year free agent. You're trying to impress people, you know? You're thinking, Hey, I want to have a good year here. So you put pressure to have a good year (on yourself), instead of focusing on getting a job done."

At this point, Ayala has given the Nats no reason to re-sign him. Imagining him in a Washington uniform next year is becoming almost impossible to envision. This might be one case where allowing a guy to walk makes perfect sense.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 10, 2008; 8:51 PM ET
 
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Comments

Would the Nats receive any sort of compensation for Ayala should he sign with someone else this offseason? He was pretty good up until this year. Is there any possibility he will qualify as a Type B free agent?

Posted by: Offense/offensive | August 10, 2008 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Going way out on a limb here, Chico. Nats won't re-sign 1-and-8 Ayala? Ya think? I'd rather see, and I shudder to write these words, Mike Bascik. And just think, we wasted Austin Kearns' monthly home run.

Posted by: 1-and-8 Ain't Great | August 10, 2008 9:02 PM | Report abuse

...new posted...

Re-Mock not being able to come out of the bullpen tonight because hes starting tonight.


My bad, I should have been a little more clear and included these key details, LOL: Drop Ayala and move Mock into the bullpen. Bring Clippard up to start.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | August 10, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Chico-

Extra points for being harsh when it is called for. Really, Ayala was great for us before the WBC, and lousy since. There were rumors that Omar Minaya had been interested in Ayala leading up to the trade deadline. If there was any chance that he could have received anything, ANYTHING in return, and did not, then the Nieto signing pales in comparison to that incompetence.

In the meantime, let's give Lannan his due. Let's give Milledge his due. Zim had a good day. Could we please come up with complimentary nicknames for some of these guys? Heck, we could come up with something for Lannan that takes his icy blood and ringed eyes into account.

This week is about the future. Previous crack aside, I applaud the Lerners, Bowden and Kasten for signing Nieto. Please join me in this- we have been clamoring for this, and they deserve credit for doubling slot and stealing the kid from the Orioles and their illegitimate pre-draft deal.

We'll win. Eventually we will win.

Posted by: Positively Half St. | August 10, 2008 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Half-Street,
We are looking at things positively. This team is positively awful. Although we did prove we can score in every National League city this season. With 17 shutouts, they're within screaming distance of the all-time mark of 33 held by the St. Louis Blues. With AK having used up his monthly quota of homers, we've got a chance.

Posted by: Positively Offensive | August 10, 2008 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Positively Offensive,

did you mean the st. louis BROWNS? the BLUES are an nhl team.

Posted by: natsscribe | August 10, 2008 9:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you Mr. Street.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 10, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

The amount of walks issued by this staff today is downright sinful,you can't win with those kind of stats not against a team trying to keep its wild card lead.Manny Acta should have known better than to bring Ayala into a tense situation like today's game he's already under pressure,an extra inning affair just exacerbates the issue think Manny think!!!!!.

Posted by: DARGREGMAG@AOL.COM | August 10, 2008 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Ayala can pitch batting practice for the remainder of the season. He could single handedly cure the Nats' hitting woes.

Posted by: Dale | August 10, 2008 10:35 PM | Report abuse

...and if Ayala gets tired pitching batting practice, Hanrahan can join him.

Posted by: Dale | August 10, 2008 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Just flat out cut him now if we aren't going to sign him next year. Offer him a stint in AAA or tell him he can hit the bricks.

Then bring up Clippard or Martis

Posted by: The hatchet man | August 10, 2008 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Chico, did you say "This might be one case where allowing a guy to walk makes perfect sense."

One Case? Hello, Patterson, Rob M, Estrada, Lopez, Lo Duca........Any yes, he should be cut tonight to make room for someone who can help the team.

Posted by: JayB | August 10, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

It was just for effect, JayB. Chico, I appreciated your comedic touch. A little gallows humor is needed.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 10, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Among those in line for release should be Lennie Harris--erstwile pitching coach. If he can't cure the bad habit of most of the hitters OF SWINGING AT THE FIRST PITCH THEY SEE i.e. Willy Mo--this late in the season he NEVER WILL!!! The hitters on this team are NOT patient hitters and Harris is not getting his message across except for Millege and perhaps Dukes.

Posted by: vergens2 | August 11, 2008 1:50 AM | Report abuse

lenny harris sucks he is awful everyone has regressed horribly even zimmerman he couldnt hit a pitch on the outer half to save his life kearns looks more lost than wily mo despite his lucky hr today. lenny harris IS NOT a coach he is a buddy a pal a cheerleader we need someone who can technically analyze what is wrong with our hitters and fix it. lenny harris is not that person. ray knight may be the easiest transition and i think within a week or 2 the improvement would be marked. get phil wood a haircut and promote him to full time studio analyst he could use the job. and manny needs to step up the fire i've seen a call in almost every game the past 2 weeks that went against us and changed the game and manny barely made a peep. make a scene fire up the young guys the will respond today and in the future because they know you care, standing in the dugout frowning doesnt send any message at all. randy st clair is the best pitching coach in the league. that is all for tonight, manny, stan and jimbo if you are reading, get on it.

Posted by: love | August 11, 2008 2:07 AM | Report abuse

Agreed on LH and RStC -- a team this young needs more of a professor than a buddy to teach them the fundamentals. Is EBon already regressing? Even though we lost - how did we ever last that many innings? A month ago,that never happens, we fold. I hope the young guys have been watching how a winning team operates. Our young pitching staff is surely learning with their feet to the fire.
( Although sometimes I think Lannan is completely made of ice.)

Posted by: masnstinks | August 11, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Ebon isn't regressing because he's turning out to be exactly what he is - an undisciplined mess at the plate. The Nats should have known that when they traded for him. My fear is that this team is so bad offensively that the good pitching exhibited this year will not last into the future - you'll always have injuries and the like which could tip the balance back the other way. You just gave up a pretty decent relief pitcher for a minor league infielder that no one believed was ready to be a major league starter, not now, maybe not ever.

Posted by: No More | August 11, 2008 7:51 AM | Report abuse

"You just gave up a pretty decent relief pitcher for a minor league infielder that no one believed was ready to be a major league starter, not now, maybe not ever."

We'd be starting him today, if we still had him.

Posted by: Hudson-less DBacks | August 11, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Lastings Milledge has been on a tear, give some of that credit to Lenny Harris. Or don't. I could care less, its just funny how people drone on and on about the ineptitude of the guy and skim over his successes.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | August 11, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Wow, the daggers really came out last night. Might I remind you all that the 2008b Washington Nationals are 6-4. And two of those games are against Sabathia and Sheets. There's a difference between making excuses and retaining a sane analysis. Oakland, Minnesota, and St. Louis have all suffered complete game shut-outs at Sabathia's hand, too.

What happened to Bonifacio? They stopped throwing him fastballs. I'm not sure I've seen a single fastball hurled his way in his entire trip to Milwaukee. What happens to almost all rookies when they make it to the majors? They have a hot streak while they're challenged with fastballs, before going cold when they get nothing but breaking stuff. Give the kid some time to learn to hit the pitch. There's a reason it's hard to play in the majors.

And lastly, I just want to go ahead and go out on a limb here... Manny will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever "turn up the fire." Ever. "Call" for it every day, if you want, he's not going to do it. If you want that, you better start "calling" for a new manager.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 11, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I am not calling for Manny to turn up the fire but I think a bullpen sacraficial offering would be nice. How about Ayala?

Posted by: Dale | August 11, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I woke up this AM hoping to hear Dave Johnson on WTOP telling us that the Nationals released BP Pitcher Luis Ayala after yesterdays 13inning debacle. Of course that was wishful thinking. So for the next six weeks the Nats will have only 5 available arms out of the pen and be on pace for that coveted Steven Strasberg spot (if they can sign him).

For the life of me I don't get the rationale w/this team. They keep guys off the DL just so that they are constantly 1 or two players short either on the bench or in the pen.

Coming to the rapid conclusion even if the LernerStans decide to open up the wallet over the winter, not many A line FA's are going to want to play in DC, to put up w/this type of stuff.

Posted by: Tippy Canoe | August 11, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Kudos to Milledge for keeping his focus intact the entire series so far. He is hitting for power and average. Could be a #4 hitter?

Posted by: Dale | August 11, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I really hate to be the type to bellow for someone's head but I'm with those who think it's time to let "Gas Can" Ayala go a la LoDuca/Lopez/Estrada.

I would rather my sudden-death home runs come at the expense of someone whose best days are still *ahead* of him.

Posted by: Not Really a Gas Can Fan | August 11, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

"Might I remind you all that the 2008b Washington Nationals are 6-4. And two of those games are against Sabathia and Sheets."

Their six wins came against two teams who are a combined 105-134.

Posted by: Just sayin' | August 11, 2008 8:59 AM | Report abuse

2008b Nats?? What really changed except giving over the 2b job to a kid who is not ready for it? And putting a guy at first who can't play the position (and that's who lost the game for you, not Zimm)? Folks, there's nothing to see here and I'm an optimist.

Posted by: No More | August 11, 2008 9:07 AM | Report abuse

SpinMan from the Nats main message board has set up a meet and greet with Collin Balester before the game on 8/29. Sign up using this link:

http://www.forums.mlb.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ml-washington&tid=26121

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

The upside of EBon - I would rather watch him go 0 for the rest of the year than have to watch the flop. He seems like he can learn and has a great attitude. The Belliard experiment at first has to be over - Casto handled it well and plays with absolute determination that he will pick the ball. Belly has gotten a little bit fat and lazy. Zim and LMilz may be getting warm and AK may be finding his stroke. Even though the DL has been our greatest enemy this season - at least it has forced our hand on some of the young guys - most notably Flores. Watching the young guys figure it out can be painful but is still better than watching egotistical has-beens.

Posted by: masnstinks | August 11, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Let's not forget about that snag Bonafacio made late in the game over at 2nd to stop the winning run from crossing the plate.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | August 11, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm still excited! Nats 2008b has Major League starting pitching, a ML bull pen (with one flaming exception), is playing ML defense (except at 1b but we have three firstbaseman on DL) and provides ML hustle. I love baseball. I'm seeing Major League Baseball now, before with version 2008a...not so much. I'd rather see winning baseball, but I'm not seeing quiters or slumbering second sackers. Our team is as much into the game as we are and it seems to mean as much to them as it does to us. For me that's a big improvement. We are now respecting the game and eventually the game will respect us back.
Do we have to work on our offensive? Of course we do but there are glimmerings.

I refuse to be anything but positive about the team on the field.

The front office even has my respect. I like the recent acquisitions and think that signing Nieto is exactly how the "Plan" should work. We have to pay over slot in many cases to make up for lost ground when Bud and his stumbling crew did us wrong. I'm hoping the FO continues its agressive approach begun in last year's draft.
Be happy we have baseball!
Better than that, we have Major League baseball. Soon we'll have winning Major League baseball!

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | August 11, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Hooray! Thanks for the great post slowpitch. You speak for me too.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 11, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps some of you haters forgot that Lannan allowed no hits for five and a third innings to the contending Milwaukee Brewers with the help of some great defense. If not for a error on the first baseman after a mistake by the third baseman, it very well might have been no hits through six.

Milwaukee ought to feel a lot worse about this game than we do.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | August 11, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"Belly has gotten a little bit fat and lazy."

He's got to be the only player I've ever seen actually feeding his face on the field during the game. The camera caught him at least twice yesterday reaching into his back pocket for the sunflower seeds or whatever and scarfing some down. Never saw Dmitri or Ray or Livan do that!

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 11, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

"Ayala has given us no reason to sign him in the off season?" Hahaha; Ayala has given us little reason to KEEP HIM ON THE ROSTER any longer! Cut him, now. He's only kept a "clean sheet" (i.e., no baserunners via walks or hits) in something like 3 of his last 20 outings, a ridiculously bad performance for a supposed setup/8th inning guy. He's now got a 6.04era and a 1.50+ whip. Why the F is he getting ANY innings anymore?

We cut Patterson in spring training and King after giving him 9 innings. Why exactly does Ayala get opportunity after opportunity to lose games for our starters? How pissed would you be if you were Lannan right now. 6 innings, 1hit ball over a playoff team that's been shutting down your teammates. And he gets yet another No Decision.

Posted by: Sec131 | August 11, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure how I feel about Manny's temperament. I love how he can keep a clubhouse calm, but I was screaming at the TV for him to come out and argue the blown call on the double-play Fielder grounded into (but was called safe at first). Boni to Zim (who made a *fantastic* turn) to Belli, but blue called him safe. I was pretty upset, and didn't need a replay to know he was actually out.
C'mon, Manny, at least let blue know he missed the call.

Posted by: Section 138 | August 11, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

The problem is - and this will be the same problem next year without big changes in personnel and coaching, this offense is incapable of putting anyone away. The margin of error is so small that it undermines everything this team does right, like the starting pitching. This will have to be a busy offseason and painful and necessary changes need to be made. DC is not a baseball town, but it could be - the time is running out and this years damage can be undone but the current GM is not the man for the job.

Posted by: No More | August 11, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

So you all want to get rid of Ayala because he's having a bad year? Then by using this logic, I'd hate to see the lineup for this team next year when 20 of the 25 players are let go for having bad years.

I agree that Ayala is having a BAD year. And I agree that he should not be getting more innings to pitch. But, his track record prior to this year had been pretty darn good. Doesn't everyone have a bad year every 5 or so years? Perhaps they can "find" a lagging "injury" and shut him down for the rest of the year ...

Posted by: e | August 11, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

BTW, I love Ayala...as a person. He's a damn funny dude, and keeps the mood light in the bullpen, both for the guys, and the fans, but I was really hoping to see Shell out there instead of mi hermano, Luis.

Posted by: Section 138 | August 11, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

You and me, NatsNut, you and me.

In different parts of our lives we have to face and deal with negativity, but not here. In the greatest country on earth, the sun shines on our faces and we get to devote time, energy and affection to a GAME that returns our devotion with JOY!

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | August 11, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

uh... *lots* of players eat sunflower seeds during the game.

Posted by: 231 | August 11, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Good post slow pitch.

This is the most fickle forum in baseball. You don't trade a couple of youngsters and suddenly become the Yankee's. The fact is that we are building, and our foundation has become a lot more solid since we upgraded to Nationals 2008b. Bonaficio and Gonzalez may turn out to be nothing more than bit part players but, they may turn out to be excellent. In the mean time they don't make the kind of mistakes that demoralize young starters, they don't drop everything that gets hit off our largely groundball pitching staff, and they work hard. The whole team does. So now we have something we can build on. There was certainly no future with Plod, Flop and fatty Estrada, but there might be with some of these young guys. The fans of this franchise need to recognise that as opposed to simply forming a lynch mob every time we lose a few games.

Except for Lenny Harris. He should go. He's had his shot.

Posted by: Exposition | August 11, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"He should go. He's had his shot."

I'd suggest Ayala falls in the same category.

Posted by: Not Really Exposition | August 11, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

"uh... *lots* of players eat sunflower seeds during the game."

Well then at least they're discreet enough to not get caught in a closeup on camera doing it, unlike Belliard. Hint to Ronnie: Wait at least a few seconds after you make a play to start eating. Harder to do that when you're playing first because you're involved in so many plays, I know, but maybe Dmitri could give you some help there. He managed to avoid getting caught, even though you KNOW he had to be eating all the time.

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 11, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be so fast to jettison Lenny. Seems Lastings credits him largely for his recent hitting successes. Perhaps his style of coaching will take hold of the rest of the guys once they see/realize how it has aided in Lastings recent surge. The season is nearly over anyway, let us just see how his teachings play out the rest of the way and then take a longer studied look in the off season before deciding his future. On Luis Ayala...bye bye.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | August 11, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Not Really Exposition

Sure. That's fair. I was really barking at people who suddenly start condemning the whole team because of one series. So yeah, after heralding us as world beater because we won two.

Ayala probably just needs a fresh start and to rebuild his career somewhere else. He'll probably do very well next year, just not with us where he'll constantly be thinking about how badly he's pitched. If it's a confidence thing, he'll probably do fine somewhere else and hope he does. Soon.

Posted by: Exposition | August 11, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"I was really hoping to see Shell out there instead of mi hermano, Luis."

Her-man-o!

Posted by: A Magician Named G.O.B. | August 11, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

In addition to linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, Vitamin E, B Vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc. Additionally, they are rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. They are also low calorie food.

I'd much rather see a player eating seeds than tobacco.

Posted by: sunflower seed fan | August 11, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

yeah but TONS of sodium. awful for blood pressure.

Posted by: the devil's advocate | August 11, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Seriously. It's not like Belliard was pulling a Twinkie out of his pocket. Sheesh.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 11, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

There is an argument that all players should be given regular colonic irrigation too, but you don't see them doing it in the middle of a game. You know, except Da Meat.

Posted by: Flying Doctor | August 11, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

if being caught eating sunflower seeds your big problem with belliard, then i suppose he's doing pretty well.

people pick the weirdest things to get bent out of shape over.

Posted by: 231 | August 11, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

"There is an argument that all players should be given regular colonic irrigation too, but you don't see them doing it in the middle of a game. You know, except Da Meat."

1. That's gross.

2. Are you seriously comparing sunflower seeds to colon cleansing on the field? Talk about apples and oranges...

3. Is this really the most relevant thing any of you can find to talk about? How about guesses on Aaron Crow's eventual signing bonus? Suggestions for who ought to get Ayala's spot in the pen? Guesses at how many innings/pitches/runs Mock will last today?

Come on, kids. You're better than this.

Posted by: 3434 | August 11, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

And here's Chico, right on cue, to change the subject. New post.

Posted by: 3434 | August 11, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Yeah! Belly sucks! The stuff he eats on the field has dubious nutrional value!! Cut him!!!!! We lost three in a row! Cut everyone!!! Fire Everybody! Manny has no passion! Tar and feather Ayala!!!

Breathe. Breathe.

At what point did we forget that this is a mediocre team? They did well against other mediocre teams (Atlanta, Col) and ran into a team that's maybe going to win the NL pennant and faced arguably the best 1-2 combination outside of Webb-Haren. Bonifacio cooled off, and the bullpen (overmatched) gave one away. The only thing that matters this week is whether or not they get the draft picks signed.

The 23-year-olds continue to look good, except for Bonifacio (who's going to be streaky his whole career, I think) - I think realistically, we're probably hoping to go .500 the rest of the way - a 6-4 ten game stretch is still pretty decent. Hopefully, they'll warm back up on the homestand.

Posted by: Highway 295 Revisited | August 11, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't really see Da Meat snarfing down sunflower seeds..
Now if the bench had a nice buffet in the dugout...
------------------------------------------------------------------
He's got to be the only player I've ever seen actually feeding his face on the field during the game. The camera caught him at least twice yesterday reaching into his back pocket for the sunflower seeds or whatever and scarfing some down. Never saw Dmitri or Ray or Livan do that!

Posted by: Ray King's Gut Feeling | August 11, 2008 10:12 AM

Posted by: TimDz | August 11, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

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