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It Ended The Right Way... With The Wrong Pitch

Joel Hanrahan didn't combust tonight. He came close -- as close as possible -- but he came away with a save, some restored confidence, and even a good story about a pitch he threw against his better judgment.

Let's recap. Entering the ninth, Washington had battled back from a 3-0 deficit. The lineup had a lot of good things working. Patient per usual, with a few critical hits mixed in, the Nats scored one in the second, three more in the sixth. They knocked out Atlanta starter Kenshin Kawakami after 5-plus and 93 pitches. By that point, Washington's own pitcher, Shairon Martis, had overcome a brutal first inning and was cruising. Even the middle relievers did their jobs.

It was on Hanrahan to hold things together.

Just two batters into the ninth, in vintage Hanrahan style, aortas were already popping. The first batter walked. Then, Hanrahan allowed a double. So he'd backed himself into a second-and-third, no-outs corner. Greg Norton, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar were due up.

"I wouldn't say anything is easy in life," Hanrahan said. "Today was a challenge. I kind of made the fire for myself."

How did he defy the odds? First, Norton chopped back to the mound; Hanrahan grabbed the comebacker, held the lead runner at third and recorded the out at first. Then, Johnson flew to shallow center. The infield was playing in, and for a moment it looked like the pop might plunge between a fast-charging Dukes and the backpedaling middle infielders. But at the last second, Dukes sprinted under the ball.

So, Escobar was the last guy standing in the way of Hanrahan's second save of the year -- probably the biggest of his career.

Randy St. Claire, the pitching coach, visited the mound.

Said Hanrahan, later: "Saint came out to the mound just to give me a breather. I tried to call [catcher Jesus] Flores up to the mound and see what he wanted to do with [Escobar]. I kind of had an idea. They said, let's get out there and throw him a first-pitch slider because he's an aggressive hitter. I said, 'Alright, alright.' I got up on the mound, and Flores didn't put down any sign and, I don't know, I just said, 'I'm going to throw this fastball as hard as I can.'"

Indeed, he threw the fastball. Escobar grounded hard to second.

So, why did he decide against the slider?

"I felt pretty good with it," Hanrahan said. "I felt like if I made a good fastball down and away I could get a groundball to Anderson. Because over in Atlanta I faced [Escobar] and I did the same thing, but unfortunately we were holding someone on at second and it got by him. And this time, I almost looked at Hernandez and said, 'Hey, heads up, I think this ball is coming to you.' But I didn't want to give it away to the hitter that I was gonna throw him a fastball away. Luckily Hernandez stayed in there, and that ball was smoked right at him."

By Chico Harlan  |  April 22, 2009; 12:31 AM ET
 
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Next: What Hanrahan Needs is a Good 'Stache

Comments

chico - can you talk about rivera's options? did he have one? did this use it? does he have more?

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | April 22, 2009 12:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure that really endeared him to the coaches...

Posted by: fischy | April 22, 2009 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Not sure Hanrahan is the sharpest tool in the shed. He is proud of defying his pitching coach and catcher's pitch choice for a fastball that was smoked, but luckily right at an infielder? Ummm, Joel... the reason the catcher didn't put a sign down is that you were JUST TOLD what to throw during the mound visit.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 22, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

"Don't think, it can only hurt the ball club."

Posted by: IBC-AS | April 22, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

I've been flipping between MLB Network and Baseball Tonight, so I can't remember which one it was, but one of the shows mentioned that Tim Timmons' strike zone has been a problem since it was all over the place in tonight's Detroit-LA Angels game. In fact, Mike Scioscia was ejected just like Manny was last week. So it wasn't just us. Oh, and BBTN closed out by saying that Majestic has apologized for the missing "O"s (seriously!).

Posted by: BGinVA | April 22, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

Options are on year basis, not a per-time basis. As far as I know, this would not count as invoking an option due to the immediate recall due to injury. But, even if so, then Rivera can be sent up and down all year long if needed.

Posted by: gmwelch | April 22, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse

This is an example of great reporting. (Even) more, please!

Posted by: tmp2234 | April 22, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Hanrahan's throw to NJ on that first out really handcuffed him. I bet Dunn (or Da Meat) wouldn't have caught it. Geez, it's good to have NJ back. But closers: They'll be the death of me.

Posted by: nats24 | April 22, 2009 2:12 AM | Report abuse

Ditto tmp2234's comment. Great reporting Chico. Wonder what St. Claire will say.

Posted by: inthestreetindustry | April 22, 2009 2:14 AM | Report abuse

Where's Chad when you need him? With the improved hitting we have now -- but also some suspect defense and a young starting rotation -- a real closer, like we used to have in Cordero or Rauch (until we decided we were so hopeless we didn't need a closer at all last year), has, as recent events so clearly demonstrated, become a priority again, and I strongly fear that Joel ain't ever gonna be it. I think we ought to consider making a closer by paradoxically not annointing one. These last two shaky 'saves' only amplify the point, and the unfortunate loss of JB (and instant recall of SR) make bullpen flexibility even more crucial. The team needs to be willing to experiment in the role, without too much delay in an irrelevent attempt to boost JH's 'confidence' (I say irrelevent because, since he seems perfectly willing to try to throw his fastball for strikes, confidence doesn't appear to be his problem -- command and effectiveness does). Or even just announce they're going with the fabled closer-by-committee until someone (anyone, even a prospective or former starter) begins to stand out as legit on their merits and record, rather than on 'stuff' and 'potential'. After all, the title 'closer' don't mean squat if no one on your staff has actually earned it yet in any case, so why let an empty word dictate your moves in desperate times?

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | April 22, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

"And this time, I almost looked at Hernandez and said, 'Hey, heads up, I think this ball is coming to you.'"

Hey, Joel. Next time you're about to throw a gopher ball, can you look over at me and give me a heads up what section it's gonna land in so I can run over there and get the ball? I promise I won't tell Bob Carpenter and spoil the surprise in his call. Oh wait, he already called it before you even pitched.

Geez. People who posted about Hanrahan being lucky last night were right, but not for the reasons they said. In Acta's post-game presser he said Flores told him it was a good thing that fastball was hit, because otherwise it would have hit him in the throat. Joel, if you're gonna cross up your catcher on a pitch you guys have agreed on, you need to tell him. He didn't give you a sign, you say? Shake off his non-existent sign and make him give you one so you'll both be on the same page. Otherwise, you're looking at wild pitch, tying run in, winning run at third. "Closer mentality" just isn't enough. You need to think too.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Blah, blah, blah, I'll find anything to be angry about.

Posted by: Section506 | April 22, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Completely agree with nunof1. Unbelievable. If I were Flores or St. Claire, I'd be livid about this.

Posted by: usmc53 | April 22, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

I'll say this: Hanrahan choosing to throw a different pitch beats Hanrahan inadvertently throwing a different pitch any day.

Posted by: Section506 | April 22, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Nice AB by Willingham to drive in the go ahead run and Dunn's blast was a beauty. Martis also should get credit for holding things together for six innings.

Posted by: VaNat | April 22, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

re: Rivera's option status

The Nationals did not use Rivera's option. Think of it as an "option year," a team has three "option years" they can use on a player and an "option year" is only used when a player spends 20 consecutive days on assignment to the minor leagues.

Typically, a player must be on option for at least 10 days before he can be recalled. The exception to that rule is an injury that requires a replacement (like with Beimel).

Hope that helps.

Posted by: Brian_ | April 22, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Exactly right nunof1. Hanrahan was lucky Escobar hit the pitch because otherwise you'd be looking at a wild pitch/passed ball and a tie game. Flores and St. Claire should both have ripped up Hanrahan's ass in the clubhouse.

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 22, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I don't know - pitchers are artists, not soldiers. Hanrahan's got to throw the pitch he feels comfortable throwing - his confidence has got to be shaken lately. If he's comfortable throwing the #1, then I'd rather have him throw a confident fastball than a hesitant slider. Hesitant sliders end up in the bullpen. He threw the pitch he wanted and got the result he wanted - the only fault I see is that he didn't call Flores back out and say "F Saint, I'm throwing fastball." No disrespect to St, who's great, but at the end of the day, the pitcher's got to throw what he thinks he can get a result from in that moment, not just mindlessly do what the coach tells him and throw some slop up there because he wasn't committed to it.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | April 22, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Now if Hanrahan can only get a lesson from Saul Rivera in how to intimidate hitters (throw inside, don't just hit one, hit two!)he might get his closer mojo back. Is there another team in baseball that would dare to put Hanrahan on the mound in the ninth inning? The ninth inning was atypical for Manny in that he would characteristically have called for an intentional walk with first base open. My guess is that Manny was conceding the one run on third and possibly the second run if the runner advanced to third on a FC. As it turns out that was an incredibly lucky save by Hanrahan--one that has an odor to it.

Posted by: driley | April 22, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

we need a closer. number one priority.

Posted by: longterm | April 22, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I feel good about the fact that Bergmann, Wells, and Beimel (when he's healthy) are in our 'pen. Other than that, they all scare the hell out of me every time they come in.

We need a closer. A real closer.

Posted by: usmc53 | April 22, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

"we need a closer. number one priority. "

Really? You look at the entirety of this team, and you think that closer is the largest problem?

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 22, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

I ceded clicker control to my hubby at 9:30 and didn't see all of the game, but I'm with those who think it's a problem for Hanrahan to ignore the game plan. He could have injured Flores let alone lost the ballgame. I'm glad that he got the two saves (and the team got the wins) but honestly I don't feel very confident with him coming into a game at this point.

Re. the good old days of Cordero, I loved the kid, but my memory is that he manufactured his own heart attack specials on a fairly consistent basis.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

And on the field, what would you say it is, Teddy? With a closer who doesn't blow half his save chances, the Nats would be 6-7 instead of 3-10. Not great, but better than they are.

The starters are coming around and the pen should be a little safer with the addition of three former starters who can go multiple innings. The loss of Beimel hurts, but hopefully Saul will start throwing strikes that miss bats.

The offense looks 100% better than it did last year, and when Guz gets back will be that much better. Situational hitting must improve, but Willingham did a heck of a job last night.

I agree that closer is a huge issue.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | April 22, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the insight! Tell me, was there any word in the postgame presser about Dukes trying to steal third in the second inning? Was he told to try the steal or did he do that on his own?

Posted by: veramirez1 | April 22, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I think that Mock would be a great closer. He has shown that he has that once through the order stuff where the first time through he is lights out.

Posted by: twinbrook | April 22, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Gee guys, save the sturm und drang until the next loss. This is baseall, Hanrahan throws the called for pitch and the NATS lose, I doubt anyone here would give credit to the guy for throwing the "right" pitch. Hanarahan got the save, the NATS won. Next time? Who knows? It's baseball.

Section 204 Row H Seat 7 (Used to be Section 204 Row K Seat 11)

Posted by: adhardwick | April 22, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I don't understad you fans!

The teams loses you complain.

They win, guess what you complain!

I am happy that the Nats won! go NATS!

Posted by: lilagram | April 22, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

But for Kearns' confused expression watching Dukes get hosed at third, I would have thought it was a failed hit and run. Then again, it still could have been, with Kearns missing a sign or something.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | April 22, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Closer may not be the team's number one need for long-term success. Only the true dominant closers have long self lives anyway. However, it can be reasonably stated that it is near the top of list of needs for the 2009 season. If the team has to continuously worry about giving the ball to someone who's going to lose more leads than he protects in the 9th inning then at some point they have to ask themselves what's the point?

Posted by: RicketyCricket | April 22, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm just glad to watch us play defense. If Gonzalez was named Zimmerman, that throw would have been attributed to 'trying to make the heads up play', and other than that we looked calm and collected out there. We did the fundamental stuff well, and the difficult stuff like pro's. That got us the win. So good. It won't be popular but in Gonzalez/Hernandez I see a very useful DP combination. In Dukes and Maxwell I see guys who won't embarrass themselves in the field. This is very useful for Manny, to have guys that can defend to throw out there.

Posted by: soundbloke | April 22, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

"a real closer, like we used to have in Cordero or Rauch "

Rauch is currently getting the snot shelled out of him in Arizona to the tune of 12.00 ERA. And he finished 2008 blowing 5 out of 22 saves; not much better than Hanrahan's 2008.

I'm sure the D-backs would be more than happy to ship him back postage-paid.

Posted by: joebleux | April 22, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Hanrahan's last pitch of the game wouldn't have hit Flores. It ended up on the outer part of the plate.

If he can stay away from the walks, he should be fine. After Schafer got that double, Hanrahan hit his spots and made the plays.

I saw Cordero do this heart thumping routine many times too.

The life of a closer.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 22, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

"I don't know - pitchers are artists, not soldiers. Hanrahan's got to throw the pitch he feels comfortable throwing - his confidence has got to be shaken lately. If he's comfortable throwing the #1, then I'd rather have him throw a confident fastball than a hesitant slider."

No problem with that. But he's got to - GOT TO - let his catcher know what pitch is coming before he throws it. Sure, he can always miss on his pitch, that happens. But knowingly crossing up your catcher on a pitch selection is a recipe for disaster. And the more heat you bring with that mystery pitch, the bigger the potential disaster is.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"However, it can be reasonably stated that it is near the top of list of needs for the 2009 season. If the team has to continuously worry about giving the ball to someone who's going to lose more leads than he protects in the 9th inning then at some point they have to ask themselves what's the point?"

He's blown two saves.

One was a one-run save. Closers blow about a third of those.

The other was a three-run save. That one's inexcusable, but crap happens every now and then.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 22, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm with GGGone - a closer's lot in life is a lot like an O-lineman - people expect them to be perfect and their mistakes are obvious for all (even tools like me) to see, when in ponit of fact, even the best closers blow saves and average closers blow saves somewhat regularly. I remember Needham (back in the salad days of Cordero blowing three in a row) doing some analysis on how often a closer blows a save, and it's something like 1/4 - and even higher in one-run games.

At the end of the day, Hanrahan's got to do what gets him results - once he's got a bit of confidence that he can execute his pitches, then you have him throw things that he might have a little less confidence in.

I'm not saying it's a GOOD thing that he ignored St., just that at the end of the day, he's the one who needs to execute the pitch, and if he's got a little nagging "Gee, I wish I would have thrown fastball" at the back of his mind, there's a pretty good chance he won't execute the pitch the coach told him to throw and he'll get roasted NOT for throwing the wrong pitch, but for not executing the pitch he did throw.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | April 22, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

@Uncle Teddy: "Really? You look at the entirety of this team, and you think that closer is the largest problem?"

Absolutely I do. This team has now carried leads into the ninth inning of 6 games and won only half of them. With a decent closer, they are on a six-game winning streak.

The rest of the team may not be perfect but absolutely the inability to close down a win is their number one problem and last night didn't inspire a lot of confidence despite the good outcome.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 22, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

"The ninth inning was atypical for Manny in that he would characteristically have called for an intentional walk with first base open."

Maybe if it was the bottom of the ninth, because at that point if you've already got the tying and winning runs on base, what's one more baserunner? But in the top of the ninth, intentionally putting another man on base who might end up scoring on you is not the best idea. Trading a run for an out makes sense in that situation, but not throwing additional potential runs on base just on the hope that later you might get a double play. Because if you don't get that double play, you'll be even further behind going into your last ABs.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

"Re. the good old days of Cordero, I loved the kid, but my memory is that he manufactured his own heart attack specials on a fairly consistent basis."

Yes, he did do that. But to his credit he did manage to get out of them on a pretty consistent basis once he manufactured them. Which is more than you can say about Hanrahan at this point.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Cardiac Cordero. Heart Attack Hanrahan. Yes, I could use me some Lipitor Lidge.

Posted by: softballgirl | April 22, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game last night (and am paying for it this morning). As silly as it sounds, if the Nats had been up by 2 going into the ninth, I think Diaz would have scored. It just had that "1 run game" feel to it (similarly, I could also see us losing 3-2 earlier in the game). I was hoping to see Hinckley finish the 8th and Tavarez pitch the 9th, but "Heart Attack Hanrahan" got the job done. Not sure if Charlie/Dave or the tv folks mentioned it, but Bergmann was warming up in the bullpen during the ninth.

Posted by: LurkerNowPoster | April 22, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

As I walked into my office this morning here in Atlanta i was met with a chorous of "they are the worst team in baseball" and i said "gentleman no need to be so negative about the Braves" that response was met with a round of unprintables,you know i'm lovin it LOL!

Posted by: dargregmag | April 22, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"Absolutely I do. This team has now carried leads into the ninth inning of 6 games and won only half of them. With a decent closer, they are on a six-game winning streak."

Hanrahan is only responsible for two of those.

As I said, one of those was a one-run game. No closer -- outside the truly elite -- nails those down with regularity.

So he's cost us like 1.5 games, not 3.

Not great, sure. But if we had had a CFer who could field or hit to start. Or a second baseman who didn't suck at all facets of the game. Or a catcher who would've made contact just once over the weekend, we'd have won those games, too.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 22, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

True re. the Chief, nunof.

I'd be interested to hear more about the Dukes CS as well. After it happened, I wondered whether it would cost us later in the inning, which it did (Flores RBI hit would have scored Dukes as well as Kearns).

Re. the comments of others, I'm also happy for the win. I'm a GHF type of person. But I do see areas for concern as well.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

@Highway295 -- YOu're overlooking the fact that everyone agreed to pitch him a slider. Hanrahan even admits he said "Alright". You can't leave your catcher hanging like that -- not to mention the disrespect it shows towards his coach.

In the end, it worked out. However, it's the kind of nonsense that gets pitchers sent down to Syracuse, when it doesn't work. If St. Claire calls a pitch, and the guy knocks it for a hit, then it's St. Claire's fault. They give Hanrahan a pass. If they'd lost last night because of that fastball, Mock might be the new closer.

Posted by: fischy | April 22, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

The real question is what the heck was St. Claire doing going out there in the first place?

Also, all those people calling for Mock, are you serious? What has that guy done anywhere with his 89 mph fastball to make you think he can get outs...

Posted by: NoVaNatRat | April 22, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Uncle Teddy makes one compelling point. Dunn's a nice addition, but the O-Dog would have made a bigger impact on the team's fortunes. The Nats need a second baseman. They might consider that with their 10th pick this year, but they should be shopping for a free agent next winter. If Flores doesn't stop looking at all those called strike threes, he might find that the Nats will be in the market for a catcher, too.

Posted by: fischy | April 22, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

i'm no fool, i'm longterm. a legitimate closer can quickly make a poor team mediocre and gives a mediocre team wild card aspirations.

i don't expect more than 80% success out of my closer. but i do know that all managerial moves look questionable when the bullpen can't do their job. and worse, it affects more than the game currently played. there's more than one reason you play a series against teams in baseball.

our batters can wear out opposing starters early in a series and affect opposing managers' decisions in days that follow. but our bullpen completely negates this advantage purely by sucking day after day. we are a better team than we are showing. our rookies look effective, and our 1-3 starters can eat up innings. it's a team. i think a patient offense paired with inning eating starters will be a better team than any we've had here yet. that is once we get an effective closer.

Posted by: longterm | April 22, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

"The real question is what the heck was St. Claire doing going out there in the first place?"

Dibble was saying that up in the booth. In the post-game it came out that all St. Claire wanted out of that mound visit was to give him a breather. It sounded like the choice of a slider was made between Hanrahan and Flores, with no input from the Saint actually.

"Not sure if Charlie/Dave or the tv folks mentioned it, but Bergmann was warming up in the bullpen during the ninth."

I don't think Dibble or Carpenter said anything, but there was a shot of St. Claire going to the phone as soon as Hanrahan put men on second and third with no outs.


Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

@Lurker - No mention from the TV crew about Bergmann warming up in the 9th.

@Uncle_Teddy - He's blown two saves in 4 opportunities and nearly blew one last night. Even giving him credit for last night's save that's a 50% success ratio. Not acceptable for a closer.

It's a small sample yes, but that's a valid argument against both criticism and support of Joel's efforts to date.

If you'll notice, I haven't said that Joel can't be the closer the Nats need. I've said that they need to be able to hand the ball over to someone they can depend on. Whether or not that's Hanrahan remains to be seen.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | April 22, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Lets not forget either that the first blown save was a poorly hit pop up by a guy out in front of the ball that snuck by the pole and into the first row...

Posted by: NoVaNatRat | April 22, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Carpy still can't handle the call;

Jesus Flores, "how far is that ball going"

Thank the lord for small favors albeit in the form of Rob Dibble

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 22, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Chico, you are too kind: "The first batter walked." It was really more like Hanrahan did not come close to the plate with any of the 4 pitches he tossed to the mighty Greg Norton (why not just heave that fastball to Norton?) -- Hanrahan WALKED the first batter, then he gave up the double and then he regrouped and pitched out of trouble. Glad to see the guy get it done, but he's gotta be more aggressive with the guys who are not likely to hurt him with the long ball.

Posted by: dfh21 | April 22, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

After spending about forty years in baseball as a player, coach, manager, and now umpire I realize that I have missed an important rule. Can someone tell me the rule where it says that you have to replace a pitcher who has done well in the seventh inning just to bring in your supposed eighth inning "set up" man? And then if your setup man does well in the eighth inning where is it written that you have to bring in someone else to lose the game?

The quicker that Acta forgets about this garbage the better team they will be.

Posted by: MKadyman | April 22, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I noticed that on the call as well, Tippy. I'm liking Dibble more and more each day.

Since I voiced my bullpen concerns, I will say on the plus side that I like our hitters being more patient, our offense being more potent, and the fact that we've had a series of quality starts from our pitchers.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

It's just a shame that Daniel Cabrera and Scott Olson will be starting later in the week.....Posted by: fischy | April 22, 2009 12:05 AM

***********************

TRUE THAT.

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 22, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I think Manny will be thrilled to forget about setup men and closers as soon as we have a starter who still looks strong finishing the 6th or starting the 7th, and doesn't need to be yanked for a pinch-hitter like Martis last night (you know, for the game winning hit by Willingham).

Posted by: joebleux | April 22, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"Can someone tell me the rule where it says that you have to replace a pitcher who has done well in the seventh inning just to bring in your supposed eighth inning "set up" man? ... The quicker that Acta forgets about this garbage the better team they will be."

Um, just about all MLB managers use this tactic. And as for last night, Manny didn't employ this. Bottom of the 6th, runner in scoring position and the pitcher (Martis) is due up. You HAVE to pinch-hit in this situation. Willingham delivers a single and knocks in the go-ahead run.

Top of the 7th, Hinckley (LHP) comes in to pitch. Allows a single then gets out of the inning on a great play by Flores.

Top of the 8th, Hinckley starts the inning. Lead off single, then two quick outs. Francoeur up to the plate. I think any managewr would prefer to have a righty versus righty situation. So, in comes Tavares (RHP). Francoeur out. Inning over.

Hanrahan comes out in the 9th, as all MLB teams basically do ... bring in their closer.

How is this handled incorrectly? What would you have done differently? And I think I read in another post (in-game) that someone called this a porrly-managed game by Acta. Again, how?

Geez Louise. The Nats win and people gripe. Not all the wins will be pretty (this one sure wasn't). But it is a win. Get over yourselves. Be happy that they've won 2 in a row. Let's go for the sweep, then turn our attentions to the Mets.

Posted by: erocks33 | April 22, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Oh MKadyman this is the era of the "bullpen specialist" why make'em sit in the pen when your paying top dollar (oh this is the Nats so I should have said intermediate/low dollar).

Sort of the same logic that causes folks to seek multiple opinions from those in the "white coats" when that have a hang-nail. Thats why I pay for health insurance.

Acta operates in la-la land. Outside of the fact that they needed to bat for Martis to get a hitter in the box to take the lead with a runner in scoring position in the 6th, even if they where ahead by two going into the 7th he still would have taken Martis out even though the guy tossed less then 75 pitches. Its the lunacy of baseball in the post-steriod era.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 22, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Having a left handed set up man, we should be able to take advantage of some more situational stuff late... Say Beimel finishes the 8th and the other team leads off with a lefty, might as well keep him out there for one more.

Posted by: NoVaNatRat | April 22, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of whiners. We won the game. Hanrahan was a profile in courage last night. He threw the pitch he believed in and he was right. If he had blown it, he would have been a bum. But he did not, so he's just gutsy. Hanrahan does have 2 blown saves this year, the others belong to Rivera and Hinckley.

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 22, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

" And then if your setup man does well in the eighth inning where is it written that you have to bring in someone else to lose the game?"

Well, when you pinch hit for your pitcher in the bottom of the 8th with a man on base to try and pad your lead (as Acta did last night with Belliard) you kinda sorta do have to bring in another pitcher for the ninth. I think that's probably written down somewhere.

Now if you want to argue why did they have to bring in Hanrahan then, you might actually have a point...

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, MKadyman. I think it's called managing by rule, sort of the same principal as fining Dukes for being 5 minutes late from a public relations event. If it is one thing that the Nats are good at it is defying common sense.

I think that ideally the bullpen is structured so that the very best reliever is the one you bring in for the ninth inning to preserve a lead. Unfortunately, Hanrahan has defied the logic underlying that premise. If Manny would go back to the odd baseball logic of letting the pitcher pitch who has the best chance of getting the next three outs then you would see starters who have shown control not getting the hook in the sixth and seventh innings.

Posted by: driley | April 22, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game last night and was impressed with the way they handled the slow start. They hung together and just chipped away. Martis is very solid and competes.

This team is not as bad as their 1-10 start. They are going to have their ups and downs but, at the end of the season they will have about 75 wins. I can live with that.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 22, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

managers do this because players perform better when they know their role. it's a season, not the playoffs. unfortunately these guys are all still trying to lock down their role. beimel appears to be the only one without question so far.

Posted by: longterm | April 22, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"He threw the pitch he believed in and he was right. If he had blown it, he would have been a bum. But he did not, so he's just gutsy."

No, he didn't let his catcher know what pitch was coming. He's gutsy and stupid.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Charlie/Dave did note that Bergmann got up to throw, after the double.

Posted by: fischy | April 22, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

It's just a shame that Daniel Cabrera and Scott Olson will be starting later in the week.....Posted by: fischy | April 22, 2009 12:05 AM
***********************
TRUE THAT.
Posted by: nova_g_man | April 22, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse


Last two starts for each of the Nats starters (not including ZNN):

Martis:
12.1 IP
11 Hits
6 BB / 3 SO
21 GB / 17 FB
175 pitches
2.92 ERA

Lannan:
12.1 IP
12 Hits
4 BB / 11 SO
20 GB / 16 FB
195 pitches
3.65 ERA

Olsen:
12 IP
12 Hits
4 BB / 8 SO
16 GB / 23 FB
185 pitches
5.25 ERA

Cabrera:
10 IP
9 Hits
6 BB / 2 SO
17 GB / 21 FB
186 pitches
2.70 ERA

Call me crazy, but overall that's some pretty decent starting pitching. Sure, I'd like to see DCab go further than 5 innings and maybe walk a couple less opponents, but if my #4 and 5 pitchers are giving me Cabrera and Olsen's numbers, I'll take it (and yes I am considering Lannan, Martis and Zimmermann our #1-3 pitchers, in no particular order).

Posted by: erocks33 | April 22, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I'm not saying it's a GOOD thing that he ignored St., just that at the end of the day, he's the one who needs to execute the pitch ... Posted by: Highway295Revisited | April 22, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

************************************

Part of executing the pitch is catching the ball. How many times do we see 'crossed up' at the backstop and E-2, when it should not be E-2?

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 22, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Softballgirl - Love it! Cardiac Cordero. Heart Attack Hanrahan.

GoingGoingGone - Exactly. The life of the closer. The opposing team will do whatever they can to get men on base. It happens to Lidge all the time. So long as you get the W, that is the important thing.

Heart Attack Hanrahan---that name may stick. Early Tuesday morning (approx. 12:07AM) from JZim's game, I thought Manny was going to have a Heart Attack after Hanrahan's walk in that outing.


Posted by: dmacman88 | April 22, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

the major concern here is communication. he can't even throw the pitch he agrees to. he thinks one thing and does another moments apart. flores didn't put the sign down, that doesn't mean "whatever you feel like!" five seconds after talking to him.

if this were bull durham, one of these guys has a million dollar arm and a five cent head. and he couldn't hit water if he fell out of the fracking boat. sounds like a-ball material. seriously, he supposed to lead our team out of this mess? i don't trust him now. i like the velocity but little else so far.

Posted by: longterm | April 22, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Um, Chipper Jones was on deck. That may have had something to do with the decision to leave first base open and pitch to Escobar.

Manny didn't seem pissed at Hanrahan in the post game presser. I guess the result is what matters. If he had thrown the "right pitch," and Escobar gets a base hit, we lose. A simple "make sure you tell Flores if you're not going with the pitch we talked about" was probably enough.

Dukes is due some kudos for his play last night. Yes, he was caught stealing, but he came back to score the tying run and ran full tilt to make the big catch in the 9th.

Posted by: Section222 | April 22, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"Manny didn't seem pissed at Hanrahan in the post game presser."

Manny never seems pissed at anyone in the post game presser. You can bet Hanrahan got an earful about that pitch in the clubhouse, though, from both Manny and the Saint.

And here's what Flores had to say, publicly: "Bro, no signs -- first-pitch slider, let's go. And he throws a 94-mph fastball." I bet Jesus wasn't nearly as delicate with him behind closed doors.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

That's Larry Jones to you. :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

3 things from a baseball novice, but Nats season ticket holder since 2005. I write this mainly in response to "Toddlin' Town" Wilbon's remarks about the Nats being the laughingstock of MLB:

Dukes was 5 minutes late from a little league event. He plays MLB, not LL. He was apparently _paid_ $500 for the LL event. The message is not "Don't do community events" it's "You are a Major Leaguer and that is your first resposibility." If his alarm clock died, and he was 5 minutes late, he'd get the same deal. It's a small reminder of wat being a pro is all about. At any rate, it's over and done with, let's move on.

The "Natinals" uniform issue. While I have no proof, I am pretty sure Kasten does not sew the names on the uniforms. I am also failry certain that he does not proofread every piece of apparel for typos. That responsibility falls on Majestic, and they mispelled a couple of items in a batch. Let's move on. If half the Cubs went onto the field last week with only Cbs on their unis, I bet no one in Chicago would have picked it up. ;-p )

The Nats record is terrible, but we are not even 10% of the way through the season. This is exactly like losing the season opener in the NFL - statistically, it means zippo.

If we were losing 22-2, 19-6, etc, then I might be worried, but we are not. We just took 2 in a row from the Braves, who were in 2nd place with Philly until they came to DC. What does that mean? Zippo right now.

What does matter is we can finally score, have an excess of players that can actually start and _help_ other teams, and have a ptiching staff that is not a bunch of aged journeymen. This is all new territory for a Nats fan, and I am enjoying it.

So, let's see how the season plays out. To do that, we need to move on, especially Wilbon, who if the Nats won the WS, would lead off with a story about MJ considering an assitant hoops coaching position at Northwestern.

Posted by: ehay2k | April 22, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"Re. the good old days of Cordero, I loved the kid, but my memory is that he manufactured his own heart attack specials on a fairly consistent basis."

"Rauch is currently getting the snot shelled out of him in Arizona to the tune of 12.00 ERA. And he finished 2008 blowing 5 out of 22 saves; not much better than Hanrahan's 2008."

OK, I was being a little tounge in cheek mentioning Cordero and Rauch, but only just a little. My point wasn't that these guys would've have qualified as 'true' closers had they played for a team in, oh say, NYC -- it's obvious now that they were never that.

My point was that they were allowed to 'emerge' based on merit for a year or so (give or take), not annointed before they'd earned it. So not that JH has 'got to go' or anything, just that we have to admit to ourselves that we really don't have a legit closer at the moment, but we do have some hitters now, and we need to stop risking those guys' success on trying to force or manufacture a closer when we haven't got one. Go with what the individual game situation dictates, or the hot hand at the moment -- in other words, treat the 9th (and the 8th too for that matter) more like the 7th for the time being.

Take the pressure of a guy trying to live up to their unearned 'annointing' off whomever is given the job on any particular night, and encourage a bit of healthy competition, and you might get better results in both the short and long terms. I mean, what if JH doesn't luck out and blows it last night too -- do you 'demote' him like you did the others, not unreasonably? And if so, who do you 'promote' in his place? No one jumps out, right? Right. That's our reality at this juncture. Let's just face it and act accordingly, at least until fate or the front office alters the picture.

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | April 22, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

That works for me, evan.

Also, I forgot another reason for optimism. We've won our first series of the year.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Hmm...*now* I see that Chico basically said the same thing yesterday in his chat..!

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | April 22, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

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