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Nationals Journal: May 31, 2009 - June 6, 2009

Among The Surprises: A Win, A Complete Game

I am typing this blog post at 10:32 p.m. If Daniel Cabrera had started this game, it would be about the fourth inning right now. But this was a night when the Nationals did just about everything right: The game...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 6, 2009; 10:44 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (25)
 
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More On Hanrahan, MacDougal (And Other Notes)

Joel Hanrahan has faced plenty of pressurized situations this year. The problem is, his effectiveness depends on avoiding them. The Washington Nationals, convinced of as much, today removed their on-again, off-again closer from the ninth-inning role -- perhaps this time...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 6, 2009; 6:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (49)
 
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Hanrahan Loses Closer's Role

Joel Hanrahan is out as Nats closer. Again. Mike MacDougal will now take over the ninth-inning duties. The decision came after last night's game, when Hanrahan served up two runs in the top of the tenth, falling to 0-3 and...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 6, 2009; 5:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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Lineups (Or At Least Half Of Them)

Will post the Mets when I get them. Washington Guzman -- 6 Johnson -- 3 Zimmerman -- 5 Dunn -- 7 Dukes -- 9 Harris -- 8 Hernandez -- 4 Nieves -- 2 Lannan -- 1...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 6, 2009; 3:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
 
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Some Numbers, Some Reading

Before I get along with the morning reading, I wanted to throw out a few statistical nuggets. * From Opening Day through May 19, the Nats' bullpen had thrown 132 innings, walking 79, allowing 98 earned runs and posting a...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 6, 2009; 9:55 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (50)
 
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Mets 3, Nats 1

In the 10th inning tonight, the first frame in which Washington's bullpen surrendered a run, Joel Hanrahan threw 30 pitches. Twenty of those were fastballs. If you're looking for signs that he favored his slider, you've got to do some...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 5, 2009; 11:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (26)
 
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Tonight's Lineups (With Notes)

Ryan Zimmerman sat in the home clubhouse today and spoke about how the University of Virginia's baseball program helped catapult his career. Of course by that point, Zimmerman's feelings for his college were self-evident. On Thursday, it was made public...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 5, 2009; 5:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (73)
 
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Dukes Makes Payment, Avoids Jail Possibility

Nats outfielder Elijah Dukes avoided the possibility of a 90-day jail sentence today by paying $39,767 in outstanding legal fees several hours before the court-appointed deadline. One week ago, a Hillsborough (Fla.) Circuit Court judge ordered that Dukes must pay...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 5, 2009; 3:39 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (30)
 
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Silence Broken, Job Lost

Since resigning as Nats GM, Jim Bowden has maintained a strangely visible profile, appearing on an LA radio show, dropping baseball-related twitter musings, etc. But only in a recent sit-down interview with Brett Haber did Bowden officially "break his silence"...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 5, 2009; 11:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (82)
 
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The Reading List

According to the Capital Weather Gang, the chances of rain today are 100 percent. Given that it's raining right now, this seems like valid information. But the forecast also indicates that showers ought to pass through -- finally -- by...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 5, 2009; 9:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (46)
 
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A Wet Doubleheader Sweep

Rain delayed the start of the first game and cut short the conclusion of the second game, but in between, the Washington Nationals managed to lose twice and score twice. Though Randy Johnson stole the main storyline by winning his...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 4, 2009; 11:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (37)
 
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In A Rain Delay

10:58 (unofficially) - The crew chief just came onto the field and waved it off. This game is canceled. The Nats have themselves (officially) a doubleheader sweep. They lost this one, 4-1. --- At 9:52 p.m., with San Francisco ahead...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 4, 2009; 10:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
 
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"I Only Have 211 More To Catch Cy Young."

After tonight' game, Johnson spoke for 23 minutes... and answered (I believe) seven questions. His family, including his three daughters, his son and his wife, were sitting in the front row of the interview room. In the afterglow of his...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 4, 2009; 9:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (21)
 
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Johnson Wins 300th (And Other Late-Broken News)

So the first game concluded, the Nats lost 5-1, and Randy Johnson won his 300th game. In about 30 minutes, I'll post some highlights from Johnson's post-game presser. He was fantastic -- reflective, insightful, funny. Definitely a cool moment. (I'll...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 4, 2009; 8:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Running Weather (And Game) Thread

5:11 p.m. -- The delay is over after 36 minutes. Jordan Zimmermann just threw the first pitch of the game. Temperature: 60 degrees. Number of fannies in the seats: Estimated, 1,000. --- 4:38 p.m. -- Dever just came on the...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 4, 2009; 4:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (118)
 
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Clouds, Rain, Sickness, Lineups (Con't)

Weather update, first: Right now - 3:55 p.m. - the tarp has just come off the field. An on-schedule start is looking unlikely, but maybe there's a chance. The rain looks, per Steinberg (sitting next to me), "steady." AP writer...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 4, 2009; 3:58 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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Game 1 Lineups

I felt the first hint of a drizzle while walking into the park today at 12:22 p.m., but so far, we've seen nothing worse. You might get damp by walking outside, but you won't get wet. The rain, based on...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 4, 2009; 12:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (67)
 
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History On Hold

The decision to cancel last night's game came at 10:47 p.m., after which Nats president Stan Kasten explained to the larger-than-usual media contingent that "We really tried [to get the game in]." Perhaps they tried to the point of folly....

By Chico Harlan  |  June 4, 2009; 8:19 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (39)
 
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UPDATED: Game Postponed, Doubleheader Begins at 4:35 p.m.

Wednesday's game was postponed at 10:47 p.m. after a delay that lasted three hours and 42 minutes. There will be a doubleheader Thursday at 4:35 p.m. Randy Johnson will pitch the first game. Game 1: Johnson vs. Zimmermann Game 2:...

By Zach Berman  |  June 3, 2009; 10:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (60)
 
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Kasten: "We're Going To Get This Game In Tonight"

Nationals President Stan Kasten announced that tonight's Nationals-Giants game will be played. Once the rain stops, he said it will take 30 minutes to fully drain the field. "Because of the significance of the game and that people came for...

By Zach Berman  |  June 3, 2009; 10:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (55)
 
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Rain Delay Update [UPDATED]

9:35 -- No weather updates -- the rain is hard, the thunder is harder -- but fans have found ways to amuse themselves. One fan just streaked across the field. He came from the right-field line, ran to second base...

By Zach Berman  |  June 3, 2009; 8:28 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
 
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Tonight's Lineups And Quick Notes (Updated)

** Cristian Guzman is not in the lineup because Manager Manny Acta does not want his shortstop facing a lefty, leaving his sore thumb exposed while batting from the right side. Guzman will be ready to face left-handed pitching in...

By Zach Berman  |  June 3, 2009; 3:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (119)
 
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Flores And The Winning Percentage Correlation

Jesus Flores's skills as a catcher are fairly obvious. He hits for power (.522 SLG). He hits with runners in scoring position (.316 career AVG). He's a better game-caller than either of his back-ups, as evidenced by the staff's 5.12...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 3, 2009; 11:55 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (76)
 
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Morning Reading List

Days like this, following nights of overload news -- not to mention a victory -- can only begin with links. Lots of them. On the same day, the Nats fired their pitching coach, lost their starting catcher, and broke their...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 3, 2009; 8:14 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (52)
 
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More On Flores's Setback

Jesus Flores sat by his locker in a quiet Nationals clubhouse 75 minutes before tonight's game against the San Francisco Giants. He had a sling on his right shoulder. Minutes earlier, it had been announced that Flores will miss at...

By Zach Berman  |  June 2, 2009; 8:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (105)
 
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A Philosophical Shift

Just a final post here on the McCatty-St. Claire swap. There is a very clear philosophical trade-off with this move. St. Claire was very much a new-school pitching coach, relying on numbers and video. McCatty is more of a gut-feel...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 2, 2009; 6:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
 
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Rizzo, Acta On Pitching Coach Change

[NOTE: I "new-posted" so quickly, but please note the news below about Flores.] After the Nats "relieved pitching coach Randy St. Claire of his duties today" -- team PR speak -- and replaced him with Class AAA pitching coach Steve...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 2, 2009; 5:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (24)
 
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Flores Out At Least Three Months, Maybe For Season

Just got the word on catcher Jesus Flores's status. It'll be a long time before the Nats' first-string catcher -- and a big part of the future -- is back on the field. Flores has a stress fracture in his...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 2, 2009; 5:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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Lineups, Notes

Give me an hour or so, and I'll have the full transcripts of interviews with all the principal characters from the St. Claire-McCatty move. In the meantime, here are a few other quick-hit notes. * The Nats today reinstated Elijah...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 2, 2009; 4:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
 
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Pitching Coach St. Claire Fired

The Nationals today fired pitching coach Randy St. Claire, the longest-tenured member of their coaching staff, and have replaced him with Class AAA pitching coach Steve McCatty. St. Claire, in his seventh year with the organization, was responsible for the...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 2, 2009; 1:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (166)
 
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The Gulf Between Them

In consecutive nights at Nationals Park, the visiting San Francisco Giants will deploy, as their starting pitchers, the reigning Cy Young winner, one of the most dominant left-handed power pitchers of all time, and a 24-year-old who's having a better...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 2, 2009; 8:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (124)
 
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Nats' TV Audience Up 56 Percent

The legend of 9,000 is no longer. As Steinberg writes on the DC Sports Bog, the Nats' TV audience is up 56 percent this year. Their audience, which now averages 12,000 households, is still the smallest in baseball, according to...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 1, 2009; 3:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (53)
 
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Acta And Some Reading Links

Manny Acta has managed the Nationals since Nov. 14, 2006 -- a span, now, of 372 games (and 227 losses) -- and never has his job been on shakier ground. The team has an off day today. It doesn't play...

By Chico Harlan  |  June 1, 2009; 8:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (130)
 
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Measuring The Worth/Myth Of Infield Practice

OK, let's address the infield practice issue. Some of this is my own commentary, but much of it comes from talking to players/management/front office. Maybe the conclusion I offer is kind of grim, but it's also a sober view from...

By Chico Harlan  |  May 31, 2009; 7:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (77)
 
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Through 5: Phillies 3, Nats 1

I don't dare suggest that a team with a .271 winning percentage should ever feel favored to win a game. But if ever the Nats had a day to like their chances, it was this afternoon. Jamie Moyer v. John...

By Chico Harlan  |  May 31, 2009; 3:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (43)
 
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Today's Lineups

Washington Hernandez - 4 Johnson - 3 Zimmerman - 5 Dunn - 9 Willingham - 7 Kearns - 8 Bard - 2 Gonzalez - 6 Lannan - 1 Philadelphia Rollins - 6 Victorino - 8 Utley - 4 Howard -...

By Chico Harlan  |  May 31, 2009; 12:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
 
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