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Score It 9-2: A Great Escape

Tonight's game, a 2-1 Nats victory against the D'backs, had plenty of absurd/unlikely storylines. The most improbable of all the plays that kept this victory alive -- a 9-2 forceout play in the seventh -- I will cover in detail in the gamer. But know this: Nobody I spoke with after the game had ever seen a play quite like it. With the bases loaded and one out, the Nats protecting a 1-0 lead, Austin Kearns fielded a would-be single and gunned a throw home. It was a few feet off line -- just far enough off the plate that catcher Jesus Flores made like Gumby and lunged to his right, all while keeping his foot (or his toe? or his toenail?) on the bag.

Yup, it was a 9-2 forceout.

Washington preserved its lead. It escaped the inning one batter later.

"That was a very tough play for the baserunner, because you want to tag up, and if you're caught in between and the ball is caught then you can't score," Manny Acta said. "It was very tough. But the credit goes to the defensive player who has the presence of mind to get the force out at home plate, not at second base."

"[Flores] made the play," Kearns said. "I tried to get my feet under me and make a good throw, and it was a little off line."

That play, in the end, was a fitting symbol for all the things that went just right for the Nats tonight.


* Starter John Lannan went six scoreless -- despite walking six.

* Five relief pitchers had holds... and the last reliever of the night, Joel Hanrahan, recorded the final out with the potential winning run on second.

* The D'backs stranded 16 on base. In four of the first eight innings, runners reached third with one out.

* Ryan Zimmerman came to bat in the eighth, needing a hit to extend his hitting streak to 27 games. Well, he crushed a 422-foot home run to deep right-center. That boosted the Nats to a 2-0 lead, and the run proved decisive when Kip Wells allowed a run in the ninth. Said Kearns: "Zimmerman comes up and hits a homer, and of course everybody is thinking about the hitting streak -- well, that run was huge. So guys made big plays when we had to, and in a game like that you need to make the big plays."

* One injury update: Flores, who was struck by a foul ball in the seventh, has a right shoulder contusion. X-rays were negative. Tonight, Flores managed to stay in the game for two innings after the injury -- "the adrenaline in that moment, I didn't really feel sore," Flores explained -- but he departed in the ninth for Wil Nieves. Flores will be held out of the lineup tomorrow.

By Chico Harlan  |  May 10, 2009; 12:52 AM ET
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Next: Today's Lineups From Chase Field


Chico, did Lannan do a new goals paper for his wallet after his dog ate it? "Walk fewer batters" should be at the top.

Still, I'm glad he squeaked by with another win.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 10, 2009 1:21 AM | Report abuse

Do they plan to trade him to the Padres right after they draft him?
You can't trade draft picks, in fact, you can't draft and trade either. (That would defeat the purpose of banning draft picks, wouldn't it?) If you draft a person, you have exclusive rights to that person for a year. And that right is not transferable.

Posted by: swang30 | May 10, 2009 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Just a great game. It's why we're baseball fans. Never seen that 9-2 play before and may never see it again. Weird and wonderful. So glad it was FLop who was out.

Posted by: nats24 | May 10, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

I hate to see seven pitchers used in a 2-1 ballgame, but as Nigel Tufnel would say ...

"Well, that's-- that's nitpicking, isn't it?"

Keep it going, boys!

Posted by: mjhoya12 | May 10, 2009 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of F-Lop, didn't Carpenter say something like "there's the Felipe we remember" after he lollygagged to first and was out despite Dunn's dropping the ball?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 10, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

The 9-2 was awesome. Also, glad that you made the drive okay, Chico. I was a little worried about you driving through the desert yesterday.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 10, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

This is the kind of win that a team can build on - just maybe Lannan and the relievers can block out the walks and remember all the guys they got out afterwards...

I'm re-reading the Strasburg bits this morning and a couple of things struck me: 1) Rizzo is a super solid guy. His comments about Boras and Strasburg were perfect - non-emotional, objective, totally business-like and realistic - the total opposite of what we might have gotten from JimBo. 2) Rizzo's going to need all of that and more to sign Strasburg because from a business sense, we're in just about the worst possible position - the kid's a junior, he's a west coast guy, we didn't get last year's signing done, and then there's that Boras guy. There's not a single point in the deal except historical pay standards that give the Nationals any leverage - I wouldn't want to be in Rizzo's shoes come post draft day...

Posted by: natslifer | May 10, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Fear and Loathing in Phoenix.

The lads seem to be hitting a stride here lately. Drop those awful games against Miami and they're 10-12...but I know it doesn't work that way.

This may have been dished earlier, but the Washington Senators AL record for consecutive games is by Heinie Manush - 33 games in 1933. Here is the Baseball Almanac page on streaks:

Zimm is almost on this list. Almost.

Been watching Ken Burns Baseball (again). If you haven't watched it in awhile, it's worth the 18 hours. What a gold mine.

Lets make it a broom-fest today! :o)

Posted by: dand187 | May 10, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

This one helps erase the taste of those games blown against the Marlins. Funny how things play out over a long season. Tastes like chicken.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 10, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

How sweet is it that Flop makes a mental mistake on the 9-2 play. If he runs straight through and doesn't slow down to dive, he's probably safe.

Posted by: comish4lif | May 10, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Where is Rob Dibble???

Posted by: Immahomer | May 10, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

How about another eights wins in a row. That would put us in the thick of things. Every team in this division has warts, so we are not out of it. We will finish ahead of the Mets. I can't wait to hear the Mets announcers who are so disparaging of the Nats.

Lopez confirmed one thing last night. He is a loser. Sure he had a few hits but they have no impact. Given the chance to change the game, he comes up empty. He is a very light 300 hitter. I loved it when he did not run out the ground ball.

Posted by: mjames0 | May 10, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

They can't trade the pick, but are they allowed to agree not to select Strasburg with the first pick in exchange for a player from the Padres?

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | May 10, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Carpenter said that Dibble was taking off the weekend in LA, where he has a home, and would join the team in San Francisco.

Also, tastes like chicken, or smells like victory?

Also, plenty of Schadenfreude opportunities with F-Lop last night, that's for sure.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 10, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I stayed up until 12:30 to watch Baseball Tonight on ESPN. The Nats coverage is better with all the buzz around the team.

I also knew the Nats would have 3 Web Gems in the Top 5 from this game and I was wrong.

For those who missed it. Here was the Top 5!

#5 Kearns throws out FLop at the plate with Flores looking like a 1st baseman!
#4 Zimmerman knocks down hard smash at 3rd and throws out the runner while saving at least 1 run.
#3 A lame grounder to Ryan Howard where the pitcher doesn't cover 1st so Howard beats the runner by sliding to 1st. (LAME)
#2 Not worthy and don't recall
#1 Melvin Mora dives to his right to catch a hot shot liner froma Yankee for an out! (Nice play!)

So, the Guzy to Belliard great DP to save a run earlier in the game didn't even make the Top 5 and how was Kearns to Flores NOT the #1???

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | May 10, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

As a public service, I share the following.

Nationals vs Diamondbacks. Sat, 5/9/09. At 2:27:23 of the radio broadcast:

JAGELER: Big spot for Villone. One and two, here it is. Swing and a line drive right field, coming on is Kearrrrns ... and he short-hopped it! He did not make the catch. Throw in toward the plate ... Flores ... did he make the catch? Yes he did, it's a force play! Lopez is out at the plate on a force! It's a force play at the plate as Austin Kearns threw him out! It was a force play with the bases loaded, and Kearns short-hopped the ball and threw out Lopez on a force play at the plate! with Flores stretching up the first-base line to take a throw ... what a play on both ends, by Kearns and then Flores, to cut down the tying run on a force play at home plate.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 10, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

GoingGoingGone i'm with you on on the web gems, i too thought that Kearns to Flores was #1 i mean the throw by Kearns and the stretch by Jesus was worthy of the #1 web gem. If they can win today and take two out of three from the Giants that would be 6-2 and a very good road trip all things considered i'm a little worried about Flores shoulder and the fact that he didn't finish the game hope he's allright the man is clutch last night's game has got to be a confidence booster to this team.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 10, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

If the Nats played like this at home, there would be no concerns about declining attendance.

Is there something about the Nats' ball park that spooks the guys?

Posted by: JohnRDC | May 10, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Nats cannot trade the pick. Passing on Strasburg in exchange for a current PAdre - how is that any different than trading the pick.

Also note, that any drafted player cannot be traded for 1 calendar year.

Posted by: comish4lif | May 10, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

One lesson learned from last night's game:
Nick Johnson is a stud at first base. As Cinderella told us, you don't know what you've got til it's gone, and we saw how good Nick is last night, when he wasn't at 1B.

Posted by: usmc53 | May 10, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Making a deal to pass on a pick is not the same as trading the pick, is there a specific rule against it?

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | May 10, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: GoingGoingGone | May 10, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Draft pick worriers, get over it. 1) You cannot trade draft picks. 2) You cannot trade players you draft for one year after signing them.

Period. End of story. The first pick is ours and ours alone for at least a year. If Strasburg does not sign (or whoever we pick) by midnight August 15, that player goes back into the following year's draft and we get pick 1A in next year's draft.

Picks can't be traded nor can the guys you pick. Simple as that! We can pick whoever we want and whoever we pick can choose whether or not to sign but otherwise ONLY the Washington Nationals control the first pick AND first player chosen in the draft.

Posted by: Section314 | May 10, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I love having Dunn in the middle of the order and think that he's the biggest reason for our improved hitting (in addition to Eckstein, good health, etc.), but we can't afford to play him at 1st. He could have had 4 errors last night (the 2 he was charged with, the grounder he missed and the throw he dropped). Thank goodness FLop is still FLop and didn't run out that grounder. Maybe Willingham could play 1st on NJ's days off?

Posted by: slewis1 | May 10, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Happy for the win, but the game last night was a micro-view of the teams' strengths & weaknesses, all in nine innings.
Strengths = Legitimate power in the middle of the lineup (RZim, Dunn); Kearns in RF, RZim @3B & NJohnson @1B defensively.
Weaknesses = Dunn at 1B on defense; the complete lack of a "cold-hearted killer" in the bullpen.

Posted by: BinM | May 10, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"Making a deal to pass on a pick is not the same as trading the pick, is there a specific rule against it?"

What kind of deal are you proposing? Some sort of trade between the Nats and the Padres, with a wink-wink between them that because of the trade the Nats will pass on their #1 pick? There's probably no specific rule against that, but if it happened it would look mighty suspicious and would be sure to raise questions. So I would say it's not a realistic possibility at all. Bowden might have engaged in such under-the-table dealings, but ironically SD's GM is the one who reportedly would not even return JimBo's phone calls. Rizzo is above that kind of thing, if for no other reason than if he tried it and got caught he'd be torpedoing any chance of getting the permanent GM gig.

Posted by: nunof1 | May 10, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

You cannot trade picks. Agreeing to not pick someone wouls be considered collusion and would be considered a grievance by other owners and the players association as a violation of the labor agreement. That is the final answer. Stop asking this question ad nauseum. One pick no trading. GOT IT !!!!!!!!!

Posted by: natsguy | May 10, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Scooter: thanks for the recap from Dave Jageler I can totally hear him calling that play-by-play in my head (though I may go visit the archived radio feed anyway, just to get the real thing).

Also, I missed most of last night's game (was at the DC United thriller at RFK), but I was super psyched to see the Lopez FLOPs from last night. Was surprised to see that Chico's article didn't mention the symbolism of Kearns throwing him out-- given them being former teammates who were traded to the Nats on the same day. Might have served as a nice metaphor for the team we have (hard-playing guys with heart) against what we got rid of (whiners who loaf it, complain, and blame others).

Posted by: JennX_ | May 10, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

If player A gives four extra outs to the other team while producing one run himself is he still a net gain for the team?

If player A is playing right field and a similar chance happens as the Kearns to Flores force at home, which player A will never make in fifty attempts, will the runs scored on said play negate any offensive contribution made by player A that night?

What is the minimum required offensive production from player A needed to offset his defensive liability on a per game basis?

Just wondering....

Posted by: driley | May 10, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm, Manny's burned off most of the bullpen over the last two days - maybe a Bergmann callup / Cintron send-down for the rest of the West Coast swing?

Posted by: BinM | May 10, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of FLop and former Nats check out Bonifacio's stats:

AVG = .248
OBP = .292
SO = 31
HITS = 32
BB = 8
SB = 6
HR = 1
3B = 1
2B = 2
RBI = 6

Most of these stas came in the season opening series with the Nats. This is what we saw when he was here - dazzling start then fizzle out. The old "can't steal first" syndrome. Although I hope it doesn't mean he feasts primarily on the Nats. He was out otf the Marlins lineup yesterday - Amezega was batting leadoff at .211.

Posted by: SackMan | May 10, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse


Here's a formula for you that might work. Think of it like hockey player ratings (+/-).
If the fielding play (error/muff) results in run(s) scored for the opposition, tally as -1 for each player involved. If the fielding play prevents run(s) from being scored, tally as +1 for each player involved. Count runs produced (RS+RBI-(HR)) as +1 for all players.

Total your +/- count for each player for a game rating. An even rating should be the norm for most players.

Posted by: BinM | May 10, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

On the radio thing, it really was great to listen to. I'd already watched the condensed game, then gone to my tape of the TV broadcast, then I wanted to hear what Charlie and Dave had to say. I was just cracking up as he kept saying "force play, blah blah blah force play, blah blah blah force play!"

Oh, and lineups are up.

Posted by: Scooter_ | May 10, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone noticed: For the time being, we're not the worst team in baseball -- the Cleveland Indians' have a .355 record, way under the Nats' record of .357...

Posted by: mvm2 | May 10, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

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