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Cards 3, Nats 2

The short story of Friday night's 3-2 Nats loss against St. Louis goes like this: Albert Pujols decided it was time for the game to end, and so it ended. With the count 1-1 in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth, he swung at a Jason Bergmann slider. There was a hiss, then a roar. Pujols tossed his bad aside, almost in defiance. He trotted 360 feet. Teammates formed the semi-circle at home plate. Pujols clapped twice and pointed to the sky. Yup, that was homer No. 41 -- his first walk-off of the year. Just like that, 40,033 went home hoarse and happy.

At least from the unbiased newhack's p.o.v., this was an awesome game. Everything about it. John Smoltz got a standing ovation -- a full shake-the-concrete ovation -- while walking to the dugout after his pre-game bullpen session. Smoltz, in his second start with the Cards, looked more like a 32-year-old than a 42-year-old. John Lannan was back to his usual form, rebounding from three lousy starts. The game was 1-0, 1-1, 2-1 and 2-2.

But inside the Washington clubhouse, in the minutes after their latest loss, few saw any reason to recognize the game's worthiness. Lannan didn't care to reflect on his stellar eight-inning start; he couldn't stop thinking about that eighth inning game-tying home run he allowed to pinch hitter Khalil Greene. Bergmann, meantime, didn't take comfort in the fact that he'd been roughed up by Pujols. He sat in front of his locker, shaking his head, keeping his sentences fastball-quick, because he still wanted to be out there throwing more of them.

"I threw him a pitch," Bergmann said. "Middle of the plate. It was a bad pitch. He's a good hitter."

Earlier in the season, Washington lost tough games all the time. Its bullpen collapsed, then collapsed the next day, and it all became part of the routine. But the team's recent stabilization has triggered a noteworthy side-effect. Now, the losses sting.

"I mean, man, it's crazy because you feel like you've got them and all of a sudden, boom, something happens," centerfielder Willie Harris said. "Earlier in the year when we were losing a lot of ballgames it was almost like, oh, just another loss. But now I think it hurts more to lose as a player on this team. Because we know we can win."

By Chico Harlan  |  August 28, 2009; 11:56 PM ET
 
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Comments

"Good, good .... chortle, chortle", said the Emperor ... "give into your anger, your hate" ...
"good good, chortle, chortle". He pointed and said, "Take out that light saber boy ... good feel the anger rising inside of you ..."

Posted by: periculum | August 29, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

0-and-1, post-Nyjer. Get used to it.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | August 29, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Done in as much by that jerk Greene as by Pujols -- the same jerk who stuck a dagger in the '05 Nats with that grand slam off the Chief in the bottom of the 9th in San Diego. May his career continue to crumble.

Posted by: nats24 | August 29, 2009 1:18 AM | Report abuse

"....Yup, that was homer No. 41 -- his first walk-off of the year. Just like that, 40,033 went home horse and happy."

Ed Note: Horse=hoarse

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | August 29, 2009 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Coach: ya gotta remember this is a blog. We're all happy to get as many posts as possible, as fast as possible.We have to cut Chico a little slack now and then. Khalil Greene, OTH, gets no slack.

Posted by: nats24 | August 29, 2009 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Nats 24

Re: my earlier grammer critique of Chico's post: Didn't mean to come off a high school principal....my apologies.

Otherwise, on game news:
JL giving up a crucial 4 bagger to Khalil Greene!?! Khalil Greene!!!!!! It wouldn't hurt so much if Greene didn't look so much like a school boy dork.

Losing the game to Pujols: Understandable.
Losing the game to Greene: Ouch!!!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | August 29, 2009 2:10 AM | Report abuse

Eh, we all get on our grammatical high hoarse, uh, horse at times. No biggie.

I wanted to see Albert hit it about 60 feet again.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 6:46 AM | Report abuse

"Eh, we all get on our grammatical high hoarse, uh, horse at times. No biggie.".......not me........

I like what Willie Harris said. It was all too clear that this team had accepted losing as part of the plan under ACTA.

Team is fun to watch these days. @506.....did you read or hear the Dibble rant on how different Acta and Riggs are? Yes we are hitting and that is a huge help to winning games but the please not the poor starting pitching during the Riggs run. Lannan sucked, Zimm shut down.....Again it is the defense built by hard work before BP that led to the new professional approach to the game. You can look at all the data you want but that is the key.

Posted by: JayBeee | August 29, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

They interviewed Riggleman on the StL pregame radio show - heard on XM - and he said he was talking with Pujols, one of Manny's best friends, and told him that "I sat next to Manny every day, he was great to me. He did everything right, said all the right things to the team, but for some reason it just didn't work out, so he lost the job, that's the way these things go.

After his hiring "we had a stretch of good weather so we were able to get out on the field and get some things straightened out. Once we got the D stabilized things started to go better." And he cited Morgan as a catalyst offensively and defensively.

So sincere-sounding respect for Manny, but stating what he's done differently. Well done by Riggs I thought.

And oh brother is Mike Shannon awful as a broadcaster. Lots of asides, laughing at his own remarks, not a "clean" sounding broadcast at all. He doesn't have the lightness of Charlie and Dave. We're so fortunate to have them.

Posted by: utec | August 29, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Thanks 1BC, I was wondering if they rode home on horses or became hoarse, too.

Great coverage in today's paper, too! I guess the Redskins had a preseason game so the Nats should have cancelled.

Posted by: Section314 | August 29, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Well, I turned on the football game after watching the group hug in St. Louis, and the announcer said, "...for those of you just joining us...". So apparently someone knew there was a baseball game.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 29, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Maybe they rode the Clydesdales home?

In other news, Aaron [ ] Boone's return to baseball:

http://tinyurl.com/kj7yq2

Attaboy, Aaron!

There was a football game last night? Oh yeah. I heard that they gave a tribute to the Nats in the last 30 seconds.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

utec: SO much agree with you about C&D. But I looked up the Wikipedia article and apparently Cards fans adore Mike Shannon so it must be a matter of taste (or maybe you can get used to anything).

----------------------------------------------------------
And oh brother is Mike Shannon awful as a broadcaster. Lots of asides, laughing at his own remarks, not a "clean" sounding broadcast at all. He doesn't have the lightness of Charlie and Dave. We're so fortunate to have them.

Posted by: utec | August 29, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 29, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

If it's on Wikipedia, it must be true. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

a1: ROFL ROFL ROFL Yeah, the Fedex Team got Naterized. Lots of empty seats up there, too.

----------------------------------------------------------------
There was a football game last night? Oh yeah. I heard that they gave a tribute to the Nats in the last 30 seconds.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 29, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Glad you liked it, Nats_Lady!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

What Bergmann should have said:

"Watch me paste this pathetic palooka with a powerful paralyzing perfect pachydermous percussion pitch."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I did like this, Chico:

"He sat in front of his locker, shaking his head, keeping his sentences fastball-quick, because he still wanted to be out there throwing more of them."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

He wanted to throw more sentences?

(Actually, I liked it, too, but, y'know, grammar patrol and all.)

------------------------------------------------------------------------
I did like this, Chico:

"He sat in front of his locker, shaking his head, keeping his sentences fastball-quick, because he still wanted to be out there throwing more of them."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 29, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

grumble, grumble...

that's what insurance runs are to help avoid.

I LIKE the fact that losses sting these days. I never want to get used to losing.

Posted by: ihatewalks | August 29, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

heehee, good point, Nats_Lady.

I'm with you on the losing, IHW.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Who told Bergmann that Pujols is a sucker for his AAA slider? A slider? To Pujols? As if he's never seen one before. Of course, it hung, but so what?

I think Bergmann needs to take his AAA stuff back to Syracuse.

Posted by: JohnRDC | August 29, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Hey, maybe AFLAC could sponsor insurance runs: "when you get hurt, and miss your spot, it won't hurt to miss your spot."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I feel bad for Bergie. This season has been a bit redemptive for him, I think.

He was told he wasn't considered a starter in Spring Training, then he was sent down to AAA while the Nats carried a truly terrible bullpen. But in his most recent callup, he's been effective, looking more and more like a stable piece of the bullpen for 2010.

Pujols does this to everybody, Jason. It's almost an honor. Go get 'em today.

Posted by: JohninMpls | August 29, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

And it's starting to sound like Greene is the new Lance Cormier.

Posted by: JohninMpls | August 29, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

grrr...Lance Cormier

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of old times (grrr....), just noticed Loverro's blog in the OP about just what was troubling Livo after the Colorado start back in the day. Excerpt follows...

He walked into the clubhouse and declared to the Nationals public relations staff, "I want to know who the [bleep] writes for ESPN." Then he said he would "find who is talking [bleep] to ESPN."

In fact, this is pretty much how a five-minute diatribe went while the media cowered (myself included, of course) in the clubhouse ... something, something, curse, ESPN... something, something, curse, ESPN. [end of excerpt]

Attaboy, Livo! (But next time could you work in Fox Sports as well?)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I think JohnRDC raises a good point. Henceforth, the Nats should only throw Pujols pitches he's never seen before. So, eephus pitch, shine ball, uh ... he's probably seen a spitter, but try that. Maybe a screwball, and dig up Matty to throw him a fadeaway.

Then, for his next plate appearance, I guess we're reduced to just drilling him. Or maybe forfeiting. Yeah, that works.

Posted by: Scooter_ | August 29, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

> Losing the game to Greene: Ouch!!!

Shades of September 2005 in San Diego, when Greene's grand slam off Chad Cordero capped off the Padres comeback from a 5-0 ninth inning defecit in a game that put the stake through the heart of the Nats' wild card hopes.

Posted by: nunof1 | August 29, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

@Jim,
Bravo, my friend. Well said about Bergmann and exactly my sentiments.

And speaking of which, I must unload the burden of a sorely mistaken comment I made earlier in the year, which was, "I'm over Jason Bergmann." I'm not.

I'm still rooting for you Jason and repeat what JiM said, "It's almost an honor" to get toasted by Poo-holes.

Keep fighting Nats, you're making us proud.

Posted by: NatsNut | August 29, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I grew up listening to Mike Shannon and always enjoy the guy. He's not a professional broadcaster, he's a lovable personality and a shameless Redbird rooter. I still listen to him on xm sometimes.

Could we just move on from Manny Acta? I swear some people will be whining about him on their deathbeds. It didn't work out, Riggleman doesn't know why, you don't know why, but it's not because he set out to make your life miserable. It's history. Move on.

Posted by: markfromark | August 29, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

". . .the Nats should only throw Pujols pitches he's never seen before. . ."

Scooter, it's not "the Nats" I'm talking about it's Bergmann. I'm sure Pujols would have problems with Mariano Rivera's cutter. Same old, same old, you know. Does Bergmann have a cutter, too? If not, maybe he could develop one. In Syracuse.

Posted by: JohnRDC | August 29, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Mike Shannon was a former Cardinal with 2 World Series rings from the sixties and is a St. Louis native. Shannon was the color guy with Jack Buck. Since Buck's death, the radio broadcast has not been the same, but thats not Shannon's fault. In the old days he would tout cold frosty Budweiser's during breaks in the action, while sounding like he had a couple himself.

Posted by: homer63109 | August 29, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

PS Did Charlie or Dave ever hit a homerun off of White Ford in the World Series, like say Mike Shannon did? Just curious. I looke your awesome broadcast team on the Nats website. They both look like guys that would get cut from the Pep Squad much less be a two letter man at a Big 12 University like Mike Shannon was. But I digress, I am glad to see there are Nats fans though. Congratulations on ending the failed baseball experiment in Quebec only to start yet another failed baseball experiment in DC. See if Obama can get you guys some stimulus money to sign a better reliever.

Posted by: homer63109 | August 29, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

We must be moving on up in the world if we have Cardinals fans hating on our team.

New post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I always think of Cardinals fans as the classiest in baseball, but I guess even a good group can have a few creeps.

Posted by: markfromark | August 29, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I've always thought so, too, markfrommark.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 29, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe no one has raised THE #1 QUESTION about last night's game! Why in the world did Riggleman pitch to Pujols in the first place??? That's the one guy who you KNOW will beat you almost every time in that situation!! I know Holliday and Ludwick are dangerous hitters, but I would take my chances with them anyday instead of the deadliest slugger in the game today. My beef isn't just with Riggleman but other managers as well. I've seen Pujols hurt many other teams in the clutch, but he is pitched to with 1st base open regardless! I know he's never beating me in that situation unless you have no other alternative. I sincerely hope Riggs has learned his lesson and will not let Pujols beat us in these last two games!!!

Posted by: OldSkoolDiehard | August 29, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I've always said that was the mark of a true pro. Well, that and being able to spell.
And looking buff. That's crucial in a radio announcer.
You should be rooting for Kansas City, you don't deserve the Cardinals.
************
In the old days he would tout cold frosty Budweiser's during breaks in the action, while sounding like he had a couple himself.
Posted by: homer63109 | August 29, 2009 1:31 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 29, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

is anyone else wondering why Riggleman didnt hit Guzman for Gonzo in the bottom of the 9th with a man on 2nd and 2 outs? i know it would have complicated what happens after that - but i like Guzzie's chances MUCH better than Gonzo's in that situation.

Posted by: DCguy7 | August 29, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

It wouldn't have mattered if Guz batted for Gonzo if the "power" bats of Dunn/Zimmerman/Willingham had hit the little freakin' white ball!
So is Smoltz that all powerful?

Posted by: M20832 | August 29, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

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