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Nats 5, Reds 4

The scenario that decided Sunday's game: It was the top of the eighth. The Nats were trailing the Reds by a run. Nobody in Washington's lineup but Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Wil Nieves had looked even vaguely dangerous all afternoon. We had 39-year-old Arthur Rhodes pitching for Cincinnati, still hittin' about 93 on the gun. With one gone in the inning, Rhodes hit Dunn with a pitch -- the fourth time the first baseman reached base all day. Willingham followed with a hard single to right.

So, first and second, one out.

Then Elijah Dukes, the No. 6 hitter, lined out.

Two down.

Jim Riggleman, at that moment, was playing with a short bench because of that eight-man bullpen. But Alberto Gonzalez was due up, and at this point, you'd be hard-pressed to find a poorer candidate for a game-tying single. (He's hitting .179 since the break.) Earlier, with Gonzo up in the sixth (Willingham on third, one out) and Washington trailing 4-3, Riggleman had actually called for a suicide squeeze, but Cincinnati starter Justin Lehr came inside with a breaking ball, Gonzalez flinched, pulling back his bunt attempt, and Willingham was hopelessly tagged out about 10 feet from the dish, 2-unassisted.

So what did Riggleman do here?

Easy. He called on his one bench player who's almost never a bench player -- Ryan Zimmerman.

Zimmerman drove a Rhodes slider to right, and in charged Reds rightfielder Chris Dickerson, who rolled to the ground in a shoestring attempt. Didn't work. The ball deflected off Dickerson toward second baseman Drew Sutton, who'd scrambled into shallow right field. Just one problem: Sutton, after grabbing the ball, couldn't decide where to throw it. By this point, Dunn had already scored, tying the game at 4. And Willingham was on third. It looked like the play was over. That is, until Willingham noticed Sutton lob a careless throw -- a lollygagger, as my old high school coach would have called it -- to toward the infield diamond, aimed at nobody in particular.

Split-second decision: Willingham bolted for home.

Said Willingham: "I just rounded the bag and I can't remember who threw the ball. [Ed note: It was Sutton.] He had the ball, and he lobbed it in. And it was just spur of the moment. I just took off."

By the time Sutton's throw reentered the atmosphere, first baseman Joey Votto was the closest man to it. He grabbed the "relay" and fired home, but the throw tailed high, and Willingham shouldered into an off-balance catcher. Ryan Hanigan could never apply the tag.

"A heads-up play," Riggleman said. "You can't teach that. That was all him."

Uh oh. I buried the lead.

(Side note: This is a blog. Leads have been buried deeper. I'll get to the point in 500 words, which is 2,500 words quicker than Bill Simmons will do. Then again, I can't offer you the Karate Kid references. Tradeoffs, I say.)

Anyway, the point: Willingham's run gave the Nats a 5-4 lead. They held on to win by that exact score. So now the Nats have three wins in a row. They're 11-4 in August and 17-14 since the all-star break. Sooner or later, I swear, Kansas City or Pittsburgh will overtake Washington for the league's worst record. Maybe that way we'll all be spared the Bryce Harper signing saga of 2010.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 16, 2009; 6:08 PM ET
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Next: Final Day, Final Hours


A Simmons diss?

Posted by: joemktg1 | August 16, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

anager Manny Acta reiterated that Willingham has not won a corner outfield job ...

"I don't think that the other guys are struggling. I have to get Kearns and Willie Harris in there, too," Acta said. "Kearns has got a good on-base percentage and those guys are swinging the bat well. I can't put three guys in left field."

Posted by: nova_g_man | August 16, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh Manny, Manny......we do not miss you at all!

Posted by: JayBeee | August 16, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse


You might be half-kidding, but the last thing the Nationals need next year is a repeat of the Stephen Strasburg debacle, especially if we lose him.

And, let's see, who is Harper's "advisor?"

Oh yeah, Scott Boras.

The Nationals would be excoriated if they choose Harper and don't sign him, and they'll be excoriated if they don't draft the best player available.

Just like this year.

Posted by: rushfari | August 16, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

It's my money and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to... cry if I want to...

Gonna be a long day tomorrow.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | August 16, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Chico, if you're dissing the Sports Guy, you're clearly spending too much time looking at, and fireing at way too high a target.

I know a fair number of former WaPo sportswriters & editors (H.Bryant, G.Soloman, J.Aranague, M.Wilbon, T.Kornhiser) have jumped the fence over the last five years, but please; Stick to your beat & avoid ripping fellow "sportswriters" and you'll be better served in the run of your career.

Posted by: BinM | August 16, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Why is everyone so hard on Scott Boros? His Dad was always one of my favorites, with a sweet, slow swing; and Orange Julius was a nice guy, too.

Posted by: nova_g_man | August 16, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

If there were any Mafia families associated with MLB, as there used to be in the NFL ... Boras would either be sleeping with the fishes or find a horses patut in bed with him.

Posted by: periculum | August 16, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

"Sooner or later, I swear, Kansas City or Pittsburgh will overtake Washington for the league's worst record. Maybe that way we'll all be spared the Bryce Harper signing saga of 2010."

Unless Baseball as a whole does something about it, Boras will likely represent the 2nd pick, the 3rd pick, the 4th pick just like this year ... and even the 9th pick? Aaron Crowe. So, unless they suddenly become the Yankees the Nats will be unable to avoid him.

Posted by: periculum | August 16, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I think part of what Manny felt his job was, was to play the prospects etc. especially the pitchers and be patient. That goes back to Bowden. So, Manny would leave them in when they walked 4 batters in a row. Now, Riggleman yanks 'em fast. Sends a message that walks are no longer tolerated. You can allow hits, even the odd homer ... just not walks. At 4-2 Cincinnati had not allowed a walk, while Lannan had allowed 3.

Posted by: periculum | August 16, 2009 6:53 PM | Report abuse

periculum, I agree with you, re: Manny's managing style. But at this point, it's pointless to defend him.

Just like it's pointless to rip him.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 16, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, pstotts. SS will need Lourdes, just to keep his elbow and/or shoulder from giving way, with all of that torque. Miracles do happen.
If Strasburg doesn't sign. He should look at Jordan Zimmermann and see how fast it can all go away.If he has any sense at all, and I'm beginning to wonder, He better call Loudes of London and get himself insured.

Posted by: pstotts15 | August 16, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: nova_g_man | August 16, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Current "Chase to #1", 2010 edition...

Washington (NL) - 43-75 = On-point
Kansas City (AL) - 46-71 = 3.5 games back
Pittsburgh (NL) - 46-70 = 4 games back
Baltimore (AL) - 48-69 = 4.5 games back
San Diego (NL) - 49-69 = 6 games back
Cincinnati (NL) - 50-67 = 7.5 games back
Cleveland (AL) - 51-66 = 8.5 games back
Oakland (AL) - 51-65 = 9 games back

Posted by: BinM | August 16, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

ESPN will probably have a special sports desk with commentators and a big clock counting down to 9PM.

Posted by: periculum | August 16, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Boras is everywhere ...

"Factor in the threat of legal action against the Tigers if they don't bat Ordonez on a regular basis -- his agent Scott Boras could file a grievance claiming future restitution-based discrimination if Ordonez was benched while on a hitting streak -- and Detroit seems to be in a lose-lose situation."

If Magglio Ordonez get 81 more at bats in a Tiger's uniform he gets an 18 million dollar payday. Courtesy of Scott Boras. Detroit is a small market team that can ill afford that sort of hit on their payroll. Yet they find themselves in the midst of a playoff hunt.

Posted by: periculum | August 16, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Mr.Strasberg and Bernie Madoff er i mean Scott Boros have no idea what SS will be in for if they don't sign. Stephen Strasberg will be looked at as a greedy, selfish,arrogant, and all the other bad adjective fans can think of for allowing Boros to handle his contract and the fact that Nats owners have made him a offer that exceeds previous offers made to a No.1 pick only adds fuel to the fire.I am sure Strasberg is a nice enough kid but the fact that the owners of the Nationals have attempted to make him rich beyond his wildest dreams doesn't sit well with fans who are struggling to pay for a night out at the ballpark given the current climate of this economy. I can only hope Strasberg comes to his senses and makes a wise decision and signs the offer.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 16, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

We've definitely got some momentum going now, unlike, say, the O's. Angelos' team got runs in the 8th and 9th to send their game with the Angels to extra frames. The Angels loaded the bases in both the 11th and 12th, but the Birds got out of those jams unscathed. Not so in the 13th, where they loaded them up again, and then proceeded to plate 9 runs in the frame and beat the Birds, 17-8. Ouch - major bullpen failure...

Posted by: BGinVA | August 16, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

EAST HAMPTON, NY--Scott Boras has long been known as a tough negotiator. That reputation was bolstered yesterday when the super agent demanded $35 million to rescue a small child drowning in the ocean near Boras’s home in East Hampton, New York.

The child, an eight-year-old named Danny Corgin, was swimming at a private beach when he was caught in the undertow and dragged away. As he flailed and cried for help, Boras relaxed on the deck of his luxury yacht. The boy’s grandmother pleaded with Boras to help, but the agent steadfastly refused, holding steady to his demand for $35 million dollars.

“My grandson was swimming around when all of a sudden he was caught in a riptide and dragged out to sea,” said Ethel Corgin, the boy’s grandmother. “I didn’t know what to do. There was nobody else around and I certainly couldn’t help him. I saw that man relaxing on his yacht, reading a book like there was nothing going on. When I asked for his help, he just said ‘You want me to save a drowning child? Hmmm…that kind of thing will run you around 35 million.’ I tried to negotiate with him, but he was unwavering. I’ve never seen anyone so stubborn, greedy, and heartless in my life. What is he, a sports agent?”

Corgin said that she was struck by Boras’s casual demeanor, even as her grandson struggled to stay afloat in the vicious riptide.

“He was panicking, the poor thing. He thought he was going to drown, I’m sure,” she said. “There was nothing I could do but pray. I thought for sure that [Boras] would help but he really wanted that money. He said I could give him 10 million up front and sign a written guarantee to deliver the rest within a week. He had the contracts already made up. He just whited out ‘third baseman’ and added ‘drowning child.’”

In the end, a deal was not struck. Fortunately, a fishing boat came by and plucked young Danny out of the water before he could drown. Corgin was relieved, but still outraged over Boras’s refusal to rescue her grandson.

For his part, Boras explained that he was just exercising good business sense and prudent negotiating.

“How much is an eight-year old boy’s life worth?” asked Boras. “Can you really ever say ‘No- that’s too expensive. I’d rather just let the boy drown?’ No, of course not. I was shocked when Mrs. Keelan refused my offer to save the boy. If you’re not willing to shell out a few bucks to save the life of a child, you’ve got to take a long look in the mirror. Nothing’s free in this world. If you want something, you have to pay for it. It’s called ‘capitalism.’ Obviously Mrs. Corgin is some kind of godless commie freak.”

Posted by: periculum | August 16, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

The blOriOles look as if they won't win another game this year. No reason the Gnats can't catch them, if you call that catching.

Posted by: MartinZook | August 16, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

PLAYBOY: Do you advise young players to watch out for baseball groupies?
BORAS: That's a huge issue because you have high school boys making millions. We have a booklet for young players that tells them about paternity suits. It says, "If a woman has your child, it can cost you $2 million over the course of 18 years to raise that child." We talk about using protection and having safe sex.

PLAYBOY: Rubbers for rookies?
BORAS: Players can also follow a ritual: If you meet a girl at the ballpark, ask her if she knows any players from last year's team and from the year before that. A girl who hangs around the ballpark year after year may be looking for something other than what you're looking for. She may see you as her ticket out of town. So we tell young players, "An interaction with the wrong type of girl can wreck your career."

Posted by: periculum | August 16, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Likewise, they say that Boras is reeling from the ego blow A-Rod dealt him by telling the world on “60 Minutes” he’s not even speaking to his agent these days.

“Yeah, (Boras) made his commission,” a prominent agent said this week, “but, come on, do you know how much money he has? With Boras it’s all about being king of the jungle, the most powerful agent and the toughest negotiator in the game.

“He loves being the guy that everyone in baseball fears. He wouldn’t for a minute concoct a plan that would diminish his reputation. His image as a god to the players is too important to him.

“A-Rod might not be the most popular guy in the game, but don’t think he didn’t do some serious damage to Boras’ image. He basically called the guy a lying weasel on national TV. Nobody in the business is shedding any tears for Boras, believe me, but he took a serious hit.”

For that matter, A-Rod detailed what many in baseball have suspected Boras of doing for years: keeping clients in the dark about negotiations as he goes about making the deal he wants to make.

Posted by: periculum | August 16, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

periculum, that's hilarious

Posted by: urbanbunnies | August 16, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Everybody wants to talk SS/Boras. But that's not gonna happen. Smartly, the Nats brain trust will walk away from Boras' BS 30+M demand.
Better to focus on the here & now.
And here's what needs to happen: The Nats must estab;ish a new level of playing order. In other words, if you stink. you go! No more coddling/retaining less-than-borderline players because we are a franchise of cheap losers.
Last night's poorformance has to be the last we see of Kensing! (pathetic)
Today's poorformance by Gonzalez in the suicide bunt situation (more than pathetic)= Gone!
Unlike Bowden who signed just about anybody, Rizzo must let the rest of the league know we do not tolerate losers/end-of-lifers.

And finally: Tell Boras/SS to shove it unless their asking price is under 15M.
SS has only pitched against Air Force's baseball team...only Boras thinks that's worth big $$$$. Tell them to develop a taste for sushi and go play in Japan!
And let Rizzo spend the money on more reasonable bets!!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | August 16, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to read/see the media commentary on the Strasburg situation. At least for now, most of the columnists and experts have been understanding or supportive of the Nats' position. I think publicly disclosing that they had offered Strasburg more thant the previous record high has helped them in PR terms. People are now starting to ask, "What does Strasburg really want?" or, "If he really wants to play, he should take the best offer he gets and sign."

Of course, that could all change on Monday if Strasburg doesn't sign. But the Nats may have won the PR battle. Let's see what that's worth.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 16, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

I have no clue who Simmons is, but I thought Chico's comments were funny.

Sounds like I missed a rousing comeback while we were at the Montgomery County fair today. Saw lots of people in Nats gear, as usual.

Periculum, I believe it would be the other end of the horse in bed with the guy. Funny reference, though.

Can't wait to watch Tuesday's game and see the TPlush club on tv. Be there. Aloha.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 16, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I also think the court of public opinion will have a bigger effect on Master Strasberg than the would-be mesmerizer, Mr. Boras, who has obviously planted the counter-story. Prediction: SS goes against Boras's advice and signs. Either way, the Nats cannot be criticized, much as I usually enjoy hitting hanging curve balls.

And by the way, I really like the way Riggleman manages a ballgame. I wonder why he has not been too successful as a manager, or does he just seem like a freaking genius after poor Manny. Sort of like when I start complaining about Obama, I remember who his predecessor was and I stop complaining.

Posted by: paulkp | August 16, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Re: Boras & Strasburg. Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, but...This year and next are probably the last shots that Boras has to get big $ from draftees. 2011 begins the new player agreement. If there is anyone that wants a cap put on rookies more than the owners, it is the MLBPA. That will, probably, be the biggest change in the agreement, except maybe for a more stringent PED testing program.

Two things that everyone forgets (well, maybe the casual fan doesn't really know or care) is that:

1. The draft is 50 rounds and these guys need to be paid. Remember that every major leaguer who works his way up through the minors needs a bunch of teammates. Most of these guys are only going to play ball for a year or three. Then they will go to coaching H.S. ball, back to school for an accounting degree, or whatever. Major league teams have to pay them enough to put off real life for a few years, so that they can be cannon fodder for the Dunns and Willinghams, etc.

2. There is always a new "greatest player in the draft." It may be Bryce Harper, or this rising H.S. senior, who was in one of the super showcase games, who was hitting triple digits on the gun.

By the way, has anyone asked Aaron Crow how the whole thing is working out? Remember that one of the knocks on him was that his record was compiled against weak competition. S.S. was in a very weak conference, for the west coast; got rocked by Cuba; and then in the never never got to Omaha because suddenly he was up against an ACC school that had seen Fl. State, UNC, Miami, Ga. Tech, etc.

Posted by: Catcher50 | August 16, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Re: Riggleman. The one good thing about him that I like is that he's got a quick hook, which is actually good for our young pitchers, if you are playing to win. On the other hand, it a) does not build up confidence for the youngesters to pitch through trouble and b) may make some reliver's are fall off.

Posted by: swang30 | August 16, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

SS has never pitched against any good college team until he faced UVA – see the result!!!!
He got clobbered by Cuba.
His 102 m/hr fastball is a myth: 98 at best. Still good though. However:
He has no slider, no curve, no changeup, no alternative pitch that would qualify him as a major league starter.
Toni Gwynn – you might recall was/or might be his coach at San Diego - stated that he is not ready for the majors.
Likely, he will blow out his arm just as Zimmermann the way he is pitching..
$16 million is the absolute MAX.
NATS: don’t go NUTS.
And yes: &%#@!(*!!) Boras

Posted by: johnbear1 | August 17, 2009 12:09 AM | Report abuse

catcher50: "and then in the never never got to Omaha because suddenly he was up against an ACC school that had seen Fl. State, UNC, Miami, Ga. Tech, etc."

Its why I like UGA alums Holder and Weaver so much: both have college world series experience. Holder twice. Holder went back to be the team leader. Think Nyjer Morgan as a pitcher. Holder had plenty of innings and plenty of experience against tougher competition.

Another reason to really like Mike Rizzo.

Posted by: periculum | August 17, 2009 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Looks like the Post is throwing some attention the Nats way ... perhaps sensing something good may be about to happen?

Nice article about the Nats wives ...

Posted by: periculum | August 17, 2009 1:26 AM | Report abuse

@periculum: "Nice article about the Nats wives ..."

I didn't think it was all that nice. It was long, but it was pretty condescending and snarky.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | August 17, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

> It was long, but it was pretty condescending and snarky.

The Washington Post doesn't do anything else. Except for short, condescending and snarky, that is.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | August 17, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

I love the Nationals but those women need to get real! Aside from the news about the Kearns' child, there was not one thing in that article that made me say "oh I'm sorry. Your life must be really hard." No sympathy for wives and girlfriend of professional athletes!

Posted by: NatMeg | August 17, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

@TheEclipse: "The Washington Post doesn't do anything else. Except for short, condescending and snarky, that is."

True, fair enough.

I guess we should be grateful that they printed the words "Washington Nationals" somewhere other than in a gamer or the notebook.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | August 17, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Incidentally, real nice gamer there, Chico Harlan. I particularly liked the image of that second-baseman Sutton holding the ball like he was trying to pick out flavors at Baskin Robbins.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | August 17, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Sorry if I am way late on this one, but Nick Johnson strained his hamstring eh? Over/under on his return to the Fish going on and on and on?

Posted by: GoNatsTerps | August 17, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Nationals have till midnight tonight to sign No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg and it seems like anybody's guess whether the deal will get done or not.
But the folks at MASN Sports are saying that Strasburg and his loveable agent, Scott Boras, have a contract in their hands worth $17 million with easily reached incentives that would take the contract to more than $20 million. Even with those kinds of dollars - a record for a rookie - the deal is expected to take till the final minutes tonight, if it gets done at all. That might not be enough money to get it done.
MASN also suggests that the Nats are saying that they'll take Strasburg again next year on draft day.
The same offer has supposedly been in Strasburg's hands since last week, according to the Washington Post, and the word is that Strasburg may be looking for the years to increase more than the dough (but that would be nice, too).

Posted by: GoNatsTerps | August 17, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

It makes little sense to me for Strasburg to to want to increase the years. Why would he want to buy out arbitration?

Posted by: GoNatsTerps | August 17, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Gonzo should be Gone-zo. That was pathetic ducking out of the way of a pitch when there was a suicide squeez on.

And props to the Hammer for scoring the winning run.

Posted by: twinbrook | August 17, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I hope they don't sign Strasburg, I don't want him here. He and his agent are greedy and I don't want that attitude any where near the clubhouse especially with the way they've been playing. He's not going to sign and his worth will go down and he'll end up like other Boras clients.
Go play ball in Japan they've already said they don't want him and the culture shock will be too much, or go back to college. You'll need the degree since you'll never make it to the bigs with that attitude.
Spend the money in free agency and get a proven pitcher, short stop, and second basemen.

Posted by: Elbaryn | August 17, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

A little disappointed in Lannan's effort on Sunday i mean the Red's ain't scaring nobody with that lineup and you're spotted a 2-0 lead and promptly start walking people and then you throw a gopher ball to a guy that's been killing us the whole series.I like Lannan but he makes me scratch my head sometimes,on another subject Riggleman doesn't mess around, he's no nonsense whether its pulling a pitcher or getting his point across to a position player(Gonzalez)he's direct and to the point.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 17, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Manny was a bad judge of talent. He showed it many times!Trading 2 1st stringers for Millege---then leaving him in when it was obvious(even to the casual fan)he couldn't play the position. Worse--at the beginning of this year--he plays everyone BUT the Alabama Hammer! And how about how long he sticks with his pal Daniel Cabrera-- who probably cost us at least 10 games!!Thats just the half of it--thank God they finally let him go and got a decent Baseball man in there.We'll be O.K. now--with or without SS.

Posted by: ripndot | August 17, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

New post. (Come on, midnight!)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 17, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

ripndot, Manny was the manager, not the GM, which is more what you're ranting about, but at any rate, they guy was fired a long time ago now. Let Seabiscuit rest in peace, for cryin' out loud.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 17, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

This whole Strasburg situation makes little sense. The Nats know about the risks associated with number one pitchers -- Boswell keeps reminding them. Yet they go ahead and pick the guy, as if somehow they have no choice. They know they're going to be dealing with Scott Boras, who never lets anything come to fruition before the last possible minute. They know if they sign the guy they'll be criticized for escalating salaries for MLB as a whole, and if they don't they'll be called cheap -- a fate only Dan Snyder has avoided.

You know, a lot of NFL teams dread getting one of the first eight or nine draft picks because they know damn well they'll have to overpay them. Maybe the same thing is happening in baseball.

Posted by: Samson151 | August 17, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

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