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Nationals 8, Phillies 7 (Exhale)

As Thursday night's game entered its final innings, with the Nationals nursing a six-run lead, only a bullpen meltdown of the largest magnitude could have shifted the story of this game away from the brilliant big league debut of Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (double, homer, four RBI, two looooooong flyouts). But dadgummed if the Nationals' bullpen didn't try.

It took two extra relievers to clean up the detritus of Zack Segovia's torching of that six-run lead -- which became two runs after a pinch-hit grand slam by Matt Stairs (0 for his last 30 before that at-bat). Mike MacDougal was next, giving up a single to Jimmy Rollins and a double to Shane Victorino.

(Incidentally, for anyone interested in the Phillies' soap opera of a closer controversy, Brad Lidge was in line to get his first win of the season -- he's currently 1-7 -- if the Phillies had pulled off the comeback, and Brett Myers was warming up in the bullpen to pitch the bottom of the ninth.)

Finally, it was left to lefty Ron Villone to face the following: one out, tying run on second, Chase Utley at the plate, Ryan Howard on deck.

"That's what you play the game for," Villone said afterwards. "You know when you're facing that, you'd better be ready to execute a real good game plan."

Apparently, Villone had one. He got Utley to dribble a grounder to the left side -- which became an infield single when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had no play. And then, with the go-ahead runs now at first and third, Villone got Howard to hit into a double-play. Game over.

Here's the final word of the night, from your hero, Ian Desmond:

"The ball was crystal clear," he said. "The lights--everything was crystal clear. It felt great."

By Dave Sheinin  |  September 10, 2009; 11:02 PM ET
 
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Next: Can Nats Avoid 210-Loss Ignominy?

Comments

@Leetee
6 runs counts as a blow-out situation, does it not?

Posted by: swang30 | September 10, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

@swang30

Not with team and its consistently combustible bullpen.

Posted by: leetee1955 | September 10, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

I noticed that myself, N'Lady, and hoped out loud that they didn't come to regret that run LOB. But they need more of that Willie-tude.
**********
I'll tell you who looked mad. Willie looked mad that his triple was wasted.
Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 10, 2009 10:01 PM |

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 10, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

@swang30

6 runs is a non-save situation. When Villone entered, however, it was a one-run game with the tying run already on base. That qualifies as a save situation.

Posted by: MJPinDC | September 10, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

hee hee. post of the night:

"Wow. I wonder if all the love around here for Desmond will continue when he goes 0-4 with two strikeouts tonight..."

Posted by: Section222 | September 10, 2009 4:42 PM

Posted by: NatsNut | September 10, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Watching the game, when McCatty went out to talk to Segovia, and they showed the usual shot of them talking, Segovia looked panicked like I haven't seen an MLB player look since ... about the seventh inning of game five the 1984 NLCS, with the Cubs blowing a lead to the Padres. I was hoping they'd take him out before he soiled himself. There was no question in my mind what was going to happen, once they left him in.
Thought MacDougal would get out cleaner than that, though.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 10, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Say what? "Brad Lidge was in line to get his first win of the season -- he's currently 1-7" ... wouldn't the "1" in "1-7" be a win?

Posted by: mvm2 | September 10, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse

also, rachel, i have to vehemently disagree with your comment:

"NatsNut- well last time I checked it only mattered if you WIN. Who cares if they're playing "better" if they aren't winning."

Posted by: rachel216

I care A LOT. I like wins as much as the next guy, but if I see good, hard baseball being played regardless of wins or losses, (taking a phrase from Alyssa Milano's book), I melt like hot pine tar.

Riggleman said it for me: "It's not a situation where you can only support it when the team is winning."

One last question. If winning is all that matters, why in the world are you following the Nats?

Posted by: NatsNut | September 10, 2009 11:52 PM | Report abuse

"Consistently Combustible" --
There's no telling where the baseballs went...

Maybe Elwood could make a comeback cover song video?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 10, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Sec3, you were spot on about Segovia. LOL! Poor guy. I felt really sorry for him. I was at the game and when he walked off the field, some loyal fans near the dugout stood up and clapped for his effort. He tried to hide his face in his hat.

He got some butt pats though from teammates and coaches in the dugout, so that was good.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 10, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

About Segovia ...
LurkerNowPoster and I saw him in a game in Syracuse against the Durham Bulls a couple weeks ago. After the Chiefs fought back from a big deficit to tie the game at 6, Segovia promptly allowed three runs to Durham in the top of the ninth -- sound familiar? The Chiefs lost the game 9-6 after his implosion that night.

Posted by: MJPinDC | September 11, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

"One last question. If winning is all that matters, why in the world are you following the Nats?"
That is the lesson, Grasshopper. It is the sound of one team playing.

I wandered many years in the Wilderness of the Blue Pajamas. I learned there, as my parents did, and their parents before them, and as my nieces and nephews learned after us. There are two Truths:
1) No lead is safe.
2) The Mets suck. Even when they win. Especially when they win.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 11, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Although, as bad as Segovia was (and it was bad), when Mac came in, it was bases empty, two-run lead, and he only had to get 2 outs instead of 3. A closer should close that deal. Even if the "home" crowd was chanting "Let's Go Phillies".

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 11, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

me in the 9th inning: "man, we've had one out for an hour."

Posted by: NatsNut | September 11, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

They're a trend you'd eschew, they're a powerful "P-U!!"
You're obliged to draft high when there's no arms in 'Cuse.
They used to look tradeable, but now I find them ...

Consistently Combustible

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 11, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Chico's hard copy gamer tonight seemed like he was channeling Shirley Povich and John Cheever in his style. I do so much enjoy the style of sports writing that seizes the kernel of each night and shines a special light on it. But of course this was a fictional beginning for a rookie or so it seemed.

Posted by: driley | September 11, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Wow. That was electric. Welcome to Washington, Ian Desmond...

I have one question: Can Guzman play 2nd base?

Seriously. I know it's one game, but there's no reason to keep a talent like that down on the farm. Looking at next year's team, the Nats are one position player -- 2nd base -- a couple of relievers and maybe one or two starting pitchers from putting together a team that could contend.

Of course, things happen -- look at the misfortunes of this year's Mets team -- but, the pieces are there, assuming everything breaks the Nats' way. If Willingham hits like has since the break, if Dukes keeps it together, if Flores comes back and plays the way he did this year, if Morgan returns in form, if Desmond isn't a one-game wonder, etc.... A staff with Lannan, Hernandez, one or two of this year's young kids (Stammen or Detwiler), maybe Olsen, maybe Strasburg by the All-Star break -- mix in a free agent starter, and bring in one or two good relievers...It could happen for the Nats a lot sooner than people would think.

All because of Ian Desmond....

Posted by: fischy | September 11, 2009 2:08 AM | Report abuse

Watching Ian Desmond play last night was the most fun I've had watching this team since Nyjer went down. If he keeps this type of energy up and has even half of that success routinely at the plate he's got to be the odds on favorite out of the box for the starting SS job next year. Guz goes to 2nd in that scenario no doubt.

However, with all the love he's getting and deservedly so, you have to wonder if Segovia's 9th would have gone a touch better without Desmond's throwing error. Don't get me wrong, he looked nervous the entire time, but he was doing alright until then. I know you want to leave him in to see how he reacts to that type of situation especially with a 6 run lead, but that's when the nervousness in his eyes changed to terror.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | September 11, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Segovia looks like a Latin Jon Lovitz, all doughy and shifty-eyed. If he's ever gonna be a successful reliever, he needs to grow some menacing facial hair, like maybe a ZZ Top beard.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 11, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

@driley,
I agree. Only this time credit goes to Sheinin for the good gamer.

speaking of which, nice to see you Boom-Boom!

Posted by: NatsNut | September 11, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Has to be the first time a team has been described as "nursing" a 6 run lead. Normally, "enjoying," or something similar is a better term. Though, with the Nats this year, "nursing" is certainly the appropriate phrase.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | September 11, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

They could always move Desmond to 2nd base. Guzman isn't that bad defensively. A lot of his problem also has to do with the crappy pitching, because you position yourself to play a hitter a certain way, and the pitches aren't in the location they're supposed to be. It's like Ripken - he was usually in the right spot because the pitchers threw it where they were supposed to. Desmond had 28 (now 29) errors in 98 games this year, 32 last year, and 37 the year before. That's ridiculous. With all the crying people do about Guzman's fielding, he's light years ahead of Desmond. Guzman had 17 and 18 the last two years, and imo not all of them were his fault. That's another stat that will improve if they improve the pitching.

Posted by: Brue | September 11, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Good point Brue,Guzzie may not be as bad as some think,pitching plays a huge role in the positioning of the fielders during the course of a game like i pointed out a couple of weeks ago Guzzie is a better hitter with Morgan in front of him, i wouldn't be so quick to send him packing.

Posted by: dargregmag | September 11, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Congrats to Ian on his great debut, now if you can hit like that that over 162 games, welcome to the show, if not enjoy your cup of coffee and make way for Espinosa!

Posted by: markfd | September 11, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I can see it already. I betcha our 2B/SS team of the future will be Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. How exciting.

But don't get me wrong. I'm NOT a Guzzie basher. In fact, I don't get the bashing at all. I've seen nothing to indicate that he sucks as bad as some are saying here.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 11, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Boz's latest has some "great expectations" for 2010.

2 FA starting pitchers-list is long but you got to hope they go big for maybe a Lackey and or a Hudson. Keeping Livo could be a viable alternative. Just say no to Pedro.

1 FA or via trade middle infielder. Dan Uggla is arbitration eligable and word is the Marlins might be willing to let him go (hey Nats have plenty of arms and Gonzalez should be viable trade bait)

1 FA reliever, oh well this might be a tall order.

Livo, Lackey, SS, Stammen, Lannen might strike some fear in the NL East, at least it might to the Mets.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | September 11, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Once again the Washington Post is asleep at the wheel. Ladson now reporting that the Nats have asked Guzman to play second in 2010.

http://therocket.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/09/nats_ask_guzman_to_play_second.html

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | September 11, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

By the way, Dave Cameron at fangraphs has a great piece this morning on why moving Guzman to 2b is a bad idea. Bottom line - his glove is ok enough to play at SS, but he doesn't hit enough to be a 2b. Essentially the same "tweener" argument that you'd make about Milledge - he doesn't play enough defense for CF, but doesn't really hit for enough power to be an LF.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/cristian-guzman-and-position-changes

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | September 11, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

My mistake - I posted before I finished the article. Dave Cameron argues that in fact, if Guz's range really is diminished (a fact that he points out is not supported by UZR) then he may very well increase his value at 2b.

For my money though, I'd much rather see them get Uggla and move Guzman.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | September 11, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I'd say no to Uggla at 2B. I'd rather have a glove-first 2B and Uggla is anything but.

Congrats to Desmond on a fantastic night. Don't let it get to your head!

Comparing number of errors between Diamond Desmond and Girthy Guzman is unfair. Sure, Desmond makes more erros, but he also gets to a lot more balls than Guzzie. I'd rather take my chances with a SS with better-range (beit Desmond or Espinosa or someone else). Look, Guzzie won't be here after 2010. Why not give Desmond the job now. If he ends up sucking, then 2011 will come down to either Espinosa or a FA.

Finally, if anyone has the ability to re-watch the DP to end the game last night, check out the dispicible way Utley went into second. He made no attempt to get to the bag, came in very high and actually had his arm/elbow up as he was barreling into Desmond. Very dangerous move, IMO. I understand trying to break up the DP (especially a potential game-ending one), but Utley has NO regard whatsoever to other ballplayers. I hope that next time the Nats play them, whoever is starting brushes him back with the first pitch.

Posted by: erocks33 | September 11, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I think if the Nats really want to improve (the jury's out on that, other than the talk), they'll have to do it through trades. What FA would agree to play here?

Posted by: JohnRDC | September 11, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I remember a couple years ago watching Desmond play in the Hawaii Winter League on MASN. He didn't impress me then, but sure has impressed me now!

Posted by: Juan-John | September 11, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Having managed to doze off at the beginning of the 9th and waking up right after the grand slam (and saying WTF?! when I saw the score), I just had an opportunity to watch it on the MASN rebroadcast this morning and actually feel a lot better about it.

This wasn't the typical Nats bullpen meltdown. In fact, Segovia was pitching effectively, inducing a popup and two ground balls that probably should have ended the game.

Even the pitch to Stairs wasn't that terrible, on the outside corner, albeit too high in the zone. Who can blame a rookie making his MLB debut for panicking under those circumstances?

Sometimes sh** happens and this was one of those times. Desmond's error, the ball caroming off Segovia, what can you do? I hope Segovia gets another chance to pitch soon -- the less time he has to live with this experience, the better.

What an amazing contrast: one guy making his debut and living out a dream, the other guy making his debut and becoming trapped in a nightmare, one for which he bore little responsibility.

Posted by: Meridian1 | September 11, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

"the other guy making his debut and becoming trapped in a nightmare, one for which he bore little responsibility." Ummm...I'm not sure I'd say he bore *little* responsibility. I mean, that pitch to Stairs. -- it was clear the second that thing left Segovia's hand that it was going to be hit out of the park.

Posted by: mvm2 | September 11, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

@mvm2: While I'm not sure the pitch was quite the gopher ball you suggest, I agree Segovia bears responsibility for throwing it.

My main point is that he pitched effectively, should have been out of the inning entirely after the popup and two grounders, and that this was not your typical Nats bullpen meltdown.

That a kid making his MLB debut might not have perfect pitch placement in a situation like that is to be expected. Hindsight suggests he was so clearly rattled that he shouldn't have been left in to pitch to Stairs, but it's done. Thank goodness they held on.

Posted by: Meridian1 | September 11, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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