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Nats 6, Braves 4

It makes for an unconventional spectacle, watching a last-place team play its 161st game of the season while relying on players like Ian Desmond (in Class AAA Syracuse until September 7), Justin Maxwell (in Syracuse until August 31), Ross Detwiler (in Syracuse until September 7), Zack Segovia (in Syracuse until September 7), Pete Orr (in Syracuse until August 28) and Logan Kensing (in Syracuse until September 7). The Nats, during their six-game winning streak, have become a photocopy of Syracuse Chiefs.

More nights than not, the reliance on call-ups -- some are prospects, but not all -- has proven beneficial. In Saturday's 11-inning 6-4 victory against the Braves at Turner Field, the Nationals received five scoreless innings from Detwiler, a fourth inning homer from Desmond, and key 11th-inning production from Orr (a one-out single) and Maxwell (a two-out opposite field homer).

Asked if he's ever seen another team rely so heavily on its September call-ups, interim manager Jim Riggleman responded without hesitation.

"No," he said. "No."

"Well, we had a good team in Syracuse," Maxwell said. "We were right up there in first or second place the entire year. So I'm not surprised at all. I'm just happy that we all got to come up here together. We're all comfortable with one another."

Several circumstances have conspired to give Washington its Syracuse-heavy look. The go-to starters, except Ryan Zimmerman, are either slumping or hurting. Entering Saturday's game, Riggleman debated playing Desmond yet again at short, but decided to do so because he wanted to see the kid face Atlanta's front-line starter Jair Jurrjens (eight innings, two runs) -- a tough test. Maxwell, meantime, only entered the game in the fifth, when Willie Harris exited with a strained right oblique. (Harris is simultaneously day-to-day and out for the season.)

The results?

Desmond again looked like a major league-caliber infielder, blasting another home run -- his fourth in 75 big league at bats -- and stealing at least two base hits with his gliding range at shortstop.

And Maxwell, whose team had taken a 4-2 lead in the top of the 10th and blown it in the bottom of the tenth, promptly handed a two-run lead back to the Nationals in the 11th, swatting a 1-1 Manny Acosta fastball over the right field fence.

"Maxy is swinging the bat as good as I've ever seen him swing the bat," said coach Tim Foli, who managed this year's Syracuse club.

Speaking about Desmond, Foli said, "He's showing you what range he has, the ability he has." Foli then smiled. "He only hit one home run for me. He's really ticking me off."

Washington can live without its ideal lineup, so long as Desmond and Maxwell keep it up. But the Nationals learned on Saturday that replacing closer Mike MacDougal, out with a sore hip, isn't as easy. Segovia, handed a 4-2 lead entering the bottom of the tenth, let up two hits on his first five pitches, and gave up a game-tying single to Greg Norton with two outs.

Detwiler, who left after five innings because of a blister on his left thumb, was more impressive. Starting for the fourth time since his September call-up, held the Braves scoreless for five innings, despite lacking pinpoint command. Desmond's defensive plays helped. So did two double plays. Leadoff runners reached in three of the first four innings against Detwiler, but he still faced the minimum in every frame but the first. He finished his rookie year with an ERA of 5.00. More important, his numbers upon returning from Syracuse reflect an improvement. In his final four starts, he compiled a 2.08 ERA, only once allowing more than one earned run.

"I think it was huge for me to come out and prove myself to everybody else that I can pitch at this level," Detwiler said. "And before when I was up here I didn't prove anything."

By Chico Harlan  |  October 3, 2009; 8:25 PM ET
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Next: One Last Time...


"Did the fox announcers say Maxwell's walk off GS was the first time the Nats have come back from trailing in the 8th in 150 games? Is that right? I feel like we had a comeback win during our 8 game win streak in August?"

Stats like this one ignore games like the one against the Marlins on Sept 6th, when the Nats were tied after eight, fell behind in the top of the ninth, and won it on Zim's walkoff in the bottom of the ninth. I wonder if there were any others like that one in this span of 150 games?

Posted by: nunof1 | October 3, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

carrying forward...

"I am sorry but tonight is a perfect example of why the Nats really suck."

Yeah, dang it, I really hate it when they win. Look, Dr. Downer, a win is a win. Today's win proved - on national TV - that they weren't going down without a fight. Earlier this year, we were horrible in extra innings, so it's nice to see us take the lead, not once, but twice in extra frames. I'll take this win any day of the week. Suck on it and like it.

Posted by: thepostischeap | October 3, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse


you REALLY should change your handle to dargramps.

Posted by: surly_w | October 3, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

My winter is going to be made a lot shorter because of the showings of both JMax and Desmond this September. Way to go, guys.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | October 3, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

The injuries to Morgan and Guzman have a silver lining in the performances of Desmond and Maxwell. Guess we'll have to wait until next April and May to see if it's the real deal or just September Fool's Gold. More speed and defense would be most welcome, not to mention some pop in the bats. Charley said on the post-game show tonight if the Nat's win tomorrow it will be a first in ML history for a team to start the season with a 7 game losing streak and end with a 7 game win streak. In the immortal words of Jim Zorn -- "We're getting better".

Posted by: SackMan | October 3, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

My question at this point wrt the September call-ups is; are they for real - as far as - can they really play in the Majors, or did they just get hot over a 3+ week period, and they can sustain their performances over an entire 162 game season/major league career?
My thoughts from what I have seen over this past 3-4 weeks is:

Ian Desmond - the real deal. Our Nats SS going forward from here on out.
Justin Maxwell - I don't know. The jury is still out for me on this kid.
Mike Morse - a for-real big league hitter with power. We need to find a place for him on the 2010 40-man roster and find a place in the field where he can play on a semi-regular (maybe even regular) basis.
Pete Orr - a decent utility player who can hit in the Big League.
Ross Detwiller - In Spring Training if he shows the stuff there that he has shown these past 4 weeks, he can make the starting rotation.

Posted by: bigmook | October 3, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: dargregmag | October 3, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Happy Valentine:

According to ESPN's Mr. Bluster, Buster Olney, Valentine and the Marlins are talking. Didn't they just give Fredi Gonzalez a two-year extension?

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | October 3, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm hard pressed to think of a 100 loss team with more talent than Washington, or one with as positive an outlook. I'm not quite ready to compare them to the 1990 Braves, but really, add some decent pitching and there is no reason why this team shouldn't win 80 games and maybe be in the running for a playoff spot. Remember, barring injury they'll have Morgan all season, Zimm keeps getting better, and perhaps Desmond is the real deal as a MI.

It's unfortunate that the season ends tomorrow with this team playing some of its best baseball. Anyone know how if there will be a way to watch the Arizona Fall League (starting October 13th)?

Posted by: imlazar | October 3, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to break it to you, imlazar, but I think the only way to watch any Arizona Fall League games is to buy an airplane ticket to Phoenix. (I'll be there right before Veterans' Day in November).

Funny coincidence; I just came back from the Capitals' season opener and they also won by the score of 6 to 4 (over the Toronto Maple Leafs).

Posted by: greggwiggins | October 3, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Does it really matter whether they keep Guzman or not at this point and why not? He did have a key hit to make it 4-2 as I recall? Does it matter if you feature a MI of Desmond, Guzman, Gonzalez, and perhaps Orr and/or Espinosa?

I wouldn't automatically give the left field job to Willingham, looks like the boys from Syracuse may have something to say about that? The Chiefs were good this year because of canny moves by Rizzo. The question remains as to whether he can be as smart with the parent club?

Posted by: periculum | October 3, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

The Nats may have one of the best records in baseball for the month of October for at this point they have one every single game and lost none. They are guaranteed to be over .500 in October. :)

Posted by: periculum | October 3, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

The last week has wiped away a lot of anquish that began, regrettable, in April. But we have to avoid getting too enthusiastic about September.

I truly hope Desmond and Maxwell become stars, but do I believe they will? Not yet.

Remember how Hinkley was lights out last Aug. and Sept.? And how well Steven Shell did in'08? I don't think anybody wants to dwell on that.

And please, Villone really is through.

Posted by: nats24 | October 4, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

My college is in a small Division III conference, but I believe in the Conference's logo.

NCAC (North Coast Athletic Conference)



Posted by: CALSGR8 | October 4, 2009 3:17 AM | Report abuse

Guzzie's number 5 (behind #1 Zimmy) in Web Gems for the year.

Posted by: NatsNut | October 4, 2009 5:37 AM | Report abuse


Before we finish this year and start looking forward to a much improved 2010......

Acta winning % overall was .298
Acta winning % with Morgan .375
Acta winning % without NM .291

Rigs winning % overall is .387
Rigs winning % with Morgan .465
Rigs winning % without NM .387

Defense without Morgan the past month is the same as the season average .977 with tells me that with Morgan backed out of that number (no good fielding states by date anywhere I looked) means that Acta fielding % without Morgan was way down from Rigs Fielding without Morgan.

What does this mean to me. Acta sucked much worse than Rigs. My memory of Acta is Alex Cintron pinch hitting over and over and over again and killing team moral over and over again.

Rigs....I hope they fire him. I hope they clean out %75 of player development staff and coaching staff. So much improvement is there to be had with some competent MLB coaching staffs and player development people.

Yet to say Rigs is no better than the worst manager I ever saw in 30 years of baseball (Acta) is just plan unsupported by the Data.

Posted by: JayBeee | October 4, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse


Rigs winning % without NM is .354

Still PLAIN wrong to say Acta did not hurt this team and that Changing Managers had no impact on the results.

Posted by: JayBeee | October 4, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Thanx for running those numbers, JayB.

Posted by: Scooter_ | October 4, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Jaybee: There's no way anyone watching this team under Riggleman didn't notice the improvement in fundamentals and bench strategy now to be sure they reverted back to Mannyisims at certain stretch's after the all star break but they started playing major league baseball under Riggs for the most part now the obvious question is was the second half enough to merit Riggleman a full year i must admit i'm back and forth on this one and to be sure Rizzo got a tough call, this team could be a .500 ball club next year and whomever manages will go a long way in settling that matter.

Posted by: dargregmag | October 4, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

That's a very nice piece about DC-native Maury Wills in today's paper.

Posted by: nats24 | October 4, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

dargregmag----I pretty much agree with your assessment of Riggs as a manager. He's not perfect.A little too much on "match ups" for me, but overall I think he (along with Rizzo) has a good idea of what it takes to play in this league, and there is something to be said for continuity.Make Foli the bench coach in case we have another disaster like what occured this Spring!

Posted by: ripndot | October 4, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

"simultaneously day-to-day and out for the season" - Love it, Chico.

I don't know if it's fair to look at Riggs's record this way, but his first 5 losses were in a row after the all star break when he was hired. The record looks a little better after the post-Manny hangover.

Posted by: utec | October 4, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

What's the record without Morgan but with Riggleman AND Foli?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 4, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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