Washington Nationals: About that seventh-inning switch
The seventh inning last night provided an odd defensive sideshow. Rarely will you see two position players swap spots in mid-inning. But the Nationals and Manager Jim Riggleman did it last night.
The reason for the swap started in the top of the seventh. Ian Desmond and Michael Morse both pinch-hit, Desmond in the pitcher's spot to lead off the inning and Morse for Roger Bernadina in the second spot in the order. Morse ended the inning with a double play. The easy move, of course, would have been to let Morse play right field for Bernadina.
Riggleman did not make the easy move. I am going to try to make this explanation - his explanation - as simple and accurate as possible.
On his bench, Riggleman had left Adam Kennedy and Willie Harris, two lefties, and Wil Nieves, a light-hitting back-up catcher. With the eighth inning to play, the Nationals had six hitters to go before the No. 9 spot in the order came up again. Riggleman figured that spot in the order would come up in the ninth, when he assumed the Braves would use left-handed closer Billy Wagner.
If Desmond came out of the game, the only choice in the ninth (potentially) against Wagner would have been Kennedy, Harris or Nieves. Thinking ahead two innings, Riggleman did not want that. Desmond had not played right field this season, but he played there sparingly last year and in spring training.
So, Riggleman decided Desmond in right field was preferable to 1) letting a lefty or Nieves (theoretically) hit against Wagner in the ninth, or 2) Cristian Guzman playing right field, Alberto Gonzalez playing second and Desmond playing short.
(Quick aside: It seems like Riggleman could have avoided the problem by just pinch-hitting Morse in the pitcher's spot and Desmond later in the inning for Bernadina. Perhaps he wanted to save Morse for a position in which he could drive in a run.)
Anyway, the seventh inning began with Desmond in right field. He beat his glove and crouched to get ready as if still playing shortstop. Reliever Doug Slaten walked one batter and hit another. As the inning wore, Riggleman contemplated what he should do about right field.
Riggleman started thinking about Gonzalez's recent pregame work in right field. Gonzalez had never before played outfield, but he looked sharp in those practice sessions. Riggleman thought maybe it would be best for Desmond to not play right field. He also thought it would be best for Guzman to stay in the infield - Guzman had not played right since June 3, the day he lost a ball in the lights in Houston and dropped what would have the final out of a victory.
Riggleman would go with Gonzalez in right field. "I just changed my mind on it," he said.
Slaten wholly ineffective, Riggleman replaced him with Miguel Batista. As Batista warmed up, it was actually Guzman who jogged off the field. He emerged from the dugout with two gloves and gave one of them to Gonzalez. (I'm assuming it was Guzman's outfielder's glove and he was letting Gonzalez borrow it.) Anyway, Guzman tossed Gonzalez's infielder's glove to Ryan Zimmerman, who tossed it into the dugout.
The game resumed.
Batista walked the second batter he faced with the bases loaded to force in a run.
Desmond did face Wagner in the ninth. With a man on second, Desmond struck out on four pitches, with a feeble half-swing to end the game.
All in all, it could have worked out better.
You can probably tell I'm oddly fascinated by this. (I'm hoping you are, too.) So, here's Riggleman's thought process again, this time in his own words:
"When I hit Desmond in the 9-spot, I knew that Billy Wagner was going to come into this game eventually. I didn't have anybody else right-handed who could hit against Billy. So I wanted to leave Desi in that spot. I knew that spot would come up. So I left him in the game. Then, the slot that was coming out of the game was right field, because I pinch-hit for Bernie. So I put him in right field. Then, the more I thought about it and played it in my mind ... Gonzalez has really done a lot of work out there lately, so I decided to put him out there. It just didn't hit me, because I haven't had him out there. But I just felt like he's really looked good out there in pregame stuff. He's taken some work out there with the outfielders. And I just felt like I'd go ahead and put him out there. Because Desi hasn't been out there in a year. And Guzy, it's been a while since he's been out there. So I just changed my mind on it."
FROM THE POST
With a 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals ensured they will go at least two months without winning a series on the road.
The area around Nats Park is still far from complete any kind of renaissance, Robert McCartney writes.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Buffalo 9, Syracuse 4: Justin Maxwell went 2 for 4 with a home run and a double, raising his average to .293. Matt Chico allowed six earned runs on 10 hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Portland 7, Harrisburg 4: In his second Class AA start, John Lannan allowed six runs on 10 hits and two walks in six innings, striking out one. Edgardo Baez went 2 for 4 with a double.
Winston-Salem 4, Potomac 2: Josh Johnson went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk. Brad Peacock allowed three runs on five hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Lakewood 3, Hagerstown 2: Lakewood scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. The Suns managed three hits. Justin Bloxom went 1 for 4 with a home run. Mitchell Clegg allowed two runs on five hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.
Vermont 8, Tri-City 0: Leave it to the 10-3 Lake Monsters to provide the organization's lone win. Russell Moldenhauer went 2 for 4 with two home runs and a walk. Stephen King went 2 for 5. Matt Swynenberg allowed no runs on three hits and no walks in six innings, striking out two.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
The Nationals squandered the chances they had last night, Mark Zuckerman writes.
The Nats just aren't good enough right now, Ben Goessling writes.
Roger Bernadina had a great June, Guy Curtright notes.
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