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Defensive lapses a growing concern

The Washington Nationals came undone in yesterday's 7-6 loss to Baltimore for many reasons, but sloppy fielding was among the major culprits in the team falling for the eighth time in 10 games.

Cristian Guzman's throwing error in the bottom of the ninth allowed pinch runner Jake Fox to score the winning run, but even before that, the Nationals were having issues in the field. Guzman committed an earlier error when he let what appeared a sure double-play ball roll under his glove, and shortstop Ian Desmond had two errors as well.

Manager Jim Riggleman addressed Washington's fielding woes today before the second game of three against the Orioles at Camden Yards, and he left no doubt the Nationals are in dire need of improvement in one of the most fundamental aspects of the game.

"We're just in a tremendous defensive slump," he said. "Hitters get in slumps. Sometimes defensive players get in slumps, but I think there's a little aura hanging over our club right now that some people question whether or not they're going to make the play, and we just got to get out of that."

The Nationals' defensive miscues in the infield coupled with the heartbreaking loss overshadowed one of the most dramatic plays in the big leagues this season, when center fielder Nyjer Morgan robbed Corey Patterson of what seemed a sure home run in the third inning. Patterson drove starter J.D. Martin's 2-1 offering to deep center, where Morgan retreated to the warning track and timed his leap perfectly before making the catch several feet above the wall.

Morgan downplayed the catch following the game, essentially calling it routine for him, and instead focused how disconcerting the loss was considering the Nationals had built a 6-0 lead and appeared well on their way to an easy win.

"It's just a play," Morgan said. "I'd rather talk about the loss more than the catch. The catch was nothing. Wish we would have gotten that W."

In the last series between Baltimore and Washington at Nationals Park, Morgan himself was guilty of a fielding lapse when he slammed his glove after failing to make a catch in the outfield and thinking the ball had gone over the wall for a homer. Instead, left fielder Josh Willingham, who had been calling over to Morgan to try to tell him the ball was still in play, ran over to pick it up and throw back to the infield.

"We've just got to create an atmosphere here where we believe they're going to make the plays," Riggleman said, "and they've got to believe they're going to make the plays, but it's all talk. I can talk about it all day. We've got to do it."

By Gene Wang  |  June 26, 2010; 2:17 PM ET
Categories:  Cristian Guzman , Ian Desmond , Jim Riggleman , Nyjer Morgan  
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Comments

"The Rays still were no-hit for the third time since last July, including Dallas Braden's perfect game at Oakland on May 9."

What a weird thing to read about a team that's 43-30, 4th in MLB in runs scored, and only 3 games out. Makes no sense at all.

Posted by: Samson151 | June 26, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Tired of all the excuses.... Offensive slump 2 days ago, now defensive slump... better luck next year... You should sweep a team like the O's who's pitching is terrible. There are no excuses.

Posted by: tony325 | June 26, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

The troubling part about Desmond's error are they are mental, like not holding the ball last night. Let's just hope he learns with time as he has the skills.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | June 26, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

The only defensive 'slumps' that I see are Morgan in CF (well off his 2009 marks). 1B (Dunn), 3B (Zimm), LF (Willingham), and RF (Bernadina) are equal to, or slightly above last years' marks to date. Pudge is well above last years' marker (Bard) behind the plate.

The problem is in the middle infield, imo - Desmond had a track record in the minors (30+ errors per year), and it's carrying through; He needs to either settle down or become a CF, much like Yount did; We should have seen & expected what the team was getting there.

Guzman is a Vidro-esque 2B (limited range, no arm), and is horrid at SS (same reasons), while Kennedy is logging as many innings at 1B as he has at 2B lately. Meanwhile, Gonzalez gathers rust on the bench as a no-power, slap-hitting PH with a good glove.

Posted by: BinM | June 26, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

The Nationals were not a good team on opening day (OD). Willie Harris was a starter now hitting .151 or so. They were a bad defensive team on OD. They were a bad pitching team on OD. And their hitting was average or below. They are now playing to form.

Posted by: hz9604 | June 26, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

The Nats stink in every phase. They have a batting coach who has everybody swinging from the heels; a catcher who is breaking ball and changeup happy; an infield that can't field; no starting pitcher other than SS who can throw harder than 86; a third baseman who is pathetic with men on base; and a manager who has no fire and does not demand accountability. Haven't we seen this before? the guy is Acta all over again.

Posted by: lp_lodestar | June 26, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

The Nats pitching has been terrible all year long except for Strausberg. Amazes me that we haven't made more changes. We seem to think that b/c we won some close games early on, we will be fine....all the while our pitching stats are still bottom of the league....pathetic

WE NEED PITCHING HELP

Posted by: Bious | June 27, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

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