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Matt Capps closes out his former team

Morning roundup

In the past two days, Matt Capps added two saves to his league-leading total and shed his recent struggles. He personally handed the game ball to Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday night. Nothing, though, has been quite as sweet as whom the opponent has been.

"It's kind of nice to go out against the team that didn't want you anymore," Capps said.

This offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the only team for which Capps had played in the majors, did not tender Capps a contract, allowing him to walk away although they still controlled his rights. After Capps went 4-8 with a 5.80 ERA, the Pirates decided to move on. In his first two games against his old team, Capps has saved both games for the Nationals.

"They're all nice," Capps said. "But to go out there against the team that ultimately didn't want you anymore and show them you're still capable of doing your job, it's kind of a little extra incentive."

Said reliever Tyler Walker: "I think he's more happy about it than he'll let on for sure. The circumstances there kind of speak for themselves. Hopefully he can get number three tomorrow. I'm happy for him."

While Capps admitted his satisfaction, he also played down holding any kind of a grudge against the Pirates. "It's business," Capps said. "It's the business of baseball. I knew what I was capable of. I knew I was capable of working through the year I had last year. It just wasn't working for me. I had to go out and prove it to myself and to everybody else. I'm trying to do that this season."

So far, despite a brutal patch of bad pitching and worse luck, Capps has done that. At the time he saved his 20th game last night, it put him four ahead of the next closest closer. He still has not totally solved his shaky slider - Garrett Jones smoked a hanging slider for a double in the ninth - but he got back to spotting his fastball well enough.

"It's a good feeling," Capps said. ."It's one of those stats where it's not even possible without the right team. These guys are great. They've given me a lot of opportunities. It's nice to have 20 now. It'd be better to have 24.

"I thought I was part of what they were building over there. But it's a business move. I'm pretty happy where I am."


The hype around Stephen Strasburg had not slowed a bit the day after his debut, and the Nationals set his schedule for the near future.

With the buzz gone, the Nationals relied on their bullpen in a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburg Pirates last night.


Louisville 3, Syracuse 2: Boomer Whiting went 2 for 4. Craig Stammen pinch hit and struck out. Collin Balester pitched three hitless, scoreless innings of relief with one walk and two strikeouts.

Harrisburg was postponed.

Frederick 4, Potomac 3: Ross Detwiler pitched three scoreless innings in his first rehab assignment, allowing four hits and a walk and striking out one. Michael Burgess went 0 for 4 with a strikeout, dropping his average to .273.

Hagerstown was off.


The Nationals bullpen has carried a large burden, Ben Goessling writes.

It's been a redemptive season for Matt Capps, Mark Zuckerman writes.

Jack Moore at FanGraphs marvels at Stephen Strasburg's efficiency in his debut.

Meanwhile, David Golebiewski at FanGraphs marvels at Ryan Zimmerman's power this season.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 10, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Capps , bullpen  
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Next: The Hall of Fame and the Nationals


I found it interesting that Kris Kline in the Nats' front office was quoted in this morning's dead tree edition as saying that he was really excited about the team's picks in the first 15 rounds of the just-concluded MLB draft, which implied that the remaining 35 rounds were nothing to write home about. Usually, personnel guys gush about their team's ENTIRE draft. Was this some unusual honesty about the franchise's performance in the later rounds, or just a recognition that, after the early rounds, everybody is just guessing, anyway?

Posted by: rbpalmer | June 10, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I would guess that after 15 rounds, front office execs realize there's a reason the players they're drafting aren't in anyone's top 450 prospects. Still worth doing your homework, however.

Posted by: LandoverHillsBoysClub | June 10, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I think if your excited after round 15 then you are lying... more of those guys won't make it then will make it, just a simple fact of the draft

Posted by: SCNatsFan | June 10, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Atta boy, Matt! btw, I noticed last night that Capps had shaved off his goatee, but I couldn't recall whether he still had it the night before. Did he shave it before or after getting back on board the save train? hmmm...

Also, at one point in last night's game, the camera zoomed in on Pudge in the dugout, and he was holding a baseball with his fingers facing the field, so that one could clearly see the grip. At another point, it looked as though he might be gesturing to the fielders re. positioning. I feel almost as though we have another bench coach or pitching coach when he's in the dugout. At any rate, it's great to have him back with team, and I hope that he'll be able to stay healthy the rest of the way. I think he really adds a lot.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 10, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps I should note that Lannan was on the mound when the camera zoomed in on Pudge.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 10, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Haven't seen the article yet, but there may be a third possibility: he meant no such thing, and you're putting words in his mouth.
That said, yeah, most of the late-rounders don't make it to the bigs, it's true, and after the first couple of rounds, really, they're all guessing. Albert Pujols? 13th Round. Just one of a big long list of late-round picks who unambiguously "made it."
I found it interesting that Kris Kline in the Nats' front office was quoted in this morning's dead tree edition as saying that he was really excited about the team's picks in the first 15 rounds of the just-concluded MLB draft, which implied that the remaining 35 rounds were nothing to write home about. Usually, personnel guys gush about their team's ENTIRE draft. Was this some unusual honesty about the franchise's performance in the later rounds, or just a recognition that, after the early rounds, everybody is just guessing, anyway?
Posted by: rbpalmer | June 10, 2010 9:23 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 10, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I was kind of sorry to see Pudge shave his "DL goatee" for Tuesday's game. You could see he had it in the dugout during Sunday's game. I thought it suited him.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 10, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

After the disastrous year Capps had last year, what is it that Rizzo saw in him that led him to think he could turn it around? Anybody?

Posted by: ADCWonk | June 10, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I think Rizzo and the scouts figured that since he hadn't been injured, the problem was simply one of mechanics, and, that being the case, he could turn it around.

If he spent most of last year "experimenting" with his slider, like he'd been doing the last week or so, that might explain it.

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 10, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Agreed re. Pudge's goatee.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 10, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

This just in from the Stream of Consciousness Department: Some time ago, I noticed that when Nats return to home plate after hitting a dinger, they often shake hands with teammates who are waiting there for them. A simple, gentlemanly handshake, mind you, none of that high-five, choreographed stuff. I like that. Kinda old school. I recall seeing Acta and the coaches exchanging similar handshakes in the dugout after wins last year, but I don't recall seeing players do so after dingers. (After they return to the dugout, it would seem that all bets are off, as I've seen more elaborate handshakes and high fives there.) We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. (I hear that Strasburg is going to be on The View tomorrow. That's a joke, son.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 10, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Congrats to all of the Nats fans. This lifelong Os fan harbors no ill will towards the team and wishes them the best. Great outing by the kid - made baseball interesting. Capps is a great story as well.

Hopefully, we are only a year behind the Nats in terms of rebuilding. On my only snide note - our 20 yo stadium beats yours and is still more accessible. But otherwise, there is no joy while Angelos owns and abuses the franchise.

Regards -


Posted by: HughGRection | June 10, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

HGR, nice note. I rooted for your team for 20 years while my son was growing up. A lot of fun times, '89 was my favorite. No ill will on this end either.

Posted by: sjt1455 | June 10, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Re handshakes: IIRC, Cal Ripken started a post-game handshaking tradition that required players shake hands and LOOK EACH OTHER IN THE EYE as they did it.

@HGR - Thanks for a classy post.

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 10, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse


To carry your Stream of Consciousness further down stream, I noticed that Willingham prefers the hand shake at the dish and he has been the common thread (When Zimmerman hits a HR, he high fives Dunn and then shakes Hammer's hand; when Dunn Homers, he shakes Hammer's hand and then high fives the next batter-typically Ian Desmond).
In the dugout, you are's high fives all around.

Posted by: TimDz | June 10, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm, this high five vs. handshake thing is quite interesting. I think we all need to see it many, many more times so that we can pick up all the nuances. How about starting tonight?

Let's go, Nats!

Posted by: nats24 | June 10, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

@HGR: Camdon Yards was a classic ballpark the instant it opened. I don't think making an accurate comment makes you snide...
I'll never forget my visit there and how taken I was by the view. The Keeping the B&O warehouse up and incorporating the ballpark around it was a phenominal idea.

Nat's Park is nice, but somewhat non-descript IMO

Posted by: TimDz | June 10, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Yes, classy post by HGR (the moniker = not so classy, but that's just me).

Thanks to others for the comments re. handshakes. I never followed the O's after moving to NoVa, so thanks for that background gilbert. Interesting observation re. the Hammer, TimDz. I'd not made the connection but, now that you mention it, I do seem to recall seeing him involved in the action more often that not. I agree with nats24 that we need to watch more post-dinger handshake rituals and compile further data. (Make it happen, Hammer! Hey, it worked for his mom on Mother's Day. :-))

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 10, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Nice post HGR - Camden Yards is the best park I've seen, but that Gawdawful hotel they put in beyond CF that blocks the view of downtown with the Pepto Bismol tower is an abomination.

Posted by: utec | June 10, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Agree that Camden Yards is nice, but it's not my fave of those I've visited to date. I love AT&T park - can't beat the setting, imo. I also like Wrigley, I gotta admit.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 10, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

PNC in Pittsburgh looks wonderful as well. My brother has been there an gives it high marks...

Just for Natsfan1a1 (since you mentioned the suggestive nature of GHR's moniker): When PNC was being built, someone jokingly suggested that they should put the men's room urinals facing the field with one way you could...wait for it......


Posted by: TimDz | June 10, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

On that note, TimDz, remember a couple of bank mergers ago when First Union had the naming rights to the new hockey/basketball arena in Philly as well as the old Spectrum that still stood across the street? Only in Philly would you have the FU Center paired with the FU 2.

Posted by: zimbar | June 10, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

The double that Capps gave up in the ninth last night did JWill misplay it or was it scorched like i thought it was?(only saw the x mo). I think Riggs should play the closer situation by stats i.e. Capps numbers against the Reds stink soooooooo keep him away from the Reds you can't do everything by the book because sometimes it'll comeback to bite you(like last sunday!!) we have an excellent bullpen so let the situation dictate the decision by Riggs if Clipp is mowing them down then leave him in don't go get the closer for the sake of padding his save record.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 10, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I sat by the bullpen on Tuesday's game, which was great getting to see Strasburg warm-up. it was also great getting to see matt capps come out around the 5th or 6th inning. the First thing he heard was me yelling at him about how much he sucked (having listened to both Blown saves in houston and seeing the most recent one on sunday). He blew me a kiss. Most people around felt it was uncalled for, and not good behavior from a fan. I like to think it motivated him to know how much he had let the fans down recently.

Posted by: vo_37 | June 10, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

eeew, TimDz. :-)

Seriously, the Pittsburgh park does look nice and I hope to take in a game there some day. So far, the planets (and Nats schedule) have not aligned in that regard.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 10, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, you are a great fan. Would you have the guts to say it to Capp's face? Yeah right.

Posted by: Natstoyou | June 10, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

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