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Nationals need to regroup quickly

Morning roundup

Take your pick of where to begin dissecting the Nationals' improbable 7-6 loss to Baltimore last night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

You could start with the erratic relief pitching, most notably from Tyler Clippard, who gave up four runs, three of them earned, and was largely responsible for Washington's eighth loss in 10 games. That Clippard faltered was surprising considering he entered Friday with a 1.58 ERA and an 8-3 record. In 17 appearances beginning May 19, Clippard went 1-0 with one save, nine holds and an 0.49 ERA.

You also could point to the sloppy fielding, which included Cristian Guzman's throwing error in the bottom of the ninth that allowed pinch runner Jake Fox to score the winning run. Like Guzman, Ian Desmond also committed two errors.

Then there were the Nationals' bats, which produced in the early stages but were unable to come through when it mattered most.

All of those variables contributed to perhaps the most deflating loss of the season that rendered the clubhouse virtually silent shortly after the game had ended and media were allowed access to players and coaches.

Clippard took the loss particularly hard, sitting in front of his locker for an extended period before showering and answering the tough questions.

"Just couldn't get the ball down," said Clippard, who gave up three runs, including a two-run pinch-hit homer to Scott Moore, in the eighth inning that allowed Baltimore to tie it at 6. "I just didn't establish the strike zone early, so I was a little tentative after that, and it cost me."

The Nationals resume their interleague series with the Orioles today at 4:05 p.m., so they'll have to try to get over the loss as quickly as possible or risk losing a second game in a row to the team with the worst record in the majors.

"You've got to be able to bounce back," said center fielder Nyjer Morgan, who went 4 for 5 and had one of the most acrobatic catches of the season when he robbed Corey Patterson of what appeared a sure home run in the third inning. "That's why you play this game 162. There's going to be a couple games where you're going to fall by the wayside like this. We have the heart in this clubhouse, and we definitely have the right guys in here to definitely pick it up."

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 6, Pawtucket 1: Matt Chico went 5 2/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits, to improve to 3-3.

Harrisburg 5, Reading 2: John Lannan allowed one run and four hits over seven innings in his first start since being sent down to the minors.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Morgan has a breakout game despite the loss, writes MLB.com's Bill Ladson.

Defensive breakdowns were largely to blame for the loss, write Ben Goessling of masnsports.com.

By Gene Wang  |  June 26, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cristian Guzman , Ian Desmond , Jim Riggleman , Nyjer Morgan  | Tags: Cristian Guzman, Ian Desmond, Nyjer Morgan, Tyler Clippard  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Lannan returns to form in Class AA outing
Next: Today's lineups: Nationals at Orioles

Comments

I've been a big fan of Riggs who turned last year's team around by having them practice, not read self-help books like Manny did. In April and May I thought they looked and played like a MLB team. Now they are the Redskins of MLB. "We're a really good team" say Desmond and others who wouldn't know one if they saw one. Instead of being the easist quote Desmond should be taking grounders every minute until he learns to concentrate. He can be a good shortstop but won't be until he realizes that he isn't Derek Jeter and that you don't swing at ball one outside everytime and pull it to SS.

When Riggs came out and pulled Martin too early he should have pulled Desmond right there -- those were mental mistakes, not physical ones. Remember when Bobby Cox pulled Andruw Jones mid-inning in his rookie seaon for letting an easy pop drop? Jones learned more from that than Desmond does from assuming the role of team spokesman while pitchers now have him down cold.

This team can win 70-75 games but not until they lose their Redskin-like sense of entitlment. You aren't a good team until you show it on the field. They read too much into Boz's columns of how easy the schedule would get (of course Boz hadn't read this years results when he wrote those -- see Reds, Padres and Giants). If they keep thinking they are entitled to win they'll be lucky to avoid losing 100.

Posted by: grclarkdc1 | June 26, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-well, I didn't really watch the game-at work...but in the break room, it was on. (My watch commander was growing suspicious of all my reasons to get up!). Now....first just a nod to my usual "where's the fire" or "fiery leader" plea-especially in the later innings.(And for all I know, in the locker Zman is threatening people with a bat-but I kinda doubt it).But also....one of the plays I saw-8th inning, 2 on, 2 out, Roger at bat. Deep grounder to short and-out by a hair. And it looked as if instead of running hard he tried to "leap" the last step to beat the throw. Just a small thing....but.
Also-much as I'm a Des-dream believer...why is a rookie so often the after game quote? What I'm getting at is-Ian and Rog (minors)...even Nyjer (Pittsburgh)...well, we tend to forget that DC is, well...DC! A BIG market that you've heard about all your life (admittedly for other reasons). So now...here you are! Bright lights! Big City! Earlier when this team was going good, I still mentioned that they seemed to think merely being average (or slightly better) was something to crow about....I just have a sour feel about this team right now-and hearing Dibs in the booth (after his juvenile bit with Ray)...well, I hope I'm just bitter this a.m.
And I'll let you all hammer the other contributors to this unsightly stretch of baseball.....>Sigh< Even last year, we took 2 of 3 from the Yankees, but losing like we did to the O's?...
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | June 26, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-Wow, grclark-couldn't- and didn't-say it better myself! Exactly....total agreement.
Go Nats

Posted by: zendo | June 26, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Either Riggs has to have more faith in the pitchers we have or we have to get pitchers he trusts because this cannot continue. This pitch to one batter and done stuff is overmanaging and it seems he's learning nothing from this constant mistake. Let you best players play, let your pitchers pitch - stop managing every game like its game 7 of the little league world series where you are trying to show the nation what your face loks like. Horrible loss, this team is looking more and more like the Nats of old instead of making progress.

And enough of starting Harris to jump start him. You cannot jump start a turd. This team cannot continue to waste ABs, we are simply not good enough.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | June 26, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

You can't play baseball defensively as poorly as we do and expect to beat anybody with any regularity. Des and Guz are killing us in the middle. Maybe DH one today and let Kennedy or somebody else play. Harris is useless. Platoon Morse and Bernadina.

Last night's loss was an eye opener...the all-star break can't come soon enough.

Posted by: outrbnksm | June 26, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

While losing to the lowly O's is a bitter pill to swallow, The team IS making progress. Hell, we are light years ahead of were we were at this time last year. It takes time to build a solid team and a solid organization. The Nats are heading in that direction. I believe that a very good second half is coming with our injured starters returning. One thing I don't understand is why Riggleman can't find more AB's for Michael Morse. The guy can hit. On a side note, Nyjer's catch last night was amazing!!! Reminds me of Kenny Lofton robbing BJ surhof a few years back. Go Nats, lets get a win today!!

Posted by: chris88 | June 26, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Riggs overmanaged that one using 2 lefties for one batter apiece in the 5th and 6th innings.

Oh, and can someone show Burnett's splits to Riggs/McCatty. Lefties have an .880 OPS of of him, and eighties have a .419 OPS. I can see thAt he'd have faith in Burnett to get the lefty, but why take him out and burn a another reliever when he has been more effective against eighties? That's a real head scratcher.

I guess these old baseball Gus that manage from "the book" have little use for new tangle things like splits....

Posted by: comish4lif | June 26, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Good news on the errors by a SS in a single season. The all-time ML record is 119 by Philadelphia's Billy Shindle in 1890 (and we complain about the Nats defence). Desmond is likely to make it to the all-star break without seriously challenging Shindle's mark. They may have to sit him down in Sept though to keep him out of the record books...

Interesting note, Guzman lead the AL with the fewest errors by a SS in 2001. Doesn't mean anything, it's just interesting.

Why doesn't Riggleman give Gonzales at start or two at 2nd base? I know he isn't much of a hitter, but he's hitting more than 100 points better than Willie Harris, and somehow he finds ABs for him. He can't be worse defensively than Guzman at 2B.

Posted by: lesatcsc | June 26, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Brutal, just brutal. Easily the worst loss of the season.

Coming out of CYs last night was the ultimate walk of shame although I gotta admit that the Oreos fans said nary a peep. I had on my Stasburg t-shirt and the only comment I heard was a, "hey, there's Strasburg." Like the guy actually thought I WAS Strasburg. Go figure.

Btw - Nyjer's catch made it to #2 on last night's Web Gems. The Edwin Jackson's no-no was #1, collectively for all the defensive plays. Now, that sort of sucks. Morgan's was easily the "D" play of the night in MLB.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | June 26, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Riggleman, Guzman & Desmond all had shares in last nights' debacle, but the lion's share falls to Riggleman, imo. Burning off three pitchers for four outs, with Slaten & Burnett in for one batter each; Then throwing Storen & Clippard for over an inning each? Leaving Guzman in at 2B, when there are two competent gloves on the bench (Kennedy or AGonz)?

I did think that the offense would have continued to pound the O's middle relievers, but that failed miserably, as Hendrickson, Mata, & Ohman did a good job of shutting the Nats down. I'm also starting to feel that players like Walker, Kennedy, Morse & Gonzalez are being under-utilized by Riggleman, and that others (Guzman, Harris, Capps) are relied upon too much.

All-in-all, a great game by Morgan & Dunn wasted, and a dissapointing loss.

Posted by: BinM | June 26, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Ok Folks, Let's start at the beginning.

1. Where is the great defensive team that Rizzo supposedly built? This team is the worst in the major leagues defensively.

Why?

Instead of signing Orlando Hudson, who was theres for the taking at a pretty reasonable price, the Nats went super cheap and sold us on the idea of signing Adam Kennedy insead because he was a great defensive player and great clubhouse guy etc. When Kennedy, as it turns out, couldn't hit or field, they put Guzman at second. And you all know how that has turned out.
ODog has two errors this year----Guzman/Kennedy have 11 and have cost us by my last count around 7 games.
Those 7 games are on Rizzo.

2. All this talk about the Nats being improved over last year... Really?
Last year we blew thru 100 losses. Anything would be better you would think. The problem is why are we so bad this year? Last night's loss illumunites most of the reasons.

A: No reliable second baseman.
B. No reliable shortstop.
C. Over-managing, pulling a pitcher with a huge lead again in the 4th inning like it is game 7 of the playoffs.
D. Not leaving your best players in. If he's not double switching how about pulling Morse last night for a pinch runner with 2 outs and the mighty Willie Harris up. What's the point of that. Like there's a chance Harris is gonna connect and drive Morse in from first. Absurd. So Morse is gone and now instead of Morse coming up to bat with runners in scoring position in the 9th, Bernadina comes in cold for his first at bat and of course grounds out.

3. Ridiculous managing. How on earth when you can add a guy to the lineup with the DH do you subtract a guy? Ask Riggs. I don't know. Could have had Morse and Bernadina in the game together. But Riggs had to play his boyfriend Harris again.

And we haven't even talked about the starting rotation that Rizzo put together for this season. We'll leave that for another time.

The Orioles are the worst team in baseball. There is no way you can lose this game unless you really try. But Riggs in his decisions was perfect in making that happen.

On and on and on. Riggs and Rizzo have really blown this team apart.
Sad.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 26, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I am tired of the overmanaging by Riggs. He has no gut instinct or feel for the game. He will follow exactly what is written in his "Basball Managing for Dummies" book.

Posted by: djorl | June 26, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Not quibbling at all with doveline, the facts pretty much bear out his position.

But I think we do have a reliable second baseman. In fact, I think we have two of them.

If Riggleman would just play Kennedy or Alberto Gonzalez at 2B, every day, I'm betting we'd have a much better defense than we have now.

There's no way Kennedy suddenly lost his skills. He's just being jerked around, playing inconsistenly, and thus performing inconsistently.

Rizzo needs to do what Riggleman won't do, and that is remove Guzman from the lineup. Trade him soon, for whatever you can get, and then Riggleman will not have to tinker with his lineup everyday.

ID has obvious skills as a defensive player. He needs to sharpen his decision making, and he'll be fine. Playing him everyday at SS and Kennedy or Gonzo everyday at 2B will help ID.

Riggleman overmanaging and mismanaging?
It's funny, just like Desmond, Riggleman is trying too hard. They both seem to think that they need to be more involved than what the natural flow of the game dictates.

Posted by: Sunderland | June 26, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

@dovelevine:
Regarding your points...
1- IIRC, Hudson was asking for $8-9M from the Nationals (market value +80%); The Nationals wouldn't go that high, because he was 1) becoming injury-prone, and 2) had been beaten out of his starting job by Ronnie Belliard, who the Nationals let go for next-to-nothing.

He would have been a great fit here, but not for the price he was asking - The Twins gave him $5M, and he's already been on the DL once this year.

2- The team's record is better this year than 2009, but that is more an attribute of the bullpen than to any other factor I can put a finger on. I'd give Rizzo credit for that.
The team defense is statistically about the same as last year (really bad), but has shown individual improvement. Pudge is better than Bard behind the plate, Dunn is actually better than Nick Johnson was at this time last year at 1B (albeit with slightly less range), and Bernadina is a step up over Dukes in RF. The gap is still up the middle, where Guzman has minimal skills at 2B, Desmond has great range but still clanks basic plays at SS (just like he did in the minors), and Morgan has had a bad 1st half in CF.

3- Riggleman: Not much of an argument here; He's overmanaged some games (last night being a perfect example), but at least shows more for the team "on-the-field" than Acta ever could. That counts for something in my book. He's the manager for now, but probably not the manager for the future.

Posted by: BinM | June 26, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

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