Nyjer Morgan's mistake indicative of Nationals struggles
This morning, one moment from Monday's loss seemed to spark more vitriol among Nationals fans than any other. Centerfield Nyjer Morgan caught Eric Hinske's sacrifice fly in the seventh inning last night, and while the game's first run crossed the plate Morgan fired the ball back into the infield to third base, allowing the runner on first to sneak into scoring position.
That fundamental mistake, Manager Jim Riggleman believes, typified the Nationals right now. They are trying to do too much, and the pressing leads not to slump-breaking heroics but simply to bad baseball like throwing to the wrong base.
"I talked to Nyjer about that," Riggleman said. "It almost puts the exclamation point on what we know we're doing. It's guys trying to do too much. It's an aggressive mistake. It's a mental mistake, but it's an aggressive mistake. 'I'm not going to let that guy get to third base, I'm going to throw him out.' The chances of doing it from where he was at were pretty slim.
"I think we have some guys doing that with the bat. We have some situations where people feel like, 'OK, I'm going to be the guy that gets it turned around. I'm going to make this play, I'm going get this big hit here.' Instead of just letting the come to you and slow the game down a little bit and be patient that will happen. That play was pretty typical of the way we played recently."
Riggleman said last night this might be the toughest stretch he has ever endured as a manager. The Nationals have lost five straight, the capper to a 13-29 stretch since May 15, the day after they hit their season high-water mark. The road has been a main issue: The Nationals are 4-21 on the road since May 15, and they have allowed 30 unearned runs in those road games.
Simply losing has not this such a difficult stretch for Riggleman. It's losing with a team he believes is so much better than they have shown.
"All of us feel like we can win more games," Riggleman said. "I'm not going to say that there's particular area. It's just been a collective situation where everybody - whether it's pitching, our bullpen not protecting a lead, our defense not making plays, whether it's not driving in runs, whether it's not making the right decision as manager - whatever the case may be, we've missed something on each day. We haven't missed all those things on the same day, but just enough to come up short.
"I really feel like that when we play good baseball, we pitch good, we swing the bats OK, we can win by scoring three or four runs. We can do that. But a couple times we've scored six and lost. A couple times we've scored zero or one and lost. We haven't matched up those total pitching efforts and those total offensive efforts enough to win the ballgames. When you mix in the defense that we've played, it's made it that much tougher. Again, I feel like there's enough talent here that the glass is half-full."
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