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The bright side: Stephen Strasburg pitches Saturday

Morning roundup

There were several plays the Nationals could have made -- or that could have gone their way -- Friday night that might have translated to a more positive outcome for the home team.

Cristian Guzman could have fielded Ike Davis's grounder cleanly in the first inning. He could have turned a double play that would have ended the inning.

Nyjer Morgan could have been called safe on his attempted steal of second base in the bottom of the first. Umpire Bill Welke could have ruled that Mets third baseman David Wright -- who had moved over to cover second as part of New York's defensive shift with Adam Dunn batting -- pushed Morgan off the bag.

Mike Morse could have made a leaping catch of Alex Cora's fly ball at the wall in the fourth, one that would have been the inning's third out.

But none of that happened.

Guzman bobbled the grounder, which prolonged the inning and allowed a run to score.

Morgan was called out. Welke ruled that Morgan's momentum carried him past second base and that Wright had legally tagged Morgan's left foot.

"Once [Morgan] was off the base, Wright did force him off further, but he was already off," Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman said. "So Bill said he had him out either way."

And Morse did not make the catch at the wall to end the fourth inning. Morse said he did not think the ball was headed out of the park -- as Riggleman contended -- and he said he did not mistime his leap -- as it appeared on television replays. He said he simply didn't jump high enough to make the grab.

"Couldn't have missed it by much," Morse said.

Instead of remaining in close contention, the Nationals were forced to scramble for a rally in the bottom of the ninth. Said rally was cut short when Roger Bernadina was picked off second base to end the game.

Riggleman sought out only the positives afterward, which in theory was a good strategy. In practice, the Nationals should gain some positive vibes Saturday when right-handed phenom Stephen Strasburg takes the mound against the Mets.

Strasburg will be making his sixth major league start, and he'll hope the brief spurt of momentum Washington generated in the ninth Friday night carries over to the following day. The Nationals have scored one run in Strasburg's past three starts combined.

He'll also hope that the bullpen supplements him in the same manner it did Luis Atilano on Friday night. Joel Peralta threw three innings of scoreless relief. In fact, four Washington relievers -- Peralta, Sean Burnett, Miguel Batista and Doug Slaten -- combined to throw five and one-third innings of scoreless relief.

Peralta "did a great job," Riggleman said. "That's a lot of pitching right there ... In [Class] AAA he was a one-inning pitcher. A couple times maybe he went a little more than that. Right before he came up we extended him to two innings. So for him to go three innings, I know he was gassed there at the end, and I appreciate his efforts because he saved some other guys in the bullpen there for us."

The three relievers Riggleman didn't use Friday -- Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps -- will be plenty fresh should they be needed on Saturday. Riggleman said Friday that Strasburg's pitch count will hold at around 100.

By Steve Yanda  |  July 3, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cristian Guzman , Jim Riggleman , Nyjer Morgan , Stephen Strasburg  
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Nice summary of last night's woes.

I was actually a little encouraged. Some of it was ugly, with costly not-an-error-but-should-have-been-made plays. But there was a pulse late in the game. I had no confidence they would tie it or win it in the 9th, but enough happened that a miracle was momentarily thinkable -- better than the typical pop out, strike out, bouncer to second 1-2-3 ninth.

I don't ask for much.

Posted by: KenNat | July 3, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

This team, while frustrating to watch sometimes, is definitely improved from what I had to look at for the last 2 years. I loudly second Boz's plea to leave the heart of the order (and the team) alone. However, I fear greatly the cheapness of the owners.

The Nats are generating more interest now than at any time since their arrival, and if the owners refuse to pay players like Dunn and Hammer what they are worth, they will kill any renewed interest in this team. The willingness of pros like Pudge to sign with us will evaporate and we will return to being a Nationals joke. Such a move would be exceedingly stupid. PLEASE DON'T DO IT, UNCLE TEDDY!

Posted by: NatsFly | July 3, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, I was also encouraged by a few things - before the game-ending pickoff, anyway. The 'pen kept us in the game, and it occurred to me that even if the team didn't come back all the way, they might build off the way they rallied in the 9th.

I've not yet read the Boz piece, but I'm on board with retaining the heart of the order as-is. (Did I mention how I turned to my husband while watching last night's game and commented how much I'm loving the Hammer?)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Let's stop thinking SS will save the day everytime it's his turn in the rotation,if this team doen't learn how to play better fundamental baseball then they can bring back Bob Gibson(in his prime) and it won't matter. Ian Desmond already at 20 error's is unacceptable i don't care how much upside you think he has if i'm the manager he'd be on notice, you're headed for an extended stay on the bench if the error's continue. I thought they might be able to sweep the Mets(call me crazy) but after last night's brain farts i don't think so,let's hope they get the "Kid" some runs this afternoon and don't continue the poor fundamental baseball we've seen of late.

Posted by: dargregmag | July 3, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

This notion that the team is "different" or much improved from last year is a grand illusion. On paper there is more talent and better stats, but there is still a culture of choking, both offensively and defensively, in the clutch. Guzman, Morse, and Bernadina all demonstrated this last night. Atilano became timid and started to nibble once he gave up the Wright lead-off double.

It's almost as if the whole team, in King George's words, "spit the bit" when Strasberg's arrival was imminent, as if they felt they were not quite as relevant.

These 24 need to understand they need to play better or they will be gone, perhaps soon to the Newark Bears. In that vein, Riggleman needs to use his bench more liberally as he did earlier in the year, when he didn't let his players languish and gather splinters.

Posted by: paulkp | July 3, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-Well...I didn't get to watch the games-work-and this being the weekend of the 4th, I'll be working straight through Monday night, dispatching the the folks to round up miscreants and other sundry law breakers (MPD).....but the game was on in the break room, and unlike games past-I really made no effort to linger and watch. Like dargreg (jeez, can't we disagree?!) I thought a sweep was a real possibility...once again I was suckered by the hopeful talk coming from the gang that equates could with did. And like Natsfly...the unwillingness of the Slow Lerners to put their money where their mouths are....well-once AGAIN-I'm just discouraged. Hitting plan? Base running?
We could all go go on for quite a while with our own "lists"....but it all boils down to more disappointment, it seems....
Oh well.....wait til next......(I'm just feeling a bit salty this a.m.)
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | July 3, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

This year's team is definitely closer to being a good team than than last year's version. There's fewer holes.

Bullpen is good, last year it was wretched.

Five of our eight everyday players are good.

Between all the arms in their various stages of development and recovery, the best guess is we'll have a reasonable rotation next year.

Over the offseason, improve at one or two field positions and keep the bullpen strong and we'll be a good bit better again in 2011.

What bothers me the most is this teams inability to run the bases well and play defense well. I put some of that on Rizzo and a lot of that on Riggleman.

Rizzo's roster has obvious defensive flaws, but that's something that can be fixed with a couple moves.

But Riggleman's teams plays dumb and sloppy, and if Riggleman could fix this, he would fix it. But he doesn't, so I'll just assume that he can't.

The past two weeks have convinced me that Riggleman needs to go. His players make too many mental errors and little league type mistakes. That's got to be on him. And his game management is overzealous. Like Ian Desmond, he tries to do too much.

With Riggleman running the show, we're less likely to make the jump from pretty bad to pretty good.

Posted by: Sunderland | July 3, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The pen really is doing a phenomonal job this year. Now top to bottom. By far the most encouraging "position" on the team for now and the future.

Game was over in the fourth. No one in my section seriously thought the Nats could actually score five....

K-Rod has some nice chokes at the Park, though, there was definitely a chance for another last night...

Posted by: CJArlington | July 3, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse in SC, I'm stuck watching Marlins vs. Braves on there no justice!!!

Posted by: cokedispatch | July 3, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Anyone know where I can listen to the game online today?

Posted by: Rusty6392 | July 3, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Not sure, Rusty.

In other news, today's TWIB seems to be featuring the Nats. It's on Fox 5 here, and I think it replays on MLB Network at 1 tomorrow afternoon.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

The only place you can listen to the game online is on or with the MLB At Bat iPhone app. It costs $15 or so, but it lets you listen to both team's feeds of every MLB game all season long. It's definitely worth the cost.

Posted by: nunof1 | July 3, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"What bothers me the most is this teams inability to run the bases well and play defense well. I put some of that on Rizzo and a lot of that on Riggleman."

Maybe just a teensy bit on the players?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 3, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

'Cause, you know, it's their legs doing the running and all.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

"The past two weeks have convinced me that Riggleman needs to go. His players make too many mental errors and little league type mistakes. That's got to be on him."

Here's the problem with that, though: We (collectively--boctaoe) said exactly that about Manny Acta's tenure, and several were all excited over starting infield drills when Riggleman took over. Now, some of the players are changed, several key ones are not, and guess what--they still throw to the wrong base, run into outs, and go to the plate with no effective plan; the outfielders seem to have a very hard time finding the wall, compared to other teams' starters. They just aren't very good, and maybe it really is that simple.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 3, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Not disagreeing with the basic premise at all, but I was *not* part of the collective saying exactly that. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. :-)


Here's the problem with that, though: We (collectively--boctaoe) said exactly that about Manny Acta's tenure, and several were all excited over starting infield drills when Riggleman took over.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 4, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

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