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If the Nats ever get on a roll, the time could be now

Morning roundup

Having won two consecutive games, a rare feat in itself for them this year, the Nationals have given themselves another chance to do something even the worst teams manage once or twice in a season. This weekend in Milwaukee, they can build a winning streak.

Generally, the Nationals' most common problems - sloppy defense, occasionally impotent offense, a lack of consistent depth in the starting rotation - have really created the overarching problem of squandering momentum. Their winning streaks last as long as Dan Brown's chapters.

Every team gets hot once in a while. Just not the Nationals. Even last year's 103-loss Nats had won four straight twice by this point last year, and they eventually had a winning streak of eight and seven games. These Nationals have not won more than three straight games all season, something only the Pirates can also claim. They've won three straight games only four times this season, and not once since June 10.

"We needed to put a couple together, especially against a ballclub as good as Cincinnati," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "We needed to win a couple. Not win a game and take a step back. We needed to show ourselves, 'Yeah, you know what, we can play with these other teams and put a few together.' Not win sporadically, but win more consistently."

The first step will be Craig Stammen, like his team, trying to find consistency. He was utterly dominant for the majority of his first start of the second half, but occasional is not his problem. Regular quality is. The Nationals also needed to build on one of the best sustained spurts of offensive they've produced this year - before Thursday, they had not scored seven runs in three straight games.

"We can score runs," Willie Harris said. "It's just a matter of getting our offense going at the same time as our pitching."

FROM THE POST

Livan Hernandez pitched the 49th complete game of his career as the Nationals drilled the Reds 7-1 to even the four-game series.

Dan Steinberg has pictures of Orlando Cabrera behaving as if Stephen Strasburg's curveball carries with it a force field.

Steinberg also transcribed a radio interview in which Stan Kasten said the Nationals are closer than it looks to contending.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Norfolk 7, Syracuse 6: Chase Lambin went 2 for 5 with a double. Justin Maxwell went 2 for 2 with two doubles and a walk. Shairon Martis allowed four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings on nine hits and two walks.

Portland 9, Harrisburg 1: John Lannan allowed three earned runs in five innings on nine hits and no walks, striking out five. Devin Ivany went 2 for 4 with a double.

Winston-Salem 5, Potomac 4: Scott Olsen allowed three earned runs in five innings on six hits and no walks, striking out four. Tyler Moore went 2 for 4 with two home runs.

Asheville 13, Hagerstown 4: J.P. Ramirez went 1 for 3 with a home run and a walk. Justin Bloxom went 2 for 4 with a double.

Connecticut 11, Vermont 7 (Game 1, 7 innings): Jason Martinson went 2 for 3 with two doubles. David Freitas went 1 for 3 with a walk.

Vermont 4, Connecticut 3 (Game 2, 7 innings): David Freitas went 2 for 3 with a home run. Neil Holland allowed no earned runs in three innings on one hit and one walk, striking out three.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Livan Hernandez isn't dead yet, Mark Zuckerman writes.

Some players with uncertain futures grabbed the spotlight Thursday, Ben Goessling says.

The Nationals avoided one of the most untradeable contracts in baseball when they didn't sign Alfonso Soriano a few years back, Dave Cameron at FanGraphs writes.

Jack Moore at FanGraphs looks at some of the most improbable statistical elements of Livan Hernandez's career and season.

Dave McKenna of City Paper profiles Rob Dibble.

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 23, 2010; 8:01 AM ET
 | Tags: Cincinnati Reds; Milwaukee Brewers; Livan Hernandez; Craig Stammen, Washington Nationals  
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Next: Nationals 'considering every possibility' at trade deadline

Comments

For what it's worth, after hits in both ends of the doubleheader, Freitas now has an 18-game hit streak for Vermont

Posted by: Brian_ | July 23, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

In the Nats case with Soriano. The contract Washington offered wasnt close to the crazy contract he signed with the Cubs. If im not mistaken the Nats offered, 5ys $70 million which what almost what he has left with the Cubs.

Posted by: DCfan8397 | July 23, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

This contract is one of the best in demonstrating the folly of the long-term contract situation. With the numbers Soriano put up in RFK and the fact that he looked like a guy who would be pretty durable, the Cubs figured he might hit 50+ homers in Wrigley for years to come. But, it was a total fluke (corked bat, maybe?) and he turned out to be a guy who didn't know how to keep himself healthy. The big warning sign the Cubs ignored was that he was a known head case.

Posted by: ccCapsfan | July 23, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate the link to the Dibble article, but it is hardly a "profile." It is regurgitated invective from a few losers who maintain amateur blogs. Note the key term, amateur. The Post's blog and Nat's Insider are maintained by journalists who have creditials to actually maintain a website with some objectivity and insight. I could start a blog about pretty much any topic and make it sound at least superficially credible, but I can assure you I'd be full of it.

Posted by: flotsam3 | July 23, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Boy howdy, look at the pitching performance of the Nats' present minor-leaguers and erstwhile shining lights of the rotation.

Martis: 4 ER in 3.2 innings.
Lannan: 3 ER in 5 innings.
Olsen: 3 ER in 5 innings.

They're not exactly shutting 'em down on the A, AA, and AAA levels, are they?

Posted by: shepdave2003 | July 23, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Morgan, as that post 2 stories back was mentioning him.

I have been wondering if the Nats wound up over coaching Morgan, forcing him to slide foot first (though smart) hurt his base speed.

Posted by: alex35332 | July 23, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Get on a roll....Seriously? It's all about pitching. How do you get on a roll
when 3/5s of your starting rotation is a Minor League staff. And the other guy is 100 year's old. We've got one--that's ONE starting pitcher. Not much of a roll or even donut there.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

And the other guy is 100 year's old. We've got one--that's ONE starting pitcher. Not much of a roll or even donut there.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 9:56 AM

Way to disparage Livo the morning after he threw a real gem. The old master is 7-6 with respectable ERA and WHIP number (3.12/1.23). I can think of a few other struggling clubs that wouldn't mind having him in the rotation.

Posted by: Kev29 | July 23, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=11555

Q/A w/ Derek Norris

Posted by: longterm | July 23, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

No mention of defense again. C'mon, folks, without an airtight defense this team's going nowhere. The way Riggleman juggles each day's lineup, there's no chance for a serious ML defense to emerge.

Pitching comes second, and offense (which includes smart base running) third.

Posted by: JohnRDC | July 23, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

>>And the other guy is 100 year's old. We've got one--that's ONE starting pitcher. Posted by: skins_fan_22

>>Way to disparage Livo the morning after he threw a real gem. I can think of a few other struggling clubs that wouldn't mind having him in the rotation.Posted by: Kev29

Kev don't get me wrong. I absolutely love Livo. The dude is a warrior. But let's be straight. He's 100 years old and probably the 5th starter on a real team. He's given us everything and more but the dude will probably be arm dead by the end of the year. Just keepin it real.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Livo is what he is...
What he was yesterday was a PITCHER and not a THROWER, like so many others on the roster.
As for the defense, work is clearly needed, but I think we need to consider how the pitcher effects the defense behind him. Livo pitched efficeintly, kept the other team off balance, worked quick and even fielded his position well. He induced a lot of routine fly balls and grounders. And when he did slip up and grooved one in, the defense had his back. I think a lot of that has to do with how fast he worked and how it kept the defense sharp. If some of the youngsters on the team could learn these things (getting a chip on their shoulder wouldn't be a bad thing either), the defense may actually respond.

@skins_fan_22: Livo's age makes no difference here. Nobody is going to turn him into the staff ace. He has been a solid pitcher this year and can typically offer a quality outing every 5th day. As far as being "arm dead" Livo has the proverbial "rubber arm" and has been known as an innings eater. I doubt his arm will be dead in September. But that's just my opinion.

Posted by: TimDz | July 23, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"Lannan: 3 ER in 5 innings.
Olsen: 3 ER in 5 innings.

They're not exactly shutting 'em down on the A, AA, and AAA levels, are they?"

One more scoreless inning by each of those guys and they'd have the so-called "quality" starts. Unless you're Dibble, that means they're good, right?

Posted by: FeelWood | July 23, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Get on a roll....Seriously? It's all about pitching. How do you get on a roll
when 3/5s of your starting rotation is a Minor League staff. And the other guy is 100 year's old. We've got one--that's ONE starting pitcher. Not much of a roll or even donut there.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it's out of the question. Milwaukee has been getting lit up lately so our B squad will match up well against their's. Then when we face Atlanta at home we'll have Strasburg and Livo fresh and ready to go. We may even have Detwiler back by the time we face Philly and they've been struggling lately. After Philly we go on the road to take on one of the worst teams in the league. The Diamondbacks should be easy to beat. Of course being a Nats fan I'm well aware that we could choke and not win a single one of the next 4 series.

Posted by: PAskinsfan17 | July 23, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse


Well said, flotsam. It's also not a balanced piece, as it features only the opinions of a few bloggers who have a negative opinion of Dibble. I'm not into drinking games (or drinking), but I'd kinda like to see Dibble in a cage match with a representative of the anti-Dibble blogger community (or maybe with Cheese Boy, who likes to fan the flames in that regard). I think we all know how that one would end. ;-) But I digress. Let them continue hurling their invective from afar. Some will read the blogs and agree, others (like me) won't even bother to go there.

---

I appreciate the link to the Dibble article, but it is hardly a "profile." It is regurgitated invective from a few losers who maintain amateur blogs. Note the key term, amateur. The Post's blog and Nat's Insider are maintained by journalists who have creditials to actually maintain a website with some objectivity and insight. I could start a blog about pretty much any topic and make it sound at least superficially credible, but I can assure you I'd be full of it.

Posted by: flotsam3 | July 23, 2010 9:38 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 23, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Who's Dan Brown, the guy with the short chapters?

Posted by: BPupp | July 23, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

If they play Harris and Guzman more, and god forbid, JMax in center field they will lose July. They are 8-9 in July which isn't bad.

In order to keep going they really should play Kennedy and Gonzo more when he decides to "rest" Desmond. The better fielding should help the pitchers.

If you play sub-Mendoza hitters like Harris and Maxwell way too much instead of Morse and even Bernadina you are strangling your offense.

Posted by: periculum | July 23, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

RE: The Dibble piece.

Uh, let’s see I got a far as, “Some dude’s name, City Paper.” Fish wrap.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | July 23, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"Get on a roll....Seriously? It's all about pitching. How do you get on a roll when 3/5s of your starting rotation is a Minor League staff. And the other guy is 100 year's old."

He's got a point, even though I believe he way underestimates Livo who has been putting on a pitching clinic for every pitcher in the Nats organization and those watching from the visiting clubhouse. This year the guy is the Master and baseball is his dojo. And he tends to underestimate JD Martin who Livo happens to like as a pitcher.

Still, the Nats need Ross Detwiler, Jordan Zimmermann, and Yunieski Maya to show up ready to pitch lights out for a real turn-around to happen. These three guys are potential top-of-the-rotation #1, #2, #3 major league starting pitchers ... not #4,#5 starters on other clubs. We might see Ross next week, but the others probably not until the middle of August.

Making it difficult to see a potential run back to .500 mark until August is in full bloom, and even then ...

Posted by: periculum | July 23, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Harris is hitting .300 in July.

Posted by: markfromark | July 23, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

One of my favorite Dibblisms from a few weeks ago...

Dibble: Willie's hitting two-fifty over the last week, so he's starting to heat up a little...

(Based on a 1 for 4 game, and the notion that hitting .250 is getting hot)

Posted by: joebleux | July 23, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Kev, he's just jealou's because Livan's English i's better than hi's.

*******************************
And the other guy is 100 year's old. We've got one--that's ONE starting pitcher. Not much of a roll or even donut there.
Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 9:56 AM
--------------------------
Way to disparage Livo the morning after he threw a real gem. The old master is 7-6 with respectable ERA and WHIP number (3.12/1.23). I can think of a few other struggling clubs that wouldn't mind having him in the rotation.
Posted by: Kev29 | July 23, 2010 10:06 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 23, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Livo has consistently pitched over 200 innnings so there is no reason to expect he'll have a dead arm in August. The Nats can expect quality outings 2 out of 5 games with the current rotation. Maybe I'm being overly negative about Stammen and J.D. Martin, but neither appears to be a major league starter.

Let's hope that Marquis and Olsen can return from injury in the next couple of weeks. Olsen actually was pitching well before he went on the IR. Zimmerman should be back in the rotation by mid-August so we'll have a better feel for the team.

Posted by: wizfan89 | July 23, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

>>After Philly we go on the road to take on one of the worst teams in the league. The Diamondbacks should be easy to beat. Posted by: PAskinsfan17

Did you just wake up after a long sleep or something? Have you even been following this team? Go back and check out the Indians and Astros series for a little reality check. Aside from the mirage in Cinci, this team stinks on the road. Oh and BTW, the D-Backs just swept the Mets.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

FYI--
The Chiefs website has Chico starting tonight.

Posted by: hansenjo | July 23, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

BTW statements that the Nats demands for Dunn are "prohibitive" are eerily similar to statements made about Bowden during his tenure, especially concerning trade talks for Soriano. And we all know how that turned out.
This is really disconcerting. When Rizzo was hired, it was reported that he was much more reasonable and centered than the extreme and usually nuts Bowden. Too bad that has turned out to be false.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

"BTW statements that the Nats demands for Dunn are "prohibitive" are eerily similar to statements made about Bowden during his tenure, especially concerning trade talks for Soriano. And we all know how that turned out."

skins_fan_22, you do realize you're writing this inside of a post that has a link to a story that says that Soriano's contract, the one based on his "prohibitive" demands, makes him basically untradeable, and that he hasn't produced enough to justify $18 million a year?

So you're criticizing them for not signing Soriano to a massive deal, when not signing Soriano to massive deal turned out to be right? What am I missing here?

Posted by: baltova1 | July 23, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, my bad, skins_fan_22, you're talking about trades, not contracts. My apologies.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 23, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

But we don't really know what Bowden wants or was offered for Soriano and we don't know what Rizzo wants for Dunn or is being offered, so it's hard to criticize them.

I would say this: I think the offers would improve if you made it clear that you're trading the guy before the deadline. If somebody wants the guy for more than one year, then they'll want to get him. I think that was Bowden's mistake. I'm not convinced Rizzo is that determined to trade Dunn and i think the Nats have a great chance to resign him, so I think he's just fishing to see if somebody caves with a big offer.

But we don't know, do we?

Posted by: baltova1 | July 23, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

One final thought, then I'll shut up. Why can't this go on a roll? Even bad teams do it, and this team's not bad (it's not great, it may only be mediocre, but still). Also, they will almost definitely have better starting pitching the rest of the way with the guys coming back from injury. That will be a big key.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 23, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Nationals outfielder Willie Harris is 7-for-19 (.368) in July and has raised his batting average to .186 with five home runs and 20 RBIs.

As if .368 is hot. Guy's no Ty Cobb.

Posted by: markfromark | July 23, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

BTW statements that the Nats demands for Dunn are "prohibitive" are eerily similar to statements made about Bowden during his tenure, especially concerning trade talks for Soriano. And we all know how that turned out.
This is really disconcerting. When Rizzo was hired, it was reported that he was much more reasonable and centered than the extreme and usually nuts Bowden. Too bad that has turned out to be false.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 1:07 PM

The common thread running through the two situations is that we don't know what is actually being offered for these players. Rizzo has made a number of deals since becoming GM last year. I'd say his hit percentage has been considerably higher than Bowden's, although not perfect.

Interestingly, the Soriano contract is one that turned out well for the Nationals. It's not at all clear that what they could have gotten for Soriano would have turned out better than the two draft choices the Nats received when he left as a free agent (burdening the Cubs with an albatross of a player & contract along the way). One of which they used to draft Jordan Zimmermann. I don't like Bowden much as a GM, but that transaction was a net positive for the Nats.

Mind you, I don't think they should do that with Dunn. The team should be coming out of rebuilding soon and waiting for draft choices to mature would likely have them arriving after Ryan Zimmerman and possibly Strasburg become free agents. Ideally you went everyone on board (with Bryce Harper?) peaking at the same time.

Posted by: JCCfromDC | July 23, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

@skins_fan - i think you'll find most people in this chat follow the nats very, very closely.

And it's not "all about pitching". It's about pitching, and defense, and hitting. We don't have a single overall element of the three that's above average and that's why we're probably going to win around 70 games this year. We just lost two games to Florida 2-0 and 1-0 - good pitching, bad hitting. We're in the bottom of the league in defense and lost games with that too.

You can't make any conclusions about Rizzo because of hearsay at this point. And I'll take his group this year with Strasburg's signing and the improved position in Latin America all day over Bowden - it's a night and day difference - one year's worth of work with still limited resources from ownership.

Complain after a deal (or no deal's) done and someone reports what we could have had.

Posted by: natslifer | July 23, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Aren't contract deals often announced on off days? My bet for signing Dunn is 4 years/56 million on Monday, July 26.

Posted by: joebleux | July 23, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

>>raised his batting average to .186

Um.....yea. More cowbell.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I want to chime in with natslifer about Rizzo. I keep forgetting this is really his first year in charge of things. Don't forget the added scouting and if we sign our top 4 picks we will have had a very nice draft. I do worry about our owners but I like the direction we are going. I have gone back and forth on Dunn and believe we should sign him. Hoping Stammen can have two quality starts in a row but that has been an issue with him most of the year.

go Nats!!

Posted by: sjm3091 | July 23, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

IMO, Stammen has been much like the 'little girl with the curl' this year: "When (s)he's good (s)he's very, good..." Of his 16 starts this year seven qualified as Quality starts & gave the team a reasonable chance to win; In the others, he bounced between giving up 3+ runs early, or getting slapped around in the 5th & getting pulled.

Posted by: BinM | July 23, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Willie Harris is hitting now hitting .409 in July not .300. He has a .552 OBP and an OPS of 1.234 because of the last few games. He is still hitting .197. Morse is still the far better player offensively in every category over the long run.

Posted by: periculum | July 23, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I noticed the Phillies fired Billy Thompson (hitting coach)man, tough times and the Phil's are still in the hunt though lately they have been floundering i wonder if Rizzo would have any interest in him as a roving minor league instuctor.

Posted by: dargregmag | July 23, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Willie Harris......Morse is still the far better player offensively in every category over the long run.Posted by: periculum

This discussion serves no purpose. It's done. Every manager has certain players he loves, ie Manny Acta and Austin Kearns....Riggleman and Willie Harris. And every manager has players that for whatever reason, he doesn't like....Riggleman/Morse.

If we cut Willie Harris tomorrow, not one good team would pick him up. Not sure any team would pick him up. Just like when we cut Kearns, only the Indians picked him up. No other team wants Willie Harris on their major league roster. But if Mr. Riggleman had his way, he'd play him every day. And if Riggleman could, he'd keep Morse buried forever.
9 out of 10 people would say this is absurd. Unfortunately the 1 out of 10 is the manager of the Nats.
As the walrus said, Let it Be.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Technically, I believe that Mother Mary said those words. The Walrus, otoh, said "goo goo g' joob." (In other news, the walrus was Paul.)

But I digress, and I do agree with your point re. letting it be. Not that the party or parties in question will do that, mind you. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 23, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Looks like its Batista for 4-5 followed by Clippard on Sunday. Chico is scheduled to pitch for the Chiefs tonight. Just as predicted.

And skins_fan_22, Riggleman does not behave like any manager I've ever followed ... his obsession with Guzman, Harris and Maxwell goes way, waaaay beyond the norm. It borders on deviancy.

Posted by: periculum | July 23, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

After yesterday's win (with what seemed to be a universally hated lineup, sort of like an earlier one versus SF), I just thought this was a little interesting. But what it means, I can't tell you:

Nats W-L record in games started by:
Nyjer: 40-48 (.455)
Bernadina: 24-32 (.429)

Guzman: 33-39 (.458)
Kennedy: 22-28 (.440)
Desmond: 32-44 (.421)
Gonzalez: 4-9 (.308)

Harris: 11-16 (.407)
Morse: 5-12 (.294)
Maxwell: 6-5 (.545)

Pudge: 26-34 (.433)
Nieves: 15-18 (.455)

Posted by: erocks33 | July 23, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

>>As the walrus said, Let it Be
>>(In other news, the walrus was Paul)

Like I said. If the walrus was Paul and Paul said Let it be, then the Walrus said....well you get the point.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 23, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Touché, skinsfan. Well done. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 23, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

peric, once again you prove that Carnac the Great, you aren't.

Posted by: BinM | July 23, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

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