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Unusual double play leaves Nationals at a loss

Facing Philadelphia ace Roy Hallladay is difficult enough without giving him unexpected outs, but through what players and Manager Jim Riggleman said was essentially bad luck on the bases for Ian Desmond, the Nationals allowed the 2003 Cy Young winner to escape a jam in the seventh inning of a 1-0 loss.

With one out, Desmond reached base on a bunt single and advanced to second when Adam Dunn walked. Sensing Halladay was not paying attention to him, Desmond tried to steal third during Ryan Zimmerman's at-bat, but the third baseman got a pitch he said he couldn't lay off, driving it hard to Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez.

By that time, Desmond had slid into third and was trying to get back to second before the throw from Ibanez to second baseman Chase Utley. As Desmond slid back into the bag, Utley tagged him out to complete the unlikely double play.

"It was actually a good play," Riggleman said. "He felt like he was ignored there at second base and thought he had the base easy. You know, when it can go wrong, it goes wrong."

The Nationals had their chances against Halladay, who allowed eight hits over seven innings and threw 116 pitches. For the game, Washington went 0 for 11 with runners scoring position and left 12 runners on base.

While his teammates generally struggled against Halladay, Desmond had an impressive day at the plate against one of the game's top pitchers, going 3 for 5 with a double. He even earned praise from Zimmerman despite ending the seventh-inning threat by being a bit too aggressive.

"He can steal whenever he wants," Zimmerman said. "He's asked me before if it bothers me. He got a great jump. If it's not a fastball right down the middle, I'm not going to swing, but I had a good pitch to hit. I hit the ball hard, and unfortunately it went right too him."

By Gene Wang  |  August 21, 2010; 12:45 AM ET
Categories:  Ian Desmond , Jim Riggleman , Ryan Zimmerman  
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Comments

I don't have issue with Desmond going on his own here. And Dibble's just cherry picking when he calls this stupid baseball.
We drove no runners home tonight. If Desmond stayed put, we have 1st and 2nd, 2 out, and Bernadina at bat. Bernadina looked as lost against Halladay as Jason Heyward did against Livo (now that was amusing).

If Halladay throws a pitch that Zim lays off, then Dibble's praising Desmond's aggressiveness and forcing things against the Phillies defense.
And we have our best shot at scoring since the 1st inning.

Posted by: Sunderland | August 21, 2010 4:21 AM | Report abuse

"You know, when it can go wrong, it goes wrong."

Correction: For the Nats, even when things CAN'T go wrong, they do go wrong.

Somehow, the Nats always find a way to lose an out or two on the bases. Hey, what the heck, you get 27 of them, so what's the big deal about giving up one or two against a good team like the Phillies?

Remember those arrow-through-the-head headbands? Looked like someone had shot an arrow through your head (http://www.partybox.co.uk/data/partyimages/250x250/arrowhead.jpg)?

Someone in that clubhouse needs to find a bone-through-the-head headband to hand out at the end of a losing game. Silver Elvis wig needs a dark side.

Posted by: gilbertbp | August 21, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the quote from Zim, Gene. (Guess we'll have to wait for that suggested piece about the tough life of a beat reporter until AK gets back.)
If I'm understanding Zim correctly, it was good baseball all around--except, perhaps, for the question raised by Dargregmag. What was the 3B coach doing? Was he screaming at Desi to get back to 2B? Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, but if he's not shouting to Desi he's not doing his job.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | August 21, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

This double play had little to do with what ails the Nats (other than bad luck). Their clutch hitting has to be at the bottom of the league. No one can get a hit when they need one. Zimm can get one now and again but Dunn hasn't a clue how to do it.

Posted by: richs91 | August 21, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo needs to make a change at the helm. This team is way too talented to be dwelling in last place. They are there because Riggleman is 1) too lenient on the players (and coaches) when making mistakes; and 2) Riggleman continously has no confidence in his starting pitching and has cost the team games.

The Nats are professionals and need to start being held to that level. Too often "bad luck" has cost the game, but you know what, I was raised that you create your luck. This team is continuously playing sloppy ball and by doing that too often create bad luck situations. This is a reflection on the manager who feels that putting in the effort is enough for him.

With respect to pitching, last night was not a perfect example, but in the past he has pulled pitchers when they get in any jam after the fourth inning. This has caused his bullpen to be used way too much. The bullpen has a great ERA and has done a much better job this year, but too often have lost leads because they are overworked. By showing little to no confidence in his starters (except for Livo), the pitchers are playing like they are walking on eggs. This doesn't allow them to grow as a player and puts undue pressure on the rest of the staff.

Also, I am sorry but Desmond needs to go. His throw to Dunn on a routine ball was his 28th error!! and his hitting is marginal at best. I did not know why they moved him ahead of Guzman in the spring, and still feel the same way today. I would have kept Guzman until Espinosa was ready and let go of Desmond. He has not shown anything, including his time in the minors, to suggest he is an everyday shortstop.

Posted by: pdt278 | August 21, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Desmond should be sent down. There's no excusing his play at this point.

Posted by: onehorspro | August 21, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I actually agree that what Desmond was trying to do was smart... against a guy like Halladay, you have to make things happen, you can't sit around waiting for a big home run that isn't likely to come... he thought he had third base stolen, and if Desmond had stolen 3rd on that play, and Zimm hits the next pitch to left field like he did, then Desmond comes in to tie the score 1-1... only way that is a bad play is if Zimm hits a line drive right at somebody, which unfortunately he did... but, I have to say, if he thinks he can get 3rd base stolen in that situation, late in the game against a very good pitcher in a tight ballgame, I say go for it, make something happen instead of sitting and waiting for someone to deliver a big hit that may or may not ever be coming (it never came last night)...

As for the errors, well, he has made a lot... and several of them have been boneheaded plays... and I would have (and still would) consider shifting Desmond to 2nd and keeping Espinosa at SS... but, there is no way I take the rapidly aging, vastly overpaid Guzman over Desmond as an everyday player... Desmond is still raw, but in my eyes, I see his game growing and becoming smarter and more reliable... he has plus range and a plus arm... it is his lack of focus which seems to lead to the majority of his errors... which luckily is one part of a players game they have the opportunity to improve on... hard to add range, hard to add arm strength, but it is possible to raise your mental game to a new level...

I also have to say, while Dunn has shown defensive improvement, he still doesn't save his fellow infielders many errors on less then perfect throws... his best attribute is his size as a target to throw to... and he proved again last night on that Ibanez hit down the line that he has little to no range and poor hands... dude can hit the ball a mile, but he ain't winning any games with his glove anytime soon (i.e. ever)...

Posted by: Ghost7 | August 21, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I don't fault Desmond for the steal attempt but his execution was bad. Assuming he knew the ball was in play he should be looking for it instead of just sliding into third. Otherwise he might not have even scored on a base hit, not to mention the DP possibility. I'm guessing he just put his head down and went, also ignoring 3B coach. I agree that Dunn's immobility and poor coordination are killers in a close game like this. Yes, he has good numbers for HR and RBI but as a situational hitter he is .193 with RISP and .093 with RISP/2out (and 27 K's in 54 AB's).

Posted by: Natmeister | August 21, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I think Ghost7 pretty much got it right on Desmond. The play didn't work, but it was still a reasonable try in those circumstances. Also agree with his other observations--yes there are way too many errors, but there are signs of improvement and we need to play this one out a while longer. As for Dunn, no, he will never be a gold glover. I do think he has saved Zim an occasional throwing error, mainly due to his size, and I also think he has improved at 1B. He needs to come off the bag sometimes though--there are too many extra bases allowed when one of his teammates manages to sail a throw over even his huge reach. He will never snag balls the way Zim does at 3B, but we can live with that to get the power bat. Now, if the owners will just sign him, already...

Posted by: NatsFly | August 21, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Desmond's move was a pure steal - good lead, broke to 3rd on the top of the windup & had the base clean. But a belt-high pitch is hard to lay off of, and Zim ripped it straight at Ibanez. No blame to be laid on either the 3rd-base coach, Desmond, or Zimmerman on this one. Just one of the breaks in baseball, imo.

Posted by: BinM | August 21, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

@pdt: You raise a fair point regarding the starters - Riggleman might be a little too 'trigger happy' of late with Olsen, and possibly Lannan. Marquis is still sketchy, but threw a decent 5IP last night. On the other hand, Strasburg is under a clear pitch count / IP limit, and will be handcuffed with JZimm as well (5IP maximum), when he comes back.

How can he avoid not 'overworking' a bullpen, when Livo is the only SP who provides a constant 6+IP outing?

Posted by: BinM | August 21, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Wow. If Natmeister's stats are correct, Dunn strikes out half the time (27/54) with RISP and two outs. Trying to wrap my brain around that one...

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | August 21, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Well, there's thirteen hundred and fifty-two baseball bloggers in Natsville
And they can post more posts than the number of lobbyists in all of Capitol Hill.
There's thirteen hundred and fifty-two baseball bloggers in Natsville,
And anyone that opens a Blogger account can write twice as better than I will.

Natville Stats
quote splits on Walter Johnson
Natsville Stats
Know who is overdue
Natsville Stats
read Bill James since they's babies
Natsville stats
do math before they're two...

It was RFK, you might say DC was a baseball proverbial punchline
When I read about VORP and FIP and BABIP and slash lines,
And the Internet man said every one is a better way to measure the strength of a team's bench,
and up north there ain't nobody buys it, and I said, "Did you try French?"


Well, there's sixteen thousand eight hundred twenty-one women in Nats Park,
All their friends talk stats and they ain't left out if one of their kids starts,
Because despite what you may have heard on the TV they do talk about baseball,
And I sure am glad I got a chance to say a word about the statistical mothers in Natsville.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 21, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

This year, I assume? How about lifetime?
--------------------
Yes, he has good numbers for HR and RBI but as a situational hitter he is .193 with RISP and .093 with RISP/2out (and 27 K's in 54 AB's).
Posted by: Natmeister | August 21, 2010 11:07 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 21, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

>Wow. If Natmeister's stats are correct, Dunn strikes out half the time (27/54) with RISP and two outs. Trying to wrap my brain around that one...

Posted by: CapPeterson1

It usually means he's swinging at pitches off the plate, because the rule of thumb is to not let the big hitter beat you with two outs, so he's going to get less to hit anyway.

Posted by: Brue | August 21, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

>No blame to be laid on either the 3rd-base coach, Desmond, or Zimmerman on this one. Just one of the breaks in baseball, imo.

Posted by: BinM

For the most part. It's usually only a problem when the team has trouble scoring runs and everything is magnified. I would say that if the team were more evolved and in tune with each other, and if Zimm could see what kind of jump Desmond got, he would have probably laid off the pitch and had a chance for a relatively easy sac fly to drive him in from third. But these guys don't seem to pay much attention to what the other is doing, and the bad defense is part of that. They're not taking their time and thinking ahead, they tend to react too much and get caught off guard. It's rotten coaching and no acountability. Like Mark Hendrickson said on the O's since Showalter showed up - there's a lot more attention to detail now - which makes you more cohesive and on the same page with one another. Also, if your manager has a longer term contract than most of the team, you get a lot more disciplined play. Instead, they cheap it with Riggleman, and oh btw we'll bring him back next year if you didn't know already. They need to sign a manager who has a reputation and do it for at least a three year contract. Otherwise, you'll keep getting all these mistakes and excuses and nothing will change. It doesn't matter how good the players are or aren't. If you lose a lot of close games, it ALWAYS is on the manager.

Posted by: Brue | August 21, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

'It was actually a good play," Riggleman said. "He felt like he was ignored there at second base and thought he had the base easy. You know, when it can go wrong, it goes wrong."

This quote pretty much sums up why Riggs is not the answer, rather than just blame on luck, there should have been, something like, "but Desmond needs to know whats going on in the field of play, he needs to listen to his 3rd base coach (assuming Listach was doing his job)". Its just a defeatist attitude to say it was a good play, bad luck cost us, leads to no accountability.

Posted by: JT2009 | August 21, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

pdt278: You've hit the nail on the head Riggleman and his whole staff needs to go,this team will never go anywhere with him at the helm. I posted last night about the Padres who are beating the brakes off of more talented teams in their division yet their payroll is one of the lowest in MLB but because they have good starting pitching play "smart" baseball they're in first place the Padres don't beat themselves they don't choke in the clutch and look at their lineup other than Adrian Gonzalez who do they have? The Nationals could be a .500 club or better but if you listen to some people they were not scheduled to win yet, fellow bloggers that is complete bullsh#t!!.Jim Riggleman is a good bench coach that's it he consistently second guess's himself or he just makes bad decesion's he's cost Livo probably 5 wins this season his 1st&3rd base coach's have run this team out of at least 5 games and of course Rigg's has worn out his bullpen i've said it once and i'll say it again they have become comfortable with the status quo which is losing! Rigg's and his whole coaching staff needs to go.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 21, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Yep, fire 'em all! It's those coaches and manager, all right!

Do what the Orioles did in 1985. They brought back Earl Weaver. Can't do better than him. And look at how well that turned out...

Do what they did in Baltimore back in '06. Brought in Leo Mazzone as pitching coach. That worked great!

Heck, forget baseball. Look at the Skins! They brought back the legend and Joe Gibbs turned them around in a heartbeat!

Posted by: baltova1 | August 21, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Sec3, I got Del McCoury singing inside my head now. Very clever!

Mark Zuckerman pointed out that last night's loss was their 15th consecutive 1-run loss (vs. 1-run victory) on the road! Simply amazin'! It's that lack of clutch hitting, and/or questionable coaching.

Posted by: rbelleisle | August 21, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Well, somebody oughta give a Bravo to Sec3 for that great parody. His best since Big Bad Livo (altho maybe I missed a few)

Posted by: nats24 | August 21, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Now if you want to criticize Riggleman for something, consider this. Nieves is back and Ramos was sent down for a couple of weeks. Riggleman was asked how he will divide playing time between the young prospect and the veteran catchers:

"It's always a tough little period there, when you have young players coming up and you have veteran players who have been out there going hard for you all year," Riggleman said. "As curious as you are about Ramos, or any other young player, the respect for the veteran players has to be considered. You can't just bury them and forget what they've done for you all year. They've given the effort all year. They've played hard. [If you] take September away from them, you're going to lose those guys.

"You know, those guys are going to be part of your future, also. They're looking at you like: 'Hey, I gave you good effort all year, and now you're going to take those at-bats away from me?' It's a two-way street. You've got to respect the veteran players. At the same time, try to mix the other guys in there and try to get a read on them, too."

If he's talking about Pudge, fine, keep playing him, but make it more of a 50-50 split with Ramos. If he's talking about Nieves, he's nuts. Bury him on the end of the bench. Same for Willie Harris and Mench.

Posted by: baltova1 | August 21, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

rbelleisle, I thought that was the Lovin' Spoonful?

(Great job, BTW, sec3)

Posted by: baltova1 | August 21, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Can't find career RISP but Dunn has 12 walks with RISP/2outs which improves his OBP to .262, but the 2010 bottom line is 5-54 with 8 RBI and 27 K's. His career stats seem pretty consistent so I presume this one is close to his career average.

Posted by: Natmeister | August 21, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

My bad, have tunnel vision, here's Dunn's career stats with RISP/2outs:

AVG = .208 (113-543)
OBP = .425
BB = 197
K = 194
RBI = 179
HR = 32

So 2010 appears to be an off year for this stat.

Posted by: Natmeister | August 21, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

@baltova1:
Yep, that was John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful back in 1969. Del McCoury has done it more recently.

Posted by: bertbkatz | August 21, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

@sec3(sofa): Nashville Cats to Natsville Stats - Brilliant! Now that's an earworm I can live with.

Posted by: BinM | August 21, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

@sec3(sofa): You may have also hit upon the ultimate 7th inning replacement for 'Sweet Caroline' - What could top "Natsville Stats"?

You are the better man, and I humble myself before you. Well played.

Posted by: BinM | August 21, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Bert. I like Del. I'll check out his version...

Posted by: baltova1 | August 21, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Actually, "Nashville Cats" would be a good song for the 7th inning stretch. I think it's too laid-back for the Tennessee Titans (football) or Nashville Predators (hockey) to use, but just right for baseball. Think John Denver's "Thank G-d I'm a Country Boy" (used over in Charm City, hon) but a bit more hip.

Posted by: bertbkatz | August 21, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I wish I could say I see Desmond getting smarter. Just don't see it. Seems like the same physical errors and mental mistakes. There are some guys who make good things happen due to playing smart. Desmond is not even close - bad luck finds him.

I listened on XM to the Phillies announcers last night, and at one point they were pretty impressed, saying the Nats could hit a little bit, had an excellent bullpen, some hope in the rotation, why are they in last place?
They don't play smart baseball. Hard to argue although I wanted to. When good teams like the Phillies or Braves put on the pressure in a close game the Nats fall short, not the other way around. I don't think it's purely talent.

Posted by: utec | August 21, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Batlova1: Let's get real i don't want to change manager's but clearly Rigg's is not the one, this is professional baseball not triple A, and don't compare a franchise(Balt.)that has won champioship's to a franchise with a history of losing baseball(Senators,Nats)the O's got away from what worked and that's why they've been losing for the last fifteen plus years,i am a fan of this team(Nats) and i don't wanna hear about how it's going to take time, if you implement the right mindset from day one then you don't have any of this keystone kops,chinese fire drill on the base's bullkrap we've seen this season. The only way this franchise moves forward is for Mike Rizzo get a manager who won't tolerate this we'll get em tommorow mindset and if Rizzo allows Riggleman to continue then the next thing he knows his azz will be in the sling, of course with Stank running things they(Riggs,Rizzo) both might be safe and therein lies the problem.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 21, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Thank you. Thank yew verry much.

But this is the real thing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlT_M6xiWdE

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | August 21, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

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