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Posted at 4:52 PM ET, 03/ 6/2011

Nationals' bats absent in 5-0 loss to Braves

By Dave Sheinin

Twenty-four hours after putting up 10 runs against CC Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain and a host of lesser New York Yankees pitchers, the Nationals managed just two measly hits against Atlanta Braves hurlers Tommy Hanson, Cristhian Martinez, Jonny Venters, Jairo Asencio and Arodys Vizcaino in a 5-0 loss in front of 6,250 fans at Space Coast Stadium.

(True, it's not as if those pitchers are slouches. Hanson, 24, is the Braves' probable No. 4 starter. Venters, 25, is the top lefty in their bullpen, and may share some closer's duties. Martinez, 29, struck out five of the seven batters he faced. And Vizcaino, 20, is the seventh-rated prospect in the Braves' farm system, according to Baseball America.)

The Nationals' only hits were singles by a pair of players most likely ticketed for Class AAA Syracuse -- Laynce Nix and Brian Bixler. Bryce Harper was also robbed of a hit on a sinking liner to left by Braves left fielder Jordan Schafer.

Both teams also dealt with the generous strike zone, particularly on the outside corner, of home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. "There were a lot of called strikes, taken strikes," Riggleman said. "So [the pitchers] must have been on the edges pretty good. When you're taking that many fastball [for] strikes, they must have been hitting their spots real good."

Riggleman has gone to great lengths to express his confidence in leadoff man and center fielder Nyjer Morgan, but an 0 for 3 on Sunday left Morgan with an .062 batting average (1 for 16) for the spring.

By Dave Sheinin  | March 6, 2011; 4:52 PM ET
 
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Comments

Detwiler's performance was the most important aspect of the day. As nice as it looked, he still has a lot to prove. The most discouraging thing to me was Desmond's error. It was a typical Desmond play, staying back on a ball and handling it more or less flat-footed, instead of coming to it. I've been thinking Desmond's fielding would improve just due to experience. Now I am not so sure.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 6, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Good grief, sunderland, he's made one error. The fact that he has tendencies that seem familiar is beside the point. He will overcome past deficiencies; you can count on it.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | March 6, 2011 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Yes, watching Ian Desmond perform a (for him) patented throwing error is all too reminiscent of 2009.

Also, watching Nyjer flail at the plate is not very reassuring, either. When the new MASN anouncer, "F.P.", asked Mike Rizzo if he should be concerned about a player who had a terrible '09 and is 1 for whatever in 2010, Rizzo allowed as how as far as he was concerned batting average in spring training is meaningless and that he looks for how well the batter handles himself at the plate, the implication being that Nyjer is looking good (or "real good" as Riggleman would say).

Well, with this kind of laid-back, ho-hum attitude on the part of the team's GM, it's no wonder the umps were in a hurry to move the game along so they wouldn't have to watch the Nationals any longer than necessary. Clearly, they respect the Braves. The Nats? Not so much.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 6, 2011 7:47 PM | Report abuse

JohnRDC: "Well, with this kind of laid-back, ho-hum attitude on the part of the team's GM, it's no wonder the umps were in a hurry to move the game along so they wouldn't have to watch the Nationals any longer than necessary. Clearly, they respect the Braves. The Nats? Not so much."

What? How do you get to that conclusion?

Posted by: johnnybaconbitz | March 6, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

While the Nats are much improved, the Braves pitching (counting both starting rotation and bullpen) surpasses even the Phils. This season, and many more to come, the NL East will be dominated by Braves pitching.

Posted by: guydezarn | March 6, 2011 8:42 PM | Report abuse

I really just don't know if we should be expecting to Rizzo or Riggleman to give an honest answer to questions about Morgan. I mean, do you want him to really come out and say, "well, he was pathetic last year and we are likely to cut him within the next two weeks unless he starts hitting at X rate."? I would love to see Bernadina step it up and give Rizzo a viable option to Morgan, though. So far this spring, I think he has actually done just that, too. Time will tell, but I don't think you can actually expect Rizzo to tell us what he is really thinking about Morgan or any other player at this point.

Posted by: brewer1 | March 6, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

"Time will tell, but I don't think you can actually expect Rizzo to tell us what he is really thinking about Morgan or any other player at this point."

Yeah, that was my take too. But after last year, if Morgan can't place bat on ball in the next couple of weeks I don't see how he makes the roster. Also somewhat dismayed at the Desi error which was woefully familiar, but it is spring training and I still expect significant improvement from him. But hey, it is cold and rainy in DC and I got to see baseball, so I was happy.

Posted by: NatsFly | March 6, 2011 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Nationals' bats absent in *insert absurdly high number here* -0 loss to *insert opponent here*

Get used to the blog headline (and subsequent headline above) Natinal fans, because you'll be seeing it over and over and over again this year.

So much it'll make you think you're Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day. Ain't that right Needlenose Ned, Ned-The-Head Ryerson.

Oh, and Natinal fans, Boswell's got some of his finest work up on the site. Of course it happens to be about the O's.

But we know how you'll retort Natinal fans. Hater's gonna hate.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | March 6, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Rizzo said "as far as he was concerned batting average in spring training is meaningless and that he looks for how well the batter handles himself at the plate, the implication being that Nyjer is looking good"...

I didn't see the interview, but... not sure how one listens to Rizzo say he ignores batting average and pays attention to how a batter is handling himself at the plate and interprets that into "Morgan is looking good"... from that statement alone, Rizzo didn't seem to indicate how he thought Morgan looked...

What I think really needs to be taken note of (and already has been) is that Rizzo did not come into spring training without other alternatives in CF... Morgan may be Plan A... but with Bernie, Ankiel, Laynce Nix and Corey Brown in camp (all of whom except Bernie were acquired in the off season), I would say that he wanted to be prepared least Plan A doesn't pan out...

Posted by: Ghost7 | March 6, 2011 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Wow, there were some ridiculous posts here but I will just move on. Hard to believe the umps were listening in on that "laid back ho hum" gm and also hard to believe that they respect one team more than another but nothing I can write will change people who have already made their minds up about Rizzo or the Nats.

I did want to point out that if Desmond makes one error every 7 games he will have a total of 23 for the year which is a nice drop. I realize it was a bad play and we saw it last year all too often but it's his first error so I think its a little early to panic. On Morgan, maybe not. His throws from CF continue to convince me he does not have the arm and his positioning during this game, playing way too shallow in my mind hurt him as well.

Positives to me are how difficult it might be to actually pick our top five starters. I realize all the naysers will point out how we don't have a solid #1 but every single one of our starters so far has pitched well. That is 7 decent starts in a row plus Maya threw well as the 2nd guy in. We have not seen Gorzo yet and he will add even more competition to the mix. Should be interesting.

Go Nats!!

Posted by: sjm3091 | March 6, 2011 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Detwiler's performance was so, so nice. His Ks weren't cheapies awarded by the plate ump, either. Getting Prado twice on three pitches -- whooo!

It's so nice that the days of the Nats having to scrape together a starting rotation (Jason Simontachi, Jerome Williams, for example) seem to be over.

Posted by: nats24 | March 6, 2011 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Five-oh losses in spring training are what they are. "guydezarn" is right about the Braves pitching.

Looks like the Nats have some surplus number 4-5 pitchers --- and you have to think that, with the extra catchers and veteran outfielders --- Rizzo is working on a deal to unload what we can't use.

No more free rides. For all of the public support they give him, Morgan won't get the call if he doesn't produce. He is being watched closely by Bo!

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 7, 2011 12:49 AM | Report abuse

Every GM has a dog trade on his resume. Moonball is Rizzo's dog. I'd rather bring back the EBoni Virus, Emilio Bonifascio, than open the season with an auto-out leading off.

Rizzo has lost his objectivity. Now he's just playing favorites. Hey Mike, it's getting a little late to find a decent leadoff hitter. JimBo would be looking under rocks about now.

Posted by: howjensen | March 7, 2011 7:40 AM | Report abuse

"What? How do you get to that conclusion?"

Fair question. "F.P." kept mentioning that the home plate umpire was widening the strike zone as the game progressed, particularly when Braves pitchers were on the mound. (Coffey did benefit once or twice.) "He must have to make a tee time," F.P. said--or something similar. Then there were a couple of close plays where an out was called each time. The umps clearly wanted to move on. IMHO they'd seen enough of our Nats.

Posted by: JohnRDC | March 7, 2011 8:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm still unclear why Nix is headed for AAA rather than Morgan. Is it a contracts issue? Can Morgan not be sent down but Nix can? Nix put a nice year together last year in Cinci. I'd like to see Morgan sweat out his job this spring.

Posted by: alecrogers1 | March 7, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

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