Tagged: Jim Riggleman

Break the Streak

I guess Edwin Jackson caught wind of my post yesterday morning and just plain decided that he didn’t want any part of a plagiarist’s future book.  Okay, probably not.  But he was on his game last night, leading the Nationals to a 3-1 victory over the Orioles.  Interesting tidbit I picked up reading various articles this morning:  Three months into the season and Washington has yet to post a double-digit scoring effort.  I imagine that’s why a 3-1 winning line score seems so familiar.  Later today, Ross Detwiler will take the mound in an effort to take the weekend series.   With Jake Arrieta and his 5.83 ERA taking the mound for the Orioles, perhaps we will see an end to that streak today???

Game ball(s):  Jackson, Mike Gonzalez, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard.  The Nats are 3 1/2 games up in the NL East almost exclusively as a result of their brilliant pitching staff.  Imagine if the team ever starts hitting?  Cue John Lennon.

Goat(s):  Jim Riggleman.  One year ago yesterday, Riggleman abruptly resigned in the midst of a contract squabble with the team.  I wonder if Jim is finding that he is able to stretch his dollars better with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos?

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  Well, this is certainly interesting: Tyler Clippard to remain closer even when Drew Storen returns.   It has been quite the changing narrative surrounding Clippard’s usage this season, starting with the team not wanting to pull him from his setup role when Storen went down during Spring Training to now not wanting to pull him as closer when Drew returns.  Parsing Davey Johnson’s words though, he was careful to leave the door open for a swap, if Clippard were to slip up and Storen were to flash dominance in a setup role.  For now, I can’t argue that isn’t the correct course of action.  Drew is the Nationals’ long-term closer, but coming off of a bum elbow, there is no sense in rushing him back into ninth inning duties before he finds his groove, especially when Clippard has been outstanding himself.

Current Record:  41-28

Scratching and Clawing

Last evening, before the start of the Nationals series opener against the Florida Marlins, I happened to come across this nugget buried at the bottom of Jon Heyman’s latest column:

           Perhaps the Nationals ought to consider locking up manager Jim
           Riggleman. Washington has stayed afloat without its best pitcher
          (Stephen Strasburg) or best position player (Ryan Zimmerman).
          Kudos to Riggleman.

As if on cue, the Nationals then went and gutted out a 3-2 extra innings victory over the Marlins, despite whiffing an incredible 15 times.

I’m not going to pretend that it was all pretty to watch. It certainly wasn’t. But coming off a sweep at the hands of the Phillies, the Nationals needed a victory in the worse way, and got it thanks to a dominating relief effort from Tyler Clippard, yeoman’s work to plate the winning run in the top of the tenth, and a little Harry Houdini from Drew Storen and Sean Burnett to close out the game.

Lately, I have wondered how the Nationals can be expected to win games with an offense demonstrably missing its best piece (the Nationals are currently next to last in batting average in baseball, hitting only .226) and other critical pieces either struggling and/or hurt (LaRoche) or just plain struggling (Desmond and Espinosa). Well, we saw how last night, with a scrappy offensive effort and another superlative effort from the Nationals pitching staff.

As Riggleman said after the game, “We kept scratching and clawing.” 

Game 32 Natties

Game ball(s): Tyler Clippard. Two innings. Six batters. Six strikeouts. Wow.

Goat(s): John Buck. The Marlins catcher missed a sign while on third in the bottom of the fifth on a non-bunt by Ricky Nolasco, resulting in Buck, and potentially the winning run, getting tagged out in a rundown.

Bryce Harper is a ways off: Jordan Zimmermann. Another sign of life from Zimmermann, whose six strikeouts represented a season high. Still waiting for a breakout performance, but maybe the increasing whiffs are a sign it is near.

Current Record: 15-17

Quantitative Losing

Quantitative Losing.jpg
I guess on a day in which Helicopter Ben Bernanke dropped by Nationals Park, it was only fitting that bad news dropped for the Nationals like the US dollar.

The Nationals day started off with, if you will pardon the terrible expression, a real kick to the stomach with news that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will miss six weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery to repair a tear.  Out since April 10th with what was first diagnosed as an abdominal strain, without Zimmerman, the anemic Nats lineup figures to post many more punchless nights like last night’s two hit, one run breakout against a wild Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants.

To illustrate the bareness of the Nationals lineup, despite a total of nine walks, three hit batters, and a wild pitch, the Giants held the Nationals to just one run. Heck, the Giants pitching staff was so generous that they allowed the Nationals to load the bases three times, but still the Nats scored only once and stranded a total of 12 runners on base. According to the AP article I read this morning, STATS LLC reports that the Giants are the first team since 1955 to put 12 or more runners on base via the walk or hit batter yet yield two or fewer runs. Awesome.

Still, the Nationals had a chance to win the game. Tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, manager Jim Riggleman made the self-admitted inexplicable decision to have starter John Lannan to first walk righty Eli Whiteside to load the bases and then allowed Lannan to face pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff, who he promptly walked to allow the winning run to score. All the while, Tyler Clippard stood waiting and ready in the bullpen. After the game, Riggleman acknowledged what every sentient Nationals fan was thinking: should have brought in Clippard to face Whiteside.

Alas, he didn’t and the Nationals coughed away a game the Giants were trying in every which way to give them.

Game 26 Natties:

Game ball(s): Ben Bernanke. Nice to see him reinvest some of the Fed’s printed money into the local economy.

Goat(s): There were plenty of worthy candidates but Adam LaRoche takes it home. 0-4, stranding eight runners on base, including with a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the game. I know he is traditionally a slow starter, but I have a hunch his shoulder is bothering his bat a lot more than anyone is letting on.

Bryce Harper is a long ways off: Henry Rodriguez. Finally, the young fireballer made his Nationals debut and what a debut it was. A perfect top of the ninth with two punch outs, while hitting a 100mph on the radar gun. He may not always know where it is going to go, but neither does Chad Gaudin and at least Rodriguez has upside.

Current Record: 12-14

Hail, Hail Victory

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It may have taken
over five hours. And yeah, they had to endure two rain delays, including one
that dropped hail (yes, hail) on the field at Nationals Park. But it was all
worth it, as the Washington Nationals found their way into the victory column
for the first time this season, beating the Atlanta Braves 6-3 this afternoon.

Watching the
Nationals today, it is refreshing to see a team that is much sounder on defense
(and capable of making more plays), and able to gut out tough innings with the
bullpen. After tying the Pirates (argh, we’re terrible) with the most errors in
baseball last season (an absurd 127), two consecutive error-free games to start
the season is a relative treat to watch.

One thing I’m
interested in going forward is how the Nationals will handle the ninth inning.
Today, manager Jim Riggleman went with the left-hander, Sean Burnett, to get
the last out in the bottom of the 8th (lefty Freddie Freeman was up) and to
close out the ninth. Drew Storen, the once, and still presumed future closer,
was used to get two outs in the eight, and in the process, managed to cough up
a home run to Alex Gonzalez. As I said in my season preview, it is critical for
the franchise’s future that the Nationals get Storen right and back to nailing
down games at the end. For now, it remains a work in progress.

So, first things
first: The Nationals go for the series win tomorrow!

Game 2 Natties

Game Ball: Rick Ankiel. We got the better of the 2
true outcomes today. And a tip of the cap to Jim Riggleman for calling a
suicide squeeze with Ankiel the at-bat after he hits a home run. Crafty call
leading to a nice insurance run.

Goat: Tommy Hanson, Braves. The young ace
didn’t locate his pitches well and the results showed. And yes, Chad Gaudin, I
took note that you somehow continue to be employed based on illusory stuff that
never translates to quality results (career ERA of 4.61/career xFIP of 4.64).
Nice first pitch home run surrendered to Dan Uggla.

Bryce Harper is a ways off: Tyler Clippard, throwing gas, getting 5
big outs in the middle innings. 

Current Record: 1-1