Nationals Baseball: Comeback Game #2

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Comeback Game #2

Survive, survive, survive and advance.

As much as we'd like to read into yesterday's win that the Nats turned a corner that's just not the truth. The Nats didn't win yesterday as much as survive. This was the big offensive outburst :

Single
Walk
2-base error
10-bounce seeing eye single

They pecked away got a BIG error and thanks to Fister et al. that was enough. 

But the lineup remains cold. Werth, LaRoche, and Ramos all have a single in 3 games. Desmond has two singles. In terms of power the leaders go Bryce, then Asdrubal Cabrera, then Nate Schieholtz. That needs to be corrected if the Nats hope to take the next two.

Not that sneaking by with no offense is impossible. The Nats pitching has been excellent. Strasburg was ok, ZNN and Fister great. Thorton, Blevins, Clippard all look in top form. The Giants aren't exactly an offensive powerhouse and you'd have to say they to survived to win a game, too. But you have to figure in one of the next two the Giants will hit at least as well as they did in Game 1, which was simply "like a normal team" and the Nats will have to match them. Today's the best bet with the Gio on the mound.

Do I sound pessimistic? Well, the Nats are down 2-1 and have no margin for error. We're not exactly on the sunnyside of the street right now. Still, if you want a positive spin, yesterday's game was a game Giants fans really wanted. Bumgarner is their ace in the hole and they have no confidence in Vogelsong. Despite the odds being in their favor overall, having to only win one, it feels worse because they won't be favored again. They look ahead and see two games that if they go to form, they will lose. The momentum has turned... but only just so. A few scoreless innings for the Nats or an early run by the Giants and the weight of the world is right back on the Nats.

Other notes :

Even more than yesterday it's all hands on deck today. You designate one guy as the Game 5 starter (probably ZNN because he deserves it and because he'd be on normal rest for it) and everyone else is a viable option. Strasburg is the first long relief option, even Fister can pitch if it comes down to it. There's a day off after this so don't worry about wearing anyone out.

Is this enough to make Boz like Bryce Harper? After Game 1 he all but blamed Bryce for the loss for not backing up Span as well as he thought he should, something that registered to nearly no one else. After Game 2, he would continue to mention guys "swinging for fences in 10 innings of walk-off spots", something that easily reads as a veiled swipe at Bryce. There isn't anything he can pick at for Game 3 so do we read some actual unequivocal praise? (answer - Yes!)

You're going to miss Clippard when he's gone.

You know who didn't K yesterday? Desmond. How about that?

52 comments:

cass said...

One game at a time.

Hadn't thought about using Strasburg in relief today, but that's a good idea if necessary.

The only thing Strasburg has going for him over Zimmermann is K%-BB%, the most predictive pitching stat, but given Z'nn's better results this year in both FIP and ERA and his domination of the Giants in Game 2, yeah, Zimmermann's probably the best choice. Thankfully, though, the quality of this rotation means there are really no bad choices. Strasburg's still a top pitcher.

Jimmy said...

I'm scared. Mostly because I'm starting to feel hope, and know that usually only disappointment follows.

Jimmy said...

Clippard will be missed and mourned. And boy is he going to get paid.

Donald said...

As much as I'd like to be confident about tonight's game, Gio didn't necessarily shine in his 2012 play off appearances. That, and the fact that the team with the advantage on paper has lost all three games of this series so far.

Reasons for optimism start primarily with Vogelsong, though I assume he will be on a very short leash with Peavy an option. Also, Rendon seems hot and Span may be coming around. Can Werth and LaRoche stay this cold forever? If our place-setters can get on base, good things can happen. My best guess for the game though is that Gio is a little erratic and needs a ton of pitches to get through 5 with the game close. We then get into a bull-pen game.

Questions: would you give Lobaton the start today? Also, if Gio struggles early, is Roark your first option or Strasburg? I assumed Roark though clearly there's no reason to save Strasburg. Just not sure how effective he'd be off the bench.

WiredHK said...

Today looks like it will be a hitters game, no question. I feel like both teams are going to bust out of slumps all over and we may need 7+ to win. I just think Gio will be too wild to hold the Giants to any less than 4 through 6 innings (I know, he has controlled his BBs a ton in the last month or two, but this is do-or-die playoff baseball on the road). I'll gladly come here and eat crow if he proves me wrong.

I'd personally use Stras as the long-man today at ANY sign of trouble, but I think Williams with his paint by numbers approach will stick with Roark since, hey, that was always our plan! (Ugh)

Pence and Posey are going to be issues today that we need to contain to have any chance....

Kenny B. said...

Bryce still exclusively owns 28.6% of the Nats total post season runs. He played great defense yesterday, and has absolutely crushed balls pitched by the Giants' two best starters. I don't know about everyone else, but man did I feel good about that insurance run yesterday when there were men on second and third.

And despite the continued hitting problems, the team did hit a couple deep balls late in Bumgarner's start that could easily have been XBH and might suggest some coming improvement. Plus, the longer this series goes on, the more likely it seems that the Nats break out of the funk and start putting on a show. We've seen them go cold before, but it doesn't usually last too long. And they're not up against ace pitching tonight (though I'm always surprised at the mediocrity of the pitchers who seem to dominate the Nats), so if there's a time to break out, it's now.

Kenny B. said...

"I'm scared. Mostly because I'm starting to feel hope, and know that usually only disappointment follows"

This is the DC Sports mindset in a nutshell. Well, that and overheated criticism of your best players' "attitudes."

Jimmy said...

@Kenny B.

Yea the bats actually looked alive and they were hitting Machin hard. But Bungarner contact was weak all game.

Jimmy said...

@Wired HK- with you on Strasburg being my number one longman out of the pen, setting up our best guy (ZNN) to pitch Thursday if necessary. But in no way will MW veer from the plan.

Froggy said...

I believe...

JWLumley said...

The Nats are cold, but there's an obvious solution to some of these issues: Zim and Lobaton. That would get two of the frigid hitters out of the LOLineup in LaRoche and Ramos. LaRoche is the very hitter that Telephone Park was built to contain and it's why he turned down more money from the Giants to go to Arizona. Ramos has a hole in his swing and the Giants are exposing it by feeding him pitches away. Not to mention that Ramos is a GIDP monster looming in the corner who's not as good of a defensive catcher as Lobaton. LaRoche, on the other hand, is just streaky. And right now he's in a cold streak. Could he snap out tonight, sure, but he's more likely to continue in his cold streak. Think about this, Zim has as many hits in the series as LaRoche....in 3 AB's. Get Zim in the game and quit hitting Harper 6th.

@WiredHK I love the "paint-by-numbers" analogy. MW shall forever be The Big Paint-By-Numbers in my book or The Big PBN or PBN for short.

Donald said...

So who has more confidence heading into tonight's games -- the Nats or the Dodgers? The Giants or the Cards?

On a psychological side, if the Nats had won game 2 and then lost last night, I think I'd be more confident heading into tonight's game than I am currently. If they were 1-1 going against Bumgarner, I'd expect to lose and would be okay with it knowing they just needed to split in SF. But having to win 2 in a row seems harder. On the other hand, you'd think beating Bumgarner should give me more confidence.

JWLumley said...

@Kenny B. That pretty much sums me up, scared because I'm starting to feel hope and rationally speaking the Nats should win the next two because they have a distinct starting pitching advantage. While some may say the Giants had the pitching advantage in game 3, I don't really see that as the case. Just because Fister is underrated doesn't mean Bumgarner is better. Still, I have no understanding of the D.C. sports mindset because I don't root for any other D.C. team because I'm American Indian and also don't like basketball.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see Rendon (.467/.500/.467 so far in the series) take lead off, followed by Cabrera (second highest OBP) in the two slot, moving Span down in the lineup. We gotta get some guys on and make Vogelsong make mistakes to the guys who are struggling (Werth, LaRoche, Desmond). Span is a must in the lineup for his glove, but he's killing the top of the order by NEVER getting on base.

Anonymous said...

As a Washington sports fan, I know I should be prepared for a soul-crushing loss tonight, because the Gio vs Vogelsong match-up looks too good on paper. Gio was great in September, the Nats have owned Vogelsong this year and the Giants have an OPS of .673 against left-handed starters as compared to .714 against right-handed starters. Plus the Giants' line--up is probably as full of left-handed hitters as it has been all year.

If "Good Gio" shows up, he should dominate the Giant hitters and the Nats bats should wake up in this game.
However, as an experienced Washingon sports fan, I'm expecting Gio to walk in 3 runs in the first inning and Vogelsong to pitch a perfect game.

David said...

I wish they'd move Harper up in the lineup, ideally to third. All of Rendon's production is being wasted due to the Werth/Laroche slumps

WiredHK said...

It may be wrong, but I have such relief that we didn't get swept and summarily dispatched from the playoffs that I'm trying to just have fun with tonight. My thinking is, it's just baseball - let's go get some hits. But yeah, I'd have benched Laroche for Zim yesterday, big time. :) Wouldn't do that, today, though.

I like the sound of The Big PBN. I feel like, as a rookie manager, he is so scared of losing by doing something "off script" that it freezes him from being in the moment and making a bold maneuver when we need one. I hope that changes over time, but I doubt it will in the near future.

Boldest move he has made all year is removing Soriano from the closer role and that was simply pushed on him by sheer brute force of ineptitude and nothing else. I'd have questioned him having a pulse if he hadn't made that change....

Strasburger said...

Harp I wouldn't count on Clippard being gone for sure. He has said how much he likes DC, and although he is due for a big pay-day, we will free up $12 million a year, hopefully, if we get rid of Soriano.

If you're trying to hold on to guys, like we talked about earlier this year, why would he be one of the ones you let go? I'd much rather see Laroche walk or even Span than lose Clip. I'd wager he stays for a bit less.

Anonymous said...

I guess the Giants bats could get hot but I'm reminded that this is the same team that took a chance on Dan Uggla. What does that tell you?

Froggy said...

@JWL - So you mean Native American right? Or did you mean American Indian as in from India?

Zimmy plays, LaRoche and Werth feast on some Vogelsong bird and rice, and...

...I believe that we will win!

Anonymous said...

MW didn't flip the lineup last night, doubt he will tonight (Span actually made decent contact yesterday off a good lefty?)

I hope we somehow find money to pay clip...

Kenny B. said...

MW stays the course today, as he does every day.

Also, last night in the 9th Williams got Thornton and Soriano up in the bullpen after the first two hits off Storen. Please God someone tell me that this was a strategic maneuver to keep the Giants guessing about whether a righty or lefty would pitch, and that he had no intention of putting Soriano out there in that situation.

NotBobby said...

Does anyone know how Gio has done in his career on extra rest? I know that it will be a SSS, but some pitchers are great on extra rest and some are horrible... I am not sure about Gio

Donald said...

For all of the MW bashing going on, I think he's done pretty well for a rookie manager. He clearly managed differently (and well) when he had the expanded roster. Now that we're into the playoffs, I think he's made adjustments too. It didn't work out, but pulling Znn was an example. In the regular season you keep him in but the classic mistake in the playoffs is to go with your starter for one batter too long. He's also been warming up relievers earlier even when they may not be used, which he tried not to do in the regular season.

So far, he's used Blevins and Soriano in cases I wouldn't, and both worked out well, giving both players more confidence.

The biggest ding on him so far has been an unwillingness to bench starters based on small samples or to not shuffle the order every day. While those moves might work, they might not and are more likely to piss off the team. Moves are only considered "bold" when they work. When they don't they are considered to be "panic" moves. I'm not saying he's the best manager in the playoffs, but we could have Yost or Mattheny for gosh sakes.

Harper -- what's your take on MW? What grade would you give him so far?

Jay said...

I am really curious to see how tonight goes. Vogelsong has a good post season record, but most of that was several years ago when he made the all star team that year. He has not been all that great this year. Do the Nats make him look like Peavy and Hudson did in game 1 or 2? Or do they pound him like the mediocre pitcher he is?

Second, which Gio shows. The so-so pitcher from most of this year? The panicy, can't throw a stike guy from 2012 playoffs? Or the guy from this September? If he gets going he can be just as good as all of the other pitchers on this staff, BUT he also has a tendency to lose the strike zone sometimes. We'll see.

2-3 runs for either team probably wins it. No tomorrow. Use Zim or Strasburg out of the bullpen. Every option is on the table.

I'm hoping.

Anonymous said...

Only change I could se MW make is possibly moving Harper to cleanup and ALR to 6th. Could put more base running pressure on Vogelsong with 1 through 5 all aggressive.

ocw5000 said...

Didn't Bruce Bochy trot out the same lineup 3 games in a row? The difference between Bochy being a genius and Matt Williams being a befuddled rookie is an 18-inning coin-flip of a game?

Bumgarner's error was catastrophic. Not only did it directly lead to two runs, but if you just take the out at first, you walk Cabrera and force Matt Williams to actually make decisions: PH Zimmerman for Fister with bases loaded. Anything can happen there, but the odds of a GIDP with a gimpy Zimmerman are pretty good. You also get to the Nats' less intimidating 7th inning bullpen of Stammen/Blevins/Barrett. I continue to be baffled when teams try to get the lead runner in the age of increasing strikeouts, unless the lead runner is Ramos. Of course, in this case it was Desmond, who just happens to have plus-speed and 20+ SBs each of the last three seasons.

I was listening on radio and as soon as I heard the play I said "This changes the entire series."

Wally said...

Has Stras ever pitched on short rest. I know many will say something like 'others do it, so let's stop babying him'. But I am not concerned with babying him, just whether he'll be effective on short rest. He may never have done it in his life.

I will guess that they don't do it, but could easily be wrong. Be pretty cool to see him pitch the last 4 innings in relief (in a win, of course).

But they need to hit. Hit, hit, hit. I am all for Harp to the 3 hole, Werth and ALR into the 4th and 5th. And give Lobo a start.

ocw5000 said...

I do think if Ramos struggles today and the Nats win, you will see Lobaton in Game 5 because of his late-season rapport with Stras

Anonymous said...

I hope MW is willing to put all hands on deck, but I expect he would "stay the course" in an event of a Gio blow-up and trot out Stammen in long relief. Also if we make it to game 5, look for Stras over Znn because "Stras is our ace" even though Znn has clearly pitched better recently and arguably all season.

WiredHK said...

Can I ask something - who said he is a befuddled rookie? I simply think he is risk averse. I'm not painting him as an idiot or incapable, hell I even think he'll get better with seasoning. But I don't think he is capable of the bold move at this stage of his managing career.

I think that's a pretty fair position to take at this stage based on the evidence at hand. I'm not judging anything by results of wins or losses. Good Lord, people - bashing? Come on. Civil conversation and opinion is allowed...

cass said...

American Indian = Native American = someone descended from the indigenous people of the Americas.

Indian American is someone who lives in America but is descended from the people indigenous to India.

WiredHK said...

Donald - One question about MW: you state he made adjustments by pulling ZNN out for Storen, but I would counter that by saying in his post-game presser he asserted that his "plan" was always to pull ZNN if anyone got on base. What's the adjustment, then? He rigidly followed his plan. I can see the move, but I can also see the argument that this type of rigid "Hey, I was just sticking to my plan" way of thinking (which he clearly shows) may prevent him from evaluating the moment and situation before executing a move.

I think that's worth noting, no?

As for Blevins and Soriano, yeah, count me among the people seriously wondering about those moves, too. We put in too very risky options in a borderline must-win game (as one would be more prone to doing in the regular season) and were leaving stud Roark on the bench - who really is a superior option to those guys.

Notice who Bochey went to at the same time of the game (hint: his game 4 starter)? When the game ended, Roark was then all we had left (until Laroche), whereas Bochey still had another long-man (Lincecum) available and a guy with closer stuff.

Who do you think managed the bullpen better there regardless of results? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

You don't manage the same way during the regular season as you do the playoffs. MW pulling ZNN was unexpected but ultimately a good sign.

Where MW gets points off is his usage of Zimmerman and Roark.

Roark was supposed to be the nationals ace in the hole for a situation like, say, an 18 inning game. Bochy goes to petite, MW pitches 47 different pitchers.

Laroche has come up multiple times against LHP with men on base, and Zim has never pinch hit for him and stayed in the game.

JWLumley said...

@Froggy Everyone born in America is a Native to America, consequently, the term "Native American" has always struck me as ridiculous. American Indian is the preferred nomenclature as far as I'm concerned, but I don't really care as long as it's not a racial slur. I'm actually Creek and Choctaw. If I was from India, I'd be an Indian-American.

Zimmerman11 said...

Clippard has been used and abused and is almost certainly not worth the money he's going to get...I'm more afraid of burnout next year than I am about losing him to FA in 2016.

JWLumley said...

Who's bashing Williams? I simply said that he doesn't tinker and he's somewhat risk averse or paint-by-numbers. If you paint by numbers, you'll always get a good painting, never great, but always good.

As for staying the course and not changing based on SSS, 2 years is not a SSS. Harper shouldn't be hitting 6th now, he shouldn't have been hitting 6th in April and he should never hit 6th again. Adam LaRoche does not hit lefties, Ryan Zimmerman does, act accordingly especially against Javier Lopez who owns LaRoche to such an extent you can't even call it SSS (10K's in 11 PA's I believe with an 0-11). With the exception of a 6 week span this year Span should not hit leadoff, OBP is just too low. Desmond should not hit 5th, too many stranded runners on base. Bat Desmond in front of Ramos, less DP's that way.

John C. said...

Roark will be the first long relief out of the bullpen today. Strasburg's probably better (certainly more likely to get a key strikeout) but has never in his entire LIFE been a bullpen guy. Roark is familiar with the role, knows how to get himself ready and how not to get himself ready. So for me the role familiarity tips the lead long relief spot to Roark.

But if it goes extras, Strasburg makes one helluva ace for your hole card.

JWLumley said...

Clippard is one of the few relievers who is consistent. I believe it stems from the fact that he's a converted starter who throws more than 2 pitches. Pay the man, make him the closer, then sit back and enjoy Mariano-lite. Sure he may not throw eleventeen thousand miles per hour, but he gets outs.

cass said...

Wally:

Strasburg was a closer his freshman year of college. He was made a starter the next year and has been one ever since. In all that time, I don't think he's ever pitched on short rest. I've been following him since his last (sophomore) year of college and all through the minors. I don't ever remember him pitching on short rest in that time. In college, he pitched every Friday and that was pretty much it.

A note I found on Strasburg's freshman year usage: "Of his 25 appearances, 16 were one-inning stints, while six others were two innings or less ... Longest outing came in regular-season finale when he tossed five innings in the 13-inning loss to BYU."

That was back in 2007, though, right after he had lost all that weight and discovered his fastball.

Anonymous said...

Everyone keeps bagging on MW for pitching moves in the extra innings but wasn't he thrown out of the game pretty early on thus not the one making the pitching calls as the game went on???

Alex L. said...

@WiredHK:

Are you attributing the Nats' late (read: post-10th) pitching decisions in Game 2 to Matt Williams? Seems like one could make an equally compelling argument that those were on Knorr.

Froggy said...

@JW / cass - even though they aren't the same anthropologically, (native American refers to a race of people indigenous to the America's, and American Indian is what the europeans named the native American's when they arrived to this continent, but you already know that. I think being part American Indian would be pretty cool anyway because they are the only race that has American before their ethnicity.

More importantly, no slur intended.

WiredHK said...

Good point, I was simply responding to Donald's mentioning of Blevins/Soriano use as proof of MW pushing "good" buttons since those guys ended up pitching well -- and I think we both forgot the fact that he was tossed in the 10th and thus didn't make those moves.

FWIW, the Blevins move is pretty defensible, btw, by Knorr (set to face 2 LHB in a row). The Soriano move (and really going Stammen instead of Roark) are the ones I'd question (despite results).

But again, that discussion is more moot since, as pointed out, it wasn't MW (or, was it him from the clubhouse? Does anyone know how these things actually work?). Carry on.

Alex L. said...

Yeah. To be clear, I actually wasn't asking rhetorically. I was wondering whether you believed that Williams might actually responsible for those moves from the clubhouse.

I, too, was expecting to see Roark much earlier than we did. But when he wasn't used in the 13th (when Stammen's appeared), I turned to my friend and said I was certain he'd be the last guy out of the pen. The logic was predictable: ideally, with all else equal, you'd rather have him available tonight as a failsafe for Gio. Now I wouldn't have done it that way myself, but it was clear by then what Knorr's (MW's?) thinking was.

So by the time the 16th came around, I wasn't at all surprised to see Soriano. (And frankly, having already set my expectations in line with what was happening, I wasn't really bothered by it.) Side note: after the 15th, I had to finally run to men's room (after holding out since about the 6th). You wouldn't believe the collective groan in there from 30 people when Jageler announcing that Soriano was entering the game. Pretty funny experience.

Donald said...

@WiredHK -- I think you may be parsing MW's comments differently from me. I think a manager should have a plan in mind for most any scenario they could face. You'd much rather they think through various scenarios in advance, weigh the pros and cons of approaches and make a plan, than fly by the seat of their pants.

What I was commenting on was that his plan for that situation in the post season was different from what it was in the regular season and I wouldn't be surprised if he has a different plan tonight in an elimination game. I don't think that's a bad thing.

As for my comment about bashing, I didn't mean to be too hard on this thread. But there have been a few people who have been consistently down on MW for a while -- going so far to suggest he should be fired early in the season and saying he was likely to cost the team multiple games in the post-season due to his ineptitude.

JWLumley said...

@Donald I said I would fire him early in the season, he's not inclined to use statistics whatsoever in lineup creation or in-game management. I like the fact he doesn't over-manage and all-in-all he's not terrible, but he's probably a -2 to -3 WAR manager. So yeah, he's not Ned Yost, but he's not Buck Showalter either.

Grant said...

No lineup changes.

Zimmerman11 said...

I'm going to try and remember that in a million alternate universes, the Nationals win this series ~650,000 times... so when they lose tonight it won't be such a big disappointment :)



Max David said...

Vogelsong had 5 starts in September, 4 of the 5 were against the Diamondbacks & Padres, 2 of the worst offensive teams in the NL. he finished the month with an 0-4 record and a 5.53 era, and surrendered at least 4 runs in 4 of those 5 starts. Vogelsong only finished the year with an era of 4.00 but for 4 of the 6 months he finished with an era 4.55 or higher so he's either really good or really bad. He's only had 2 straight bad months: June & July (2-2 5.08 era in June; 0-4 4.55 era in July) but the other times has followed a bad month with a good month.
Of course this was the same case with Hudson in his September starts: 0-4 8.72 era at least 3 runs in all 5 starts; 5+ runs in 3 of the 5 starts and in game 2 we made him look like a 99 version of Pedro Martinez and between the 2 pitchers Vogelsong probably had a "better" September.

I believe though!

Donald said...

@WiredHK -- I think the fact that the Nats went to single innings' guys in relief in game 2 vs. Bochy using a single long reliever had more to do with the Nats being the home team. I'm not sure I agree with the rationale, but home teams tend to put their closer (or next in line) in the top of the inning under the hope they will score in the home inning. Away teams tend to save their closers under the hope they get the lead and need to protect in the bottom of the inning.

WiredHK said...

Can we discuss Matt Williams soon?