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Instant analysis: Pirates 4, Nats 3

May 23, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT


GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It’s a struggle for the Nationals to score runs these days, with a lineup lacking Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. But these guys seem to be finding new ways every night to drive themselves (and their fans) crazy when it comes to clutch situations at the plate.

Despite a shaky outing from Jordan Zimmermann on his 28th birthday (four runs in six innings), the Nationals gave themselves a chance tonight against the Pirates. Actually, they gave themselves plenty of chances, only to fall short for the majority of the night. They finally got a sac fly from Greg Dobbs in the sixth, then a sac fly from Scott Hairston and a passed ball in the eighth to bring themselves to within a run.

Given one last shot to try to rally in the ninth against Jason Grilli, the Nationals couldn’t deliver. Grilli, activated off the DL earlier in the day, got Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond to close out the game, send the Nats to their third straight loss and leave them 24-24 for the season. It’s the first time they’ve had a .500 record since Opening Day.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: Look, the Nats are trying to snap out of their offensive funk with a lineup missing three key middle-of-the-order bats. That’s a tall order. So their run-scoring troubles are entirely understandable. At the same time, they have no choice but to keep putting these lineups out there until the big boys come back. And so they simply must do a better job taking advantage of what opportunities they get. The last three nights, they haven’t come close to doing that. They were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position through the seventh inning tonight. That left them a staggering 0-for-25 with runners in scoring position since their 7-run explosion in the bottom of the sixth Tuesday night against Johnny Cueto. They finally ended that streak on Zach Walters’ bloop single in the eighth, though that didn’t even drive in a run.

PITCHING LOWLIGHT: It could’ve been much worse. The way the Pirates were squaring up everything against him, Zimmermann was fortunate to get through six innings allowing only four runs. The right-hander served up seven base hits and put another three men on base via walk or hit batter. The biggest blow: Pedro Alvarez’s 2-run homer into the shrubbery in center field on a hanging changeup from Zimmermann. Overall, he now sports a 3.95 ERA in 10 starts this season. Not terrible, by any stretch. But not what the Nationals expected from one of their big three starters.

KEY STAT: Four of the eight position players in the Nationals’ lineup tonight entered the game with batting averages of .182 or worse.

UP NEXT: It doesn’t happen often: A pair of No. 1 overall draft picks pitching against each other in the big leagues. It’ll be Stephen Strasburg (2009) vs. Gerrit Cole (2011) at 7:15 p.m. Saturday. The only other matchups between No. 1 picks in the last decade: Kris Benson vs. Paul Wilson in 2005 and David Price vs. Luke Hochevar in 2012.

  1. philipd763 - May 23, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    Bucs sweep?

    • David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 10:24 PM

      It’s a 4 game series, so no.

    • secretwasianman - May 23, 2014 at 10:45 PM

      Yes no doubt

  2. David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    So, are we going to stop getting robbed at some point or what? This is just ridiculous.

    • manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 10:26 PM

      Statistically unbelievable

  3. manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 10:25 PM

    The 3 stats that have led to wins, again none happen.

    4 or more runs only 1 loss.

    Span and Rendon both get a hit 0 loses.

    0 errors 0 loses.

  4. manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    We are about 1/3 through.

    Starters C

    Relievers A

    Hitters F

    Fielders F-

    Managing/coaching F

    • secretwasianman - May 23, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      This is excellent. Record prediction? That’s an average score of a D minus

      • manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 10:59 PM

        If you count all things equal which I don’t. I count pitching 50 hitters 25 fielding 25 managers basically 0. However managers can get a score if they are bad enough.

        Once our real line up is there we win. If we never get them in then forget it.

        My prediction players probably will be too damn slow coming back. 86-76.

        To me that is an F season

  5. manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 10:28 PM

    Twice bases loaded and we get SF we need hits nit SF

  6. secretwasianman - May 23, 2014 at 10:44 PM

    Things learned 2/3 thru. Rizzo not that good. MW is a poor mans Riggleman. 4 and 5 pitchers better then 1 -3. Ramos overrated. Span very good. Rendon promising. WERTh overpaid. Zimm and Bryce will never play a full season. McClouth not worth a poo. Tyler Espi and Walters minor league players. Should have kept mike Morse. Bullpen is good. With all that said. 78 and 84 record this year.

    P.S the Presidents race sucks

  7. wmlsays - May 23, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    Well, so far, not good.

  8. wmlsays - May 23, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    As I’ve been saying, Rizzo is the new McPhee.

    • secretwasianman - May 23, 2014 at 10:49 PM

      OMG let’s hope not.

      • wmlsays - May 23, 2014 at 10:53 PM

        The pitching coach is terrible. The pitching staff is overrated. It would be funny if Fister ends up being the only great pitcher. On the other hand, it’s still early. They can still get over the hump. More likely, though, 2013 will look to be the norm.

  9. habs3 - May 23, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    We are always making excuses for this team. These guys simply cannot hit. Yes we have outlier games such at the 9 runs the other night but most of the time we are scoring 2 /3 runs. Even though the Expos seldom won they were always developing good home grown non pitching talent. They were always introducing new Latin players. Since they never had the money they did not waste their money on non-producing FA’s. The bench was usually comprised of rookie talent.

    Unless we have drastic turnaround this team is going no where for the second straight season. Time to give guys like Souza a chance. We are not going to win with McLouth, Hairston and Dobbs. I would cut Hairston and bring up Souza.

    The Expos front office all left to join the Marlins. It is no surprise to see how effective the Marlins are in developing young talent. I would not be surprised if the Marlins edged us out this year. Of course if they did we would have an excuse for that.

    • David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 10:55 PM

      Yes, we should be more like the Marlins. Are you f***king kidding? Half our lineup is on the disabled list, that’s why we cannot hit.

      • npb99 - May 23, 2014 at 11:27 PM

        No, habs3 has a point. Nats are not good at developing young hitters. With all these injuries, there’s been opportunities for young guys to make impressions, and they haven’t. We have surprise contributions on the pitching side from guys like Barrett and Roark. Nothing similar on the hitting side. Yes, Rendon has been good (although not of late), but he was a high draft pick, and I can’t say Nats have helped Harper develop beyond what he would have anywhere else. Nobody has come out of the Nats minor league system in recent years to make a meaningful impression.

      • David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 11:41 PM

        1. We have no clue what would have become of Harper elsewhere. Look at past #1 overall picks. They’re not all locks to be a success, even the supposed “can’t miss prospects.” Do not take away from the player development staff just because Harper was a phenom. Many phenoms have busted (if anyone comes in here and suggests Harper was a bust, I swear…)

        2. Our homegrown position players…Rendon? Desi? Zimmerman? Ramos? Harper? Yes, we traded for Ramos, but we still identified him as a trade target and we continued his development as he was still a prospect (unlike say Denard Span). So LF, 3B, SS, 2B and C are all homegrown and all are impact players. How much more do you want? No team is entirely homegrown. We have a good mix of homegrown players, free agents and trades.

        I’m amused at people think we should be modeled after one of the worst run organizations in baseball. That’s not to say the Marlins don’t have some good young talent. They do. But Hechaverria is one of the worst players in baseball by almost all metrics. Detrich is eh. Yelich, Stanton, Ozuna, etc. are good. But guess what? Many of those were high picks, just like Rendon and Harper!

        If you want to suggest that we’re not as good at developing hitters as pitchers, I would agree with you. You lose me when comparing to the Marlins.

      • npb99 - May 23, 2014 at 11:53 PM

        Responding to DP’s 11:41 post here. Adventures in wordpress – unclear who’s responding to whom, but I for one am not saying Marlins are a better organization than us (but, heck, they do have some mojo don’t they, always finding some new talent, and winning two WS but no division titles…).
        And my point on development of hitters refers to the last years only. RZim was a long time ago, and Desi isn’t recent either. I think we agree that Nats are better at developing pitchers than hitters.

      • secretwasianman - May 24, 2014 at 5:18 AM

        No David these gentlemen are 100 percent correct.

    • manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 11:02 PM

      We need to start hitting. It has been to many games with way too many LOB. If they don’t fix that they might as well not bother showing up.

  10. David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    3.5 back. Still no big deal, but the Braves are starting to get hot again. We need Strasburg to be an ace tomorrow and just shut the Pirates down. 7 innings, 2 runs is great, but it might not be good enough. Don’t let them score. 7 innings, no runs. Unfair expectation? Yes. Will I be angry if he doesn’t do it? Not really. But if he wants to be a true ace, sometimes you have to say “if my team ain’t hitting, your team ain’t scoring.”

  11. Nats fool - May 23, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    Getting back to what needs to be changed, Ray Knight nailed it. Chasing balls outside the zone will not result in productive at-bats. This team is breaking at the seams. A couple of more losses and its free-fall time. Strikeouts matter, slugging alone a great hitter does not make, stringing together hits depends on plate approach, injury history matters, and pitching alone will not make you a winner.

    • manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 11:04 PM

      My biggest complaint is poor hitting discipline. Way too many free swingers.

      I am not sure what is hard about having a smarter approach, but sure seems not something this management team can sell.

    • npb99 - May 23, 2014 at 11:29 PM

      I agree, Nats are closer to going into a big tailspin than getting on track. Hate to say it though.

  12. tmac777 - May 23, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    Bad organizations complain about injuries. The Braves lost 3 starters and they keep plugging along. You find the right parts to keep afloat. You don’t start players with 0 or negative WAR like Espinosa and McLouth.

    • manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 11:10 PM

      McHit what was Rizzo thinking? 5 mil for each of 2 year. What did I sleep through?

      • tmac777 - May 23, 2014 at 11:15 PM

        Rizzo has been missing more than hitting lately. I think hiring Williams can be called a miss at this point. This slide was precipitated by giving away the game after Frandsen doubled in the 14th on Monday. You push the runner over 10 times out of 10 there. Bringing Lobaton and hoping he hits it to right side? He can’t even put the ball in play. Just do the high percentage bunt.

    • David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 11:20 PM

      The Braves lost Beachy, who they never even had last year. Medlen was a legitimate loss, who they replaced with Ervin Santana.

      Meanwhile we’ve been without Fister, Gio, Zimmerman, Harper, LaRoche, Ramos, Span…need I go on? It’s not comparable. If you expect a team to just keep plugging along with that many injuries, that’s just unreasonable. We’ve done a decent job to this point battling through those injuries. Could be better, could be worse. LaRoche will be back in a couple days. That will help, but he won’t be a savior and shouldn’t be viewed as such. But he will definitely help.

      • npb99 - May 23, 2014 at 11:35 PM

        I think you’re overplaying it. Gio’s missed one start so far. When Zim went down, Espi got lots of playing time and did well at first. Span only missed a week. No way LaRoche was going through a season without either a major slump or a 15-day trip to DL. Yes, some other longer absences too, but a team needs subs to play reasonably well in the absence of regulars. Sometimes even new stars emerge. Instead we’re seeing a lot of fundamentally poor baseball, errors, inability to advance runners, etc.

      • David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 11:42 PM

        Gio may have only missed one start, but he’s been pitching injured for a bit longer than that. Espi did well for what? 2 weeks? It’s been a month and a half.

      • tmac777 - May 23, 2014 at 11:39 PM

        Actually, losing 60% or 80% of your rotation at one time (Beachy, Minor, Medlen and even Floyd) may be worse than what the Nationals have gone through. I am sure a Braves fan would argue that. We lost Fister; got him back; then lost Gio. Never at any point we were missing more than one starter. The offensive losses have been crippling because we don’t have adequate replacements, the Braves were able to find suitable parts.

      • David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 11:45 PM

        Well Gavin Floyd is awful and Alex Wood was great, so them losing Floyd was actually a good thing. Floyd has had an ERA of under 4 once in his entire career: 2008. Why they bumped a good young pitcher like Wood for Floyd, who knows.

        The Braves were lucky in a sense that their big injuries came prior to the season. They were able to sign an Ervin Santana at the last minute.

        We’re doing okay. If you don’t think we’re in an okay position given the adversity, then you’re just trying to be a downer. That’s not to say we’re doing great. We could be doing better. Could be doing worse. We’re doing okay. And okay is, well, okay for now. The reinforcements are coming.

      • tmac777 - May 23, 2014 at 11:56 PM

        I hope you’re right. That we get our players back and we do great. But it’s also unreasonable to expect no injuries during a season. Not having adequate replacements has hurt us 2 years in a row. Other organizations have weathered the injury bug better than us.

        2 years in a row, we have been projected to make the playoffs and 2 years in a row we have floundered around .500 to begin the year. So we have playoff talent and mediocre execution. If you think I’m a downer for pointing that out, so be it.

      • David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        I think it’s a matter of just how MANY injuries. If you lose Zimmerman, I think Espinosa could play second passably and not be a big deal. If you lose Harper, you can do Hairston/McLouth/Frandsen in the OF. But when it’s LaRoche, Harper AND Zimmerman, it’s tough. Notice, even though we weren’t lighting the world on fire, we were above .500 with ALR in the lineup. And anything above .500 with the number of injuries is weathering the injury bug IMO.

        Last year, we fell too far back. We can’t let it happen this year. It hasn’t yet. Really what doomed us last year was that 6 game losing streak out of the ASB. That was the end of that.

  13. manassasnatsfan - May 23, 2014 at 11:14 PM

    MW promised 2 things. One he has control, the other he doesn’t.

    He promised better fielding. He has them practicing, but simply are not executing the plan, not necessarily MW’s fault.

    However second clearly he has control.

    We are going to run more.

    As pathetic as our hitting has been, more than ever we need to run. We are not getting caught much, but sure don’t bother to go.

  14. philipd763 - May 23, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    There is much more wrong with this team than just the injuries!

    • David Proctor - May 23, 2014 at 11:22 PM

      Sure, no team is perfect and every team has flaws. But injuries are BY FAR the biggest problem. If this team is healthy, it can cover up the flaws they have.

      • wmlsays - May 23, 2014 at 11:29 PM

        They have a lot to cover up. Let’s face it. Rizzo, after his good start, has been a McPhee.

    • dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 12:39 AM

      Disagree….Recurring injuries is the problem

  15. dcwx61 - May 24, 2014 at 12:38 AM

    And this is the problem I’ve seen for this year and last.
    Our starting offense on paper is awesome, however, crucial parts of our A offense misses 1/3 of the season. The Nats have put their stock in incredibly talented players who so far are not very durable. Ramos, Zimmerman, Harper and in the past Werth are critical but 2 or 3 of them have not been able to stay healthy. So of course, pre-season expectations will outpace the reality of critical injury prone stars. The team has pinned its success on players who have not been able to play a full season in years.
    Hopefully, Harper will grow out of it….I Not sure about Zimm/Ramos/Werth and even Rendon who have a history of injuries. Span is a colision away from a career ending injury. So the Nats on the surface sign some under-valued players but also at a favored risk. Too many bargains….a couple of risky position players can be tolerable but not the big three (Zimm, Ramos, Harper).





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