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Leftovers from the wildest win in Nats history

Apr 29, 2015, 11:29 AM EST

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ATLANTA — If your head is still spinning from the hysteria of last night — as a certain beat reporter’s certainly is — here are even more takeaways from the Nationals’ historic, 13-12 victory over the Braves…

Denard Span went 5-for-6 with 11 total bases and nearly hit for the cycle
Dan Uggla got most of the attention last night, and deservedly so, but Span had himself a career night and was integral to the Nats’ comeback. With five hits, including three doubles and a sixth-inning homer, the veteran center fielder was on fire at the plate.

What was the key?

“I’m gonna be honest with you: I just was kind of relaxed, to be honest with you,” he said. “I was like: ‘We’re down by eight. Let me just put together some good at-bats and try to do best I can selfishly, individually.’ And, before you knew it, we just kept battling and kept chipping away.”

Span, who only made his season debut nine days prior after rehabbing from two core muscle surgeries, entered last night’s game hitting a paltry .207 with a .250 on-base percentage and .457 OPS. He exited the game hitting .314 with a .342 on-base percentage and .828 OPS. Funny how quickly that can happen.

Span came up to bat in the top of the ninth needing a triple for the first cycle of his career. And when he lined a ball over left fielder Jonny Gomes’ head, it looked like he might have a shot at it. Except Span pulled up at second base with his third double of the game. Not because he didn’t want to try for the cycle. But because he didn’t even know it was possible.

Span said he didn’t realize it until the bottom of the ninth, as he was standing in center field, processing everything that had transpired in this game. (And for the record, yes, he said he would’ve tried for third had he known it at the time.)

A.J. Cole had an historic night as well, but not the good kind
The stunning comeback got Cole off the hook, and everyone in the Nats clubhouse was happy about that, because it helped soften the blow somewhat of the rookie right-hander’s disastrous debut.

Cole was taken to the woodshed by the Braves, who racked up nine runs and nine hits off the 23-year-old in two innings. Only four of the runs were earned, but the five unearned runs were directly the result of Cole’s error (he dropped a feed from Ryan Zimmerman at first base that would’ve ended the second inning with the Nationals trailing only 4-1).

Cole still seemed in a bit of a daze afterward.

“I was really excited to be up here,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to be called up here and then get to pitch. And I was just trying to stay comfortable and not be too excited and jittery out there. So I just tried staying calm and doing what I always do.”

Cole, of course, doesn’t always do this. His biggest problem: He was up in the zone with everything, and the Braves hit everything hard.

“First time in the big leagues, and it doesn’t go your way … it’s not fun,” manager Matt Williams said.” But it lets him know that he’s got to throw the ball where he wants to. He’s got to change speeds, he’s got to throw strikes, he’s got to throw the ball down in the strike zone. … So that’s what he’ll take. It’s not the debut he wanted, by any stretch, but it’s a good learning experience, too.”

Cole became only the 14th pitcher in MLB history to give up at least nine runs in his debut start. (Sadly, I covered one of the previous 13: The Orioles’ John Stephens at Tampa Bay on July 30, 2002.) He does, however, appear to be the first ever to emerge without a loss. (Willard Hunter of the 1962 Dodgers did get a no-decision after allowing 10 runs in his MLB debut, though his came out of the bullpen.)

Though the Nationals didn’t announce anything last night, Cole is headed back to Syracuse after making this spot start. He’ll now hope to take some positives out of this experience and not let it stunt his development.

“I’m going to look at it for a little bit,” Cole said. “I’m not going to dwell on it or hold onto it. The game’s over. It’s in the past now. So I’m not going to keep looking at it.”

More roster moves coming
Look for the Nationals to make two roster moves before tonight’s series finale. Obviously, with Cole going back to Syracuse, they’ll add another reliever to the staff. They’ll also likely need to add another position player after Reed Johnson suffered what appeared to be a significant injury to his lower leg/foot after doubling in the seventh inning.

Williams described Johnson’s injury as a “tear,” and acknowledged the veteran outfielder could be out for awhile. So if Johnson goes on the disabled list, the Nationals would need to call up another position player, probably Matt den Dekker but possibly Michael Taylor (who would be eligible to return in fewer than the mandatory 10-day waiting period after being demoted because he’d be replacing an injured player).

  1. nats128 - Apr 29, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Calling up a reliever to take AJ Cole’s spot will be interesting. I also think Den Dekker to replace Reed Johnson.

    Rendon is not in the Harrisburg lineup again today. Now that Reed Johnson is going to the DL it makes it easier to look at his replacement goes back to Syracuse when Rendon eventually returns.

    • nats106 - Apr 29, 2015 at 11:43 AM

      Rendon missing more time is very troubling. I guess he’s just the type who needs extended time to heal. Nats version of the NBA’s Rose…..

      • nats128 - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:04 PM

        Kid gloves in his recovery. You can imagine he overdid it. Now has to dial it back.

  2. nats106 - Apr 29, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Yesterday I posted the following:

    After the Nats pull a surprising upset, the DOA will be DOA unless someone besides 222 clamors for it.

    So the DOA (Doug’s Objective Analysis) is officially dead. I believe sofa gave me a vote of confidence, but unlike our manager, I am not willing to risk a jinx. So the DOA is DOA. Long live the Nats!

    Awesome comeback. As the Nats were scoring runs, I was catching up on “Gotham”. I guess that makes me a faithless fan, but I was there for the ending. 🙂

    • natsfan1a - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:12 PM

      Thanks for taking one for the team on the DOA. 😉

      • nats106 - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:17 PM

        Yeah, and I think everyone on this board appreciates it.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:03 PM

        In that they appreciate the upset, and the curly w.

  3. adcwonk - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:11 PM

    I wanted to explain a point I mentioned last night, about Cole getting left in for so long.

    The idea is this (I learned this from listening to Davey Johnson way back when he was managing the Mets): to see if you can get a young starting pitcher to end on a good note, to throw a scoreless inning or two, so that he has some confidence. The story is this:

    In Ron Darling’s official rookie season, 1984 (he pitched a few games in Sept of 1983), in his third start, he pitched terribly: 8 hits 4 BB, and 6 runs over four innings — including 4 runs in the 4th inning, after which he got lifted. Mets went on to lose 10-0.

    In the next start, he started off worse — allowing 1 run in the 1st, and then 5 in the second (that second inning included 2 walks, 5 hits, and a balk). Down 6-0, Darling was due to lead off the 3rd — Davey let him bat. Darling then went on to pitch a scoreless 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Mets went on to lose 12-5

    Davey explained his theory: (a) he wanted his 23-year old pitcher to have some good take-aways from the game; and (b) he viewed the first 1/3 of the season as simply “who do we have, and what stuff are my players made of?”

    Darling subsequently said that he really appreciated it. It game him a lot of confidence. And over Darling’s next 17 starts, he went 8-1, ERA 2.85. Darling went on to finish 5th in Rookie of the Year.

    ===============

    Was MW attempting to do that with Cole? I have no idea. My point, last night, was that *if* MW thought Cole would be able to get his pitches down and pitch at least once decent inning, then it was possible MW was indeed trying to do that. In other words: his decision was at least defensible.

    There’s a lot more to managing than simply “in-game” strategy. Managing a bullpen — including being straight with the pitchers, getting them to understand and buy-in to their role, balancing workloads, are also important. There’s a lot that goes in to managing that fans never see. (I never knew about the Davey-Darling stuff till nearly 30 years after the fact).

    FWIW,

    • adcwonk - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:13 PM

      And if you don’t buy that, that’s OK. I like to tell old baseball stories anyway. 😉

      • Eric - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:20 PM

        I enjoyed it, thanks! And, I personally think a lot of the season so far has been, precisely, “who do we have, and what stuff are my players made of?” In some cases I think it’s by necessity (e.g., all the relievers coming and go), but in other cases, I think it’s a legit test (see: Treinen, Blake).

      • adcwonk - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:27 PM

        Blake Treinen is a great example. He’s got some potential — let him play, ignore the bumps and rough spots in the short run — and see what he can do. He might end up being a significant asset.

    • sec105rowwseat28 - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:45 PM

      The difference is that Ron Darling was on the team and expected to stay a while. Davey did that in his second start, right? Cole OTOH knew before he even threw his first pitch that he’d be headed back to Syracuse as soon as the game was over. So there really wasn’t an opportunity for MW to let him leave the game with a good feeling once he crapped the bed. I tend to agree with Boswell’s take on the situation as expressed during the game last night.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:36 PM

        Well if he had caught the d@mn ball it wouldn’t’ve been such a beating.

      • adcwonk - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:54 PM

        Huh? Cole is still in the organization, isn’t he? If — I’m just saying if — Cole had been able to pitch one decent inning, then Cole would be feeling a whole lot better right now, and a bit more at ease about his own capabilities.

        Those things don’t always work out. But I don’t see it as unreasonable to try.

        (Further, MW was also hoping to save some wear and tear on the bullpen. We are in the middle of 16 consecutive games, with eight straight games still to go before a day off.)

      • Joe Seamhead - Apr 29, 2015 at 3:11 PM

        On this one, I agree with Boswell. I thought that it was horrible judgement on Williams’ part. Last night I said that I feel that MW has lost control of this team. That’s not saying that I think he should be fired. [I also mused as to who is available if it came down to him being let go, which isn’t imminently going to happen anyway. Just thinking out loud]. Yes it’s early, and I still believe that this team will win the division, but when I wrote that, the Nats were down 9-1 and there was little indication that they were coming back. If they had gone on to lose they would be in sole possession of last place rather than sharing that position with the Phillies. This team, injuries and all, should not be 7 games back and 5 or 6 games under .500 after 21 games. Right or wrong, managers usually keep their jobs if the team wins, and only if they win.If the Nats continue to under-perform the buck stops with Williams. We can all second guess his lineups, question his handling of the bullpen, etc, all of which is a gawd given right to American baseball fans. I’m pretty sure it’s in the Bill of Rights. But ultimately this team has to win before it really is too late. Also, as I said last night, I have supported Matt Williams, but my faith in him is not as strong as it was even a week ago.

      • chrisrw109nats - Apr 29, 2015 at 6:46 PM

        Seamhead.

        We lost half of our run production to injuries, and had an extreme case of ‘oopsies’ in the field.

        Neither one of those is directly attributable to Matt Williams. Even without the teams error rush (23 in 21 games) them being under .500 was in the range of possibilities because of the fact that their run production would be at an extreme premium missing Rendon, Werth, and Span.

        This is not news. This should not be a surprise. Until Mid-may this is about winning as many games as we can scrape by and correcting our defensive woes.

  4. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:12 PM

    Question – where is Nate McLouth?

    • adcwonk - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:16 PM

      Still on the DL? (still recovering from right shoulder surgery?)

      • nataddicted - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:39 PM

        Officially on the 15 day DL. In fact all our players are on the 15 day… McLouth, Rendon, Stammen, Felipe Rivero, Casey Janssen, and Erik Davis.

        Maybe McLouth is 60-day’ed to make space for an addition to the 40 man roster?

        Roster move thoughts.

        The pitcher who’s essentially replacing Rafael Martin, a righty reliever: On the 40 man roster are: Taylor Hill, Taylor Jordan, Sammy Solis, Rafael Martin. RHP Martin is out for nine more days unless he replaces an injured player because we’ve just send him down (does that mean we can bring him up for Reed Johnson’s spot??). RHP Taylor Hill is stretched out to start, so he’s out. RHP Taylor Jordan is the same way. Combined those two have seven starts. LHP Sammy Solis is a reliever, but he’s at AA Harrisburg. Sooo, my point is that we don’t seem to have an arm on the 40 man roster to plug into the RHP role that Martin was in.

        The outfielder to replace righty Reed Johnson in the PH/Utility OF role: On the 40 man roster are: Righty Michael A. Taylor; Lefty Matt Den Dekker, and Left-hitting Brian Goodwin.

        The outfielder, I think Den Dekker. The pitcher, it seems Solis is the only reliever if we can’t get Martin back (if we even want him right now).

      • masterfishkeeper - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:47 PM

        Seems to me that Stammen is likely to go on the 60 day, given his prognosis. I’d expect Den Dekker to get the OF call, but he isn’t hitting at Syracuse.

        For RP, I’d think Rich Hill would be a logical choice, given the number of lefthanded hitters on the Braves and Mets. Hill’s done well at Syracuse. The RHP options are not great: Evan Meek? Taylor Hill?

    • Doc - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:40 PM

      Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. I think that he is living with Carmen San Diego, somewhere.

  5. rayvil01 - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:13 PM

    One thing I found interesting was in Uggla’s comments that were in the AJC: http://www.myajc.com/news/sports/baseball/braves-and-uggla-quotes-after-nationals-13-12-win/nk5ST/?icmp=ajc_internallink_invitationbox_apr2013_ajcstubtomyajcpremium

    He talked about the Nats’ group and how animated, excited, and fun they are. After the purge in Atlanta there were lots of mentions about the clubhouse would be better. But, there were never any specifics of what the issues were. Sounds like the atmosphere in the Nats group is a big upgrade for Uggla.

    • adcwonk - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:17 PM

      But, there were never any specifics of what the issues were.

      Upton(s)?

      • rayvil01 - Apr 29, 2015 at 12:36 PM

        That was my guess. But, I haven’t seen a thing in print.

        Normally the Manager takes the hit for that. Freddi G is a complete mystery to me. He keeps his job in spite of everything. Pure Teflon. I hope he works the rest of his career in Atlanta.

      • Section 222 - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:02 PM

        Poor Justin is cursed with having the same last name as his brother Melvin. But I’ve never heard anything bad about him as a clubhouse guy, and boy can he hit. 5 HRs already for the Padres.

      • adcwonk - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:11 PM

        Add 1 from last night. He’s got 6 now.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:06 PM

        If memory serves, Fredi was Bobby Cox’s guy.

      • adcwonk - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:10 PM

        I don’t really pay a whole lot of attention to other teams — but the impression some folks have left here is that Fredi burns out his players by not resting them near enough. I think that may have been a problem with Gattis. And perhaps some relief pitchers?

  6. Section 222 - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    Papa Grande signed by the Nats to a minor league deal? Not sure that’s the kind of bullpen help we had in mind…

    • natsfan1a - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:15 PM

      hmmm…

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:34 PM

      Well, Grant Balfour should still be around, if you don’t want Valverde. Just saying.

      • Section 222 - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:43 PM

        Oh Rafael Soriano. [ducks, covers]

  7. Eric - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:10 PM

    In case it hasn’t been posted, check out this prescient gem from the AJC back on 3/25/15:
    “But you can sense with something approaching certainty that Uggla is going to beat the Braves at some point with a late-inning home run. That’s just the warped sense of humor that drives the universe.”

    BOOM!

    • natsfan1a - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:16 PM

      As Nelson Muntz has succinctly stated, haHA!

    • Tyler Babip - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      Awesome.

    • ArVAFan - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:25 PM

      Thanks for the link!

    • ArVAFan - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:28 PM

      Best quote from that article:

      <>

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:45 PM

        This one?

        It’s just that if he’s going to turn into the comeback player of the decade, can’t it be with somebody, anybody, else? Not the Braves nemesis, the Nationals. Not the already overstocked class of the division. Not any team that employs Bryce Harper.

      • ArVAFan - Apr 29, 2015 at 3:29 PM

        It was supposed to be the one about if the Nats go all the way, at least someone on the Braves payroll would get a ring.

        Something weird happened when I posted it, and then I had to shut down the computer so the electrician could replace the doorbell and smoke detectors (thanks to the guy two floors up who thought he could save by doing his own plumbing repairs).

  8. Muddy Ruel - Apr 29, 2015 at 1:33 PM

    Approving of Uggla-mania, I sense the vengeful baseball gods moving on from the Nats … The ascent begins now!

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 29, 2015 at 2:40 PM

      Sound the klaxon! Surface! Surface!

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