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Lobaton making the most of his limited opportunities

May 10, 2015, 7:00 AM EDT

Apr 18, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton (59) hits an RBI double during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

While Saturday’s walk-off win will be remembered for Bryce Harper’s heroics, it was the performance of a part-time bat that underscored the true depth of the Nationals’ lineup.

Backup catcher Jose Lobaton, who Matt Williams inserted into the lineup because of his previous success against Braves starter Julio Teheran, justified his manager’s faith in him by posting a three-hit game, including a two-run home run to get the Nats on the board in the second inning.

With Wilson Ramos as the club’s everyday catcher, Lobaton doesn’t get many opportunities to shine at or behind the dish. But in his last three games, he’s gone 6-for-10 with two home runs, six RBI and three walks.

“He understands the role,” Williams said. “He understands that there may be a week where he only plays once. And then there may be a situation like today where we’ve got a good matchup that he plays in a game where Wilson would ordinarily play in.”

“Huge,” added a grinning Harper on Lobaton’s home run. “Lobi came up huge in that last inning or the inning before, getting on base. He had three hits today. He’s such a good pitch caller back there behind the plate, too, so he’s fun to watch. He blocks the ball really well, throws the ball really well, so he’s just a great catcher, great hitter.”

And while Lobaton is heating up at the plate, it’s his work at catcher that impresses the pitching staff the most. The best example was with Saturday’s starter Doug Fister, who pitched well enough to win in 6 2/3 innings. In fact, Fister might be the primary beneficiary of Lobaton’s work since the beginning of 2014. In the 12 times the pair has worked together, Fister has posted a 1.41 ERA — by far the best mark in his career with a battery mate he’s been with for more than two starts.

“Loby has this unique personality about him where he can kind of bring everybody together,” Fister said. “He’s a fun guy to be around. Being able to communicate with him has been easy for me. He’s a great teammate. That’s what we want. That’s what we have around here. One of 25 guys.”

Although Lobaton is perched firmly behind Ramos on the depth chart, his experience is what gives the Nats comfort that should anything happen to the starting catcher, they’d have a guy who could step in and not miss a beat.

“Last year Wilson was out quite a bit and [Lobaton] got a chance to know these guys,” Williams said. “It’s not like he’s stepping into a situation he hasn’t been in.”

  1. TimDz - May 10, 2015 at 7:09 AM

    That HR ball was CRUSHED…Teheran’s reaction was great….

  2. laddieblahblah - May 10, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    Lobaton brings a lot to the Nats that no one else does. A real pro with a sense of humor. If they ever have a Lobaton bobble-head game, this would be his most memorable image:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dc-sports-bog/wp/2015/05/04/nats-jose-lobaton-is-watching-you-through-gatorade-cup-binoculars/

    Or they could provide removable miniature gatorade cups that could be attached, and detached, depending on the bobble-head’s mood, at the time.

  3. Doc - May 10, 2015 at 7:45 AM

    For a backup C, Loby has 1 more HR, and better OBP, SLG, and OPS than the Buffalo.

    Lobby might even be better at holding on to OF throws than Ramos.

    Hopefully, post-hamate recovery, Ramos’; vaunted power returns. Singles are good, 2Bs and HRs are even better.

    • Candide - May 10, 2015 at 9:07 AM

      Lobby might even be better at holding on to OF throws than Ramos.

      My cat might be better at holding on to OF throws than Ramos. And she doesn’t have opposable thumbs.

    • natslive - May 10, 2015 at 10:35 PM

      Glad to see Ramos hitting and not grounding into DPs, but it would be nice to see some power back. Wonder if it will take until the 2nd half for that to happen

  4. Theophilus T.S. - May 10, 2015 at 8:02 AM

    It’s an odd thing to say, given Ramos’s injury history, but I think the biggest advantage Ramos has over Lobaton is endurance. Meaning, I’m not sure Lobaton can sustain a high level of performance, particularly at the plate, over an extended period of time. Equally, however, given Ramos’s history, the Nats may have the best insurance policy of any team in the majors in the event of an injury to their starting catcher. He is good defensively, throws well, calls games well — it has been noted that Nats’ starters have a lower ERA when pitching to Lobaton — and has streaks as a hitter when he is very productive. An undervalued asset is his ability to switch-hit. I can’t think of another team that has that kind of package on their bench.

    • Doc - May 10, 2015 at 8:23 AM

      Another very good trade by Riz! His scouts do an amazing job. When first done, it didn’t look like much on paper. We even got a promising LH pitcher in Rivero.

  5. sjm308 - May 10, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    Posted a bunch of comments back where no one will go back and read.

    Happy to be home and even happier with my first game in person since April 8th.

    Natslady commented, several posts back, about Span and the ground he covers. The routes he runs continue to amaze me. In contrast, there was a ball hit by one of our guys to right center that Maybin totally botched. Not an error but he basically ran straight and the ball went by him. We all felt that Span would have taken a different path and made the catch. We saw a really nice defensive game with both Desmond and Espinoza getting stars from me as well as Span and Harper.

    Two questions, one baseball and one personal.

    1. Why didn’t MW use Ramos as a pinch hitter after Taylor reached 2nd. I realize Uggla delivered but Ramos was coming into the game anyway and certainly has better numbers. Just wondering.

    2. I am getting a full knee replacement Tuesday. Is there any experience with the Nationals allowing me to sit in the LF/CF lower area instead of having to hike up to 308? I think it might be just one game in my plan before I am mobile enough but I hate to even miss one.(I am already giving up the Phillies game but hope to make 6/2 vs. Toronto) Thanks in advance

    Go Nats!

    • sec105rowwseat28 - May 10, 2015 at 8:42 AM

      Isn’t there an elevator that goes up to the 300 level? I see wheelchair people up there all the time. You should be able to exchange your tickets for ADA tickets near your section, probably at no extra charge. If you go for ADA seats on the lower level, you’d probably have to pay an upgrade charge since those are more expensive seats.

    • ArVAFan - May 10, 2015 at 10:02 AM

      First, good luck with the knee replacement. Spouse is home today after Wednesday’s knee replacement, but she’s feeling comfortable enough to let me go to the game (Sec. 221 Row A last minute on Stub Hub).

      Second, there are two elevators that go to the 300’s. One is behind the Nationals Authentics store on the concourse, right next to the gate. There’s a small ramp down from the concourse to the gate, again right behind the Authentics store. Second, the elevator that goes down to the Lexus club also goes up to the 300’s. That’s across from the back of the Diamond Club, across from the wall with the balls on it.

      Third, I have accessible seating in 313 Row J. So if you’re worried about the steps going down into your section, I’ll be glad to swap with you since I have two working knees (original parts, even). Post here if you want to swap with me for 6/2: we’ll just meet on the concourse and tell each other where to go (wait, that didn’t come out quite right . . . ).

    • NatsLady - May 10, 2015 at 10:07 AM

      With regard to ADA issues.

      (1) There are several ADA sections. Your agent might be able to hook you up with one temporarily off your plan. If you are buying extra tickets, just ask, you don’t need a doctor’s note. They will ask you if you need a seat for the person who is accompanying you.

      You don’t want to get in the one section on the upper level on the first base side, because the only access is an elevator and a walkway, and you have to go a long way if you need the restroom or whatever. My season seat is in the ADA section of 304, which is a row of seats in front of the standing-room area (counter) very near the escalator. The escalators don’t change direction until the seventh inning, so be aware that you will have to use the ramp or the elevator if you need to leave early.

      (2) There is always (ALWAYS!) a wheelchair available at the centerfield gate. They’ll see you with your cane or brace and offer, and you can wave them off or take it. (I tip $2). They will take you (via the elevator) to your seat. If you want, they will come back for you when the game is over, just tell them–or tell your usher.

      If you need more detail, email me.

      • NatsLady - May 10, 2015 at 10:11 AM

        And, yes, there is an ADA section near the gate on the main concourse level. I don’t recall the section number but I have sat there. It’s not great for viewing because you are behind the last row of regular seats, but it’s convenient. There is another section you don’t want, I believe it’s 404 (not sure), which is actually on level 3. Anyway, it’s an abosolute WIND TUNNEL there, no article is safe.

    • stoatva - May 10, 2015 at 10:13 AM

      Seems like you’ve already gotten good advice so I’ll just add my best wishes as one who had double knee replacement surgery in March 2012.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      “sjm308 – May 10, 2015 at 7:55 AM
      We were wondering why he didn’t pinch hit Ramos instead of Uggla. Ramos was obviously coming into the game to catch and to get him an AB seemed the right thing to do. Of course Uggla delivered but I think he wasted using a guy who was hot over a guy who was struggling.”

      1. Uggla is 7 for his last 20. While Ramos has been hotter overall, I think MW figured they would pitch to Uggla and could pitch around Ramos with 1st base open and putting the slower Ramos on base.

      2. Good luck with your knee replacement. You should definitely call the Nats and tell them you need ADA seating made available temporarily. If your eyesight is good, I’d be looking for lower bowl in that section 140 where Bryce has been peppering balls in RF!

  6. rayvil01 - May 10, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    A bit off-topic, but lost in all of yesterday was Dan Uggla coming off the bench in a crucial spot and hitting a solid pinch-hit single that coulda/woulda/shoulda scored the late go-ahead run. Can’t ask for more from a bench guy. It is going to get interesting when Rendon comes back. Uggla, Robinson, or TyMo are going to be the odd guy out. I’m thinking Uggla might stick.

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 10, 2015 at 8:28 AM

      Taylor will go back to Syracuse to work on his base-running.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:11 AM

        I don’t know how a kid who has played more baseball than Bryce Harper all of a sudden learns baserunning which is so instinctual. He has made so many mistakes on the basepaths this year that he’s become a liability. Good baserunning is more than being about speed as we know.

    • laddieblahblah - May 10, 2015 at 8:58 AM

      “Uggla, Robinson, or TyMo are going to be the odd guy out. I’m thinking Uggla might stick.”

      I’m thinking someone goes on the “DL” (take your pick from those three). Or Taylor goes back to AAA. Werth and Span both seem to be fine, for now, so MAT could go back to playing and learning, every day, at Syracuse.

      I can even see them putting Ryan on the 15-day DL to finally shake that plantar fasciitis that continues to bother him, with Moore and Robinson in a 1b platoon until Ryan is good to go.

      I think both Rizzo and MW like the bench, and will figure some way to keep it intact. Or Rizzo might finally get a decent offer for Moore, who has earned a starting gig in the majors.

      We’ll see. This bench has been terrific, thus far.

      • virginiascopist - May 10, 2015 at 10:19 AM

        Unless Rizzo can make a great deal for TMo, which I think is extremely unlikely, it should be Taylor going back to Syracuse.

    • Section 222 - May 10, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      I agree with Theo that Uggla, CRob, and TyMo will stick and Taylor will go back. He’s not doing anything at the plate when he gets the chance and his baserunning has been bad. Highly unlikely that a phony injury is needed to deal with this situation, but of course, you never know what actual injuries will occur in the meantime.

  7. homeparkdc - May 10, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    No secret that I’m a big Lobaton fan. He did some serious work on his hitting during the offseason and it’s paying off. His BA is just .015 below Ramos but the rest of the stats – OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+ – make him look better than Ramos. No errors compared to Ramos’ 1, but he did let a pitch take the ump out.
    Moving right along…when will RZIMM get a day off? He’s started all 31 games. Clint Robinson and TMo could use some playing time, me thinks.

    • Doc - May 10, 2015 at 10:10 AM

      Me thinks that you’re totally right! Particularly so with the guys they’re replacing are hitting with Mendoza-like numbers.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:34 AM

        Small sample sizes give very little value on determination of the players who are hitting near Mendoza as you saw with Werth, RZim and Uggla yesterday.

        Rest is important and I think RZim needs some even though some would say he got Thursday off.

      • Section 222 - May 10, 2015 at 11:12 AM

        Zim did get Thursday off, like everyone else…

  8. #4 - May 10, 2015 at 9:05 AM

    Two thoughts:

    1. I thought MW’s biggest mistake yesterday was not leaving Thorton in to start the 8th. With Simmons, Freeman, and Johnson coming up he had two of three lefty hitters to get out. The 8th would have gone much differenty IMO.

    2. I maintain that if Lobaton had been catching the SF series last year, the Nats would have advanced. Ramos’ receiving killed them in that series. His hitting just doesn’t make up for his lackluster defense, including his inability to block low pitches and catch throws home.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:31 AM

      Not sure if you needed Thornton to come back out but certainly that’s what I commented on yesterday that the 8th inning has been good when going with matchup baseball.

      That was near disasterous and disappointed that Roark got beat by Ciraco like that.

      The Baseball Gods set all the failures up for a fantastic finish, but certainly enough to critique in the failures that started in the 7th.

  9. Candide - May 10, 2015 at 9:35 AM

    Apropos of nothing: While crossing South Capitol Street before the game yesterday, I saw a guy who’d just bought a bottle of water from a street vendor give it to the crossing guard lady there.

    There are days I hate the human race, and then there are days like yesterday.

  10. npb99 - May 10, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    I appreciate how often Harper has great things to say about a teammate. One of the many misconceptions about his is that his ego is out of control. Not true. He is constantly talking up teammates, or even opponents, or past players.

    • Doc - May 10, 2015 at 10:13 AM

      Harps is all baseball, and even more so when he talks up a teammate.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:43 AM

        Bryce even gave props to his fans in rightfield. How pro is that!

      • Doc - May 10, 2015 at 11:11 AM

        I remember when Harper was first up in ’12 and playing CF at Toronto. Davey was tempted to move him to RF late in the game. But as Davey noted, Bryce was having so much fun with the Toronto fans in CF that he didn’t want to go to RF.

        Good fans appreciate good talent. That leaves out dumbass fans in Atlanta and Philly

  11. dcwx61 - May 10, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    thank you, lobo-man with robotic gatorade cup ears

    i was in sect 312 and it was the best game i’ve ever been at…period…an overwhelming feeling of joy leaving the game as if it had all been scripted…we finally drowned out the weakening tomahawk jeers in the 8th…been at many a braves game here when we were lost amidst the natives
    but why is 39,100 and something a sellout. is the stadium shrinking

    • ITGSOT - May 10, 2015 at 10:34 AM

      If they hand out seats for free, those seats don’t count toward paid attendance. Also, seats obtained wih Red Carpet Rewards etc don’t count either, I’m pretty sure. I bet they gave out a lot of freebies yesterday to friends of Frank Robinson.

      On the flip side of that, they will sometimes have sellout crowds larger than stadium capacity when they sell SRO tickets, which apparently they didn’t do yesterday.

      • dcwx61 - May 10, 2015 at 11:49 AM

        thank you!

      • ehay2k - May 10, 2015 at 10:26 PM

        FYI – I bought 2 SRO tix yesterday, so they sold at least that many.

  12. NatsLady - May 10, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    With regard to bullpen usage. I think the last month-plus has shown us some of the problems with NOT having assigned roles in the BP. Clip wasn’t perfect, but at least 90% of the time (maybe more), you could assume you would come out of the eighth inning with the same score you went into it, no matter who was up to bat, righties, lefties, or the kitchen sink.

    Now, you have a collection of guys that you mix-and-match. This gives you several variables: (1) You have to match correctly, and often are dealing with VERY small sample sizes or just platoons. Plus you have to factor in rest and usage not for just one guy (“Clippard”) but for all five of them. (2) You don’t know which of the five or six possible guys is going to have a bad day. They themselves don’t even know (usually) until they get out there and stuff’s not working. All the guys, even Roark and Thornton, have some measure of unreliability. If they didn’t, they would already have claimed the eighth-inning job long since.

    For these reasons, I hope Janssen comes in healthy and capable of taking on Clip’s old inning. You still have plenty of chances for mix-and-match: the seventh inning, tie games, games where Storen or Janssen are not available, etc.

  13. Ghost of Steve M. - May 10, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I posted up a bunch of videos in the “Harper Continues Amazing Run With Walk-Off Win” thread that you probably didn’t see from the FOX broadcast including the Ken Rosenthal interview and the CHOC-OFF on Bryce by Count Walkula (Scherzer).

    Also a compilation video of all 6 Harper HRs this past week and a Ken Rosenthal recap which is good.

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