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On JZ’s battle, Harper’s homer and 9th inning gaffes

May 27, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT


The Nationals’ 3-2 loss in Chicago on Tuesday had a little bit of everything. A gutty pitching performance by Jordan Zimmermann. Another jaw-dropping home run by Bryce Harper. And some inexplicable mental mistakes by Yunel Escobar and (to a lesser extent) Ian Desmond during the decisive ninth inning.

All of that made for one of the more entertaining games of the young season, even if the end result wasn’t quite what the Nats had in mind.

Let’s run through some of the most significant events of the evening…

If you watched his entire outing, you’d probably agree Zimmermann did not have his best stuff on this night. He walked three batters. He put nine total men on base. He needed 113 pitches just to complete seven innings.

And yet, when it was all said and done, he allowed only one run.

How did Zimmermann do that? By making big pitches when he needed them, by making adjustments along the way, by recognizing what was working and what wasn’t working.

This is what they mean when they talk about battling your way through a start. And Zimmermann did it to near-perfection. There are others in the Nationals rotation (cough, Stephen Strasburg, cough) who could learn a thing or two from that performance.

Really, Zimmermann hasn’t had his best stuff throughout April and May. And yet when you look at his overall numbers — 4-2, 3.26 ERA, nine quality starts in 10 total outings — he appears to be having another really impressive season. And when you throw out his disastrous start at Fenway Park way back on April 13, you realize he’s been even better (4-1, 2.31 ERA).

All you needed to watch of Harper’s seventh-inning at-bat was his reaction to his swing on a 3-1 pitch from Kyle Hendricks. After thinking he had popped up to left field, Harper slammed his bat to the ground and began jogging toward first base, not even bothering to watch the flight of the ball.

At some point, he (and everyone else) realized what happened: Harper, with some help from the Wrigley Field wind and short fence in left-center, hit his league-leading 17th homer of the season. As he crossed the plate and got a high-five from Ryan Zimmerman, all he could say to his teammate was: “Wow.”

Harper has wowed us plenty of times over the last three weeks with his various displays of power. This one might have topped them all for the sheer ludicrousness of it all.

Oh, if you’ve lost track, here are Harper’s updated offensive numbers over this 18-game stretch: a .467 batting average, 12 homers, 27 RBI, 14 walks, .568 on-base percentage, 1.167 slugging percentage and 1.734 OPS. He’s also back on pace for 60 homers, 148 RBI and 141 walks over the full season.

For those who remain among the uninitiated, TOOTBLAN stands for: Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop. It’s a perfect description of terrible baserunning plays, and Escobar’s play in the top of the ninth Tuesday night was as terrible as they get.

With two out and a 3-2 count on Wilson Ramos in a tie game, Escobar inexplicably took off from second base before Cubs closer Hector Rondon had begun his delivery to the plate. Rondon calmly stepped off the rubber and threw to third, nailing Escobar by 10 feet and ending the inning in stunning fashion.

When something like that happens, you try to figure out what a player must have been thinking, what motivation he must have had to attempt such a bold maneuver. Except there was no logical explanation for it.

Escobar wasn’t quoted by reporters after the game. But really, what could he say that would satisfy anybody?

There quite simply was no reason to attempt to take third base at that moment. Even if Escobar made it, he would benefit only if Rondon then threw a wild pitch or possibly if Ramos hit a sharp single to the outfield that might’ve set up a play at the plate had Escobar still been on second base.

We’ll never know what might’ve happened had he just stayed put. But we do know what happened when he tried to advance for no valid reason.

The Nationals nearly turned a huge 4-6-3 double play in the bottom of the ninth, but Desmond’s throw sailed wide of first base and slipped past the railing and into the visitors’ dugout. Instead of being out at first base, Jonathan Herrera was now safe at second base, representing the winning run.

And wouldn’t you know what happened next. Addison Russell drove a flyball to deep right-center. Denard Span, who had to play in more than he would’ve had Herrera been on first base instead of second, couldn’t quite get there in time to make the catch, and Herrera scampered home with the game-winning run.

It was Desmond’s 13th error of the season. And like several that came before, it was costly. But this wasn’t as bad as some others.

This was an error of effort, with Desmond trying to turn a difficult double play. Maybe it wasn’t the wisest decision, but it wasn’t an egregious gaffe on his part. There was legitimate explanation for it, as opposed to Escobar’s baserunning mistake moments earlier.

That doesn’t make the error, or the final result of this game, any easier for the Nationals to swallow.

142 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Tim Harrison - May 27, 2015 at 6:17 AM

    No insight given on the gaffes. Disappointing. I watched the game. I know what happened. I could’ve written everything above.

    Mark, get CSN to fly you to the close away games.

    • lplipty - May 27, 2015 at 6:31 AM

      Mark? WTH…that error was horrific! Stop sugarcoating.

      • adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 8:24 AM

        I didn’t see it — was listening to the radio at the time. But C&D said that Ian had no chance at all to get the runner at first, in which case it was a worse gaffe than MZ described.

        Thoughts from those who saw it?

      • Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2015 at 10:33 AM

        Cubs announcers (I was listening on XM) also thought he had no chance to turn the DP and should have just held onto the ball.

    • natsfan1a - May 27, 2015 at 7:50 AM

      Me, before the coffee kicked in: “Dang it. They’re knotted up at Wrigley. Get on the plane, Zuckerman!”

      Me, after the coffee kicked in: “Oh, wait. Geographically close, probably. Never mind.”

  2. lplipty - May 27, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    I think escobar was trying to open up a hole for ramos

  3. nats1924 - May 27, 2015 at 6:38 AM

    How many games has Desi cost us? Maybe 5?

    I dont want to hear about his bat – With all of his K’s, whatever hes done offensively is a wash.

    Time to slide Yunel over to SS!

    • rabbit433 - May 27, 2015 at 8:14 AM


    • bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 8:59 AM

      He hasn’t cost us any games. If a game is close enough that a single error that advances a runner a single base costs you the game, then everyone shares the blame. Also, who are you measuring him against, some non-existent mythical shortstop who makes zero errors over the course of a season? That’s like saying Harper cost us the game because he hit into a double play in the 4th after Escobar’s leadoff walk ahead of our best RBI bats. But you wouldn’t say that, because even the best players ground into double plays every once in a while, right? Just like the best shortstops make errors every once in a while.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 10:40 AM

        bb, again, get real. The Nats as a team are 2nd worst in the NL for errors made with 36 in 46 games. Ian Desmond has had 13 of the team’s 36 errors. Of course his errors have played a major part in some of the losses, especially earlier in the season. Yes, he has played better over the past month, and no, he wasn’t the sole reason that the Nats lost last night, but yes, his error contributed highly as to why the outfield was positioned the way they were, which allowed the winning run to score. “Inconsistent” is a pretty fair adjective regarding Desi as a player. When he’s good, he’s pretty good, but when he’s bad, he’s pretty bad.

      • bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 10:56 AM

        Errors are a terrible, terrible way to measure defensive contributions. You know who has made the fewest errors in baseball? The Marlins. Second place? The Diamondbacks. How’s it working out for them?

        It’s true that Desmond has made some bad errors in some bad spots, more than usual. But to say that he’s cost us 5 games? And that the best shortstop in baseball over the last three seasons should be benched because of it? Come on. You think I’m the one who needs to “get real”?

      • Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 12:17 PM

        And when did I say that he cost us 5 games? Or that he should be benched? Ever? I will tell you that as long as the brass of Rizzo and Williams puts him out there i will root for him. That said? I think he screwed up by not taking the dough that was offered to him last year, but regardless if he succeeds elsewhere,or not, there are good odds that the future of the team’s M.I. will be bright without him.

      • bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 1:04 PM

        You didn’t say he’d cost us 5 games or should be benched, Seamhead. nats1924 said that, and that’s who my reply was directed at.

  4. laddieblahblah - May 27, 2015 at 6:46 AM

    “The Nationals nearly turned a huge 4-6-3 double play in the bottom of the ninth…”

    What!? Desmond had no chance to turn that double play. If anything, his “birdbrain” decision to try and turn it, anyway, was much worse than Escobar’s “birdbrain” decision to get himself picked off 2nd base in the top of the inning. It put the winning run on 2nd and forced the Nats to bring their outfield in to try and stop the guy from 2nd scoring on a single to the OF. Otherwise, the OF would have been in a no-doubles defense and Russell’s winning hit would have been a routine fly out to end the bottom of the 9th.

    If the sabremetric guys had a “losses above replacement” metric, Desmond would lead the majors.

    Everybody, it seems, feels the need to sugar coat the most egregiously stupid gaffes by Ian Desmond. I don’t get it. Desmond’s main problem is that he is dumb.

    • lplipty - May 27, 2015 at 6:49 AM

      +10, how about Desmond and prospect(s) for Chapman⁉️

      • jfmii - May 27, 2015 at 8:26 AM

        Oh, yes, great idea!!!! The Nationals’ closer is just stinking up the joint.

    • lphboston - May 27, 2015 at 7:35 AM

      Agree with everything you say.
      If Desmond eats the ball at second the outfield plays deep and it takes two hits to win it. Cannot wait for Rendon to get back to Desmond can move down to 7th in the batting order. He’s a selfish offensive player who refuses to shorten his swing to advance runners.

      • therealjohnc - May 27, 2015 at 8:39 AM

        For the umpteenth time, just trying to do something doesn’t mean it can be done. Desmond tried to shorten his swing his first 2-3 seasons in the majors. The results were awful (as in, same batting average/OBP, but now with less power!).

        Have you ever considered the possibility that Desmond isn’t selfish, he just doesn’t have the physical skill set/ability to do what you want him to do? His record at least strongly suggests that that is the case.

    • jfmii - May 27, 2015 at 8:25 AM

      This blog is getting ugly. Where do you get off calling someone dumb?

      • dclivejazz - May 27, 2015 at 1:58 PM

        Desmond is not dumb. He’s just excitable. He is also one of the highest character players in baseball, not just on the Nats, with all his work in the community and as a quiet leader for his team. Far from dumb, in fact.

  5. NatsNut - May 27, 2015 at 6:46 AM

    I’ve hesitated to say anything here because I love both Chase and Zuckerman to death, but my one complaint about Chase’s writing is the tendency to just relay back the game’s plays that we already saw or heard ourselves. I’m sure it just takes time, but Zuckerman, you have a real gift of teasing out narratives and interesting tidbits. I really appreciate your writing.

  6. natsfan1a - May 27, 2015 at 7:00 AM

    After watching last night, I was thinking maybe it was Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nook-Logan-Impersonator. Yuck, that one did not end well. Le sigh.

    “For those who remain among the uninitiated, TOOTBLAN stands for: Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop.”

    • ArVAFan - May 27, 2015 at 7:57 AM

      +1 on the Nook-Logan-Impersonator

    • TimDz - May 27, 2015 at 8:23 AM

      That would be a TOOLBLANI….which I think is a some sort of New Orleans pastry….

  7. alexva6 - May 27, 2015 at 7:00 AM

    “This was an error of effort” – NOT

    sorry, you have to know when to eat the ball. that was another is a series of mental lapses by Desmond.

    we have been hearing for years that he is a team leader but evidently the pressure of playing for his next contract is taking it’s toll on his play. trying to do too much in the field and at the plate will be his downfall.

    I see no reason to expect this to change, other than the unexpected

    • adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 8:26 AM

      That’s his secret (and the Inquisition, or something)

      expect the unexpected…!

  8. Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 7:14 AM

    Desi didn’t have a chance in hell of turning a double play in the 9th. I can’t see how it could be said that they nearly turned one. And Yunel also got picked off 1st by the catcher earlier in the game with Bryce up. Dumb, DUMB,, and DUMBER between the two of them. Barrett’s slider to Bryant was a pitch that just hung there. For this fan, this is the most frustrating type of mid-season loss, but I have every confidence in the world that Max Scherzer will make me forget all about it later today.

  9. pchuck69 - May 27, 2015 at 7:15 AM

    No Mark.

    Storen was likely unavailable so the bullpen was already hobbled. Grace is out there pitching to righty after righty which he isn’t good at. You absolutely can not do what Desmond did. That’s the absolute worst time to “take a chance” as he put it. Then what happened after, just sealed it.

    Escobar’s was the far more “forgivable” sin (and it wasn’t forgivable, at all!) In order for him to score, Ramos was going to have to get a hit and that wasn’t especially likely.

    And let’s not let Aaron Barrett off the hook. He pitched to one batter and gave up a tape measured homerun. While he’s been better lately (before last night), I still remember his playoff meltdown. Last night made miss Clippard even more than I already had.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 7:28 AM

      pchuck69, agreed on Storen was unavailable. Disagree on why you didn’t think Ramos would get a hit as he was in a 3-2 count and worked the count and saw a lot of pitches. And agree on Barrett, look where that pitch was:

      • therealjohnc - May 27, 2015 at 7:47 AM

        Barrett hung that pitch to Bryant, absolutely. But in my mind that at bat was a battle, with Bryant fouling off some tough pitches and taking close ones. Sometimes you have to (or at least really should) give credit to the other player. Sooner or later every pitcher hangs one. The mission for the batter is that, when you get that one mistake, don’t miss it. Bryant didn’t.

        Desmond’s error was bad, but it was his 3rd in a month. For a SS that’s fine. Escobar’s TOOTBLAFN was much worse. As someone else noted it was a Nook Logan moment.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:02 AM

        “Sooner or later every pitcher hangs one.”

        Some pitchers go 100’s of pitches without hanging one like that.

        The good pitchers are more careful pitching to a batter who can change a game with 1 swing like Bryant. That was a ROOGY spot for Barrett. That was his only batter as Thornton was coming in for Rizzo. Sorry, I stuck up in the last thread overall for Barrett who has been great in many situations but failed miserably there. No excuses.

      • therealjohnc - May 27, 2015 at 8:42 AM

        How is “Barrett hung that pitch to Bryan, absolutely” making excuses? He battled, he got beat. It happens.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        Your “Sooner or later every pitcher hangs one” is the excuse.

        He was in there for 1 batter. Hangs the 8th pitch he threw. 8 pitches, not 108.

        Again, I was sticking up for Barrett in the last thread naming all the batters who have never gotten on base against him and the list is impressive because some poster was calling him garbage. I thought I needed to show Barrett wasn’t garbage all the time.

        In this instance, he had Bryant in swing mode and had to throw a quality pitch and he didn’t.

        Simple, end of story. It was a fail. Horrible pitch.

      • pchuck69 - May 27, 2015 at 9:03 AM


        Perhaps you don’t get beat if the pitch isn’t that bad. That Barrett pitch was exceptionally bad.

      • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 9:16 AM

        Dont you just hate when someone tries to spin there own garbage. It was a lousy pitch. He had him 0-2. I liked the 3rd pitch if it was closer to a strike. Pitch 4 and pitch 6 werent good. Pitch #7 should have been HR! What does Barrett do, he threw a fatter one on Pitch #8. Not smart.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 9:25 AM

        I say that all the time. Same stuff a beat writer at another paper has been doing the last 2 days. Best to just own it. You are correct on Barrett had Bryant 0-2 and then made a series of poor pitches and pitch #7 was certainly a HR candidate.

      • jd - May 27, 2015 at 9:54 AM

        nats128 and Ghost,

        No one denies it was a lousy pitch. I think you guys are harder on Barrett than you are on some other pitchers. JZimm threw a pitch (I think it was to Junior Lake) which was a complete batting practice pitch but had the good fortune of having the hitter miss the pitch. When Barrett got ahead of Bryant he threw him some tough 96 mph fastballs which Bryant didn’t chase, Bryant also fouled off a good fastball and a low slider.

        Treinen was horrible for long stretches at one point giving up runs in 6 of 7 appearences yet we always seemed to blame BABIP or bad luck.

        Everyone has favorites and when ones predictions aren’t quite bang on we tend to spin the story to justify our predictions. I think both Barrett and Treinen have excellent futures ahead of them, they just don’t have the experience to get through every situation. It’s not easy.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 10:03 AM

        “exposremains – May 26, 2015 at 9:29 PM
        Still don’t understand why Barett has been anointed the primary setup guy. He can’t put good hitters away.

        Ghost of Steve M. – May 26, 2015 at 9:37 PM
        Really? Goldschmidt. Mike Trout. Adam Jones. Marlon Byrd. Michael Cuddyer. Ozuna, Marte. Posey. Uribe. Cruz. Gattis. Kemp. David Wright.

        None of them have ever gotten on base against him.”

        I guess sticking up for Barrett last night wasn’t good enough. Barrett had been pitching well and sometimes they fail. He failed last night.

      • therealjohnc - May 27, 2015 at 10:04 AM

        Those pitches happen, yes, to all pitchers. And more often than one of every 100’s of pitches (with the possible exception of someone like Pedro Martinez when he was at the top of his game – which I would suggest is an unrealistic standard to hold any pitcher to). How many times watching a game do you see a slider just tumble in or a curve just hang up there … and the batter takes it? Or a hitter looks at a fastball right down the middle and you think to yourself “I don’t know what he was looking for, but that clearly wasn’t it!” We really notice when one of the Nats’ batters do it, because it drives us crazy. We notice much more rarely when one of the Nats’ pitchers gets away with one. But both happen multiple times in pretty much every game.

        One of the things that make Harper’s recent run, and Bonds when he was dominating all of baseball for a couple of seasons, so remarkable is/was that when they only got one pitch in an at bat, they usually smacked it. That’s very rare. And even in this run Harper has missed some hitter’s pitches. You can always tell with Bryce, because he wears frustration on his sleeve. We’ve all seen him get a pitch to hit, foul it straight back or just miss it, and react.

        This in no way excuses Barrett for hanging the slider to Bryant – throw too many of those pitches and you find yourself back in AAA, or take too many as a batter you do the same. But I am much more inclined to forgive that sort of mistake than Escobar’s weird baserunning gaffe. Heck, if you recall even after Escobar stole second in the inning (on Zimmerman’s strike out – which by the way was a heinously awful call, to the point where I would have been annoyed with Zim if he had swung at the pitch and missed), Yunel nearly got himself out by absent mindedly wandering off of the base. He had to dive back or the SS would have tagged him out well after the play was over.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 10:06 AM

        OK, good, move on.

      • adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 11:18 AM

        FWIW, that was Barrett’s first blown save or loss of the year.

      • exposremains - May 27, 2015 at 12:24 PM

        Ghost you always quote yourself trying to prove you called something years ago with great accuracy and now you quote me and it doesn’t say at all that I called Barett garbage. I said: what exactly made him the anointed setup guy. I didn’t say he was garbage, I didn’t say he should not be on the team, Im just not convinced he should no2 reliever on the team. By the way, saying some poster while you know that I wrote it is quite condescending. we all have our opinions and mine is that I don’t trust Barrett right now in the 8th inning.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 12:31 PM

        He was a ROOGY. That’s all. Thornton was coming in for Rizzo and the rest of the inning.

      • exposremains - May 27, 2015 at 12:28 PM

        Very true JD..we are all guilty of that and journalist are very good at that.

  10. Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    Off topic, but on a positive note, the PTBNL, Trea Turner, continues to rock. He went 2-4 last night to raise his BA to .344 and his OBP to .422. Of his 54 hits, 17 have been for extra bases.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 7:31 AM

      Nice! 16 more days I believe until the PTBNL gets named.

      • TimDz - May 27, 2015 at 8:25 AM

        June 13th, I believe…..

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:29 AM

        Yes, that’s correct. I’m hoping he gets the day off on June 12th to travel to meet up with Harrisburg. Nats are on the road then so they won’t be bringing him to Washington to introduce him.

  11. Theophilus T.S. - May 27, 2015 at 7:30 AM

    Escobar has shown, all season long, ineptitude on the bases. I’m perfectly happy with his other contributions but somebody in authority needs to tell him he’s a station-to-station player, period. It seems to be the only sure way to cut off his TOOTBLANS.

    If you watch (as I do) the police procedural shows (Castle, Blue Bloods, Bones, etc.) every one of them has an episode where ordinary citizens pretend they’re superheros and and get in the way. That is Desmond. He thinks he’s Joe Hardy.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 7:34 AM

      Esco and MAT are competing for the TOOTBLAN crown.

      • Hiram Hover - May 27, 2015 at 8:49 AM

        And in this case, TOOTBLAN and sabremetrics agree:

        Per fangraphs baserunning stat, Esco is 2d worst on the team, and MAT worst.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:53 AM

        Ugh, that’s what I thought.

  12. thewerthwhisperer - May 27, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    Joe Hardy? from Damn Yankees?
    I played him in high school!
    BTW, Joe Hardy made all the right moves, unlike Desmond’s decision last night.

    • natsfan1a - May 27, 2015 at 7:49 AM

      Eh, I’m not so sure about his signing with Mr. Applegate. 😉

  13. rayvil01 - May 27, 2015 at 7:55 AM

    Do you think Billy Beane is kicking himself for that Addison Russell trade? Trading away a platinum prospect for two pitchers who are now both gone…not good.

    Cubs infield is scary good.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:09 AM

      Billy Beane loses no sleep. He’s not the GM of the Dodgers or Yankees with a gigantic budget. He thought he needed to rent pitching last year. I give more credit to Theo Epstein who pushed for the right players.

      • rayvil01 - May 27, 2015 at 8:19 AM

        Epstein is very sharp. He is assembling quite a good team. Infield is terrific. Outfield isn’t there yet.

        I fully expect to see JZ in a Cubs uni next year. With more pitching they’ll give the Cardinals fits.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:21 AM

        Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

    • Hiram Hover - May 27, 2015 at 8:49 AM

      Beane makes lots of trades, and overall, he does well. But not every single trade works out, and he knows that well enough not to lose sleep over it. I think Rizzo is the same.

    • dcwx61 - May 27, 2015 at 9:01 AM

      and there’s more to come if Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber (C) make it.

  14. natsjackinfl - May 27, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Nothing gets my blood boiling more than total ineptitude by professional baseball players, especially veterans that continually display the same ineptitude over and over.

    Yunel Escobar is a maniac on the bases and Desmond is, well, he’s as inconsistent as any player in baseball.

    And inconsistent ineptitude is the worst. Whether it’s screwing himself into the ground when a meager inside out grounder gets a run home or rifling the ball into the dugout on a hopeless effort to turn an impossible double play, Desmond epitomizes inconsistency.

    Trea Turner can’t get here fast enough.

  15. natsdial8 - May 27, 2015 at 8:08 AM

    Pretty even game break wise -Cubs young superstar came up big gotta give credit . Cubs had their own baserunning gaffe with the aborted delayed steal runner out at home early in game- or whatever that play was it had Maddon talking to himself 🙂

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:23 AM

      Bryant walked the count well but let’s face it, all 9 batters and the pitcher hit that ball out of the park.

  16. Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    Another play that kind of went unmentioned was a once again Espinosa wild throw to home. His throw home was about 125 feet in standard distance near the 2nd base bag and he threw it inches from disaster as it was probably 9 feet off the ground when Ramos caught it. I don’t think he has made a throw home all season that has been a strike.

    I agree with many who thought that was a designed play by the Cubs as they probably scouted that play and thought they had a chance. Almost did.

    • rayvil01 - May 27, 2015 at 8:22 AM

      At least he didn’t bounce it!

      JZ reacted perfectly. That was the key to the play.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:26 AM

        Right, every other throw and I mean every has been bounced and a couple to the backhand and we are talking 127 feet from 2nd base to home so that throw was around 125 feet and he had time and exposed his catcher. It was just another poor throw. Why is this such a problem?

    • adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 8:31 AM

      Ramos gets a lot of grief for his handling of throws. He gets deserved kudos on that one. As you described, Ghost, he had to reach high to his left to grab the throw, and then immediately reach well to his right to tag that runner.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 8:37 AM

        Worse than that he was exposed and that is the type of play where you injure an oblique.

        The distance from 3rd base to 1st base where Espi was making strike throws when he was playing 3rd is of course the same distance as 2nd base to home which is 127 feet.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 9:04 AM

        As i?I said last night, if there was a stat for defensive saves in baseball Wilson earned one on that play. If he hadn’t done what he did then Espinosa gets an “E” on the play and a run scores.

      • kgwcoach - May 27, 2015 at 9:28 AM

        Ghost. Espi was running the runner back to first and didn’t get his body squared up to make the throw home. That’s not An every day throw. I can’t rember him ever having to do in a game before. So I would give Espi a pass this time.

      • natsdial8 - May 27, 2015 at 9:40 AM

        If Espi had squared and thrown accurately the runner was out easily. He didn’t need to rush and make a difficult throw . Guys at his level should feel that . Yes very nice “save ”
        by Buffalo.

      • masterfishkeeper - May 27, 2015 at 11:26 AM

        I thought Desmond threw that one.

  17. TimDz - May 27, 2015 at 8:29 AM

    Gaffes aside, the HP Ump’s strike zone was HORRID….
    That called strike on Zimmerman really messed things up…Instead of First and Second with one out, it was first base with two outs….
    I watched the ESPN feed last night and the Cub Bias was a bit much….

    • Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 9:07 AM

      Wait. Didn’t Escobar steal 2nd on that called 3rd strike on Ryan? It still was a crappy called 3rd strike.

      • Eric - May 27, 2015 at 9:22 AM

        Yes re Esco SB

      • TimDz - May 27, 2015 at 9:57 AM

        Yes…I stsnd corrected…..1st and 2nd w/one out versus 2nd w/two outs….

        The strike 3 call was still BS….

  18. chaz11963 - May 27, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    The Nats simply didn’t play as well as the Cubs last night. You can’t take anything away from Kyle Kendricks; he really looked great. Russell also had a great game; he hit the walk-off double, but I think the play of the game may have been his diving stop robbing Zim of a base hit and RBI.

    • adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 8:53 AM

      Another great play: SS Castro’s diving stop of a Span single, which would have scored the runner had it gone through.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 9:08 AM

        Agree with both of you on both plays. That infield is impressive, to say the least.

  19. adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 8:38 AM

    Off topic, but it’s fun to post positive stuff

    From Ken Rosenthal a week ago (apologies if somebody already mentioned this):

    Multiple scouts are raving about Nationals Class-A right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who throws in the high 90s with a power curveball, above-average changeup and outstanding command.

    One scout compared the 6-foot, 185-pound Lopez to Yordano Ventura, adding, “If you really had guts, you’d drop a Pedro Martinez (comparison) on him.” The Nats believe that Lopez, because of his fastball command, could progress quickly.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 27, 2015 at 9:04 AM

      Great share!

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 27, 2015 at 9:05 AM

      I’m ready for some fresh pitchers in the rotation.

      • adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 9:20 AM

        Are we getting spoiled? 😉

        Nats team ERA is 5th in NL.

        But, in any event, JZ is probably leaving, and perhaps Fister, so there will be slots open for a Roark, or Lopez if he continues his progress . . .

  20. Toot D. Blan - May 27, 2015 at 8:57 AM

    “And when you throw out his disastrous start at Fenway Park way back on April 13, you realize he’s been even better (4-1, 2.31 ERA).”

    And when you throw out that whole iceberg thing, the Titanic was a lovely cruise.

    “With two out and a 3-2 count on Wilson Ramos in a tie game, Escobar inexplicably took off from second base before Cubs closer Hector Rondon had begun his delivery to the plate. Rondon calmly stepped off the rubber and threw to third, nailing Escobar by 10 feet and ending the inning in stunning fashion.

    When something like that happens, you try to figure out what a player must have been thinking, what motivation he must have had to attempt such a bold maneuver.”

    If you saw the replay on MASN, it appeared that Escobar froze in his tracks for a split second as Rondon turned around, then broke for third. Which would indicate that he took too big a lead off second and got picked off, rather than that he was trying to steal third. Similar to what happened on first base earlier when he was picked off there.

    • dclivejazz - May 27, 2015 at 2:07 PM

      I agree that Escobar took too long a lead and got caught off 2nd, then broke for 3rd out of desperation.

      It’s still a baserunning gaffe, and really doesn’t make much of a difference, but I’m surprised the sports writers aren’t breaking it down this way. Instead, several have made comments that they found Escobar’s steal attempt inexplicable.

  21. bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    This thread is embarrassing.

    You all seem to want a roster of 14 Willie Mays, 5 Greg Madduxes and 6 Mariano Riveras. That’s not how baseball works- and even if it did, guess what? Those guys made mistakes and had bad games too.

    The team had won 6 in a row and 20 of 25 before that. They lost a one-run game on the road to a contender when they made a few mistakes- the sort of mistakes every team in baseball history makes many times over the course of a season.

    If your response to that is to throw a fit, call the players names, and/or demand that they be benched, maybe you should find another sport. Because I have some bad news for you: the Nats are going to lose another close game on a late mistake or two again this season. Probably a few more. Just like every other team in baseball.

    • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 9:20 AM

      I just jumped on and this is what happens when this many mistakes are made. Should posters not mention what happened? May be make this page empty.

      TOOTBLANS (2 by Esco), error by Desi, and a poor 1 batter performance from Aaron Barrett.

      Wasted a great start by JZ. What can you say.

      • bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 9:53 AM

        I have no problem with talking about mistakes and being critical of a player for making them. However, jumping from that to broader and obviously mistaken conclusions about the player/team is silly and juvenile and deserves to be called out.

    • Bruxtun - May 27, 2015 at 9:28 AM

      People are going to vent after a frustrating loss like that. Especially when it’s described as a “playoff atmosphere”. You can’t make those mistakes in a game like that. No one should be calling the players dumb, but those were some really dumb maneuvers Desmond and Escobar pulled.

      • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 9:32 AM

        MW was again managing like a chess game. Unfortunately the players didnt respond the same.

      • bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 9:38 AM

        You can’t make mistakes in a close game against a quality opponent? That’s weird, because every team in the history of baseball did it a bunch of times at one point or another. Go ahead, pick one.

    • Bruxtun - May 27, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      Crikey, you’re defensive. I just meant it in the “you can’t crack first in a game like that or you’ll lose”. That’s credit to how hard fought the game was on both sides. Not saying anything more than that. It’s a frustrating loss, that’s it. Get over yourself.

    • Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      So we aren’t allowed to give a critical analysis? Get real, this is a baseball blog for Nats fans to share their thoughts and opinions. This isn’t exactly the Legion of Doom piping in here this morning.There were some dumb plays made by some good players and people gave their opinions about it. And yes, you have had some critical posts over your years on here, too, and though you are mostly positive, I don’t get your post today.

      • bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        Like I said- criticize the play all you want. And criticize the players and the team if they haven’t played well. I have no problem with either. If you went back to late April you’d probably find some posts from me that do that with various players or even the team.

        But criticizing the players and the team after they’ve been the best team in baseball for a month because they lost a close road game to a quality opponent? Sorry, I just don’t get that. Escobar has been playing great, mostly mistake-free ball during this impressive surge. Same goes for Desmond. And Barrett. To say otherwise is just flat out wrong.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 10:09 AM

        And I think that in this game it wasn’t so much as the Cubs won the game as it was that the Nats lost the game, and I mean that exactly, in that they beat themselves with some dumb plays.

      • bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 10:32 AM

        I agree, Seamhead. I’m differentiating between those who are criticizing the play last night and those who are criticizing players who have been playing excellent for most of the season or demanding error and TOOTBLAN-free perfection. I thought I’d made that distinction clear, but perhaps not?

      • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 11:49 AM

        Nobody is calling for Esco’s head to be chopped off or anything crazy. I think the analysis and even some of the questioning of Mark’s opinion on the Desi play is fine.

        This team is playing well and collectively they were 1 for 6 with RISP and didnt make some key plays.

        I think the criticism of Aaron Barrett’s pitch selection when he was pumping and ahead 0-2 is the big head pounder. He had Bryant in swing mode 0-2 to bite on a close pitch and he didn’t get it close to the zone and it never looked like a strike out of his hand. On 1-2 he goes inside and lower which evened the count at 2-2 and the pressure then shifted to Barrett and this is the spot he puts himself in to often.

        After I re-read all the posts from last night, someone questioned that Barrett never gets the good hitters out which of course is false and what makes the great relievers great is they dont let a batter off the hook when they have them 0-2 or 1-2. You cant afford to go 2-2 and thats what Barrett did.

        Over and done with. Nats need to win today and get a well deserved day off tomorrow.

    • pchuck69 - May 27, 2015 at 12:14 PM

      You don’t have to be Willie Mays to not throw the ball that Desmond did in the 9th. You can be a replacement level player and know you should eat the ball in that situation.

    • scmargenau - May 27, 2015 at 3:57 PM

      Ok everyone …simmer down!! 😎

  22. Drew - May 27, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    Somebody needs to print T-shirts:


  23. cosmova - May 27, 2015 at 9:47 AM

    Don’t forget Escobar got picked off of first with Harper up in the first inning, plus he stepped off of second and almost got tagged out after a successful steal. He definitely had a bad night on the bases.

  24. homeparkdc - May 27, 2015 at 9:47 AM

    Something of interest to take our minds off last night’s game.

    “Rays manager Kevin Cash was not a happy camper after last night’s game. Particularly, after a call that led to a replay review…It’s easy to understand Cash’s frustration. Maybe even more so on the second play than the first. But it’ll also likely be the case that Major League Baseball will fine Cash for his postgame comments. Because, while umpires don’t have much apparent accountability for their actions, managers do.”

  25. Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    Win today, take the series, and all is forgiven.

    • rayvil01 - May 27, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      After seeing this Cubs team, I’ll take 2 out of 3 anytime and gladly move on.

      Just an aspect of fandom that’s probably worthy of a psych thesis: The blowout game like Saturday’s you just shrug your shoulders. The trollers will chirp. But, the real fans just shrug it off. The tough one-run jobs bring out the yakking. These games hurt. The blowouts? Not so much. But, they both count the same in the standings.

      • Steady Eddie - May 27, 2015 at 10:58 AM

        That’s not only or maybe even primarily an aspect of fandom — it’s more intense with the players. A close loss is harder for them too to take, because it’s reasonable to feel that the game was there for the winning. Then they go back and dissect all the things that narrowly made the difference just like we did here.

        The blowouts are much easier to put behind because the game was not really plausibly there for the winning. Their pitcher has historically (including against the Nats) and recently been very good, and ours was lousy after the second inning. Nothing much to think about (apart from the larger questions about Stras which aren’t specific to this game), just move on.

      • Steady Eddie - May 27, 2015 at 11:18 AM

        Blowout comment was mostly about Saturday’s Phillies debacle but really applies generally to most blowouts.

  26. tcostant - May 27, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    The Philly GM just can’t keep his month shut:

    • natsfan1a - May 27, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      I saw that, too. There was no love for him among the phaithphul to begin with, and then he starts a [fire]storm with those comments. Made me think of the time that Rollins called then phrontrunners. Good times.

      • natsfan1a - May 27, 2015 at 10:55 AM

        called “them”

  27. coop202 - May 27, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    Desi has a positive WAR this year after posting a 4+ WAR the last three years. Lagging doesn’t necessarily predict the future of course, but the memory of Espinosa’s several years of starting and forgetting desi’s history seems silly, and relying on rendon to stay healthy this season… Grow up folks, cano or Tulo aren’t walking through the door..

  28. tcostant - May 27, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    I was surprised to see how bas Myers is doing for the Twins. Getting Span for Myers, might go down at the Nationals best trade. “Meyer, ranked as the No. 28 overall prospect by, was struggling as a starter, posting a 7.09 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 24 walks in 39 1/3 innings. His walk rate of 5.5 batters per nine innings is a career worst. “As much as anything, we just want to get him some confidence,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “He’s in a rut where he’ll pitch well for an inning or two and then struggles. So we’re just trying to get him back on track. I think right now, as much as anything, it’s a confidence issue.” Antony, though, said the move wasn’t permanent, as the Twins are just trying to get Meyer going again. With his 6-foot-9 frame, he has trouble repeating his delivery and the Twins felt a move to relief would help him focus on his mechanics in shorter stints.”

    • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 11:13 AM

      I remeber when he was drafted someone said he saw him as a future bullpen arm that he was poor on locating pitches.

  29. micksback1 - May 27, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    “This was an error of effort, with Desmond trying to turn a difficult double play. Maybe it wasn’t the wisest decision, but it wasn’t an egregious gaffe on his part”

    I agree with mark 99% of the time. However, on this, he is dead wrong on desi

    Desi’s error for a veteran player was terrible period. Span clearly had to play shallow due to the runner at 2nd. If not, the game goes to the 10th because Span can make a play on the ball having not to worry about the man on 1st.

    Escobar, who has played great so far simply was a knucklehead and I hope MW laid into his ass Billy Martin style, he deserves it.

    I agree with Ray Knight, about 5 games a season will be lost due to stupidity, thank you Desi and Escobar, this was on both of you

    • scnatsfan - May 27, 2015 at 12:30 PM

      as long as one of those 5 games isn’t during the playoffs I’m ok with that

      • rlndtln - May 27, 2015 at 12:38 PM

        The real question with Escobar is where was he going in both instances.With Harp up and 2 outs and he on first,just get a small lead and wait for Harp to hit it out.The second one is really puzzling.He has a clear view of the pitcher and needed to extended his lead as the pitcher released the ball.Players for these kind of mistakes should be fined.Desi situation is much different.He was trying to make a play.

      • micksback1 - May 27, 2015 at 1:03 PM

        there you go, lol!!

      • micksback1 - May 27, 2015 at 1:05 PM

        also, I agree 100% with rlndtln

        I notice MW was not asked about Escobar, I assume the team handles this internally. I hope Escobar a least admits he had a tough night mentally.

        I assume maybe he felt that the pitcher was sleeping and that he could get to third?

  30. Eugene in Oregon - May 27, 2015 at 12:45 PM

    “You all seem to want a roster of 14 Willie Mays, 5 Greg Madduxes and 6 Mariano Riveras.”

    And if you played that team against yesterday’s Cubs, the Cubs would still probably win 1 out of 3 or 4.

    • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 12:49 PM

      I dont know, I like the standard 7 Rivera bullpen and 13 Willie Mays configuration.

      • adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 1:00 PM

        Ehh . . . I’m not no sure Mays had good off-speed stuff.

      • bowdenball - May 27, 2015 at 1:05 PM

        I feel like the Madduxes would go deep enough on a regular basis that you could get away with the 6 Rivera bullpen, thus allowing you to carry an extra Mays.

      • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 1:41 PM


    • adcwonk - May 27, 2015 at 1:04 PM

      Maddux lost 39% of his decisions — 227 games. Are we sure he’s good enough for our team? 😉

      • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 1:42 PM

        +1 plus the strike zone is narrower now 😉

  31. #4 - May 27, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    Desi deserves most of the blame for a bad decision. However, I do not understand why Ramos is not also being criticized. Have we gotten to the point that MLB catchers “to save their legs” are not required to back up bases? It should be no differemt than the ripping that Starsburg got last week. If Ramos is in the right spot, he might even throw the runner out making a try for second. It’s another of the little things they don’t do.

    • micksback1 - May 27, 2015 at 1:06 PM

      I can hear Coach Buddy now


    • Toot D. Blan - May 27, 2015 at 1:15 PM

      Ramos is the slowest baserunner on the team. Who’s to say he wasn’t trying to back up that play? Being a slow runner and having to take off from the squat would have put him way behind the batter-runner in reaching first base. And even if he had made it down the line quicker, short of catching Desi’s errant throw on the fly what could Ramos have done by backing up the play? The throw went straight into the tunnel and never caromed back into play.

      • #4 - May 27, 2015 at 1:59 PM

        I replayed the play several times on my DVR. He never moved from behind the plate. I caught my whole playing career and was not fleet of foot. Most catchers aren’t. That’s no excuse. He should have been back there. If the ball doesn’t carom to him, so be it. Play the game the right way though, and good things happen.

        And yes Mick, Buddy would have lit him up like a Christmas tree if he had been playing for #8.

      • Toot D. Blan - May 27, 2015 at 4:44 PM

        Shouldn’t it be the pitcher’s responsibility to back up first base on a double play ball? He is (a) much closer to the play than the catcher is, (b) already on his feet, not in the squat like the catcher is, (c) not wearing a mask that needs to be shed or encumbered by the tools of ignorance, and (d) although it was not a factor in this play, has no base to get back to and cover in the event that runners advance on the play. In the face of all that, what are the possible reasons this might be the catcher’s responsibility?

      • Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 5:01 PM

        In a word, Toot… No. It is part of the catcher’s job.

      • Toot D. Blan - May 27, 2015 at 6:30 PM

        Why the catcher and not the pitcher? “Just because it is” is not a very good answer. And even though it may be the catcher’s job in amateur baseball, that doesn’t mean it is in the pro game.

  32. unkyd59 - May 27, 2015 at 1:03 PM

    The vid for the Desmond error isn’t on AtBat…. Can anyone link to it? (No..I don’t know why I would want to see it… But I do,lol)

  33. David Proctor - May 27, 2015 at 1:27 PM

    You can live with a lot of Desmond’s mistakes if he’s a good offensive player. When he’s hitting 25 homers and stealing 20 bases, you can live with some errors and strikeouts. But we’re almost to June and he has 4 homers and 1 stolen base. His OBP is under .300. He hasn’t just committed errors, he’s committed 13 of them. He has 14 RBI, and that’s not because of a lack of opportunity. There’s no doubt he’s been one of the elite shortstops in the league the past several years, but I’m concerned.

    I’m also a little bit concerned about Ryan Zimmerman, who is quietly hitting .233 with a .292 OBP. Harper is going to cool down eventually and unless these other guys pick it up, the offense will turn ugly.

    • nats128 - May 27, 2015 at 1:44 PM

      Rendon will help prop up the offense and RZ gets timely hits. His OBP doesnt reflect that.

  34. Joe Seamhead - May 27, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    On a lighter side, Miggy Cabrera made a pretty good attempt at trying to catch Billy Burns with the old hidden ball trick last night, but Burns didn’t bite:

  35. scmargenau - May 27, 2015 at 3:37 PM

    I just realized something. Last night I expected us to win. Expected it. That’s a new culture. I think every team member expected to win and we were all shocked when we lost due to errors. Last year, I didn’t feel this way.

    • jfmii - May 27, 2015 at 5:17 PM

      That is what happens when you win 20 out of 25. Law of averages says this team, though definitely a playoff team, will go through more difficult times. Many who write here will want half the team traded when, not if, that happens.

      • scmargenau - May 27, 2015 at 5:31 PM

        Agee. I just want Stras out. The rest will come around.

        No sour pusses in our new winning culture plz. If you pout you are out!





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