Thursday, August 04, 2005

So Dumb, He's Brilliant

Last night's game followed the same outdated gameplan that put this team into a tailspin: inability to drive runners home, especially from third; piss-poor baserunning; and cramp-inducing manager decisions.

Yet they won.

They won because they ad-libbed from the script. Preston Wilson hit a bomb to dead center -- one of only two or three balls to make it out there -- and Nick Johnson added some insurance runs to 'blow' the game open.

Nats Win! Nats Win! Bang AND Zoom.

And they won because Frank Robinson's stupidity worked. Don't ask me how.

Tony Armas looked gassed on the mound, almost from pitch one. After he gutted out five innings, he was due to lead off in the bottom of the inning.

Frank inexplicably sent up Luis Ayala to pinch hit. He had four left-handed bats on the bench: Schneider, Church, Cepicky and Baerga. Was he saving them for extras?

I couldn't explain it then. I can't explain it now.

And I certainly can't explain how Ayala and Frank made us head-scratchers look bad when he hit a hard single to center.

I most definitely can't explain it when Frank sent Ayala back up to the plate two innings later. Well, at least that one was in a sacrifice situation. I can understand sending up Ayala there, I suppose.

Still, when was the last time you saw a relief pitcher, in a close game, get two plate appearances?

It really was so dumb, it was brilliant.

  • The Majority Whip was an easy selection. Luis Ayala pitched two dominant innings, pitching like he did before his arm turned green from abuse. He kept the Dodgers off the bases and held the line when most everyone in the park was envisioning a three-run loss. (Yes, I sit with the cynics)

  • One of Frank's decisions didn't work. In the fourth inning, after Jose Guillen singled, Nick Johnson came to the plate. DJ Houlton hadn't been especially sharp, but he was fairly effective.

    So what does Frank do? Yep. Hit-and-Run. On the first pitch.

    NJ lunged at an outside pitch, barely made contact and tapped weakly to third. The runner moved up, but NJ was forced to swing at a pitch he wouldn't swing at in any other circumstance.

    Stop the hit-and-running Frank!

  • Chad Cordero, as he usually does, made it interesting. But, as he also usually does, he got the job done.

  • Between innings, they sometimes do a 'Meet the Nats' thing, where they ask the players to pick between two different things. Last night's question involved Bowling of Golf.

    Enter Jamey Carroll.

    What do you think Captain Chaste would say?

    If you answered Mini Golf, you'd be right! There's something fitting about that.


    • While Armas did look fairly gassed, he actually left the game because of tightness in his right shoulder.

      By Blogger Basil, at 8/04/2005 9:26 AM  

    • First the first time, I'm seriously starting to think that Robinson is either in the early stages of senility, or he's tired of this gig and wants to get fired.

      I've been willing to cut him a lot of slack for his unusual moves in the past, but sending in a relief pitcher to pinch hit is just too much.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/04/2005 2:16 PM  

    • The best part of it is that the whole sequence was like a microcosm of the Nats' season.

      HUH? (April-May): Ayala to the plate.
      HEY! (June): Somehow, it worked.
      UGH! (July): Opportunity squandered (Wilkerson called on to bunt, Ayala forced at second).

      By Blogger Basil, at 8/04/2005 3:36 PM  

    • Ayala is a .250 career hitter, and I can understand not wanting to burn a position player that early. I also can understand not wanting to burn one to lay a sac bunt if the pitcher can do it himself.

      And I hardly call allowing one guy to get on first "making it interesting."

      By Blogger WeatherMike, at 8/04/2005 4:44 PM  

    • The really long fly ball sure sounded interesting.

      By Blogger Basil, at 8/04/2005 6:14 PM  

    • You had four (three if you don't count Schneider) lefty hitters available on the bench! (And he had Carroll too)

      There's NO reason to save those hitters. There aren't going to be that many PHing opportunities in the game!

      Luis Ayala has had exactly 13 ABs in his career. If he really IS a .250 hitter, which no pitcher can do regularly, then he should be playing outfield!

      Since he was already in the game, I didn't object to Ayala laying down the SAC (and even said so in the post)

      As far as Cordero, yes, it was interesting! It wasn't up to his loading the bases with one-out standard, but he nearly gave up a homer to a 21-year old catcher, and they had the tieing run at the plate with their second best power-hitter at the plate. That's pretty damn interesting, to me!

      (Were we watching the same game?)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/04/2005 9:07 PM  

    • When you consider that Frank usually pinch-hits Baerga (I know he's slow and you rag on him for it, but he's been good off the bench) for Guzman, and then sticks in Carroll, and there's Schneider you don't want to use because he's nursing an injury, and there will be perhaps one or two more times to hit for the pitcher, I can absolutely commiserate with Frank's decision.

      While he might not be a .250 hitter, and while that is a small sample, it does show that Ayala can sometimes come up with a hit with needed, and guess what, he did.

      I guess watching for this team for the past several years and Cordero's propensity to fill the bases has somewhat relaxed the anxiety for me in the late moments. A deep fly ball doesn't really seem like a big deal, especially considering that it's RFK, and especially considering the worst that could have happened is a tie.

      By Blogger WeatherMike, at 8/05/2005 1:17 AM  

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