Thursday, August 11, 2005

What Momentum?

What a frustrating game, one that's full of What Ifs. The Nationals didn't deserve to win the game the way they played it, but the Astros hardly earned it either, as the Nats continued to play sloppy baseball, carving away their small margin for error.

It was a tale of two pitchers (one with the ball; one with the bat). Livan Hernandez needed to come up big; he didn't. He went six innings, giving up seven runs (two of which were unearned because of his flub of a bunt hit right back to him), and ten hits. Over his last two starts, he's now given up 22 hits and nine earned runs. (That'd be a pretty good homestand for our batters.)

But with the bat, he was a beauty. He finished the night three for three with a homer, a double, and two runs driven in. He's also, for comparison's sake, batting 50 points higher than the less-than mediocrity that usually trots out to short.

All things considered (Does anyone else hear the God-awful NPR horn blaring when they hear that phrase?), Livan needed to do better and needed to show he was the team's ace. He didn't, but he does win a Lame Duck.

One more note on Livan... Early in the game, he wasn't pushing off at all. He would just lift his back leg and slowly bring it forward as if he were trying to protect his goods while stepping over a fence that was far too high. As the game went on, he seemed to get more comfortable, but by then, the Astros had already ripped him for four runs.

  • Livan gets the headlines, but this loss was as much on Frank Robinson as anyone. Were he eligible for the Lame Duck, he'd have earned it last night (and probably be lapping the field).

    There were three decisions during the game that were head scratchers.

    1) After the Astros took a 5-4 lead, the Nationals battled back and had Jose Vidro and Vinny Castilla on second and first respectively. Brad Wilkerson was at the plate.

    After working the count full, Frank decided to send the runners, on yet another hit and run.

    Think about that for a second.

    On the bases you have your two slowest non-pitcher baserunners, who both are battling injury. (Vidro has a sore quad, which makes him limp slightly, and Vinny's knee causes him to hobble around like a peg-legged pirate.)

    At the plate you have one of the team's most notorious strike-out machines -- One, who incidentally, isn't much of a threat to ground into a double-play. (He's hit into only six on the season)

    With that combo, you decrease the chances of a GIDP, but you markedly increase the chances for a strike out/throw out double play.

    It didn't happen, but when Wilkerson's fly ball went to the warning track in left (against the 240 foot homerun porch), Vinny was already past second base, and was doubled off first.

    It was bad baserunning by Vinny, to be sure, but Frank never should've put him in that position to begin with.

    Frank continuously puts his talent in a position to fail on the field. It's as if he doesn't consider the personnel on the field when he makes some of the decisions he does. "Hey, 3-2, we've gotta send the runners." No, you don't.

    2) In the decisive sixth inning, the Astros had runners at second and third with Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg due up.

    Frank intentionally walked Lance Berkman, who was hitless off Livan (and actually looked pretty silly against him), to face Morgan Ensberg.

    Frank might not know Morgan Ensberg's name (other than it's a girl's name), but he should know that he's a better hitter than Lance Berkman!

    The important number, in that situation, is that Morgan's on-base-percentage (which with the bases loaded is really all you need to focus on, because if he gets on base any way, at least one run scores), was .390!

    Would you intentionally walk Jim Edmonds to get to Albert Pujols? In effect, that's what Frank did.

    3) After battling Brad Lidge hard in the 9th, the Nationals had the tying run at third with Preston "Automatic K For The People" Wilson at the plate.

    Remember, this is the big bat *chortle* we acquired. He's the one that PT Bowden assured us would lead us to the promised land.

    But that wasn't good enough for Frank. He pinch hit, sending up Jose Guillen.

    I've made it pretty clear that I don't think much of Guillen. But I do think it's fair to say that he's been horrible in these situations. When you need a single, he's not the man for the job. He takes it upon himself to hit five-run homers.

    He swung. Then swung again. Then again. And all but the first were balls. The final pitch, a slider in the dirt, which Guillen flailed at, was fitting.

    Even if you believe that he's a good 'clutch' hitter, and that he's the team's best hitter, the PH appearance presents two problems.

    First, what message does that send to Preston? The team doesn't owe him anything, but it has jerked him around. He waved his no-trade clause to come to DC, and probably didn't expect to be splitting time as a corner outfielder.

    But more importantly, can Frank help himself? Guillen has a flippin' torn rotator cuff! The team sent him to the best specialist in the world and was told to rest him for six games or so. With rest, the small tear would heal itself.

    That lasted two days! I'm certainly not a doctor, but when James Andrews tells you to take six days off, you do it! Will that hurt his recovery? Will it make it harder for him to come back soon? Is an injured Jose Guillen better than a healthy Preston Wilson?

  • The ninth inning may have turned out differently had Jose Vidro not run into bad luck. With runners on first and second, he ripped a hard liner down the right field line. Lance Berkman was playing a no-doubles defense, and it landed right in his glove, where he was able to beat Brandon Watson to the bag to complete the double play.

    Watson's initial reaction was towards second, and by the time he changed his momentum, he couldn't get back to first in time. He didn't play it perfectly, but it's hard to find fault with the kid in that situation.

    But, for the Nationals, those are the kinds of breaks they've had for the last month. Next up: Andy Pettite.


    • Wilkerson may have only 6 GIDP's but he's spent most of the season batting leadoff with the pitcher and Guzman hitting in front of him. How many times has he been up with a runner on first?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/11/2005 10:43 AM  

    • That's a good point.

      But, if you look at his career, he's never been much of a GIDP threat. 6 is actually his career high.

      Regardless, even if he was Ernie Lombardi (check out his GIDP totals), it's a silly play to send him bc of the strikeouts and bc of the slow-ass runners.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/11/2005 10:44 AM  

    • He's been a lead-off hitter a good part of his career as well.

      Anyway, I didn't see or hear the game, but it seems that your point holds on that HnR.

      By Blogger Basil, at 8/11/2005 10:58 AM  

    • Oh, BTW: I love the ATC horns, and I love when they occasionally jazz it up, too. So neener.

      By Blogger Basil, at 8/11/2005 10:59 AM  

    • If I'm not mistaken Morgan Ensburg is a righty so in Frank's mind it was working the platoon advantage to his favor. To answer your question then, Frank maybe wouldn't have walked Edmonds to get to Pujols (Pujols is a proven vet!), but he would have walked Edmonds to get to Miguel Cabrera (Stupid young righty!)

      By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 8/11/2005 11:23 AM  

    • It seemed at the time that Frank went out and gave Livan his choice of pitching to Berkman or Ensburg -- at least, I don't know why else Frank would have visited the mound in that spot.

      By Blogger Yuda, at 8/11/2005 12:51 PM  

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