Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Track Maintenance

The Ramon Ortiz Cy Young Express didn't quite derail, but we're clearly out of sand, and there's still a monster hill to climb.

Ortiz didn't pitch poorly tonight. He just threw too many pitches thanks to one of Frank's many many curious managerial decisions.

After six innings, Ortiz had thrown 100 pitches, and had given the Nats a strong outing, allowing three runs and striking out seven Rockies batters. But that wasn't enough for Frank. He sent him out to start the seventh inning, where he surprinsingly got through two batters quickly before yielding a Cory Sullivan infield single on a screamer that Nick Johnson just couldn't close the glove on. Then came the hook.

Mike Stanton 'relieved', but only in the strictest definition of the word. A lefty, his one job is to get left-handed batters out. He didn't. Todd Helton ripped a hard single up the middle. But what made it worse is that Stanton paid zippo attention to the runner Ortiz had bequeathed him. Sullivan took off for second on a pitch that Stanton was in no rush to deliver to the plate, stealing the base without a throw thanks to his massive jump. So, when Helton hit that single, it was a ribbie single, and the Nats were effectively buried. Thanks for nuttin', Stanton. Enjoy your Lame Duck. Again, he failed at his one job. (And continuing a rant from another day, his record goes unblemished because his run didn't score, making it appear as if his outing was actually effective -- HA!)

The offense was pitiful. They smacked Francis around a bit in the second, but other than a faux rally (which really was a product of two Clint Hurdle intentional walks!?!), they did nothing, at least until the fireworks (and the dud) in the ninth.

  • Alfonso Soriano has been terrible for his last four or five games. He had a Wilkerson tonight, three strikeouts and a deep flyout. Pitchers have been jamming him inside hard, and he's been pretty helpless. Perhaps he's too conscious of the outside junk that they consistently try to get him to chase. Perhaps he's just slumping -- he certainly couldn't be reasonably expected to keep that pace up. But when he goes, the team goes. When he doesn't go, well, you get last night.

  • Royce Clayton's first three ABs were identical. Colorado's RFer was positioned shallow and towards the line. Clayton, it seems, is unable to drive the ball the opposite way, and in his first three ABs, he popped/flared softly to right, right to the RFer's waiting glove.

  • Jose Vidro sure lays some stinkers in there. Is there a worse .300 hitter in the league? I've seen him limping and running slowly from time to time. And it's starting to show in the field, where his range has been cut down considerably. There was one play, for example, that he made a terrific run towards the middle of the diamond to field, before firing an off balance strike to record the out. He made the play, sure, but that's a play that the majority of 2B in the league eat up easily. He made it look like a Gold Glove play. It wasn't. It was routine.

  • Nick Johnson was robbed of a sure extra-base hit in the 6th, when his hard, trailing liner to deep right-center was snared on a dive by Corey Sullivan. Here's the video. Watch how far Sullivan runs for the ball.

  • Jose Guillen looked impressive for a second straight game. He had a clutch RBI single in the second. But most impressive was his homer in the 9th, which brought the Nats to within one. Jose finally found his Grail, lining a pitch deep over the right-field wall. Yay for him! Real life video evidence!

  • Brian Schneider looks lost, still. Marlon Byrd had great patience, as usual, but still has difficulty getting the ball into a spot where a glove isn't lurking. His screaming rocket in the 9th would've been an extra-base hit, but it just tailed foul. (Byrd actually didn't run on the play, which is inexcusable considering how close that ball was to rocketing off the wall in fair territory)

  • Jon Rauch looked sharp, reversing a multi-game decline. He gave the Nats two effective innings, throwing strikes, and not giving up the walks and line drives that have plagued him over the last three weeks.

  • Frank Robinson really drives me crazy sometimes. Here's what I'd ask Frank were I in a position to ask the ol' guy (and also in a position where he couldn't punch me).

    1. Why did you bring Ortiz back out given that he had already thrown over 100 pitches?
    2. Why did you bring Ortiz back out given that four of the last ten ABs had resulted in four hits and three runs?
    3. Is Mike Stanton really a better option than Bill Bray? What are Mike Stanton's strengths as a pitcher?
    4. In the fifth inning with a runner on third, you played the infield in while the pitcher was batting, but moved them back with Jamey Carroll up, resulting in a RBI groundout. What was the thinking for the switch in tactics?
    5. In the ninth, you pinch hit Damian Jackson for Brian Schneider, while Matt LeCroy, a proven lefty-mashing pinch-hitter was on the bench. Why did you choose the scrappy slap-hitter when you were down 1, and are we sure that Jackson has had enough sleep lately?
    6. Did you boo Jackson inside as the crowd was booing his crappiness?
    7. In the 7th inning, you trailed by two and had the wide-assed Marlon Byrd steal second base
      with Alfonso Soriano batting. Did you think that having Byrd potentially caught stealing a meaningless base while the NL's top non-injured homer threat was batting is a winning strategy?
    8. Were you as stupified as me when Clint Hurdle DIDN'T pitch around Soriano to face the crappy Royce Clayton?
    9. When Rocye Clayton led off the 8th inning, why didn't you pinch-hit for him, seeing as how there were a bunch of left-handed batters on the bench whom you wouldn't want to use against the Rockies closer, seeing as how he's a southpaw. Did you feel bad when Royce popped foul?
    10. Why is it that when our batters get intentionally walked they never score, but when you intentionally walk a batter, Mike Stanton gives up a bases-clearing triple?
    11. Special bonus question, just for Federal Baseball: Don't you hate pants?

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