"When they don't play smart it has to be addressed." -- Jim Riggleman

WASHINGTON -- It was one of those nights.

Actually, it reminded Washington Nationals fans of a lot of nights in the early part of 2009.

Less than stellar starting pitching.  Rough middle relief.  Two ruled errors.  Another misplayed ball off the centerfield wall.  Another poor throw from the centerfielder allowing a base runner to move up.  The face of the franchise tripping over his own feet, then staying prone as a base runner sneaks behind him to advance.

Being held to one run in five innings of relief work after the opposition starter is forced from the game due to injury after the first batter.

And just when they found a semblance of offensive production, an overeager baserunner is nailed straying off base, killing any momentum to rally.

It all added up to a mostly forgetttable 10-7 loss to the New York Mets before 23,612 on Military Appreciation Night at Nationals Park.

Our service men and women deserved better.

"We just played bad," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman remarked after the game.

Mets starter John Maine left after walking the first batter of the game.  According to the Mets public relations staff, Maine had trouble finding his velocity warming up.  After throwing 84 MPH fastballs with no location to walk Nyjer Morgan, trainers and Mets manager Jerry Manuel came out to examine the right-hander, and eventually lifted him.

In his place, lefty Raul Valdes took over.  The Nats had to have been licking their chops at the thought of facing a reliever a couple times through the order.

Instead, Valdes allowed just one run on seven hits over five innings, putting in an admirable performance for a Mets team that had lost nine of their previous 11 games among swirling speculation regarding the employment status of their field manager.

"It was a great effort on [Valdes'] part," Riggleman said.  "He held us down good."

"He's the long man in their bullpen and he did what he has to do."

Valdes was vastly superior to Nats starter Luis Atilano.  The rookie right-hander entered 3-0 with a 3.90 ERA, but was ineffective most of the evening.  The Mets got three in the first and four more against Atilano in the fifth before manager Jim Riggleman had seen enough.

Tyler Walker was really no better in relief.  He allowed a two-run single to his first batter, then gave up Rod Barajas' 10th home run of the season, a two-run shot, in the sixth to put things out of reach.

Later than inning, Jose Reyes blooped a ball over the head of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.  The gold glover turned to pursue the easily catchable ball, but tripped over his own feet. The ball trickled onto the outfield grass and was retrieved by shortstop Ian Desmond.

(Photo By Max Cook/WeLoveDC.com)

But instead of getting up to cover third, Zimmerman stayed prone in his shame, allowing Jeff Francouer to sneak past him and get to third safely.  Francouer scored on Alex Cora's sacrifice fly two pitches later.

Zimmerman's gaffe was not the only problem defensively Thursday night.

Nyjer Morgan had trouble again on a ball off the wall.  He played the carom of an Ike Davis blast--as opposed to his ill-timed leap last night which led to the inside the park home run--but the ball squirted past him, allowing Davis an extra base.  Morgan also made a poor throw to third on a short single to center, pulling Zimmerman off the bag on a force play.

Ian Desmond dropped a throw from Dunn in the first, and Walker mishandled a sacrifice attempt by Valdez during the five-run fifth inning.

All in all, one to throw out.  But Riggleman wasn't as quick to dismiss the poor performance tonight.

"I can't let it go quite that easy.  We just played terrible baseball--no excuses.  We didn't play smart and there are little details we like to take care of that we didn't take care of tonight."

The Nats did make things interesting in the bottom of the eighth, actually bringing the tying run to the plate in the person of Adam Dunn.  But the slugger flew out to left with the bases loaded to end the frame after pushing three across to get the crowd's heart racing again.

The loss drops the Nats back to an even .500 for the season, with the Baltimore Orioles, the team that owns the majors' worst record, coming to town for a three-game weekend set.  Scott Olsen (2-1, 3.15) hosts David Hernandez (0-5, 5.84), who missed his last start and is coming off a bout with shoulder tendinitis, at 7:05 pm Friday night.

NATS NOTES:  Nationals owner Mark Lerner, shagging fly balls during batting practice in a full Nationals uniform, took a fly ball to the face and required stitches.  No report on whether he would need to be placed on the 15-day DL.

Dunn finished 2-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored.

Morgan went 1-for-3 with a walk.  He looked at a called third strike twice.

Ivan Rodriguez went 2-for-2 with a triple, but was caught straying in the sixth after Willie Harris' two-run pinch hit single for the first out of that inning.  The Nats did not score again in the frame.

Washington struck out seven times, walked seven times, and left 10 men on base.  The Nats went 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

2 comments

  1. Anonymous // May 20, 2010 at 11:42 PM  

    Nyger Morgan is not a major league outfielder. His play has been awful. He cannot judge balls over his head, he throws to the wrong bases, and constantly fails to hit the cutoff man. He is also an automatic out. He needs to be sent down immediately because he is only hurting this team.

    Tony Plush my ass.

  2. Dave Nichols // May 21, 2010 at 11:12 AM  

    thanks for the comment. I think Morgan is a useful player, but he is not playing within his limitations right now.

    the six week stretch DC saw of him last season was an outlier, and set up unrealistic expectations for him from fans, the team, and I think himself.