GAME 133 REVIEW: A Tale of Two Plays at the Plate

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, August 31, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

THE RESULT:  Jordan Zimmermann made a dominant six inning start for the Washington Nationals, but the Florida Marlins' Anibal Sanchez was almost as good.  Neither pitcher figured in the decision, which came in the 10th inning, when Hanley Ramirez got underneath the tag of Ivan Rodriguez to steal a 1-0 win for the Marlins, before 18,506 in Sun Life Stadium.

Zimmermann was flat dealing.  He allowed just one hit and did not walk a batter.  He struck out nine, and faced the minimum 18 hitters for the six innings.  He threw 86 pitches, 55 for strikes. 

"I felt great, kept the ball down," Zimmermann said on the post-game show.  "I was down in the zone the whole night and my breaking pitches were good."

It was a well played game with good pitching and tight defense on both sides.

Sanchez gave up three hits and one walk in seven innings, striking out seven.  Both bullpens performed admirably as well, and this one went to extra innings.

That's where things got wild.

With one out in the top of the 10th, Nyjer Morgan took a four-pitch walk from Clay Hensley (W, 3-4) and advanced to second when Alberto Gonzalez walked behind him.  Adam Kennedy then grounded to second to force Gonzalez for the second out of the inning.

Morgan rounded third and slowed a bit before turning the burners back on and heading for home.  It seemed like he had a play to slide at the back corner of the plate, as Ramirez' throw was high and slightly to the first base side of home plate.

But instead of sliding, Morgan decided to put his shoulder down and slam full-speed into catcher Brett Hayes.  Hayes held on to the ball and Morgan was called out.  It's the second time in four games that Morgan has initiated contact with a catcher instead of sliding at home to avoid contact.

In the bottom of the tenth, Ramirez singled and stole second with one out against Drew Storen (L, 3-3).  Gaby Sanchez then walked.  Chad Tracy then poked a ball through the hole at short, and Ramirex never slowed down rounding third.

Roger Bernadina's throw beat the runner but was to the first base side, and Rodriguez took the throw and made three steps to the plate instead of diving to the bag.  He tagged Ramirez high, and the runner was safe.

THE GOOD:  Zimmermann.  Everyone expected growing pains, but he was excellent in just his second start after returning from Tommy John surgery.  One hit, zero walks. Six innings, nine strikeouts.  Keep saying it over and over and the sting of Strasburg might lessen just a bit.

THE BAD:  The offense.  Only four hits on the night.  Michael Morse struck out three times.

THE UGLY:  Morgan.  I was critical of his play Saturday night, and will be here again.  He had the back of the plate wide open to try to slide.  He initiated the contact with the catcher, before the catcher had a chance to get his glove down or defend himself.  It was the wrong play.

If this play happened in a vacuum, it's one thing.  But combined with the play on Saturday, Morgan is walking a thin line.

Do not be surprised if someone gets a fastball in the ribs tomorrow.

I have no problem with him getting sent in this instance.  Ramirez wasn't exactly graceful on the play at second.  But the replays showed Morgan definitely slowed down before turning the burners back on.  He needed to be running full out (like Ramirez did in the bottom of the inning) to make that play at the plate.

He didn't.  He was out.  And the Nats lost.

THE STATS:  10 Ks, 4 BBs, 0-for-4 with RISP, 7 LOB.  1 DP, 2 DPs hit into.

NEXT GAME:  Wednesday at 7:10 pm against the Marlins.  Scott Olsen (3-7) v. Chris Volstad (8-9).