GAME 10 REVIEW: Nats Patchwork Lineup Gets Job Done

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, April 12, 2011 | , , , , | 0 comments »

Washington, D.C. -- Sometimes you look at the lineup card and wonder why you bother playing the game.  Well, in baseball sometimes the numbers take a night off -- the good ones and the bad ones.

Last night, before a smallish crowd under threatening skies at Nationals Park, Jim Riggleman and his band of journeymen, backups and age-defying starting pitcher, defended the home turf against their arch-nemesis and a band of marauding Phillies Phans.  The final was 7-4, but it seemed much closer due to some shaky pitching in the eighth and ninth innings by two usually trusty relievers.

The win evens the Nats record at 5-5, drawing them within two of division-leading Philly.

"It's one game, but I was really pleased with the way we played in general," manager Jim Riggleman said afterward.  "I thought there were a couple times there toward the end we could have tightened it up a little bit.  But overall really pleased that we got a great performance from Livo, and starting pitching is what it's all about.  And when your starting pitcher pitches like that you've got a chance.

"We've got a long way to close that gap [with the Phillies].  One game is not what we're talking about."

But when it's against the Philadelphia Phillies, one game is a start.  Especially when injuries forced bench players Laynce Nix, Jerry Hairston and 43-year old Matt Stairs into the starting lineup.

Jayson Werth went 2-for-3 with a home run to lead his new mates over his old ones, and Wilson Ramos drove in two with two hits.

But the big story was the job Washington Nationals starter Livan Hernandez turned in.  The seemingly ageless one hasn't let the statheads get him down just yet, as he once again defied the projections of regression for the crafty vet. 

Livo went 6 2/3 innings and gave up just one run, on Ryan Howard's opposite field home run.  He allowed seven hits without walking a batter, striking out six including the last batter he faced, pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr., with the bases loaded on a 61 MPH curveball.

Tyler Clippard then came in and got perhaps the biggest out of the game, striking out Shane Victorino, leaving all three runners on base.

Clippard wasn't as sharp in the eighth, allowing a single and two walks, prompting Riggleman to call on Sean Burnett for a five out save.  Burnett eventually got the job done, but not before allowing two of Clippard's runners -- and one of his own -- to score to make things tight in the final frames.

The earned run in the ninth off Burnett halts his scoreless innings streak at 22 2/3, the longest in club history since the move to D.C. in 2005.

No matter, as Burnett was still credited with his third save of the young season and Hernandez evened his record at 1-1.

The Nats big inning was the third, where they got three runs off Phillies starter Joe Blanton (L, 0-1, 10.45).  Wilson Ramos doubled in Werth, who doubled a batter previously, Jerry Hairston delivered a one-out single with the bases loaded to plate Ramos, and Livo placed prefect sacrifice bunt to push Laynce Nix across with the third run of the frame.

The collection of position players the Nats put on the field last night, along with their starting pitcher, might not have been sabermetrically approved.  But in a small sample size, and one game is about as small as it gets, even the numbers can get fooled.  Let's just hope the Nats don't have to rely on this lineup for very long.

The bigger you make the sample size, the more the underlying data is proven reliable.

THE GOOD: Werth, Ramos and Nix all had two hits apiece.  Hernandez was masterful.  Espinosa drew two walks, once to load the bases.

THE BAD: Matt Stairs.  Hitting in the cleanup spot, the lefty went 0-for-3, struck out twice, and was lifted for pinch-hitter Michael Morse. 

THE UGLY: Ian Desmond.  0-for-5 drops his average down to .209.  Something has to give at some point.

THE STATS: Nine hits, five walks.  4-for-9 with RISP, 7 LOB, 0 GIDP. No errors.

NEXT GAME: Wednesday v. Philadelphia at 7:05 pm.  John Lannan (1-0, 3.60) v. Roy Halladay (1-0, 0.69).

NATS NOTES:  Before the game, the team officially placed 3B Ryan Zimmerman on the 15-day D.L. and recalled catcher Jesus Flores from Triple-A Syracuse.  Flores has missed most of the last two seasons with two different shoulder surgeries.