Sunday’s Nationals-Marlins discussion space

Welcome to MASN’s discussion space for today’s Nationals-Marlins game down at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. I’m at home today, and I’m just going to post brief stream-of-consciousness thoughts throughout the game. You can chime in by leaving your thoughts in the comments section. I’ll respond to you there:

--1:16: Nyjer Morgan caught stealing again in the first; his league-leading total is up to 13 now. Even when he’s getting on base more often, he’s short-circuiting himself by getting thrown out. He’s been on base 119 times, and has scored only 41 runs.
--1:35: After Josh Willingham’s single to lead off the second, the Nationals have had two innings where they got the leadoff man on base, but didn’t score. They did that four times last night. It’s one thing to have it happen against Josh Johnson, but against Alex Sanabia, it’s quite another.
--1:40: Earlier in the season, there’d been some concern about Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing arm, particularly when he needs to make long overhanded throws. After that throw to get Mike Stanton at first base, the conversation should be over. He fired a throw across the diamond so precise that Stanton was out by several steps.
--1:46: Morgan seems to have realized the value of the drag bunt. He just used one for a base hit, and now the Nationals have runners on first and second with none out.
--1:51: Scowls all around with home-plate umpire calling Adam Dunn out on a check swing. But it looked the right call. Still, the Nationals struggle with men in scoring position; they left the bases loaded in the top of the third. They’re already 0-for-6 today with runners in scoring position, and have stranded 15 runners on base in their last 13 innings.
--1:56: Craig Stammen leaves a fastball up in the zone after pounding it low for the first three innings, and gives up a single to Gaby Sanchez. He tried to go after Sanchez with an inside two-strike fastball, but left too much of it over the plate.
--1:59: Another tremendous play by Ryan Zimmerman to end the inning. He almost ran around a shot to third base from Hanley Ramirez, but fired to second to get Sanchez at second.
--2:05: An unproductive fourth inning for the Nationals, who go down 1-2-3 against Sanabia.
--2:10: Stammen is doing what he did so well against the Marlins in early May - spotting his fastball. He got six strikeouts off fastballs against the Marlins on May 7, and has four today. Only one of them - the last one against Jorge Cantu a minute ago - has been off a fastball, but he’s able to open up his other pitches when he locates it well.
--2:13: Say this for the Marlins: They’re committed to this “Christmas in July” thing they’re doing today. The organist has played “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” in the last two minutes. Not going to happen now, and not going to happen in December.
--2:16: Stammen throws a 3-2 curveball to Mike Stanton and walks him. He snapped the pitch low, but is showing some confidence in his curveball.
--2:19: Another walk for Stammen, this one on a low slider, but with Sanabia due up, he can get out of the fourth without any harm done if he can retire the pitcher.
--2:20: And there’s another strikeout for Stammen; he got Sanabia swinging with a 1-2 curveball. That’s five for the day.
--2:29: The Marlins’ two double in the fifth have given them a 1-0 lead with a man on third and one out in the fifth. Stammen elevated a curveball to Sanchez, who launched it to center and scored Emilio Bonifacio. But Cristian Guzman made a heads-up play to throw home and easily retire Sanchez, who went on contact on Dan Uggla’s grounder.
--2:47: I’m just going to say it: If you’d told me two years ago, when the Nationals got rid of Brian Sanches, that he’d be a key member of a big-league bullpen two years later, I wouldn’t have believed you. But Sanches has been solid ever since he got to Florida, posting a 2.56 ERA last year and a 3.00 ERA so far this year. He’s in for Sanabia in the top of the sixth.
--2:54: Another leadoff runner wasted. The Nationals have put the leadoff runner on base eight times in the last two days, and haven’t scored once. And this time, it was with the heart of the order. There’s not much more Stammen could have done today to keep the Nationals in the game. And, now it’s raining.
--3:11: Once again, Bellino calls a check-swing strike at home. That’s the second one today -- only on this one, it didn’t look like Willie Harris went around. Harris had some strong words for Bellino as he walked toward the dugout, and it looked like he said “wow” as he got there. He couldn’t believe the call, and neither could Jim Riggleman.
--3:21: We’re headed to the top of the eighth, with Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn due up against the Marlins’ bullpen. This is probably the Nationals’ best remaining chance to tie the game.
--3:26: Great play from Cody Ross, firing to second on a Ryan Zimmerman fly ball to keep Cristian Guzman at first. Remember, Ross was a little nonchalant with a throw on Friday night, allowing Alberto Gonzalez to go from second to third on a Nyjer Morgan flyout. He made a strong throw here, sending Guzman back to first after he tagged up.
--3:38: Zimmerman’s strong defensive day is over; he pulled a sidearm throw eight or 10 feet to the left of first base, allowing Uggla to reach first base and go to second. The Marlins have a runner in scoring position with none out, and they could effectively put this game away with a run.
--3:49: Last chance for the Nationals here, with Roger Bernadina, Adam Kennedy and Wil Nieves due up -- and there’s another called strikeout. Great pitch from Leo Nunez on a fastball, which started inside and broke back over the plate. The Nationals have allowed seven runs in this series, outscored the Marlins 4-3 and could end up losing two out of three.
--3:53: Wow. Adam Kennedy rounds second base on Michael Morse’s single to right, and is tagged out as he tries to dive back. If you were wondering about Riggleman coming out to argue, you’ll get your wish here. That’s Kennedy’s second major baserunning mistake in two days, though he was looking for the extra base and got caught as he slipped a little. You’ve got be aggressive there, but that just kills you to trade a runner on second for an out in the ninth.
--3:58: And that’s it. Ivan Rodriguez strikes out to end the game, and the Nationals are shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since August 2008, when C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets beat them in Milwaukee. Kennedy’s baserunning mistake looms as large as the one last night, but again, when you put leadoff runners in base in four innings and fail to score, only so much blame can be put on one play. The Nationals allowed three runs in this series, and lost two games. The offense, once again, looks ill.