In his pre-game session with reporters, manager Jim Riggleman spent a fair amount of time on a couple of keys to last night's 7-6, 10-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves: Nyjer Morgan's aggressiveness and Adam Dunn's lack of it. Here's what he had to say.
On Morgan: The center fielder was caught stealing for the sixth time this season on Wednesday night, thrown out on a play where the Braves pitched out to Adam Kennedy and gunned the leadoff hitter down at second base. But Riggleman said asking Morgan to take fewer chances on the basepaths would be too drastic a reaction to his running troubles. "It's a tough thing. When you have a guy like Nyjer and some of the other premier base-stealers in the game, you can't really just say, 'OK, that's enough. Stop,'" Riggleman said. "That's a big part of his game, to create a little nervousness for that pitcher, put some pressure on the catcher. They've answered the challenge on the other side to get our guys. The plays down there are so close, and it just seems like, historically, if it's close down there, it's an out, because things are happening so fast. The ball's there, the feet are there, the hands are there, whichever way you go in, the glove, the dirt, it's all happening real fast. And if you play it back, a lot of times it looks like he might have been in there. We've had a few of those, where you feel like he's in there. But the fact that it's that close is the problem, because if it's close, it's tough for the umpire not to make an out call." Riggleman said Morgan is trying to combat the increased attention paid to him by running on more breaking ball counts, and has sharpened his feet-first slide to the point where he can slide that way without problems. But if there's a close play, he's allowed to go in headfirst.
On Dunn: The slugger walked three times last night, but took a called third strike on a pitch over the middle of the plate in the ninth inning with the game tied. For his high strikeout totals, Dunn might be one of the most patient sluggers in the game, and in situations like last night, his patience cost him. But like with Morgan, Riggleman hesitated to suggest too many changes. "(Hitting coach) Rick Eckstein has some growing history with Adam at this point. They've been together for a little while. (Special advisor) Tim Foli has been with Adam, back in his Cincinnati days," Riggleman said. "There's a lot of people in the room that have a history with Adam and a dialog about that. But I think everybody collectively feels like this is his style, he's had success doing it. He's got a great eye, and sometimes that great eye, which is one of his best attributes, can also work against him. There are some players that just know the strike zone so well. They know a ball and a strike. But again, it's happening fast up there. That ball's moving. We're asking umpires to look at 300 pitches a night and not be wrong. So if they miss one by an inch, technically, you're right, it's not a strike, but you might get the short end of that one. Adam has had success doing it this way, and I think we just have to allow him to determine what's going to work for him. He's had a pretty good history of making it work, and we just continue to believe that it will."
One other note: Riggleman said the Nationals have decided on a starter to take John Lannan's place on Saturday, but wasn't ready to announce the decision yet. That probably means the Nationals are calling up a pitcher from the minors -- either J.D. Martin at Triple-A Syracuse or Matt Chico at Double-A Harrisburg would be likely options.