Good, Bad & Ugly: "Lackluster" Nationals Drop Pair to Mets Over Weekend

Dave Nichols@@DaveNicholsDSPSenior Analyst ISeptember 21, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 11: Coach Jim Reggleman #5 of the Washington Nationals casts a long shadow during batting practice before play against the Atlanta Braves on April 11, 2009 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

"[The Nats] were up there swinging, not many foul balls today."—John Maine, Mets starter on the Nats' effort, Sept. 20, 2009

THE RESULTS:  The Washington Nationals lost a pair of games to the New York Mets over the weekend following Friday night's victory. The Nats now own a record of 51-98 and are seven games behind Pittsburgh in the loss column for the worst record in the major leagues.

D.C. only scored four runs in the two weekend games.

Saturday they went down 3-2 to old teammate Tim Redding. Washington managed just five hits off Redding and three relievers. The Mets' starter went seven innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks, striking out four. Sean Green, Pedro Feliciano, and Francisco Rodriguez combined for two more scoreless innings.

John Lannan put up a good fight, giving up three earned in seven innings on five hits and one walk. He struck out three. But it wasn't enough, as the Nats seemed disinterested in even making Redding work for his outs. Redding tossed just 98 pitches in his seven frames.

Interim manager Jim Riggleman started Ian Desmond, normally a shortstop, in right field, and he paid for it. Desmond misplayed a line drive right at him that flew over his head for a David Wright double to start a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh. Jeff Francoeur followed with a double, scoring Wright. Francoeur scored later on an error at first by Adam Dunn.

"If I had it to do over, I might not send him out there in that inning," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "It was a risk. It backfired." 

It was more of the same on Sunday.

Five more Mets starters gave up just five hits in a 6-2 win for John Maine, injured most of the season, allowing him to register his first win since May. It was his second start since being activated from the D.L.

Maine (W, 6-5, 4.13) threw 70 pitches in his five innings of shutout ball, and Daniel Murphy had two RBI in loss No. 98 for the Nats this season.

"It was just a lackluster performance," Riggleman said. "We can't have that. That's not acceptable. You just can't play with a lack of intensity at this point because it'll show up." 

Nationals starter Garrett Mock (L, 3-9, 5.83) allowed four runs and nine hits in seven innings, dropping to 0-4 with a 7.00 ERA in five starts since his last win on Aug. 25 at Wrigley Field.

No D.C. hitter had more than one hit or reached base more than once.

THE TAKEAWAY:  Riggleman was grilled by the blogs, and rightfully so, for starting Desmond in right field Saturday, stating a desire to get Pete Orr more at-bats.

It's bad enough that when Riggleman manages to put Desmond in the lineup, it's usually at second base, keeping veteran Cristian Guzman at shortstop. 

But it's indefensible that the field manager is making a legitimate prospect (at least what passes for one with the Nationals) bounce around from position to position in deference to a completely replaceable fill-in part who spent most of his season in the minor leagues.

Here's what Riggleman said about Sunday's game:

"We just were flat, and that's not acceptable. We got down a run, and it was almost as if, 'Well, let's see what we can do here to get through it.' You know, I just wasn't pleased with the overall intensity of the game.

"The thing is, the other guy was throwing a pretty good ball game; good pitching will make you look flat. But we can't allow that to happen.

"We've got a lot of guys on this ball club that are fighting to make an impression for the future, and so I just reminded them that these last couple weeks count. You can't play with a lack of energy. If you do, it's gonna show up in somebody's mind who's gonna be making a decision about your future."

Riggleman is the type to over-praise the opponent when his team fails, a defense mechanism to say to fans, "Look, we're trying, but our opponent just beat us." He even does it in the above quote, even when he is publicly calling his players out. It's the field manager's responsibility to make sure his players are playing hard.

All the folks who publicly called for Manny Acta's head earlier this season always cited that he never "lost the team" and that the team played hard for him regardless of the outcome. The same can't be said about the interim manager, apparently.

THE GOOD:  Lannan's start Saturday was good. There was nothing notably good on Sunday.

THE BAD:  Zach Segovia. He's fairly proving that being successful at Triple-A isn't necessarily a recipe for being successful in the bigs. Sunday he gave up two earned in two-thirds of an inning. He has given up six earned runs in three innings of work—an ERA of 18.00.

THE UGLY:  The hitters were 10-for 63 (.159) with just four walks in the two games.

NEXT GAME:  Nats are thankfully off today. They face the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday at 7:05 for the start of the last home stand of the season, with nine games against the Dodgers, Braves, and Mets, before finishing on the road versus Atlanta.


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