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Nats let their chance slip away, lose 4-3

A two run bomb by Jesus Flores in the top of the ninth off the best closer in baseball was not enough as the Nats walked in the winning run the inning before. Despite the late game heroics, foolish decision making with the bullpen causes the Nats lose 3-4 to the New York Mets.

Johan Santana ruled the mound for the Mets for the first six innings of Fridays game in Citi Field. Through six innings he scattered six hits, fanned 10 and walked only one. The only glimmer of hope for the Nats was that Nick Johnson led off the inning with a solo-shot to make it 2-1.

The shot was the first homerun Santana had allowed all year and only his second earned run in 25.2 innings. The six hits the Nationals put on the board was also the most any team has put up on Santana this season, as well as the seven base runners he put on board. The Nats did pretty well considering the excellence of Johan Santana.

capt.7dbd353f220f48eca95b94ac75fc1d92.nationals_mets_baseball_nyjj102To Scott Olsen’s credit, he did not look overmatched in front of a packed house last night in Queens. For the second consecutive game he’s given the Nationals a chance by pitching into the sixth inning and not allowing more than two earned runs. Last night he pitched six strong, allowed nine hits, three runs (two earned) and struck out four.

It was the bullpen and poor managerial decision-making that cost the team the game however.  The most important thing a pitcher in the bullpen can do is record outs, he can’t do that without throwing strikes. The percentages are ridiculous, when a batter gets ahead in the count, the pitchers chances decrease immensely. So when the Washington Nationals bullpen does not throw strikes, the teams chances drop immensely with them.

Jason Bergmann came in the seventh and threw 22 pitches, 7 landed in the strikezone. That’s less than 33 percent. After Acta allowed Bergmann to stay in long enough to walk the bases loaded Kip Wells came in and made the last out. Acta decided to let Wells stay on, where he surrended two hits before giving an intentional walk to red-hot Carlos Beltran with two outs.

That’s fine, Major Leaguers intentionally walk hot hitters all the time when first base is open late in a ball game. Major Leaguers, however, don’t then walk the next batter, Carlos Delgado on five pitches, allowing another go ahead run to score without anyone swinging a bat. As a result, the Nationals have now lost two consecutive games on runs scoring by way of a walk.

Acta should have recognized that Wells didn’t have it anymore, just as he should have recognized the game before when Hinckley walked in the winning run. At the very least, Acta should have brought in a lefty to face the left handed Carlos Delgado who is batting .167 against lefties this year.

Delgado vs. Lefties in 2009: .167/.250/.167, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Delgado vs. Righties in 2009: .273/.359/.509, 3 HR, 14 RBI.

To be fair I don’t expect Acta to know these numbers memorized, but I do expect him to ask for them, as they are almost certainly readily available in his dugout.

Then again it is the Nats.

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It’s amazing to see the difference only a few weeks makes. The start of the season saw the Washington Nationals look like a bunch of little leaguers. They had no concept of where they were on the field, runs were coming from everywhere, and pitchers looked like just the guys who the coaches felt could put it over the plate consistently.

Now they look like a talented baseball team, but a baseball team with no guidance. For the last eight games the Nationals have been in position to win the game, and have made a stupid error or mental gap that has caused them the game. To put it quite simply, the Nats are losing games, not getting beat.

It’s frustrating for a franchise who worked hard in the offseason; shedding the incompetence of Jim Bowden, losing their most exciting prospect to father time, and making a push to develop young players to see their hopes vanish, along with the fans.

Curious Numbers:

Reyes/Wright/Delgado/Beltran: 3/16, 2 RBI, 0 R, 4 K
Catillo/Tatis/Castro: 5/11, 1 RBI, 4 R, 0K

Nats 2009 BA: .264
Nats 2009 BARISP: .231

K-Rod ER before last night: 0
K-Rod ER after last night: 2

Flores Home: .231/.300/.269
Flores Away: .323/.389/.484

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