The Washington Nationals were pushed around by the neighborhood bully again last night, as the Philadelphia Phillies hit two solo home runs off Tyler "Peaches" Clippard in the eighth inning to take a 6-5 decision before 16,818 mostly Philly fans at Nationals Park.
The Nationals are 2-12 against Philly this season, and are 47-92 overall. They have lost 13 of their last 16 games.
Rather than discuss yet another mind-numbing loss, in the last two days the interim manager has done -- and said -- some interesting and disturbing things that would lead anyone capable of critical thought to believe that Riggleman just doesn't get it.
Last night the temporary skipper eshewed hotter-hitting minor league call-ups for pinch-hitting opportunities that went to veteran players that have "contributed" all season to 92 losses and counting. His proclivity for running his team into outs on the basepaths is well-documented at this point. And after the anomolous eight-game win streak Aug. 2 - 9, the Nationals are limping toward the finish line, winners of just seven of their last 27 games.
He has insisted on inserting Alberto Gonalez, he of the .259/.293/.360 slash line, at second base regularly, and batted either Willie Harris (.229/.359/.395) or Justin Maxwell (.195/.298/.244) in the leadoff spot exclusively since the injury to centerfielder Nyjer Morgan. Not coincidentally, the Nats are now 1-10 since Morgan went on the D.L. with a broken hand.
However, the most easily scrutinized strategic backfire from last night's game came right there in the bottom of the ninth. With the Nats down by one, Justin Maxwell led off with a single. The only time bunting a runner over makes sense is when you're the home team, down by one run, in the bottom of the ninth with no outs.
To this point, Riggleman has shown he's not afraid to start his runners, largely to the detriment of his team. He's already attempted four suicide squeezes. Anyway, convention calls for the next batter, Cristian Guzman, to sacrifice himself to move Maxwell up 90 feet.
With Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman, the team's two most prolific RBI-man following, there would be no more perfect time to sacrifice, though Riggleman does it all the time regardless. He'd already commanded Guzman to sacrifice earlier in the game...IN THE THIRD INNING!
Yup, you know what happens. Guz swings away on the first pitch. Then takes a ball. No bunt order given.
Maxwell then steals second base! I'm going to overlook the fact that attempting a steal with a rookie player in the bottom of the ninth is a horrible decision in-and-of itself.
So, with no outs, man on second and a 1-1 count, surely Riggleman would put the sac play on to get Maxwell to third with less than two outs, right?
Guzman looks at strike two, fouls one off, then struck out...LOOKING!
Everyone knows what happened next, as Ryan Madson coaxed a line drive from Adam Dunn to second base, where the the aforementioned rookie was then caught off base for the game-ending double play.
Simply horrible baseball.
To compound his actions on the field, the interim manager has also decided that shortstop Ian Desmond will rot on the big league bench for his September call-up.
My Internet writing brethren have already chimed in on the subject, some a bit more eloquently than others. Here are Riggleman's words, though:
"I'll get him some games, but as long as Guzman is healthy he'll be playing. If his foot flares up on him that will be an opportunity to get Desmond in there, but we also have Gonzalez and Orr who will be playing up the middle. I love to see young players play, but I don't ever want to take away the opportunity from the veterans who have been here all year... and disregard their efforts all year by planting them on the bench. Like I said, the at bats might be inconsistent."
"If I send a message to the ballclub that we're gonna put our Class AAA call-ups out there on a daily basis to see what they can do, first of all, as I said, it's not a good time to evaluate talent. Who do you do it against? Do you do it against the Phillies? I think we would be insulting the Marlins and the Braves, who are chasing the Phillies. Do you do it just against the Braves but not against the Phillies?"
"The competition throughout the league indicates that, for the fairness of who is the best team in the division, you've got to put your best people out there to play against those guys. You know, if you get a couple games where you're playing a non-contender you might experiment a little bit more and get some guys some games. But I think that until the division is won and the wild card is won, we have an obligation to contenders to put our best players out there."