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Morning Juice: Nats fire Acta, still can't seem to get stench out

Big League Stew

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This and every weekday a.m. during baseball season, let's rise and shine together to recap the most recent diamond doings. The final Roll Call of the first half starts in Washington, D.C., where some of the world's most important decisions are made. Most of the decisions the Nationals make turn out to be disastrous but they will find that replacing Manny Acta with Jim Riggleman (far right) won't affect how bad they are one way or another.

Game of the Day

Astros 5, Nationals 0

They're all yours, Riggs: Strange, because it just ended, but I have no recollection of the Manny Acta era in Washington. Was he a kind, decent man? Really, he's just lucky to be out of there. Being the manager of the Nationals right now is like being coach of the Oakland Raiders or the L.A. Clippers. You can't win, by any definition.

Riggleman seemed to handle well a horrendous situation in Seattle at the end of last season, so he should do a good job. But to what end?

From ESPN Deportes:

"I thank the Nationals for giving me this opportunity, and I'm sorry that things didn't work out as expected," Acta told ESPN Deportes. "It's normal for the manager to pay the price when the team is not doing well."

Just don't leave without a good-bye present from the players, Manny.

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Clip trip: As if his guys knew this was the end, one of them stepped forward (actually he failed to step forward) to give Acta a final gem. With runners on second and third base in the eighth inning, Nats reliever Tyler "Yankee" Clippard tripped on his own cleats and fell off the mound while trying to intentionally walk Hunter Pence(notes).

Umpires called a balk, which allowed Lance Berkman(notes) to score Houston's fifth run (VIDEO — about the 1:30 mark).

" 'Bizarre' is a good name for it. I never seen it before in my life," Acta said. "I've seen guys commit balks, but not while he is walking a guy intentionally."

It was so Nationals. The laughter from the crowd at Minute Maid Park was clearly audible and almost as embarrassing as Clippard's stumble.

More like an Edsel: The "re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic" analogy doesn't work because the doomed ocean liner was supposed to be the rockingest boat ever, what the Hindenburg would be to air travel. The Nats have been doomed to be bad ever since MLB put the Expos franchise on the rack during its final days in Montreal.

They require interference with biblical clearance to avoid losing 100 games this season — and it mostly falls on the head of team president Stan Kasten (hard hat). Kasten enabled hired general manager Jim Bowden, who not only did a lousy job, but also quit amid an investigation into the team's shady Dominican dealings.

Considering that Kasten didn't make the honorable choice by firing himself this time, canning Acta must have seemed the only option.

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Feelin' Rundown (all intentional walks executed to perfection):

Mets 9, Reds 7: Calling all cars, we have an Apple malfunction at Citi Field!

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The Apple didn't pop out immediately after Fernando Tatis'(notes) home run in the seventh, which came somewhat quickly after Brian Schneider's(notes) homer, which was the team's first in 80 innings. Mr. Met danced an Irish jig to bide some time before the reset button was hit. This never would have happened if the Apple still lived in Shea's Top Hat. What kind of a hellhole ballpark is this Citi Field?

As for the Reds, Jay Bruce(notes) has a fractured wrist, Joey Votto's(notes) hitting streak is over after getting run arguing balls and strikes with an umpire and Mr. Redlegs' pupils are freakin' me out.

Twins 13, White Sox 7: On the 30th anniversary of Disco Demolition, the White Sox and Twins celebrated by blowing up Mark Buehrle's(notes) ERA.

Cubs 7, Cardinals 3: Carlos Zambrano(notes) goes deep for a third time this season; like punting in fantasy football, pitchers' offense should be part of any respectable fantasy baseball league's scoring system.

To make room for Kyle Lohse(notes), the Birds optioned Blake Hawksworth(notes), reducing by one the number of players with names of birds who play for teams with names of birds.

Cardinals 4, Cubs 2: Zambrano defers so Randy Wells can start ESPN's night game and gain national exposure for his tremendous season. Of course, the Cards score twice in the first inning on Ryan Ludwick's(notes) first homer of the game, and everyone who wasn't already there switches to "Big Brother" on CBS.

Red Sox 6, Royals 0: Josh Beckett(notes) goes for his 100th career victory vs. Bruce Chen(notes), hanging on for career as usual. Who would you take? A great thing about baseball is that anything can happen on any given day, but this game would have to be replayed 10,000 times before KC would come within a sniff of winning.

Padres 10, Giants 4: Putting a twist on Jonathan Sanchez's awesome performance from Friday night, Barry Zito(notes) goes for a no-outter but even falls short there, retiring 13 batters.

Orioles 4, Blue Jays 2: I have no idea if the comparison holds or will hold on any level, but Brad Bergesen(notes) has been very Mike Boddicker-in-'83-like so far.

The casualties continue to mount from people mispronouncing Marc "Rzepczynski." Authorities say we'll just have to ride it out until he becomes famous.

Was it this May 18 the Jays were 27-14 and in first place? They're 11 games out at the All-Star break. Toronto does lead the majors in doubles, though taking into account the 14 percent the Jays lose because of the Canadian exchange rate, they're barely hanging onto a spot in the top 10.

Phillies 5, Pirates 2: The Phillies, once again, are perfect.

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The only good news for the Bucs to come out of the weekend sweep: The Duke Boy (right) made the All-Star team!

"I was going to go home and sit on my butt for a few days, but that won't happen now," Duke said.

Cain will ride to the game in style in the General Lee. He replaces San Francisco's Matt Cain(notes), who had been pitching with balls of fire but got burned (with a line drive).

They were about to rename Triple-A to "Garrett Jones," but he got promoted just in time. He's slugging .787 in 42 at-bats, which would make for a helluvan APBA card if the season stopped today.

Tigers 10, Indians 1: Brandon Inge(notes) gets a head start on Monday's Home Run Derby with Nos. 20 and 21. Justin Verlander(notes) gets a head start on resting and watching Tuesday's All-Star Game from the dugout by allowing five hits over seven shutout innings.

Rockies 9, Braves 8: Game-ending RBI double for Brad Hawpe(notes), who quietly has been doing his above-average thing for several years. Not really helped that much by Coors, and he can hit lefties. I want one. Buy him for me, mommy.

Athletics 7, Rays 3: Not only that, but the "Moneyball" movie is still alive!

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Dodgers 7, Brewers 4: The Dodgers are ... 97 games over .500. Manny Ramirez(notes) is 11-for-29 with three homers, eight RBIs and nine runs scored in nine games since coming back from suspension. It's like he's on something ... or something.

When I think of the Dodgers playing in Milwaukee, I think of "Happy Days." When I think of Happy Days, I think of the Fonz.

And when I think of the Fonz, I think of Henry Winkler and a statue of James Brolin.

Angels 5, Yankees 4: For all of the Bronx joy experienced in recent weeks, the Yankees are a combined 2-12 against the Angels and Red Sox. Just sayin'.

Marlins 8, D-backs 1: The Fish, four games behind, host the Phillies for a four-game set right after the All-Star Game. Arizona's Mark Reynolds(notes) has a major-league leading 123 strikeouts at the break, 20 more than the next guy in the NL, Ryan Howard(notes).

Mariners 5, Rangers 3: Seattle resident Omar Vizquel(notes) brought his pet kangaroos to the Rangers' clubhouse. The heck?

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