Runners continue to take liberties on pitchers

Runners continue to take liberties on pitchers

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' season-long problems holding baserunners were once again exposed Tuesday night. Juan Pierre stole second and third, then scored on an errant throw by catcher Jesus Flores, and to add insult to injury, pitcher Cliff Lee stole second against Stephen Strasburg.

Entering Wednesday, Washington had caught only 15 percent of basestealers this season, throwing out 13 of 85 runners. That ranks second-worst in the Majors, behind only the Pirates' nine percent. Manager Davey Johnson ran down the list of his pitchers who are slow to the plate, yet the Nationals have the lowest team ERA in baseball. Those two statistics aren't unrelated.

"There's some other guys that can be quicker to the plate, but they're just trying to make sure they ... hit their spot," Johnson said. "I never worry too much about it. ... Dwight Gooden was 1.6 [seconds to the plate]. They stole second and stole third, but they never scored."

Johnson defended the way his catchers have been attempting to throw out runners, putting the onus squarely on his pitching staff.

"I think [Flores is] throwing pretty good. And [Sandy] Leon's track record's good," Johnson said. "The guys that are doing it, they've got a quicker move [to the plate]. But they've also been very successful the way that they're going, so they ain't changing."

Strasburg, who has caught only two of 14 runners, is somewhat of an exception. He's quick to the plate once he starts his delivery, but Johnson said he loses track of runners as soon as he gathers his hands and prepares to make a pitch.

"The Stras thing, we've been working on. He does the same thing every time. As soon as he comes here, he's going," said Johnson, replicating Strasburg's movement. "Once he starts, he does the same thing: He looks, then he goes. They run on him. We've told him to vary the length of time -- 'Don't you continue to do that.' But he's kind of stuck. He'll get it."