Broom for Seattle, Nats skipper

Jim Riggleman leaves a hot team.
Jim Riggleman leaves a hot team. (Associated Press)

After sweep of Mariners, Riggleman quits over contract dispute

Posted: June 24, 2011

Just when the Washington Nationals were showing signs of success and stability, and just as the players were starting to talk about the growing respect for the franchise around the league, along came the surprise announcement that manager Jim Riggleman was quitting because he wasn't happy with his contract.

The Nationals completed a sweep of the Seattle Mariners yesterday afternoon, winning, 1-0, in the bottom of the ninth on Laynce Nix's sacrifice fly. They have won 11 of 12 and have moved above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2005.

But no one was talking about Jason Marquis' awesome slider after general manager Mike Rizzo delivered the news to the players in the clubhouse after the game.

"Very unexpected," Marquis said. "Obviously we're playing some good baseball. Obviously he was leading the ship, and things were moving along real well."

Riggleman resigned because the Nationals wouldn't pick up next year's option on his contract. The players didn't have an inkling that such a thing was brewing. Jayson Werth tried to make it sound as if it didn't matter.

"It's not going to change anything in here," Werth said. "We're the ones that have been making the pitches and hitting the balls and winning the ballgames, so we're going to keep going."

The players boarded the buses to catch a flight not knowing who will manage their upcoming road series against the Chicago White Sox. Riggleman's move caught the front office off guard, so Rizzo said he'll wait until today to announce an interim manager. "We feel we're going in the right direction," Rizzo said. "We continue to feel that way."

"It's been brewing for a while," Riggleman said after the game. "I know I'm not Casey Stengel, but I do feel like I know what I'm doing. It's not a situation where I felt like I should continue on such a short lease."

Riggleman has been working on 1-year deals since taking over for Manny Acta in July 2009. He was being paid $600,000 this year and the Nationals held a team option for 2012 at $600,000.

"I tell ya, I've been in this 10 years," Riggleman said. "Maybe I'll never get another opportunity, but I promise you I'll never do it on a 1-year deal again . . . You don't bring people in on a 1-year deal. I'm sure they will never do it here. When they get the guy they want, it won't be on a 1-year deal."

Riggleman had given Rizzo a heads-up on his plans before the game, but the manager said it didn't affect him while on the bench. It seems nothing these days can slow down the Nationals once they take the field.

The three victories over the Mariners were all one-run affairs that included a five-run rally in the ninth on Tuesday, a 2-1 win Wednesday in which both runs were unearned, and yesterday's tense battle dominated early by starters Marquis and Michael Pineda.

Marquis allowed three hits over eight innings with three walks and four strikeouts, while Pineda gave up four hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts and one walk.

But both were gone when the game was decided. Michael Morse opened the ninth with a single to left, and Danny Espinosa followed by dragging a bunt for a single. Ivan Rodriguez bunted to move the runners over, but first baseman Adam Kennedy threw late to third to try to get the lead runner, leaving the bases loaded with none out.

Shortstop Jack Wilson kept Seattle alive by making a diving backhand stop on a grounder by Jerry Hairston with the infield in, then throwing from his knees to force pinch-runner Brian Bixler at the plate.

But Nix took a 0-1 pitch from Chris Ray (3-2) to the opposite field to score Espinosa, who easily beat a throw from Mike Carp that was well up the first-base line.

In other games:

* At New York, Chris Capuano (6-7) pitched six scoreless innings before leaving with a tweak on his right side, Jose Reyes took advantage of Oakland's shaky new first basemen and the Mets beat the Athletics, 4-1. After the start of the game was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 15 minutes, the Mets won their second in a row.

In Mets news, injured third baseman David Wright (stress fracture in lower back) has been cleared to resume workouts and could rejoin the team in 3 weeks. * At San Francisco, Tim Lincecum struck out 12 in seven superb innings, helping the Giants beat the Minnesota Twins, 2-1. Miguel Tejada and Cody Ross drove in runs for the Giants, who won their second straight following a season-long five-game skid. Lincecum (6-6) rebounded from a rash of poor starts. He gave up three hits, walked two and never allowed a runner past second base.

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