The morning after: Trouble holding runners on?

Ryan Madson allowed two earned runs in one inning against the Nationals yesterday. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

The Nationals stole four bases Thursday against the Phillies -- and a total of seven over the three-game series. Washington was caught once, in the third inning of Thursday's game, but Ryan Howard made a poor throw to second base, allowing Nyjer Morgan to take the bag.

This season, 11 of 13 would-be base stealers have successfully taken the extra bag against the Phillies. That's an 85 percent sucess rate, well above the major-league average of 76 percent. The 11 steals against the Phillies are tied for second-most in the majors.

Last season, the Phillies allowed a 72 percent stolen base success rate, which tied the major-league average.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was asked about the high rate early in 2010 and didn't dance around an answer.

"We’ve got some guys in our bullpen … Danys, I had him in Cleveland, he’s so aggressive that every now and then he’ll get the ball and not look over," Manuel said. "I felt a couple times we didn’t look over there and we’ve got to hold a guy on. We picked one guy off and made a bad throw, but at the same time we’ve got to hold guys on. We have to keep reminding them. We can throw over more."

Against Phillies' relievers, base stealers are 7-for-7. The biggest culprit is Nelson Figueroa, who has had three runners steal bases on him in 5 1/3 innings.

Of course, many factors play into a stolen base -- from the pitcher's ability to hold the runner on, to the speed of the runner on base, to the quality of the pitch made, to the throw made by the catcher and the tag put down by the fielder.

Lots of variables. So if one can be eliminated -- holding runners on -- the better chance there is to throw a runner out.

And sure, when only one starter is pitching beyond the sixth inning over the first nine games of the season, the Phillies have greater concerns about their pitching. But everyone not named Roy Halladay has run deep counts on many batters and is putting quite a few runners on. Not holding them on base only adds to the current issues.

Thursday is a prime example. All four bases Washington stole were off of the Phillies' bullpen. Other than Jose Contreras, who struck out the two batters he faced, the relievers struggled with their command -- which left other aspects of the game to suffer.

And it's the main reason why the Phillies' five-game winning streak was snapped.