It is just past 6:30pm on the east coast, the Nationals are up on the San Francisco Giants, and I may actually be awake to see the end. I guess G.K. Chesterton was right when he said that the most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. Anyhoo, enough about my old-man struggles at the tender age of 33. Let’s roll out a Wednesday edition of quick hits:
- Sure, Madison Bumgarner throttled the Nats lineup last night, and Brandon Belt did most of the damage at the plate. But like Harry Reid, facts be damned. I knew given how well Washington has been playing, the Giants must have been cheating. And well, what do we have here: Giants OF Cabrera suspended for positive drug test. Amateur hour at the comedy club aside, this news shouldn’t really come as a complete shock to any baseball fan. The fact that Melky Cabrera, Melky Cabrera was being talked about as a possible National League MVP candidate, on the heels of last year’s breakout season that also came out of the blue, should have been so brazen a sign that even a Kardashian would have blushed using it. I guess it is just as true today as it has always been. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.
- I know. Just what you want to read more about. Stephen Strasburg and the great innings watch. Please God let me read more about what Kate Middleton (erm, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) wore to the closing ceremonies of the Olympics! Anything but Strasburg and pitch counts! But I must. From Will Carroll of SI.com, a writer I respect a lot for his coverage of medical issues, comes this great little blurb: Strasburg plan little better than educated guess. And again, the money quote:
All in all, lowered innings totals don’t automatically equal health, and similar pitchers have gone more innings without apparent issue. Without the benefit of data, the Nats (and the rest of these teams) are guessing. That’s not good enough.
Okay. I’m done with beating the supposed dying arm of Strasburg. Well, at least for tonight.
- Oh, and I just finished watching Felix Hernandez pitch a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Don’t worry, I’ve got the Nats on my computer. Back to King Felix. On days like today, he sure does wear that nickname well. However, is it just me, or do the Rays seem to get a no-hit every two months?
Okay Sean Burnett. Back-to-back hits allowed to the Giants in the bottom of the eighth. Interesting strategy to hold on to the Nats four-run lead. Like the Pence ground out. More conventional. I guess this is my sign to wrap this column up.
You would think taking 3 of 4 from the defending World Champs would be something to celebrate. And indeed it is. But the momentous news of the take down of Osama Bin Laden Sunday night should remind everyone of the context in which baseball victories stand. Sure, seeing Tom Gorzelanny pitch like Sandy Koufax is a treat. Yet the truly amazing and heroic performances are the ones that are undertaken every day, by unknown rough men standing ready on our behalf. And because of those men, in more ways than one, the past few days have been a National(s) victory for all.
Game 28 Natties:
Game ball(s): Gorzelanny. He has always had the stuff. Once and a while he can harness it and last night is the result you get when he does, especially facing a reeling Giants squad.
Goat(s): The Giants offense. To say it disappeared over the four game series is like saying Jimmy Hoffa merely took a long lunch.
Bryce Harper is a long ways off: Drew Storen closing out another win, making it clear to all that he has retaken the throne of Nationals closer of the here and tomorrow.
Current Record: 14-14. Back to .500 baby!
I guess on a day in which Helicopter Ben Bernanke dropped by Nationals Park, it was only fitting that bad news dropped for the Nationals like the US dollar.
The Nationals day started off with, if you will pardon the terrible expression, a real kick to the stomach with news that third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will miss six weeks after undergoing abdominal surgery to repair a tear. Out since April 10th with what was first diagnosed as an abdominal strain, without Zimmerman, the anemic Nats lineup figures to post many more punchless nights like last night’s two hit, one run breakout against a wild Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants.
To illustrate the bareness of the Nationals lineup, despite a total of nine walks, three hit batters, and a wild pitch, the Giants held the Nationals to just one run. Heck, the Giants pitching staff was so generous that they allowed the Nationals to load the bases three times, but still the Nats scored only once and stranded a total of 12 runners on base. According to the AP article I read this morning, STATS LLC reports that the Giants are the first team since 1955 to put 12 or more runners on base via the walk or hit batter yet yield two or fewer runs. Awesome.
Still, the Nationals had a chance to win the game. Tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh, manager Jim Riggleman made the self-admitted inexplicable decision to have starter John Lannan to first walk righty Eli Whiteside to load the bases and then allowed Lannan to face pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff, who he promptly walked to allow the winning run to score. All the while, Tyler Clippard stood waiting and ready in the bullpen. After the game, Riggleman acknowledged what every sentient Nationals fan was thinking: should have brought in Clippard to face Whiteside.
Alas, he didn’t and the Nationals coughed away a game the Giants were trying in every which way to give them.
Game 26 Natties:
Game ball(s): Ben Bernanke. Nice to see him reinvest some of the Fed’s printed money into the local economy.
Goat(s): There were plenty of worthy candidates but Adam LaRoche takes it home. 0-4, stranding eight runners on base, including with a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the game. I know he is traditionally a slow starter, but I have a hunch his shoulder is bothering his bat a lot more than anyone is letting on.
Bryce Harper is a long ways off: Henry Rodriguez. Finally, the young fireballer made his Nationals debut and what a debut it was. A perfect top of the ninth with two punch outs, while hitting a 100mph on the radar gun. He may not always know where it is going to go, but neither does Chad Gaudin and at least Rodriguez has upside.
Current Record: 12-14
If you had told me a little more than two hours ago that the Nationals would take down the Giants tonight, I would suggest that you had been hanging out with Ryan Mallett recently. If you had told me the Giants would be the team on the wrong end of a shutout, then I would have concluded that Janoris Jenkins slipped into your party as well. With Tim Lincecum toeing the rubber for the defending World Champs, and the Nationals proclivity for the strikeout, by all appearances it was going to be a tough night.
Indeed it was. For the Giants.
In 96 pitches, for one night, Jason Marquis outclassed the two-time Cy Young award winner, thoroughly stifling the Giants bats. Allowing only five hits and no walks, while tossing in an impressive seven strikeouts for the ground ball machine, the Nationals got all of the offense they needed with a two run homer from Laynce Nix in the bottom of the second. For good measure, Marquis brought the lumber too, driving in the third and final run in the bottom of the fifth, plating Ian Desmond with a single. All in all, a great night for the Washington Nationals.
Game 25 Natties
Game ball(s): Jason Marquis did it all tonight. Masterful pitching and even drove in one off The Franchise.
Goat(s): Any time you can beat Tiny Tim, there are no goats. God bless every one of those Nats!
Bryce Harper is a ways off: Ian Desmond. Who knew Manny was on to something. Having a kid does spark the bat.
Current Record: 12-13