That’s what Stephen Strasburg was this afternoon in shutting out the Atlanta Braves over seven innings, propelling the Nationals to a 2-0 win. Every pitch was bananas, leading to nine punch outs and zero walks, while allowing only four hits. When Stephen is on his game like he was today, it matters a heck of a lot less that the Nats didn’t do too much better against Brandon Beachy. Jesus Flores went deep in the bottom of the fifth and Xavier Nady doubled home another run for kicks and giggles in the seventh, accounting for all the offense Washington could muster and thankfully, all they would need to secure the victory.
Game ball(s): See, handing Gio the May MESPY was all a part of the strategy. You see how well Strasburg pitches when he is angry?
Goat(s): I’m going to veer off-course a bit here and say all of the critics of Terry Collins for allowing Johan Santana to throw 134 pitches in route to his no-hitter last night. I understand that Santana is coming off of major shoulder problems that cost him all of last season and if the Mets have any hope of continuing to battle for the NL East crown, they have to have Santana take the mound every fifth day. But I also don’t understand the obsession with treating pitchers with such kid gloves today. And for all the pitch counts, innings limits, boutique relievers, can anyone honestly say pitchers are staying healthier than 30-40 years ago? If the Mets want to try to give Johan an extra day before his next start, kudos to them. Probably the wise thing to do. But enough of everyone getting their shorts in a bunch over a manager allowing a pitcher to do what he is supposed to do, and in the course of making history to boot.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Flores. Great to have him back behind home plate because without him, Washington is truly staring into the abyss at the position.
Current Record: 30-21
For those daredevils who occasionally cross-over into the real world, May was a bear of a month. The Dow was down more than six percent and the Nasdaq nearly seven percent. And the unemployment picture got uglier as it seems five trillion in faux money doesn’t take you as far as it once did. However, at least one wild-eyed entrepreneur in Miami was doing his part to reduce the unemployment rolls, and they still played baseball, though it would be just my luck that the year the Nationals contend, Nanny Bloomberg would try to ban them from winning because that would be a lot of joy.
On to May’s MESPY (Matt’s Excellence in Self-Promotion Yada Yada) Awards, while there is still time:
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton. Two months doesn’t make for a full season of health, but Hamilton is the first back-to-back MESPY award winner after posting another monster month in May (alliteration!), leading all players in baseball with a 2.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).
AL CY Young: Justin Verlander. The fact that Verlander only went 3-2 during May is further evidence that wins are one of the most meaningless measures (alliteration!) of a pitcher’s success. His 2.10 FIP in May actually indicates that he may have gotten a tad unlucky during the month (2.66 ERA). Reserve CY has to go to Chris Sale of the White Sox, who if Robin Ventura hadn’t apparently suffered brain damage from the Nolan Ryan beat down, would have been the American League’s best starter in May.
AL Rookie of the Month: Mike Trout. Lost amid all the Bryce Harper chatter (heretic!), Trout has been baseball’s best rookie (traitor!).
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton. He just went back to Giancarlo because all of the home run calls sound better to the ladies.
NY CY Young: Gio Gonzalez. I knew Gio had been the good dirty during May, but I didn’t realize he was Pig Pen good. All Gio did was go 5-0, lead the NL with a 12.66 K/9, and post a tidy 2.25 ERA. I would be remiss not to give a Reserve CY to James McDonald of the Pirates. You may not realize McDonald was second among starters in May with a 1.6 WAR, but that’s because no one watches the Pirates play, not even their moms. Sigh.
NL Rookie of the Month: Bryce Harper. Lance Lynn edged Harper out in WAR, but for a contending team desperate for offense, Harper has been invaluable. And I have a hunch that everyone else is just keeping the seat warm for the season-end award.
Nationals’ MVP & CY Young: Gio. Just goes to show you how much pitching has fueled the team’s early-season success with Gio taking home both awards one month after Stephen Strasburg accomplished the same feat. During May, Gio posted a 1.2 WAR, with our reserve winner Ian Desmond the only player really coming close to contributing the same value to the team, with a 0.9 WAR.
Nationals’ Rookie of the Month: Harper. Thanks guys for making the end of this write-up so easy!
And that’s all folks!