With the last three games not proving to be too kind to Washington’s offense, I’ve decided to declare today “Comeback Sunday.” What? Did you really think I was going to go with Women’s Equality Day? The law was the only thing we had on our side and we threw it all away.
I kid. I kid.
Anyhoo, hopefully later today the Nats can get back on track and avoid the sweep at the hands of the Phillies, though it will hurt not to have both Michael Morse and Ian Desmond in the lineup. Until game time rolls around, for kicks and giggles, here’s a Sunday morning edition of quick hits:
- I thought this was supposed to work the other way around? Dodgers bail out BoSox, acquire Gonzalez, Beckett, and Crawford. While it is heartening to see something in Brokefornia come into money, methinks long-term this won’t end well for the Dodgers. However, in the short-run, the addition of Gonzalez and if he is rejuvenated, Beckett, could propel Los Angeles into the playoffs. And if they make it in, you would have to think they would be a formidable opponent. So while the Nats continue to barrel towards unilateral disarmament, their foes stock up. Sigh. I wish I wasn’t such a brooding auditor.
- Thankfully, the Nationals joined the frequent Tommy John surgery club. This one’s free! Lucas Giolito, the Nationals’ top draft pick, will undergo Tommy John surgery.
- This is probably going to come as a shock to everyone, but I have a thing for numbers. So this fascinating column from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports allowed me to slip into nirvana without coming out smelling like teen spirit. 25 things you didn’t know about baseball. My favorite: Fernando Rodney and his 0. 77 ERA. Who says God doesn’t interfere in the affairs of men?
- And finally, I guess the 50-game suspension of Fatolo Colon earlier this week only goes to show that you can lead an athlete to steroids but you still can’t make him work out.
And that’s all folks!
about last night as a fan of Washington-area sports teams, if you were so inclined. The only thing missing was the girlfriend walking out, saying how like your truck, you are too old and broken down for her anymore.
As it was, the following was plenty enough:
- Despite one of Edwin Jackson’s best efforts on the mound all season, the Nationals were shut out 2-0 by the Bernie Madoff Mets.
- Edwin and the Nats were done in by the .219 hitting Ike Davis, who launched a two-run home run in the top of the seventh to supply all the runs the Madoff Mets would need. Sure, Davis has been playing better since the All-Star break, but still, a real kick in the teeth.
- The atrocious Mets bullpen, headlined by Frank Francisco, he of the 6.06! ERA and 1.78! WHIP, actually locked down Jonathon Nieses’s shutout. I guess that’s why they are the Amazin’ Mets!
- The Washington Redskins lost more than just the second game of the preseason to the Chicago Bears, also losing starting linebacker and pass rushing extraordinaire Brian Orakpo and starting safety Brandon Meriweather to injuries. This is when I pause for six hours to pray at my private Redskins good karma altar.
- And come to think of it, the Redskins defense looked like an old and broken down truck which Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall walked out and over on.
Game ball(s): Niese. Credit where credit is due. The Nationals had precious few opportunities to plate runs last night and when they did, Niese flipped on the dominant switch.
Goat(s): Whoever in the Redskins front office or on their coaching staff that thought Cedric Griffin could still cover. Brandon Marshall was probably having warm flashbacks to his final days in Denver, when he last had so much fun working someone over.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Jackson. I feel like I’ve said this a number of times about Edwin this season, but he deserved a better fate than for a L to be hung around his neck.
Current Record: 74-46
Boy, am I glad that fool Terry Collins left Johan Santana, fresh off of major shoulder surgery, in to throw 134 pitches during his June 1st no-hitter. You don’t need to consult Stephen Hawking to figure that his season had nowhere to go but down from there, which it has, with a 13.50 ERA in July and 19.89 ERA in August. Wait. What is that? Some blogger in Tallahassee said back in June that people shouldn’t get their shorts in a bunch over a manager allowing a pitcher to do what he is supposed to do? Ahem. What can I say? The Nats had just shut out the Braves 2-0 behind seven superlative innings from Stephen Strasburg, so I was liable to say and do anything. Maybe that’s when I also bought the Robo Stir. Well, at least the yoke of having to stir my own food has finally be removed from around my neck!
Game ball(s): Mike Morse. He only got one hit on the night, but he made it count, launching a grand slam off of Santana which staked the Nats to a 4-2 lead which they never surrendered.
Goat(s): Chipper Jones. I know. Larry plays on the Braves and that’s not who the Nationals were playing last night. But he smashed another home run last night in Atlanta’s 4-3 extra-innings win over the Dodgers, making it three home runs in the last two games. Oh, and he is hitting .313 at the Geritol contemplation age of 40 and the Braves keep winning. Anytime now you can begin to break up like the Titanic.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Bryce Harper. His 2 for 3 night with a home run and 2 RBIs was quite the welcome sight, as he’s batted only .183 since the All-Star break. And that includes last night’s hopeful slump-buster effort.
Current Record: 74-45
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.
Quick. Tell me who Player A is and who Player B is:
Would you guess that Player A is Tyler Clippard, post-All-Star break, and Player B is Drew Storen, post-All-Star break? If you are a die-hard Nationals fan, dollars to doughnuts, yes. Perhaps to a more casual fan, the selective exclusion of stats like saves and innings pitched may have obscured the identities. Anyhoo, the point of this blind résumé review is not to suggest that Tyler Clippard’s days as the closer of the Nats are numbered, or that they should be. Just to highlight that the margin for error is not quite as spacious as it once was.
Tyler hit a bit of rough patch in July, sporting a 5.79 ERA (three consecutive appearances in mid-July accounted for most of the damage and both of his blown saves for the month), and while the August ERA has been better (3.60), a surging walk-rate and morbidly obese 6.13 xFIP (regressed, expected ERA independent of fielding) suggest that Clipp should consider himself fortunate to have blown only one of his save opportunities. And if you don’t like numbers, you only have to peer down a inch or two for visual evidence (praise Roger!).
It should be noted that peering under the hood at Storen’s numbers does reveal a little leaking oil coming from the recently repaired luxury sedan, though with the caveat that we are looking at things only after seven innings of work. Drew’s walk rate of 6.43 BB/9 equals his k/9 rate, and that is not good. And his xFIP sits at an ugly 5.27. Plus, just watching him, he has hung some pitches that deserved far worse fates then they received (thank you baseball gods!).
So, what to take away from all this number crunching? The pessimist would say that the Nationals have gotten lucky, that with their closer and former closer turned primary setup man struggling so much, they are fortunate to have only blown three saves. And while there is perhaps a kernel of truth in that thought, the optimist (that would be me!) would counter by saying that you can’t forecast a gloomy future on the basis that it should have been ugly yesterday but it wasn’t, so it must be tomorrow. That is, the historical performances of both Tyler and Drew, and their skill sets, are the controlling factors for how today, tomorrow, and the rest of the season will play out. On the basis of those factors, the Nats should actually get much better play from both pitchers. And if that is the case, it may not matter which résumé Davey Johnson pulls for his closer position. Both will be outstanding and more than fulfill the requirements of the position.
No, that’s not the title to the blog post announcing that I’m finally getting back to covering the National’s run towards the playoffs. And I really mean it this time. No, that’s what the Nats pulled off last night against the Miami Marlins, after a sloppy start put Washington behind the eight ball.
Trailing 6-4 with one out in the bottom of the eighth, thankfully, the Marlins continued their second-half spectacular implosion, with Mike Dunn botching Carlos Lee’s toss on Adam LaRoche’s sure ground-out. So, instead of two outs with no one on, Dunn proceeded to walk Jayson Werth to put two on with only one out, thus limiting the harm that came when newly-acquired Kurt Suzuki then struck out. Four consecutive hits, including home runs by Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper then totaled six unearned runs for Washington, flipping the scoreboard to a much more attractive 10-6 lead. Tyler Clippard would cough up a harmless run in the top of the ninth to secure the victory, and with it, the Nats were able to stretch their lead in the NL East over the Atlanta Braves to three games.
Game ball(s): LaRoche. Ho, hum. I guess Adam got bored with just hitting one home run a game, so he went all Doublemint on the Marlins. Last four games: 8 for 16, 4 home runs, 7 RBIs, and 6 runs scored. This is just what Adam does. He gets crazy hot for stretches. Good thing his current stretch has been the entire second half so far.
Goat(s): Dunn. I love when pitchers with a 1.63 WHIP come into a game. You bring the WHIP, you get the WHIP.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Espinosa. He is still only 25, which has its ups (three-run home run to push the Nats into the lead) and downs (two costly errors that led to three runs). I worry about how that will play come the playoffs, but then again, you could say that about a number of Nats come October. I’m sorry. I’m an auditor. I breathe and I worry.
Current Record: 64-43
At least that’s the word from a source to the Washington Post. Although I gave up rumor mongering after it turned out that a band of wild monkeys was not the Y2K revolution vanguard, I have to say that among the various whispers about possible deadline acquisitions for the Nats (starting pitcher, catcher, etc.), this one I cannot only see happening, I can feel my head nod in approval. At least with the concept. Let’s not go crazy and give up Anthony Rendon for Nick Punto. But losing Ian Desmond, who had been the team’s hitting MVP, to a torn oblique, does leave the Nationals one bump and bruise away from a real serious problem up the middle. The prospect of Desmond being out until the end of August (if not longer; oblique injuries are notoriously slow to heal) is already quite a challenge. The Nats would be prudent to try to make sure they don’t turn a challenge into a near impossibility.
It is sort of remarkable to think that after all that has transpired over the first two days and three games of the Nationals-Braves series, that Washington actually can salvage a series split later today. But that is exactly the position the Nationals find themselves in, even after:
- Friday night’s epic collapse
- Being throttled by Ben Sheets and Atlanta’s pitching staff in game one of yesterday’s doubleheader
- Watching Bryce Harper limp off in the very same game after fouling a pitch off his left ankle
- Falling behind 2-0 in yesterday’s night cap, which featured…
- John Lannan, he of the 4.89 Triple-A ERA, toe the rubber to try to stem the bleeding.
Even Barack Obama thought there was no hope. But somehow, someway, the Nats dug deep and battled to a 5-2 victory, and now improbably stand on the cusp of making this a no harm, no foul engagement for the top of the NL East standings.
Game ball(s): Lannan. Things still may be cozier in TomKat land than they are between John and the Nats, but Lannan pitched a splendidly professional game leading Washington to victory. What was most impressive is how he settled down after surrendering two runs in the first. It could have gotten ugly, like when that girl you know keeps putting on makeup and she isn’t applying to clown college. Hey, hey! No, no!
Goat(s): The doctor who fixed Ben Sheets. This isn’t how the script was supposed to go for Ben:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again
Bryce Harper is still only 19: The rest of the Nationals team. Yep, in a similar vein to yesterday’s tribute to the Braves hitters, each and every member of the team. Sure, Steve Lombardozzi went 0-5 and stranded five base runners. And Adam LaRoche pulled off the same feat with one less at-bat. Still, the Nationals needed the win in a desperate way and managed to summon the collective fortitude to pull it off. Congrats. I will put down the Mao literature now.
Current Record: 54-39
Collapse. Last night around 8:30, I thought that word would best describe my head hitting the pillow as I fell into a deep slumber, reaping the fruits of several consecutive nights of poor sleep. On the heels of a Ryan Zimmerman three-run home run that put the Nats up 6-0 against the Braves, it never crossed my mind that come the morning, that word would have a wholly different meaning.
Alas, before the sun peaked above the horizon, a check of the box scores revealed the word’s new meaning, a description of Washington throwing away a NINE! run lead to Atlanta in an eventual brutal 11-10 extra inning loss. For once, my lazy gene paid off, shielding me from what has to be one of the worst losses in National’s franchise history. And I’m drawing that conclusion from the Washington Post and a box score. I shudder to think what I would be feeling if the Sandman hadn’t called me.
Game ball(s): The Atlanta Braves hitters. Yep, each and every one of them. You don’t rally from nine runs down, even with the opposition bullpen imploding, without showing a tenacity for winning that is worthy of a game ball. Make that eight game balls.
Goat(s): Davey Johnson. While there were a lot of pigs making a mess in the pen, I will allow Davey’s own words to claim the award: ”Arguably the worst game I’ve ever managed in my life,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. ”I’ve never lost a nine-run lead when it was my part of the game to handle the pitching and it’ll be hard for me to sleep. I had a worse night than the guys did.”
Bryce Harper is still only 19: The only consolation I see right now is that in less than five hours, the Nats face off again against the Braves, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader. That’s the magic of baseball. Tomorrow usually offers the chance at quick redemption.
Current Record: 53-38
It’s raining cats and dogs* this afternoon in Tallahassee, so what better excuse to stay indoors and bang out another edition of Quick Hits.
- Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that the Nationals are exploring pitching options to potentially replace Stephen Strasburg, with Ryan Dempster among the names being mentioned. And, according to Rosenthal, the Nats are also looking for an everyday catcher, with Ramon Hernandez of the Colorado Rockies being considered. Let’s start with the latter possibility first. If it’s Ramon Hernandez the Nats are looking at, put me down in the “move along” column. I know Jesus Flores has had his struggles at the plate (.621 OPS) and I’m guessing Washington isn’t inclined to roll more with the rookie Jhonatan Solano. But Hernandez, even with the help of the thin rocky mountain air, has a slightly lowers OPS (.620) and fielding metrics indicate that Flores is the superior defender to Hernandez. You might rightly point out that Hernandez has been banged up this season with a wrist injury, which has masked his offensive superiority. It’s true that Hernandez’s career .747 OPS is better than Flores’ .682 mark. However, did I mention that Hernandez is coming off a wrist injury that typically saps offensive output? Move along.
- Since this is “Quick Hits”, I figured I should bump the whole Stephen Strasburg shutdown watch to a second bullet. And actually, the topic probably deserves a whole column. But that wouldn’t necessarily be quick, now would it? Stop wasting words smarty pants. By almost all media accounts, it is just a matter of when and not if the Nats will shut down Strasburg this season. Whether it is at 160 innings or some other point, it appears that at least publicly, Nats management is saying that health will come before everything else and Strasburg will be told his season is over before the season is actually over. Now, I don’t know what will actually happen come September, with the possibility of a World Series run on Washington’s horizon. It is very easy to say in mid-July that you will put down one of your bayonets when the other side comes charging in September for fear of breaking it. But for the life of me, I still cannot understand baseball’s obsession with protecting pitchers with artificial innings limits and pitch counts, the value of which is based on dubious or non-existent evidence. For all the limits and restrictions put in place by teams the last 20 or 30 years, has there been an appreciable decline in pitching injuries? Maybe shutting Strasburg down is the right thing to do to ensure that he is there to take the mound for the next 10-12 years. But wasn’t management saying the very same thing in 2010 when he wasn’t allowed to throw more than 100 pitches in a game? How did that work out?
- One final thing on the whole Strasburg shutdown. If the Nats do decide to park him in September, I’m not sure they are, or should be, in the position to mortgage even more of their farm system on getting someone like Dempster, who isn’t controlled beyond this season. GM Mike Rizzo has been adamant that any moves made would be done with an eye towards upgrading for the long-haul, and not just this season. I hope he sticks with this philosophy, because if they want to make a move that gives the team the greatest possibility of winning this season, it would be to find a way to keep Strasburg pitching while not further depleting their farm.
- Finally, in addition to being a rabid Nats fan, I’m even a more die-hard Washington Redskins fan. I know. Counseling helps some. And so it is that even the Redskins can find a way to screw up the start of RG III’s career: Griffin III again misses Redskins rookie camp. Thank you Nats for winning. It eases some of the pain.
*Cooley the dog would like to note for the record that it is not literally raining dogs, though he is intrigued at the possibility of a rain shower of cats. Manna from heaven.