Tagged: NL East

Comeback

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

Split Decision

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

Boston Win Party

I know the Boston Red Sox are not the same team this season as in recent seasons, but I didn’t realize they already felt after Friday night that the only chance for a win was to try and prevent the Nationals team bus from making it to the park in time.  Alas, for Red Sox Nation, for a second straight game, the Nationals did arrive in time, and unfortunately for them, Gio Gonzalez stepped off the bus, much like Stephen Strasburg did less than 24 hours before him.

It’s funny how more than two months removed from looking at the team before the start of the season, with a myriad of injuries dotting the landscape, shocking demotions and promotions, the formula for a contending season hasn’t changed:  Outstanding pitching backed by solid defense and enough offense to limit the heart-wrenching 2-1 losses.  Washington has largely delivered on that formula to date, riding it to the top of the NL East standings and wins in the first two games in Boston.  Now if only MLB had an innings jump feature like 9 Innings Pro Baseball 2011 on my iPad, the team could already be sitting in the World Series…

Game ball(s):  Strasburg and Gonzalez.  If anyone can think of a better one-two punch in baseball right now, drop me a note in the comments section.

Goat(s):  Me.  This is more about what is probably going to happen later today than what has transpired the first two days in Beantown.  I’m starting Jordan Zimmermann in my fantasy league today.  I’m sorry.

Bryce Harper is still only 19:   Bryce Harper, for his monster debut at Fenway Friday night, and Tyler Clippard, for bringing stable dominance to the back-end of Washington’s bullpen.

Current Record:  34-23

The Road Ahead

Tonight, the Nationals begin a nine-game road trip that will take them to Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Miami.  Sitting a game and half back of Atlanta, I can’t help but feel that this string of games away from Nationals Park will be quite telling of the team’s prospects for taking the NL East crown.  Even after they return home, they still have to finish their 15 straight games against NL East foes, squaring off against Atlanta (again) and New York.  However, for a squad that has been decidedly better at home (15-8) than on the road (9-9), the Nats are going to have to first have to show that they can win big games on the road.  Anything less than five wins has to be seen as a harbinger of tougher days ahead in the race to the top of the division.

In La La Land

I’m going to presume that the Nationals’ Assistant to the Traveling Secretary pulled a George and booked the team on a very early flight back to DC; hence, their putrid effort today on get away day.  However, while that assumption is comforting for the moment, the reality is that the Nationals offense is not very good right now.  Gone are the late rallies, the hot start of Ian Desmond, and what has sunk in is that without Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse, the Nats sorely lack offensive punch.

Today, despite holding the Dodgers to just three hits, a bout of untimely wildness from Gio Gonzalez was the hiccup that a struggling Washington offense could not overcome, as they fell 2-0.  As the Nationals head back east for a six-game home stand, they now find themselves tied atop the NL East with the surging Atlanta Braves and in desperate need to find their bats in order to return to their winning ways.

Game ball(s):  Chris Capuano, who took full advantage of an awful display of hitting by the Nationals, whiffing nine in 6 2/3 shutout innings.

Goat(s):  Nats’ hitters.  Each and every one of them.  Washington has pushed across six runs in the last four games, including laying an egg today.  Not surprisingly, the Nationals have lost four straight.

Bryce Harper is still only 19:  So, after several long and intense discussions with Cooley the dog, we settled on a new name for the award formerly known as the Bryce Harper is not as far off award.  Our logic:  While we are on bended knees hoping that Harper is the real deal from the get go, the reality is that he is 19, so for the Nats to have success this season, and in the near future, the team will have to get meaningful contributions from players that can legally drink.  And well, this isn’t a public school report card where everyone gets a game ball.  With that out of the way, Cooley the dog humbly suggests we give out today’s award.  And today it goes to Craig Stammen, who has been fantastic in April, and delivered again with another two scoreless innings of relief today.

Current Record:  14-8