Well, after serving the past few days as Exhibit 2,563,862,914 in the “There really is no cure for the common cold” case, I see I come back to a Nats’ baseball landscape pockmarked the last three days with all sorts of explosions and implosions. First, let’s start with the good. Scratch that. The great.
Bryce Harper went and crushed his first ball out of the park last night. Lookie below.
Oh, and because everyone in Washington does things in excess, he went and did it again today. Finally, profligacy in DC I can support!
But then there has been the little matter of an imploding pitching staff. While I love the guy’s arm, I can’t say that I’m totally shocked by Henry Rodriguez’s trip to the wild side. The nation’s capital knows the deal. Like electing Marion Barry as your mayor, you know at some point when the lights come on, there is going to be some crazy stuff going down. Stephen Strasburg’s struggles today though? Man, that’s just crazy talk.
Game ball(s): Harper. Did you watch the kid’s home run? Yeah, he is going to be special.
Goat(s): Strasburg. Against the Padres of all teams? I almost hope you have a raging gambling problem that explains this afternoon’s clunker.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Sean Burnett. Haven’t said much about Sean this season, because quite frankly, he hasn’t been used a whole heck of a lot. But even with sporadic use, he is once again proving to be quite the valuable commodity out of the bullpen, no more importantly than last night when he bailed out H-Rod to preserve the victory.
Current Record: 22-14
A lot has been written about Josh Hamilton’s historic four-homer game last night. However, I’m not sure any tidbit I’ve come across has been both as amazing and depressing as this:
When reached for comment, a Padres spokesman said, “Pray for us.”
h/t Dave Cameron of FanGraphs
Finally. That’s what Jordan Zimmermann had to be thinking this evening after the Nationals tacked on four runs in the top of the seventh to open Washington’s lead over the San Diego Padres to 6-1. After only getting two runs of support during the 21 innings of his first three starts, Zimm was hanging on to a slim lead after spinning another great outing, six innings of one-run, six strikeout ball. And when you are still looking for your first win of the season after that run of bad luck, you have to guess he was thinking, “Is this when the cards are going to come crashing down?”
Thankfully, Washington’s bats came alive, banging out 11 hits in total, which were more than enough to help lead the Nationals to a 7-2 win. So the series opener saw Gio Gonzalez and the pitching staff dominant. And game two saw both Zimm and the hitters bring their “A” game. What combination will the Nats bring to the series finale tomorrow? Let’s hope the latter, which is a sure-fire prescription for posting more curly w’s in the standings column.
Game ball(s): Zimmermann. There is no truth to the rumor that Zimm was on the verge of sending a sympathy card to Erik Bedard if things didn’t go better today.
Goat(s): Petco Park. I’m a big fan of pitching and defense but Petco Park takes a pitcher’s park to the extreme, and not in a good way.
Bryce Harper is not as far off: With 70 plate appearances under his belt at Triple-A Syracuse, I figured it was about time to check in on Bryce Harper and see how he is faring against his highest level of competition yet. So far, it looks like we can shelve any talk of Harper coming up this year and turning in a Rookie of the Year campaign. Harper is batting just .234, with a weak .300 on-base-percentage. He is also not flashing much power, tallying only one home run and slugging a meager .375. On the upside, he has gotten the opportunity to play a majority of games in centerfield, laying the groundwork for a possible short-term future there in the big leagues. While all this may seem like bad news, it cannot be said enough: Harper is just 19. 19. He still has a world of talent and a world of time on his side.
Current Record: 14-4
All Mike Morse does is hit home runs. Well, not actually, but after last night’s dramatic walk-off, he has hit four in four games and is positively scorching. For a team desperate for offense, Morse’s hot streak could not be coming at a better time.
And well last night, like many nights before it, was one of those nights. Prior to Morse’s game-winner, the Nats were only able to scratch out three hits and a single run, only to see it all vanish in the blink of an eye courtesy of a game-tying Jason Bartlett home run. Thankfully, Morse responded in kind to the message, sending the Nationals home winners, 2-1 over the Padres. Now that the Nationals are back in the win column, let’s see if they can build a little momentum and take game two of the series, first pitch which is a little more than a half-hour away.
Game ball(s): Mike Morse and his boom-stick.
Goat(s): Drew Storen. It hasn’t been a good week for Storen, who posted a messy outing earlier in the week against the Brewers and then his first blown save of the season last night. Still, the peripherals look good. He will be just fine.
Bryce Harper is a long ways off: Danny Espinosa. The average is awful, but he keeps churning out the counting stats with his seventh home run and fourth steal of the season last night.
Current Record: 22-28