Playing in Colorado is always wacky. For all the wonderful things it can do for a struggling offense, it can do just as much harm to a team’s pitching staff. So, after 4 games, 33 runs scored, 25 runs allowed, 15 pitchers used, and a series split, I’m sure the Nationals were looking forward to getting to Atlanta to resume the battle for the NL East crown. Thankfully, the team’s equipment managers did take one memento from the Mile High City to play the Braves, the hot bats which churned out another 15 hits in route to a 5-4 victory.
Game ball(s): Michael Morse. Dot, dot, win. While I’ve been singing the praises of the warming bat of Ryan Zimmerman, just as importantly, Morse’s bat has been coming around, his game-winning solo home run in the eighth inning being his second in as many days. We all saw what a healthy Morse can do last year, and that’s just what Washington needs to sustain the offensive gains made in Colorado, because, alas, MLB simply won’t take to the idea of turning the Rockies pitching staff into the Nats’ Washington Generals.
Goat(s): Davey Johnson. Sounds strange saying this about Davey, but he kept Ross Detwiler in too long, which nearly cost the Nats the win. I’m sure Davey was thinking that Ross had been outstanding for six innings, and after burning through the bullpen in Colorado, he was hoping to squeeze another inning out of him. Unfortunately, when Hotlanta caught up to Detwiler, Davey was too slow to summon the bullpen to the rescue.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Stephen Strasburg. I know I’m looking forward to later today, but with a 4pm start and temperatures expected to rise above triple-digits, I will be watching to see how Strasburg manages his tempo, pitch count, and overall stamina on what will certainly be a very tough day to pitch.
Current Record: 44-31
Well, I guess you can scratch Nats’ team psychologist from my possible future careers list. Back to the beans counting man! Despite my early morning wishful thinking, the Nationals didn’t muster an offensive breakout in their 2-1 loss to the Orioles earlier today. Now the question becomes what happens the next two games in the thin air of Colorado when an immovable object (Washington’s offense) meets an unstoppable force (Coors Field, which has yielded the most runs in baseball).
Game ball(s): Matt Wieters. Color me surprised to learn Wieters was born in Goose Creek, South Carolina. His name just sounds so German, so hardworking. Was auch immer! Unfortunately, Wieters was quite industrious today, hitting the game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth and then gunning down Ian Desmond attempting to steal second in the top of the ninth to end the game.
Goat(s): The truth. As noted by weezie in the comments section, it really isn’t shocking that the truth is quite slippery in DC. Now suddenly, after receiving a cortisone shot, Ryan Zimmerman is back to feeling great, a day after he was going to have to shut it down for two weeks. Tomorrow is certain to bring news that Zimm’s shoulder has fallen off and the team’s strategy to move Wang to the bullpen to preserve his shoulder for a transplant has paid off.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Ross Detwiler. It is just so nice to know that the team is back to not giving away every fifth game. Happy emoticon!
Current Record: 41-29
I guess Edwin Jackson caught wind of my post yesterday morning and just plain decided that he didn’t want any part of a plagiarist’s future book. Okay, probably not. But he was on his game last night, leading the Nationals to a 3-1 victory over the Orioles. Interesting tidbit I picked up reading various articles this morning: Three months into the season and Washington has yet to post a double-digit scoring effort. I imagine that’s why a 3-1 winning line score seems so familiar. Later today, Ross Detwiler will take the mound in an effort to take the weekend series. With Jake Arrieta and his 5.83 ERA taking the mound for the Orioles, perhaps we will see an end to that streak today???
Game ball(s): Jackson, Mike Gonzalez, Sean Burnett, and Tyler Clippard. The Nats are 3 1/2 games up in the NL East almost exclusively as a result of their brilliant pitching staff. Imagine if the team ever starts hitting? Cue John Lennon.
Goat(s): Jim Riggleman. One year ago yesterday, Riggleman abruptly resigned in the midst of a contract squabble with the team. I wonder if Jim is finding that he is able to stretch his dollars better with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos?
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Well, this is certainly interesting: Tyler Clippard to remain closer even when Drew Storen returns. It has been quite the changing narrative surrounding Clippard’s usage this season, starting with the team not wanting to pull him from his setup role when Storen went down during Spring Training to now not wanting to pull him as closer when Drew returns. Parsing Davey Johnson’s words though, he was careful to leave the door open for a swap, if Clippard were to slip up and Storen were to flash dominance in a setup role. For now, I can’t argue that isn’t the correct course of action. Drew is the Nationals’ long-term closer, but coming off of a bum elbow, there is no sense in rushing him back into ninth inning duties before he finds his groove, especially when Clippard has been outstanding himself.
Current Record: 41-28
So, WordPress was kind enough to inform me after last night’s post that the next musing would be number 100. Despite the fact that even Larry David is impressed, it is still even more humbling to learn on this momentous occasion that the Nationals have come bearing gifts:
Thank goodness. I would have hated to have to continue to waste so much of my rage on just the Nationals’ fifth starter when there are so many more things worthy of vitriol. But before I turn my guns, I can’t let this nugget from Adam Kilgore’s article go by without comment:
Wang will work closely with pitching coach Steve McCatty while pitching as a reliever. Wang has been rushing through his delivery, which causes his arm to drag behind his body and prevents him from getting his hand on top of the ball. The result is a fastball that lacks its trademark sink and instead moves wildly across the plate.
The glitch has made Wang ineffective.
Yeah. And McDonald’s poor customer service is because they rush through everything too. I’d be quite surprised if Wang is still hanging around the bullpen when H-Rod and Storen return from the disabled list.
To finish off this party in style, I have to say that amid all the furor over the Joel Peralta pine tar incident, and whether Davey Johnson broke another one of baseball’s unwritten rules or not by outing him,* something simple seems to have been lost. Shouldn’t Peralta have known that of all managers and all teams who might be aware of his shenanigans, it would be Davey and the Nationals? And perhaps with that light bulb flickering on, you’d lay off your cheating ways for a few games? I don’t know what does and does not go over well in major league clubhouses, but I do know that even Forrest Gump knows that stupid is as stupid does.
*A concept which I have to say is completely anathema to an auditor such as myself.
I had a cupcake today for lunch. On that thin, overly sugared basis, I’m playing nice and refraining yet again from posting my Chien-Ming Wang I told you so post. If it hadn’t been for the sprinkles on top, I would have been all over another poor start from Wang today (5 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 3 walks, 1 HBP, and 2 ER in a 3-1 loss to the Mets…and he was lucky to only allow two runs given the putridness of the first 4 numbers in that line) and how the Nationals voluntarily elected to downgrade when they swapped Wang for Ross Detwiler. But there were sprinkles and they were chocolate.
On another note, to put a bow on yesterday’s post, I realized after reading this piece from Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs that I gave short shrift to Ian Desmond’s big game Tuesday night, which in one sense, was one for the history books.
Funny (well, not haha funny) how a few days and the switch of one letter in a headline makes a world of difference. Riding high after sweeping the Braves over the weekend, it looked like the Nationals were poised to finish their nine-game road trip with a flourish. Instead, it finished with a whimper, being swept by the Marlins. I blame it on the giant flamingo hanging out in left field of Great Crayon Park.
|C. Wang (L, 1-1)||4.0||7||4||4||3||4||0||1.86||6.43|
Yeah, this has nothing to do with any game balls. And yeah, Ross did allow one of Wang’s runners to score. But let’s just say I’m warming up the I told you so post.
Goat(s): The offense, which did the impossible and made Heath Bar Bell look in top form. The Nats managed only seven runs over the three games, after scoring seven or more runs in each of the three games against the Braves. While the giant flamingo has his (her?) fingers all over the skid, that sort of offensive break down doesn’t help.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: He is not a Nat, but I have to give a shout-out to Giancarlo Stanton. Wow, can he hit a baseball. Living in Florida, I get to catch a lot of Marlins games so this isn’t the first time I’ve seen his power and laser show. Stanton probably already possesses the most raw power of any hitter in baseball. After his monster May, he is also batting over .300. If he finds a way to maintain the average, folks, we are looking at one of baseball’s elite players now.
Current Record: 29-21
I could probably write a bit about the grove Washington’s offense has found in Atlanta and how it led to yesterday’s 8-4 win. Or maybe I could speculate endlessly about Stephen Strasburg’s battle against the sticky Atlanta heat. Or I could just let you watch Bryce Harper’s opposite-field shot off of Atlanta reliever Jonny Venters, whose early career dominance has been highlighted by holding 236 lefties to a cumulative .186 batting average and just three home runs. I like tv:
Game ball(s): National’s hitters. With every starter but Tyler Moore getting a hit and the Nats scoring seven or more runs for consecutive games for the first time this season, the offense is beginning to roll. What was most impressive yesterday were that 8 of the team’s 12 hits went for extra bases which bodes well for more future crooked innings.
Goat(s): Davey Johnson, who predictably took less than 24 hours to announce that Chien-Ming Wang would replace Ross Detwiler in the rotation. Hard to argue with the manager of a 28-18 team, but if you asked my parents, you would know why I’m just going to say that I hope it is the right move.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Tom Gorzelanny, who played long-man hero out of the bullpen yesterday, tossing three innings of scoreless relief. After another short outing by Stephen Strasburg, Gorzelanny nearly got a four-inning save and would have if not for Davey’s quick hook after the first hitter reached base in the bottom of ninth.
Current Record: 28-18