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!
That’s what the Marlins broadcasters said at the end of this afternoon’s 4-1 victory over Miami, after Stephen Strasburg spun six strong shutout innings in leading the Nationals to a series victory. Oh, and because the swordfish, and not the diva marlin, is his favorite large saltwater fish, he threw in a two-run single for kicks and giggles. Keep rolling along!
Game ball(s): Strasburg. After his two-RBI single in the bottom of the second, Carlos Lee was overheard saying to Stephen at first, “.363. You’re batting .363? I tell all the ladies I weigh 363. Sigh.”
Goat(s): Ricky Nolasco. Stat-heads (and yes, I am oftentimes one) have said for years that Nolasco is a better pitcher than his numbers have shown. He has gotten unlucky, they say. Well, either God has a sick sense of humor, or it is just the case that Nolasco is just not that good of a pitcher. When reached for comment, God said, “Nolasco pitches. I laugh.”
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Drew Storen. With Tyler Clippard needing a day off after making appearances the last three days, Storen came in with a three-run lead and shut the door on his first save of the season. He hung a few pitches, but all in all, looked pretty good for only his ninth game of the season.
Current Record: 65-43
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
After a long weekend in which golf courses around the greater Big Bend area were subject to brutalization not witnessed since Jean van de Velde took to the 18th at Carnoustie, I have to say that it is great to be back in the saddle. Well, at least in terms of focusing back on baseball. And today was a bit of a big day around MLB, with the non-waiver trade deadline coming and passing at 4pm today, with nary a move coming from DC. Although there has been a lot of smoke emanating from the nation’s capital in recent weeks regarding possible trades involving the Nationals, Washington sat pat today, with team owner Mark Lerner announcing that, “We’re going all the way with what we’ve got in this room.”
It goes without saying that I am not privy to what possible deals were or were not being discussed by Nats management today and in recent days and weeks. But if I were to entertain the notion that all of the rumored deals had a grain of truth attached to them, then I still have to say that I’m glad the Nationals are closing with the boys who brought them this far. Sure, would it have been nice to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia for a bucket of balls? Naturally. But the likelihood of prying Salty from the Red Sox on the cheap rates somewhere up there with me prying Gisele Bündchen from Tom Brady. Probably not going to happen. In a town where constantly acting, know-it-all nanny staters have come to regulate the flow of water in toilets, it is refreshing to see it recognized that sometimes, doing nothing is the best course of action. This is the team, after all, that has the best record in baseball coming into tonight. Still sounds like pretty goods odds to me.
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.