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.
With the Nationals off tonight (there is no truth to the rumor that in a sweaty act of desperation, the Nats offered to play the Giants in San Francisco), I figured it was time for another edition of quick hits:
- First things first. Congratulations are in order for Washington’s All-Star game representatives, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Ian Desmond. It is only fitting that the Nationals landed two starting pitchers on the squad, given the dominance of their starting five through the first half of the season. And Desmond’s selection by manager Tony LaRussa was a very nice surprise. Given some of the putrid selections in both leagues, it was good to see a player not among the fan’s top eight shortstops get selected, as Desmond has been among the NL’s best shortstops.
- Now what to do about Bryce Harper being on the final five-man All-Star ballot? He says that he’d vote for Chipper Jones. For still basically being a kid, he is handling this moment with class. The most interesting thing about all of this is how MLB leaves so much about a glorified exhibition game they’ve made mean so much up to things like a fan vote. And that’s why, while I applaud the kid’s reverence, I actually think Chipper would be the last guy I would vote for. If possible home field advantage is on the line, unless 28 year-old Larry is walking through the tunnel, I would rather take a chance on the kid. Think about that while you go vote here.
- I am bit of a stathead so this was pleasing to my senses: Nationals second in SI.com/FanGraphs Power Poll.
- And a fond farewell to one of baseball’s greatest joys of the early and mid-2000’s, as Dontrelle Willis announced his retirement from baseball today. Living in Florida, I’ve gotten to see a lot of Marlins games on television. And there was a time when a Dontrelle Willis start was must-see tv, if only for the simple pleasure of watching the man smile on the mound. He truly loved what he was doing and while the last few years he has been a wild shell of himself, for a brief moment, he was one of baseball’s better starters.
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
12 runs on 21 hits. It took the thin air at Coors Field and baseball’s worse pitching staff (as measured by team ERA), but my gosh at last the Nats offense went nuts and posted double-digits on the scoreboard. After Washington struggled yet again at the plate Monday night, and then Stephen Strasburg melted down after plunking Marco Scutaro, I told myself to take a deep breath, refrain from penning something in frustration, and wait and see if Tuesday would bring better things. Oh, how I love when procrastination and rage make for a merry outcome!
Game ball(s): Edward Calvin Kendall. Could have handed out a half-dozen game balls to actual Nats, but Nancy Reagan started this nation’s conversation on drugs and I’m not about to go quiet now! I know in 1950 Kendall won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research related to the discovery of cortisone, but they’ve been handing out those Nobels like candy since 1901. Homer Simpson probably has one. But he doesn’t have a game ball, which Kendall now can now proudly claim in heaven for contributing to the resurgence of Ryan Zimmerman. I’m thinking maybe now the whole team should line up for cortisone shots and see where that gets us.
Goat(s): Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper. In the midst of the offensive breakout, Espinosa and Harper continued their struggles, going a collective 2 for 11 with just one run scored. This comes on the heels of Monday’s collective 0-7 performance. I understand the Nationals don’t have a lot of great options at the top of the order, but unless they generate more on-base productivity from their top two hitters in the lineup, I can’t foresee many more games like last night.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Tyler Moore. All the kid does is hit when he is in the lineup. If he is going to play more (pun!), which it seems like he will (and should), may I humbly suggest that Davey consider moving Moore behind Adam LaRoche and sliding Ian Desmond up to the #2 spot against lefties (keeping Espinosa leading off since he has swung the bat well against southpaws)? And against righties, perhaps Desmond could lead-off while Harper could still hold down the #2 spot?
Current Record: 42-30