I’m afraid that being under the weather, I’m going to have to roll out the modified-Twitter blog post about last night’s 2-1 victory …everything that needs to be said in 140 words or less.
Game ball(s): Jordan Zimmermann, who was dominant again, this time though, the Nats squeezed out just enough runs to give him the win. Really great to see the 9 Ks over 7 innings combined with the strong groundball tilt.
Goat(s): Washington’s injury curse which took down Wilson Ramos last night. Just as his bat has been coming around, his season-long defensive struggles start a sequence with an ending Davey Johnson is probably right about: I’ve got a bad feeling he tore something.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Danny Espinosa, whose second home run in as many nights accounted for the winning run.
Current Record: 21-12
When last we crossed paths, Wilson Ramos had just singled in the winning-run in the series opener against Filthadelphia late Friday night. It’s a shame nothing much of interest transpired over the next forty-eight hours. Oh, huh. You say all this happened:
Channeling my inner Larry King, a few quick comments about the weekend that was:
- First, as much as I love to rag on Werth, losing him for 12 weeks is only going to exacerbate the problem an already downtrodden lineup has scoring runs.
- Third, Mike Rizzo nailed it. Hamels had no business hitter Harper other than to be a punk. I know he wants a new contract from Filthadelphia, but I had no idea he wanted to fit in that badly with the Santa-pelters.
- I wonder if CNN wants me back. At least people watched Jack Hanna, his monkeys, and me. Who watches Piers Morgan? Oh, I hope he is not listening in on me.
- Second, that Bryce Harper kids is a keeper. Sweet stroke, tremendous hustle, cannon for an arm. I haven’t been this excited since I found a mini-toy microphone in my Cracker Jack box in 1966.
- Finally, as much as I love the guy, I can’t help but think that without an increased strikeout rate, Jordan Zimmermann is not poised to vault into elite status this year. Although his ground ball/fly ball ratio is over one for the first time in his career, his strikeout percentage is also down from 18.7% to 14.7%.
Good night from Tallahassee. Now here’s Anderson Cooper to keep them honest about how unwatchable he really is.
During the off-season, Nationals officials went to great lengths to try to encourage their fans to “Take Back the Park” from opposing team’s fans, specifically, the unwashed from Filthadelphia. I think we can say that after Washington’s 4-3 win tonight, the first salvo in the battle was landed by the Nats on the field, courtesy of Wilson Ramos and his game-winning pinch-hit single in the bottom of the eleventh. Boom!
Game ball(s): Several candidates for the award tonight. The bullpen, which turned in five scoreless innings. Jesus Flores, who came through in the bottom of the eighth with the game-tying double. And finally, his compatriot Ramos. It’s past 11, so let’s get crazy and give game balls to them all!
Goat(s): I have finally figured out why Jayson Werth sports the caveman beard: It’s his getaway disguise after he robbed the Nationals blind for $126 million last year. What gives him swag, as the kids say, is that he has the bananas to hang around the joint after the crime. Tonight he pulled a 0-5 with five runners left on base. Oh, to be a professional athlete.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Steve Lombardozzi, who scored the winning run after going 3 for 6 including the clutch two-out single to keep the bottom of the eleventh going.
Current Record: 17-9
For eight innings, it looked like for all the world that Ian Desmond’s solo home run in the bottom of the sixth would prove to be all the runs the Nationals would need to beat the Marlins for a second straight day. Then Brad Lidge stormed into the game like your favorite wino uncle at Christmas. We know how that ends. And for Lidge, it was a swift surrendering of the Nats 2-0 lead on a two-run bomb to Logan Morrison, who then sent the first-ever home run trot tweet: Thx Brad for the lifeless hanging fastball!#washed up.
Thankfully, Lidge slinked off before the score turned upside down, setting up the Nationals to plate the winning run in the bottom of the tenth. Aided by a Gaby Sanchez throwing error that advanced Wilson Ramos to third on what should have been a double-play, Desmond then drove in Ramos with a sacrifice fly.
Game ball(s): Desmond. He has faded since his quick start, but he came through twice today in the clutch.
Goat(s): Lidge. I don’t want to beat a broken horse, but H-Rod is clearly the better option to close games at this point and with how tight Nationals games have been, the longer Lidge is in the mix for saves, the more at risk wins in some of those games will be in.
Bryce Harper is not as far off: Stephen Strasburg, who was the phenom before there was a Bryce Harper. And he deserved better today than a no-decision, pitching six superb innings, allowing no runs and striking out six.
Current Record: 12-4
In Part One of the season preview, we focused on the Nationals pitching staff, broke down their prospects for the coming season, and remarked on the now suspicious injury history of Carl Pavano (okay, we didn’t, but it certainly does deserve the people’s eyebrow). Today, we turn our punditry towards the Nationals lineup and bench, and then will make overly generic predictions for the season that in 400 years’ time, will also be seen to contain clues about the end of time.
SS Ian Desmond – I probably should check with the judge to see if I’m allowed to write anything about Ian after drafting him last year in fantasy baseball, but it goes without saying that Desmond is hardly the ideal lead-off man. He does possess a little pop and can steal 20 bags in a season, but whiffs way too much, doesn’t take a walk, and thus, doesn’t find his way to first and beyond too often (career .304 on-base percentage). I hate to say this, but if Desmond and Espinosa hit most or all of the season at the top of the lineup, the hopes for a good Nationals offense goes out the window.
2nd Danny Espinosa – Well, I drafted you this year, which probably means we won’t be speaking by mid-May. You are talented enough to make many things possible. You have some real thunder in your bat, and a 20-20 season wouldn’t surprise me in the least. But you strike out by the bushel, so a batting average above .250 may be asking too much.
3rd Ryan Zimmerman – I fear he won’t age well, but for now, Zimm is the Nat’s franchise player. He is capable of a .300/30/100 (the latter of which he will probably will be denied because of the lack of base runners) season, all the while bringing gold glove defense to the hot corner every day. I think Baseball Prospectus may have been stretching it just a bit when it said to look to Zimm for a dark horse MVP candidate, but not by that much.
RF Jayson Werth – The good thing is that Werth probably can’t play much worse than last year. I suspect he is due for a decent rebound. Then again, I didn’t think Dana Stubblefield could make a sumo wrestler jealous and he did. That’s life as a Washington sports fan. I actually think it would be best if manager Davey Johnson moved Werth and his career .360 on-base percentage up to the #2 hole, which would work the opponent’s pitchers a bit more and increase the odds that Zimm hits with someone on base. That still wouldn’t solve lead-off, but you have to start somewhere.
LF Michael Morse – The breakout slugger from last season hasn’t done much of anything this Spring, hampered by a right lat strain that has lingered to the point of landing him on the 15-day DL to start the season. I think he got a touch lucky with his batting average last year, but the power is legit. Hopefully, his body holds up because it is bat that makes his butchery in the outfield (-7.9 UZR in 2011) tolerable.
1B Adam LaRoche – Oy. I’m not sure I like the addition of last year’s season-ending shoulder surgery to an already slow and elongated swing susceptible to long periods of wind-only production. Oh, and his shoulder has hurt him throwing during Spring Training. Hopefully, he hasn’t lost his ability to pick it at first, because that may be the only thing keeping him from the scrap heap.
C Wilson Ramos – Wilson’s emergence last year probably contributed to the Nationals willingness to give up Derek Norris as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade. Can’t say I disagree with at least that part of the trade, because a prospect is only good to you playing in the big leagues or as trade bait. And with Ramos in DC, the former wasn’t going to happen. Ramos has a nice bat capable of a solid average (think .270ish) and good power for a catcher (think optimistically 18 home runs or so), all the while playing solid defense. He’s the Ron Popeil of catchers. Set him and forget him.
CF Rick Ankiel/Roger Bernandina – Bleh. Honestly, it won’t be until Bryce Harper is promoted from Triple A that the Nationals will have the hope of fielding a legitimate center fielder. And of course, Harper offers more than just legitimacy beyond 2012 – true star potential. Until then, the combination of Ankiel (who will start the season on the 15 day DL with a tight left quad) and Bernandina will offer up only average defense and below average hitting. Bleh.
Having a deep and flexible bench is always a critical ingredient to a playoff-caliber team, and with a couple of injuries to start the season, it won’t take too terribly long to figure out how good the Nationals bench will be. Right now, it looks like Washington will initially carry backup catcher Jesus Flores, infielders Chad Tracy and Steve Lombardozzi, outfielder Brett Carroll, and jacks of all trades, Xavier Nady and Mark DeRosa, the latter who should see most of the starts in place of the injured Morse. At first blush, Washington appears to have a flexible but not necessarily overly talented bench. Finding a decent left-handed bat (Tracy isn’t it) and keeping DeRosa healthy should be the Nats top bench priorities.
The end is nigh! Oh, right, about the upcoming season. As it stands now, the NL East, while seemingly stacked, also has its vulnerabilities. The Phillies lineup is banged up and will actually be fairly pedestrian when it is all said and done. The Braves didn’t do much to improve a middling lineup and will rely too much on young starters that will end up taxing their good, but overworked bullpen. And the Marlins* rotation and bullpen beyond Heath Bell have a lot of question marks. So, do all these weaknesses crack open the door to a Nationals playoff appearance?
My heart says yes but my mind still can’t get all the way there. Stupid brain keeps asking questions like who in the heck is going to be on base when Zimm comes up to bat? Will the holes in the Nationals defense (Morse, Desmond, CF) cost them one too many wins? And the answers, to the extent they exist, are not satisfying enough to make me believe the Nationals will get all the way there. They will get close. Oh so close. But they will fall just short – 87 W, 75 L, 3rd place in the NL East.
*The Bernie Madoff Mets have Mike Pelfrey in their rotation. Your kid sister could hit .250 against him. They aren’t competing for a playoff spot.
When is an 0-5 night a $126 million contract earning night? Last night, when Jason Werth hustled his way to second in the bottom of the tenth after Yuniesky Betancourt’s throw got past Prince Fielder, swiped third base without a throw, and came home on an infield bouncer by Adam LaRoche.
Putting aside the Brewers curious defensive decision to not cover third after Werth reached second, last night’s win is exactly the type of win that has been few and far between the past few seasons. A win when you are clearly not the better team, but you manage to pull one out anyways. Now granted, not every night will the beer capital denizens drink and play. And no, long term, Werth can’t earn his keep with just hustle alone. But for a team yearning to instill a culture of winning, watching one of your struggling stars hustle the team to victory can’t hurt.
Game 13 Natties
Game ball(s): Can it be anybody else but Werth?
Goat(s): Sean Burnett. Blown save number one on the season. With Storen pitching so well, I can’t help but think that soon, the Nationals will begin the transition back to the future.
Bryce Harper is a ways off: Wilson Ramos. Boy, can he hit. Everyday, that Matt Capps half-year rent and trade is looking better and better.
Current Record: 6-7
Hmmmm. So there is a God. I guess George Costanza was only half right.
Last night, the Matt Stairs hitting cleanup Nationals took down the mighty Phillies 7-4, powered by former Philly Jason Werth and up and coming catcher Wilson Ramos. I didn’t think more sarcasm was the key, but whose to argue? On to the Natties:
Game ball(s): Jason Werth and Wilson Ramos, who were a combined 4 for 6, with 4 runs scored, 3 runs batted in, a homer, a steal, and 2 walks, for kicks and giggles.
Goat(s): Ian Desmond not sniffing first base once again.
Bryce Harper is a ways off: Sean Burnett. It wasn’t quite as clean as his first two saves, but he got the job done.
Current Record: 5-5