That’s what Stephen Strasburg was this afternoon in shutting out the Atlanta Braves over seven innings, propelling the Nationals to a 2-0 win. Every pitch was bananas, leading to nine punch outs and zero walks, while allowing only four hits. When Stephen is on his game like he was today, it matters a heck of a lot less that the Nats didn’t do too much better against Brandon Beachy. Jesus Flores went deep in the bottom of the fifth and Xavier Nady doubled home another run for kicks and giggles in the seventh, accounting for all the offense Washington could muster and thankfully, all they would need to secure the victory.
Game ball(s): See, handing Gio the May MESPY was all a part of the strategy. You see how well Strasburg pitches when he is angry?
Goat(s): I’m going to veer off-course a bit here and say all of the critics of Terry Collins for allowing Johan Santana to throw 134 pitches in route to his no-hitter last night. I understand that Santana is coming off of major shoulder problems that cost him all of last season and if the Mets have any hope of continuing to battle for the NL East crown, they have to have Santana take the mound every fifth day. But I also don’t understand the obsession with treating pitchers with such kid gloves today. And for all the pitch counts, innings limits, boutique relievers, can anyone honestly say pitchers are staying healthier than 30-40 years ago? If the Mets want to try to give Johan an extra day before his next start, kudos to them. Probably the wise thing to do. But enough of everyone getting their shorts in a bunch over a manager allowing a pitcher to do what he is supposed to do, and in the course of making history to boot.
Bryce Harper is still only 19: Flores. Great to have him back behind home plate because without him, Washington is truly staring into the abyss at the position.
Current Record: 30-21
Twenty-two outs into last night’s game, it looked for all the world that the Nationals were barreling towards defeat, unable to do much of anything against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. Seemingly wanting to flee Nationals Park like Bobby Petrino from a crash-scene, as quickly as each Nationals hitter came to the plate, he found himself slinking back to the dugout with haste. Then the genius of Dusty Baker struck.
Although Arroyo was only at 94 pitches, and had set down seven straight hitters, Dusty pulled him in favor of lefty Bill Bray with one out in the bottom of the eight. Now, I understand that the Nationals had sent up the left-handed hitting Chad Tracy to pinch-hit, so you might be inclined to say Dusty was just going by the book. Problem is (if you are a Reds fan), Dusty reads the Berenstain Bears Play Ball. As soon as Bray came into the game, Davey Johnson pulled Tracy back and replaced him with righty Xavier Nady, who promptly tied the game at 1-1 with a solo shot to left.
Four scoreless innings for both teams followed Nady’s heroics, which set the stage for Jayson Werth to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the 13th. It was interesting, no depressing, to read this morning that Werth’s walk-off hit was his first in a Nats uniform. Good for him. Last season was that rough.
Game ball(s): Werth. He was the only Nat with more than one hit and his second of the night drove in the game-winning run. That’s sort of important.
Goat(s): Thank you Dusty!
Bryce Harper is not as far off: Jordan Zimmermann. He was stellar for seven innings but walked away with a no-decision because Arroyo thoroughly stymied the Nationals for 7 and 1/3 innings. And he is on my fantasy team. Poor guy.
Current Record: 6-2
Well, the so-so hitting caught up with the Nationals today, as they got shut down by Jeff Samardzija in a 4-3 loss to the Cubs. Displaying dominant stuff, Samardzija wisely took advantage of an impatient Nationals lineup that failed to do much of anything, getting a first pitch strike on 25 of 31 of the hitters he faced. The consequences were inevitable.
The Nationals did make it interesting in the bottom of the 9th after a two-out Starlin Castro error gave Washington a glimmer of hope. And Adam LaRoche promptly turned that into a burst of hope with a two-run bomb to right, bringing the Nats within one. However, it was too little, too late, as Carlos Marmol actually found a way to get an out, finishing off Xavier Nady and the Nationals.
As Washington heads off to New York for a 3-game series, hopefully, they can find their hitting stroke. Otherwise, I may have to start a “When Is Jayson Werth Going to Get a Hit?” watch.
Game ball(s): Samardzija. I guess since Touchdown Jesus hasn’t been performing many miracles on the football field lately, he decided to throw one to Samardzija on Easter. Isn’t that apropos?
Goat(s): Nationals hitters. They hit the switch too late in the game, managing only four hits.
Bryce Harper is not as far off: Zimmermann. He was largely on his game today, but my prayers for the bats to get going a little earlier seem to have gone unheard. I hate Notre Dame. And I hate spelling Samardzija.
Current Record: 2-1