The season is over for the Washington Nationals. In many ways, I agree with this Mets fan about the end of the season finally being here.
It’s been a difficult, frustrating, infuriating, and downright painful season, which began with 7 straight losses. For the second year in a row, the Nationals lost over 100 games. They actually won the same number of games in 2009 as in 2008 (59) but lost one more game (103) this year because their final home game of 2008 was rained out and not rescheduled. (Ironically, the Yankees 2009 regular season record was 103-59.) Needless to say, my prediction of a 75-87 record was way off! So many things went wrong for the Nats in 2009…dreadful pitching (mostly by the bullpen but also by some of the starters)…non-existent offense at times…poor defense and too many errors…even a wardrobe malfunction.
But despite the intense suckitude displayed by the Nationals for most of the 2009 season, there were also some good things that happened this year. In no particular order, some of 2009’s highlights include:
- Bidding adieu to Jim Bowden and Manny Acta. Bowden was a moron; Acta was not. Acta seemed like a very nice guy, but, quite frankly, he sucked as a manager. Granted, he didn’t have a lot to work with, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was horrednous.
- A 33-42 (.440) record under interim manager Jim Riggleman
- Josh Willingham’s 2 grand slams in the 7/27 game vs. Milwaukee.
- Adam Dunn hitting his 300th career home run (I was at that game).
- Drafting, and then signing, Stephen Strasburg…and not breaking the bank in the process.
- Adam Dunn’s surprising improvement at 1B. He’s definitely not gold-glove caliber (and probably never will be), but his defense has improved. And, if nothing else, he’s a big target at first. His defense at first base is certainly better than it was in left field.
- The acquistion of Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett. Morgan (a/k/a Tony Plush) in particular provided a tremendous spark, and his presence in the lineup as well as in center field was greatly missed after he went on the DL.
- Justin Maxwell, who provided two of the greatest moments of the season: stealing a home run away from Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones with a phenomenal over-the-wall catch at Nationals Park back in May, and his walk-off home run off of Francisco Rodríguez in the final home game of the season to defeat the Mets, and complete the sweep.
- Jordan Zimmermann’s MLB debut, and first win, in April. I was there…it was a rainy night, and a lot of people left early, so sticking around for the final out and the win was especially fun. (I hope Zimm2 makes a full recovery from Tommy John surgery and comes back stronger than ever.)
- John Lannan and Craig Stammen beating the Yankees in June. I felt very conflicted about that series at the time, but in retrospect, that series definitely ended up being one of the most memorable series of the season.
- Not getting swept by the Red Sox. It’s the little things that mean a lot in a 103-loss season.
- The 8-game winning streak in August.
- The 7-game winning streak to end the season.
- The emergence of John Lannan as the leader of the Nationals pitching staff. People believed that he would fall apart because he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts and just isn’t dominant enough. His first few starts of the season weren’t good, and he hit a rough patch in August, but came back for a strong finish in September.
- Ryan Zimmerman — his 30-game hit streak was easily the biggest highlight of the season…despite some throwing issues early in the season, his defense was gold-glove caliber…and signing him to a 5-year deal ensures that the “face of the franchise” will wear a Nationals uniform for a long time.
And now, even though the postseason is in full swing, I’m feeling a bit of sadness and withdrawal. Despite another 100+ loss season and all of the agony that went along with it, I’m sad that the Nationals’ season is over. Maybe it’s just the residual good feelings from the end-of-the-season 7-game winning
streak…or maybe it’s the fact that I upgraded the seats in my season
ticket plan (I’ll be behind home plate instead of near the right field
corner)…or perhaps a combination of both. I attended the Nats’ final home game — in which Justin Maxwell hit the walk-off home run — and it was such an incredible way to end the home schedule. But it left me wanting more…more improvement, more wins. If only the Nationals could have played like that more often during the course of the season and had more incredible comebacks like that.
I am full of hope for next year. The 7-game winning streak at the end of the season was a very exciting way to end a miserable season. Granted, those 7 wins came against an awful Mets team and a deflated Braves team that had just been knocked out of wild card contention…it’s not like we swept the Phillies and the Dodgers. Nevertheless, I am very hopeful that 2010 will be better. I’m hopeful that the Nats can get the starting pitcher that they need. I’m hopeful that the Nationals can settle their situation at second base. I’m hopeful that Ian Desmond can continue his maturation process and become a bona fide MLB shortstop. I’m hopeful that Drew Storen can make a successful leap from the minors to the majors next season to help ease the Nationals’ bullpen woes. I’m hopeful that Stephen Strasburg makes it to the big leagues — sooner rather than later — and lives up to the hype surrounding him. I am looking forward to seeing what moves the Nationals make during the offseason, including who the manager will be. I know that whatever the Nats do, they’re not going to go from worst to first in one season…but I am hopeful that there will be a significant improvement. I have to be hopeful…hope is what will keep me reasonably sane between now and next February.
Speaking of February…when do pitchers and catchers report??
Yankees 3, Rays 2
Nick Swisher’s 2 home runs helped the Yankees beat the Rays…particularly the second home run, which came at the bottom of the 9th with one out and the score tied at 2.
[sarcasm]Don’t you just love Nick’s calm personality?[/sarcasm]
Derek Jeter was hitless, remaining three hits shy of tying Lou Gehrig’s club record of 2,721 career hits.
Phillies 5, Nationals 3
John Lannan pitched 6 strong innings for the Nats, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits. Unfortunately, his 7th inning wasn’t so good; he gave up 2 home runs in the top of the 7th, which gave the Phillies at 4-2 lead. The inning got off to a great start for the Nats with another brilliant defensive play by Ryan Zimmerman on a ground ball from Ryan Howard. Playing near second base on the shift, Zimm dove to make the catch and threw the ball to Adam Dunn in time to get the out at first. But then Lannan gave up those 2 home runs, and the game went downhill from there for the Nats. Another night, another loss. *sigh*
The Nationals annual Picnic in the Park event for season ticket holders took place on August 22nd at Nationals Park. As usual, it was a very enjoyable event. Fans had the opportunity to get players’ autographs, pose for pictures with players, visit the dugout, throw pitches in the bullpen, and run the bases. I have a jersey with a bunch of autographs on it, and I was able to get Adam Dunn and Nyjer Morgan, among others, to sign that jersey. Some of my photos from that day can be seen here.
For the first time this season, the Nationals won in extra innings. They defeated the Blue Jays in 12 innings, 2-1, in interleague play.
Both starting pitchers limited the opposing offense to just 1 run, and both starters gave up 3 walks, 1 of which led to the other team scoring a run. Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann pitched 5 and 2/3 innings and had 3 strikeouts. Blue Jays starter Brian Tallet lasted 5 innings. With the bases loaded in the 4th inning, Zimm2 got the first RBI of his young career when he grounded into a fielder’s choice; Anderson Hernadez was out at 2nd, but Josh Bard scored. The Blue Jays scored in the 5th inning, and the score remained tied at 1 at the end of 9 innings, sending the game into extra innings. Both bullpens pitched well — which is a surprising statement to be able to make about the Nationals bullpen — until the bottom of the 11th, when Jason Frasor gave up a single and 2 walks to load the bases. Then Adam Dunn singled in the game winning run, to give the Nationals their first extra innings win in 9 extra innings games this year.
Zimm2 is winless in nine starts since April 26. His 63 strikeouts lead National League rookies.
The Nats have now won 3 straight games…their first 3-game winning streak since May 7-9 and only their second 3-game winning streak of the season.
I am happy.
Some ramblings while I’m watching the game…
A couple of weeks ago, I looked into getting a ticket for this game. Since it was scheduled to be a day game, I thought it would be cool to get a ticket, take an early train up to NY from DC, go to the game, and take the train back home at about 6:30-7:00. That would have gotten me back home sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. But I wasn’t able to find an affordable ticket on the Yankees web site, so I gave up on that idea. Fortunately for me, I didn’t think to check StubHub at that time, where I probably would have been able to find something affordable. Why is that fortunate? Because of the 5-hour 26-minute rain delay! By the time this game got underway at about 6:30, I would have been back at Penn Station, either boarding a train or getting ready to board one soon.
Right now, it’s the bottom of the 7th, and the Nationals are leading 3-0. The Yankees have 2 on with 1 out, and Hideki Matsui is at bat. This will be where the Yankees rally and take the lead…not necessarily this inning, but it’ll happen. This is, after all, the Nationals bullpen we’re talking about.
Update: Tavarez coming into the game? Get ready, Yankees fans…here comes the rally……
Update: OMG…I hope Brett Gardner will be OK. The MASN commentators are talking about his lower back, but it looked to me like hit his head. Ouch!! Hell of a catch too….
Update: I probably shouldn’t be so negative where the Nationals are concerned, but I’m a realist. I know how bad this team — specifically the bullpen — is. It’s the bottom of the 9th, and they only need 3 outs for a win, but they will find a way to blow it…or the defense will blow it. Not that this would be a bad thing, because the Yankees need to win tonight…..
Update: Umm…WHAT?!?! The Nationals won, 3-0? The Nationals WON??
Are you kidding me?!?!?
Once again, the Yankees made a young, unknown pitcher look like Cy Young. Rookie Craig Stammen got his first major league win, pitching a solid 6 and 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, giving up 6 hits with 2 strikeouts. The usually horrendous Nationals bullpen not only protected the lead by not giving up any runs, but Ron Villone, Julian Tavarez, and Joe Biemel didn’t even give up a hit. Mike MacDougal allowed 1 hit. Ryan Zimmerman and Cristian Guzman were 3-5 with 2 and 1 RBI, respectively. Adam Dunn, DH’ing again tonight, was 2-2 with 2 walks. Even the Nationals usually weak defense played well, with a diving catch by Willie Harris that robbed Alex Rodriguez of a hit, and a perfect throw by Austin Kearns from right field to second to get Nick Swisher out.
For the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain surrendered 3 runs in 6 innings, with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke, and David Robertson combined to give up just 1 hit and no runs, but the damage was already done. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher were 2-4; Swisher also grounded into a double play in the 9th inning. Derek Jeter pinch hit for Ramiro Pena with the bases loaded, but the Yankees best threat of the game ended when he grounded into a fielder’s choice. Brett Garner made an excellent catch at the wall to rob Austin Kearns of a hit, crashing into the wall and crumbling to the ground in the process. Considering how his head snapped back and hit the plexiglas wall, he was lucky that he didn’t lose consciousness. I hope he will be OK.
Tonight’s game was the first at Yankee Stadium this season in which no home runs were hit. I guess the baseballs were too wet to leave the park!
I officially suck at making predictions. As I mentioned earlier, I know I shouldn’t be so negative where the Nats are concerned, but I honestly believed that they would not win any of these games. Prior to the series, I thought they might have a slim chance to beat Chien-Ming Wang, but I didn’t expect even two wins, much less a sweep.
(Here goes my split personality again…..)
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!! I’m freaking out here…I can’t believe the Nationals — the “lowly Nationals” — beat the Yankees TWICE. Going back to the 2006 Yankees/Nationals interleague series, the Nats are 4-2 vs. the Yankees! Chien-Ming Wang is 0-2 vs. the Nationals. WOW!! Unfreakingbelieveable! Maybe this will be a turning point for the team, and they will play more respectably for the rest of the season. If nothing else, it’s got to be a confidence builder!
WTF is wrong with the Yankees?! How is it possible that they lost this series to the worst team in baseball…one of the worst teams EVER?! It’s pathetic. A-Rod was 0-the series. The entire team is in a slump — great timing, to be slumping against a team that hasn’t even won 20 games by mid-June. If the Red Sox win again tonight, the Yankees will fall 4 games back in the division. Hell, the Blue Jays have swept the Phillies, so they’re breathing down our necks. This sucks!!! SNAP OUT OF IT, YANKEES!!
Jeez…what a series.
Nationals starter John Lannan pitched just over 8 strong innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, and despite giving up 2 home runs, Lannan — a Long Island native who was a Yankees fan as a youngster — got the win as the Nationals defeated the Yankees, 3-2. Adam Dunn hit his 18th home run of the season, former Yankee Nick Johnson got his 2nd triple of the season and had 2 RBI, and former Yankees prospect Cristian Guzman was 3-5.
Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang had his best start of the season, surrendering just 3 runs on 6 hits over 5 innings. Johnny Damon was 2-4 with a home run, and Robinson Cano hit a home run. The Yankees pulled within one run in the bottom of the 9th, but it wasn’t enough to pull out a win.
(This is where my split personality with regard to baseball kicks in……)
The Yankees lost to the Nationals?! Are you kidding me?? The freakin’ Natinals?!?! Those guys suck so bad, they can’t even spell the name of their team! Who the hell is John Lannan, and why couldn’t the Yankees get more than 4 hits off of him? They got 9 hits and scored 9 runs off of Johan Santana but could only manage to score 2 runs off Lannan. Once again, the Yankees managed to make a nobody pitcher look much better than he really is. And Cano was the hero last night, but he was a different story tonight, grounding into a double play to end the game. It’s humilating to lose to a 17-46 team…the Yankees should have blown these guys out. Worst of all, the Yankees lost ground to the Red Sox, who defeated the Marlins tonight.
OMG OMG OMG!!! The Nats beat the Yankees?! Are you kidding me?? I’m definitely a Lanna-fan, and I knew Lannan would pitch well…I just didn’t think he’d pitch as well as he did tonight. He had took a no-hitter into the 5th inning! How exciting must this game have been for him, with his family there at the Stadium to watch him pitch. Cristian Guzman had a great game, and I thought Nick Johnson was going to need oxygen after his triple. Thank goodness I suck at prediciting the outcomes of games. LOL
Two down, one to go…….
OK…this is it…well, almost it…one more day until the Yankees/Nationals 3 game interleague series at Yankee Stadium. I’m still going slightly bonkers over this series, trying to decide if I should root for one team over the other, or just cheer for both teams and not care about the outcome. Should I happen to take leave of my senses and root for the Nationals over the Yankees in this series, it would be completely irrelevant. Why? Because I am 99.9 percent sure that the Yankees will easily sweep this series, and at least one of the games will closely resemble yesterday’s Yankees/Mets blowout for the Yankees. I suspect this series will be quite an(other) ugly one for the Nationals.
Without further ado, here are my predictions for this series.
Tuesday, June 16 — CC Sabathia vs. Shairon Martis
My prediction: Yankees 12, Nationals 1.
While with the Brewers, Sabathia shut out the Nats last August, 5-0. Either Ryan Zimmerman or Adam Dunn will hit a solo home run early in the game for the Nationals, and then Sabathia will shut down the Nats offense and pitch a complete game. Martis will pitch well for 5 innings, keeping the score fairly close. With the Yankees leading, Martis will be replaced by Kip Wells, who will give up 5 or 6 runs…and the rout will be on.
Wednesday, June 17 — Chien-Ming Wang vs. John Lannan
My predicition: Yankees 7, Nationals 4.
This could be the final test for Wang. If he pitches poorly against the Nationals, his future in pinstripes could be in serious jeopardy. If the Nationals manage to win a game in this series, this wwould be the game they win. But it’s not gonna happen. Wang will miraculously pitch well for a full 7 innings. Lannan will pitch very well for 6 innings but get very little run support, and then the Nationals bullpen will once again implode, allowing the Yankees to cruise to a victory.
Thursday, June 18 — Joba Chamberlain vs. Craig Stammen
My prediction: Yankees 8, Nationals 5.
For some reason, I have a feeling there will be some hit batters on both sides, and a bench clearing push-and-shove (as opposed to a bench clearing brawl — no punches thrown, just some pushing snd shoving). Someone on the Nationals will have a hissy fit over Chamberlain’s post-strikeout gesticulations, batters will be hit, and minor mayhem will follow. The umpires will shoo everyone back to their respective dugouts, and the Yankees will complete the sweep.
As Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that.