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??
It’s been a while…over two months, in fact…but I’m back. Real life intruded upon my online time — work issues and personal issues kept my online time limited to just my message board for the most part, but I’m hoping that everything is resolved now, and I’ll be able to make regular contributions to this blog once again.
Let’s see…what has happened since my last blog entry? Well, starting with the Yankees:
With a sweep of the Twins in early July, the Yankees tied the Red Sox for the lead in the AL East for one game, surrendering the lead the very next day with the first of three losses to the Angels. Less than two weeks later, a win over the Orioles pushed the Yankees into another tie for first in the AL East with the Red Sox. The Yankees have been in first place ever since, and despite losing their first eight games against Boston this season, they now hold a 9-game lead over the Red Sox. Since my last blog post, the Yankees have had winning streaks of 7 games three times and an 8 game winning streak, with no losing streaks longer than 3 games.
As for the Nationals:
Suckrahan Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge were traded to the Pirates for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, giving the Nationals the centerfielder they’ve needed all season. Manager Manny Acta got the boot just before the All-Star game and was replaced by bench coach Jim Riggleman. Shortly thereafter, the Nationals front office sent a “We admit that we suck, but we’re trying not to suck quite so much” email to all season ticket holders and all fans who purchased Nationals tickets or merchandise online. The Nationals were 6-10 in July after Riggleman took over for Acta, and were 14-15 in August, including an 8-game winning streak in early August. The Nats traded Nick Johnson — the last remaining connection to the Montreal Expos — to the Marlins for minor league pitcher Aaron Thompson. Starting pitchers Scott Olsen, Jordan Zimmermann, Craig Stammen, and Collin Balester were lost for the season to injuries (shoulder surgery for Olsen, Tommy John surgery for Zimmernann, arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur int he elbow for Stammen, and an intercostal strain of his left
side for Balester). In need of an innings eater, and/or overtaken by nostalgia, the Nats signed pitcher (and former National) Livan Hernandez after he was released by the Mets. Oh, and the Nationals signed their number 1 draft choice — perhaps you’ve heard of him? — some guy named Stephen Strasburg.
Yep, that about covers it.
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.
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.
The Yankees and Nationals had different, but not surprising, results in their respective games tonight.
The Yankees defeated the Mets tonight, 9-8, thanks to an error by Luis Castillo in the 9th inning. This was a crazy game, to say the least…..
The Yankees jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning on Robinson Cano’s home run.
The Mets came right back in the 3rd inning to regain the lead, 2-1
The Yankees took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 3rd.
The Mets jumped out to a 6-3 in the top of the 5th inning.
The Yankees scored a run in the bottom of the 5th.
The Yankees regained the lead in the 6th inning, 7-6.
Then the Mets tied the game in the 7th.
The Mets took the lead, 8-7, in the 8th inning.
And then, finally, the Yankees scored two runs in the bottom of the inning, when Luis Castillo dropped a 2 out pop-up off the bat of Alex Rodriguez, allowing Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira to score the tying and winning runs, respectively. The final score was 9-8.
Whew…it was exhausting just typing all of that. I can’t imagine how tiring it must have been to watch the game in person, much less to play in it!
Postscript to the Yankees/Red Sox series: the last Yankees pitcher to win a game against the Red Sox was Mike Mussina. It was his 20th win of the season last year.
And then, there were the Nationals, who lost to the Rays tonight, 4-3. Pitching into the 6th inning, starter Craig Stammen, did a decent job, putting his team into a position to win. But the 3 runs that the Nats scored in the 1st inning were all they could manage. And then, with 2 outs in the 8th, Nick Johnson misplayed a pop-up in foul territory. Instead of the inning coming to an end, Gabe Kapler stepped up to the plate and hit the home run that won the game for the Rays.
SSDD…same stuff, different day. Another day, another loss.
OK, for the time being, I will refrain from referring to Joel Hanrahan as Joel Suckrahan. He actually got a save tonight as the Nationals avoided a second straight 4-game sweep by beating the Pirates, 5-4.Not that
Suckrahan Hanrahan pitched well — he did not — but he somehow managed to keep the Pirates from scoring in the 9th inning.
I was at tonight’s game. Not only did the Nats win, but for just the second time this season, I didn’t have to deal with a rain delay. In fact, the weather was perfect!
Tonight’s game marked the major league debut of Craig Stammen, whose performance was actually better than his line indicates. Stammen pitched into the 7th inning, giving up 4 runs on 4 hits (including a home run), with a walk and 3 strikeouts. He was perfect through 4 innings before finally giving up a hit, and eventually a run, in the 5th. Things fell apart for Stammen in the 7th inning when he began to tire, and the Pirates took the lead. Manny Acta probably left him in the game a couple of pitchers too long, but considering how horrendous our bullpen is, I really can’t blame him for being hesitant to take Stammen out. Despite that 7th inning, Stammen was very impressive…he worked fast and threw strikes. That’s not something that can be said about any of Daniel Cabrera’s efforts this season.
I was ready to leave the game after the 7th inning. I had witnessed Stammen’s debut, so I was pleased. But the Pirates had taken the lead, and Stammen was out of the game, and I had little faith that the bullpen would prevent any additional scoring. I went to the bathroom and was on my way to the gate when someone with a funnel cake walked by me. I loooooooove funnel cakes (yes, I know they are bad for me…they are nothing but fried fat covered with sugar…but they are soooo gooooood…..). Seeing that funnel cake made me want one, so I did get a funnel cake. I sat at one of the picnic tables behind section 142 (or thereabouts) to eat it while watching the game. But then the Nats took the lead once more, so I ended up sticking around until the end of the game.
It was nice to see the Nats battle back in the 8th inning to regain the lead. Ryan Zimmerman’s single scored Cristian Guzman, and Adam Dunn got it done with a single that scored Nick Johnson. And I have to mention the nice catch Zimm made in foul territory for the first out in the 6th inning. He leaned over the rail and grabbed a ball that otherwise would have dropped into the front row of seats. I checked out the video of it when I got home from the game…a fan in the front row looked like he was going to try to catch the ball but pulled back at the last moment, allowing Zimm to make the catch. After he caught the ball, Zimm gestured towards the fan to thank him for not interferring. That was pretty funny!
And then came the 9th inning and Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan. Adam LaRoche hit a fly ball to deep center, driving Willie Harris all the way to the wall to make the catch (whew…thanks, Willie!), and then Brandon Moss singled. Pretty much everyone in the ballpark figured that was it…Joel was about to blow another one. But he got the final two K’s, much to the crowd’s delight, and the Nationals were finally winners. The seven game losing streak is history.
Next up…interleague play with the Orioles coming to DC, in the Battle of the Beltways. Two crappy, last place teams…[sarcasm] boy oh boy, this should be an exciting series! [/end sarcasm]