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*
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.
I apologize to my readers — all 4 of you! — for being AWOL for more than a week. My roommate had surgery last Monday, so I’ve been visiting her most evenings. Between being busy at work and the stress of the hospital visits (hospitals creep me out), I just haven’t had the energy to post anything here.
To catch up a bit, since my last post, the Yankees have 5 wins and 3 losses. Some notable games:
The June 1st game vs. the Indians featured another attack of the midges, but the bugs didn’t bug starter Joba Chamberlain too much this time. The Yankees set a new MLB record of 18 error-free games, breaking the record that the Red Sox set in 2006, and they beat the Indians 5-2.
In the June 2nd game vs. the Rangers, there was an exceptional amount of testosterone flying through the air, after Mark Texeira was hit by pitches from Vicente Padilla in the 2nd and 4th innings. Tex then slid into Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus at 2nd base in the 4th. Inspired by Tex’s display of manliness, the Yankees scored 7 runs in that inning. A.J. Burnett sent a message of his own in the 5th inning, throwing a pitch over the head of Nelson Cruz. That display of testosterone drew a warning from the home plate umpire to both dugouts. It also drew a fine, as well as a 6 game suspension two days later. (Padilla was also fined.) Burnett’s appeal of the fine will allow him to play until a hearing takes place.
Tex’s comments about being hit by those pitches:
“There’s really no reason for it in baseball. You know, if you can’t get a guy out, don’t hit him. You know, if you don’t want to pitch to a guy, then, you know, put four fingers out there and walk him,” Teixeira said.
I agree, Tex. As I mentioned here, I think the pitcher and hitter should just drop their pants, let everyone see who is bigger, and then tuck it back in and get on with the game.
Unfortunately, the Yankees errorless innings streak ended in this game. Oh well, at least they set a new record and won the game, 12-3.
The June 4th game vs. the Rangers featured Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the starting rotation. Unfortunately, he was not particularly effective, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits, including a home run, in 4.2 innings. But the Yankees rallied in the 8th inning, overcoming a 5-1 deficit to win the game, 8-6.
In the June 5th game vs. the Rays, Mariano Rivera blew his first save of the season and got his second loss, when Joe Dillon broke a 5-5 tie with a single in the 9th inning. The Rays scored 4 runs (3 earned) off Rivera in the 9th for the win.
I watched the Yankees beat the Rays tonight (Monday), 5-3. Andy Pettitte got the win, Mariano Rivera got the save; it was the 59th time the two have combined for a win and a save. Pettitte and Rivera are the all-time MLB winner-closer combo leaders, with two more wins/saves than Oakland’s Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley.
Since my last blog post here, the Nationals have 5 losses and 2 wins. It’s really quite astonishing that they have those two wins in 7 games! Some notable games:
On June 2nd, the Nationals had a surprising 10-6 win against the Giants and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. The Giants were leading 5-2 when the rally began with the Nats scoring 2 runs at the bottom of the 6th. The Nats offense exploded for 6 runs in the 8th inning. Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan gave up a run in the 9th inning, but managed to finish the inning and the game without any further damage. Prior to that win, the Nationals had lost 6 straight games.
On June 3rd, the Giants’ Randy Johnson was supposed to be going for his 300th career win, but Mother Nature did not cooperate. The start of the game was delayed for over 3-1/2 hours as MLB hoped the game could be played and history could be made. Now, I understand the historical significance of the game, with Stretch trying for career win #300. But come on… a 3-1/2 hour delay?! That’s ridiculous!! At 10:46, the game was finally postponed and rescheduled for the following evening.
Stretch did get his 300th win on the 4th, in the first game of a doubleheader, as the Giants beat the Nats 5-1. Ironically, the start of this game was also delayed by about an hour because of rain. Too bad so few people actually saw this historic game; attendance was so low that the attendance stats weren’t even listed in the box score. Perhaps the 16,787 attendance figure for the second game was actually a combination of attendance for both games? Anyway, some of the Nationals commentators, members of the media, and Nats fans have fussed about a called strike against Adam Dunn on a 3-2 count to end the 8th inning, which preserved the Giants 2-1 lead with the bases loaded. The call was a bad one — it was definitely NOT a strike — but hey, those are the breaks. Lots of bad calls have been made against the Nationals this season…and against the 29 other MLB teams as well. Bad calls happen. I saw comments on one particular Nats message board which hinted that the umpire had intentionally called a strike to prevent a run from being walked in to tie the game…that, of course, would have given Stretch a no-decision. OK, so in a split second, when the pitch is thrown and caught, the umpire was thinking, “If I call this a ball, then a run will score, and that means that Randy Johnson will end up with a no-decision instead of getting his 300th win tonight, so I should call this a strike even though the pitch was a ball….” Riiiiiiiiight. [SARCASM] I’m sure that’s exactly what that umpire was thinking at that moment. [/SARCASM] This, of course, was the second time the Nationals were involved in a history-making game. In August of 2007, former Nats pitcher Mike Bacsik gave up Baroids Bonds’ 756th career home run.
After the Nats 3-1 loss to the Mets on June 5th, Joel Hanrahan went back to being Joel Suckrahan as far as I’m concerned. With the game tied at 1 in the 10th inning, Suckrahan gave up a single to Luis Castillo, a walk to Carlos Beltrán, and a double to David Wright which scored Castillo and Beltrán. And that was that. The loss caused Suckrahan to lose his job as the closer for the second time this season.
The June 6th game vs. the Mets was another surprising win for the Nationals. John Lannan pitched the first complete game of his career, allowing just 1 run and 4 hits in a 7-1 win. He even hit a single in the 5th inning and scored a run on Nick Johnson’s home run. Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes also hit home runs in the game, which lasted exactly 2 hours.
The Nationals reverted back to their usual form on the 7th, losing to the Mets 7-0. Just more of the same suckitude.
At least the Nationals didn’t lose tonight…they didn’t play tonight…….
The Nationals lost to the Mets tonight, 5-2. It was not a good night for John Lannan. Three of the walks he issued lead to 3 runs for the Mets, which ultimately was the Mets’ margin of victory. Despite Lannan’s less than stellar performance, the Nationals had plenty of opportunities to take and keep the lead in this game. But the offense left 24 — yes, 24 — men on base.
The biggest issue with this game, however, was a disputed 3-run homer by Gary Sheffield in the 6th inning that broke the 1-1 tie and put the Mets ahead for good. The Nationals protested that a fan had interfered, but after reviewing the play on video, the umpires upheld the initial ruling. It didn’t look like it should have been a home run to me, but what the hell do I know?!
The Nats tried to rally in the 7th inning, when a bases loaded walk to Ryan Zimmerman sent Wil Nieves home, making the score 5-2. But they were unable to capitalize any further on the bases loaded situation and failed to score any additional runs. This was particularly a shame, since the usually horrendous bullpen actually kept the Mets scoreless after the 6th inning.
Daniel Cabrera made his first relief appearance since being dropped from the starting rotation, and he showed exactly why he was removed from the starting rotation. Facing 5 batters in the bottom of the 7th inning, Cabrera issued 3 walks and had a wild pitch, before Jason Bergmann saved his sorry butt by getting the final out. Cabrera sucks…he just plain, flat out sucks.
Overall, it was a disappointing loss for the Nationals. In other words…same [bleep], different night.
EDIT: I forgot to mention this — the MASN broadcasters mentioned that the lineups were announced on the Jumbotron by American soldiers at Camp Victory in Baghdad. What a cool way to honor the military on Memorial Day! Well done, Mets…very well done.