Wow…apparently those interleague wins over the Yankees really were a confidence booster for the Nationals. Tonight the Nats got their 4th consecutive win and 2nd straight extra innings win, beating the Blue Jays 5-3 in 12 innings thanks to a walkoff home run by Willie Harris.
Rookie pitcher Ross Detwiler had one of the best games of his short career, giving up just 2 runs (including a solo home run to Vernon Wells), on 6 hits with 3 strikeouts in just over 7 innings of work. He left the game in the 8th inning with a 3-1 lead and a runner (Jose Bautista) on 1st; Kip Wells was unable to keep the inherited runner from scoring. Joel Hanrahan replaced Wells 3 batters later with a runner (Aaron Hill) on 3rd and gave up a single to Scott Rolen, allowing Hill to cross the plate and tie the score and denying Detwiler a chance to get his first major league win. It was Hanrahan’s 5 blown save of the season. The only reason why I am not referring to him as Joel Suckrahan (or Blownsaverahan, for that matter) is because the Nationals ultimately won the game.
Willie Harris was The Man tonight, with another outstanding diving catch, a stolen base, and the game winning home run. Harris was 2-4, as were Cristian Guzman and Nick Johnson. In addition, Johnson extended his streak of safely reaching base to 10 straight plate appearances with a walk and 2 hits in his first 3 at bats. That set a Nationals record and tied the franchise record set by Rusty Staub (Expos) 40 years ago. The streak ended when Johnson grounded out in the 8th inning.
The Nationals got lucky in this game, facing rookie pitcher (and Maryland native) Brett Cecil instead of Roy Halladay, who is on the 15-day DL. Cecil pitched 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits with a walk and 4 strikeouts.
This win finally gives the Nationals 20 wins on the season. The Nats 4 straight wins coupled with the Phillies 5 straight losses puts the Nats only 16 games out of 1st place in the NL East. Start printing the playoff tickets…here come the Nationals! LOL OK, OK…4 straight wins don’t put us into pennant contention. But they do make this long-suffering Nationals fan extremely happy!
OK, I wore my Mussina Yankees jersey and my Nationals cap for this game. I was ready for whatever would happen tonight!
My prediction about the score of tonight’s game was wrong…and CC Sabathia didn’t pitch a complete game…and it wasn’t Kip Wells who replaced Shairon Martis. But I was right about Martis pitching well — I certainly didn’t expect him to leave the game with a lead. And I was definitely right about his effort being wasted when the Nats bullpen entered the game. Ironically, Ron Villone was the last pitcher I expected to give up the lead, since he has pitched quite well for the Nationals this season. Oh, and I absolutely did not expect Anderson Hernandez to hit that home run — just the second of his MLB career — off of Sabathia. My jaw nearly hit the floor when that thing left the park! I knew that 1-run lead wouldn’t last…and I was right.
Overall, this game turned out better than I thought it would. I really expected a blowout, so I’m pleased that the Nationals were not humiliated, and I’m pleased that the Yankees won to keep pace with the Red Sox, who defeated the Marlins.
One down…two 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.
The Nationals lost to the Rays on Saturday, 8-3, after giving up 7 runs in the bottom of the 6th inning. With the Nats leading 2-1, Jason Bergmann replaced Jordan Zimmermann. Zimm2 had pitched fairly well after being scratched from his previous start due to minor elbow soreness. But he was on a strict pitch count and had thrown 92 pitches through his 5 innings of work, so in came Bergmann for the 6th inning. 18 pitches and 5 runs (including 2 home runs) later, Bergmann was removed from the game without recording an out and was replaced by Jesus Colome, who then gave up 2 more runs.
Bergmann was “rewarded” for his effort by being sent down to triple A Syracuse. His replacement is Kip Wells, who just came off the DL. I wish the Nats would bring up Tyler Clippard, who has pitched very well in AAA. Pitching well in AAA doesn’t guarantee success in the majors, of course, but he sure as hell couldn’t be any worse than the drek that’s already in the Nats’ bullpen.
Regarding last night’s 5-4 loss to the Rays, completing the sweep in St. Petersburg, the Nationals find all kinds of ways to lose, or at least to suck.
Way #1: Ben Zobrist hit a foul ball in the 8th inning. Willie Harris, playing 3rd base because Ryan Zimmerman was the DH, attempted to make the catch while running towards his bullpen. Unfortunately, the bullpens are in foul territory (I’ve never understood why a Major League ballpark would have its bullpens on the field…but I digress…), and the Nats’ bullpen catcher could not get out of the way fast enough. Harris tripped over him and failed to make the catch. Zobrist ended up striking out, so that mishap ultimately didn’t matter, other than to be one more display of suckitude from the Nationals.
Way #2: Pinch hitter Willie Aybar got a double when a ground ball that appeared to be headed for Harris’ glove at 3rd instead bounced off the base and went into left field. Carlos Pena then scored the go-ahead run.
This kind of crap only happens to the Nationals, who have lot 15-18 of their last 18 games. This was the 7th series in which the Nats have been swept this season.
The big news in Natstown (jeez, I hate that nickname….) is really just a strong rumor so far, which is that manager Manny Acta will be fired very soon. Per a report on foxsprts.com:
Manny Acta’s time as manager of the Washington Nationals is just about over, according to major-league sources.
Acta will be by replaced bench coach Jim Riggleman, as originally reported on FOX Saturday Baseball. The only question is when. It could be a matter of days….
Riggleman has managed for the Padres, Cubs and Mariners….
Riggleman’s record as a manager is 522-652.
Interesting comments from Nationals Team President Stan Kasten in the Washington Post’s Nationals Journal:
Hours before Saturday’s game against Tampa, a Fox Sports report, citing major league sources, suggested that Acta will be fired by week’s end and replaced with bench coach Jim Riggleman. Team president Stan Kasten neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying, “I would never talk about personnel, because I don’t. I’ve been asked a variation of that question (about Acta’s job security) — from some media outlet — almost every day since the first week of the season. And if I had a policy to talk about personnel, I’d have to do that story every single day.
“Having said that, I can’t tell you how perplexed I am by this season and this team and the things that are going on. And our record is, you know, very troubling for me every single day ….. So yeah, I’m troubled by everything. We continue to look for solutions. Have I thought about every possible recourse? I have. As has [acting general manager] Mike [Rizzo], as have our owners. We’re certainly not satisfied with our record; far from it. We’re distraught over it and we’re going to consider everything we need to do to make it better.”
One would assume that Mr. Kasten would defend his manager and vehemently deny the Acta-to-be-fired rumors if those rumors were not true. So…the Acta watch continues.
I stated here that that I thought it was time for Acta to go. For the most part, I still believe this, because I believe that a change is desperately needed. However, someone posted a comment on the above item in Nationals Journal, pointing out that the Nats record isn’t entirely Acta’s fault — “Casey Stengel couldn’t manage this team to a .500 record.” He has a point. This team just flat out stinks. Firing the pitching coach has made little difference. Firing Acta may just be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Whatever happens, I wish it would happen soon. Leaving Acta to twist in the wind is unfair to him (as well as the team), and it also feeds the notion of complete ineptitude on the part of the Nationals front office.
According to SI.com, the Nationals are supposedly considering Bobby Valentine as a replacement for Acta. Bobby Valentine?! Oh my. Too bad such a change couldn’t be made in time for the Nationals/Yankees series. Bobby Valentine vs. Joe Girardi would be highly entertaining!
While I was in Baltimore watching the Yankees get their hineys handed to them, the Nationals played the Diamondbacks in Arizona. After my friend and I left the Yankees game, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, where I kept checking my score of the Nats game on my cell phone. I didn’t order dessert…seeing that the Nats won, 2-1, was my dessert!
The Nationals scoring came from two solo home runs, off the bats of Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman. Starter John Lannan pitched a pretty good game, allowing just 3 hits and no runs with 2 strikeouts in 6 innings of work. Unfortunately, he also surrendered 6 walks. Six Nationals relievers combined to finish the game and secure the win. There was a bit of drama in the 9th inning, when Kip Wells walked 2 batters and gave up a double to another, enabling the D’backs to score their only run. And then Joel Suckrahan then entered the game.
When I saw his name come up on my phone, I figured that he’d do what he does best…blow saves. Imagine my surprise when I checked the score one final time and saw that he got the save by striking out the last batter! Who needed apple cobbler, a hot fudge brownie, or a hot fudge sundae for dessert? The Nationals’ third win a row was sweet enough!
Unfortunately, the result of today’s Nationals/Diamondbacks game wasn’t so tasty. After falling behind 1-0 in the 2nd inning, the Nats took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 3rd inning…then a 4-3 lead in the top of the 5th…and then a 6-5 lead at the top of the 6th, before things fell apart in the bottom of the 6th when the D’backs took a 9-6 lead and never looked back. Being at this game must have been like being at a tennis match, with the leads bouncing back and forth so many times. Starter Scott Olsen struggled today, and ended up leaving the game in the 5th inning after getting hit on the left ankle by a line drive off the bat of Ryan Roberts. Olsen was replaced by Garrett Mock, who later was, unfortunately, replaced
Logan Loser Kensing, who proceeded to give up 4 runs and the lead. Kensing has been with the team for less than two weeks and already has 2 blown saves. Julian Tavarez pitched the 8th and 9th innings and gave up the Diamondbacks’ final run, for a final score of 10-8.
When a team scores 8 runs, including 2 home runs by its right fielder (Adam Dunn) and and left fielder (Josh Willingham), it should win the game. But the Nationals bullpen once again did the team in, and an error by shortstop Álex Cintrón lead to a Diamondbacks run. It’s incredibly frustrating!
Four wins, two losses and one “tie” — that’s the Nationals’ record this month, after defeating the Diamondbacks tonight, 5-4. What’s going on here? The Washington Nationals are actually trying to play like a major league team now! The Nats are 8-8 since starting the season 1-10. Had it not been for the miserable bullpen, we might actually have 3 or 4 additional wins.
Mind you, Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan did his best to blow the lead when he gave up a run in the 7th. But he only gave up that one run, and Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells kept the D’backs scoreless to preserve the win. The save for Wells was the first of his career.
Good job, fellas…keep up the good work!