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!
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.
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!
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]
Yet again, ANOTHER loss due to a crappy performance by the Nationals bullpen. The Nats spotted the Pirates a 5-0 lead in the 3rd inning, and then came back to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th inning to send the game into extra innings. Mind you, the Nats had a chance to win the game in the 9th, but failed to do so. Nick Johnson hit a triple, Ryan Zimmerman walked, and then Johnson scored on a wild pitch by Pirates’ starter Russ Ohlendorf. With Zimmerman on 2nd as the potential game-winning run, Adam Dunn struck out. Josh Willingham walked, but then Willie Harris struck out, sending the game into the 10th inning. Since the Nationals had not won an extra innings game yet this season, I changed the channel from the Nationals game to the finale of “Dancing with the Stars.” (Congrats to Olympic champion gymnast Shawn Johnson, who won the DWTS mirror ball trophy!)
Changing the channel was a good idea.
Joe Beimel pitched a scoreless 9th inning, but then Ramón Vázquez singled, and Nyjer Morgan hit a sac fly, sending Vázquez to 2nd. Freddy Sánchez was intentionally walked, Nate McLouth flied out, and Vázquez moved to 3rd. And then…Adam LaRoche doubled, scoring Vázquez and Sánchez. Anderson Hernandez, Wil Nieves, and Alex Cintron (pinch hitting for Beimel) came to bat at the bottom of the 10th, but failed to even get a hit, much less score a run.
For some reason, Beimel seems to have some sort of cult following among at least a few Dodgers fans.
Personally, I can’t figure out why. The guy’s record is 0-3 for Washington, and he’s got 3 blown saves. I am not impressed.
I will give the Nats credit for coming back from a 5-0 deficit. They did make the game exciting. Too bad Beimel had to screw up the comeback.
Monday’s loss to the Pirates was thanks to a blown save by Garrett Mock, and it spoiled Ross Detweiler’s first start of the season. Detweiler allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits while pitching 5 innings, with 6 strikeouts. All of the damage came in the 3rd inning, when Detweiler gave up a home run to Craig Monroe. Although the Nationals scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 5th to take the lead, the Pirates scored 5 runs in the top of the 6th and never looked back. The loss was just the same old same old for the Nats, but Detweiler’s performance was somewhat encouraging. I hope that he remains in the rotation when Scott Olsen comes off the DL, and the Daniel Cabrera is sent packing.
The Nationals will be a better team in 2009 than they were in 2008. Of course, after losing more games than any team in the majors last year and finishing the season 32.5 games out of first place in the NL East, with a 59-102 record (the final game was rained out), they couldn’t get much worse…they almost have to be better. If the Nats can gain an additional 11 wins over last year, they would finish 2009 with a 70-92 record…certainly not enough to put the team into contention for a pennant, but still an improvement. The Nationals have a long way to go before they will be in a position to challenge their division rivals for the pennant. The baby steps will begin this season.
One of highlights of the Nationals spring training was the departure of embattled general manager Jim Bowden. His departure has enabled the team to focus on baseball, rather than the negative publicity that surrounded the Nats in general and Bowden in particular. Two other spring training highlights were the overall performaces by rookies Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann, who earned the 4th and 5th spots, respectively, in the starting rotation based on their strong showings this spring.
The starting rotation will be…well, an adventure. John Lannan pitched pretty well for the Nationals last season, considering the overall performance of the team. He has pitched well this spring and was named as the opening day starter. I like John Lannan…he’s a tough kid, nothing seems to faze him. He was one cool customer during his rookie season in 2007 when facing Barry Bonds, who had yet to hit his record breaking home run. That was enough of a reason to make me a fan. I like the fact that he bounces right back after poor starts, not allowing them to bother him. That said, Lannan is the team’s #1 starter pretty much by default…the Nationals simply don’t have anyone who’s better just yet. I’ve seen some local baseball writers refer to Lannan as the Nationals’ “ace” — he is absolutely not an ace. On a stronger team, he would be a 4th or 5th starter. As for the rest of the staff, newcomer and fellow lefty Scott Olsen’s numbers last year with the Marlins were similar to Lannan’s, so he, too, should be adequate. His strength is the fact that he’s an innings eater, which, if that trend continues, should help the bullpen. Olsen hasn’t had a particularly impressive spring, so I must admit that I’m a bit concerned how he’ll perform once the games start to count. Former Baltimore Oriole Daniel Cabrera, the elder statesman of the starting rotation at age 27, will be a wild card, with the emphasis on “wild.” He’s a hard thrower who gives up too many walks; there’s a reason why the Orioles gave up on him. He’s had an unimpressive spring training; Nats fans will just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best when Cabrera is on the mound. The really interesting part of the Nationals rotation this year will be the performances of Martis and Zimmermann, who both could end up being future aces for the team. They both were very impressive during spring training, which is what got them into the starting rotation in Washington rather than in Syracuse.
The bullpen got a boost when acting GM Mike Rizzo acquired lefty Joe Beimel from the Dodgers. Beimel is a welcome addition to a weak bullpen. he should be a good set-up man for closer Joel Hanrahan. Speaking of which, Hanrahan became the closer by default last year after Chad Cordero was injured and John Rauch was traded and pitched well enough in the closer role to retain that job this season. How he will perform over an entire season remains to be seen. He’ll probably be effective, but Mariano Rivera he is not.
The offense last year was horrendous, because of injuries and just flat out poor hitting. Adam Dunn, the Nationals’ biggest offseason acquisition, will improve the starting lineup, as will/should Nick Johnson, who appears to be fully recovered from the wrist injury he suffered last season. If the injury prone Johnson can remain healthy, he’ll provide a big boost to the team, both offensively and defensively. But that is a HUGE if and, in my opinion, a huge gamble. The rest of the lineup, with the exception of Cristian Guzman (who hit .316 last year) needs to step up their performances and score some runs for the offense to improve significantly.
The outfield may end up looking like a game of musical chairs, with a surplus of outfielders. Five players — Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, and Josh Willingham — are vying for three outfield spots and for at-bats. And Willie Harris will be in the mix at times as well. It should make for an interesting season.
Unless the other teams in the NL East completely fall apart, the Nationals will not be contenders this year, and probably not next year either. But there will be some interesting things for Nats fans to keep our eyes on:
* The development and maturation of Jordan Zimmermann and Shairon Martis. Will their spring training success continue through the regular season? Will either (or both) of them evolve into a bonafide ace for the Nationals?
* Adam Dunn’s home run production. For the last 5 straight years, Dunn has hit at least 40 home runs. Will that streak continue?
* Ryan Zimmerman. Will this finally be the year that the so-called “face of the franchise” Ryan Zimmerman finally earns that title, by proving that he is a great player rather than just a good one? And will Zimmerman’s defense finally be dazzling enough to earn him a gold glove?
* Overall team health. Nationals Park resembled a hospital ward last season. Nearly all of the Nats key offensive players, including Johnson, Zimmerman, and Dukes, spent time on the disabled list. Will the Nationals remain healthy this year?
I wish I could say that I think the Nationals will improve enough to climb out of the NL East cellar in 2009. But, realistically speaking, I don’t think that will happen. I think the Nationals record will be 75-87, a huge improvement over last year, but not enough to avoid finishing in last place again.
I’m watching the Nats
play lose to the Marlins on MASN this evening. The fact that the Nats are losing isn’t breaking my heart (it is, after all, only spring training), but I was not happy to see Ronnie Belliard leave the game in the 4th inning after turning his ankle. I hope it’s nothing serious and that a bit of ice on it tonight plus a few days rest will take care of it.
John Lannan donned a headset for an interview from the dugout. At one point during the interview, he started laughing and looking to his left…he said Collin Balester was throwing sunflower seeds at him! LOL (Ahh, children!) MASN commentator Bob Carpenter asked Lannan for his opinion about the Joe Beimel signing…looking confused, Lannan said he had no idea what Carpenter was talking about. So Bob let him know that Joe Beimel had been acquired earlier in the day. Lannan was pleased. (Speaking of Lannan, congrats to John on being named the Opening Day starter! Great accomplishment for a kid in his second full MLB season.)
Every time I hear MASN mention “Nats Town,” I want to hurl. So lame…so very lame……..
Crap…now Lastings Milledge is being helped off the field after going knee to knee with the Marlins first baseman. I hope that’s nothing serious. At least the Nats scored to make it a 7-2 game in the 9th inning.
RBI single by Willie Harris makes it 7-3, Marlins!
RBI single by Pete Orr makes it 7-4, Marlins!
Bases loaded after a hit batter. Ryan Langerhans with an RBI single. 7-5 Marlins with 1 out!
Oh well, the game ends on a 3-2 double play. Fun game in the 9th inning despite the loss. Keeping my fingers crossed that Belliard and Milledge will be OK.