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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cordero Out Four to Six Weeks

The Washington Post reports erstwhile closer Chad Cordero will be out four to six weeks with an acute tear if his latissimus dorsi.

I'm sure no one that reads this blog will be surprised to hear about Cordero's injury. But there are some interesting things to ponder regarding this situation.

1) Has Cordero been injured in this manner all along and the reason for his lack of velocity and this one last throw the muscle single snapped? Was his joint structurally sound all along and the doctors just missed the muscle injury?

2) Or is the muscle injury simply symptomatic of the joint injury? You know, the one where there's a "click" in his shoulder but he doesn't feel any pain?

3) The Nats haven't announced a corresponding move with Cordero going on the DL. Is there the chance that when LoDuca is ready (today or tomorrow) they simply activate him and the team carry three catchers??? Is that even remotely possible? Cause we all know if a team is struggling to score they should carry THREE CATCHERS!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nats, Lopez Slam Mets

Washington, DC--On a night in the national's capital that was created for playing baseball, the Washington Nationals offense finally opened up like the cherry blossoms in the left field plaza, and sent the Mets on their way with a 10-5 loss for their troubles.

The Nats' Felipe Lopez, recently named the starter at second base after spending most of the spring as a nomad without a set defensive position, went 2-for-4 on the evening, with the first grand slam in Nationals Park history and six RBIs. The Nats' thirteen hit attack tied a season high, and six different hitters had multiple hits for the home team. Left-handed pitcher Mike O'Connor (1-0) was the recipient of the offensive good fortune, pitching one scoreless inning in his first appearance of the season after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus earlier in the day.

Lopez hit his 'big fly' in the sixth inning, to this point the bane of existence for the Nats. Before last night, the team had been outscored in the sixth innings by a combined 28-3. But not on this night, as Wily Mo Pena and Aaron Boone singled off of Mets' starter Oliver Perez (2-1) to start the inning and were moved up to second and third on a groundout by catcher Wil Nieves. That's when Mets Manager Willie Randolph called for reliever Aaron Heilman, and after an intentional walk to Lastings Milledge loaded the bases, the scene was set for Lopez' heroics. With the count 3-2, Lopez got a change-up from Heilman, and deposited it deep into the right field grandstand, all but cementing this victory for the Nationals.

Since taking over for Ronnie Belliard at second seven games ago, Lopez is hitting .357 and driving the ball with as much authority as he ever has in a Nationals' uniform.

The Nats scored all ten of their runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, taking advantage where all season those benefits had been passing them by. In the fifth with the bases loaded, Lopez singled hard to center scoring Willie Harris, who had walked, and Wil Nieves, who reached on a single. After Cristian Guzman lined out, Ryan Zimmerman drove in Belliard, who also had walked, on a groundout to second. The scoring in the seventh all came via the single, as Nieves, pinch-hitter Johnny Estrada and Guzman all drove in runs with their safeties.

Shawn Hill started for the Nats and was generally effective, allowing three runs--two earned--in five innings. Each run allowed by Hill came on a two-out hit. He allowed plenty of base runners, giving up six hits and three walks, striking out five along the way. The Mets just weren't able to get the big hit early this evening and the Nats persevered until their lumber finally awoke from their spring slumber.

The Nationals begin a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs, in town for their only visit of the year, on Friday night as Odalis Perez (0-3, 3.38) challenges Ryan Dempster (3-0, 3.00) at 7:35 at Nationals Park.


NATS NOTES: Before the game, the Nats optioned lefty reliever Ray King to the minors and recalled left-handed pitcher Mike O'Connor from Columbus. King has 72 hours to decide whether or not to report to the Triple-A club. There are reports that if his agent can't find a team willing to take him from the Nats, King may retire rather than accept the assignment.

Former Nats catcher Brian Schneider was a late scratch for the Mets and was sent back to New York and hospitalized for an infection in his left thumb. The Mets recalled Gustavo Molina to back up Raul Casanova for the time being.

Center fielder Lastings Milledge was held out of the starting line-up for the first time last night. Milledge reported to the clubhouse late and Manager Manny Acta punished him for his tardiness. "He showed up late to work," Acta said. "[H]e's got things to learn, and some of that is being able to know how to handle 24 hours in the day."

Austin Kearns, hitting clean-up, was hitless in five at bats, lowering his average to .193.

Nats, Lopez Slam Mets also posted at DC Sports Box

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Nationals Demote Ray King

Washington, DC--Less than twenty-four hours after failing to get his job done in the sixth inning once again, The Washington Nationals demoted left-handed reliever Ray King to Columbus of the Triple-A International League. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement.

With the corresponding move, the Nats recalled lefty Mike O’Connor to work out of the pen. O'Connor, 27, went 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA (5 ER/23.0 IP) in four starts with the Clippers. He struck out 7.8 batters per 9.0 innings and posted a .221 (19-for-86) batting average against. In O’Connor’s two most recent assignments, both wins, he allowed just two earned runs in 13 innings, walking just one and strucking out 14.

King, 34, posted four holds and a 5.68 ERA in 12 appearances thus far in 2008. He had allowed over two base runners per inning pitched and allowed five of his nine inherited runners to score.

The Most Telling Statistic of All

This season, the Nats have been outscored in the sixth inning a combined 28-3. That averages out to be 1.27 runs per sixth inning against the Nationals. The Nats' second worst inning for runs against: the first, with 15 total, for an average of .68 runs.

The Nats' best innings for fewest runs against are the second and fourth, giving up only 7 runs in each of those innings for an average of .32 runs.

Nats pitchers have given up 9, 11 and 9 runs in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, averages of .41, .50 and .63 (7 fewer innnings pitched due to poor road record).

By contrast, care to guess the Nats' most productive innings as hitters before I tell you? Go ahead.

The 9th inning is the Nats most prodcutive inning, scoring 16 runs, an average of .77 runs per 9th inning. Next is the first, with 15 runs (.68) and 4th with 12 runs (.55).

Their least productive? Yup, you guessed it. The 6th, with those 3 lonesome runs, two of which were scored in one game (BONUS POINTS for the first person to tell me which game the Nats "exploded" for two runs in the sixth).

Mets Defeat Punchless Nats 7-2

Washington, DC--Tim Redding threw five decent innings and doubled in two runs for the Washington Nationals, but try as he might, he could not lead the Nats to victory over the New York Mets.

The top of the sixth inning--and lack of bullpen help--was what did the Nats in tonight, as it has on several occasions this season. With the score tied at two and Redding facing an elevated pitch count, Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran led off the inning with a single to right field, and Manager Manny Acta decided to turn to his bullpen instead of leaving his most reliable pitcher this season in to face successive left-handed batters. Ray King was called upon, and he did not get the job done.

The first batter he faced was Ryan Chruch, and Church squibbed a roller up the third base line that Nats' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman picked up cleanly, but in his hurry to first threw the ball away and down the right field line, allowing Beltran to come all the way around from first to break a 2-2 tie. The play was scored a hit with a throwing error allowing the runners to advance. After King got first baseman Carlos Delgado to pop out, he was left to face switch-hitter Angel Pagan.

Pagan nubbed one back to King, but King wheeled and threw low and in the dirt and Nats first baseman Nick Johnson couldn't scoop it. Pagan was awarded a single, another questionable call by the official scorer. Exploiting one of the Nats biggest weaknesses, Pagan then stole second and third in successive pitches, getting into scoring position with one out, which would prove costly. King got former Nat catcher Brian Schneider to ground out, but the run scored anyway extending the Mets lead to 5-2. After Mets pitcher Johan Santana doubled--his second of the game--King was sent to the showers, but it was much too late.

Redding deserved a better fate, as he went five innings plus, giving up three earned runs on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts. He also was responsible for the Nats' offense on this beautiful spring evening, as he doubled to deep left center off Santana in the fourth inning driving in both Nats runs. With two outs, Wily Mo Pena and catcher Wil Nieves hit back-to-back singles, and Redding drilled the 1-0 offering to the warning track, missing a home run by mere feet. The Nats bats went silent the remainder of the game. The only other Nats to reach base after Redding's double were Aaron Boone, who drew a pinch-hit walk in the seventh inning but was quickly erased when second baseman Felipe Lopez grounded into a double play to end that inning, and Austin Kearns' lead-off walk in the ninth.

Adding insult to injury, the Mets scoring was capped when former Nats outfielder Ryan Church singled in two runs in the top of the ninth against Jesus Colome.

Santana scattered seven hits, but was firmly in control all evening--save for Redding's heroics at the plate. He allowed just those two runs, walking only one and striking out four.

The Nats face the Mets again Thursday evening, with Shawn Hill (0-0) making his second start of the season taking on Oliver Perez (2-0) at 7:10 pm.


NATS NOTES: Paid attendance was 32,780, the biggest crowd since opening day. Sales were bolstered by the beautiful weather and the opposition, as there was a considerable contingent rooting for the Mets.

The Mets ran on catcher Wil Nieves all night long, stealing four bases easily, including Pagan's steal of third.

Cristian Guzman continued his strong start, going 2-for-4 and raising his batting average to .312. Wily Mo Pena and Wil Nieves each added two singles as well.

The Nats three through six hitters tonight--Zimmerman, Johnson, Kearns and Lastings Milledge--were a combined 0-for-15 with one walk and four strikeouts on the night.

Mets Defeat Punchless Nats 7-2 also posted at DC Sports Box

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Update on Closer Chad Cordero

Washington, DC--Washington Nationals closer Chad Cordero visited renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday, and as far as the team is concerned--for now--Cordero is healthy enough to pitch. According to a team spokesman, Cordero is suffering from rotator cuff tendinitis and will not require surgery unless there is further injury and will not require a stint on the disabled list..

Nats GM Jim Bowden spoke briefly before the game on Cordero's health. "We were very pleased with the negative MRI today. Dr. Andrews was encouraged," Bowden stated. "We just need to get him to work harder, build up his arm strength." When he was asked about Cordero basically going through a 'spring training' period, Bowden quipped, "Whether he's been throwing 78-80 or 85-87 he's been getting them out." But Bowden conceded that Cordero does need to regain his velocity to be an effective major league pitcher, "Now that he has a specific new program to build the strength up hopefully the velocity will come sooner rather than later."

Cordero was unavailable to pitch Wednesday against the New York Mets as he was travelling back to Washington from Birmingham, AL. He should rejoin the team and be available for Manny Acta's bullpen Thursday or Friday depending on discomfort from the dye injection for the MRI, according to Bowden.

In other injury news, Bowden indicated that both Elijah Dukes, on the DL with a strained hamstring and Dmitri Young, on the DL with a strained lower back, were 7-10 days away from rejoining the team at the minimum. "You know, we're gonna make sure that they're one hundred percent before we put them back on the field so there's no re-injury."

BOTTOM LINE: There's a good chance this is a lingering problem all year long. Despite the sugar-coating by team officials and Cordero himself, the lack of velocity and acknowledged "clicking" in his shoulder are barometers of injury. The team willkeep a close eye on Cordero, his strength and conditioning and his warm-up procedures to hopefully returnt he erstwhile closer to his normal duties.

Update on Closer Chad Cordero also posted at DC Sports Box

Caps lose to Flyers, Refs

What a disappointment. Not because the Caps lost, because they made an incredible run to get where they were. Although that is disappointing enough. But the WAY they lost is just unfathomable.

The Flyers second goal, if you haven't seen it, should have been disallowed by the referees for goaltender interference. Flyers winger Patrick Thoresen checked Caps Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn into goalie Christobal Huet and the three slid out of the goal crease, leaving a wide open net for Sami Kapanen to deposit the puck in.

The game winner came later though, as the refs allowed the Flyers an OVERTIME POWER PLAY on a ticky-tacky tripping penalty to Caps D Tom Poti. Granted, during a regular season game this call would be legit. Poti tried to play the puck but swung and missed and got enough of R.J. Umberger to put him to the ice. But in the context of this game, when the refs stopped calling penalties midway through the second period, it was clearly a case of the refs injecting themselves into the game where they didn't need to be.

Congrats to the Flyers for capitalizing on the advantages they were given. Congrats to Flyers goalie Martin Biron for playing his best game of the series in the final game. And congrats to the Caps for putting themselves in a position to even play a game seven when this series looked lost a couple of different times. And congrats to Coach Bruce Boudreau, who earned himself a new, undisclosed contract.

But it didn't have to end this way.

And I'm not going to get caught up in the media-hype about how the Caps have a bright future, etc. Sure the Caps have a bright future, as their roster is stocked with young, talented players and savvy veterans. But, the Caps had the league's second best record since Boudreau took over. It's the playoffs. You gotta expect to win. I don't think anyone in red last night (on the ice or in the stands) was "happy to be there" or thinking of future playoff games. It was all about last night and how this one was taken away.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Grim Reaper Cometh

This just in...Chad Cordero will visit Dr. James "The Grim Reaper" Andrews to have his shoulder evaluated. Might as well write him off for a while. Those of you that picked up Jon Rauch in your fantasy leagues are sitting rather pretty right now.

Seriously though, this is a HUGE blow to Cordero, the Nats, Trader Jim and everyone involved. It's not shocking that a little guy like Cordero eventually ends up blowing his shoulder up. It's just unfortunate that it's most likely he'll now miss alot of time, uncertainty about his health upon return and, admittedly cold-hearted, but the Nats potentially lose out on an enticing trade chip.

It's possible that there's nothing structurally wrong with Cordero. He says he's not in pain. But if he's got a "clicking" sound in his shoulder, well, that just can't be good. Especially for a guy whose job it is to be throwing baseballs with that shoulder.

Stay tuned for updates. You gotta wonder when the sun is going to come back out over this franchise right now though.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Beating a Dead Horse

Cristian Guzman thrown out at home from right field in the first inning with two outs. Felipe Lopez thrown out at home from shortstop in the fifth inning with one out. Aaron Boone thrown out at second trying to advance on a throwing error by Chipper Jones in the seventh with two outs. And in each circumstance, there were additional runners on base at the time.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is called over-compensating. In each instance, had the base runner (or coach) played it safe there would have been two on base, giving the Nats another chance to score. But when you're bad, and this team is going bad right now, these are the things that happen. You start to press. Try to do more than you can. You want to hit the five-run home run.

This is how the Nationals lost for the 15th time this season, falling to the Braves 7-3.

The game tonight in Atlanta showed some promise. The Nats pounded out 13 hits. Guzman was 3-for-5. Kearns was 2-for-3 and a walk. Zimmerman was 2-for-5,including finally pulling a ball for a hit. Johnny Estrada was even 2-for-4. Aaron Boone, Rob Mackowiak and Willie Harris all had pinch hits.

But the Nats left alot of runners out on the basepaths. And had three runners thown out trying to force things. It's the only way you turn 13 hits into three runs.

Matt Chico (0-4) got hammered again. He threw four innings, giving up six earned runs on eight hits and three walks, including walking the pitcher with the bases loaded. Joel Hanrahan gave up one earned on four hits in two innings with three strikeouts. Jesus Colome threw a shutout inning striking out the side and Chad Cordero threw a scoreless inning, hitting 86 MPH on the radar gun with some movement.

The Nats go back at it Tuesday night, with John Lannan facing John Smoltz.

Pull the Plug?

Mrs. Feeder and I were having lunch today, talking about the sorry state of the Nats. She's upset with the coverage and general attitude around the Natosphere being so negative.

She sees it as "typical east coast fans" bitching and crying where their team isn't performing. She calls them the "WE SUCK" fans. As in--these fans are perfectly willing to be entertained while the team is performing at or around expectations, but as soon as a slump (in the case of the Redskins, ONE GAME) comes around, all they do is cry "WE SUCK!!!"

It's always interesting to me gauging the temperature of the local team's fan base. I know I'm as guilty as anyone. I was SOOOOO afraid that Saturday the Verizon Center would be full of Flyers fans since the Caps were coming home down 3 games to 1. I have to admit I was very pleased to see the ratio to Caps-to-Flyer fans the same as it was for Game 1, about 99-1. But Cheryl was right. The gloom and doom hit me as soon as Game 4 was over. Just call me Eeyore.

When it comes to baseball, I am capable of looking past 20 games. Sure, the Nats are TERRIBLE right now. As in "worst team in the major leagues" terrible. Nats fans were promised not only a shiny new stadium, but an improved team and attitude as well. Any Nats fan with a semblance of baseball IQ knows that part of Jim Bowden's M.O. is to over hype any player he acquires and if that player is successful Bowden proclaims his genius and if the player fails, Bowden blames the player. He's done it already this year, and it's been going on since JimBow's days in Cincy.

This is the classic line from the linked article:

“You’re not watching our pitching staff? The decisions are really easy. It’s simple: Get me better pitching,” the GM said. “I’ve got lots of moves I can make.”

Bowden can only blame himself for the train wreck that is the first three weeks of the season. Who was responsible for giving Dmitri Young a two-year $10M contract? Who gave the insufferable Paul LoDuca $5M? Who failed to throw chump change at THIS GUY, when he wasn't signed until the middle of spring training? Get you better pitching, JimBow? I got your better pitching right here.

As for the so far historically bad offense? Through 20 games the team is hitting .219/.300/.334. It is statistically impossible to do any worse. These numbers are was bad as Guzman's 2005, for which he was almost run out of town on a rail. Guess what? He's been--FAR AND AWAY--this team's best player so far this season. Nick Johnson is close. His OBP is terrific and slugging ok. And Milledge has performed ok, despite his antics on the base paths and misadventures in center field.

But the rest of the regulars--Zimmerman, Kearns, Belliard, Lopez, LoDuca--all are hitting BELOW .260. Chris over at Capitol Punishment did some nice work today on Zimmerman's numbers, confirming what we've been speculating in the stands now for a couple weeks: Zim needs to put his head down and start pulling the ball.

As for the bench, Pena is 3-for-26, essentially going through spring training right now instead of at Columbus on a rehab assignment where he belonged. Harris is 2-for-24. Mackowiak is 0-12. Estrada is 3-for-20. All off-season acquisitions by the GM.

What's the old expression about not firing the whole team? No one should advocate for Manny Acta's dismissal. To do so would be simply foolish. But there are candidates for the sacrificial lamb. Take Lenny Harris. Please. Harris' pinch-hitting invective has reduced Zimmerman and Kearns into slap-hitting wannabes. But they aren't spraying the ball around, they are weakly grounding or popping out to second. These guys are pull hitters, and need to do so to drive the ball. Zim is seeing fewer pitches and making outs on pitchers pitches. That's not what you want a #3 hitter to do. He's shown the capacity to do so much more.

I'd prefer President Kasten take the bull by the horns and usher JimBow out the door. He simply failed in putting together this year's roster. Giving Young, no matter how feel-good last year's comeback was, a two-year, $10M contract was inexcusable. Half that, and it would be ok. Bowden might have been under orders to not expand the payroll, and if that's the case there are deeper problems. But a GM on a budget should be able to spend $10M more wisely. Cripes, a non-roster invitee was the opening day starter. And he's not even the problem!

Should Justin Maxwell be recalled and let Pena get some time to get his timing down? Should LoDuca be jettisoned allowing Jesus Flores to learn at the big league level? What about this guy? Think he could come in and help for the season? He's not busy right now.

Look, I'm all for The Plan (tm). But there's a small matter of fielding a semi-competitive team today as well. We've already seen, by the lackluster attendance rates, that the stadium isn't going to be enough to lure fannies into the seats this season. Kasten likes to say "We'll get the attendance we deserve." Indeed.

Something has to be done. It's not "early" anymore. We're one-eighth of the way into the season and the Nats sit at 5-14, staring at Tim Hudson, John Smoltz and Johan Santana the next three nights and the Cubs this weekend.

Lost Weekend For Nats In Florida

Miami, FL--The Washington Nationals were outplayed by the Florida Marlins on Saturday and Sunday, losing the final two games of the three-game series, by scores of 6-5 on Saturday and 6-1 on Sunday. The Nationals have now lost 14 of their last 16 games and own the worst record in Major League Baseball.

Saturday's game was not only painful, but disheartening as well. The Marlins led 5-3 going into the ninth inning, but the Nats scrambled to tie the score at five against Florida closer Kevin Gregg. Cristian Guzman led off and reached on shortstop Hanley Ramirez's error. After Ryan Zimmerman popped out, Nick Johnson walked. Much-maligned Austin Kearns then drilled a single to right, scoring Guzman and pinch-runner Willie Harris to even the score.

But the lead would be short-lived. In the bottom of the ninth, Saul Rivera walked Dan Uggla to lead off. Uggla took second on a ground out and the Nats walked Josh Willingham to set up the force play. There would be no force, however, as Wes Helms deposited the second pitch he saw from Rivera safely into center to score the game-winner.

Shawn Hill made his first start of the season for the Nats, allowing four earned runs in five innings, giving up eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

On Sunday, the Nats batters were shut down completely by Marlins starter Scott Olson, Hanley Ramirez hit two home runs and sloppy play dominated, as the Nats committed two more errors and a wild pitch that allowed two runs to score.

Olson threw seven strong innings, allowing only one earned run on three hits and two walks. He struck out only three, but kept the Nationals off-balance all day. Olson extended his career record over the Nats to 3-0, with a .130 batting average against. Repeating a now-familiar refrain, Manager Manny Acta said, "We're better than we're playing right now. Our starters have been giving us enough chances, but it's not easy to win 1-0." The Nationals could only muster five hits on the day, their lone run coming on Austin Kearns' second home run of the season. Only once in the game did the Nats have more than one base runner in the same inning.

After one-eighth of the season, the puny batting averages of the regulars in the line-up and the gory overall batting numbers tell the story for this struggling team right now. Washington is hitting .219 as a team, last in Major League Baseball. They are 27th in runs scored, 28th in on base percentage, 24th in home runs and 26th in stolen bases.

Individually, only two batters are hitting above .260: Cristian Guzman at .304 and Lastings Milledge at .280. Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .215/.244/.342. Austin Kearns is .212/.350/.333. Wily Mo Pena is 3-for-26 since returning from the disabled list. Paul LoDuca, before going on the DL, was hitting .200/.317/.286. And the list goes on.

As for the pitching, the team's 4.73 ERA places them at 26th in the majors. But a lot of that blame can be placed on the bullpen, the supposed "strength" of this staff. The starters have been pretty decent, led by Tim Redding (3-1, 3.27) and Odalis Perez (0-3, 3.38). But Jon Rauch, Saul Rivera and Joel Hanrahan's ERAs are all above 5.50.

The upcoming schedule provides no relief either. This week features two two-game series against the Braves and Mets, then a three-game weekend series against the Chicago Cubs. The Nats are scheduled to face Tim Hudson, John Smoltz and Johan Santana in their next three match-ups.

Lost Weekend For Nats In Florida also posted at DC Sports Box

Saturday, April 19, 2008


That's really all. Awesome atmosphere, great game. Bring it back to DC Caps!!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lannan Tosses Gem But Nats Lose in 14

Queens, New York--Washington Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan recorded a personal record eleven strikeouts--against no walks--and Nick Johnson hit a two-run home run early. But reliever Joel Hanrahan, the Nats' seventh pitcher of the night, lost his control and threw one away in the bottom of the 14th allowing the Mets to eek out a 3-2 win.

Mets second baseman Damien Easley led off the 14th with a single to left. With one out, Easley took second on a wild pitch. Catcher Wil Nieves made a good play on the bouncer, but the throw to second was a little low and Cristian Guzman couldn't handle it. Hanrahan then threw wildly on a pick-off move to second, moving Easley up to third. Consecutive intentional walks brought up the pitcher's spot, occupied by Jorge Sosa, who walked his previous at bat. Mets Manager Willie Randolph then called on his last pinch-hitter, former National Brian Schneider, but Schneider never had to take a swing. Hanrahan's first offering was another wild pitch that went back to the screen, allowing Easley to score...easily.

"I'm proud of my guys," said Manny Acta in the post-game press conference, "But we found a way to lose."

Hanrahan (0-1) took the loss, pitching two and one-third innings allowing only one hit, but walking four with two wild pitches. Jorge Sosa (2-1) pitched two scoreless for the victory.

The Nats held a tenuous 2-1 lead going into the eighth, but Ronnie Belliard booted a routine grounder off the bat of Ryan Church. Relievers Saul Rivera, Luis Ayala and, inexplicably, Jon Rauch could not bail Belliard out. Carlos Delgado, who has looked terrible the entire series, fisted a 2-2 fastball from Rauch safely into right field to tie the game at two. Left-handed reliever Ray King was up and ready in the bullpen, but Manager Manny Acta made the call for his de facto closer instead of the portly lefty to face the left-handed swinging Delgado, who had been hitless for the series and zero for his last eleven at bats.

Asked about Belliard's miscue, Acta replied, "If you're gonna win 2-1 against the Mets, you gotta play perfect ball, and we didn't."

The Mets had a great opportunity in the bottom of the 12th, as Easley topped a slow roller past Ryan Zimmerman--guarding the line in the late innings--to lead off the inning. Jose Reyes laid a sacrifice bunt just past King, who butchered the play allowing Reyes to be safe and put runners at first and second. With Ryan Church attempting a sacrifice, King then threw to third on a nice play to force Easley. Manager Manny Acta then went back to his bullpen and summoned Hanrahan to face perennial all-star David Wright. Hanrahan needed only two pitches to get Wright to bounce into a rally-killing 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Lannan, a native of nearby Long Beach, NY, threw an absolute gem before his parents, family members and friends. Appearing for the first time as professional in the ballpark he dreamed of playing in as a child, Lannan gave up only three hits and one earned run in six masterful innings. He allowed a game leading off single to Jose Reyes, followed by a run-scoring "double" to Ryan Church. Left fielder Wily Mo Pena ranged to his left to track the ball down, but it popped out of his mitt while he was on the run, and the official scorer gave the benefit of the doubt to Church. Lannan then retired the next sixteen batters before Reyes got to him again with another single in the sixth. After a nine-pitch at bat, Lannan was able to retire Nats-killer David Wright on a fielder's choice, and his evening of work was finished.

Lannan was succinct in his self-evaluation after the game, "I was able to get my slider over...and my curve ball was working as well."

The Nationals managed only six hits in 14 innings. Ryan Zimmerman went two-for-six and Johnson had the homer, his second of the year. The Nats struck out 13 times in the game and left ten runners on base. The Mets hitters struck out 17 times and stranded 19 runners, but eventually got the one that counted.

The Nationals travel to Miami to play the Marlins in a three-game series starting Friday night at 7:10 pm. Tim Redding (2-1) faces Andrew Miller (0-2) in game one of the set.

NATS NOTES: Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns were a combined 6-36 in the three game series.

Chad Cordero, who before the game declared himself health despite only hitting the mid-seventies on the radar gun in Wednesday's game, was the only reliever not used in the game.

Lannan Tosses Gem But Nats Lose In 14 also posted at DC Sports Box

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is Cordero Hurt?

Deposed closer Chad Cordero pitched last night against the Mets in his second outing since returning from the disabled list. And while he did not give up a run, it was a troubling appearance none-the-less. His "fastball" was in the high 70s and only maxed out at 82 MPH by his last pitch. This, obviously, is troubling.

Mark Zuckerman with the Times had a blog entry about it, and since I wasn't in the locker room I didn't talk to Cordero, Acta or Bowden. But from reading what's been written there, on the and elsewhere, it's apparent the Chief isn't right.

Here's a snippet from the Post's article:

But when closer Chad Cordero came on in an innocuous, eighth-inning situation just to get some work in, alarms rang out throughout the organization. Cordero's warm-up pitches were so shockingly slow that Manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire visited the mound before he began the inning. His first pitch, a fastball, registered at 76 mph on the scoreboard radar gun. It took him 15 pitches to top 80 mph. He topped out at 82 mph. Somehow, he worked a scoreless inning, allowing only an infield single.

"I wasn't hurting at all," Cordero said. "I didn't have enough time to warm up."

Taken at face value, it's easy to believe Chief. It was chilly and according to the Svrluga's story a "communication gaffe" was the reason Cordero didn't have enough time to warm up. But reading between the lines is easy when it's spelled out in a senior-sized font. Cordero obviously isn't healthy.

Here's Manager Manny Acta's most salient quote, again borrowed from the Post:

"What do you do?" Acta said. "He says he's fine. He has no pain. He's going to continue to pitch. Just right now we're going to have to pick and choose our spots, because I really don't feel right now, the way he's throwing the ball, I should trust him to save a game here."

I can answer Acta's rhetorical question: See the doctor again! The original MRI showed no structural damage. But something is wrong. His velocity was down all spring, then he felt sharp pain in the bullpen warming up opening day. He has since returned but can't throw anywhere close to his normal 89-92 MPH. I'm not a doctor, but I play one on the Internet. This is an obvious case of "young guy gets hurt for the first time in his career and tries to play his way through it".

Here's hoping he doesn't do any permanent damage while trying to play through his current injury.

Three Home Runs Do In Nats Against Mets

Queens, New York--An 0-2 pitch from Washington Nationals starter Matt Chico turned a close game into another no-doubt-about-it loss at the hands of the New York Mets. Jose Reyes turned that two-strike fastball into a tie ball game and two batters later Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran hit a three-run home run to deliver a 5-2 victory to the faithful in Queens.

Chico had relatively cruised through the first four innings and the Nationals carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth. He had only given up three hits at that point, including former Nats' outfielder Ryan Church's solo homer in the first. But the fifth inning has given Chico fits before and it was his undoing again tonight. Reyes took an off-speed pitch for strike one and swung through another off-speed pitch for strike two, looking completely off-balance. But the third pitch of the at bat was a letter high strike that Reyes clubbed over the left field fence to tie the game.

Church followed with his second hit of the night, a hard liner to right and David Wright blooped one to center that Lastings Milledge dove for and got a glove on but couldn't bring in. That brought up Beltran, who dispatched the first offering he saw from Chico into the left field bleachers for his first home run of the young season.

Once again, the Nationals offense was almost non-existent. The team could only muster five hits despite Manager Manny Acta shuffling the batting order significantly for the first time this season. Acta moved second baseman Ronnie Belliard into the second spot, Milledge into the five hole and sliding the slumping Austin Kearns into the sixth hole. The move paid dividends early, as Kearns connected for his first home run of the season off Mets starter John Maine in the fourth inning to give the Nats their short-lived lead. But Kearns couldn't build upon that success, as he fouled out in his next at bat and grounded into a double play to end to end the eighth inning.

As has been the script thus far, the top of the order did their job getting on base. Lead-off hitter Cristian Guzman walked twice and Ronnie Belliard reached three times with two hits and a walk. But the rest of the Nats batting order could only manage three additional hits.

Chico finished with five earned runs in five innings, with seven hits, three walks and five strikeouts. Jesus Colome, Saul Rivera and Chad Cordero all threw one uneventful inning apiece. But it hardly mattered when the Nats batters could not contribute to the efforts.

The Shea finale is Thursday night at 7:10 pm, when John Lannan (0-2) faces Nelson Figueroa (1-0) making his second big league start since September 2004.

NATS NOTES: Rob Mackowiak struck out pinch hitting for Colome, extending his hitless streak to start the season at eleven at bats with five strikeouts.

Shawn Hill is tentatively schduled to start Saturday for the Nationals against Florida. Hill made a six-inning, 89-pitch rehab stint Sunday for Triple-A Columbus.

Before Wednesday's game, the Nationals demoted reliever Chris Schroder and recalled catcher Wil Nieves from Columbus. With Paul LoDuca nursing a nasty bruise on his throwing hand caused by getting hit with a pitch, the team felt it needed another receiver. Jesus Flores, who made the team out of spring training but was recently send down himself, was not a candidate to be brought back, according to team sources.

Three Home Runs Do In Nats Against Mets also posted at DC Sports Box.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wright Leads Mets Over Nats 6-0

Queens, New York, NY--David Wright went three-for-five with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs and Mike Pelfrey combined with two relievers on a seven-hit shutout as the New York Mets defeated the lifeless Washington Nationals 6-0.

Pelfrey (2-0) gave up five hits and walked two, striking out four on the way. Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez each gave up one hit in their scoreless innings of work. Jose Reyes added four hits for the home team.

The Nats could not muster any offense, a recurring theme during their nine-game losing streak. Cristian Guzman had two hits, including a double, Nick Johnson singled and walked twice and Lastings Milledge doubled and walked, but no other Nat reached base twice. Milledge doubled in the bottom of the first with one out, but was caught attempting to steal third--much to the delight of the Mets faithful.

Nothing epitomizes the Nationals struggle so far this season better than the top of the third inning tonight. Second baseman Ronnie Belliard singled to lead off and pitcher Odalis Perez was directed to sacrifice him to second, but couldn't get a good enough bunt down and forced Belliard at second. Guzman followed with a single, giving the Nats runners at first and second with one out. Milledge then walked, loading the bases with the heart of the order coming up. But Pelfrey got Ryan Zimmerman to pop out to the infield on the first pitch he saw from the tall right-hander, and Nick Johnson struck out swinging to leave the sacks full, another wasted opportunity in a short season full of them so far.

Perez pitched pretty well on this evening, going six full innings, surrendering two earned runs on Wright's fourth home run of the young season. Perez walked four and struck out three. He left with the score a manageable 2-0, but got no relief from the relievers. Ray King, Luis Ayala and Joel Hanrahan all allowed runs to score in the late innings while the Nats' bats continued their April slumber.

The middle of the Nationals' order--Zimmerman, Johnson and Kearns--left a combined eleven runners on base this evening.

Wednesday night is the middle game of the three-game series. Left-hander Matt Chico (0-2) faces righty John Maine (0-1) at 7:10 at Shea Stadium.

Wright Leads Mets Over Nats 6-0 also posted at DC Sports Box.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Where Is Everybody?

Through seven games, the Washington Nationals rank 20th out of 30 major league baseball clubs in terms of average attendance. They average less than 30,000 per game, including the opening day sell-out. The crowd for the second game ever in Nationals Park was the smallest crowd in a stadium's second game since the game's renaissance starting in 1992 with the opening of Baltimore's Camden Yards, covering 16 new stadiums. And here's the kicker: Average attendance so far is 5,400 less than 2005, the team's first season in Washington and when the team played in decrepit, run-down and depressing RFK Stadium.

Barry Svrluga in today's Post has a solid article discussing all these numbers and interviews several experts about the topic. Much has been written and said elsewhere about the attendance so far. Is the situation "half-empty" or "half-full"? Depends on your vantage.

Stan Kasten has said on several occasions, "We'll get the attendance we deserve." So far, that's about right. Washington may love their Redskins and sell out every game in the turd that is FedEx Field, but for the other sports, attendance depends on the product put on the field (or rink, or court). The Nats right now, to put it bluntly, stink. Their record stands at 4-9. They won their first three games, lost nine in a row, and broke that streak Sunday defeating the Braves.

They are 13th (out of 16) in the NL in runs scored. They are 13th in Home Runs. They are dead last in batting average and slugging percentage and 14th in on base percentage. They are 14th in stolen bases.

They have given up the most runs in the NL. They are 14th in team ERA and 13th in strikeouts. They are 4th in the league in walks allowed, tied for second in home runs allowed and 13th in team on base percentage against.

To be fair, their projected opening day line-up hasn't taken the field together. Wily Mo Pena, slated to start in left, just joined the team Sunday from the disabled list and Dmitri Young has two at bats for the season. But they concerns are piling up. Paul LoDuca hasn't hit (.200) and hasn't thrown out a base runner yet. Austin Kearns is hitting .238 with no homers. Despite his opening day heroics, Ryan Zimmerman is only hitting .236. Only Cristian Guzman (.322 with two homers) and Lastings Milledge (.308) are performing at or about expected levels.

But poor performance is only one of the many reasons fans aren't flocking to Nationals Park.

The weather has been, for the most part, miserable. No one can change that. But pundits have claimed that the NCAA basketball championship game had something to do with the small crowd for the Nats' second game. The basketball game didn't keep folks from going to baseball games in Arizona, Anaheim, New York, Houston, San Francisco, Chicago White Sox or Pittsburgh. All those venues drew more than 35,000 fans on the same evening Washington could only muster 20,487.

Nats warming up before April 7 game against Florida.

How about the traffic concerns? I think this is affecting the attendance, but in a completely different way than the organization and city expected.

I have attended all but one of the Nats' home games so far and have taken the Metro and driven. There are absolutely no traffic problems whatsoever around the stadium for game days. It's amazing. The fear campaign the Nats, the City and Metro conspired actually has worked to keep cars out of the area around the stadium. Most fans that are coming to the games are either taking Metro, which is good for everybody, or using the "Nats Express" shuttle from RFK's parking lots. For the most part, Metro has performed admirably, with extra staffers, announcers on the platforms directing folks, extra trains and so on. Even Friday night and Sunday afternoon with the Capitals playoff games (sell-outs, by the way) crowding the system even further, Metro came through with flying colors. And I have yet to hear a complaint with the Nats Express.

The problem then lies, I believe, with the division within Nationals' fan base. There are the die-hards who come no matter what, and the blue-bloods, the ones the Nats seem to cater to the most: those paying high prices for tickets in the lower level and those now infamous Presidential Club seats behind home plate. You know, the ones that on TV are completely empty game in and game out. Also, the ones that are supposed to buying up the suites, which are only 60% sold. This includes the thousands of seats bought up by corporations and law firms that go unused many nights.

People with money--real money, the type of money that can spend $325 per game for one seat or $125,000 for a suite--don't take Metro. Under any circumstances. There are plenty of people that work on the Hill and live in Dupont Circle (or Vienna, or Chevy Chase) and drive to work because they don't like taking the Metro. It's an elitist thing. What is undeniable is that there is a certain population that won't take public transportation anywhere, including to a sporting event. And that's the segment of the population the Nats need to get at the park, because it's those seats that are going unfilled.

Like I said, I've only missed one game so far. And the thing that strikes me most about the crowds so far is the sameness of each crowd. I've seen the same faces and same groups of people at every game. I've got access to tickets in a couple different sections, and god love 'em, the same people are there every night. So if the Nats are getting their best fans, the one that will be there no matter what (weather, other events, traffic, prices) at every game, then they really, REALLY, need to do a better job getting the privileged to the game, either by convincing them the area is safe to drive--because there are parking lots that are not even half-full surrounding the stadium--or by actually convincing them to use the Metro.

Because until they do that, attendance will stay right around where it is. Sure, when summer rolls around it'll be easier to take the kids. But those seats behind home plate will still be empty. And if a casual fan sees that on TV on the highlights, don't you think that leaves them with a less-than-happy feeling about what must be going on down at the old ball-yard? If the Nats can't put people in the best seats in the house, how do you expect them to fill the rest of the place.

Maybe they need to hire seat fillers like at the Oscars.

Where Is Everybody? also posted at DC Sports Box.

Photo (c) Cheryl Nichols 2008.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Nats Hang On to Break Streak

Washington, DC--The Washington Nationals finally took advantage of another team's struggling pitcher and held on late to take a 5-4 victory over their division rival Atlanta Braves.

The Nats got out of the box quickly in the first inning against future hall-of-famer Tom Glavine, as lead-off hitter Cristian Guzman doubled to deep left and Lastings Milledge pushed a bunt past the pitcher to put runners at first and third. Ryan Zimmerman singled up the middle to score Guzman and as the ball whizzed past Glavine he made an attempt to knock it down. After throwing two balls to Austin Kearns, Glavine signaled for the trainers, and his day was done. He strained a hamstring and is listed as day-to-day.

Jeff Bennett relieved and forced Wily Mo Pena, in his fist at bat of the season after being activated from the disabled list, into a double play that allowed Zimmerman to score, and after the first the Nats held a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the second, the Nats used a single, sacrifice bunt and four consecutive walks to push the lead to 4-0. The Nats' last run scored in the third when Aaron Boone singled in Paul LoDuca, who in his at bat had been hit in the hand by Bennett.

Nats' starter Tim Redding cruised through five innings, but as has been so often the case this season, the starter ran into problems in the sixth. The Braves clawed back, getting a two-run home run from Chipper Jones and a sacrifice from Jeff Francouer in the top of the inning, cutting the lead to 5-3. In the top of the eighth inning, back-to-back singles by Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann off of Luis Ayala and a fielding error by Pena allowed the Braves to get within one in the tenuous late innings.

Manager Manny Acta went to Chad Cordero, in his first appearance off the disabled list, to protect the one run lead in the ninth. He got two quick outs, but allowed a walk and double to stir things up. After walking Teixeira intentionally, Acta summoned Jon Rauch to face catcher Brian McCann, who had been 0-8 lifetime against Rauch. Rauch got the job done, getting McCann to fly out to right field, and earned his second save of the season in the Nationals fourth victory.

Redding was credited with the win, running his record to 2-1. He pitched five innings, gave up three earned runs on six hits and three walks, and struck out two. Glavine (0-1) was saddled with the loss. There was no word post-game whether Glavine wold be available for his next start.

The Nats are off on Monday and start a three-game series with the New York Mets in New York. Tuesday's match-up features Odalis Perez (0-2) against Mike Pelfrey (1-0).

NATS NOTES: To make room for Pena, the Nats reassigned catcher Jesus Flores to Triple-A Columbus, leaving the Nats with LoDuca and Johnny Estrada to handle the catching duties.

Outfielder Elijah Dukes, on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, will resume running this week and may resume baseball activities later in the week, according to team officials.

Nats Hang On to Break Streak also posted at DC Sports Box

Photo Courtesy of D. Perry, DC Sports Box.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Shawn Hill Pitches for P-Nats

Woodbridge, VA--Washington Nationals' starting pitcher Shawn Hill, a spring training candidate for the opening day start, finally had his opening day. It was just 40 minutes down the road in Prince William county for the Potomac Nationals instead of for the Nats in their new stadium in near southeast DC.

Hill's final line was relatively impressive: five innings pitched, four hits, four strikeouts, one walk and no runs allowed. But it was really two different appearances--the first three innings, where he completely dominated the high A-level minor leaguers and the last two innings, where he lost the plate a little bit, couldn't "finish" his pitches by his own account, and allowed all four hits, three on sharp singles.

Hill threw 69 pitches--45 for strikes--in the game and another half-dozen in the bullpen afterward. He was economical in every inning except the fourth, where he tossed 25 pitches including the walk, two of the hits and two of his strikeouts. The first three innings he was completely in control. He struck out the second and third place hitters in the Myrtle Beach Pelicans line-up, the first on a sharp curve and the second on a fastball at the knees. He touched 90-91 on the radar gun on most of his fastballs.

After his appearance, he spoke about his arm, his conditioning, wanting to get back with the "big club"--and the Washington Capitals run to the playoffs.

"Overall, I felt pretty good," he started, " I feel like I'm ready to go." He faced all right-handed hitters, so he threw mostly fastballs and curve balls--no change-ups. "Curveball was ok, When it got side-to-side it got away from me a little bit but overall it was where I needed to be right now." When asked about whether he had any pain today, he replied, "No pain today. Warming up I get a little bit of pulling at it, but once I geared up and decided 'I'm throwing full-speed' there's not really alot of pain." He added, "I don't think the arm is going to hold me back at this point, it's going to be more of a performance issue."

Hill shared that it's taking him a bit more effort to warm up. "I'm definitely doing alot more to get loose before the game, whether it's a little bike or a little bit of cardio...just to make sure my that body is ready to go."

After talking about how he felt and his conditioning, he spoke specifically about how he threw in the game. "The velocity was fine. The command the first couple innings I was very pleased with. Towards the end it got away from me a little mechanics, I started to get a little quick towards the plate, spinning off a little bit." He finished his work in the bullpen after pitching five innings but not reaching the pitch limit of 80 set by the team. "I concentrated on staying back and getting through the's just something I've gotta be aware of. You know I haven't pitched alot a whole lot already this year so it's just something I've got to be conscious of."

"The fourth or fifth innings I felt my legs get a little says something maybe between innings ride a bike for a couple minutes, other than that it was fine."

Hill failed to speculate what his next assignment would be, deferring to the team and admitting he was to meet with the doctors and the team Wednesday morning.

After Hill finished, Nats' prospect Jordan Zimmermann took over and completed the shutout. Zimmermann went four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and three walks with six strikeouts. He got into a little trouble in the top of the ninth, but was able to escape to deliver the 2-0 victory in the home opener for the faithful at Pfitzner Stadium. The P-Nats runs were courtesy of a two-run home run by shortstop Seth Bynum.

NATS NOTES: Manager Manny Acta and bench coach Pat Corrales watch Hill's performance from behind homeplate, with assorted other Nats officials and several radar guns.

The Nats placed 1B Dmitri Young on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 3 because of his aching back. They activated catcher Johnny Estrada, who was on a rehab assignment at AAA Columbus. Estrada is a switch hitter, which will allow Acta to be a little more creative with pinch hitting duties.

All photos (C) Cheryl Nichols 2008.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

And now, a word about the O's

The Orioles just completed a 4-1 week to start the season. Sunday's game ended in the bottom of the ninth, when Luis Hernandez--perhaps the worst starting player in the major leagues--blooped a single off Mariners' temporary closer Mark Lowe to complete a 3-run inning and complete the sweep against the Mariners. It's great that the O's are playing pretty well to start the season, despite minuscule crowds at Camden Yards, including it's all-time smallest crowd ever Tuesday night against Tampa Bay. The Sun and several other blogs are even signaling a return of "Orioles Magic".

But the funny thing--well, maybe not funny--is that there is NO Orioles Magic at Camden Yards. At least not over the public address system.

The O's DJ played the familiar refrain opening day as the O's took the field, as has been tradition for lo these many years. It's a song that is meant to inspire and cause reflection for the good days all at the same time. It was a way to link today's players to the heroes of the "the good ole days" of the championship years of the late sixties, early seventies and 1983.

But after the opening day loss the DJ stopped playing the song. Whether that decision was made by the warehouse, the players or the DJ is immaterial really. What does matter is that the players are happy that it's no longer played over the P.A. Instead, they are playing it in the locker after games as a "mocking, team-unifying guffaw" according to Sun columnist Dan Connolly.

Kevin Millar is credited with playing the song, which apparently was loaded on his i-Pod, and Aubrey Huff is quoted extensively on the subject in Mr. Connolly's column. You can read what they say for yourself.

Today's players have no idea what this song and this team mean to the city and community. It's a shame that something that is supposed to be inspirational and reminiscent at the same time is played as a "mocking, team-unifying guffaw". While some of the younger players seem to thing it's pretty cool, the "leaders" of this team are the ones that are playing it in a mocking manner.

I'm not bent out of shape that it's no longer played when the O's take the field, but it would be nice if the current O's knew a little bit about the history of the team they currently play for.

Maybe if they did, Huff wouldn't have spouted off on the radio over the off-season denigrating the city and talking about getting drunk and watching porn, Millar wouldn't have made himself look like a donkey's rear end on national television shilling for the Red Sox in the World Series, and this team could begin to salvage some respect and dignity with its success the first week of the season and the hard work Andy MacPhail has been doing to rebuild this sagging, moribund franchise.

But I guess to gain respect, you have to self-respect, and it seems like the veterans of this team--Millar and Huff--don't qualify in that regard.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Redding, Relievers Combine for One-Hitter

Philadelphia, PA--Tim Redding threw seven innings of one-hit baseball, Luis Ayala and Jon Rauch were perfect in their one inning each, and Ryan Zimmerman homered for the second time in three games as the Washington Nationals shut-out the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 at Citizen's Bank Park this evening.

On a chilly, breezy night in the City of Brotherly Love Redding pitched a gem, holding the Phillies potent line-up to one hit and three walks, while striking out two, including Phils' clean-up hitter Ryan Howard. Redding threw 93 pitches--54 for strikes--but it was enough to keep the Phillies off balance all evening. Ayala and Rauch each faced three batters without incident, Rauch earning the save in his second appearance of the season.

Cole Hamels was the hard-luck loser, pitching eight strong innings of his own. He gave up five hits and two walks, striking out six. But the big hit was Ryan Zimmerman's solo home run into the right field corner in the sixth inning, which proved to be all the offense the Nats needed this night. Zimmerman added another single, and Cristian Guzman went two-for four in the lead-off spot. Willie Harris and Redding had the other two hits.

The Nationals are 3-0 for the first time since 2003 when the franchise was still in Montreal. The Phillies fall to 0-2. The two teams face each other Thursday afternoon in Philly, with Jason Bergmann facing Jamie Moyer at 1:05 pm.

NATS NOTES: Redding retired 14 batters at one point. GM Jim Bowden said there's no timetable for outfielder Elijah Dukes' return from the disabled list. The team is considering using Felipe Lopez in left field in an effort to get him some playing time. The team is also considering starting John Lannan over the weekend instead of going with a four-man rotation if Shawn Hill isn't ready to come off the disabled list.

Redding, Relievers Combine for One-Hitter also posted at DC Sports Box

Photo (c) Cheryl Nichols 2008.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Nats Drop Phils in 'Second' Opening Day

Philadelphia, PA--A five-run top of the ninth inning paved the way for the Washington Nationals to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 11-6 in the Phils' home opener. The game was tied at six when Phillies Manager Charlie Manual summoned Tom Gordon to start the ninth, and the Nats' bats delivered against the temporary closer.

Lastings Milledge, who homered earlier off of Ryan Madson, started the ninth with a lead-off single. Nick Johnson doubled him home and scored on Carlos Ruiz' errant pick-off throw. Paul LoDuca and Ronnie Belliard then had back-to-back RBI doubles to chase Gordon from the game, and Dmitri Young doubled off of Clay Condrey to cap the scoring.

Nats starter Matt Chico pitched five and one-third innings, surrendering three earned runs on six hits and a walk, striking out four. He also allowed a solo home run to second baseman Chase Utley. Saul Rivera pitched a scoreless inning to earn the victory.

Cristian Guzman, Nick Johnson, Austin Kearns and Milledge all had two hit apiece, and the Nats second through seventh place hitters all drove in runs.

Jimmy Rollins, reigning National League MVP, homered against Ray King in the seventh inning to tie the game before the Nats heroics in the ninth. Phillies starter Brett Myers allowed four runs -- three earned -- and five hits in five innings. He also walked two and hit two batters. He spent most of last season as the Phillies closer, but after the acquisition of Brad Lidge was moved back into the rotation. Gordon was filling in for Lidge, who started the season on the disabled list recovering from spring knee surgery.

The Nats start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2003. They face the Phillies again Wednesday, April 1, with Tim Redding facing Cole Hamels in the second of the three-game series.

Nats Drop Phils in 'Second' Opening Day also posted at DC Sports Box

Photo Courtesy of A. Santos, DC Sports Box