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Sunday, June 29, 2008

GB&U: Ho Hum, Another Walk-Off

RESULT: Nats beat Orioles 3-2

GOOD: Ronnie Belliard. Two-run walk-off home run! Woo Hoo! Roger Bernadina. Base hit in his first major league at bat. And in the outfield, he already looks like a gold glover (all hype intended).

BAD: Kory Casto. 0-for-5, .188 for the year. One day after playing hero, Kory has some really ugly at bats.

UGLY: My tummy. Sorry for the lack of post yesterday and this morning. I've been battling a touch of food poisoning or something, but starting to feel better.

NEXT GAME: Monday versus Florida. Tim Redding (6-3, 4.05) faces Ryan Tucker (2-2, 6.75)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

GB&U: Moving Day?

RESULT: Nats beat Orioles 4-2.

GOOD: Kory Casto. He's getting beat up a little bit for lack of production, but he came through last night with a big hit to break the tie in the seventh inning off the bench. Blastings was 2-for-4 again too. Looks like he's shaken his mini slump.

BAD: Wily Mo. 0-for-3, lowering the average to .215. with yet another outfield error leading to a run. Will Kearns' return spell his demise?

UGLY: Felipe Lopez. He failed to cover second base as a defensive substitute in the eighth inning, making Guzman go the long way to first to get the third out of the inning. That's not a physical error, it's a mental one, one that Lopez has been guilty of quite a few times this season. His name has been in the paper the last couple days, with rumors swirling that after this series with the Orioles he may be headed 45 minutes up the road on a more permanent basis.

Lopez has some interesting things to say in an article by Steve Yanda in the WaPo. Acta's reply at the end of the piece speaks loud volumes as to how frustrated the organization is with him right now. They'll only get pennies on the dollar for him in trade, but it appears they'll be happy to get a bag of balls--and send some salary--just to remove him from the equation.

NEXT GAME: Tonight in game two of the "Battle of the Beltways" at 7:10 pm from Nationals Park. The Nats' John Lannan (4-8, 3.34) hosts Garrett Olson (5-3, 5.01) for the Orioles, which means the Nats will manage to score only two runs tonight, as Lannan has the lowest run support in the Majors. Will that be enough to win?

P.S. Sorry this was late today. I was out at the Baseball 101 clinic for the Nats female fans. It was a well attended event and I'll have pictures and a round-up tomorrow. Big props to all the coaches that came out to give instruction this morning, and all the ladies in attendance that hung on every word.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2008

Nats Take Game One of "Battle of the Beltways" 4-2

Washington, DC--The game last night between the Washington Nationals and visiting Baltimore Orioles had a little bit of everything that makes baseball great. There were extra base hits, stolen bases, good pitching and even a little intrigue. On top of it all, it was a tied game heading into the late innings, where the Nationals were able to scrape two runs together in the seventh inning, then hold on to defeat the Orioles 4-2, before 35,830 bi-partisan fans, one of the largest crowds all season.

In that fateful seventh, with Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera still on the mound, Willie Harris led off the inning with a walk, Cabrera's third and last of the night. Kory Casto then pinch-hit for relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan, and drilled a double to left filed that scooted by outfielder Jay Payton, allowing the fleet Harris to score all the way from first base. "Coming off the bench, it's tough. It's something I've never really done," Casto said. "It's your one shot and you've got to make it count."

Elijah Dukes, looking more and more every day like the run-producing force the Nationals hoped he would be when they traded for the troubled slugger, promptly delivered Casto on a single to center field and the Nationals took a precarious two-run lead into the final frames.

The Orioles would get runners on in each of the last two innings, and things looked particularly dicey in the ninth against closer Jon Rauch. Brian Roberts led off for the O's with a double and Nick Markakis followed with a walk. But Rauch got Melvin Mora to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, then Kevin Millar to fly out to center, and Rauch had secured the victory and his 16th save of the season.
Washington starter Odalis Perez, fresh off the 15-day disabled list, was on a pitch count for his first start back and fought through four innings without his best stuff, but hung tough while he was in there. He allowed no runs on three hits and three walks, striking out three. Steven Shell, the man who directly replaced Perez on the mound was not as sharp, as he surrendered both Orioles runs.

In the fifth inning, Shell gave up a triple to the first batter he faced, Brian Roberts, who immediately scored on Markakis' ground out. In the sixth, Adam Jones led off with a single that left fielder Wily Mo Pena misplayed, giving Jones an extra base. Brandon Fahey then shot one past third base to score Jones easily. Joel Hanrahan came on for Shell and pitched one scoreless inning to get the win. He's now 4-2 on the year with a 4.38 ERA.

The Nats got their first runs off Cabrera in the bottom of the first inning. Cristian Guzman led off with a double to right center and scored on Lasting MiIlledge's single to center. The ball scooted underneath Adam Jones' glove on the still wet turf, and Jones went all the way to third. Newly appointed clean-up hitter Jesus Flores then dumped a single into right field which brought Milledge home safely.

Game Two in the "Battle of the Beltways" is Saturday night at 7:10 pm. The Nats' John Lannan (4-8, 3.34) hosts Garrett Olson (5-3, 5.01) for the Orioles.

NATS NOTES: The win raises the Nats record to 32-49, last in the NL East, eleven games behind slumping Philadelphia.

The Nats have won back-to-back games at home for the first time since May 4.

Photo (c) C.Nichols 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

All Stars, Revisited

MLB All Star teams are announced July 6. Since I'm leaving for vacation July 1, I present to you now my All Star teams for 2008. Check back after the teams are announced and feel free to tell my how stupid I am. The starters I list are the leading vote-getters as of today. It's all I have to work with. I took 12 pitchers for each sqaud, and filled out the rest of the rosters as required: 32 players, at least one from each team. The Dodgers really made me work for their rep.

I get one extra in the AL since Big Papi won't be healthy enough to play.

Anyway, here we go...

NL Starters: 1B Berkman (HOU), 2B Utley (PHI), 3B C.Jones (ATL), SS H.Ramirez (FLA), C Soto (CHC), OFs Soriano (CHC), Fukudome (CHC),
Griffey (CIN).

NL Reserves: 1B A.Gonzales (SD), 1B Pujols (STL), 2B Uggla (FLA), 3B Wright (NYM), 3B A.Ramirez (CHC), SS J.Reyes (NYM), C B. McCann (ATL), C R.Martin (LA), OFs Braun (MIL), Holliday (COL), McLouth (PIT), Ludwick (STL).

NL SPs: Volquez (CIN), Webb (ARI), Sheets (MIL), Haren (ARI), Lincecum (SF), Dempster (CHI), Santana (NYM).

NL RPs: Wood (CHI), Lidge (PHI), Capps (PIT), Wagner (NYM), Rauch (WAS).

Guys I hated leaving off NL: Bengie Molina, Carlos Lee, Mark Teixeira, Aaron Cook, Tim Hudson, Cole Hamels.

AL Starters: 1B Youkilis (BOS), 2B Pedroia (BOS), 3B A.Rodriguez (NYY), SS Jeter (NYY), C Mauer (MIN), OFs M.Ramirez (BOS), Hamilton (TEX), Ichiro (SEA), DH Ortiz (BOS).

AL Reserves: 1B Morneau (MIN), 2B Kinsler (TEX), B.Roberts (BAL), 3B Crede (CHW), SS M.Young (TEX), C Navarro (TB), C Pierzynski (CHW), OFs Crawford (TB), Quentin (CHW), M.Ordonez (DET), Bradley (TEX), J. Guillen (KC).

AL SPs: C.Lee (CLE), Saunders (LAA), E.Santana (LAA), Halladay (TOR), Mussina (NYY), Duchscherer (OAK), Padilla (TEX)

AL RPs: F.Rodriguez (LAA), Sherrill (BAL), Papelbon (BOS), Rivera (NYY), Soria (KC).

Guys I hated leaving off AL: Grady Sizemore, JD Drew, Gavin Floyd, Zack Greinke, Bobby Jenks.
Quick Comments: I ended up taking 3 catchers for both leagues. With 32-man rosters and with the game structured the way it is anymore, you really need to take three. Pierzynski is the weak link, but felt I needed the third in the AL. Martin was my LA rep, and I could have taken a fourth C with Molina in SF, but I don't see anyone taking 4 catchers.

AL 1B was weak this year. Even though Ortiz is hurt, I couldn't bring myself to take another DH in Giambi, although his numbers would qualify him. AL pitching is kinda soft too. I really tried hard not to take Padilla, but again, numbers warrant the selection.

Teams with one All Star: TOR, CLE, DET, SEA, OAK, WAS, HOU, SF, SD, LA, COL.
Most All Stars: CHC 6, BOS 5, TEX 5, NYY 4, NYM 4, LAA 3.

By The Way...

One more thought about the Nats negotiating with Guzman: If JimBow gives Guz a Meathook deal (2 years at $5MM per), he should be strung up.

FYI, Rumors floating around that the Nats and O's are talking about FLop. I guess Manny didn't like the fake dreads. From Chico's off-day Chemistry Lesson today:

Second baseman Felipe López thought a sight gag might help. So, during warmup drills in Minnesota last Thursday, López wore a Rastafarian-style wig. As he loosened up, his fake dreadlocks bounced under the brim of his ballcap. Like that, the poorest team in the National League prepared to lose its third straight game. Nobody expressed displeasure to López about the antics, but still, the second baseman felt a vibe of disapproval. "I'm sure people were like, 'We're losing. What is he doing?' But what does it matter if you're losing? You can't have fun? You're supposed to be bitter and not have fun?"

He dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "There's a lot of uptight people in here," he said.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

So I Guess We Can Cross Furcal Off The Wish List

This article today by Bill Ladson of brings the news that the Nats are in negotiation with Cristian Guzman on a two-year contract extension. Guzman's previous contract, given by GM Jim Bowden after the 2004 season, was for four years and $16MM. Guzman's performance during that four-year stretch has been well documented, and if you want to examine the grizzly numbers before this season, please feel free. They aren't pretty.

He is a lifetime .267/.304/.382 hitter with 50 home runs in nine seasons. Since his laser eye surgery after the 2006 season, however, he's hit .316. He's been the Nats best hitter so far this season, and Manny Acta has gone on record advocating his all-star criteria. But a closer look tells us that even though Guzman is hitting the ball, he's still not that great a hitter, and certainly lacking as a lead-off hitter. Ladson opines:

Guzman is having the best year of his career, hitting .312 with five home runs and 26 RBIs entering Wednesday's action. He is on pace to collect 200 hits and score 100 runs.

His OBP so far this season is .335, terrible for someone who is supposed to be the "table setter". The reason his OBP is just a few points higher than his average is, obviously, he never walks. He has 12 walks so far this season in 356 plate appearances. Since returning to the lead-off spot at the begining of June, he's hitting .340/.366/.371. The OBP is higher because a few more hits have dropped. He's only walked twice since June 5.

His OPS+ is 101 for the season. OPS+ is measured with 100 being the base for all players--a specific player's value is in relationship to that base. So Guzman's value is one point higher than the base. He leads the NL in hits and singles, and is fifth in doubles.

As for defense, his range factor places him in the bottom third of starting shortstops in the NL and his fielding percentage is in the middle of the pack. Strangely, he's near the top of the NL in double plays turned, which is probably a mechanic of the pitchers in front of him. So statistically, he's below average overall in the field as well.

Negatives: He's 30. His OBP is low. He doesn't steal bases anymore (3 in 6 attempts this year).

Positives: He hits for average. He's got decent pop for an NL SS. He doesn't strike out a lot. No one in the minors to push him.

On the face of it, the Nats could do worse than Guz at short IF they had a legitimate lead-off hitter, allowing Guz to hit second -- or better yet -- eighth. If Bowden re-signs Guzman expecting him to lead-off for the next two years with further declining defensive skills as he gets older, then Bowden--and the team--will regret this contract as much as the last.

GB&U: Another Walk Off Win

RESULT: Nats beat Angels 5-4.

GOOD: Lastings Milledge. 2-for-4, home run (7), two RBIs. Dukes was 2-for-3 with two walks. Flores has the game-winning hit after going 0-for-4 with 3 Ks. Redding gave up two earned in six innings. There was a lot to like last night.

BAD: Luis Ayala. One-third of an inning, two runs on two hits. He's just not getting it done right now. He's given up more runs than innings pitched three of his last six appearances. Yuck.

UGLY: Pete Orr. Another defensive replacement assignment. Yet another error. Sorry, he's just not a major league player.

NEWS: Shawn Hill placed on the 15-day DL today. After meeting with the doctors, the prescription was rest and therapy. I guess it's wait and see with Hill.

NEXT GAME: Friday at Nationals Park against the Baltimore Orioles, in for a three game set to FINALLY wrap up interleague play. Odalis Perez (2-5, 4.09) will come of the disabled list to face Daniel Cabrera (5-3, 4.46).

Photo courtesy of MLBAM.

Nats Rally For Another Walk-off Win

Washington, DC--Lastings Milledge homered, Elijah Dukes reached base four times and Jesus Flores broke out of a mini-slump just in time, as his line drive in the bottom of the ninth scored Dukes from second and allowed the Washington Nationals to walk-off with a win against the AL West leading Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 5-4.

Flores had gone 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and five runners left on when he came to the plate with two on and no one out against Scot Shields for the Angels. He fouled the first pitch back and took the next two pitches for balls, and on the fourth pitch of the at bat finally found one he liked, drilling it to right center, splitting outfielders Torii Hunter and Rob Quinlan to deliver the comeback victory for the Nats.

The Nats got off to the early lead courtesy of Milledge. In the bottom of the first, Cristian Guzman led off with a walk, only his twelfth in over 350 plate appearances. One out later, Milledge (2-for-4) hammered an Ervin Santana offering deep to straight center field and the ball landed in the utility area beyond the deepest part of the playing field. It was Milledge's seventh home run of the season and broke an 0-for-13 skid. Santana, one of the AL's leading pitchers this season, was not particularly sharp Wednesday night allowing four earned runs total on four hits and five walks in six innings.

The Angels would scratch out single runs in the second and third innings against Nats starter Tim Redding. In the second, Hunter led off with a single, took second on a ground out and scored on Gary Matthews double to deep left field. In the third, Erick Aybar singled with one out and took second on Garrett Anderson's single. Hunter reached on an infield single to load the bases and first baseman Casey Kotchman singled to short right plating Aybar. The damage could have been worse, but with the bases loaded Howie Kendrick flied out to medium-deep right field and Anderson broke for the plate. Elijah Dukes fired a one-hop strike to catcher Jesus Flores, who cleanly applied the tag for the double play, letting Redding escape big damage in the inning.

The Nats took back the lead in the sixth. They loaded the bases against Santana with a walk to Dukes (2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 BBs), a single by Milledge and an intentional pass to Dmitri Young. Ronnie Belliard then drew a walk with the sacks full to force in a run, and Wily Mo Pena (2-for-3) snuck a ball through the right side to drive in another. But the Nats could not finish of the Angels, as Willie Harris popped out and Kory Casto struck out to end the inning.

The 4-2 lead would be short lived though. In the top of the eighth, with Luis Ayala pitching, the Angels would stage their rally. Aybar singled to start the inning and Anderson reached on defensive replacement Pete Orr's error. Kotchman doubled on a ball to the wall in right, scoring Aybar and moving Anderson to third. Ayala has given up more runs than innings pitched in three of his last six opportunities, driving his ERA up to 5.54.

Jon Rauch was summoned to try to save the game, but he let Kendrick loft a fly ball to center that brought Anderson home to tie the game. Nats fans have time and again seen the bullpen surrender leads, and tonight's game looked to be following that script. But the Nationals have also crafted several walk-off scenarios at home, and the disappointment of losing the lead would soon be replaced by the "bang-zoom" of victory fireworks.

Rauch retired the Angels in order in the ninth, and as pitcher of record earned the win (4-1, 2.29) despite the blown save. Redding (6-3, 4.05) finished with six innings pitched, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out two. Redding now has seven consecutive starts without a decision. Shields (3-2, 2.53) suffered the loss for the Halos.

The Nationals have a day off Thursday to savor their win. Friday marks the beginning of part two of the "Battle of the Beltways", as the Baltimore Orioles visit Nationals Park for a three-game series to conclude interleague play. Odalis Perez (2-5, 4.09) will come of the disabled list to face Daniel Cabrera (5-3, 4.46) for the O's.

NATS NOTES: With the with, the Nats record stands at 31-49, twelve and one-half games behind division leading Philadelphia. Washington's last four victories at home have come in its last at-bat.

With an infield single in the seventh inning, Aaron Boone reached 1,000 hits for his career. He is the fourth person in his family to reach that plateau in the major leagues, following grandfather Ray (1,260), father Bob (1,838) and brother Bret (1,775).

The Nats placed RHP Shawn HIll on the 15-day DL Thursday to activate Perez for Friday's game. Hill was examined by specialists at the Mayo clinic, and for now, rest and therapy were prescribed for his painful forearm.

Photos (c) C.Nichols 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bowden MUST Be Held Accountable For THIS Team

Jim Bowden has to be held accountable for what's happening on the field this year. Injuries happen to every team, but the good ones have quality players stashed they can recall to fill in.

There were plenty of NRIs and minor league free agents available over the past off-season that could have been brought in to compete for jobs on this team, let alone provide injury insurance. What did Bowden do? He signed Aaron Boone, Willie Harris, Rob Mackowiak, Pete Orr, Ryan Langerhans, two old, beat up catchers in Paul LoDuca and Johnny Estrada and Odalis Perez.

Boone and Perez have performed on the level the team hoped for, but the rest have been an abomination.

Harris, Mackowiak and Orr are all the same player and Langerhans has been released twice now with no other team claiming him, allowing him to be sent back to Columbus.

Think the $5MM the Nats spent on Paul LoDuca would have been better spent on Milton Bradley? How about Russel Branyan, a minor league free agent that "just wanted another chance", who has hit 10 homers in 74 at bats? Bartolo Colon? He signed a minor league deal. Chris Gomez signed a one-year $1MM deal. I could go on all day.

Yet Bowden came back with the crew he assembled proclaiming this team to be competitive. It never had a chance.

Now, we all know Mike Rizzo is in charge of scouting and drafting of the amateurs, so all we have to judge Bowden on is his performance assembling the major league and Triple-A team. and those area have both regressed in the four years (two under the Lerners) that he's been on the job.

Enough is Enough. I'm not playing hypothetical like is, but simply providing evidence that Bowden very poorly chose the NRIs and one-year contracts he chose to give out for THIS SEASON, and the evidence is damning.

He continues to overvalue and overhype the players he assembles, then BLAMES THEM for poor performance. It's time he's held accountable for the teams he's putting on the field. There's no reason to play this poorly when you can be a shrewd judge of stop-gap talent in the off-season.

Bowden must go.

Hill Lose Hill to Forearm Pain, Game to Halos 8-3

Washington, DC-In the microcosm, it was just another loss in a season that has been full of them, and will, in all likelihood, continue. In the grand scheme of things, however, this loss could prove more costly in significance if this was the end of Shawn Hill on the mound for the Washington Nationals for the foreseeable future.

Hill (L, 1-5, 5.83) was hammered by the Angels for eight runs -- six earned -- on eight hits and a walk in just three innings of work, as the Washington Nationals lost to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 8-3 Tuesday night before 28,531 at Nationals Park. He gave up six in the first and another two in the third inning.

The bigger news, however, in what has become a lost season for the reluctant ace, was when after the game Manager Manny Acta announced Hill was likely headed to the disabled list and on his way very soon to see specialists at the Mayo clinic to re-examine his elbow and forearm, the source of Hill's pain and frustration this season. Hill was despondent in his post-game interview, stoic and brutally honest as always with the gathered press. "I'm just not right." he said. "Not a whole lot of guys throw through this for as long as I have…[M]aybe two weeks off, a week off, a month off, whatever it may be, I have no idea. I might come back and feel like a new guy, or [the rest] might do absolutely nothing. I have no idea."

His performance on Tuesday night was described as "flat" by Acta and his location "suffering" by pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

Hill started the season on the DL and has struggled every start since his return. In the beginning, the pain forced him to give up throwing between starts, something he's acknowledged as being important for him to maintain his control and consistency. He recently had returned to throwing side sessions, but the pain has worsened and left him in a reduced capacity during games. Tuesday's fiasco was, apparently, the final straw. Hill is no longer able to pitch through the pain, and the incredible effort he's been putting forth just to get on the mound for the Nats is not enough when the results were as bad a they were last night, effectively ending any chance the team had to be competitive in the first inning.

The lack of any consistent offensive production from this patchwork line-up of discarded veterans and untested youngsters places an extra premium on pitching, especially the starters, and trailing 6-0 after the top of the first is a death sentence for a squad hitting .238 as a team, last in all of Major League Baseball.

Jon Garland got the win for the Angels, leaders of the American League West. He went seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits and one walk, including solo home runs by Wily Mo Pena (2) and Elijah Dukes (3).

Adding insult to Hill's injury, the defense was atrocious again Tuesday, as the Nats committed four errors, two in that fateful first inning. Paul LoDuca, starting in left field for the first time since 2004, threw away the first ball hit to him, allowing a runner to advance an extra base. Dmitri Young booted two grounders at first base, and Willie Harris kicked one away at second, starting once again for Felipe Lopez. To their credit, the Nats did complete three double plays, including a strike-em-out, throw-em-out by Jesus Flores.

The Nats conclude their three-game series with the Halos Wednesday night, as Tim Redding (6-3, 4.12) takes the mound against Ervin Santana (9-3. 3.17) for the Angels.

NATS NOTES: The loss lowers the Nationals record to 30-49, last in the NL East, twelve and one-half games behind Philadelphia. The Nats have lost four straight, and are 2-7 in their last ten games.

LoDuca summoned the trainer in the top of the second inning during Vlad Guerrero's at bat. He experienced dizziness and nausea and was removed from the game. He was taken to a hospital for observation. He was given IVs and was reported to be feeling better later in the evening. No further word from the team has been released at this writing.

Redding appeared at the ESPN Zone downtown Tuesday at lunchtime for a Q&A with Nats fans. Radio play-by-lay Charlie Slowes emceed the event, attended by roughly 75 Nats fans.

GB&U: Hill Hammered By Halos

RESULT: Nats fall to Angels 8-3.

GOOD: Power Display. The Nats only had six hits, but two were homers from Elijah Dukes and Wily Mo Pena. Pena's blast cleared the opposing bullpen in left center.

BAD: Lastings Milledge. He went 0-for-4, extending his slump to 1-for-29 over his last seven games. He's gone from .258 to .235 in that time.

Bonus BAD: Defense! Or I should say, lack thereof. Four errors, including two in the miserable first inning. LoDuca threw away the first ball hit at him in left field. Meathook booted two grounders. Willie Harris kicked one at second.

UGLY: Shawn Hill. In what may be his last appearance for the Nats for a while, he was absolutely hammered. 3 IP, 8 Runs, 6 ERs, 8 hits, 1 BB, 2 Ks. He's scheduled for an appointment at the Mayo clinic to examine his elbow and forearm. After the game, Manny Acta indicated Hill was headed to the DL, and the pitcher's words were despondent.

From the Post's game story: "I'm just not right." - and- "Maybe two weeks off, a week off, a month off, whatever it may be, I have no idea. I might come back and feel like a new guy, or [the rest] might do absolutely nothing. I have no idea."

NEWS: LoDuca had to leave the game in the second inning due to light headedness. I won't make a joke here. LoDuca called the trainers out in the middle of Vlad Guerrero's at bat in the second when he started feeling faint. He was taken to a hospital for observation. He received IVs and was reported to be feeling better later in the evening.

NEXT GAME: The Nats wrap up their series with the Angels. Tim Redding (6-3, 4.12) takes on Ervin Santana (9-3, 3.17).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Anyone Surprised By This?

Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson will miss the rest of the season after surgery today to repair a small split tear in a ligament on the ulnar side of his right wrist.

When the injury first happened back in May, the original diagnosis was 4-to-6 weeks. David Ortiz of the Red Sox sustained a very similarly described injury right around the same time-frame, and he's out of his cast, pain-free, and hopeful to start batting practice soon. It's almost indescribable how Johnson's injuries are always the worst case scenario.

His broken leg was supposed to have healed over the off-season in order for him to be ready for spring training in 2007--but he missed the entire year. I won't detail his long and storied list of injuries, but the guy just can't stay healthy, and it takes forever for him to heal. It's a real shame, because he's the best hitter on the team--when healthy.

He, like Meathook, are under contract through 2009, so all Nats fans can hope for is that he recovers from surgery and comes back in the spring healthy, in shape, and ready to play his butt off for a new contract. At this point, the Nats themselves are just hopeful to get some returns for the old one.

At least we'll always have the lightning bolt from spring training.

Monday, June 23, 2008

GB&U: This Is Not A Recording

RESULT: Nats lose to Angels 3-2.

GOOD: Jason Bergmann. Seven innings, one earned run on six hits and NO WALKS, with six strikeouts. This wasn't the Mariners he dominated, it was the AL West leading Angels, legitimate contenders.

Bonus GOOD: Willie Harris! Two home runs in as many days! If you made a bet during spring training that Harris would have four times as many homers as Wily Mo Pena in the first week of the summer, you may collect your bet.

BAD: L-Millz. 0-for4 sees his average tumble to .239. He's 0-for-13 since clubbing his big home run Friday night.

UGLY: Defense. In the eighth inning, the defense let the team down. Chone Figgins bunted to third to lead off, and when defensive replacement Pete Orr and pitcher Saul Rivera collided, Figgy was safe. He then stole second, took third on Flores' throwing error, then Lopez booted Aybar's grounder allowing Figgins to trot home. Rivera couldn't recover, and allowed Garrett Anderson to drive in Aybar, and that's all she wrote.

NEWS: The team announced Nick Johnson will undergo surgery on his injured right wrist. The procedure, quite obviously, will shelve Johnson the rest of the season. Good thing we didn't trade Meathook in Spring Training.

NEXT GAME: Tomorrow, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Shawn Hill (1-4, 5.22) hosts Jon Garland (6-4, 4.06) at 7:10 pm.

GB&U: Still No Support for Lannan

RESULT: Nats lose to Rangers 5-3.

GOOD: John Lannan. Another quality start: 6 IP, 2 ERs, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 6 Ks. All he gave up was two solo homers. He threw 90 pitches, 56 for strikes. But despite the low strike %, he didn't walk anyone and had 6 Ks. Fairly amazing. Anyway, until he learns to be a little more economical with his pitches and can get through another inning or two, he's going to keep experiencing these tough days. At least he wasn't saddled with another loss.

BAD: Wily Mo. 0-for-3, .209 for the season. His starts are getting more infrequent. Maybe Manny is tiring of the juggling act in left field.

UGLY: Ayala and Hanrahan. 2 IPs, 3 ERs, 4 hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks. Ayala earns the loss, Joel throws gas on the fire. It's tough watching this day-in and day-out. Steven Shell (NOT a good name for a pitcher) was perfect in his MLB debut though.

NEXT GAME: Tonight against free-swinging Vladamir Guerrero and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of California of the USA. Jason Bergmann (1-5, 5.03) faces John Lackey (4-1, 1.73). It's what you would call a 'reverse lock'.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

GB&U: Nothing To See Here

RESULT: Nats spanked by Rangers 13-3.

GOOD: Meathook. 3-for-4. LMillz crushed a homer halfway up the stands in left. That's about it.

BAD: Garrett Mock. Making his second spot start of the season, he just doesn't look like he trusts his stuff at this level yet. Maybe there's an underlying reason for that, maybe it's just nerves. Who knows? But what we do know is that he was bad for the second straight outing. The eight strikeouts at least showed some promise. His final line: 6 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 1 BB, 8 Ks.

UGLY: The Bullpen. One night after performing so well, They were terrible. Manning, Sanches and Colome all were roughed up. The trio surrendered 9 ERs in 3 IP, along with 10 hits and four walks. Yuck.

MOVES: After the game, the Nats demoted Sanches and Mock and recalled INF Pete Orr and RHP Steven Shell from Triple-A Columbus.

NEWS: Nick Johnson has an appointment at the Mayo Clinic to examine his wrist. He still has considerable soreness after several weeks of immobilization. Johnson has been on the DL since May 15.

NEXT GAME: Today at 1:35 pm in the finale against Texas. John Lannan (4-6, 3.36) faces Vicente Padilla (9-3, 3.73).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

GB&U: Free Baseball and a Curly W To Boot!

RESULT: Nats beat Rangers in 14 , 4-3.

GOOD: Elijah Dukes! What would you expect. He went 5-for6 with a walk, raising his average to .270/.377/.402, something incomprehensible when he started the season 1-for-26. Homer to tie it in the 8th, Single to win in the 14th. It doesn't get much better than that.

Honorable mention to the entire bullpen, much maligned in this space. They combined for 8 innings of one-hit, one-walk baseball. Tremendous.

BAD: Cristian Guzman. The 13 game hitting streak ends spectacularly, going 0-for-7.

UGLY: Paul LoDuca. Not that drawing a walk is ugly, because it led to Dukes' heroics. But man, did the crowd let him have it last night. In no uncertain terms. Wonder how many more days he goes without starting before he says something in the papers about it?

NEXT GAME: Tonight, Game Two against the Rangers. Garrett Mock (0-1, 8.31) tries again against Kason Gabbard (1-3,4.94) at 7:10 pm at Nationals Park. Seriously, who names their kid 'Kason'?

Photo courtesy of A.Amobi, DC Sports Box.

Dukes Carries Nats Past Rangers 4-3

Washington, DC--On a beautiful night for baseball in the Nation's Capital, Washington Nationals right fielder -- and hottest hitter --Elijah Dukes carried the squad with five hits, including a game-tying home run in the eighth inning and a game-winning single through a drawn in infield in the bottom of the fourteenth inning, defeating the Texas Rangers 4-3, the first time that franchise has returned to Washington since former owner Bob Short yanked the team out from underneath the DC faithful in 1971.

Dukes finished the night 5-for-6 with a walk, homer, two runs scored and two big RBIs. His average for the year is now .270/.377/.402,when just a couple weeks ago it was below .100. Dukes started the season 1-for-26, but has been scorching at the plate recently, giving the Nats -- and their fans -- something to cling to amidst losing streaks.

But none of that mattered in the bottom of the fourteenth inning,officially the longest game in Nationals Park short history. Tied at three, courtesy of Dukes' solo homer in the eighth, the Nats combined patience, a shaky relief pitcher (for a change, not their own), and one clutch hit to wrest the victory from the Rangers. Texas reliever Jamey Wright struck out Kory Casto (0-for-6, .184) to start the frame,but then hit Felipe Lopez with the count 1-2.

Paul LoDuca pinch-hit for Joel Hanrahan (W, 3-2, 4.47, 2 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks) and he drew a walk. Ryan Langerhans, who would be sent back down to the minors just an hour later, followed with another walk, loading the bases with one out. Cristian Guzman, the team's best overall hitter in the first half, completed an atypical lousy day at the plate striking out for the second out. Guzman finished 0-7, ending his 12 game hitting streak.

All that brought up the 'Man of the Match', Dukes. On the first pitch he saw from Wright (L, 4-3), he hit a solid ground ball through the left side of the drawn in infield, and Lopez walked home with arms raised in celebration, as the rest of the team mobbed Dukes at first in the celebratory "pig-pile."

Lost in the excitement of the dramatic win was the outstanding job done by the Nats relievers on this evening. Charlie Manning, Luis Ayala, Jon Rauch, Saul Rivera and Hanrahan combined to pitch eight innings of one-hit, one-walk baseball, not allowing a Ranger to reach second base after the sixth inning. The Nats starter, Tim Redding, was fairly good in his own right, going six innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits and two walks, striking out five on the way. Jesus Flores was responsible for the runs Dukes was not. Flores went3-for-6 overall, and had a two-run single in the third after Rangers starter Kevin Millwood issued back-to-back walks.

The Nats try for two in a row Saturday, as Garrett Mock (0-1, 8.31),just recalled from Triple-A Columbus, takes on Kason Gabbard (1-3,4.94) at 7:10 pm at Nationals Park.

NATS NOTES: The win raised Washington's record to 30-45, last in the NL East, twelve games behind Philadelphia.

Attendance on a picture perfect summer evening was 30,359.

Texas catcher Gerald Laird pulled his right hamstring while beating out a bunt single in the fourth inning and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. C Max Ramirez was recalled from Double-A Frisco.

Aaron Boone was late scratch from Washington's starting lineup because of a sore left knee, but he struck out as a pinch hitter in the seventh.

The Nationals played a scoreboard tribute to 'Meet the Press' host and season ticket holder Tim Russert, who passed away unexpectedly last week.

Photos (c) C. Nichols 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Man, Does the Post Miss Shirley Povich

The Senators' Final Game

By Shirley Povich Washington Post Columnist Oct. 1, 1971

Everybody in Kennedy Stadium stood up at 7:30 p.m. because the voice on the loudspeaker said, "We ask you to join Robert Merrill in singing the National Anthem." The voice did not bother to explain that Merrill was on wax, and that Robert, baby, was not deserting the Metropolitan Opera stage for this occasion. It was merely one more of management's deceptions Senators' fans had long been taught to live with.

To those among the crowd who had come in sorrow, the Star Spangled Banner never before sounded so much like a dirge. Francis Scott Key, if he had taken another peek by the dawn's early light, would have seen that the flag ain't still there, and lyricized accordingly. It was captured and in transit to Arlington, Tex., which, to embittered Washington fans, is some jerk town with the single boast it is equidistant from Dallas and Fort Worth.

But the jocularity of so many among the 14,460 fans who were present challenged any belief that they had come to a death-bed scene. The Washington Senators, at the end of this game, would be no more after 71 years on earth. The deceased, actually, was a pretty good draw, pulling those who had come to give a last cheer for remembered heroes, or, perforce, to wipe away some tears in public.

But for every mourner who made it to the ball park, there were multiple empty seats to testify that 30,000 others had averted their eyes from the scene, shunning it either in indifference to the whole business or in reluctance to give chortling Bob Short one last handout at the highest admission prices in the league.

Those who were savoring this last, fond look at the Senators let it be known by their cheers that they absolved the athletes of all blame in the messy machinations that rooked the city of its major-league status. Even the .190 hitters heard the hearty farewells, and in the case of big Frank Howard it was thunderous when he came to the plate.

If there was no general wet-eyed melancholia in the stadium, there were still unmistakable pockets of bitterness. From the upper stands hung banners spelling out four-letter words in large design, all of them reviling club owner Bob Short for shanghaing the team to Texas.

Special police dispatched by management to remove the hanging vulgarities in the second inning drew the boos of the crowd, which was making no secret that its sentiments were pro-banners and anti-police. And then in the third inning, the six-letter word made its appearance in the left-field upper stands in a new, vertical banner that read "Short Stinks." There were new cheers for that little number, which had a life of approximately 10 minutes before police took it by storm.

In the stands, neighbor nudged neighbor in glee while pointing to the sprouting number of anti-Short graffiti in the the stadium. But in the sixth inning, with one swipe of his bat, Frank Howard redirected all attention, back to the ball game. He did it with No. 26, one of his super jobs.

It brought on a crowd delirium that for the next many minutes effaced any sadness the people had brought to the stadium on the supposedly sorrowful night. Howard responded with emotion of his own, tipping his hat to a cheering crowd for the first time in his seven years with the Washington club. After whirling his vatting helmet in the air as he rounded the bases, he flipped his soft playing cap into the stands as a fifth symbol of his gladness.

It was four-run inning that tied the score for the Senators at 5-5, and in the eighth they went in front, 7-5, but now, oddly, the temper of the crowd was changing. As if in sudden awareness that the end of major-league baseball in Washington was only one inning way, the mood hardened. "We want Bob Short!" was the cry that picked up in loud and angry chorus, and it was the baying-fury sound of a lynch mob.

Then a swarm of young kids, squirts who wouldn't know what it had meant to have a big-league team all these years, or what it would mean to lose one, flooded onto the field from all points of the stands. A public address announcement warned that the home team could forfeit the game unless the field was cleared, and pretty soon the game resumed.

It got as far as two out in the ninth, the Senators' 7-5 lead intact, no Yankee on base, when one young rebel from the stands set off again. He grabbed first base and ran off with it. Some unbelievers, undaunted by the warning of forfeit, cheered, and from out of the stands poured hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand fans. They took over the infield, the outfield, grabbed off every base as a souvenir, tried to get the numbers and lights from the scoreboard or anything else removable, and by their numbers left police and the four umpires helpless to intervene.

The mad scene on the field, with the athletes of both teams taking refuge in their dugouts, brought official announcement of Yankees 9, Senators 0, baseball's traditional forfeit count almost since Abner Doubleday notched the first baseball score on the handiest twig at Cooperstown. But by then the crowd-mood was philosophical, "So what?"

Or more accurately, "So whatha hell?" The Senators were finished, even if the ball game wasn't.

© Copyright 1971 The Washington Post Company

Where Did Everyone Go???

Folks, it's down to a select few of us left:

DC Sports Box
Federal Baseball
We've Got Heart
Nationals Farm Authority
Oleanders and Morning Glories
Nationals Enquirer
Nationals Pride
Nats Fanatics
Nationals Review
Mr. Irrelevant (part-time)
Miss Chatter; and of course Nats 320.
ed. 5:09 pm I was remiss in not mentioning the significant ADDITION of FIRE JIM BOWDEN
Everyone else in the Natosphere is gone. Gone with the wind. Gone baby gone. Long gone. Kiss this one good-bye gone. They're all gone.

When I started this blog March 14, 2007 there were already dozens and dozens of Nats bloggers in their mother's basements lurking, snarkily commenting on every detail, every nuance, every piece of minutiae available to dissect regarding the Washington Nationals. All had their distinct styles, to be sure, but the common bonds were two-fold:

1) the Washington Nationals and;
2) the willingness to publish opinion on said subject.

In the resulting year and three months, the bloggers have been dropping like flies. Departed are the once well-read Ball Wonk, Distinguished Senators, Beltway Boys, Nationals Power, Nationals Report, Nationals Nation, District of Baseball and most recently, William World News. The most famous of all Nats blogs, Capitol Punishment, retired gracefully in the beginning of May, and Chris is still posting links of "What To Read Today", but offering no comment. Unless, of course, he's being interviewed by another blogger.

So we're down to the remaining few, offering our opinions pretty much to each other and selected family members and friends still interested in reading us. We're still here, trying to hold the front office accountable for the mistakes of Paul LoDuca and Wily Mo Pena, and waiting patiently for the day we can report good news (We Swept Seattle and got their GM and Manager fired!!!) and learning new and exciting ways to describe the regularly occurring (two runs on six hits).

And I leave today's sad little commentary with this: Fire Lenny!

Seriously, take a pitch guys. You can't strike out on the first pitch.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

GB&U: There's Something About Shawn

RESULT: Nats lose to Twins 9-3, swept in three game series.

GOOD: Cristian Guzman. 2-for-4. When does this guy not get multiple hits in a game? He's hitting .318. It's kind of an empty .318, but still...something about beggars and choosers?

BAD: Joel Hanrahan, again. If they had anyone else, he might be in danger of losing his spot. But they don't. He got hit hard again (1 IP, 2 hits, 1 walk, 2 ERs), and another wild pitch that scored a run. Bad Joel.

UGLY: Shawn Hill. He was terrible, worse yet, he was ineffective and his pitches had no movement. He deserves a lot of credit for going out there and taking the ball every five days, but at some point, they have to figure out what's causing his pain, because he's not helping anyone out right now. He's flat-out bad, and today he gave the Nats no chance to be even competitive.

NEXT GAME: Friday night the team returns to Nationals Park to face the Tejas Rangers. Game one is Tim Redding (6-3, 4.10) against Kevin Millwood (5-3, 4.75).

Nationals Swept By Twins, Lose 9-3

Minneapolis--The Washington Nationals are getting plenty of base hits. They pounded out another ten hits in Thursday's 9-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins, completing a three-game sweep. But with a decided lack of power on the current roster, the Nats have to string together multiple hits to score, not give away outs on the base paths, and make sure they don't give the other team extra outs when they are at bat. And right now, the Nats aren't doing any of those things.

Thursday's game was another prime example of what happens when you get runners on base but there's no on to drive them in. In all but the first, second and seventh innings, the Nats had men on, usually multiple runners, but managed only three runs against Twins starter Glen Perkins, who had not won in his last four starts. Perkins (W, 3-2, 4.39) pitched eight innings, allowing those three earned runs on ten hits and one walk, striking out two. Nine of the ten hits were singles. The only extra-base hit for the Nats was Dmitri Young's third home run of the season in the eighth inning -- a solo shot -- when the contest was alreeady out of doubt.

To make matters worse, Shawn Hill struggled again Thursday, as he gave up two runs in the second, one in the third and four in the fourth before being relieved. Hill's line (3.2 IP, 7 runs, 6 earned, 10 hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks) was every bit as bad as it sounded. He walked two of the first three batters he faced, but escaped the first inning unscathed as Alexi Casilla was actually thrown out trying to steal second base by back-up catcher Wil Nieves. Hill (L, 1-4, 5.22) would have no such luck in the following innings. In the second, Hill walked lead-off hitter Michael Cuddyer, who immediately scored on Jason Kubel's triple -- a ball that Elijah Dukes badly misplayed. Brian Buscher pushed Kubel home with an infield hit, and the Nats found themselves down two after two innings.

The Nats went 1-2-3 in the first two inning but drew blood in the third. Felipe Lopez led off with a single and took second on Nieves' infield single. Cristian Guzman followed with an RBI single, and Dukes did the same, knotting it up at two apiece. But the bottom of the frame would bring more damage to Shawn Hill's ERA, as Joe Mauer led off with a single and scored on Cuddyer's double to left. The fourth inning would be no easier, as the Twins scored four more times, including a two-run triple by Cuddyer, a Mauer RBI single, and sacrifice fly by Casilla. Down 7-2 after four innings, the competitive portion of this game was over.

The Nats got two runners on in both the fourth and fifth innings, but could not find that elusive hit to drive the runners home.

The Twins added two more insurance runs in the seventh, and Joel Hanrahan helped them out. Hanrahan walked Cuddyer leading off, gave up a double to Kubel (2-for-4) and uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Cuddyer to walk home and Kubel move up to third. Kubel scored when Brian Buscher hit a sacrifice to right. Cuddyer had a great day all around. In addition to going 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs, and two RBIs, he also made two outstanding jumping catches in right field in front of the giant baggie that serves as the outfield wall in the Metrodome.

The Nationals return home on Friday to host the Texas Rangers in a three-game series. Friday's pitchers are Tim Redding (6-3, 4.10) and Kevin Millwood (5-3, 4.75)

NATS NOTES: The loss leaves the Nats record at 29-45, thirteen games behind Philadelphia entering the evening's contests.

Paul LoDuca had the day off to rest his hands, both his right one that was broken causing him to miss five weeks on the DL, and the left one that he jammed trying to catch Aaron Boone's errant throw in Wednesday's game. LoDuca is 1-for-8 since returning to the line-up.

With LHP Odalis Perez on the DL for at least another week due to shoulder tendonitis, the Nats will call up RH Garrett Mock Saturday for another spot start.

Nationals Swept By Twins, Lose 9-3 also posted at DC Sports Box.

GB&U: Soccer Under the Dome

RESULT: Nats fall to Twins 11-2. The team kicked it around for three errors and could have had two more!

GOOD: Base Hits! Eleven of them to be exact. Guzman and Dukes with three hits each, Lopez and Boone with two a piece. Bergmann pitched better than the results (six innings, allowing three runs -- only one earned -- on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts. He threw 106 pitches, 61 for strikes).

BAD: Middle of the Order!! Milledge, Meathook and Flores combined to go 1-for-12 and stranded a combined 17 runners. Man, could this team use a clean-up hitter. I wonder if there are any available as a free agent this upcoming off-season?

UGLY: No Defense!!! Seriously, if the Nats are going to try to showcase LoDuca for trade bait, they should do the exact opposite and just hide him. What's the old phrase? "Rather keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt." In his first game at first base in four years, Uncle Paulie played a bad Boone throw into the runner in the FIRST INNING resulting in a run. Then in the second, misplayed Jason Kubel's ground ball into another error and eventually another run. Just wait until they trot him out into left field! Mothers, hide your children's eyes.

NEXT GAME: Today at 1:10 pm, mercifully ending this 9-game road trip. Shawn Hill (1-3, 4.61) takes on Glen Perkins (2-2, 4.57).

Nats Kick One Away In Twin Cities

Minneapolis--The Washington Nationals found themselves in another tense ball game Wednesday night until the later innings, when the bullpen got hammered for eight runs in two innings against three pitchers, and the Minnesota Twins cruised home with an easy 11-2 victory. The Nats were in this game until late despite very sloppy defensive play early on, and the team combined for eleven hits and three walks, but could never manage to come up with that last hit to put them over the top. Such is life for a team without a legitimate power hitter, one that needs to string together three base hits to score one run.

The Nationals got plenty of single base hits; of their eleven total only one -- Felipe Lopez' upper deck solo home run -- was of the extra-base variety. Cristian Guzman and Elijah Dukes, the lead-off and number two hitters, both had three hits and set the table all night long. But the middle of the order -- Lastings Milledge, Dmitri Young and Jesus Flores -- combined to go 1-for-12 and left a combined 17 runners on base. At the bottom of the order, Aaron Boone and Lopez had two hits apiece, but Paul LoDuca and Kory Casto went 0-for-7 combined to leave them stranded.

Compounding the lack of reliable offense, the usually solid defense was atrocious, committing three errors and booting several other balls that could have been scored errors. LoDuca, making his first start at first base, was scored with one error on a misplayed grounder, but let another fairly routine ball eat him up for a single that eventually scored. Aaron Boone made a bad throw fielding a bunt in the first inning, drawing LoDuca into the base runner Carlos Gomez, who eventually scored. And center fielder Milledge flat-out dropped a ball transferring it to his throwing hand after fielding it off the giant baggie that imitates a right field wall at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, allowing yet another run to score. And this was all before the relievers did their damage in the seventh and eighth innings.

Washington starter Jason Bergmann (L, 1-5, 5.03) was shaky most of this start, but kept his team in it. He went six innings, allowing three runs -- one earned -- on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts. He threw 106 pitches, 61 for strikes, and did not allow a home run. In fact, the only extra-base hit he allowed was the double off the wall that Milledge misplayed, resulting in two runs for the Twins in the second. After that incident, Bergmann seems to settle down, and he did not let another runner past first base.

It was the seventh inning where things began to unravel. Saul Rivera relieved Bergmann and was completely ineffective. Carlos Gomez led off with a bunt single and went to second on a sacrifice. Joe Mauer (2-for-4, .332) followed with a shallow single that could not score the speedy Gomez. Not to matter, though, as Justin Morneau, second in the American League in RBIs, promptly singled to left to score Gomez. Rivera (two-third of an inning, two earned runs on three hits and two walks) walked Michael Cuddyer to load the bases, and Jason Kubel hit a sacrifice fly to left to plate Mauer to make the lead 5-1. Anyone paying attention this season would have known that would have been plenty of runs for the Twins to secure the victory, but they put an exclamation point on the win in the eighth inning.

The Twins batted around in the eighth off of Jesus Colome and Brian Sanches. Colome allowed five earned runs on three hits, two walks and one wild pitch in on inning of work. Sanchez, called in to clean up Colome's mess, fared no better, as two of the three batters he faced got hits. Sanches' final line (one-third of an inning, one earned run, two hits) was painful, but he eventually stopped the bleeding, getting former Nat farmhand Brendan Harris to strike out mercifully to close the frame.

Kevin Slowey (4-6, 4.37) got the win for the Twins, going six innings and allowing one earned run on seven hits and two walks, striking out four.

The last of the three-game series, and end of the nine-game road trip, is Thursday at 1:10 pm EDT. Shawn Hill (1-3, 4.61) matches up with Glen Perkins (2-2, 4.57).

NATS NOTES: The loss drops Washington's record to 29-44, twelve and one-half games behind division leading Philadelphia. The Nats are 15-23 on the road this season.

The team plans to recall Garrett Mock from Triple-A Columbus to start Saturday's game against the Texas Rangers. Mock made one start earlier for the Nats against San Francisco, pitching four and one-third innings. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks with no strikeouts. For Columbus, he is 4-2 in twelve starts, with a 3.13 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

The jersey giveaway for kids scheduled for Sunday's game versus the Rangers has been canceled. The first 10,000 children twelve and younger will receive a voucher for two tickets to any upcoming home game this season.

Nats Kick One Away In Twin Cities also posted at DC Sports Box.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

GB&U: Shut Down By Livo

RESULT: Nats lose to Twins 2-1.

GOOD: Paul LoDuca. I know, I know. He doubled and scored on Guzman's infield single. He was the only Nat to reach second base. It was a slow night. John Lannan was solid as usual (7 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BBs, 3 Ks), and the Nats continue to not support him, as he is worst in the league in run support at 2.39 RPG. Brutal

BAD: Elijah Dukes. 0-for4, two strikeouts, two left on base.

UGLY: Allowing Livan Hernandez to dominate you. Livo gave up 12 hits and 7 earned in three innings against Cleveland in his last start. His ERA for the season is 5.51 including last night! He had not given up fewer that 5 earned runs in any of his last five starts, and gave up double-digit hits in four of the five. And the Nats made him look like Cy Young last night.

NEXT GAME: Tonight against the Twins. Jason Bergmann (1-4, 5.48) matches up with Kevin Slowey (3-6, 4.70) in an 8:10 pm EDT contest.

Nats Lose Pitchers Duel 2-1 to Twins

Minneapolis, MN--On a night where neither team could afford a mistake, Washington Nationals starter John Lannan made one, Livan Hernandez of the Minnesota Twins did not, and the Twins reaped the benefits of that mistake, winning 2-1 before 20,920 patrons in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Tuesday night.

In the bottom of the sixth inning ahead 1-0, Lannan (L, 4-8, 3.36) gave up a single to Joe Mauer (2-for-3, .329) right back through the box that luckily left Lannan unscathed. The next pitch did all the damage though, as Lannan hung a curveball to Twins' clean-up hitter Justin Morneau, and Morneau clubbed the pitch an estimated 421 feet into the upper deck in right field for his eleventh home run of the season, giving the Twins the only runs they would need this evening.

"It was a curveball up and he hit it a long way," Lannan said. "It was just a mistake that wound up costing us."

Lannan was in control most of the way, getting first-pitch strikes against most batters. He pitched seven innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks, and he struck out three.

Lannan's counterpart, former Nat Livan Hernandez, was his crafty old self last night, after getting pushed around in his last start. He took advantage of the Nats' young hitters, getting them to chase pitches in favorable counts, and generally keeping them off-balance all night. Hernandez (W, 7-4, 5.51) allowed one earned run on five hits. He walked no one, and struck out just one batter. Joe Nathan recorded the save for the Twins, his 18th of the season.

The Nats scored their only marker in the third inning, when Paul LoDuca, fresh off the disabled list, doubled to right field with one out. Kory Casto moved him over to third with a groundout, and Cristian Guzman (1-for-4, RBI) reached on an infield single, allowing LoDuca to score. LoDuca would be the only National to reach second base all night.

Lastings Milledge, Jesus Flores and Felipe Lopez collected the other hits for the Nats, and Casto reached on a walk.

LoDuca was the designated hitter for the game, hitting in the eighth spot in the line-up. Manager Manny Acta has gone on record saying that LoDuca will DH during interleague play, and get some time in at first base and left field, in addition to backing up Jesus Flores, who has seemingly cemented his spot as starting catcher for the Washington Nationals.

Wednesday's game features Jason Bergmann (1-4, 5.48) against Kevin Slowey (3-6, 4.70) in an 8:10 pm EDT match-up.

NATS NOTES: The loss sends Washington's record to 29-43, last in the NL East and 12.5 games behind division-leading Philadelphia.

Lannan remains last in the NL in run support. The Nats score just 2.39 runs per game when Lannan is on the hill. He has not won since May 18, but in five starts since, has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of those starts.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

LoDuca Activated, Clippard Sent Back to Columbus

According to CBS, Paul LoDuca was activated and P Tyler Clippard was returned to Triple-A Columbus. I mention the source of the report for two reasons: 1) transaction page has no mention of it; and B) Neither the WaPO, WaTi or have anything on it.

Various media sources have speculated that was going to be the case, but there has been no official press release or word from the Nats themselves as of this writing. I will post the Press Release when it becomes available.
ed. (2:41 pm) The move has been posted at now, but still no word from The Post.
LoDuca's activation brings with it much speculation about how he will be utilized and what role he'll play going forward. He was signed in the off-season as a stop-gap, basically to allow Jesus Flores a full season in the minors to work on his defense and to get a full season of at bats. But to this point, LoDuca has been a spectacular mess and Flores the brightest spot on the Nats, a team full of darkness right now, despite the weekend sweep of the Mariners, the worst team in baseball.

Manager Manny Acta went on record over the weekend saying LoDuca will get some at bats at DH during interleague play, and afterwards, will play some first, some left and some catching. In his 1035-game career, LoDuca has played 37 games in the outfield, 76 at first and one at third. And exactly NONE anywhere but catcher since 2004.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting Swept By the Nats...

As Kristen from We've Got Heart wondered, "Wow. Now if the Mariners would have swept the Nats.....Would we have a new GM?" We wish, Kristen. We only wish.

It's amazing with all the dysfunction and lousy roster maintenance in the Emerald City that it took this long for Bavasi to be relieved of his duties. Seriously, you think the Nats have lousy outfield defense? Well, they do. But the Mariners corner OFs are horrendous.

Ibanez should have gone the way of Harold Baines years ago--and they've been playing revolving door in right field all year, starting with Brad Wilkerson and his bloated free agent contract they ended up eating, moving on to rookie Wladamir Balentien, who couldn't hit his weight, and now they're trying failed prospect Jeremy Reed.

And that's just to start. Richie Sexson hasn't been productive in two full seasons now, and he still has time remaining on his contract. Adrian Beltre has put up decent power numbers, but not enough to justify his ridiculously over-inflated contract. That's $29MM tied up in your corners who are hitting .220 combined. And talk about a waste of money. Jose Vidro, the primary DH, is a cool .219/.267/.333. That's not a typo, he's SLUGGING .333--at DH!!!

Even Ichiro has shown signs of being human...he's only hitting .295

And to make things worse, Bavasi thought going into the season the Mariners could contend, so he traded Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman and others for Erik Bedard, who may not even finish out the season in Seattle. Hope the new guy gets a good deal for Bedard, a player EVERYONE knows wants to play in Toronto.

There's an awful lot of work to do at Safco Field. The interim guy, Vice president/associate general manager Lee Pelekoudas is a "Mariner guy"--he's been with the team forever. We wonder if owner Howard Licncoln take sthe safe route, or if he'll move out of his comfort zone and do a legitimate search for the most qualified person for the reclamation project, because it won't be easy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

GB&U: How Sweep It Is

RESULT: Nats complete sweep, beat Mariners 6-2.

GOOD: Kory Casto. Pinch-hit three-run home run in the eighth inning to break open a very close ball game. Honorable mention goes to Tim Redding. Allowed two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings.

BAD: Meathook. 0-for-4, five left on base.

UGLY: Wily Mo Pena. 0-for-3, five left on base. He grounded to second in the second, ground into double play with two runners on in the fourth, struck out on three pitches with two on in the sixth. Pinch hit for (by Casto) in the eighth. Might Manny be tiring of watching a "power" guy ground out and strike out all the time?

NEXT GAME: Tuesday in Minneapolis against the Twins. John Lannan (4-7, 3.43) versus ex-Nat Livan Hernandez (6-4, 5.84). Too bad this game is in the A.L. park. I love watching Livan hit.

GB&U: Jesus Saves, but Can He Save Himself?

RESULT: Nats beat Mariners 5-2.

GOOD: Jesus Flores. He went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs, raising his average to .327. With LoDuca looming (to be activated Monday), how Manny Acta divides the playing time will be very interesting, though it shouldn't be. Flores has been the most productive hitter on the team. Every at bat LoDuca takes is wasting an opportunity for Flores.

Also, Tyler Clippard (W, 1-1, 4.35). Another relatively strong start for a kid who knew he was going to be sent out Monday to activate LoDuca. Clippard's line: 6 IP, 2 ER, 7 hits, 3 BBs, 2 Ks.

BAD: Kory Casto. He was the only starter to go hitless, finishing 0-for-4.

UGLY: Richie Sexson for the Mariners. Struck out with the bases loaded against Clippard, and went 0-for-4. The notoriously friendly Seattle crowd booed him mercilessly. How much longer do they allow him to watse at bats?

NEXT GAME: Sunday afternoon in Seattle. Tim Redding (6-3, 4.29) on the hill for the Nats against Jerrod Washburn (2-7, 6.09), who has been terrible this year. Nats go for the sweep!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Doumit Powers Pirates Over Nats 7-5

Pittsburgh, PA -- Ryan Doumit, catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, went 2-for-3 with his fourth home run of the series and drove in three of the Pirates seven runs, leading his team past the visiting Washington Nationals 7-5 in a Thursday matinee in the River City. Doumit was absolutely on fire in the three-game series, going 9-for-11 with four home runs, two doubles and seven RBIs to help the Pirates take two out of three from the Nationals.

The Pirates jumped all over Nats starter Jason Bergmann (L, 1-4, 5.48), scoring two in the first, two in the second and two in the fifth. Bergmann finished the day going four and two-thirds innings, surrendering six runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and one walk. He struck out two. In the first, Pirates third baseman Freddy Sanchez reached on Ronnie Belliard's throwing error and Doumit launched a 2-2 pitch to right field, continuing his dominance of Washington pitching. In the second, Doug Mientkiewicz, Chris Gomez and Jack Wilson all singled consecutively off Bergmann, and Bergmann compounded the trouble by then walking pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, forcing in a run. Nate McLouth then hit a sacrifice fly to score Gomez. It could have been worse, but Sanchez grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

The Nats got one back in the third, as Cristian Guzman (3-for-5, 3 RBIs) singled and scored on Elijah Dukes' triple with one out. But the Nats stranded Dukes there, as Lastings Milledge popped out to second and Aaron Boone flied out to left.

The fifth inning would be Bergmann's final undoing. Gorzelanny helped his case again by singling to center and McLouth hit a ground-rule double to right. Jason Bay then sacrificed to right field, scoring Gorzelanny, and Doumit singled in McLouth. Gorzelanny got the win, his fifth of the season against five losses, going five and two-thirds innings, with three earned runs on six hits, three walks and six strikeouts.

The Nats wouldn't roll over Thursday though. In the sixth inning they started to claw back. Wily Mo Pena doubled with one out, and Wil Nieves walked with two outs. Dmitri Young pinch-hit for reliever Brian Sanches and drew another walk, filling the bases. Guzman delivered for the Nats, singling up the middle, bringing in Pena and Nieves and pushing Young up to second base. Dukes then hit one to right that scored Young from second, but Dukes was gunned out trying to stretch the hit into a double.

The score was 6-4 entering the eighth and the Nats would strike again. Ryan Langerhans singled with one out and went to third on Young's single up the middle. Guzman provided yet another big hit, driving in Langerhans, cutting the lead to 6-5. But that's as close as it would get, as Dukes and Milledge would both strike out against Pittsburgh reliever Franquelis Osoria with two runners aboard. The Bucs would get an insurance run in the bottom of the frame off Jon Rauch (1 IP, 1 ER, 2 hits, 1 BB) with pinch-hitter Jason Michaels driving in Gomez with a double.

The Pirates turned to Damaso Marte to close the ninth inning, having used their closer Matt Capps in four straight ball games. Marte was perfect, retiring Jesus Flores, Belliard and Pena in order, finishing off the Nats and giving the Pirates the series victory.

On Friday, the Nationals return to interleague play, with their very first games against the Seattle Mariners. Shawn Hill (0-3, 4.35) faces Miguel Batista (3-7, 6.00) in the 10:10 pm EDT start at Seattle's Safeco Field.

NATS NOTES: The loss drops the Nationals record to 26-42, thirteen and one-half games behind Philadelphia entering play Thursday night.

Aaron Boone left the game in the sixth inning with a strain on the right side of his neck. After the game, Boone said he'd likely be back in the line-up within "a day or two".

LHP Odalis Perez will miss his next start, and is a candidate for the disabled list now, according to Manager Manny Acta.

Photo courtesy of A. Amobi, DC Sports Box.

Doumit Powers Pirates Over Nats 7-5 also posted at DC Sports Box

Thursday, June 12, 2008

GB&U: Doumit Does It Again

RESULT: Nats lose to Pirates 7-5, Ryan Doumit homers four times for the Bucs in three games against the Nats.

GOOD: Cristian Guzman. 3-for-5, 3 RBIs, one run scored. It's a shame he'll be passed over for the all-star game, because he's clearly been the best player for the Nationals so far this season.

BAD: Jason Bergmann. Another rough outing. 4.2 IP. Six runs, four earned. Eight hits and a walk. He gave up two in the first and two in the second. The Nationals are now 1-7 when he starts.

UGLY: Odalis Perez will miss another start with is shoulder tendinitis. There's a good chance he'll go on the DL, but at the very least, the Nats will have to call someone up to take the start. Clippard? Mock? Someone else? Spin the wheel, see where it lands!

NEXT GAME: Friday in Seattle at Safeco Park. Shawn Hill (0-3, 4.35) versus Miguel Batista (3-7, 6.00)

GB&U: No Help For Lannan

RESULT: Nats lose to Pirates 3-1

GOOD: John Lannan. Six strong innings, allowing 2 earned runs. He worked his way out of several jams, and deserved a better fate. He's getting the lowest run support in the league and it's a shame, because he -- along with Tim Redding -- have been the best pitchers on this team.

BAD: Joel Hanrahan. One inning, with three hits and one walk. How did he only allow one run?

UGLY: Acta-Dukes. With the videos, the talking heads, the flaming blogs, etc., this isn't going away. It's a big deal that Acta had Dukes right back in the line-up, though. Most managers would have benched Dukes to prove that they are in control of the team. Manny put him IN the line-up to show who's boss. Kinda surprised Snell didn't put one in his hip pocket though.

NEXT GAME: Tomorrow afternoon in the rubber match, Jason Bergmann (1-3, 5.23) takes on Tom Gorzelanny (4-5, 6.83).

All Quiet Again, Nats Lose to Pirates 3-1

Pittsburgh, PA--On a day when Manager Manny Acta, General Manager Jim Bowden and right fielder Elijah Dukes remained mum on the subject of their closed door meeting after last night's confrontation in the dugout, the Washington Nationals bats observed the code of silence as well, managing only one run and seven hits against four Pittsburgh pitchers, and fell to the Pirates 3-1 before 15,439 at PNC Park.

The incident in the dugout -- where Acta confronted Dukes after Lastings Milledge's home run in the ninth inning giving the Nats the lead and eventual win -- was widely talked about in the media journal pages and had the "Natosphere" on fire throughout the day. It unfortunately overshadowed what should have been a cherished come-from-behind win, as the Nats broke loose for five home runs, two by Ronnie Belliard.

Unable to savor the victory, instead a pall hung over the Nats offense Wednesday night, who never really threatened against starter Ian Snell (W, 3-6, 5.33) and a trio of relievers, finishing with Matt Capps earning his sixteenth save, the pitcher victimized the previous night by Milledge. Snell pitched six innings and allowed one earned run on six hits and three walks. The Nats had their chances against Snell, getting runners on base in each of the first three innings, but never drawing blood in the early going.

But the Nats offense going silent is not an unusual occurrence, particularly when John Lannan is on the hill. Lannan "leads" the majors in lack of run support, receiving less than 2.7 runs per start from his hitters, and they lowered that average in this game. Lannan (L, 4-7, 3.43) turned in another quality start, as he went six full innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and no walks, striking out three. He surrendered Jason Bay's RBI double in the first inning and Ryan Doumit's eleventh home run -- his third of this series -- in the fifth. He flirted with trouble in other innings, but managed to keep the Pirates to two runs during his tenure.

The Nationals got their run in the seventh, as Felipe Lopez doubled to the gap in right, Willie Harris walked and Dukes singled to center, driving in Lopez. But there would be no home runs, no celebrations and no confrontations in this game -- a game where the Nats seemed devoid of energy from the very beginning.

The rubber match of the series is Thursday afternoon at 12:35 pm EDT. Jason Bergmann (1-3, 5.23) looks to rebound from a sub-par performance last time out against Tom Gorzelanny (4-5, 6.83), who has been a major disappointment for the Bucs this season.

NATS NOTES: The loss puts the Nats record at 26-41, thirteen games behind division leading Philadelphia.

The team announced Ryan Zimmerman will be out another four to six weeks -- at least. After being evaluated by Dr. Tim Kremcheck of Cincinnati, the team said that Zimmerman has about a "70 percent" chance of avoiding surgery. Zimmerman will continue with a strength and conditioning program for his injured left shoulder.

GM Jim Bowden commented on the matter, "We will know at the All-Star break if he will [need surgery]. If in fact he's not better at the All-Star break, then at that time we'll operate so that he's 100 percent for next year. We will not wait until the season's over to risk going into next year."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For All the Apologists

You gotta see this. Manager Manny Acta finally finds something to get his back up about. Milledge and Dukes have quietly been spoken to about their on-field histrionics, and Milledge certainly carried some baggage down from New York with him in that regard.

But the little pose-down by Dukes, including the look back at pitcher Matt Capps, after Milledge's homer in the ninth tonight didn't sit well with Manny.

Here's the video courtesy of ESPN's Baseball Tonight.

Dukes dropping his hand in the post-game high five is great, but Manny's smirk afterwards is classic. It will be very interesting to see how Acta handles this going forward.

GB&U: Wind Blowing Out In Pittsburgh

RESULT: Nats beat Pirates 7-6.

GOOD: Ronnie Belliard. Welcome back!!! His two homers -- and RBI single -- led the Nats to victory. Other homers by Meathook, Flores and of course, the game-winner, from Blastings Thrilledge.

BAD: Luis Ayala. He faced three batters in the bottom of the eighth. All reached, two scored, temporarily allowing Pittsburgh the lead. Look, I love Ayala and Rivera as much as the next guy. Probably more. But with all the over-use, they are spent right now and it's not even the all-star break yet.

UGLY: Wily Mo Pena. I'm not getting off of his back. 0-for-4 lowers his average down to .200. He saw 15 pitches in four at bats, grounding out to the left side three times and weakly flying out to left in his last at bat.

NEXT GAME: Wednesday at Pittsburgh. John Lannan (4-6, 3.47) takes on Ian Snell (2-6, 5.65) in a 7:05 pm game at PNC Park.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nats Play Long Ball With Pirates, Win 7-6

Pittsburgh, PA--The Washington Nationals were down to their last out, twice. Trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 in the ninth inning after some back-and-forth home run hitting, Elijah Dukes kept hopes alive with a double to center off of Bucs' closer Matt Capps, who had been perfect in save opportunities all season. Lastings Milledge then came to plate, and drove a shot to the left center field seats against Capps, leaving it up to Jon Rauch to close the door, and he did. Just like that, the Nats had ended their four-game losing streak emphatically.

There were seven home runs in the game -- five by the Nats. The Nats had not hit five home runs in the past week. But Milledge, Dmitri Young, Jesus Flores and Ronnie Belliard -- twice -- all provided big flies to pace the Nationals here on the shores of the Allegheny.

The Nats got started late in this one, as Pittsburgh took an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first against Nats starter Tim Redding. Freddy Sanchez grounded to short, scoring Nate McLouth, who had doubled and taken third on Redding's throwing error on a pick-off play. Two batters later, Ryan Doumit hit his first of two homers on the evening, driving in Jason Bay, on base via an infield single. Redding allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings, walking one and striking out three.

Belliard, in his first game back off the 15-day disabled list with a strained calf, started the comeback in the fifth, homering to left center off Pirates starter Paul Maholm. Doumit would answer for the Bucs in the sixth with his second shot of the night, his tenth of the season. But in the seventh inning -- the bane of the team all season long -- the Nats would find a power boost that has been absent all season long.

Dmitri Young led off -- on the first pitch of the frame -- with his second home run of the season. With one out, Jesus Flores popped his third. The next batter, Ronnie Belliard, hit a 3-2 pitch to deep left center, and in the span of four batters the Nats had three runs, drawing the score into a tie at four, all against Maholm. Maholm gave up four runs and ten hits with no walks and four strikeouts in six and two-third innings.

Belliard would break the tie in the eighth, as his single to center scored Willie Harris, who had entered as a pinch-runner for Young, who singled with one out. Harris stole second off reliever John Grabow before Flores walked, and Belliard fought two fouls off Franquelis Osoria before finding one to his liking, lining his single to center plating Harris.

However, the good fortune from the bats would not extend to the relief pitching in the eighth. Luis Ayala failed to retire any of the three batters he faced, allowing a walk, double and single for one run. Charlie Manning managed to strike out Adam LaRoche with a runner at third, but Joel Hanrahan was not as effective, allowing a sacrifice fly to Doug Mientkiewicz, and the Pirates had stolen the lead from Washington, setting the stage for the ninth inning heroics.

Despite allowing the go-head run to score, Hanrahan was awarded the victory, raising his season record to 2-2, with a 4.24 ERA. Jon Rauch earned his thirteenth save, pitching a perfect ninth inning. Capps was the loser (0-1, 2.64).

Wednesday night is game two between these two second division teams. John Lannan (4-6, 3.47) takes on Ian Snell (2-6, 5.65) in a 7:05 pm game at PNC Park.

NATS NOTES: The win lifts the Nats record to 26-40, 13 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East.

Cristian Guzman, Dukes, Milledge, Young and Belliard all had multi-hit games. Guzman is hitting .310 for the season.

Tyler Clippard, Monday's starter, was returned to Columbus to make room for Belliard.

Photos (c) C. Nichols 2008