The Washington Nationals will not be able to finish the 2011 season at .500 — and you can thank the bottom feeding Florida Marlins for that. Bryan Petersen sent the Nationals home a loser last night, stroking a walk off two out home run to make the Marlins winners, 3-2. The loss put the Nationals at 79-81, with one game to play.
The home run, off of lefty Doug Slaten, clouded an otherwise successful night for starter John Lannan, who pitched six innings while giving up only three hits. But the story of the night was on the side of the Marlins, whose starter — Javier Vazquez — might well have pitched his last game before retiring. Vazquez went nine innings while giving up only five hits to the Nationals, an exclamation point for what the team needs to find this off-season.
Despite the loss, the Nationals were able to contribute a highlight: Michael Morse hit his 31st home run of the year. Though it’s hardly a surprise, the dinger means that Morse will finish the season as the Nationals’ top slugger, leading the team in batting average (.303), home runs (31) and RBIs (95). “I put in a lot of hard work, and I’m glad that it paid off,” Morse said following the loss.
The Mess in Atlanta: Last night’s starting pitchers for the Red Sox and Braves — Erik Bedard and Derek Lowe — oughta tell us something about where those teams are. And they didn’t disappoint: Bedard lasted just 3.1 in the Red Sox win in Baltimore, while Lowe lasted just four in the Braves’ 7-1 loss against the Phillies in Atlanta . . .
We’re no fans of the Cardinals, but it’s hard to take the Braves seriously. Atlanta’s rotation is badly hobbled: Tommy Hanson has a tear in his shoulder, Jair Jurrjens has a sore knee, and Lowe (who looks like he should be on the DL) is shot-putting the ball in the hope that it ends up somewhere near the plate. You can’t go into the playoffs like that — well, you can, but you won’t win . . .
So the season has come to this for the Bravos — they’re tied with the Cardinals for the Wild Card, with one game to go. They will throw Tim Hudson today against the Phillies, while the Cardinals will throw Chris Carpenter at the Astros. The Cardinals should have the edge, despite Hudson’s success against the Ponies. He’s 1-1 versus Philadelphia this year with a 3.48 ERA . . .
The Braves are a walking emergency room. Chipper Jones has a deep bone bruise on his knee, Alex Gonzalez has a right calf strain — and the team is making do with what they have down on the farm, which doesn’t look like a whole hell of a lot. They’ve brought up Tyler Pastornicky (who turns eight in December) to sub for Gonzalez, and they’ve been throwing relievers in starter spots when they can. What a mess . . .
Remember Peter Moylan? He’s set to go under the knife on Monday. We’d feel badly for the Braves (honest we would), but even when they’ve been healthy they haven’t really torn up the league. Their best player, Brian McCann, hasn’t hit since the All Star break, Jason Heyward hasn’t hit since opening day (he’s at .226), and Chipper Jones is on his last legs, er knee . . .
But it’s still a little early to celebrate the demise of the Tomahawks — and they’re a class act. Jones said yesterday that he can’t sit down to nurse his throbbing knee after telling everyone in the clubhouse that they need to forget their injuries and try to win, Heyward is blunt about his problems at the plate (and is working through them), McCann continues his nose-in-the-dirt style — and .269 with oodles of home runs isn’t all that bad . . .
Then too, Derek Lowe has been courageously blunt about his problems: “We still have a chance. I’ve let everybody down in here,” he said after last night’s outing. “But come tomorrow, this isn’t about my terrible year, this is about getting this organization to the playoffs.”
And wouldn’t it just be sweet, and we mean really sweet, for the Braves to come out tonight and skin the Ponies, while the Cardinals drop one to the lowly Astros. Don’t think it can’t happen, or that it won’t. And it might be worth it just to see Tony LaRussa (that saint, that genius . . . and did you know, he has a law degree), do his imitation of involuntary combustion when he has to bring Kyle McClellan in to try to win the game . . .