Archive for the ‘hitting’ Category

Dunn, Nats Clobber Cards

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

So here’s the question: how can the Washington Nationals — so toothless against an also-ran and struggling team like the Chicago Cubs — play so well against the St. Louis doom-machine Cardinals? It could be (of course) that the Nats simply play better against stiffer competition (a notion belied by their record against good teams), or it could be (as it seemed on Saturday night) that the team was just due. Whatever the reason, the Washington Nationals finally broke loose against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, plating fourteen runs on sixteen hits, to clobber the Cardinals, who seem suddenly mediocre against struggling teams. The difference on Saturday was Adam Dunn. The left handed swinging behemoth, mired in a month-long slump, provided the impetus for the Nats to break out of their doldrums: Dunn was 2-3 with five RBIs, hitting a towering fly in the 5th for his 32nd home run. “I hit the home run really good,” Dunn said after the win. “I just knew the ball was really high. At this park, you really never know.”

But Dunn was not the only one on fire on Saturday. Michael Morse also had a hot hand, going 4-4 and scoring two runs, while Adam Kennedy, Roger Bernadina, Ryan Zimmerman and Ivan Rodriguez had two hits each. Over the last two games, the Nationals (whose offense has been positively anemic through much of August) have scored 25 runs on 25 hits, a symmetry rarely equaled through the last five months. While the Nationals might seem to have little to play for (they are nearly 20 games out in the race for the N.L. East Division crown), the same cannot be said of the Cardinals — who need every win they can get to keep pace with the surging Cincinnati Reds, who retain a four game lead over the Cardinals in the N.L. Central. The Cardinals are now faced with a chilling end-of-August reality: unless they start playing better against teams like the Nationals, they will cap a very good season without a shot at the playoffs. For the final game of this four game series, the Nationals will send John Lannan against Albert Pujols & Company on Sunday at Nationals Park.

Scoring The Nationals: Each game — and every year — provides its own scoring rarities. Two occurred on Saturday night that I have never seen before, or scored before. While “keeping a book” is always a challenge, the application of little-known rules to in-game situations can be discomforting. When Ian Desmond was called out for running outside the baseline in the third inning (how often, really, do you see that?) MASN play-by-play host Bob Carpenter helped me along: “That’s scored 3u,” he said — first base putout, unassisted. But the play demanded an asterisk — an outside-the-tradition personal tic that I use to note a rarity (some scorers use an asterisk to denoted a stellar defensive play, I prefer an exclamation point). There was a second asterisk (it’s important to limit their use) that I used in Saturday’s game. It came in the 8th inning, when Nyjer Morgan was called out at home plate (or, more pertinently, behind it), after being touched by a Nationals’ player. Once again Carpenter helped: “That scored 2u,” he said.

The problem with using an asterisk is that it always demands an explanation: which I give in a sentence at the bottom of my score sheet. The July 9 Strasburg beauty against the Giants (6 innings, 3 hits, 1 ER), for instance, included this asterisk in the first inning: “Cain throws it into the ground.” The asterisk was enough for me to recall a memorable moment in the 2010 season — when Giants’ pitcher Matt Cain lost his grip on the ball, which led to Roger Bernadina scoring the Nationals’ first run from second base. The official scoring, I claim, provided only a limited (and even puzzling) explanation that doesn’t really tell the story: “E: Cain (1, pickoff).” There are some events, however, that drive me back to paging through the best best resource on scoring, Paul Dickson’s “The Joy of Keeping Score” (it ought to be called “The Agony of Keeping Score”) which includes one scorer’s “WW” notation — “wasn’t watching.” That happens.

Of course, and as Dickson himself will readily admit, there are some events that happen on the field that simply can’t be scored — though they are fascinating. For instance: I was mightily confused with an event in Philadelphia, when Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was stopped by umpires from visiting the mound after heading into the clubhouse for a new glove. Why was he stopped and sent back behind the plate? Why, why, why, why, why? I didn’t get it, and the announcers seemed as puzzled — finally just dropping the subject. The puzzle was finally answered (after much thought) by a family member (here he is) who provided this explanation: “If the catcher goes into the clubhouse and then emerges from the dugout to go to the mound, it constitutes a visit,” he said. “The umpires told him — and he decided against it.” Fascinating — and correct. But it has to be remembered; it can’t be scored.

(above: Adam Dunn photo by AP/Susan Walsh; below: Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack used his scorecard to give signals)

Nats Pound Philadelphia, 8-1

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Led by the defense of Ian Desmond (who also had a 4-5 night) and the hitting of Roger Bernadina, the Washington Nationals pounded out 12 hits and eight runs on Saturday, to defeat the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The offensive outburst came at the expense of Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick, who had trouble making it out of the first inning. Desmond looked like “the wizard” at short, making barehanded plays behind Strasburg, Stammen and Slaten, while Bernadina slugged his eighth home run (putting the game out of reach) in the ninth. But the win was marred by an injury to starter Stephen Strasburg, who was forced to leave the game in the 5th after suffering a strained flexor tendon in his right forearm; it’s not known how serious the injury is — an MRI will be conducted to determine the damage on Sunday. The injury detracted from one of the team’s most solid performances against the Phillies, who trail the Atlanta Braves for the N.L. East lead.

Once again, as was apparent in Atlanta, the Nationals’ bullpen proved key in the Philadelphia victory. After Strasburg departed, Craig Stammen, Doug Slaten, Tyler Clippard and Miguel Batista combined to shut down the Phillies — throwing 4.2 innings while giving up just two hits and no runs. Tyler Clippard was particularly effective. After suffering a fall-off in his performance in late July, the righthander has lowered his ERA to 3.04, solidifying his reputation as one of the National League’s premier set-up men. Stammen also seems to have found his place: the former starter is now filling a first-out-of-the-bullpen role, being used by skipper Riggleman when someone in the rotation collapses. Washington’s bullpen is now ranked seventh in the majors, and fourth in the National League — and is one of the real success stories of the Nationals’ season.

Back In The Win Column

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Nationals’ starter John Lannan and relief specialist Sean Burnett combined to shut down the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night 4-2, to put the team back in the win column. The badly needed victory followed a disheartening three game set against the Florida Marlins, in which the team was outscored 22-7 and failed to get the pitching necessary to catch the hit heavy Fish in the N.L. East. The 4-2 victory had to be one of the most satisfying of the year, marking the continued comeback of Lannan and an exclamation point to Burnett’s continued mastery (2.72 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 43 innings). “I just feel good out there,” Lannan said after the win. “I feel confident with my stuff. I spent time down [in Double-A] trying to get my two-seam [fastball] back, getting in good position to hide my ball more and being more deceptive. It still is going to get better.” The Nats continue their series against the Showboats on Saturday night, when a struggling Jason Marquis will go to the mound.

The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: The last Stephen Strasburg outing against the Marlins was unusual in at least three respects. The first is that the stands weren’t full — as they usually are when “the kid” pitches. And it was noticed. “Where the hell is everyone?” There was no answer, but at least one grumpy sigh. “Maybe that other team is playing tonight.” The point was rhetorical — they weren’t . . . The second is that Strasburg did poorly, a disappointment and a distinct surprise for the 25,000-plus who did show. “Amazing,” a Strasburg partisan noted . . . The third seems almost immoral (or perhaps simply disloyal): Strasburg’s early exit against the Marlins spurred an early exit for Nats fans. “It’s not that Strasburg is done,” a Section 1-2-9 loyalist announced while getting up from his seat and averting his eyes, “it’s just that I’ve been here before — I’ve seen him” — and there was a quick nod to Miguel Batista, warming up on the mound . . .

In fact, Batista has been exactly what skipper Riggleman said he would be: an innings eater who can pitch more than three frames per stint. That is to say, his heroism in subbing for “the kid” against Atlanta at the end of July has been quickly forgotten. “Yeah, I loved that,” a season holder noted, “but that was then and this is now. And right now I’m thinking that we need something longer term than ‘Miss Iowa'” . . . “Geeeez,” another said, in referring to Strasburg’s inability to control his breaking stuff, “what the hell do you suppose is wrong?” There was silence for only a heartbeat. “There isn’t anything wrong, it’s just a bad outing. We need to be patient. A career is a long time. There’s going to be bad outings.” The same might be said of the entire team. When the Nats failed to get to Ricky Nolasco (with Livan pitching), there was a palpable discomfort among the section’s more vocal partisans. “So much for 3-4-5,” a fan said, referring to the Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham combination. “This guy [Nolasco] isn’t exactly Cy Young.”

The Pride Of Porter Derails Dodgers

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

Adam Dunn — the pride of Porter, Texas — is finally starting to get the attention he deserves. And it’s long overdue. The Nationals’ first baseman’s two home run, six RBI outing against the Trolleys in Los Angeles was the talk of baseball on Friday night. The “cavalcade of stars” on Baseball Tonight and the whoop-happy crew on MLBN’s late night offering (Plesac and Williams) spun up Dunn’s “Moon shots” in Dodger Stadum again and again. We can only hope the former Redleg and D-Back great is enjoying it. Ignored in the first round of the amateur draft, the victim of unfair criticism at the hands of a flap-mouthed former G.M., traded from team-to-team for younger unproven players, passed over for the 2010 All Star game and regularly relegated to second tier attention behind Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard (among others), Dunn is slowly laying claim to being one of the game’s elite players. Certainly Dunn’s skipper, Jim Riggleman thinks so.

In the aftermath of Friday’s derailing of the Dodgers in L.A., Riggleman dissected Dunn’s at-bats, shaking his head in wonder: “What Adam did out there today, that’s really some big stuff because [L.A. starter Clayton] Kershaw has been really tough on everybody, particularly tough on left-handers,” Riggleman said. “For Adam to do that against him a couple of times in that ballgame, you are not going to see that too often against Kershaw.” But it was MASN play-by-play guy Bob Carpenter who said it best. “If Adam Dunn appears hunched over it’s because he’s carrying the Washington Nationals on his back,” he said. “And he can do it.” Dunn, meanwhile, underplayed his accomplishment, focusing instead on Kershaw.”He is not one of my top pitchers to face. I can tell you that,” he said. “He is really good. Look at his numbers. He is really good. He is only going to get better. How old is he? Twelve, 13? He is only going to get better.” Dunn’s night was complemented by a solid outing from John Lannan and a tough defense, which included a diving catch in centerfield from recent call-up Justin Maxwell. The Nationals will face off against the Dodgers again tonight in L.A. before wrapping up the series on Sunday.

Alex Rodriguez and Edward Tufte

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

By now every baseball fan knows that A-Rod has reached rareified air after hitting home run number 600. No matter what you may think of him (and — as you might guess from the above photo — you now know what I think of him), you have to admit: hitting 600 home runs is quite an accomplishment. Not only is Rodriguez just the seventh player to hit 600 homers, no one has ever done it at such a young age (he’s just 34). By comparison, Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron were 36 when they hit their 600th. And Edward Tufte, the free swinging left fielder for the Cards teams of the late 50s and early 60s, didn’t hit his 600th until he was 39. Edward Tufte? Ah . . . well . . . no.

Edward Tufte couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag. And for good reason. Tufte is not a ballplayer, he’s a statistician and professor emeritus at Yale University. He also popularized “informational design,” which is the art of putting data in picture form to tell a story. I’m reminded of Tufte because of the graphic the New York Times created to compare Rodriguez to the top 200 home run hitters of all time. Tufte’s graphic is a wonderful representation of A-Rod’s achievement by age and  season. If you scroll through the various lines in the graphic you discover a number of interesting nuggets — like the fact that Mel Ott began his career at the same age as Rodriguez, but only (ha! “only”) hit 511 home runs; or that Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby played 23 seasons (1915-1937), but hit the bulk of his 301 home runs between 1921 and 1929.

The most striking thing about the Tufte-like graph of major league homers hit by season is what it says about Ruth, Mays and Aaron. Given that the mound was higher, the ball softer and the physical training far less focused in that earlier era, what those players did was absolutely stunning.

Adam Dunn’s “Approach”

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Adam Dunn may well be the most guileless player in a Nationals uniform. In the wake of his two home run, four RBIs onslaught of the Arizona Diamondbacks last night at Chase Field, Dunn stood in front of his locker answering reporters’ questions. What’s your secret? he was asked. He blinked and looked away, a small smile creasing the corners of his mouth, then faced the questioner. “I just try to get a good pitch to hit and put my bat on the ball,” he said. The gathering seemed somehow unsatisfied with his answer. “On that second home run,” he was asked, “you had a 1-2 count. Were you expecting a fastball? It was a fastball, right?” He reflected for a moment, trying to be helpful. “That second at bat? Yeah, I guess so. Let me think. I’m trying to remember. Yeah, it was a fastball, right? Yeah, I think it was.” And he waited for the follow-up question, but there was none. Another reporter tried a different tack. “So what’s the secret to your recent success?” he asked and added: “You seem to be really hitting the long ball lately.” Dunn nodded. “Well, I just try to get my pitch and then I try to get my bat on it. You know, just hit it hard.”

Dunn is not exactly an apostle of Crash Davis (giving “I’m-just-happy-to-help-the-team” canned answers to the same-old-questions), but that’s hardly a reason to think that the Nats’ big first baseman and batting order centerpiece is a can shy of a six pack. Rather, you get the impression that Dunn dismisses the pseudo-science of hitting, the kind of thing made famous by now discredited BT analyst and former Mets G.M. Steve Phillips. Phillips, and his ilk, are forever windging on about “opening your hips” and “making certain that you keep your head steady” and putting your bat head “through the hitting zone” and “drawing that perfect triangle stance” and blah, blah, blah. All the great hitters follow the Phillips’ mantra except of course for Babe Ruth (and counterless others), who could have cared less about hips and triangles. In fact, the Sultan of Swat damn near had his right foot planted firmly on his left in the box every time he came to the plate. Ruth was sometimes so anxious to hit the ball that he did a mini-Fred Astaire routine, dancing in the box before rearing back and turning himself into a corksrew. He could have cared less about style. Dunn is that way: see the ball, hit the ball. The simpler the better. He was once asked whether he had adjusted his “approach” to compensate for the way pitchers were throwing to him. He smiled: I’m not sure I have an approach to adjust, he said.

We should expect this kind of thing from Dunn who, unlike the rest of us, is more interested in playing baseball than in talking about it. If that is his belief, it’s well-founded. Youth baseball coaches live in fear that their ace 15-year-old pitcher will one day wake up in the 5th inning and realize what he’s doing. This “don’t think just throw” (or, in Dunn’s case, “just swing the bat”) philosophy makes a hell of a lot more sense than demanding that your stellar starter “paint the corners” or that your top drawer banger “open his hips.” (“Hey Babe, I think you should open your hips more.”) Since the passing of the trade deadline (and even before), Dunn is hitting the ball on the screws, launching mammoth blasts against careful opponents — and hence vaulting himself back into the home run lead in the National League. His prodigous hitting has not only produced needed wins (as it did last night in Arizona), it has made him the unacknowledged leader in the Nats’ clubhouse. Granted, Dunn’s mammoth blasts will make it difficult for Mike Rizzo & Company to part with him, either now or after the season, but that’s a problem we can live with. “I really, to be honest, never scratched out a lineup on a napkin without Dunn in there,” Jim Riggleman said on Wednesday night after the Nats victory. Right. So let’s keep it that way.

Nats Swept In Milwaukee

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The Washington Nationals lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 8-3 on Sunday, a game that marked their third loss in a row — giving the Brew Crew a sweep of the series and a 4-2 edge in the season match-up. As now seems common with every Nationals loss, the team was victimized by unwanted errors, poor starting pitching and a lack of timely hitting. The game featured the long-awaited return of lefty Ross Detwiler, who was sidelined by a hip injury. Detwiler’s  2010 debut was marred early on, when Willie Harris — subbing for Ryan Zimmerman at third — failed to handle a ground shot off the bat of Alcides Escobar. The error kept the Brewers alive in the inning and led to the plating of two unearned runs. A fourth inning error by rookie shortstop Ian Desmond also proved to be costly. “We have to play a lot cleaner baseball. It’s ridiculous,” Harris said after the game. “We have to catch the ball and throw the ball. We have to take the pressure off our pitchers. We need to do a better job.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Radio play-by-play guru and semi-legend Bob Uecker is the perfect announcer for the Brew Crew — with patented deadpan humor and self-deprecating remarks that dodge the seemingly endless semi-lectures that mark the Nats’ television broadcasts. His cornball comments play well in Wisconsin’s polka (that’s polka, not poker) parlors, where third generation Polish Americans sip German beer and wonder when the mill will reopen. “I inherited a castoff computer,” Uecker announced in the midst of the Brewers Saturday broadcast. “It’s so old there’s a guy under my desk with a crank . . .” (gales of laughter) . . . Uecker tends to use the word “folks” alot, but his we’re-all-in-this-together approach (which would surely flop in Washington), works well with Wisconsin’s diehard Packers, Bucks, Badgers and Brewers fans. When Ryan Braun homered on Saturday, Uecker retailed his common long-ball excitement — “get out, get out, get outta here and gone” (with a slight hesitation before his next I’m-from-the-middle-of-the-country utterance) — “Wow!” And then this: “Let me tellya folks, you go around baseball and you ask anyone about Ryan Braun they”ll tellya one thing. The guy can hit.” Through it all you’d never guess that the Brewers were struggling to stay alive in the N.L. Central, that their pitching staff is a shambles, and that their marquee player is headed out of town . . .

The 75-year-old Uecker had heart surgery on April 30 and his return to the announcing booth in Milwaukee was much anticipated. But during this weekend’s Nats series, Uecker downplayed his health problems and seemed even a little embarrassed when his doctor’s were tapped to throw out the first pitch on Friday — the beginning of the Nats’ series. “It’s good to see these guys without white smocks on,” he said. “Especially when the last time I saw them the smocks were smeared with my blood . . . ” (gales of laughter). On Sunday he noted that his doctor’s might have “done something wrong” during the operation. “They tied up something inside there and, frankly, I think it’s a little off,” he deadpanned. “Now when I raise my left leg my right arm shoots into the air. When I walk down the street people think I want to shake their hand.” But Uecker’s humor masks this blunt truth: he’s a sophisticated announcer with a talent for parsing baseball’s inner game. He presents it in blunt Americanisms– curves aren’t “curves” they’re “benders,” hitters don’t hit, they “smack” or “nurse” the “sphericals” and relievers never “struggle,” they’re “wobbly.” If there’s another way to describe someone as big or small Uecker will find it, as he did in describing Adam Dunn. “How do you not hear this guy coming?” he asked. Then later: “He loves to fish. So I’m going to strap a 9 horse on him and shove him out into the lake. We can stand on him when we fish.” Uecker likes Dunn, whose visit to him on Saturday has occasioned some comment in D.C. Uecker gave it just the right touch. “We had to put another battery in the elevator just to get him up here,” he said.

Hanley’s Team

Friday, July 16th, 2010

There’s something in each of us that doesn’t like a showboat. Muhammad Ali had a hard time catching on back in the early ’60s for precisely this reason and it’s why I never took to Eric Byrnes — who made several ostentatious attempts to collide with walls in pursuing deep fly balls. He once flapped his arms going backwards, just to show how hard he’d hit the bricks. Puh-leeeez. But, for some reason, showboating never bothered me when it came to Ricky Henderson or Mickey Rivers. And it doesn’t bother me when it comes to Mannywood either, though his case is a little different: Manny isn’t a showboat because he plays hard all the time and in every situation, but because he doesn’t. You can think of dozens of similar examples: I couldn’t stand Pete Rose’s “Charlie Hustle” routine, but loved it when Mark Fidrych sprinted off the mound. Fidrych was believable, Rose was showing off. Then too, I would have hated it if, say, Will Smith had done backflips at shortstop, but Ozzie Smith? Not so much.

Now then for the case of Hanley Ramirez, who is not only the most talented shortstop in the N.L., but probably the best shortstop in the N.L. Ramirez is as far from a showboat as possible, but he’s been accused of “dogging it” during games — which is widely interpreted by baseball pundits as hinting that he thinks he’s more important than the guys around him. That is, he’s a kind of showboat in reverse, an Eric Byrnes at half speed, a Mannywood of Miami. Back during the third week of May, for instance, Ramirez ran at half speed to first on an infield hit and then, the next day, he booted a ball and trotted after it . . . and after it . . . and after it. Fredi Gonzalez, the then-manager of the Marlins had had enough. He benched Ramirez and told him to apologize to the team. Cameron Maybin, Wes Helms and Dan Uggla all thought that would be a good idea. Ramirez refused. The situation was apparently cleared up after two days of sullen silence, when Fredi and Hanley “cleared the air.” Five weeks later, Gonzalez was gone.

While Ramirez has always claimed that his dust up with Gonzalez had nothing to do with his firing, you have to wonder. The Marlins have been down in the standings before and stuck with their manager. And Gonzalez was universally viewed as a top baseball strategist, all-around good guy and friend of the owner. In the end it didn’t matter. Just days after the firing, Bobby Valentine (another friend of the owner) was rumored as his “sure thing” replacement — but that never panned out. Was Valentine deep-sixed because of his view of the Ramirez situation? We can just imagine Valentine’s interview with fish owner Jeff Loria. “Hey Bobby, would you have benched Ramirez for not hustling?” And Bobby’s smiling answer: “You damn right.” The owner nods, squints, fiddles with the things on his desk and then gets up from his chair. “Thanks for coming.” As for Cameron Maybin, Wes Helms and Dan Uggla — well, they’re either headed back to the minors or they’re headed out of town.

Uncomfortable as it is, and as hard as it is to swallow, Hanley Ramirez probably has this right: he’s the best player on the team and maybe even in the NL East. And therefore (therefore), the rules that apply to Maybin, Helms and Uggla shouldn’t be applied to him. In fact, that’s what he said when asked if he’d lost respect for Gonzalez after he was benched. Yeah, he said. A little bit. “We got 24 more guys out there. Hopefully they can do the same things I can do. They’re wearing the Marlins uniform.” Here’s a rough translation: all baseball players are equal, but some are more equal than others. Or perhaps this — if you want to bench someone for dogging it, do it to a player who’s hitting .225. If Casey Stengel had actually benched Mickey Mantle for showing up for a game with a hangover (or worse), who do you think would have been out the door? And don’t claim that Hanley Ramirez is no Mickey Mantle. That’s not the point. The point is that Casey would never have benched Mantle. Ever. Because Casey knew what Gonzalez didn’t: managers don’t win batting titles.

Dunn Bombs San Diego

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

If there was any thought that somehow the Washington Nationals could get along without Adam Dunn, the hefty lefty must have put them to rest on Wednesday night. Dunn hit three dingers against a formidable San Diego pitching staff, solidifying his obvious importance as a run producer inside the 3-4-5 Nats batting order. It’s odd how things work (or seem to work): just as talk was heating up about how tough an out Joey Votto has been, Ryan Zimmerman nearly single handedly demolished the Friars on Tuesday — and thereby, we assume, made his own case for why he (and not Votto) should be an All Star. Now, on Wednesday, after hearing endless rumors about where he might be going in the weeks ahead, Dunn made the clearest statement possible for staying right where he is.

But the rumors continue. The most recent is that the Nats have asked the White Sox to pony up for Dunn, giving up a mix of hitters and prospects that would (or so the argument goes) strengthen the Nats defensively, but without subtracting any power. The most recent whisper is that the Nats will ask the Pale Hose to part with second sacker Gordon Beckham, apparently because of his slick glove and implied power. It must be implied, because Beckham is currently hitting an anemic .208, with two home runs. If the report is true (and we’ll just bet it is), the Nats will trade a proven slugger for a questionable starter that will plug a hole that doesn’t need plugging. Which is to say: the Nats solution at second base is not in Chicago — he’s in the dugout. Of course the hope here is that Dunn’s pyrotechnics last night might have, and should have, put this to rest. And if they didn’t, then perhaps what Ryan Zimmerman told the Post this morning will: “It’s really, really hard to find a 3-4-5.”

Bombs Away

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The Washington Nationals ended their home stand with a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a sweep of their three game series. Livan Hernandez pitched six solid innings in notching the win, but the difference in the game was home runs hit by Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Mike Morse — who started the game in right. The Nats hit the long ball in the series, with Adam Dunn now dialed in and absolutely firecracker hot: the Nats first sacker is hitting .284 (after a slow start), and has hit a home run in each of the Nats’ last three home games — all against the Stargells. Over the last ten games, Dunn has spiked his batting average by ten points. The Nats head to Cleveland for a three game series before heading on to Detroit, the second stop in their second round of inter-league play.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: NL East Chatter (of which we are a proud part) is running a multi-part series entitled “Future of the NL East” that focuses on the division’s best young players. The review started with a portrait of Stephen Strasburg (prior to his first outing in D.C.); this week’s focus is on Jason Heyward and it’s worth the read . . . Our friends over at Real Dirty Mets Blog have a fascinating post on Mets journal keeper and artist Joe Petruccio, who is dedicated to filling his personal notebook with a season-long looked at his “beloveds.” Petruccio’s art hearkens to the day when sports pages were filled with quick sketches or cartoons of daily plays and games. There must be, somewhere, a similar notebook filled with sketches of the Nats (I would just bet), but until we find such an artist, we will have to be satisfied with Joe’s drawings — if of the wrong team.

Speaking of Mets Fans, one of the droogs (you remember the droogs, right?), responded to our plea for new nicknames with an email — and some interesting nominations. His suggestions for the Chokes include: “the Mutts,” “the Amazins,” “the Kings of Queens” (not bad, that), the “NY Mess” and “The Miracles.” For the Phillies he has “the Whizkids” and “the Philthies” and for the Dodgers he suggests we adopt “Da Bums.” The Kings of Queens is a keeper, in my humble opinion . . . Meanwhile, our regular reader from Brazil (no kidding) writes that we should drop the nicknames altogether, arguing that the Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Rockies and Brewers (among all the others) “already are nicknames” and then she (I’m convinced it’s a “she”) adds the following two words: “you moron” . . . still another reader suggested we conduct a survey of Nats fans to see if the Nats should have a suitable nickname, “a shorthand” version of Nats that would replace what he calls “your pretty lame Anacostia Nine nickname . . .”

So here’s the Petruccio stuff. And don’t forget to visit his blog . . .