Archive for the ‘new york mets’ Category

Maya Steady, Gee Whiz

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

ASSOCIATED PRESS Washington Nationals starting pitcher Yunesky Maya throws his first pitch in his debut in the majors, during a baseball game against the New York Mets on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010, in Washington.

Yunesky Maya is an acquired taste: after a rocky first inning (in which Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis hit one of the longest home runs in the short history of Nationals’ Park), the highly touted Cuban righthander settled down and pitched steadily through the 5th. But (as nearly every print journalist — and Jim Riggleman), said after the Nats lost 4-1 to the Mets, it was too late. Maya gave up three runs in the first and one in the second, and Mets rookie righty Dillon Gee shut down the Nats, pitching a no-hitter until Willie Harris put a dinger into the right field seats. “I gave up four runs. I just wanted to hold them there to give the team a chance to win the game,” Maya said after his first outing in a Nats’ uniform. “I didn’t want them to score any more runs on me. I just felt more comfortable [after] that first inning. I was hitting my spots. When I do well, that’s what I do. I’m ahead of the hitters, and I can do what I want after that.”

Despite the shaky start (Maya admitted that he was nervous), Maya’s curve and smarts make him a contender for a spot in the Nats’ starting rotation in 2011. This is good news for Washington G.M. Mike Rizzo, who signed the Cuban veteran to a four year $6 million contract in July. The “book” on Maya is that, while he does not have overwhelming stuff, he is a smart veteran pitcher with enough experience to make an impact on the club — adding a much-needed savvy arm (to go with that of Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis) to a group of youngsters. And despite the early shakiness, Maya’s Nats’ teammates were impressed with what they saw. Maya’s steady start was the talk of the Nationals’ club house following the game — but the new Cuban finesse artist took a distinct second spot in the headlines to Mets’ rookie Dillon Gee.

Gee, a 27th round draft pick of the Mets in 2007, shut down the Nats — even though, like Maya, he did not have overpowering stuff. But Gee’s mix of pitches was enough to impress Nats’ reserve Willie Harris, whose command of Gee provided the modest Washington crowd with a sigh of relief. “The one thing I noticed was that he was pretty aggressive in the strike zone early,” Harris said following the game. “He was going fastball early, and then he was going to his breaking pitch. Once he started guys off with breaking pitches and got behind in the count, he would come after them with fastballs.” Gee’s arrival is good news for the Mets, who are in desperate need of starting pitching as they attempt to salvage something from a disappointing season. The addition of Gee could be just what the Mets front office ordered — the New Yorkers have few top-notch pitching prospects in their minor league system and have made puzzling mistakes in judging their mound talent (Oliver Perez) over the last several years. Gee, as he showed on Tuesday, is the welcome exception.

(above: AP photo of Yuniesky Maya; below, Dillon Gee,  AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Danny Slams Mets

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Rookie sensation Danny Espinosa continued his late-season surge through the pitching rotations of the National League, victimizing the New York Mets by going 4-5, with two home runs and six RBIs. The Espinosa attack, which included an inside the pole homer to left field and a grand slam off the facade in right field, led the Nationals to a 13-3 pasting of the Mets. MASN commenter Ray Knight called Espinosa’s Labor Day outing “a career game,” in this, Espinosa’s fifth game in the majors. Espinosa is hitting .563 with three doubles, three home runs, ten RBIs and four runs scored in just five games since being called to the majors on September 1. With their 60th win of the season, the Nationals passed their wins total for the 2009 campaign, which stood at 59. Washington has now won seven of its last 11 games. The Nats recent winning ways have been powered by their work at the plate: the team has scored 74 runs in the last ten games.

The game’s other hero was Pudge Rodriguez who, after suffering through a season of puzzling and unpredictable slumps, has batted in seven runs over the last two tilts. The game also resulted in a win for lefty Scott Olsen, who grumbled about being relegated to the bullpen in this morning’s Washington Post. Olsen pitched four solid innings in relief of starter Jordan Zimmermann, taming the Mets’ batting order, while striking out three and walking none. Olsen upped his season total to 4-8, while lowering his ERA to 5.58. Recently recalled Collin Balester pitched the 9th inning, striking out two. But the game was truly “all-Espinosa,” who was rewarded with a curtain call after his grand slam, and a whipped cream pie in the face by Nats John Lannan during his post-game interview. “It was a great day,” Espinosa told reporters after the game. “I had so much fun.”

Auctions and Auditions

Friday, August 6th, 2010

It is that time of year, when contending teams stock up for a final run to the flag and non-contenders send unsubtle signals to their players about their plans for the future. In Kansas City (for instance), the Royals designated Jose Guillen for assignment and signaled that they would be open to dealing him to a contending N.L. team, perhaps the San Francisco Giants. The message couldn’t be plainer: after their three year $36 million splurge on Guillen, the Royals are calling it quits on the outfielder, who’s on the brink of free agency. And if the Royals can’t find a taker? Well, Guillen is free to find work elsewhere. Guillen isn’t the only one on the hot seat. In Florida, Cody Ross is getting unmistakable signs that he’s not in the team’s future plans, while in Chicago, baseball yakkers say that Kosuke Fukudome is so unwanted that the Cubs will not only ship him out to a team that wants him, but will pay a large part of his remaining salary if only he will go elsewhere.

The Washington Nationals are sending signals of their own. On Thursday, the Nats placed Nyjer Morgan on the 15-day disabled list. The Nats’ center fielder wasn’t pleased: “”It [freaking] sucks,” Morgan said. “I feel fine. But, whatever.” Nats’ skipper Jim Riggleman ignored the comment, putting his best this-is-really-terrible face on the move. “I hope it’s just two weeks,” he said. It seems likely that Morgan, despite his protest, gets it; he might “feel fine,” but the Nats don’t. By putting Roger Bernadina (.277, 8 HRs) in center and Michael Morse (.330, 7 HRs), in right, the Nats are auditioning their 2011 outfield: which would be younger and more potent– a good outfield, sans Morgan. The same kind of a signal was sent by Riggleman to Jason Marquis, who was recently reactivated and is set to pitch in Los Angeles on Sunday. After a season of elbow woes (and surgery to remove bone chips), Mike Rizzo & Company would love to include Marquis in their future plans. But whether Marquis is around for 2011 is an open question. He wants to contribute,” Riggleman said. “If he’s the real Jason Marquis, the guy who is sinking the ball and getting ground balls and attacking hitters, he can really help us and be a part of our future.” And if not?

After splitting their four game series with the woeful D-Backs in Phoenix, the Nats are 14.5 games back in the N.L. East. While there’s no chance that they’ll contend for a playoff spot, the rest of the season is hardly a wash: the team will spend the rest of the current campaign auctioning and auditioning — the Morgan-to-the-D.L. move is just the beginning. And based on what the Nats are doing now, you have to believe the future is bright. While the team cannot overtake the Chops or Ponies, the underfunded and disappointing Fish and the New York Palookas are within striking distance. If the Marlins (losers of four straight) have a plan (except for stockpiling young arms), we can’t find it, while the listless New York Tailspins are beset by “anxiety” and regularly “mailing it in.” For the first time in three years, the Nationals have nowhere near the same set of problems. The team has moved younger and better hitters (Bernadina and Morse) into key spots and are days away from a series of “you’re going to Hollywood” bookings that will start with Marquis and continue with appearances by Jordan Zimmermann (below), Yunesky Maya, Wilson Ramos and (even) Danny Espinosa. Which is not even to mention the continuing American Idol-like tour of “the kid” — who is now slated to start against the Marlins on Tuesday. The news is good for Nats fans: a team that was so filled with hope in April will be filled with even more hope come September.

Nats Staff Still Unsettled

Monday, July 5th, 2010

The New York Mets provided the fireworks on July 4taking an 8-0 lead against the Washington Nationals and going on to register a “no contest” 9-5 victory at Nationals Park. The heat wasn’t the only thing that was unbearable at the stadium: up-and-down sometime starter Craig Stammen inaugurated the contest by serving up batting practice middle-of-the-plate pitches, which were duly deposited by Mets batters to all parts of the field. “I wasn’t very good. That’s the reason we lost. We move on,” Stammen said after the game. “It’s not anything physical. It’s how I’m thinking out there, a little bit, and sticking to the game plan little more — having conviction with my pitches.” Stammen’s outing, after a superior appearance last week versus the Bravos, was evidence enough that the Nats pitching staff still needs some kind of help.

The team’s pitching stats tell only a part of the story: while the Nats are just below the middle-of-the-pack in ERA (17th of 30, at 4.14), every other NL East team leads them with, not surprisingly, Atlanta at the very front of the division. While Washington’s bragging rights bullpen has been stellar (it ranks 9th in major league baseball), the stats don’t tell the entire story: the numbers imply that the Nats are bullpen dependent, calling on their middle relievers and closers in 35 of the first 40 games — more than anyone else except for three other MLB teams: proof positive (it seems) that the Nats starting pitching (while better than last year) is still woeful. Pitching into the 7th is a huge problem for the Nats rotation. A part of the team’s starting pitching problem is injuries (the DL list is a pitching graveyard), but it’s also true that the Nats simply lack the horses at the front of the rotation to climb out of last place in the “NL Least” — and there’s no guarantee that the return of Jordan Zimmermann, Scott Olsen, Jason Marquis or Chien Ming-Wang will solve that problem.

The San Diego Padres roll into town today (with a game tomorrow night at Nats Park) with the best pitching staff around: a 3.07 ERA that is provided by a bevy of kids and veterans — Mat Latos has been the surprise, but he’s supplemented by a noted ground ball guru (Jon Garland) and a legendary closer. How did they get there? They followed the Rizzo Principles: they drafted and developed young pitchers (Latos was drafted in the 11th round in 2006, Wade LeBlanc was a second round pick in the same year) and then traded a veteran (Jake Peavy) for a passel of young prospects. If Mike Rizzo follows the same pattern he will wait on Zimmermann, Olsen, Marquis and Wang — and set aside the enormous temptation of trading Adam Dunn or Josh Willingham, whose middle-of-the-order bats are essential to transforming the young staff into winners. That’s probably a pretty good strategy for a team that’s still rebuilding, but it’s near-beer for Nats’ watchers. Which means? Which means that the Nats staff is not only unsettled, it’s likely to remain so.

Pudge Walkoff Slices Apples

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

There are games you deserve to win, but lose — and then there are games you deserve to lose, but somehow win. The Washington Nationals, struggling on the mound and at the plate (and looking listless against New York’s very hot Mets) came back from a 5-3 deficit on Saturday to register an unlikely 6-5 victory at Nationals Park. “The win was special because it was against a very good ballclub and against their closer, who is outstanding,” Nats’ skipper Jim Riggleman told the press after the come-from-behind surprise. “I’m very proud of our ballclub.” The win came in an exciting bottom of the ninth and was capped by Pudge Rodriguez’s single to right field that scored Ryan Zimmerman with the winning walkoff run. The Nats didn’t look like they were in the game from the first pitch: starter Stephen Strasburg had trouble finding the plate in pitching five complete innings, Nats hitters were downright somnolent against R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball, and Mets hitters roughed up the Nats bullpen (more specifically, Tyler Clippard), seemingly putting the game beyond reach in the 8th. But the Nats found a way to win, loading the bases in the ninth, then tying the game on a towering near-home run by Mets basher Adam Dunn.

The Nats 9th inning rally could be just the spark the Anacostia Nine needs in heading into tomorrow’s Independence Day tilt against the out-for-revenge New Yorkers. In what Nats’ fans want to believe is a sign of things to come, the team came alive at the plate, pummeling eleven hits, with Dunn and Rodriguez accounting for six. While Ryan Zimmerman continues to struggle at the plate, the latest fall-off in Pudge Rodriguez’s production seems to have been reversed, even though the bound-for-the-hall catcher left four men stranded on Saturday. And Adam Dunn is continuing his hot streak, which could put him in the All Star Game. The victim was Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, whom Dunn took deep. “That’s it. That’s the  worst performance I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Rodriguez said after the game. “I should be ashamed of myself. I’m so embarrassed. I just want to apologize to the fans who were watching that. I know better than that.”

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: “The Kid” isn’t the only one who struggled on Saturday. Colorado’s all-league righty, Ubaldo Jimenez gave up seven runs in one inning versus the Giants, which raised his ERA to 2.27 . . . During the O’s sweep of the Nats in Baltimore (it’s hard to forget), Baltimore army of bloggers trumpeted Washington’s futility. “They’re worse than we are,” one Bird Land blogger puffed. But since that series the O’s have retreated to their losing ways. With tonight’s 9-3 loss at Fenway, the O’s are 25-56. The Birds would need to win 12 in a row to equal the Nats record of 36-46. They are now 25 games out of first place. If they go on a 31 game winning streak, they’ll reach .500 . . . It’s a good thing that columnist Henry Shulman of the San Francisco Chronicle isn’t the Giants’ GM — he thinks getting Cubs’ bad boy Carlos Zambrano in exchange for McCovey outfielder Aaron Rowand would be just a grand idea. Somewhere, Jim Hendry agrees . . .

SF: Zimmerman, R.

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

This is the kind of game the Nationals have been looking forward to playing since their embarrassing three game implosion in Baltimore just last week: in the bottom of the ninth inning, third sacker Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk off sacrifice fly to the Jeff Francoeur in right field to give the Nationals a badly needed 2-1 victory against the visiting New York Mets at Nationals Park. The Zimmerman walk off capped a closely played pitchers’ duel, in which the savvy Livan Hernandez matched Mets ace Johan Santana pitch for pitch. The Nats played an errorless game. “Every win is huge. You feel better about yourself,” Washington’s manager, Jim Riggleman said after the victory. “Our ballclub has played hard. As bad as our record has been lately, we have actually cleaned it up a little bit the last couple of days. We played really good baseball today against a ballclub that also played very well and pitched very well. Our guys pitched great, played good defense and got a couple timely hits. That was just an outstanding baseball game in which we came up on top.”

Apples To The Core: NL East Chatter is back in business for 2010 — with the traditional “Chatter Up” section once again featuring questions and answers from NL East partisans. On June 30, Mets and Marlins bloggers exchanged Q & A’s on the recent Mets-Marlins match-up and today CFG will go head-to-head with Mets blogger Eric, who posts for the endlessly entertaining Real Dirty Mets Blog. We asked whether, as we had written just a few short days ago, the key to the Mets’ success is Jose Reyes. Without Reyes, we said, the Mets would probably be sunk. Eric is not so sure: “Reyes is for sure an important piece in the Mets puzzle,” Eric responded. “I am not sure there is one player that could completely sink the Mets chances just like there is not one player that the Mets could bring in and lock up a World Series”

We also asked about the team’s biggest disappointment (answer: Johan Santana and his lack of run support) and about the resurgence of Mike Pelfrey. “I get to pat myself on the back for Pelfrey,” Eric wrote. “I really thought last year was just that dreaded slump that happens to many young pitchers. This year he looks like the Pelfrey I expected him to be.  Confident and yippless. Could be that his new pitch has given him that confidence.” Not surprising, Eric acknowledged that the Mets were still in need of some major pieces: “SP, SP,SP a BP piece or two. I see no need for more offense. The bench when/if Beltran returns will be much better as well.” Eric is outspoken in his defense of David Wright (as are Mets fans the world over, we would bet) and our poke on his poor season last year: “Poor Wright, the guy has been one of the most solid hitters in baseball for his first seven years. He has one slightly off year and everyone is ready to send him out to pasture. The guy is just a good hitter. Period.” The full exchange, including what CFG about the Nats, will be posted later today on NL East Chatter.

To honor the Nats 2-1 wacking of the Mets last night, we reproduce Joe Petruccio’s take on the game — a reflection of what must have been Johan Santana’s reaction to the 2-1 squeaker. Eric’s comment about Johan’s lack of run support seems particularly appropriate.

Facing The “Amazins”

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The Nats continued to struggle on the road, suffering a 4-1 road loss in Atlanta on Wednesday. The defeat was yet further evidence that the Nationals downward spiral is for real — that the early season hope that the Rizzo and Riggleman’s Nine could contend in the NL East, or at least play .500 ball, has now faded. The deep funk seems puzzling to Nats players, who regularly cite the team’s talent as an indication that things will improve. “We need something,” first baseman Adam Dunn said in the wake of yesterday’s loss at Turner Field. “We’re not playing up to our capabilities, and I don’t know why that is. It’s not for a lack of effort, a lack of talent, any of that. I don’t know.”

For the most part, as Dunn seems to imply, the Nats have been victimized by themselves — with a lack of steady pitching (excepting for those who pitch into those who pitch into the 7th, as Craig Stammen did on Tuesday), good hitting (the entire team, with the exception of Dunn, is slumping), poor fielding (the Nats are last in defense), and indifferent and confounding base running — as evidenced by Nyjer Morgan’s continuing inability to read the pick off moves of opposing pitchers. What to do? What to do? What to do? It’s hard to imagine the Mike Rizzo would thoughtlessly scramble to stop the bleeding, but the escalation in trade talk is a signal, and a fairly significant one, that the front office is beginning to search for a solution outside of Syracuse or Harrisburg.

The House That Jose Built: The Mets have provided New York with a history of spotty but triumphant success that has, admittedly, provided some memorable moments — the 1969 “Miracle Mets” and the 1986 “we beat Boston” Mets.  Even so, the Mets are New York’s second team, bearing no resemblance to the New York Siths, who regularly lug home the World Series trophy. This anguish was on full display in ’08 and ’09, as the Mets collapsed and then underperformed. It was no wonder that baseball’s gurus had doubts that the 2010 version of the Mets would follow suit: the front office seemed in chaos, with GM Omar Minaya pleading the case that signing Jason Bay (and only Jason Bay) was the right decision. Now, as it turns out, Minaya knew something we didn’t — that the Mets had enough pieces in place to contend in the NL East, and perhaps well into the post season.

Here are the pieces: a revived Mike Pelfrey (10-1, 2.93 ERA), slap-and-power first baseman Ike Davis (.261, 9 HR), a surprisingly uninjured Angel Pagan (steady defense, good speed, .304 BA) some guy named R.A. Dickey (6-1, 1.29 WHIP), a solid enough bullpen and (if that is still not enough) a good-enuf Jason Bay and a reanimated hit-homers-the-other- way, David Wright. All of this makes up for the team’s other struggles: fans are worried that Johan Santana will remain inconsistent and that the Mets will not be able to fight their way through holes on the left side, behind the plate and on the mound in the middle innings. But the real key to the Amazin’s amazing early season of success is Jose Reyes. The evidence that Reyes is the key to the team is non-statistical and purely intuitive: without him the Lords of Flatbush look like the peasants of Queens.

For more than a year, Reyes has battled an assortment of injuries, the most recently a high profile thyroid problem that apparently barred him from so much as working out. Before that it was a “cranky hamstring” that simply wouldn’t heel, leading to worries that the fleet-footed shortstop might be permanently slowed. But Reyes has come back this year with his patented passion for the game and eternally smiling countenance. He seems to have returned to the form that once made him the most talked about man in baseball, and a leading candidate for best shortstop in New York. He threatens to do what no other Mets player can do: turn Mets haters into proto fans, those who watch the Metropolitans just to see him play. In spite of his very good (but not great) stats, Reyes — not Bay, not Dickey, not Santana — is the symbol of these Mets. He went 0-7 during the mid-April marathon against the Cardinals: he notched the game winning RBI and scored a run and was ecstatic after the game. “I’m ready for tomorrow,” he said. The Nationals will take on the Metropolitans starting tonight at Nationals Park.

Strasburg Getting Better, Nats Not

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Stan Kasten was pretty adamant in talking about Stephen Strasburg on Sunday, telling Nats beat report Bill Ladson that, as good as Stephen Strasburg is now, he’ll get even better. That’s good news for Nats fans, because the team itself seems to be getting worse. On Sunday, the Nationals lost their fourth in a row and their third in a row to the league worst Baltimore Orioles, 4-3. It was the third consecutive game in which the Nationals dropped a contest in which they led, and should have won. The team is now ten games under .500 — and sinking fast. But for skipper Jim Riggleman, at least, the glass is (as he is fond of repeating, and repeating) half full: “I like the fact that we scored runs early,” Riggleman said. “We had a chance to win the ballgame, and we didn’t get blown out. It’s a small consolation. We had runners out there to be driven in. We got some of them in. We are going to have to get more in. We have to get [good] pitching performances. There are a lot of good things to draw from.” We love Jim, really we do. But what glass is he talking about? Because the one that is half empty is filled with errors.

Kasten’s comments were fairly predictable, while signaling that the Nats will continue the Kasten-Rizzo philosophy of focusing on pitching — and building from within: “His [Strasburg’s] role as a symbol is very important,” Kasten told Ladson. “When we came in four years ago, we talked about wanting to build through scouting/development with an emphasis on pitching. Continuing with the fulfillment of that commitment, I think it’s very important that fans could see that we are close to turning the corner. We are close to having a really terrific, good, stable young rotation as some of our guys come up from the Minor Leagues and come back from rehab. But clearly the symbol of that movement is Stephen.”

Kasten could not have been more explicit; rather than depending on a big free agent signing, or making a blockbuster trade, the Nats will sink or swim with their young arms, and likely await the arrival (and return) of Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Jason Marquis and Chien-Ming Wang. Nats fans would be pleased if any of those four (but particularly Marquis and Wang) returned to form — filling in a now shaky rotation that is having trouble pitching into the seventh inning. Sadly, as the Nats triumverate of Kasten, Rizzo and Riggleman would undoubtedly agree, if Desmond, Kennedy, Guzman and Gonzalez could field as well as Strasburg pitches, the Nats would have emerged from Baltimore as winners, instead of also-rans.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The CFG Board of Directors (here they are, remember?) has directed our editorial staff to conduct a reset of some earlier predictions. We have refused. While the “Amazins” are contending for the division title, we stand by our claim: the Nats will finish ahead of the Apples in the NL Least. There’s a long way to go. And this we say — while everyone is focusing on “The Rise of Ike Davis” and the expertise of some guy named Pelfrey (oh, and R.A. Dickey, whoever that is), we know the truth. The truth is that the key to the New York Metropolitans is Jose Reyes. Always has been, always will be. Without him, they’re lost . . .

But in at least another instance we are inclined to offer a “redo” on our too outspoken view that the Pale Hose, which was sinking like a rock when we (arrogantly, and filled with confidence) wrote that the South Siders would be sellers and would eventually be forced to shop Jake Peavy. The day after we wrote that, the White Sox launched a breathtaking winning streak, with Peavy in the lead. They have now recouped their season and their team and the confidence of their manager. Their win streak ended at 11 yesterday, in a loss to the North Side Drama Queens. Our bet now is that, barring the resurrection of Joe DiMaggio (and his agreement on a trade to the City of Big Shoulders), Jumpin’ Jake ain’t goin anywhere . . .

And we note with interest that in spite of Stanley’s talk of focusing on development and arms in the minors, the Nats are scouting D-Backs ace Dan Haren. Here’s our question: what’s to scout? Long into the night (and we’re deadly serious), we dream of that delivery, the same delivery every single time, like the mechanism of a finely tuned watch: head down, right leg up (then, the hesitation), the head snaps to the plate, the glove is thrown out (into the face of the batter) and the arm coming perfectly over the top. It’s a thing of beauty. I swear. It’s enough to send you back to church. Go get ’em Stan, go get ’em Mike . . .

Bullpen Sinks Pirates

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The Washington Nationals took the second in a three game set against the Pirates on Wednesday, though the 7-5 victory was much less cleanly played than the previous night’s 5-2 drubbing. Still, a victory is a victory, and the sloppily played triumph will enter the win column — and lift the Nats to within two games of .500 with one game left to play against the Stargells. The victory was also a vindication (of sorts), for Nats manager Jim Riggleman, who has praised rookie right fielder Roger Bernadina. Bernadina was 3-4 on the night and his speed on the base paths seemed to energize the Nats Nine. “He’s a very talented guy,” Riggleman told the Post back in May. “If you run him out there enough, he’s going to do some damage, because he’s just that good of a player.”

The Nationals were also sparked by a perfect bullpen, as Tyler Walker, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps combined to sink the Pirates through 4.1 innings of two hit, no-run ball. Tyler Walker’s outing was key, as the former journeyman Metropolitan, Giant and Phillie has struggled of late. “It was a bullpen shutout. That’s what we were looking for,” Walker said after the win. “We came in and picked up Johnny [Lannan]. He didn’t have his best stuff tonight. You come in and you want to pick him up. You want to help out your teammates. Tonight, I was able to get that job done. I had been struggling in that situation lately — [with] inherited runners. I was really trying to bear down and get us off the field, so we could get back to hitting.” Walker’s outing brought his ERA to back under four, while Storen (1.74) and Clippard (1.57) continued to impress.

Those Little Town Blues: Our friends over at The Real Dirty Mets Blog are getting fat and sassy, in the belief that the Mets are showing that they are some kind of team. (Haven’t they learned? C’mon guys — you’ll only be disappointed . . .) Most recently, “Mr. North Jersey” did some kind of throw down (is that what it’s called now?) in CFG after the Strasburg outing — to the effect that “don’t expect my Mets to go easy on you; we will be out for blood.” Well, let me tell you — we’re terrified. No really. We are. I mean, Strasburg, Lannan, Hernandez et.al are pretty good, but there’s not a one of them as good as Oliver Perez . . .  Our constant desire to become an entry in The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary has led us far afield in the past. It didn’t seem that any Nats qualified as throwing, fielding or hitting in any particularly unique manner for us to even nominate a word or phrase. But now, with Stephen “they call me Mr.” Strasburg having plied his D.C. wares, we think we’ve come up with something. The heater that Strasburg threw against Andy LaRoche on Tuesday (his last K) seems to qualify. It was both unique and spectacularly Strasburg — ian. The Strasburg pitch was up-in-the-zone at 97-plus and absolutely unhittable. We’ll call it “a Porky Pig fastball” — and see if that catches on . . . No? . . .

“I mean, I don’t get it,” one of CFG’s droogs said last night. “The Ahoys? That’s what you call the Pirates?” Okay, we admit, it’s corny, but we’ll take reader nominations for nicknames and we’ll use them too. If they’re any good. We call the Mets “the Apples,” having dropped “the chokes” as being, well … offensive. But, while we call them “the apples” we don’t particularly like that nickname — or even “the Metropolitans.” It seems . . . ah . . . antiquated. So. Have you got something better? Well, send it in. And we’ll use it. But we’ll stick by “the Trolleys” (for the Dodgers) and McCoveys for the Giants and we’ll also stick with the Belinskys for the Angels (after legendary Halo pitcher Bo Belinsky) and, come to think of it, the uniquely descriptive “White Elephants” (c’mon, you know, for the Athletics) is an absolute keeper. But, admittedly, we’re having trouble coming up with a nickname for the Rockies. “The Heltons” is just too easy. And we’re having trouble labeling the Brewers. The “Brew Crew?” C’mon. I mean, who the hell cares? So nominations are open . . .

Guess who’s cashing in? Why, that would be the Topps baseball card company (well, they’re in business, so a little cash is probably not inappropriate), which has issued a limited edition set of cards of Stephen Strasburg, showing him pitching in Tuesday night’s debut. The limited edition has a very short print run, to ensure card value, and shows his first pitch. Right. That “other” card company — Bowman — will not be outdone. It has announced that it is producing a limited number of Bryce Harper cards. The Topps limited edition Strasburg card is pricey (and popular), although Topps has announced it will add a card to its 2010 660-card set (#661) for collectors who purchase a boxed set . . .

Strasburg card-0610.jpg

Storen, Clippard In Form

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

The Washington Nationals broke their five game losing streak with a solid 5-3 victory over the New York Mets at Nats Park on Wednesday. The victory came with solid pitching performances from Livan Hernandez, rookie Drew Storen, middle reliever Tyler Clippard and closer Matt Capps — who notched his league leading 15th save. The win came despite an Angel Pagan inside-the-park home run and a Pagan-initiated triple play. “It was just one of those freaky nights,” Nats center field Nyjer Morgan said. “We had an inside-the-park and a triple play. You don’t see that too often.” The Storen-Clippard duo portends big things for the Nats, whose bullpen is a bright spot for the team, which struggled in middle and late innings last year. Storen and Clippard combined to pitch 1.2 innings of one-hit shutout baseball, providing Matt Capps with the opportunity of putting the Metropolitans away in the ninth.The Nats are hoping to ride the high of their win against their division rival into a second game against the Mets tonight.

Fear and Trembley In Baltimore: For the first time in what seems like forever, the Nats will enter the “Battle of the Beltways” without the younger sibling inferiority complex that seemed to mark the team’s previous meetings with “the Birds.” Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble have every right to take advantage — slinging high-and-tight questions to Jim Palmer et. al. “We’re joined here in the booth by Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, and let me just start by asking you this Jim — what in the hell is wrong with Orioles?” . . . one of the really fun things to do is to watch O’s manager Dave Trembley’s post-game media Q & A sessions. After yet another loss last week, Trembley looked as if he were about to explode. His answers were clipped, his mouth set, his aggression kept barely in check. There were painfully long silences after his answers, as reporters considered whether they should ask just one more — or scramble for the exits.”So, ah  . . . Dave, ahhh … so, in the seventh inning, you know, when the Indians loaded the bases . . .  ah, well, never mind.”

One of the more interesting Baltimore personalities is middle inning relief specialist Will Ohman, who not only looks like he means it, but seems always in agony when he exits a game. Ohman (a sure fire candidate for anger management counseling), stared menacingly at Trembley when the O’s skipper marched out of the dugout to pull him after he walked a single batter during the O’s 8-2 loss  in Cleveland. Ohman had every reason to be angry: he hasn’t given up a run in 13.2 innings of work and has been a workhorse — pitching through 22 games. So why did Trembley relieve him? The “Birdland” skipper believes that Ohman is a lefty-on-lefty specialist, a prejudice that the last place Camdens can hardly afford. The good thing about Trembley is he doesn’t scare easy: he pointedly ignored his bullet-headed southpaw, who stood (hands on hips, no less) glaring at his skipper through the next inning. Ohman has had an up-and-down career, but a lot of it has been up. Despite his so-so-performance in for the Trolleys in 2009, Ohman has posted some pretty good numbers, particularly for the Cubs in 2005. MacPhail (in Chicago at the time) remembers this — which is why he signed him this winter. In a season of disappointments, Ohman has been a bright spot in an otherwise very shaky bullpen. But you have to wonder when Dave Trembley will figure that out.