Posts Tagged ‘J.D. Martin’
Saturday, May 29th, 2010
Matt Capps pitched out of a based loaded jam in the ninth inning to preserve a Washington Nationals and John Lannan win in San Diego, 5-3. The victory marked an all-the-way back start for the Washington mainstay, who had his best outing of the year — a seven inning, seven hit semi-gem that fed off the Friar’s lack of power and Washington’s ability to put the ball in the seats. Josh Willingham began the Washington scoring with a three run top-of-the-fourth dinger off of starter Clayton Richard, who held the Nats to four hits. Ian Desmond went 2-4 for the night, which included his fourth homer, a solo shot in the seventh. The game’s comic interlude was provided by San Diego, which filled out its staring line-up card incorrectly, spurring the Nats to play the game under protest. But the protest was dropped by the Nats front office after the win.
While Richard could not stop Washington’s long ball, San Diego manager Bud Black named closer Matt Capps as the difference in the game. Capps struck out two and then induced a ground ball to pitch out of the ninth inning jam. “That was a tough one for Capps, and he got it done,” Black said following the San Diego loss. “He’s pitched well. He has that in him. We had some good swings, but we just didn’t connect. We got it in position with those four hits there in the ninth, but it just didn’t turn out.” Capps register his 17th save, throwing 24 pitches, 17 for strikes. His ERA now stands at 2.96. The Nats face off against the Padres at Petco Park in San Diego in a Saturday night game that will feature recently recalled Nats Triple-A pitcher (and spot starter in 2009), J.D. Martin against young Friar hurler Mat Latos.
Waiting For Strasburg Stanton: While Washington fans speculate endlessly about just when Stephen Strasburg will make his debut in the Bigs, Fish Fans are all agog about Michael Stanton — “the next big thing” in Florida. While Stanton (more properly, Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton) was hardly judged a “phenom” when he was drafted in the second round (79th overall) of the 2007 draft, his semi-meteoric rise through the Marlins farm system (he’s now at Double-A Jacksonville) has been accompanied by a breathtaking display of power. Back on May 6, one of Stanton’s towering drives in Montgomery not only cleared the centerfield wall, it sailed effortlessly over the 95 foot scoreboard behind it. Stanton’s teammates immediately engaged in speculation about whether the ball would ever be found — it wasn’t.
The Marlins clearly know what they have, fueling speculation about just when Stanton will appear — and what kind of difference he’ll make when he does. The excitement is not confined to the front office: when not waiting for Hanley’s next tantrum, the Uggla-Cantu Fins are twittering about Stanton’s prodigious shots. This is not all hype: through his first 38 games this year (albeit, at Jacksonville), Stanton is hitting .310 with 16 home runs and 39 RBIs with a .447 on-base percentage. He leads the minors in just about everything having to do with hitting. There’s no reason to think this won’t continue with the big club, when he’s called up sometime in June. He’s “Florida big,” following the Marlins’ tradition of drafting tall ironman types that are more Ruth than Ripken.
Of course, Stanton’s arrival as “the next big thing” is highly anticipated by Marlins’ fans (here they are), in large part because the last big thing (Cameron Maybin) hasn’t worked out so well — and because, despite fielding a good team, Miami’s fans seem as unexcited as any team in baseball not named the Blue Jays. It’s no wonder then, that Marlins President Larry Beinfest channels Mike Rizzo when he talks about Stanton, giving cagey answers to reporters who hound him about Stanton’s prospective arrival. Beinfest knows what he’s doing — increasing speculation about just when Florida’s version of Jason Heyward will arrive at Landshark Stadium. Patience, patience, Beinfest says. Stanton justs needs to continue working on his game “and the rest will take care of itself.”
Monday, October 5th, 2009
The Washington Nationals finished the 2009 season on a high note, winning their seventh in a row, 2-1, in fifteen innings inÂ Atlanta. The game winning RBI was plated on a line driveÂ by AlbertoÂ Gonzalez , whose single in the 15th inning drove in Elijah Dukes with what turned out to be the winning run. The win could not save the Nats from the worst record in franchise history — as well asÂ the worst record in baseball for the 2009 season: 59-103. Gonzalez was 2-6 in his last outing, raising his BA for the season to .265. Logan Kensing, who pitched two innings of three hit ball in relief, got the win. Starter J.D. Martin pitched six solid innings of six hit baseball, giving up a single earned run. But the pitching of the bullpen was the key story in the team’s last game of 2009 — Tyler Clippard, Ron Villone, Jason Bergmann, Saul Rivera and Kensing pitched nine innings in relief, giving up no runs.
While the Nats left Atlanta with their seventh consecutive win, the front office isn’t underestimating the work that needs to be done in the off season — the naming of a manager, the acquistion of two veteran pitchers, a reconstruction ofÂ the league’s worst bullpen and moves that will solidify the defense, especially up the middle. If there was a highpoint in the seasonÂ (at least according to the Nats’ front office) it was the acquisition of centerfielder Nyjer Morgan and lefty reliever Sean Burnett from Pittsburgh. “I’m not saying we are where we want to be, certainly not,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said after the Atlanta win. “We know the targets we have to hit.” But manyÂ of the positive moves were actually negatives — additions by subtraction:Â the cutting of failed starter Daniel Cabrera, the exile of outfielder Lastings Milledge and theÂ abandonment of the Joel Hanrahan experiment . . .
But the real high point of the season occurred before it even began — with the firing of Jim Bowden. The move was long overdue. The appointment of Mike Rizzo to take his place, first as “acting G.M” and then permanently, reshuffled the weak front office. Rizzo recast the Nats’ development program in the Dominican Republic, engineered the Milledge-Morgan swap, signed pitching phenom and first overall pick Stephen Strasburg, and rejiggered an embarrassing bullpen. His May signing of Mike MacDougal to a minor league deal — often overlooked — provided Washington with a closer. Rizzo’s mid-summer moves stabilized the franchise and gave the Nats immediate credibility. In a otherwise lost season, Rizzo’s promotion provided the one key bright spotÂ Â . . .
It’s not clearÂ whether interim manager Jim Riggleman will return, though there’s no doubt that his handling of the club after the firing of Manny Acta focused the defense and provided needed wins. The club was sluggish under Acta and played with more intensity under Riggleman.Â “I think Riggleman really did a good job handling the ballclub after the All-Star break,” Rizzo said after the end of the season. “I think he put us on pace to really focus and bear down on the fundamentals of the game — to play cleaner and more efficient ballgames. He had the players playing at a high level. I think he has done the best job he could with the ability level that he has.” It’s clear that many Nats’ players would like to see Riggleman return . . .
Saturday, September 19th, 2009
The Nats need a semi-miracle to pull out a 6-5 victory against the Mets on Friday, but they got one, as a hard bouncing grounder that might have led to a walk-off Mets’ winÂ resulted inÂ the final out in a Nationals’ victory. Closer Mike “Heart Attack” MacDougal knocked down the sharp bounder off the bat of Mets’Â hitter Jeff Francoeur and lobbed it to first to give the Nats a much-needed win. With the Nats in the lead and coasting to a victory, MacDougal started the 9th inning with an out, but then pitched himself into trouble: he walked two batters, then gave up a clean single to David Wright and a fielder’s choice smash to Carlos Beltran. Daniel Murphy then hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Ian Desmond — who threw the ball away. Francoeur’s hot grounder up the middle took off MacDougal’s glove and might have ended up in centerfield (and ended the game), but MacDougal speared the ball and threw Francouer out.
After playing a flat — and losing — series in Philadelphia, the Nats cameÂ alive against the Mets. Ryan Zimmerman hit his 30th home run of the season (the most of his major league career), Josh Willingham hit his 23rd (and ended his three week slump at the plate by going 2-4)Â andÂ Josh Bard added three RBIs. Bard was the heroÂ of the game: the hobbled catcher was one for three with three RBIs, which included his fifth home run of the season. “I finally got an advantage count for myself. I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Bard said. “I just told myself, ‘Just make sure that you are really aggressive.’ I was able to get a good pitch.” Bard was also key in dampening a Mets rally in the sixth. With the bases loadedÂ Bard, in a close play at the plate,Â tagged out Carlos Beltran on a short-bounce throw from Josh Willingham in left field. It was the play of the game. J.D. Martin pitched well enough to take the win (giving up two earned runs in 5.1 innings), while Mets fireballer Mike Pelfrey (now 10-11) took the loss.
Saturday, September 12th, 2009
Adam Dunn and Ryan ZimmermanÂ both went deep for the Nationals, but the big blow in the Anacostia Nine’s 5-3 win at Miami was Mike Morse’s pinch-hit double that provided the difference in the win. Dunn recorded his 37th and Zimmerman his 29th home runs, while J.D. Martin pitched a respectable five complete to give the Nats the win. But Morse was the big story. “He’s gotten some big hits for us,” Nats interim manager Jim Riggleman said of Morse after the game. “That’s twice now that he’s driven in two runs and he’s doing it against right-handed pitching. It’s tough to go up there and pinch-hit, and he’s gotten two two-out hits now. You try to match guys up against left-handers, but those situations haven’t come up and Mike has found a way to stay sharp through his batting practice and his work with [hitting coach] Rick [Eckstein]. He’s prepared and he’s given us great at-bats.”
Ryan Zimmerman celebrates his 29th
Down On Half Street:
The Nats front office has now officially askedÂ Cristian Guzman to play second
next year in the apparent hope of putting a better glove at shortstop: either by plyaying rookie Ian Desmond or an unnamed free agent at the position.Â General Manager Mike Rizzo and interim manager Jim Riggleman met with Guzman on Thursday to get his views. “Washington has been concerned about Guzman’s defense almost all season,” reporter Bill Ladson notes. “They have been alarmed that Guzman is having problems going to his left on groundballs.” The shift is an admission that Guzman isÂ a defensive liability at short, eitherÂ because of an as-yet unproved foot injury,Â orÂ because he’s just not that good a shortstop.
The inimitable Carpenter-Dibble duo commented at length on the suggested switch during the Nats broadcast vs. the Marlins on Friday night, with Dibble noting the history of successful position switches in the majors: Michael Young made the transition from short to third in Texas this year, he noted, and “let’s not forget” (Dibs said) that Alex Rodriguez also made the shift from short to third.Â Of course (as Dibble failed to note) it’s not as if either Young or Rodriguez shifted positions because they were defensive liabilities, butÂ to ensure that two natural shortstops –Â Â slick fielding Texas rookie Elvis Andrus and bound-for-the-hall Yankee Derek Jeter — remained at their positions. So let’s get this out of the way: the Nats want toÂ shift Guzman not to takeÂ advantage of his abilities, but because they want to hide them. That is, the shift is hung on the rather dubious proposition that bad shortstops are not quite as bad when they play second base.Â
Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs attempts to unpack that argument — but without really unpacking it. He says thatÂ “if Guzman has lost significant rangeÂ . . .Â then it is quite possible that the Nationals will get a larger benefit from reducing the amount of balls hit in his direction than they would by squeezing a marginally better bat into the line-up at second base.” Which means two things: it means that because second basemen get fewer chances Guzman will make fewer errors and it also means that getting a better bat at secondÂ won’t make up for Guzman’s weaknesses at short. But even that’s only a part of the picture.Â The real question here is not about how to match Guzman’s production at the plate, but how to cover up his weaknesses in the field:Â having failed to field ground balls at shortstop, can we really expectÂ Guzman toÂ field them at second?Â
And the answer to that question is “no.” Teams don’t get better by hiding their defensive liabilities, but by replacing them — unless . . . (and it’s a pretty big and very important unless) . . . unless that defensive liability meets two other criteria:Â you can hideÂ the defensive liability by playing him at first base andÂ the defensive liabilityÂ hits over forty homers a year. UnfortunatelyÂ for the Nats (and for Guzman), the position ofÂ “don’t-worry-about-the-errors-this- brawler-can-hit”Â isÂ already taken. Then too, shifting Guzman to second because it seems as ifÂ it’s an easier position to play doesn’t make sense. Because it’s not true. Not only do second basemen often (but not always) get the same number of chances at second as a shortstop, but playing second doesn’t mean they don’t have to occasionally sprint to their right or left.Â Plus (plus!) second basemen have to make the turn on a double play.Â That oughta be easy for Cristian, especially with a gimpy foot. But rest assured, Mike RizzoÂ saidÂ he told Guzman that such a shift has been done before — andÂ successfully. Lots of shortstops have made the move to second andÂ they’ve benefitted from it. You know, like Felipe Lopez.Â So . . . so what’s really going on here?
My sense is that for all of the tortured explanations given by Rizzo and Riggleman, the Guzman-to-second bandwagon is being contemplated for any number of reasons:Â none of them having to do withÂ Guzman’sÂ glove. Rizzo might be calculating that trading Guzman is not a good idea, because the return on him would not be nearly enough to compensate for the loss of his bat. Then too, Rizzo must know that there wouldn’t be many takers for a guy who’s still owed $8 million. AndÂ . . . and if you really want to trade Guzman, why would you signal that you think his glove is a liability (by saying you’ll shift him to second) andÂ why would you tell every team in the league that the reason his glove is bad is because he’s injured.Â I can just imagine what Mike might say: “listen, we have this no glove injured shortstop who we owe $8 million — what can you give us?” It could be that Rizzo has his eye on a hotshot shortstop that he can pick up as a free agent: but I’ll be damned if I can find one worth any amount of money. Or it could be (it just could be) that Rizzo is thinking that if you’re really (absolutely no-matter-what) committed to hotshot rookie Ian Desmond and you really don’t want to lose Guzman’s bat, there’s only one way to do it: and that’sÂ keep them bothÂ — and play them both. Maybe. But that’s a hell of a gamble.
Sunday, September 6th, 2009
Ryan Zimmerman’s 9th inning home run on Sunday ended the Washington Nationals eight game losing streak and gave the Anacostia Nine a come from behind 5-4 win at Nationals Park. Knotted up at 2-2 in the top of the 9th, reliever Mike “Heart Attack” MacDougal let the game get away from him, giving the Marlins a 4-2 edge, with Phish righty Leo “lights out” Nunez entering the game to close it out. But in the bottom of the ninth Willie “Wee Willie” Â Harris led off the Nats end of the game by pumping hisÂ fifth home run into the second deck in right field to pull the home towners within one. His upper deck powerhouse was followed by a Cristian Guzman hustling infield hit with Ryan Zimmerman coming to the plate. Dan Uggla went far to his right to get theÂ Guzman hit, but could’t reach it in time to throw out Guzman, who was called safe at first. Zimmerman then stroked a 1-1 pitch into the centerfieldÂ boxes to give the Nats their first win in ten days,Â a stunner that sent the Marlins packing to New York without the sweep they needed.
Until the ninth, the heroes of the game were hard luck pitcher J.D. Martin, who pitched 6.2 solid innings, and Elijah Dukes, who was two for two with a walk. Dukes ended up on base four times. Dukes has raised his average to .260 — but, more importantly, heÂ seems more calm and focused at the plate and in the field, a good sign for next year. Â Dukes also had an early game scoop of a Marlins sure hit to short right field, a sign of the former Rays’ renewed confidence in the outfield. The win against the Marlins not only ends the Nats eight game skid, in which the Washington club seemed to be unable to score runs when they most needed them, it improved their walk-off prowess against the South Florida Nine. The Nats now have seven walk off wins against the Phish, who are straining to win the wild card race against the fading Chops, as well as theÂ Rockies and Giants. The Marlins will continue their pursuit of the first spot in the wild card against Tim Redding and the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday in New York, while the Nats will also take a day off before sending John Lannan to the hill to face Pedro Martinez and the ever-surging Phuzzies at Nationals Park.Â
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
J.D. Martin pitched six solid innings, giving up just five hits and two earned runs, but the Nationals dropped their fifth game in a row as theÂ Padres defeated them at the dog bowl in San DiegoÂ 4-1. Martin had the game well in hand until the top of the seventh, when pinch hitter Oscar Salazar put a Martin offering into Petco’s left field stands, sealing the victory. With the Anacostia Nine’s bats asleep, four runs wereÂ all that starter Clayton Richard needed to wrap up the victory. The Nats’ lone run came off the bat of Josh Bard, who homeredÂ in the seventh. The Padres played tough defense against the Nationals, especially in the outfield, where two line drives that might have been hits by Nats players were snagged on near-spectacular plays.Â Interim manager Jim Riggleman admitted that the Nats needed to find a way to start hitting. “We’re either hitting, or we’re not, and right now, we’re not hitting,” he said.Â “You’ve got to find another way to win a ballgame. Part of it is that they played really well. They made plays all over the field again tonight. They robbed our guys of hits all night and stopped rallies.”
The Chicago Fire: Emerging Friars’ ace Clayton Richard took the win over the Nats on Tuesday, throwing 6.2 innings of four hit ball. His win was not a masterpiece, by any means, butÂ part of a steady progression that has won him a regular place in a starting rotation for a team that is not that far awayÂ from featuring one of baseball’s better young staffs.Â Richard walked two and struck out six and isÂ now 8-4 on the season. The tall (6-5) lefty is a former White Sox eighth round draft choice inÂ 2005 who moved up through the Sox system. A midwesterner, RichardÂ came to the Pale Hose out of the University of Michigan, where he played football and baseball.Â He expected to be a part of the White Sox for many years to come. But all of that changed at the trade deadline, when Richard was shipped to San Diego for Padres ace Jake Peavy. Richard isn’t the only young hurler the Sox gave upÂ in the hopes of getting better. The second part of the Peavy deal was Aaron Poreda, a fireballing lefty and strikeout artist that will probably be featured, at leastÂ initially, in the Padres bullpen. Along with Dexter Carter and Adam RussellÂ (four pitchers in all) the Sox banked a lot on Peavy. Maybe too much.
But all of this is old news. The new news is that the White Sox made the trade in the belief that Peavy would not only help them next year, and the next, but that he could be a factor in the stretch run for this season. That hasn’t exactly worked out. Peavy’s ankle is apparently healed, butÂ not his elbow, and no one is quite sure when he’ll be back. He seems bit somehow by bad luck, or an injury bug — or something: in a rehab start before returning to Chicago, he was hit by a scroched line-drive through the box and left the game. When will he return? Will he return? Who knows.
SoÂ with the Pale Hose fading in their division, White Sox G.M. Kenny Williams decided enough is enough — and just before midnight on Monday he dumped salary and players, waving the white flag in Chicago: Jim Thome went to the Dodgers, Jose Contreras to the Rockies.Â While he can’t do much else this year, it’s not likely that “Crazy” Kenny is done shaking things up in the Windy City: the talk in Chicago is that Paul Konerko andÂ A.J. PierzynskiÂ will be gone soon after the end of the season and that super prospect Tyler Flowers (called up after the Thome trade) will be given every opportunity to win the catching job. Konerko and Pierzynski won’t be the only ones headed out of town. Anyone need an aging hitter? Jermaine Dye (who was rumored to be headed to the Giants at the end of August) is available.Â
The Chicago Fire was occasioned by “the road trip of death” as some Chicago blogs are calling it, a breathtaking end-of-August 1-7 death spiral that saw the Pale Hose drop out of contention in a baseball division called — get this — the A.L. Central. The best analysis came from South Six Sox: “With the Sox sinking out of the race, facing a September of disappointing turnstile numbers, and little to no hope of the significant influx of cash a playoff appearance provides, Kenny Williams’ hand was forced. Well maybe not forced, but certainly coerced.” Sox Machine, meanwhile, headlined the moves with the description: “Go West, Old Men” — a sign perhaps of just how alienated the Sox faithful have become. Oddly, Clayton Richard’s performance against the Nats puts an exclamation point to the White Sox latest moves. There’s no question — and absolutely no doubt — that Jake Peavy is a master and one of the best pitchers in baseball. But let’s be blunt. Maybe the problem isn’t Thome and Contreras, maybe the problem isÂ Kenny Williams. After all, wouldn’t Sox fans rather have Clayton Richard on the mound in Chicago than Jake Peavy rehabbing somewhere in Alabama?
Saturday, August 22nd, 2009
The Milwaukee Brewers came into Nationals’ Park the proud owner of a four game losing streak that had put them ten games behind the St Louis Cardinals in the NL East. The Brewers will not likely catch the Redbirds, but they must have been pleased to escape Friday night’s game at Nationals ParkÂ with a decisive 7-3 win. There was much to be proud of in the Nats’ play, except for the final score: J.D. MartinÂ threw 6.2 innings, gave up eight hits and struck out four.Â Perhaps most important of all, he didn’t walk oneÂ Blatzman and gave the Nats’ bullpen a rest. HisÂ solid showing placed him firmly in line for future starts — and a potential place inÂ a revamped 2010 rotation. But Martin gave up home runs to Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee, which proved decisive: and Brewers’ starter Braden Looper gave up four hits in six innings of work.
The most memorable moment of the day, of course, was Stephen Strasburg’s appearance at Nationals Park, where he was introduced by the front office and Nats’ All Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.Â Nats’ fans packed the stands along the third base line to get a glimpse of the college phenom. Strasburg appeared genuinely complimented by the lavish attention and modest enough to admit that his journey to the big leagues was dependent on his own success — and the decision of the organization’s baseball people. This is amazing,” Strasburg said of the crowd. “To play at San Diego State, where we didn’t get many fans until this year, this is pretty special.” The Strasburg introduction was well-handled, a down payment on the promise made by the ownership at the all star break that things would get better for Nats fans. The Nats front office must believe the Strasburg investment has already started to pay dividends.
There were two other memorable events of the day, both important. The first was the light stand shot that Adam Dunn launched against the Brewers in the 1st inning. The home run, Dunn’s 32nd, Â landed on the concourse just off the second deck in upper right field. My guess is that it was the longest dinger hit in Nationals Park. Ever. Dunn’s OBP is at .420 and after a late-July swoon, his batting average is .288. The second post-StrasburgÂ event of note was interim manager Jim Riggleman’s praise of Nats’ fans in his post game comments after the loss to the Brewers. Riggleman seemed genuinely humbled by the fact that Nats fans are still showing up, night after night, to see major league baseball’s worst team. Riggleman noted that the players appreciate the support. Rigs has it right and it’s about time people noticed. Night after night, between 18,000 to 24,000 fans are showing up to see the Nats play. True: the high end numbers (some 30,000 or more) come to see the Red Sox or Cubs or Cardinals. But that hasn’t been true recently, when the Nats have faced the Rockies and Brewers.
Those Are The Details, Now ForÂ The Headlines:Â The Yankees-Red Sox tussle is over in Boston, with the final score 20-11. The Empire sealed the victory in the last minute with a field goal by Hideki Matsui. The Yankees drove the ball on the Red Sox with ease,Â picking apart their secondary. “This shows our character,” a Yankees player said after the game. “This was smash-mouth baseball all night. We were really able to get into their backfield. I just want to thankÂ God for giving me this opportunity . . .”Â The Back Bay is burning:Â the Sawx are trailing New York in the NL East by 7.5, and are only one game ahead of the RaysÂ in theÂ wild card . . .
I mean, I can see why the Nats continue to play Ronnie Belliard instead of say, oh, Mike Morse. Can’t you? I mean, really, if we give Morse a chance you never know what might happen. Why, we could even lose some games. We wouldn’t want that to happen.Â Listen, RonnieÂ justs needs to get over the nervousness of playing in the big leagues. Like last night for instance:Â when he got picked off of first base for no damn good reason . . .Â The Centerfield Gate board of directors (by a very close vote) has instructed me to add three names to my list of underrated MLB Players: Naps’s outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, Belinski’s outfielder Kendry Morales and Ahoys’ outfielder Garrett Jones.Â So who the hell is Garrett Jones? Jones is the Pirates’ new right fielder, whom the PiratesÂ got from the TwinkiesÂ for ah . . .Â well, for no one at all. Jones is the guy the Ahoys signed as a free agent after the Twins released him. Will someone please, please,Â please, wake up the Twins. Garrett Jones has fourteen home runs in 43 games. Every time you turn on the television, there he is, plunking another one into the stands at PNC Park. Then the three people in attendance stand and cheer as one. It’s enough to shake your lack of faith in Neal Huntington . . .
On Baseball Tonight on Friday night, Tim Kurkjian said that the Cubs might be done. What? C’mon, really? There’s forty games left. Are you sure?
Sunday, August 16th, 2009
While Nats fansÂ focus on the shelling Nats’ bats are capable of imposing — evidence of which was on full display at Cincy’s Great American Ballpark on Saturday –Â victims of the Anacostia Nine wonder how their team can lose to a club that is “a joke” and “one of the worst teams in baseball history.” Reds fans are the latest such whiners, trodding ground already worn by the footsteps of bloggers from Miami.Â “This year I havenâ€™t really considered the Washington Nationals a real team. Theyâ€™re just so bad, itâ€™s hard to take them seriously,” Cincinnati blogger Red Hot Mama writes in the wake of the Nats pasting of the Reds.Â “I mean, theyâ€™ve consistently been winning only a third of the team [their games]Â for most of the year. In the world of bad teams, thatâ€™s truly atrocious.”
Red Hot Mama (the most interesting of all Reds’ blogs — in my humble opinion) is not alone in underestimating the Nats. For baseball beat reporter John Fay,Â it’s not soÂ much that the Nats are good, it’s that the Reds are bad. This path is also well-worn: when the Nats beat up on Dan Haren at Nationals Park last week, “BaseballÂ Tonight”Â Â commentators attributed the lossÂ not to the Nats ability to hit, but to Haren’s unusally poor outing. When the Nats are bad it’s because they’re bad, when the Nats are good it’s because they’re lucky. Of course, not only are the NatsÂ not even close to being the worst team in baseball history, if they continue to win games at the current rate they may well catch the other “worst” teams in the MLB: The Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres. It’s even possible to make the argumentÂ that the Nats post-July 4 record is not only pretty good — it’s a lot better than the other “atrocious teams” in the majors. TheÂ Nationals have played forty games since Independence Day, and they’re 20-20. That’s enough to vault them out of last place in the ESPN power rankings — ahead of the Monarchs, Ahoys and Friars. That hasn’t happened yet, but it should. And just think, this fromÂ “a joke” and “one of the worst teams in baseball history.”
It’s no secret: the Nats’ revival is more due to their ability to swing the wood than throw the horsehide. This was on full display in the ballpark beside the Ohio yesterday. When the Reds came to bat in the fourth, the Nats were leading 7-0 and starterÂ Johnny Cueto was sitting on the bench next to a shell-shocked Dusty Baker.Â By the time the game had ended (with Nats’ smiles all around), our Anacostia boys had pulled out a 10-6 victory. The Nats’ attack included fourteen hits and an Adam Dunn home run. Morgan, Belliard (Belliard!!), Zimmerman, Dukes, Gonzalez and Nats’ starter J.D. Martin had two hits each — the nail-in-the-coffin stroke coming from a still struggling Alberto Gonzalez, who scorched a double just inside the bag at third, scoring three. The Nats needed all the hits they could get.Â Starter Martin was game, but not that effective (the Reds threatened in nearly every inning), while reliever Logan Kensing (usually effective — after being recalled from Syracus), gave up four earned runs and lasted less than an inning.
It’s true: the Nats have been “truly atrocious” — as Reds bloggers would have it. They’ve won only 42 games. They’re 33 games under .500. They’ve “struggled” all year.Â But hope springs eternal: they could catch the Padres, Pirates and Royals in the standings. Why, they could even catch the Reds. In the world of bad teams (teams like, ah . . . the Cincinnati Reds), that’s really amazing. Or maybe it isn’t.