Posts Tagged ‘Jon Garland’

Two Of Three From The Ahoys

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Ryan Zimmerman accounted for four of the Nats runs with four RBIs, righty Jason Marquis pitched a solid six innings and slugger Adam Dunn hit a long home run into the left field seats as the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 on Sunday. The win marked the first time that the Nats had won a road series since May, as the Anacostia Nine took two of three on the road against the Ahoys. “Start-by-start I feel like I’m getting to where I need to be,” Marquis sai following his outing. “Obviously early on I was hurting, and since the surgery I feel like Jason Marquis more day-by-day. The last four starts have been right where I want to be, although I’d like to go a little deeper into games, but I’ve just got to minimize my pitch count and that will happen.”

Fear And Trembling In San Diego: You don’t have to listen too closely to hear the concern in the voices of the radio announcers for the San Diego Padres. It was obvious in the bottom of the 9th inning on Sunday, with the Colorado Rockies about to sweep their three game series with the Friars — sending the Pads to their tenth loss in a row. “Well,” color analyst Jerry Coleman said, “the Padres have three outs to turn this thing around. You have to wonder.” The frustration of the broadcast team of “double X 1090” had been growing throughout the game, ever since the Padres had tied the Rockies in the 6th, only to see the Heltons climb back by scoring two in the top of the seventh. “It’s like we’re snake bit,” Coleman said. The Padres skid is their worst since May of 1994 and the worst for a first place team since the 1932 Pirates. “We’re in games,” Padres manger Bud Black explained after Sunday’s loss. “We’re just not generating the big hit, we’re not generating the offense to get us over the top. We’re just not executing the pitch, making the play that changes the course of a game.”

If San Diego doesn’t do something soon, they’re in danger of drawing comparisons with the 1969 Cubs, who were in first place in August, but then let the Mets catch them, or the 1964 Phillies — whose late-season collapse remains legion. It’s hard to determine what ails the Pads: there haven’t been any blow-outs during the skid, but the team seems incapable of winning the close ones. In many ways, the Sunday tilt against the Rockies was typical: the pitching was solid (but not solid enough) and the Padres hit (but not exactly when they need to), and the team took the early lead — but couldn’t hold it. With the exception of a 5-0 skunking at the hands of the Phillies back on August 29 and an 11-5 disaster against the Diamondbacks (that started the meltdown) the Friars have been in nearly every game.

The Padres’ problem is what we always thought it would be — hitting. The Friars have scored just 23 runs in their ten game skid and have found it nearly impossible to hit with runners in scoring position, plating one run for every five chances. Ryan Ludwick was supposed to help solve the team’s RBI production problems but, after a solid start in his new digs, he just hasn’t done it. The right fielder, who the Padres picked up in a three-way swap with the Cardinals and Indians at the trade deadline, is known for his nose-in-the-dirt play and ability to compete in close games, but he’s hit .194 over the losing streak — a fall-off in production as sudden as it is unexplained. And don’t look now, but young hurler Wade LeBlanc (a solid starter to go with the likes of Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Jon Garland and Kevin Correia) is in a free-fall. In ten starts since mid-July, LeBlanc has seen his ERA fall from 3.30 to 4.15. Ugh.

There’s a bright side, of course. The Padres are still in first place, the team’s starters are still “the best in the West” (and maybe in the entire National League), Bud Black is one of the savviest managers in the majors — and it ain’t over until it’s over. But the Padres have to be worried: they face the surging McCoveys seven times over the next four weeks (including a four game set this coming weekend) and the Rockies seem to have their number, having won 11 of 15 in their last meetings. The Padres face Colorado in a three game set in Denver starting next Monday — having just been swept by them in San Diego. “We’ll be fine — trust me,” Padres’ second sacker David Eckstein said in the midst of this most recent skid. And, you know, maybe he’s right. But in the sprint to the poll, and with the Giants and Rockies in their rear view mirror, the Padres need to start hitting.

(above: Ryan Zimmerman, AP Photo/Keith Srakocic. Below: David Eckstein in San Diego AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Nats Victims In Frisco, Face Friars

Friday, May 28th, 2010

There are plenty of ways to lose a ballgame — and the Nats used most of them on Thursday. Leading 4-2 against Frisco starter Barry Zito going into the seventh inning (and with the game seemingly in hand), the Nationals committed a costly error, the bullpen failed to close out the game, and Washington’s bats (which had undergone a revival of sorts on Wednesday), failed to rally. The result was a 5-4 loss to the Giants in a classic “if only” game that would have given the Nats a solid on-the-road series win. The bottom of the seventh started with what should have been an out, but a ground ball from Giants’ left fielder John Bowker skipped past first baseman Adam Dunn into the outfield. A passed ball followed. The Nats were still in the game and headed for a win when the usually reliable Sean Burnett gave up a single to Nate Schierholtz, whose single to center scored Bowker. Andres Torres singled to right and Freddy Sanchez — hitting against Tyler Walker — followed with another single. That was all the Giants would need.

Facing The Friars: The Padres are baseball’s surprise team — they lead the NL West by two, are nine games over .500 and have one of the best young pitching rotations in the majors. But let’s get real: the Friars don’t have an outfield, are backing and filling on defense (Chase Headley is scooping up the impossible at third, but that won’t last), and no one excepting Adrian Gonzalez has the power of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham or Ivan Rodriguez. Credit the Padres magnificent start, then, to the pitching of groundball specialist Jon Garland, the always-around-the- strike-zone youngster Matt Latos and Pale Hose trade bait Clayton Richard. And, to be honest, the Little Monks have been helped immeasurably by an early schedule that featured massacres against Arizona, Milwaukee and Seattle.

This should not detract from what San Diego has accomplished. The Friars took three from San Francisco in mid-April, then four of five in May. The McCovey’s were embarrassed, as well they might be. Seven of eight wins against Frisco and dominant series against the three stooges (the Showboats, Brewers and Navigators) have been more than enough to compensate for what San Diego lacks: a line-up that (with two lone exceptions) does something besides stand at the plate and pretend to hit. Too harsh? The Padres rank 25th of 30 in BA, 25th in home runs, 25th in hits, and 22nd in RBIs. As for their pitching — well, they rank 1st in ERA, 1st in shutouts, and have given up fewer runs than any other team in baseball. They rank fifth in strike outs. What is even more impressive is that the San Diego rotation does not have a pitcher equal to the NL elite of Jimenez, Halliday, Wainwright, Lincecum, Carpenter, Haren or Hamels — relying for wins on free agent afterthought Jon Garland (6-2, 2.10 ERA), newcomer lefty Clayton Richard (4-2, 2.73 ERA),  talk-of-the-town speedballer Mat Latos (4-3, 3.09 ERA) and Frisco retread Kevin Correia (4-4, 4.03 ERA). Oh, and Heath Bell — who has an eye-popping 1.29 ERA to go with his 13 saves.

So here’s the question: are the Padres for real? The answer, as given by a Padres fan, is probably “no.” Writing in The Hardball Times, Friars’ partisan Geoff Young opines that the Friars “have gotten where they are by pitching way over their heads.” Which is to say — this isn’t going to last. Not only have the Padres yet to face the league’s stiffest competition, it’s hard to imagine that Garland & Company will match up well against a staff that features Halliday and Hamels, or Carpenter and Wainwright. That . . . and the Padres flat out just can’t hit. Of course the San Diego front office could dangle Adrian Gonzalez for a top-of-the-line bat, except for one thing — Gonzalez is a top-of-the-line bat. All of this is said while tempting the fates: for the Nats are headed into the dog bowl tonight to test the thesis that, sooner or later, the Pads will fold. But until they do, there’s this: if you can’t get to San Diego’s starters you’re not going to win. Because if you go into the 9th behind, you’ll be facing Heath Bell — the best closer in the game.

“A Fit For Us”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Sure it’s the off-season, sure there’s a lot of other things to do and yes, there’s not always a lot to report (or comment on), but everytime one of us droogs sits down to write something for CFG, we are stopped cold by the idea that Mike Rizzo’s Big Idea for strengthening the Nats’ front four includes setting out hook and bait for Florida Marlins right hander Ricky Nolasco.  It’s not that Carlos Enrique is such a bad pitcher — it’s just that he’s not what Nats fans had in mind for an off-season upgrade of baseball’s worst starting rotation. Once upon a time, the list for a rotation make-over included the possibility of signing John Lackey or Jon Garland. Those were the days: “We don’t think that the free-agent class leads us to [pay big money],” Mike Rizzo told Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson. “I believe the things we need or want the most are out there, and we are going to address it. I don’t see us going after that super free agent like Matt Holliday or Jon Garland. I don’t see us playing on that level. We don’t think it’s a fit for us.”

It’s the last sentence that is bound to send shivers through the upper arms of Nats’ fans: when Mike Rizzo says that something’s not “a fit for us,” what he means to say is: “we’re not going to spend money to improve.” Ladson then opines that Nolasco’s name is being bandied about — which is hardly a surprise since, if you’re a Marlin, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll be traded. This isn’t the first time that Nolasco’s name has been linked to anywhere-but-Miami: Yardbarker says that Nolasco and Jorge Cantu are on the block (as well as Dan Uggla, of course): “Trading Nolasco, who had a terrible first two months of 2009 and returned to form after being sent down to the minors, should net the Marlins some top major league ready prospects. Nolasco pitched better than his 2009 stats indicate, so there should be many teams looking to deal for him.”

Okay, fine. So the Nats line up a trade for Nolasco. What top prospects in their top-notch farm system do they give up to get him? A recent Baseball America ranking of MLB farm systems put the Nats at #26, with this comment:  “They have the best prospect in the game in No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg, plus solid talents in catcher Derek Norris, right-hander Drew Storen and shortstop Danny Espinosa. Beyond that, though, the Nats have very little help, especially at the upper levels, which is a pity considering the state of the big-league roster.” Who of that bunch would you give up to get Ricky? Derek Norris? Drew Storen? Danny Espinosa? How about: none of the above. It may be, of course, that Rizzo has something up his sleeve that will equal the Nyjer Morgan theft. Or it may be that Rizzo’s veto of signing a “super free agent” (a description he applies to Jon Garland) means that the Nats go into the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis next week with nothing to offer — and come out empty handed.

Lackey, DeRosa . . . Or Both?

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

CFG writer and droog DWilly (here he is, in case you’ve forgotten), is pessimistic about the possibility the Nats will sign Belinski free agent pitcher John Lackey: “The Red Sox will be in the mix and they’ll bid him up, but only to make sure the Yankees don’t get him,” he opined during a break in the action this last week. “And for good reason: can you imagine the Phillies facing C.C., Pettitte and Lackey in the World Series? Forget Burnett – in that mix he’d be number four. For the Red Sox, the Yankees getting Lackey would be their worst nightmare.” Add the Angels to that list: Anaheim owner Arte Moreno says that he can afford either Lackey or third sacker Chone Figgins, but not both — making his choice a no-brainer. With the crosstown Dodgers taking a pass on Lackey that leaves the Red Sox, Yankees, and Nats bidding for his services. Oh, and the Mets, who are desperate for pitching. Bart Hubbach of the New York Post says that Lackey tops the Chokes’ wish list, ranking well ahead of both Jason Marquis (who “badly wants to be a Met”) and Joel Piniero — the 31-year-old Cardinal slinger.

The Lackey-to-the Nats rumor surfaced last week, when Nats beat writer Bill Ladson reported that the Nats “are looking for an ace who can tutor pitchers such as John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg. Washington has been looking for this type of pitcher since after the Trade Deadine.” True enough, but Lackey won’t be cheap — and at least some baseball executives are questioning his health: Lackey got off to a slow start last year due to a sore elbow and he’s spent a part of each of the last two years on the DL. And the price tag? The figures are all over the place, but current betting is that Lackey would ask for (and get) an A.J. Burnett contract — somewhere in the range of five years and $82 million. At the top end, the contract would max out at five years and $100 million, at the low end a Lackey contract would be for three years and $30 million. Lackey’s a tough, nose-in-the-dirt pitcher who could feast on N.L. hitters, but that’s a lot of change for a potential sore elbow and a tutor. And it’s a lot of change if, after spending (say) $80 million, you have nothing left to shore up your infield or add to your bullpen.

Signing a top flight innings-eating pitcher had to be a priority of Nats GM Mike Rizzo — but it will do little good for the Nats to spend oodles on Lackey and have little left over. So a rejiggering the priority list makes a lot of sense: back in ’08, the Nats spent a good part of their season scrambling to put together a roster that had Ryan Zimmerman struggling to overcome a left shoulder tear. Zim ended up losing 56 games, a nightmare for a team that has few marque players. While this unthinkable knock-on-wood scenario seems unlikely for 2010 (knock on wood, and hard), the Nats’ unsettled up-the-middle problems — including the distinct possibility that wunderkind Ian Desmond might not be the solution to the Nats’ shortstop woes that they think he is — would stretch the Nats to the breaking point were something to happen to Zim (or Adam Dunn, or Josh Willingham, or Cristian Guzman).

Which means that John Lackey isn’t the only priority for the Nats, and maybe not even the top priority. The Nats need pitching and desperately, but if they want a tutor and innings eater they can find one among a free agent class that includes Jon Garland, Joel Piniero, Jason Marquis or even (gasp) Carl Pavano. Garland (just as an example) won’t be cheap ($25 million over three years), but he won’t be as expensive as Lackey — and the Nats can use the savings they might have spent on JL for Mark DeRosa. The more you think about DeRosa the more you have to like him, especially as a fit for the wobbly Nats’ infield. Forget for just a moment that he’s a helluva player. Remember, instead, that his glove work eclipses that of Desmond or Guzman or Gonzalez. He can play short and second and he can spell Willingham in left and if worse comes to worse (knock on wood) he can play third. And he can hit. Then too, taking a pass on Lackey means there’s more money to not only plug the holes in the infield, but in the bullpen.

Here’s what all of this might come down to: signing John Lackey (and no one else) doesn’t make the Nats at .500 ballclub, but signing Garland (or Piniero, or Marquis) with DeRosa behind them and Mike Gonzalez in the bullpen does.

Alberto vs. Orlando

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Now that the Phuzzies have become the former world champions — dropping the World Series to New York’s Jedi Knights – we can return to baseball’s second season: as ultimate a test for GMs and owners as the on-the-field play of their counterparts during the regular season. So it is that the Nats’ off season rumor mill is finally in full swing, with reports circulating that the Nats are once again eyeing second sacker Orlando Hudson as the solution to the team’s problems in the middle infield. Jon Heyman over at SI says that Hudson is looking for other opportunities — as Trolley manager Joe Torre “employed Ronnie Belliard over him” through much of September and into the playoffs. In fact, it was downright weird watching Belliard shine in the L.A. post-season, particularly considering his embarrassing swing-from-the-heels style of play for the Nats through nearly 120 games. Can it be? Would L.A. really pick Belliard as their second sacker over Hudson?

Ah . . . well, not really. L.A. is all a-glitter over the prospect of signing free agent Adrian Beltre to play third base, with Casey Blake moving over to second — an experiment that keeps Blake’s bat in the line-up while adding a power hitter at the corner. Beltre could, in fact, pump about 20 dingers into the left field seats in Dodger Stadium, giving the kind of power to the Trolley line-up that Raul Ibanez provided in Philadelphia this last year. And L.A.’s his home town. That puts Belliard on the Dodger bench (which is where he, ah, belongs): and makes Hudson expendable. There’s no doubt there’s been an on-again off-again flirtation between the Nats and Hudson which dates back to late 2008 — when the Nats seemingly pursued the glove man, hoping he could fill the infield hole next to Cristian Guzman. In any event, the Hudson-to-the-Nats never quite happened and the “O-Dog” ended up in Hollywood. Now, it seems, there is revived interest in Hudson: the flirtation continues.

But is Hudson the right fit for D.C.?

Right here (in this paragraph), we might take a look at Hudson’s stats, which are more than presentable (.283, 9 HRs, 62 RBIs — and, more importantly, a good glove), and then follow that with talk about how Hudson would add some badly needed punch to an anemic middle infield. But all of that would beg the question: the problem up the middle for the Nats is not at second base, it’s at shortstop — and bringing Hudson in not only doesn’t solve that problem, it short-circuits the end-of-season discussion about moving Cristian Guzman to second and finding someone (like Ian Desmond) to play Guzman’s position. I’ve argued before that moving Guzman to second doesn’t solve anything. And it doesn’t. In fact, signing Hudson only creates an additional problem: for if Guzman can’t play second any better than he played short and if Ian Desmond doesn’t work out (and he might not) then you don’t have one problem, you have two.

Even so, the “we want Orlando” bandwagon is entering its first stage, in large part because no one is sold on Alberto Gonzalez — including outspoken MASN announcers Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble and regular Nats commentator Bill Ladson. Ladson pegs Gonzalez as no more than a sometimes substitute. “I think it’s pretty clear that he is no more than a backup,” Ladson said in a recent column. “I was shocked with the way he played after interim manager Jim Riggleman made him the everyday second baseman. There were times I thought he wasn’t fundamentally sound with the bat and glove.” Really? Gonzalez hit .265 in 105 games, and while he wasn’t exactly a whiz kid at second, he wasn’t a disaster. While Gonzalez ended the season with an admittedly paltry OBP of .299, he finished the season strong, hitting .344 in his last ten games. Gonzalez is young, has a good attitude and he’ll only get better. In fact, he might get a lot better.  

Hudson, on the other hand, will make somewhere in the range of $5 million to $7 million per year (and he’s not about to sign a single year contract) and his rumored wrist problem is worrisome. He will be 32, on the down side of his prime years. Gonzalez will only get better: Hudson can only get worse. Why spend $5-$7 million a year (over three years, I’ll bet you) for a guy who might have a problem staying in the line-up. Of course, Hudson hits a hellava lot better than Gonzalez (no question) and has a stellar glove (he’s one of the best fielding second sacker in the majors), but he’s iffy in a way that Felipe Lopez was iffy. Then too (we might remember) Joe Torre thought that, when the chips were down, Ronnie Belliard was the better player. That oughta tell us something. So what should the Nats do? At least one of the options they should consider would be to take the money they would save on signing the “O-Dog” — let’s call it “Hudson Money” — and spend it on buying a solid front rank free agent pitcher. It comes down to this: who would you rather have? Orlando Hudson — or Jon Garland? Or Joel Pineiro? Or even Jason Marquis?

Padres Blank Nats . . . Bowa On Nabbing Garland

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Things have gone from bad to worse for the Washington Nationals — with the team’s bats silenced by Padres’ pitching, at least the Nats could count on their starters to put in six or maybe even seven innings of solid work. That was particularly true for John Lannan, perhaps the club’s steadiest starter. That’s not true now. The normally predictable lefty was anything but predictable on Wednesday, as Lannan struggled through a difficult fifth inning, allowing the Friars to score five runs to extend the Nationals’ losing streak to an embarrassing six games. That makes two sweeps in a row: one in St Louis and one in San Diego — with the Nationals now without a win since the series against the Chicago Cubs. The Nats seem to have slipped back to some their worst habits under Manny Acta: of scoring little and pitching poorly — but at least playing with fire.

If Willie catches that ball . . .

If Willie catches that ball . . .

While hard luck lefty John Lannan pitched well, though not brilliantly, the Padres found ways to score: in the fifth, Everth Cabrera and David Eckstein hit seeing eye singles before all-star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit a line drive that tailed away from left-fielder Wille Harris. The ball landed just out of his reach, scoring two runs. Chase Headley’s two-run double later in the half-inning added to San Diego’s lead, and that was essentially the game. In the clubhouse afterwards, Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman remained upbeat: “[Lannan] was a lot better than the line scores are going to say,” Riggleman said. “If Willie catches that ball, and I know it was a tough play, if we catch that ball, we’ve got a bunch of zeroes on the board and it doesn’t get us into trouble right there. You look for effort, and we got a good effort.” Lannan was also philosophical: “That’s the way the game goes,” he said. “It has happened to me before. You’ve just got to tip your hat, they made things happen in the fifth. I battled today, I felt pretty good.”

Down On Half Street: Former Philadelphia Phillies All Star shortstop and Chicago Cubs manager (and now Trolleyman third base coach) Larry Bowa was in his element today on the MLB satellite radio network — he was in front of a microphone being asked his opinion. This isn’t the first time. Bowa has been here before and is now counted on as somewhat of a regular. Bowa can be obnoxious, which is why he’s no longer managing, but he’s mostly right about almost everything having to do with baseball. And he was again today. It was a fascinating interview and former Angels skipper and now XM Radio “Home Plate” on-air personality Kevin Kennedy did what he was supposed to do: he fed him softballs that Bowa dutifully lofted into the stands.

The American League is “far and away” the better league, Bowa said, and added that the A.L. East is packed with talent. He added that the difference between the two leagues is not even that close. (See, what did I tell you — this guy is obviously a moron.) Bowa then said that he thought that Manny Ramirez was overswinging in the wake of his suspension, to show that he could put the ball out of the ballpark without steroids, but that his swing would soon return to normal. “He’ll be okay,” Bowa said. That makes sense (and it’s what any L.A. cabbie could have told us). Bowa also said that it was the plan of the Dodgers to keep James Loney at first and play new-guy-in-L.A. Jim Thome off the bench: to keep a lefthanded bat ready for the post-season (another safe prediction). My own sense is that L.A. is haunted by the spectre of Matt Stairs, whose post-season home run last year so buckled the Trolley’s knees that they will not allow it to happen again. Hence — Thome!

But by far the most interesting and insightful comment — and least from a purely baseball perspective — was Bowa’s analysis of L.A.’s reason for acquiring the much-traveled Jon Garland, lately of Arizona. Garland is not simply a steady pitcher who can be another starting arm in the run-up to the post-season, he said, “he’s a very steady ground ball pitcher.” Bowa said that if you check Garland’s stats you’ll see that he pitches mostly down in the zone “and to contact” — as he did throughout his career with the White Sox, Angels and most recently the Diamondbacks. “So you have to have good fielders behind him, which he didn’t have in Arizona.” That’s not true with the Dodgers.

With the Dodgers, “who are either one or two in defense, I can’t remember which” (Bowa added) Garland can pitch to contact and get people out in a way that he couldn’t in Arizona. Los Angeles can put a defense behind Garland that will make him a better pitcher than he ever was in Arizona — and maybe even take half-a-run off his ERA. That would make Garland’s current ERA of 4.29 in Arizona somewhere in the under 3.50 range in L.A. “Which is darn good” by National League standards. That’s not bad statistical thinking for a shlameel like Bowa, who regularly harumphs about Bill James and sabarmetrics with his buddy-buds on the radio: “Bill James, you know, the guy who invented Sabermetrics,” radio guy Dan Patrick once reminded Bowa during an interview. Bowa turned up his nose. “What team did he play for?” Bowa whined. “This guy Bill James has all the answers, but he’s never worn a uniform.” Yeah, that’s right Larry. And neither did L.A. General Manager Ned Colletti — the guy who pulled the trigger on the Garland trade.

Now pitching ground balls in L.A.: Jon Garland

Now pitching ground balls in L.A.: Jon Garland

Defanged

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

The Washington Nationals won their six straight game, coming from five runs down to beat Jon Garland and the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-6 on Friday night at Nationals Park. The Nats were keyed by Josh Willingham’s seventh inning bases-loaded single that put the Nats up 7-5. The Nats won despite another poor outing for their starter. Collin Balester started the game, but gave up five runs on eight hits to the rattlers in a little over four innings. Once again the Nationals were able to overcome the deficit because of the hot bats in the middle of their line-up; Ryan Zimmerman hit his 24th home run, Willingham went 3-4, and Elijah Dukes had three RBIs. The Nats’ bullpen had another strong outing, reversing the team’s early season trend. Returning reliever Saul Rivera — just recalled to the big club from Syracuse — pitched one-and-two-thirds solid innings and Mike “Heart Attack” MacDougal faced eight batters to get the last five outs. MacDougal, whose control seems always suspect, earned his eleventh save.

The Showboats, riding a five game winning streak, provided most of the game’s early fireworks, touching Balester for three home runs — by Mark Reynolds, Josh Whitesell and Stephen Drew. Balester admitted after the game that he was leaving the ball up in the strike zone. “The starting staff knows that it has to give the offense and the bullpen a little bit of a break,” Balester added. “The bullpen has been great and the offense has been great. John Lannan has been consistent all year, but the rest of us need to step up and go deeper in the ballgames. We know that.” Elijah Dukes had another stellar outing: with a second inning sacrifice fly to score the Nats’ first run and the doubling off the wall in the fourth inning. Dukes eventually scored on a Wil Nieves sacrifce fly.

MacDougal, who had appeared in four of the last five Nats’ games was called on early (after one out in the eighth inning) by interim manager Jim Riggleman. “I had an off day yesterday, so it was good,” MacDougal said after the game. “I was trying to get quick outs.” The hard-luck MacDougal seems to have hit his stride: the former Kansas City and Chicago White Sox reliever has thrown nearly 33 innings in 35 games for the Nats, recording eleven saves in 12 opportunities. The former Wake University star’s best year was 2003, when he registered 24 saves for the Kansas City Royals by mid-season and appeared in the all-star game. MacDougal has had to battle through some tough times in his career: he was struck by a bat and lost feeling in his right arm in 2001, lost his relief job with the Royals after battling the flu in 2004, and battled injuries while with the Pale Hose in 2006. He was released by the White Sox and signed a minor league deal with the Nationals last May.

"Heart Attack" MacDougal now has 11 save

"Heart Attack" MacDougal now has 11 saves