Strasburg

I just looked at my post of June 26, after watching Stephen Strasburg give up 4 HRs in a very key game last night with the Braves. What I said is still how I think about this former phenom who cannot be trusted in important games with good opponents. In this case the Braves had just lost 8 in a row, so YES (!) they were due for a win.

About 2 months ago in another post here I ranked the Nats starters and placed Stras 4th in terms of overall effectiveness this year. It is still a toss-up between Stephen or Gio as to who has been the least effective in 2014. i could mention his ERA, lots of strikeouts, and other stats, but the bottom line remains,……if I were in matt williams’ position I would not use Strass in the playoffs.

Yesterday’s Game Almost Got Away

Manager Matt brought in Drew Storen to relieve JZimm in the 7th yesterday. He ended up giving up 2 RBI hits to left-handed hitters that allowed the Mets to draw even with the Nats at 3-3. The game remained a tie until Bryce’s walk-off homer in the 13th.

As I watched this play out I was wondering why the manager didn’t put our new lefty reliever Matt Thornton in to face those guys in the 7th. Yes, I know the 7th is usually reserved for Storen, but managers need to be creative and Manager Matt has a new weapon now:)

Nats Finally get Lefty Reliever

The Nationals today acquired Matt Thornton from the Yankees. I’m not yet sure what this means for Jerry Blevins. Thornton is a big guy, 6’6″, with good numbers this year. The team has not yet said who they will move to make room on the 25-man roster, but Blake Treinin is my guess. They can return him to Syracuse. I will watch the 6:30pm pre-game show tonight to hopefully get more details.

The Trade That Wasn’t

The Nats didn’t get their top priority for the July 31 trade deadline, a lights out lefty specialist for the bull-pen. What they ended up with is an infielder who can field almost as good as Espinosa and may be able to hit slightly better than Danny or Kevin Frandsen. I’m not very impressed with these results, frankly. We are stuck with Jerry Blevins who has been virtually ineffective for a lomg time and Detwiler who doesn’t want to be in the bull-pen and has been inconsistent over the last 6 weeks or so.

This leaves me praying that Ryan Zimmerman will be back at least for the playoffs and hoping the starting pitchers won’t need help from anyone not named Storen, Clippard or Soriano. We clearly have a front office that doesn’t have the goal of competing with Oakland, LA (both Dodgers and Angels), St. Louis, or Detroit. OK, I’ve got it. Our goal is to just win the National League East, but not the playoffs.

So we bring up Stephen Souza, who looked very out of place in his earlier call-up, to maybe replace McLouth with his phoney injury. It would be wonderful if Souza could give Harper the incentive he has lacked so far to actually look like a major league hitter! I’ll hope for that.

Nats All-Stars

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Adam Laroche. He and Anthony Rendon are definitely in the All-Star conversation; that’s not just a personal opinion but is based on all the chatter I am listening to on radio, TV and internet. But I did vote for them and Ian Desmond also. FYI: As most of us know, All-Star Team Mgr Mike Matheny will have lots of ability to add players to those who fans have voted onto the team.

Paul Goldschmidt is going to start the All-Star game at 1B. That’s a given. But Laroche, Morneau and Freeman are the backup first basemen that are in the conversation. Mike Adams would have also been under consideration, but he is injured at this time.

Rendon is in the conversation at both 2B and 3B, but the competition is fierce. Matheny could pick his own third-baseman Matt Carpenter.

Watch this Whirling Darvish!

Watching Yu Darvish pitch on Sunday must have been like watching Michaelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.  I was mezmerized, not able to take my eyes off the TV screen.  He has been called “the shape-shifting ace,” an apt description.  The Nats Greg Dobbs uttered “What can you say?”  Adam Kilgore said (Wash. Post of June 2) “He can be a flame thrower, tactician, or snake charmer, all in the same at-bat.”  After blazing a 95-mph fastball by Adam Laroche, he left Adam frozen (and struck out) by a 59-mph curveball.  Denard Spann (hitting over .400 in his last 29 games) was the only Nat with any success in the game, as Texas won 2-0.

Other Notes:  The Nats bullpen was ranked number one in baseball as of May 29.  And Soriano, Storen and Barrett are three of the top seven relief pitchers in all of MLB, with ERAs below 1.00.

The new “Beast of the East”

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Matt Lecroy is the new bullpen coach of the Nats, having been hired over the winter by new manager Matt Williams. Several weeks ago a TV videoclip of Lecroy dashing in from the bullpen went viral, as a little “dustup” evolved into a possible bench-clearing brawl during a Nats game.  The video looked like a Marx Brothers “Chinese fire-drill” with Lecroy at first leading the charge, then slowly fading as the 20-something pitchers quickly left him in their dust:)  He subsequently fell down (tripped over himself?) and never arrived at the two-team face-off in the infield (no punches were thrown and things simmered down quickly).  The fact that the middle-aged Lecroy is more than several pounds over-weight added to the comical video!

Fast-forward to Friday night’s game (May 2) and another bench-clearing face-off between the Nats and Phillies.  The bullpen gates open and out charges Lecroy, followed by the much younger pen denizens (you just can’t make this stuff up!) again.  Again no punches were thrown and in the post-games press conferences the protagonists (Cliff Lee and Denard Spann) both claimed through clenched teeth and straight faces that they were not angry with each other:)  Stay with me here…………..

Wait for it……………

A footnote in today’s Washington Post has a story about the one injury from Friday night’s potential armageddon;  Matt Lecroy is now laid up with a pulled muscle in one leg:)  Me thinks the team might want to put the new bullpen coach on a leash?

Strasburg’s “Achilles Heel”

I’ve mentioned this before, but we continue to see how Stephen Strasburg can become rattled and loose his focus when events occur during games (errors by his teammates for example, or a plate umpire with a strike zone not to Stephen’s liking).  Last night in the 3rd inning Jason Werth dropped a routine fly ball in foul territory that would have been the third out.  Right after that Stephen threw a fastball right across the middle of home plate to a good hitter, Marlon Byrd, who hit it for a 3-run homer.

Those were the only runs Strasburg gave up in his 6 or 7 inning stint, so he was able to settle himself down after the home run.  My point is these episodes seem to affect Stephen’s pitching more than they do most pitchers.  I’m sure the Nats coachs are trying to work with him to increase his ability to stay focused on “grinding” through opposing team’s lineups while tuning out adverse events that are not under Stephen’s control.

Interesting footnotes:

1.  Former Nat (a very popular one!) Mikey Morse (“The Beast”) hit the game winning home run as the Giants beat our nemesis, the Atlanta Braves.  That was the Braves 4th straight loss!

2.  Another former Nat, Steve Lombardozzi, hitting .292 for the Orioles was sent down to AAA in order to make room for star third baseman Manny Machado as he came back from injury to play yesterday for the first time in 2014.  There were other Orioles that in my opinion should have been sent down instead of Lombo.  Note to Mike Rizzo: Get Lombo BACK!

Bryce, Boswell is Required Reading Today (4/30)!

Harper forced to DL with sprained left thumb (photo courtesy of CBC Sports)

Harper forced to DL with sprained left thumb (photo courtesy of CBC Sports)

I’ve mentioned writer/reporter Tom Boswell before.  He is a gifted observer of our national pastime, and today’s piece on Bryce Harper is another gem.  I hope Bryce takes it to heart.

Manager Matt (MM) was interviewed on XM radio on 4/30 and when asked if he would be counseling Harper on not sliding headfirst so much, had this to say “he slid feet first in our season-opening series with the Mets and had a potential concussion.  Also, he did hurt himself once last year sliding feet first.”  It is apparent MM plans to be very careful in any effort to alter Harper’s approach to his playing style:)