Nats Bite a Bullet!

I was glad to see the Nats make a tough decision as the NL East competition heats up.  Sending the veteran Doug Fister to the bull-pen showed in favor of keeping Joe Ross in the starting rotation is a clear sign the front office is serious about the run for the playoffs.  Starting Danny Espinosa at SS the other day was a similar indication.  And the move to start Robinson at first base yesterday worked well as did sending Ryan Zimmerman in the pinch-hit late in the game!

Baseball is a very fickle game, but yesterday “the gods” were smiling on the Nats:)

Will the Real Fister Show Up?

Doug Fister is starting tonight; it will be great to see him back on the hill!

But I have been concerned about him since the start of the 2015 season; his fastball has been sitting about 83-84mph, but NO ONE associated with the team has been commenting on that!  That is strange and has me worried that his best days may be behind him, or that he has an injury that the team wants to keep quiet about.  His “normal” fastball has been 88-90mph throughout his career.  A fastball of 83-84 just gives major-league hitters too much time to barrell one up:)

I hope Doug is back to his “old” form and speed.

An October Preview?

I’m still savoring the just-completed series with the Cubbies!  I would not be surprised if both teams meet in October; the Cubs have improved A LOT and they are a fun team to watch, with so many young studs:)  Kris Bryant grew up playing with Bryce Harper as a kid in Las Vegas and it was fun watching the 2 of them hugging in the outfield before one game and bantering back and forth during the games.  Each game was a nail-biter and I think only 11 runs (total for BOTH teams) were scored in the entire series!

We got to see what a gem Mike Rizzo found in Casey Jansen.  He pitches like a combination of Scherzer and Fister (in-your-face aggression, only high 80s speed and good control).  And the spectacular way he fielded Dexter Fowler’s surprise bunt and threw him out at 1B was jaw-dropping. He may make us do the unthinkable and forget Tyler Clippard!

The Nats bullpen (I’ve said this before) is jelling and Mgr Matt Williams (and “Cat” too) deserves a lot of the credit for learning how to use every one of the guys from Treinen to Storen.

 

 

More on the Scherzer Trade

With a bit more time to reflect on this massive coup, I’ll admit that the Nats now have some insurance in case JZimm, Fister or Strassburg is traded.  If i were the GM, as I said before, I would make EVERY effort to keep the first two!

They also have some insurance (though not on a par with Scherzer) if Ian Desmond walks after this season, having acquired Trea Turner and Yunel Escober who can both at least fill in at SS until a real good option comes along.

Even with Tanner Roark likely moving to long-relief in the pen (and I predict he will excell in that role) Mike Rizzo still needs one more late inning flame thrower.  Treinin has some potential, but I’m not quite convinced he’s NASTY enough:)

Post-Season Thoughts

The 2012 Nats playoff performance was way better than that of the 2014 Nats!  The players who performed up to their ability this time were few: Harper, Rendon, Strass, JZimm, Fister, Cabrera, Blevins and —are you ready—-Soriano.  8 out of 25.  Maybe we should bring Davey Johnson back.  The Giants didn’t play much better than the Nats either.

Matt Williams cost them game 2, by removing JZimm when he was one out away from a victory!  And bad defence played a major role in the losses of games 1 and 4.  But the biggest problem was the near lack of any offense.. And most of the Nats played with little EMOTION!  They often looked like robots.  Maybe that is partly a reflection of William’s managerial style; he rarely shows ANY emotion.  He tried explaining why he took JZimm out in the 9th inning of game 2 by saying that was his game plan he put together before the game even started!  One wonders if he has any “feel” for how the game is flowing or how his players are feeling.  JZimm had thrown 8 and 2/3 innings of a three-hit shutout and was looking strongly in control of what he was doing!

Nope, the Nats/Giants playoffs were not fun to watch.  I find myself looking forward to watching the Orioles/Royals playoff series.  Both teams are playing exciting baseball as if they really want to get to the World Series.

The Starting Rotation

The Nats have not yet announced their starting ratation for the first round, beginning tomorrow.  But I will tell you what I’d do if I were Matt Williams:  Zimmermann, Fister, Strassburg, Gio Gonzales.  I say that having considered the most important factors such as “stuff,” heart, mind, body and recent outings of the past six weeks or so, plus the now knowing who the opponent is—The Giants:)

Today I’d like to be Michael Taylor’s Father!

What an inspiring game last night! In his first big-league game Taylor really made an impression: two hits, including a home run, and he looked very good in Right Field too, making a good throw from the deep corner to 2B, preventing the batter from stretching a single into a double. And after the game he was refreshingly humble in dealing with the media. I first mentioned how good Mike looked in Spring Training in an early blogpost on March 1. After ST he made the jump from A to AA. He did so well there he jumped to AAA 2-3 weeks ago, and then up to the parent team the day before yesterday. That’s quite an elevator ride!

Doug Fister, the nats true ACE, also inspired last night! And Asdrubal Cabrera is steadily raising his batting average; it’s at .286 now.

The Nats can likely get to the playoffs without RZimm, and Werth may see limited playing time while his shoulder heals (or NOT), but they need both of their clutch hitters/players in the playoffs!

Read the Boswell article in today’s Post if you haven’t already!

Now Harper Out for Two Months!

This latest news is a huge blow to the Nats chances for fighting their way to the playoffs.  Both Zim and Bryce got seriously hurt sliding headfirst.

Doug Fister and Wilson Ramos are on the road back however.  It seems possible that Fister could start a game by about May 7th.  Ramos is practicing “lightly.”  It will likely take him several more weeks to regain the strength needed to bat with power in game conditions.  But he hopes to appear in minor-league games this week.

This is the time for the bench players to step up and show us why they made the roster coming out of Spring Training!  I have to admit, after hoping the Nats would trade Danny Espinosa before Spring Training, that he has made me VERY GLAD he is still here!  I did not think it would be possible to make Danny a major league hitter, but I was wrong:)  I’m impressed with the improved hitting thus far.  And we all know he is a gold glove calibre fielder.  In fact many of the usual suspects posting on the team website are calling for Danny to REPLACE Ian Desmond at SS!

Late breaking news:  Zack Walters has been sent down to Syracuse as well as Taylor Jordan. Ryan Mattheus is back up here.  The last time Mattheus pitched well was in 2012; I hope they don’t have to use him in a critical situation.  Maybe they want to have him in case they need a “mop-up” pitcher in a game that has got out of hand:)  I also hope they bring Souza back.

Opportunity is There!

The Nationals' Zach Walters. (Photo courtesy of David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

The Nationals’ Zach Walters. (Photo courtesy of David Manning-USA TODAY Sports)

With the recent spate of injuries to the opening day roster, the Nats have called on several new bench players as well as Syracuse call-ups (i.e., Zack Walters– above) to show what they can do!

With the bullpen tired from overwork in the Atlanta series they needed a fresh arm who could pitch long relief if needed.  Blake Treinen filled that need, so space was made on the roster by sending Aaron Barrett down, since he had just pitched in consecutive games.  Treinen has impressed with his ability to remain calm under pressure and get hitters out.  No one doubts that  “Bear” Barrett will return soon though.

Zack Walters and Steve Souza, who both were outstanding in Spring Training, are already seeing playing time against The Marlins.  Zack had his first “bomb” tonight (April 15) and Steve got his first major league hit!  Catcher Sandy Leon is filling the roster spot of the injured Wilson Ramos, and he smacked his first major league homer last night (April 14)!

Kevin Frandsen and Danny Espinosa are red hot with the bat and are seeing significant playing time.  Danny is showing commendable calmness when hitting and has cut way down on strike-outs, compared to 2013.  Though Frandsen has not played much in the outfield prior to this season, he showed his infield experience in Atlanta by back-handing a ground shot to the left-field corner (normally a double) and firing it to second quickly to hold the batter to a single!

Both Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan are in the starting rotation while Doug Fister comes back from injuries.  They are showing good poise but need to lower their earned run averages.