Bullet Bites Nats on August 7

Every reliever has a bad night once in a while, and it has been a very long time since something like last night happened to Drew Storen.  When the “slammer” was hit in the 8th inning, the Nats had 2 innings left for their offense to just score a run or two.  The Mets came back from deficits three times last night, but the Nats hitters could not muster even one comeback.  A rookie struck out Bryce Harper to end the game.

The Nats chances of making the playoffs have taken a BIG hit in the past 8 games!

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.

 

 

Last Minute Ticket to Paradise!

A friend called me about 3pm yesterday to say he had a spare ticket to the game last night.  Luckily I took it!  I watched maybe the best game I have seen ever at Nats Park.

The big one was RZimm’s walk-off homer.  But Spann made an incredible catch on a tailing line-drive in right center.  When I saw it live i was impressed, but when I watched the replay several times it dawned on me (and I’ve been playing outfield for many years) how difficult a catch I had witnessed.  He had to catch it back-handed as it tailed towards him.  If he had dived for it he would have missed it.

And then we got to see Wilmer Difo’s first ever big-league at bat—a sharp single.  he had just been called up from AA (not AAA!).  What impressed me more than the hit though, was how nervous he made the Yankees once they saw him dancing way off first-base:)

And then the Nats bull-pen out-pitched the Yankees pen (a VERY good one).  Closer Miller had not surrendered a run all year!

And then I learned RZimm has 10–count em—walk-off homers.  That has him in rare company (Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Jim Thome).  and Zimm is only 30.

Note:  I left out the following:  Drew Storen striking out A-Rod in a key 9th inning situation was lovely.  And then later learning that since August of 2013 Storen has the third best stats of any reliever in baseball!

 

The Much Maligned Bull-pen is Coming Together!

They lost the two most dependable relievers from last year:  Clip and Stammen, so the pen took much of April to sort out new roles.  Add to that the team’s bringing in 5 guys who had never thrown a pitch in the majors!

Last night, after Strass left the game after only 3 innings, the pen threw 6 shut-out innings.  Sammy Solis efficiently breezed through 3 innings while allowing only one batter to reach base.  Whatever pitch he throws seems to miss bats with regularity.

Thornton, Barrett and Treinen completed the game with no runners crossing home-plate.  Thornton does seem to be having some command issues, but has still been pretty effective.

Drew Storen, since August of 2013, has simply been the BEST relief pitcher in the National League!  See Boswell’s article in today’s POST.

 

Comments on the Game Yesterday

All the Nats weakpoints were on display in this poor effort yesterday.  Hitting with runners in scoring position: one for eleven.  The team is ranked 20th I think on this important stat.  Bull-pen sucks!  Running in one rookie from AAA after another for his first ever MLB game, for a supposed WS contender—-simply pathetic.  Blame this one on Rizzo.  Defense?  Good enough maybe for AAA.

All of the above has been commented on here since early spring training.

Let’s hear it again:  Why did the team go after Sherzer when their biggest need was clutch hitting?  Good hitters were available during the winter.

The Marlins?

As MLK once said, “I have a dream.”  Well, I had one last night and it wasn’t pretty:)

The Marlins ended up winning the NL East!  By only 2 games, mind you, but what a shock.  Actually I’ve had the thought in the back of my head for a couple of weeks, but refused to acknowledge it.  What happened?  The Nats offense and bull-pen ended up being the problems I predicted. Take a look at the BP’s collective ERA today, March 30.  Look at how the offense has been performing.  Yes, It’s only spring training, I know.

I think I know where Bryce Harper’s ring will be, come October:)

BTW—Tom Boswell’s article in the POST today is another gem.

Offense and Bullpen Suck!

Yesterday I mentioned my concern about the lack of offense, no stranger to the 2014 Gnats.

Today it’s the Pen I’m commenting on; it has been terrible in Spring Training.  You out there who have been following ST results know very well what I’m talking about.  Good starting pitching is important, but with a weak offense and a shakey pen, the Nats are set to lose a lot of games after the first 6-7 innings.

Yoiu heard it here.  nuf said.

 

Our Only Princeton Grad Departing!

Shucks.  Ross Ohlendorf has turned down the Nats offer of playing in AAA Syracuse in favor of testing the free-agent market.

Ross pitched well in 2013 and it was entertaining to watch his funky, old-school wind-up.  He spent all of 2014 on the disabled list with back problems.

So now our only elite-school graduate is Drew Storen, who went to Stanford!  mike Rizzo ought to keep in touch with Condoleeza Rice:)

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:)

The Final Roster Decisions

Mike Rizzo, the Nationals' General Manager. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.)

Mike Rizzo, the Nationals’ General Manager. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.)

OK, the Nats are very close to naming the final 25-man roster spots. Here are my predictions:

A. The 5th starter goes to Taylor Jordan.
B. The final bullpen slots are Tanner Roark and Aaron Barrett. Barrett replaces Drew Storen, who gets traded.
C. The final bench slots are BOTH Moore and Carroll. Hairston gets traded. So the total bench is Espinosa, McLouth, Lobaton, Moore and Carroll.

The two trades I’m suggesting above can’t happen in a vacuum of course:) but it could be that Mike Rizzo has been working on them for some time. I’m basing my picks on all the info I’m able to glean on the internet, TV, and radio, as well as the relative amounts of playing time all these guys have been getting (which I think may be the best indicator of the thinking of the team brain-trust). There you have it:)

The Nats are at a crossroads right now, faced with the same type of hype that was buffetting them at this time last year. Are they going to “man up” and start the season in line with expectations or with a white knuckle swoon like the one we saw last April.