Saturday, April 08, 2006

One Bad Apple Don't Spoil The Whole Bunch

There was a lot to love and hate about last night's 6-1 loss to the Astros. But for one player, the game would've been much more interesting. Let's start with the good:

Tony Armas looked excellent. His fastball was up in the low 90s, a speed he couldn't reach last year even if throwing from a roof. What's important about that is that he was actually able to get the ball past hitters for once. An Armas start last year was tortuous because of his dreadfully slow pace and the hundreds of foul balls opposing batters would hit, simply because he lacked the juice to get it by their bats. At least for one start, that wasn't a problem.

His pace was way up, too. Between pitches last year, he'd walk off the mound, shout something to Vinny at third, trudge up the mound, and annoy all the paying fans. Last night he was quick, getting the ball, and settling in fairly quickly. No one's going to confuse him with Mark Buehrle, but it's better than last year.

The one problem he had was the location of his pitches. Almost everything was high, which is fine if it's a fastball. But he left a few too many breaking balls up and over the plate. When that happens, especially in a park where popups become souvenirs, it can get ugly.

Still, there's hope that the Armas we get this year is the one the scouts have always raved about. Last night was encouraging.

  • The bullpen, save for one notable exception, looked solid again. I'm a little worried about their IP at this point. Armas only went five innings last night, and no Nats starter has pitched beyond the 6th. It's safe to assume that Patterson and Livan will combine for more than 10 innings next time through, but through four games, FRodo's quest is looking like it's 162 games long. Here's hoping he doesn't make it to Mordor.

  • Nick Johnson ripped out two more hits. After a dreadful spring, and a weak opener, he's been hitting up a storm. Yay for Nick!

  • Jose Vidro looks like he might be back. He had his first homer of the season -- one that might've even gone out at RFK -- and has looked pretty good on defense. He still doesn't have a ton of range (although I can't point to a specific ball he should've gotten), but he displayed his strength last night, his arm strength. He and Royce Clayton teamed up for a nifty doubleplay.

    With a runner on first, a groundball went up the middle. Clayton ranged behind second, picked it up and flipped the ball towards Vidro. Vidro, in one motion, stretched for the ball, dragging his back foot across the face of the bag, planted his other foot, pivoted, and fired a hard, accurate strike to first base to nail Craig Biggio. Not only was it a good test of his arm, but also a pretty good indication that his knee's doing much better.

  • The bad? Seemingly everything else.

  • The Lame Duck
    Jason Bergmann earned this one, with an implosion that made most of us think of Joe Horgan. He had nothing. And the nothing he did have went everywhere but toward's Brian Schneider's glove. Bergmann didn't get an out, but managed to throw 26 pitches anyway, turning a 2-1 game into a 6-1 rout. Take his appearance out, and the game plays entirely differently.

    I think Frank pulled Armas too early. I understand that he was trying to save his arm, considering his pseudo-spring and the arm surgery he's recovering from. Yet, Armas had thrown just 72 pitches, and the bullpen has been greatly overworked over the last few games. Armas had cruised through the fourth and fifth (six up, six down), and I don't see what the harm is in letting him start the sixth would've been, especially because the pitcher was due up fifth the next inning. If he needed to be bailed out, there's no reason that Bergmann couldn't have come in mid-inning.

    Oh well. But once Bergmann did come in, because of the recent bullpen strain, he needed to give the Nats innings. He didn't. And I'd suspect that he's bound for New Orleans tomorrow when Ryan Drese is activated.

  • Brian Schneider can't do a thing with the bat. He's not even driving the ball. Something's up with him, and I hope it's not injury. It'll be interesting to see if he starts tonight against Roy Oswalt, especially with a lefty on the mound tomorrow -- a perfect time to rest him. Maybe starting Wiki Gonzalez tonight, and giving Brian two nights off wouldn't be the worst thing. Let him work in the cage, rest his knees, and see if he can get his head straightened back on.

  • Brandon Watson still stinks. Endy 2.0 managed to get a hit -- a lunging slap hit reminiscent of the few that Cristian Guzman had last year. But then, he was promptely picked off. Running the bases against major leaguers is a helluva lot harder than in the PCL. Free Ryan Church! (Church incidentally, went 0-2 with two walks and two Ks last night. George Lombard had the big homer last night, so expect him to soil the Nationals uniform before Ryan!)

  • Jose Guillen got nailed by another pitch, this one hitting him in the forearm. X-Rays were negative, but it's just making the already combustable Guillen boil over even more -- he's even threatening the Mets now. Can't wait til Wednesday!

  • Ryan Zimmerman stinks. After his game-tying homer, he struck out in seven straight ABs before grounding out to end the game. It looks like he's really lurching at sliders and breaking stuff waaaaay on the outside of the plate. And last night, it looked like he was so conscious of that that he was allowing himself to be tied up inside. He could probably stand a night off, too.

  • Royce Clayton also stinks. But we knew that before the season started.

  • Frank Robinson and FRodo face suspensions for their ejections against the Mets. They're automatic, but they can be appealed down.

  • The game's at 7 tonight, and it's on MASN. So screw you, Comcast. Livan Hernandez pitches against Roy Oswalt. That should be a great matchup. And although it looks like a mismatch, I have a hunch that el Gran Caballo can keep the team in the game long enough for something weird to happen. (Weird probably being defined as a Adam Everett Grand Slam)

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