Sunday, April 30, 2006

So Close

Who was that fat guy on the mound yesterday? Livan Hernandez pitched like the Livan of last year, finally holding the opposing team down. He got into a little bit of trouble in the first inning, allowing one run only because Jose Guillen dropped a can of corn. Seven innings, one unearned run, and no homers! I'll take it!

I only caught a few bits of the game, but from what I saw, Livan's velocity looked up. It looked like he was finally driving off his knee. A start or two back, after the game, he mentioned that he was finally at a point where he had to start trusting his leg. I guess yesterday was it.

A few extra MPH allows Livan to get the fastball by hitters occasionally, but what it really does is enhance his breaking pitches. With a greater variation between his two-seamer and his slider, he's really upsetting timing. He didn't strike out a ton, just four, but he allowed just three hits, too with two of those coming in that first inning.

  • Despite the bright side of pitching, the Nats still lost. Albert Pujols' late homer gave the Cardinals a one-run lead heading into the ninth.

    With two outs, the Nats loaded the bases on three straight walks, with Nick Johnson heading to the plate. Inexplicably, he swung at the first pitch. Worse, he tapped it weakly back to the pitcher. Game over!

    I can understand Nick's thinking in wanting to be aggressive there, but if you're going to swing, you've gotta hit a liner to the wall; it can't be a weak grounder. Inexcusable, but it does win him a Lame Duck. He went 0-5 and is 'down' to .352.

  • Friday night's game shows what happens when the Nats face a pitcher who's struggling to throw strikes. They beat the bejeesus out of him. Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman ripped two-run homers in the first, and the Nats cruised to an easy victory.

    Tony Armas had another effective outing, pitching six innings and getting five Ks. His slider is really biting this year, a sign that his elbow must really be feeling good, allowing him to get the proper torque on the pitch. He doesn't go very deep into games, but he's put the Nationals in a spot to win each of his games -- and that's all you can ask from a pitcher.

  • Royce Clayton sputted to life, hitting the ball hard for two doubles. He threw in another walk, only his second non-intentional BB of the year. Very quietly, Clayton's had a decent week, not that it's helped the Nats much in the win column.

  • Ryan Zimmerman wins the Majority Whip, not just for his homer, but for his tremendous defensive play in the seventh inning. He leaped high to his right, snaring a sure-to-be double as he stretched out his body as far as it would go. He stood up, took his time, and tossed the ball back to first for the sure double-play -- afterall, the runner was positive that the ball was in the corner! But his throw came short, pulled NJ way out in front of the bag, and forced Johnson to dive to tag the unlucky John Rodriguez, completing the double play. (Video)

    This catch was almost as good as the one he made last week, when he ran far down the line to make a diving catch as the ball floated in over his head.

  • Zach Day gets the start today, and Randy St. Claire thinks he's ready. They tweaked his arm angle a bit, lowering it to take some strain off his shoulder. Day's been hit hard this year, but a sinkerball pitcher in Coors just isn't going to work. The sinker works because of the movement, and movement is lessened in the altitude. It was pretty much a match made in hell.

    That being said, Day and Robinson are oil and water. Frank has to hate the kid, because he lacks fire. Day doesn't come across as overly confident, even as he's had a track record of success. Pitching, despite what Frank thinks, isn't necessarily about being a man. Walks aren't a moral failing, and Frank needs to let pitchers work out of their own mess sometimes. The two had a bit of a fallout last year, ultimately leading to Day's trade, and it'll be interesting to see if they can put it behind them, and if Day can regain the form he had two years ago, when he looked like he was on his way to being a strong #3 pitcher.

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