Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ten Down, Seventeen To Go

A day late for everybody's weekly feature that no one really likes... Everything's through the week ending Sunday.

It was a damn good week, as the Nats ripped through two teams with better records, taking two of three from the Braves and three of four from the Phillies. It was a week where we finally like we had some hope, even if the three previous weeks were clearly above our head. Still, there've been some good signs. The starting pitching has been excellent. The bullpen has been rounding into shape. And the offense, well... it's been good enough.

Nats Record: 5-2
Overall Record: 30-34
Runs Scored: 34 for the week (4.86/g); 292 overall (12/16 teams)
Runs Allowed: 27 for the week (3.86/g); 297 overall (8/16 teams)
Expected Record: 32-33. Don't mess with Pythagoras. Hopefully the ol' guy'll make up those two games he owes us.

What's Good?
1) Winning in the division! You can't lay an egg in the division if you hope to do anything (besides win the #1 draft pick). 5/7 from two teams ahead of us in the standings is certainly a big step up from the beating the Mets gave us earlier!

2) The Zephyrs! The Nats continued to be carried by players who didn't start the year with the team: Shawn Hill, 2.08 ERA; Mike O'Connor, 1.50 ERA; Bill Bray, 0 ERA; Saul Rivera, 0 ERA. Not bad, boys! (Maybe it's time to see if their offense can do better than our regulars, too!)

3) The bench! Other than the execrable Damian Jackson, they carried the load this week. Marlon Anderson batted .333 and slugged .611. Robert Fick batted .400. Brendan Harris hit .444. Daryle Ward slugged 1.500 thanks to a pinch-hit homer. The roster is shaped poorly, but they can hit. And that's light years better than last year's Tony Blanco-led bunch.

What's Bad?

1) Jose Vidro. His defense has slipped, and so has his offense, batting just .154 with just one measly extra-base hit. Could his knee be bugging him again?

2) Marlon Byrd. Sure, he's not Ryan Church, but .200 ain't gonna cut it. Even Brandon Watson could do that. Whither Endy Chavez?

3) Mike Stanton. Now that Joey Eischen's gone, someone needs to fill the toastariffic veteran role. Stanton's well on his way, with a horganesque 10.80 ERA. Ouch.

Game O' The Week

Friday night's rain-delayed 9-8 victory over the Phillies will be on the short list of candidates for Game O' The Year.

The Nats jumped all over Phillies ace Brent Myers, building up an insurmountable 7-3 lead. But a five-run inning thanks to a few big homers and some crappy relieving by Mike Stanton and Jon Rauch gave the Phillies a one-run lead. Brendan Harris countered in the bottom of the inning, driving in the tie-making run.

And then we waited. Bill Bray relieved, pitching three perfect, dominant innings, stepping up and showing the promise he had when the Nats drafted him a few years ago. It was his breakout performance. But the Nats couldn't win him the game. After loading the bases, they couldn't get the run home, thanks to some un-clutch hitting from Jose "Automatic Groundout For The People" Vidro and Nick Johnson.

But Robert Fick, the reddest of the redasses, sent the tens of tens fans home happy, driving in Marlon Byrd for the winning run in the bottome of the 12th. More miraculous? A Robert Fick game-winner, or Marlon Byrd being on base?

Either way, enjoy it! It could be this year's Pine Tar Game.

None of the regulars hit for anything, save for Nick Johnson. His .400/ .567/ .600 line runs away with the competition. But he only drove in three runs. And I can't really remember him doing much of anything -- other than driving that one ball over Burrell's head on Sunday. The invisible MVP, I guess.

It's an easy win for everyone's favorite moose-loving hosier, Shawn Hill. He paced the team in innings, and held opponents to a stingy 2.08 ERA. He's pitched well enough to earn a few more starts, and hopefully to stay up with the big club once Patterson's healthy. We could use a true long reliever in the pen.

Lots of candidates this week, but it goes to the aforementioned Jose Vidro. Bright side? 0 GIDP!

Only Tony Armas, Jon Rauch, and Mike Stanton earn consideration this week. I pointed out Stantons' problems, but Rauch was especially ineffective, giving up 6 runs in just over four innings. He rebounded a bit on Monday, but he still worries me a bit, especially given his looooong history of arm problems.


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