Sunday, June 25, 2006

This One's For You, Gladys

It really isn't much of a rivalry. When two fourth-place teams with no history meet, what do you expect? Rivalries are forged through time. Rivalries are formed when teams play games that mean something, when one team knocks another out, when there's meaningful competition. It's an organic process. And the Battle of the Beltway(s) ain't there yet.

After dropping the first two, the Nats 'blew' away the Orioles today, 9-5. Depressingly, the Orioles sent the House Money lineup out there, so fans got a steady dose of Howie Clark and Ed Rodgers. Still, a win's a win, and the Nats and Orioles end their first season series at 3-3.

But before we get to today, let's start with Friday.

John Patterson made his season re-debut, and looked sharp. His fastball was all the way back, even if he didn't have full command of his curve. Still, six innings with one earned run is lightyears better than the average pitching performance on the team. If the Nats are ever going to make a run at .500 (and they're 11 under now!?), his health is going to be the key.

But the problem with that game is the problem with most Nats games, an impotent offense. Somehow, Frank, in his senility, decided that Marlon Anderson should be the DH and bat cleanup. Meanwhile, Daryle Ward sat on the bench, rotting away. Pointless.

Jose Guillen, though, gets the Lame Duck. He came to the plate four times, each with a runner on base. He made an out each team, not even advancing any runners. Jose played well for a stretch when he first came off the DL, but he, like most of the rest of the team, has been lost since.

  • On a personal level, Saturday's game may have been the best of the year. A big group of us dorky blog-types met up before the game, and threw back a few adult beverages. The game, despite the outcome wasn't too bad either.

    Royce Clayton inexplicably batted third, but stumbled into a well-timed RBI groundout. Irish Mike O'Connor pitched really well, going his six innings and doing enough to put the Nats into a position to win. Jon Rauch cruised through another inning. Gary Majewski struggled, again, as he continues to be unable to get his 95-mph fastball past major league hitters.

    But the Lame Duck goes to Brian Schneider, who had two of the stupidest baserunning plays of the year. In the second inning, after Matt LeCroy had been thrown out trying to advance to second on a would-be wild pitch (lesson to Matt: If you hestitate, you're too slow to go!), Schneider walked. Then, on a two-strike pitch, he took off, and was easily thrown out, ending the inning. Wha?

    But the worst was in the 9th inning. With a tie score, he walked and was sac'd to second. Alfonso Soriano hit a scorching grounder into the hole and deep short. Watching it, Tejada immediately took a steep angle, storming for the ball. With Soriano running, even if he were able to snare it, it's an infield hit. But Schneider, for some freakin' reason, decided to take off from second. Tejada scooped the ball up in the hole, rotated and fired to third where he was easily thrown out. The Nats were robbed of a runner in scoring position, an out, and Soriano lost a hit. Just a brutal play.

  • I went back up to Baltimore for today's game, and after the offensive outpouring, I'm not sure whether to be happy or to just chalk it up to facing Daniel Cabrera. Actually, I probably don't need to give that one much thought!

    They worked Cabrera early and often, getting him to throw pitch after pitch. In the third inning, he threw 41 pitches, but, because they're the Nats, they only scored two runs.

    Daniel Cabrera threw 4 wild pitches, but many more got behind Javy Lopez. I lost count at 9.

    Nick Johnson, especially worked him hard, seeing 22 pitches in his 3 ABs against him. Marlon Byrd had a terrific at bat in the third inning, working the count full before fighting off three tough pitches, then looping a hard grounder past the bag at third. Daryle Ward had a similar AB in the 5th, before working a walk. Cabrera just wasn't near the plate, but when he was, they were able to just tick the tough pitches away, before he'd lay another 95-mph meatball over the plate (or throw it in the dirt for a walk) It was a nice approach at the plate for the Nats, even if it isn't an aesthetically appealing brand of ball. (I'll take an ugly win any day though!)

    Livan Hernandez wasn't throwing hard, but he kept the Orioles Triple-A lineup in check for most of the game. When he loaded the bases in the seventh (after the Orioles started jumping on his first-pitch fastball), it looked like Livan of old. But overall, it was a pretty effective outing. Good enough to win, at least. Bill Bray relieved and looked sharp, getting a sac fly to left, before striking out Luis Matos and Brian Roberts to end the threat.

    The Majority Whip goes to Marlon Byrd though. He's been a frustrating player to watch. His eye has been excellent all year, despite the struggles. It's just that he hasn't been able to make solid contact. He hit the double I mentioned above and a homer to left (that probably wouldn't have hit the warning track at RFK), before chipping in a key RBI single in the 9th, which put the Nats comfortably in front.

    What impressed me in the two games I saw in person was his defense. He looked much better than I had seen him before. Some of that, I suspect is the illusion of the field. Camden Yards really looks tiny compared to RFK, so it could look like he has more range than he does. Still, there were a number of liners sailing away from him into the gaps that he ran down, and there were a few balls that he did really well to charge hard, holding runners from taking the extra base. If he can just hit a little...

  • On to Toronto, Canada's capital, where we once again face off with our true Interleague rivals. Je me souviens, hosers!

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