Sunday, July 23, 2006

Whoa

The magic of last season peaked in early July when the Nationals swept the Chicago Cubs, giving the Nats an improbable 50-31 record. That wasn't just a peak, though. Peak implies something majestic and gradual. The descent since then has been anything but. (And more in the manner of my favorite Price is Right game -- non-Plinko division)

Could the Grand Reopening and its sweep of the Cubs get us back to where we were in some sort of weird reality warp. Perhaps we need to burn Guzman at the stake? Maybe just click our heels three times while saying "There's no place like RFK?" I dunno what'll work, but if you figure it out, let me know!

Wait, it's gotta be the brisket, right?

  • Friday night's game was wonderfully maddening with an early lead, a middle deficit, and a late win. Watching your team come from behind is certainly the most rewarding type of victory.

    Ryan Zimmerman, as you undoubtedly know, has shown an amazing ability to drop bunts down the third base line when the 3B is playing deep. To date, he has something like 9 or 10 bunt hits, and has only been thrown out once. In the 7th inning, while down a run, he led off the inning, and the camera zoomed tight, in MASN's version of Fox' nostril cam. And there you saw it. Zimmerman, while standing in his normal batting stance, peeked. Without shifting his head, he glanced all the way to the left, seeing if Ramirez was still deep. He was, and the first pitched found its way to the no-man's land between the pitcher and the hard-charging third baseman. Another hit.

    It was a game of bloop hits. Marlon Anderson's bases-clearer was an opposite field flare that Matt Murton seemed to brutally misplay. The 8th inning rally started with Soriano and Anderson bloops into center. Alex Escobar's game-winner was the only really well-struck ball of the inning, driving in two, but at the cost of a hamstring -- Escobar looked like he took one from a sniper.

    That feels like the kind of win we had last year, but it rally fits more into this season, where we've stolen a number of games. Last year was more of the take a lead and hold on for dear life kinda season -- in part because Tony Blanco hit in critical situations instead of Daryle Ward.

  • If you're not sure whether Soriano wants to stick around, take a look at the way he hit in Saturday's game, with a number of scouts likely watching. He ripped four hits: three doubles and a triple (but also some pisspoor baserunning). Felipe Lopez had his second straight two-hit game and Austin Kearns hit his first RFK homer.

    But the story was Livan's decent outing. Six innings and three runs would've earned him a non-curly L last year, but this year, we'll take it! It's his second straight quality start (even if his Bucco and Cubbie oppenents are anything but quality.) His velocity, so they say, was up, and it greatly increases the chances (say, from 0% to 5%) that they'll be able to ship his carcass off to another team, presumably in a piano case.

    You know you want him, Omar! Pssst! He won a World Series MVP!

  • Then came Sunday.... Over the last two years, how many times has the imaginary NY Post headline generator in your head come up with some variant of "Church On Sunday?" Today, the Sacred Cow made his triumphant return to the starting lineup with a monster blast to the upper deck in right, right over where Jose Guillen's injured corpse would've been standing had, well, that sorta worked in my head. Nevermind!

    Felipe Lopez (getting his third 2-hit game in a row) started the scoring, getting a flare to drop in for center, scoring two runs. After Church's shot, Soriano chipped in another, continuing his stretch of torrid get-me-the-hell-to-a-good-team play.

    But it was Tony Armas' pitching which carried the day. Improbably he worked into the seventh inning, giving up one measly run. Armas worked quickly and efficiently, perhaps, like Livan, showcasing him for a trade to a contender.

    You'd think that more teams would be on Armas. Sure, he's an injury risk, but he's been pretty solid (4.35 ERA), and he's cheap.

    Amazingly, this is the first sweep at home in over a year. But then, I guess, given how they've played, that's not all that surprising.

  • Just one thought....

    The starting pitching looked pretty good this weekend, and most of that is because of the Cubs truly dreadful lineup.

    But with Jose Vidro out and Marlon Anderson playing... and with the rangeless Royce Clayton being replaced by a rangier (even if he's error-prone) Felipe Lopez.... and with a gold-glove-type Austin Kearns roaming in right replacing a gimpy, hobbling, non-throwing Jose Guillen.... isn't it possible that the team's defense contributed some to it?

    That'll be something to watch in the coming weeks, especially if they do find a home for Jose Vidro.

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