Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Better Lucky Than Good

Matt Chico earned his first major league win with some less-than spectacular pitching that somehow got the job done. He threw 97 pitches of the game, and only 51 of them were strikes. Many of the rest weren't even particularly close. Blame it on the wind. Blame it on inexperience. Or maybe he just didn't have command of his curve.

Ordinarily when a pitcher goes 5 innings, gives up 5 walks and 4 hits, it's an ugly night. But he pitched around his many mistakes, getting Edgar Renteria to ground into two double plays after he allowed leadoff singles -- practically ending the inning before it began. One of those came in the first where -- to show you how fine a wire he danced on -- he walked three batters and allowed a single without giving up a run. It was that kind of night. Nine times out of ten, he's in the showers in the third inning.

When talking about Jason Bergmann's miraculous start last week, I brought up the old Jim Kaat line about how a pitcher will only have his good stuff a handful of times a year. Conversely, a pitcher will go out there with nothing about the same, and the pitcher's ability to battle in those starts is a big factor in how well they do overall. Last night, perhaps because of the wind and the cold, Chico had nothing. Yet he won.

He really calmed down over his last few innings, keeping the ball on the ground, and letting his defense do some of the work for him. I was impressed that Manny Acta left him in there to start the sixth inning. Unfortunately, he walked the first two batters -- his only walks outside that first inning -- and got the hook. Manny wanted to see how far he could go. And with a three-run lead, there was some flexibility there. Chico was tired, but the pen was ready.

And Saul Rivera was sharp. Despite not having pitched in a week, he came in and threw strikes to the corners. He allowed one of those inherited runners to score, but that's a tiny blip on what was otherwise a dominant two perfect innings.

  • It's nice to finally see the offense come around a bit. Dmitri Young looked mighty fleet in the #42, and cranked two doubles -- one of those, an amazing golf shot of a breaking pitch (splitter? curve) that was about to hit dirt. During the offseason, Ryan Church Dmitri received a lot of criticism from fans and media outlets, and he's proving those guys wrong, hitting .302/ .434/ .581, which is even better than Jim Bowden's wettest dreams.

    Ryan Zimmerman's corpse sprang to life, getting two hits. Amazingly, that's his first multiple-hit game of the year. He already had three by this point last year.

    Brian Schneider continued his torrid streak of productive non-hit plate appearances, when he walked with the bases loaded. All five of his RBI have come sans hit. When he came up, I was reminded of a game early in '05 where Cristian Guzman came up with the bases loaded. Everyone in the crowd knew that the team's only chance for scoring was if he didn't swing. We either needed a walk, or a strikeout to pass it on to the next batter, because something in play was going to be a GIDP. Poor Brian.

    Felipe Lopez smacked out three hits, though he was caught stealing again. As a team, the Nats have attempted just three steals, and have been thrown out twice. All three attempts have been by Lopez, and both caught stealings have been by Brian McCann. I'm not sure if there's a lesson in there.

  • A two-game winning streak and Boz goes loopy. It's worth reading, if only for the vaseline story.