Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Adam Dunn scores -- and avoids a collision with Carlos Ruiz -- in the fifth inning.
Stephen Strasburg goes on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.
Matt Capps gets traded to the Twins.
Cristian Guzman gets traded to the Rangers.
Adam Dunn trade rumors reach a fever pitch.
Oh yeah, and the Nationals take three of four from the top two teams in their division, capped by tonight's 8-1 thumping of Roy Oswalt and the Phillies.
Maybe these guys just need to have chaos surrounding them in order to play well.
Or maybe they're just really good at blocking out the peripheral stuff that consumes everyone else this time of year.
"I think our guys are able to put that stuff away and play the game," Jim Riggleman said. "I'm sure they think about that stuff on the drive home or when they get home. You can't help but think about it. You read the papers, and you know a lot of the speculation that's on the networks. It's on guys' minds, but they're pros and they've been through this before. They know how to handle it, and they've handled it very well."
They certainly handled it well today, a day that began with the realization Capps had been traded, then a barrage of rumors involving Dunn, then the departure of Guzman (the only original 2005 National to play uninterrupted for the franchise over the last 5 1/2 years) right before batting practice. After all that, all they had to do was take on the Phillies and their newest acquisition, Oswalt, who strolled to the bullpen pregame to rousing cheers from the legion of visiting fans who made the trip down I-95.
Talk about a daunting challenge. But give the Nationals credit for putting together one of their best all-around performances of the season. Craig Stammen allowed one run over 6 1/3 splendid innings. Nyjer Morgan greeted Oswalt with a triple on his first pitch of the night. Adam Kennedy had four hits and drove in a run in his only other at-bat. Josh Willingham roped a bases-loaded double. Tyler Clippard retired five of six batters faced. Shoot, Collin Balester pitched the ninth inning to close things out.
And at the end of the night, the prevailing sentiment inside the home clubhouse was one of optimism.
"It means we definitely still have the right pieces here," Morgan said.
Yes, these Nationals still believe they've got the core group in place to win in the not-too-distant future. Sorry as they were to see the well-liked Capps and Guzman go, the remaining players still see talent around the clubhouse and the potential to add more key pieces in the coming months.
That vibe, of course, would change dramatically if Dunn is dealt before tomorrow's 4 p.m. deadline. That would suck the life out of the room, especially in the back corner that houses the lockers of Dunn, Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman. Those three guys desperately want to stay together. They desperately want to be the trio of offensive stars that finally carries this franchise into contention.
Well, here's some good news for them (and for Nationals fans who don't want to see a deadline deal): Mike Rizzo doesn't sound like a GM who's about to trade away Adam Dunn.
Asked this afternoon about the market for the big slugger right now, Rizzo responded like this: "The closer to the deadline it gets, the more pressure is on teams to come with something that makes sense for me to trade one of the best offensive players in baseball."
Rizzo set the bar high from the very beginning on Dunn. The only way he would trade him would be if another GM blew his socks off.
Any chance your asking price could come down in the final hours before the deadline, Mike?
"No, the price will not come down."
So unless White Sox GM Kenny Williams suddenly decides to offer up Edwin Jackson AND Gordon Beckham in a move of sheer desperation, it sure sounds like Dunn will remain a National through the rest of the season.
At that point, it'll be up to the front office and Dunn's agent to get a contract extension done. How do three years and $45 million sound? Still not enough? How about they throw a fourth-year option in there for good measure? That has to do it, right?
And the deal doesn't have to be struck right now. Dunn made it clear today he's willing to wait until the offseason to finalize a contract.
"I would think if nothing's happened by now as far as contract stuff, they'll continue working on it," he said. "It might happen the first day of October. It might happen in the offseason. I don't know. Again, I wanted to get it done as early as possible and that hasn't worked out. It's not going to change anything."
Tomorrow promises to be another day of rumors and hand-wringing, right up until 4 p.m. Perhaps Rizzo will find a willing partner and trade Dunn (or Willingham or Willie Harris or Adam Kennedy, for that matter). Perhaps he won't, and this chapter of the soap opera will come to an end.
Either way, whoever's still wearing a Nationals uniform at 7:05 p.m. will take the field and take on the Phillies, hoping to keep this recent hot streak of baseball alive. It's what they do. And for the last four days, they've been pretty good at doing it.