Monday, August 5, 2013

Last chance for division?

USA Today Sports Images
Bryce Harper noted a few days ago that the Nationals still have nine games left this season against the Braves and therefore "this [thing] ain't over."

Well, the first three of those nine games are scheduled for the next three nights. And unless the Nationals can do something really significant against Atlanta, this "thing" might just actually be over by week's end.

A frustrating, 8-5 loss in Milwaukee yesterday afternoon — combined with the Braves extending their winning streak to 10 games last night with a 4-1 triumph in Philadelphia — leaves the Nationals staring up at their biggest deficit of the year. They trail Atlanta by a daunting 12 1/2 games in the NL East, with only 51 remaining on the schedule.

In other words, even if they did the unthinkable and went 9-0 against the Braves from here on out, they'd still sit 3 1/2 games back in the division.

But there's no sense thinking that far ahead right now. That's the last thing the Nationals should do. Their focus need be only on the immediate task: Trying to win tonight's series opener on South Capitol Street, then trying to win Tuesday night and again Wednesday night.

That's easier said than done, in part because the Braves are suddenly playing their best baseball of the season.

For more than three months, Fredi Gonzalez's squad was wholly average, going 45-44 from April 17-July 25. The Braves practically begged the Nationals to catch them during that prolonged stretch of mediocrity. The problem: The Nats went 41-47 during that same time frame, losing 3 1/2 games in the standings.

They've been better since, winning five of their last eight. But Atlanta has been unbeatable, winning 10 straight to open up its biggest lead of the season.

So, not exactly the best time to catch them.

Davey Johnson does have his rotation lined up perfectly, with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann set to start the next three nights against Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen. Then again, none of the three is in peak form at the moment. Strasburg is 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA over his last five starts, Gonzalez surrendered a record-tying 10 earned runs his last time out and Zimmermann was 1-3 with a 7.18 ERA in July before tossing six scoreless innings Friday against the Brewers.

The Nationals will need all three aces to turn in high-level pitching performances, and they'll also need their lineup to produce at the kind of level we've seen at times in the last month but not consistently enough.

They'll need lock-down work out of their bullpen, not what they got during yesterday's loss in Milwaukee, in which Fernando Abad allowed two inherited runners and then two more self-made runners cross the plate and Craig Stammen allowed two more runs (one earned) after that.

And they'll need mistake-free play from their defense and a clutch hit or two from their bench, two problem-areas all season.

In other words, the Nationals need to play their very best baseball the next three nights if they have any hope of gaining ground in the NL East.

If not? Well, Harper may be eating his words come Wednesday night, because this "thing" will be over.


NatsLady said...

The weather will be perfect. The Cat will be back. Stras--no excuses. No hits. Just enough strikeouts. Low pitch count. Be the leader, be the Ace.

Jayson, luv ya. Squeeze a little more out of that bruised body.
Bryce, give us a thrill.
RZimm, steady as she goes.
Denard, luv ya. Catch the balls, take a walk, get a hit.
Adam, luv ya. Catch the balls. Lookin' better the last coupla days.
Anthony, catch ball, throw ball, get a hit.
Buffalo, steady behind the plate, hit some nice ones.
Desi, luv ya, just play yer game.

This is Game 1.

Mike, if we win a few, look around the waiver wire and get us an ARM. An experienced arm...

Ross, get well soon.
Ross, wait'll next year, there will be a next year.

NatsLady said...

Oh, and Jayson--have someone fax a photo of your bruise to that ump!

jeeves said...

Obviously, the offense has been poor and the main reason for the Nat's showing thus far. But the bullpen,
in my opinion, has been almost as bad. Stammen never, or so it seems, has an outing where he doesn't give up a run or two. After his great start Abad has been pedestrian. There was Rodriquez and the lefty long man (mind went blank on his name). Then Mattheus. That leaves Clip, Krol, and Soriano, the latter being adequate but far from overwhelming.

jeeves said...

And, of course, Storen.

NatsLady said...

In retrospect, Davey and the team (and the fans, including me), managed this wrong from the start. Play .500 ball and wait for the hot streak. Well, that was Atlanta's season. Two great hot streaks and .500 ball in between.

Our season needed to be--don't get swept by the good teams and beat the bad teams. Don't get swept by ATL and the Dodgers. Take 3/4 from Filly, Milwaukee (here), etc. If you have a pitcher on the ropes, ADD ON RUNS. Take it game by game, series by series. That's the team Rizzo built, but that's not the team Davey managed.

NatsLady said...

Storen started the game for Syracuse, to make sure he got his work in.

Rochester Bottom of the 1st
Eduardo Escobar singles on a line drive to right fielder Jeff Kobernus.
Chris Parmelee singles on a line drive to right fielder Jeff Kobernus. Eduardo Escobar to 3rd.
Deibinson Romero called out on strikes.
Jeff Clement singles on a fly ball to left fielder Tyler Moore. Eduardo Escobar scores. Chris Parmelee to 2nd.
Aaron Hicks called out on strikes.
Brian Dinkelman strikes out swinging.

Rochester Bottom of the 2nd
Ray Olmedo grounds out to first baseman Chris Marrero.
James Beresford doubles (2) on a fly ball to right fielder Jeff Kobernus.
Eric Fryer flies out to right fielder Jeff Kobernus.
Pitching Change: Ryan Tatusko replaces Drew Storen.
Eduardo Escobar triples (1) on a fly ball to left fielder Tyler Moore. James Beresford scores.
Chris Parmelee strikes out swinging.

(Syracuse ended up winning). I understand "mechanics," I understand "mental," but I still wonder if Storen has a sore shoulder or arm.

NatsLady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NatsLady said...

Also, without looking at the video (which is available on you I don't know how Tyler Moore played the "single" and the "triple" in left field. And Kobernus in RF? OK, then.

baseballswami said...

Not thrilled with the way the organization handles the pipeline of players. They are valuable resources-- they need to have clear, consistent developmental paths to the majors or be trade chips. Running back and forth , changing positions, languishing in AAA, it all just erodes their value as our future team or in trades. They handle pitchers ok, but maybe not position players . And when Rizzo says they are just going to Syracuse to fix something but should be back quickly? Unpack.

alexva said...

this series is like any other; play solid, win 2 of 3, move on to the next one.

boring? yes. reality? yes.

Cameron said...

This season is FAR from over. Nats are only 6.5 back of the wildcard. There's stll time for that 10 game winning streak we have been waiting for all year!

Kiterp said...

well said Cameron ... Cin, StL and Ariz playing sub .500 ball

NatsLady said...

Cameron, agree. Except I'm not sure it's going to be a 10 game streak. It could be series by series grinding it out.

Let StL and Pittsburgh battle it out in the NL Central, for their Division and one WC. We get the other one. Depending on who is available, Stras or Gio pitches the game of his life to win the coin-toss game and we are right where everyone expected us to be.

As for our Division, that's less likely. We really WOULD need the 10-game winning streak and ATL would suddenly have to fold. Losing Hudson hasn't stopped them. Losing Reed Johnson (who, though not great, was a key bit player) hasn't stopped them. Lots of strikeouts hasn't stopped them because they still get hits and walks. They got a lefty for their bullpen and Kimbrel is as good as ever. OK, that's on "paper." Maybe we will sweep them and slow their momentum. Let's do it!

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

Bryce wasn't talking about the division title sh*t. He was talking about the playoff sh*t. But either way, they got to beat the Braves.

NatsJack in Florida said...

And don't leave out Freddie Freeman, the hottest bat in their lineup m

SonnyG10 said...

My first goal for the team right now is to get above .500, and then go from there.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Yes, Sonny. I have been waiting to get to 3 games over for the entire season or at least it seems like it.

natsfan1a said...

I'm curious as to what the fans would be managing in this context, other than our emotions, or would that be armchair/fantasy managing, which has absolutely no impact on results? ;-)

Anyhoo, have been away and saw only Nats game results over the long weekend. Also saw bits and pieces of a couple of Pirates games, as I was kinda sorta in their territory (Southeast Ohio). Ready for some Nats baseball tonight (via telly).

NatsLady said...

In retrospect, Davey and the team (and the fans, including me), managed this wrong from the start.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I've taken to keeping up with all things Pirates. They are fun to watch.

I also go over to the Phillies web site and read their comments, just to keep everything in perspective.

sjm308 said...

natsfan1a - just speaking for myself, I bought into the hype and praise after what we accomplished last year. When you have Sports Illustrated and everybody on mlb network singing your praises before the first pitch is thrown it was easy for me to think 100+ wins. So I did not manage my expectations for what has happened well. I am not speaking for the person that wrote that but that is how I would answer you. I have since brought things down to earth and am eager to follow my club as it scratches and claws its way to .500 and hopefully above. I like how Wonk set things up weeks ago. Win 2 of 3 with our big boys and split the other 2. With Haren apparently getting stronger this might just happen. Winning each series would be lovely but 3 of 5 the rest of the way might just do it. We are not going to win 98 games, we are probably not going to repeat as NL East champs but we still have 50 games or so to play.

Go Nats!!

Doc said...

The Braves could have been had this year.

But inconsistent relief(except for 2 guys), lousy defense, bad bench, and ridiculously poor hitting with RISP from a bunch of players that should known better have left the Nats where they are--SOL.

When's football start??

Tcostant said...

A sweep is really needed for any chance. Sunday was a another heartbreaking loss, up 4-1 and you give that up - discouraging.

ExposedinDC said...

Definitely agree with Natslady, grinding is the way to go if its going to happen (with a lot of help from the Reds and Dback opponents) I hope I am wrong but as constructed this team is not capable of winning 10 in a row.... Way to many questions in the pen and on the bench.

natsfan1a said...

sjm, good point on managing expectations. I was reading that as relating to game management. Fans can also manage their checkbooks, I suppose. :-)

NJ, before they came to DC and beat us, I figured I could root for the Pirates if they got to the postseason (and we didn't, of course). I had second thoughts after that series, but for some reason I found it easy to root for them against STL. It was nice to see that beautiful ballpark drawing more fans on those PIT broadcasts that I did watch while in the area. I saw more people wearing PIT gear than on past trips as well. Funny how that works.

natsfan1a said...

There was a funny anecdote on one of the PIT broadcasts. Clint Hurdle went to a local cafe one morning to get a cup of coffee. All the folks in the cafe gave him a standing O. Evidently he was somewhat taken aback, not having had his morning caffeine infusion and not having had that reaction in the past. "What the ??" :-)

Joe Seamhead said...

WooooooooHooooooo! We have baseball in DC! And I don't care if my rosé colored glasses have others seeing red.

NatsLady said...

Looked at the video of Drew Storen in Syracuse. Put my thoughts in the blog post but, summary.

(1) He is using the high leg kick in the windup.
(2) He is still slow as molasses in the stretch.
(3) His defense didn't help but there were solid hits against him and he went to a lot of 3-2 counts.
(4) His breaking ball looks excellent, real movement, real deception. His FB, not so much.
(5) For some reason, he is wearing No. 1

NatsLady said...

85% chance to win at the end of the 5th. You are supposed to win those games. Five runs. Need to win those games. Period.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Defense last night -- Zimmerman's in particular -- stunk. Even tho no error was charged there should be a stat for Unearned Runs(D) -- meaning "dumb."

Agree Abad is "pedestrian." Good word; implies something less than "mediocre." There was no reason to expect he would finish the season the way he starter. Not arbitration eligible so there's no graceful way of getting rid of him; he'll be back. There may be room for a pedestrian LOOGY on next year's roster but only as a LOOGY. No way they sign another LH RP unless one drops in their laps as part of a trade. In no way can Abad be allowed to rise from the ooze and become a middle reliever let alone set-up guy.

The key is to strengthen the middle relief segment of the BP so that Abad -- if he sticks -- never (or rarely if ever) sees a RH batter. Storen ought to come back (can't be traded in his current state). Stammen (disappointing the last couple of months) can be pushed back to the Ohlendorf role. I think Krol is a keeper (though he's getting exposed more than I like). So I'd consider promoting Karns (Garcia if health?) to fill the spot currently occupied by Mattheus, who hasn't shown squat this year. Karns could still develop into a starter in a year or two.

Abad, Mattheus, Storen need to make the team in Spring Training; none of them is guaranteed a job.

Anonymous said...

ExposedinDC - not to mention in the rotation, especially with the bad news on Ohlendorf and Detwiler.

ExposedinDC said...

Great point Karl....although I am very encouraged by Harens recent performances ( never thought I would have typed that this season )

NatsLady said...

They are saying the Biogenesis announcement will come down about 3 pm, and there will be more names on it than previously rumored, like about 14 names. I'm still wondering if Gio is completely in the clear. Whoever is leaking info isn't leaking exact names.

NatsLady said...

Jon Heyman ‏@JonHeymanCBS 1m
Nelson Cruz has fired the levinsons (ACES) as cruz & 12 others (a majority aces clients) r expected to accept 50-game bans

natsfan1a said...

I guess we'll know by the end of the day. I can wait that long.

alexva said...

"whoever is leaking info isn't leaking exact names"

can we get the first letters or what it rhymes with?

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

I'm guessing one will rhyme with "relax on-weekends"

JD said...


I am not a huge Abad fan but let's be reasonable here. The Brewers hit nothing hard (except the double which was foul). On the ball Zim came in on there was no way he was getting any one out in any event. The ball bounced way up in the air and by the time it came down everyone would have been safe regardless.

JD said...


I know we are all frustrated but you know the Brewers got 5 runs and the only clean hit was the Segura double. It happens sometimes, that's why I am a big proponent of the strike out, it prevents all this nonsense.

Alphabet Soup Erik said...

Dear Mike Rizzo,

Frank Wren. Frank Wren. Frank Wren. The Braves have won 10 in a row, have a 12.5 game lead and their stars haven't even played well yet. If you want to look at the potential for a dynasty, it sure isn't here in Washington. Have to respect the wonderful job that front office has done down there in Atlanta. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot of tomahawk chops in Turner Field North over the next few days.

NatsLady said...

JD--in my scorebook the Brewers got 8 runs. If they got 5 runs we would still be playing. :)

NatsLady said...

JD, I wasn't referring to the Brewers five running inning. I was referring to OUR five runs. Supposed to win those games.

JD said...


I meant 5 runs in the 6th inning.

You are supposed to win but sometimes the ball bounces the wrong way. I have criticized Davie enough here. I don't think he did anything wrong, I don't think Abad was terrible and I don't think the offense was awful. I think we just got beat on some bad bounces.

A DC Wonk said...

Mondays tidbits:

- Tigers are 7-1 when Miguel Cabrera does not play

- Cards, as a team, hit .457 (16-35) with RISP in their 3-game series (and scored 31 runs, but only won 2-of-3)

- Indians -- winners of 9 of their last 10, and gained a 1/2 game in the standings; Royals winners of 10 of last 11, and gained a 1/2 game.

- Justin Smoak had a 16-pitch at bat (3 balls, 12 fouls, one hit).

- Padres Yonder Alonso went 0-for-4 and saw a total of five pitches

- White Sox: one win in the past 14 games (win was a Jake Peavy start), and now they have a worse record than the Marlins

Unknown said...

Nothing less than a very convincing sweep is mandatory.

baseballswami said...

I find it to be a bit humorous that we are talking about October baseball when we are having difficulty staying over five hundred.And when we have had only three fifths of the pitching we thought we had. Four fifths now. To me,our goals right now should be to play better, sharper, more consistent baseball, get back to over five hundred and play quality baseball for the rest of the season. That -- and make sure weaknesses are fixed before next season. Bullpen is a little shaky, bench is anemic. Lots of fans who think a first place season is somehow their birthright. Hate to tell you - it rarely happens. This has been a very interesting and unpredictable season. Lots of enjoyable baseball left to be played, especially if you take it one game at a time and find exciting and fun things in each game.

JD said...

'Nothing less than a very convincing sweep is mandatory.'

I'll go the NatsJack route and state the objective as being: win tonight's game.

Section 222 said...

Last chance? Nah. The last chance was when we had won 9 of 13 and had whittled the Braves lead down to 4 games on July 7. We then had a seven game road trip against the mediocre Phils and the weak Marlins to gain some more ground and set ourselves up for a post ASG run. Instead, we lost 5 of 7.

After the break, we faced two of the hottest teams in baseball -- the Dodgers and the Pirates and lost 6 of 7, and were 8 games back.

Sorry to burst bubbles, but .600 baseball from here on in (2 of 3, plus 1 of 2), even if we were capable of it, won't be enough to make the playoffs. It gets us to just 84 wins. Blech.

It was always folly to rely on the Braves to fold, or even play .500 baseball. They are a good team. The Nats needed to take care of business. They didn't.

Theophilus T. S. said...

JD -- re: Abad, look at his last ten games. Seventeen baserunners in barely nine innings. This is what he is: more the next coming of Slaten than the next coming of Burnett (or Gonzalez, for that matter). Maybe more than an Astros cast-off but not bringing very much value.

RaleighNat said...

All wild card...the division ship has sailed.

Nats Fan 204 said...

Is there a manager out there who could come to DC and help make the Nats a more fundamentally sound team defensively? Is this not one area that could be tweaked during the off season and spring training?

Secret wasian man said...

no way folks. Sorry its long over. giving away games like yesterday is where this team is at. I think asking for 82 wins is pushing it.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

I'm not giving up on the wild card. Cincinnati is in total Heimlich mode. The Reds can be caught.

We played good baseball in Milwaukee. Some seeing eye hits did us in in that five-run sixth inning. Otherwise, we'd be talking about a road sweep.

Keep winning series, and hope Dusty's boys continue their fold. It's do-able.

Steve J, Alexandria said...

yeah, the focus has to be on the wild card now -- which is definitely do-able. The division? History is saying and emphatic "No Way!" never been done before. and this team with all its troubles just isn't going to play .750 baseball beginning tonight. Nope, my focus is on the Wild card race!! Lets get this done.

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