So the Nationals lost 2 out of 3 to their “rival” in the “Battle of the Beltway.” It’s hard to see how the O’s are rivals right now, and really Baltimore is far away enough from 495 that it should be the “Battle of the BW Parkway” or the “Mixin’ just south of the Mason Dixon.” Any other suggested names for this 3 game set are welcome (just click “comments” at the bottom and give us some good ones), because the Battle of the Beltway just seems inaccurate. But that is besides the point. The nice thing about the weekend was they won the last game. If you are gonna get beat in a series it feels much better to steal one in the end than to win at the beginning and not finishing with a series victory. But either way, don’t let this little weekend series get to you. The Nationals have actually been playing quite well over the last week. They finished up their homestand at 7-3, something that seemed somewhat unlikely. 7-3 at home is what a mediocre team needs to do to get over the hump. Even though the Nationals haven’t yet reached mediocre, this is the kind of thing that they could build upon. The way they won was equally impressive, pitching well (excluding a game or two), and were able to score runs.
What may be most interesting about these wins is that neither Church, Zimmerman, Lopez or Kearns hit that well. But they did have timely hits to help the team win. The nice splits came from Christian Guzman who hit .324/.390/.432 over this span. Give credit where credit is due, Guzman had a great time back at RFK. What may be truly remarkable is that OBP. 4 BBs in a 10 game stretch is nice, especially for a guy who has had more than 30 of them only once in his career. If he keeps this up, he’ll be the comeback player of the year. Keep your fingers crossed, because up until now the Nationals management are the only ones who thought this could happen. We remain unconvinced that this is longterm.
Hitting their strides?
Zimmerman and Lopez have struggled at the plate all year, and this week wasn’t much better. Zimmerman hasn’t hit great all season, but on the home stand he bat .211, with an OBP of .238. However, his slugging has been .526 over this time, putting his ISO (isolated power) over the span at .315 compared to .139 for the rest of the season. It’s nice to see his power has returned and hopefully his numbers will come around as the season progresses. Lopez hit .184/.225/.289 over the 10 game homestand, with 8 strikeouts and 2 walks. Not at all impressive, and except for one game, downright awful. He has been on a decline since when he was hitting .302/.365/.332, where he only needed one or two HRs to have really impressive lines. Instead his power has gone up (ISO has climbed from .30 at that time to about .100 right now) but everything else has gone down.
The two of them combined are getting 2/3 of the Nationals first 3 ABs every game. They are going to be #1 and #2 in terms of PAs for the team when all is said and done. The season is no longer new. It’s almost June, they need to step it up in order to help this team win. What’s nice for Zimmerman is when he isn’t hitting he still is a gold glove caliber fielder and can take solace playing in the field. Lopez on the other hand, has never been a top notch fielder and is asked to flip flop positions. Talent alone makes Zimmerman the one more likely to return to form, the fielding situation only takes away more from Lopez’s chances. Felipe will get there eventually, but be prepared to wait a while.
And of course, the bad news
Over the last few weeks, the Nationals have started to look like the Yankees. No, they haven’t paid $20+ million for an old Red Sox from the 1980s (besides, its the Nats, they would have probably gone for Mike Greenwell) and no, they aren’t a suddenly winning championships. The 2007 version of the Yankees send starting pitchers out as cannon fodder, not wondering if they’re gonna get hurt but when. 20 year old or 38 years old, Yankees pitchers are pulling hamstrings or getting nailed by line drives. The Nats, trying to emulate the winningest team in pro sports have succeeded in losing 4 starting pitchers. Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, John Patterson, and Jerome Williams are all on the DL. Much like the Yankees, most of these injuries are only serious in the fact that they have forced the Nationals to start some guys they didn’t envision as starters. Micah Bowie starts on Monday, while Simontacchi and Chico get starts and then? Then they don’t know. If Bowie struggles greatly on Monday, Thursday and Friday’s starters will be question marks, otherwise for now, it’s just Thursday’s. Hopefully Simontacchi and Chico can do well enough.