Scott Olsen last night came out and pitched 5 2/3 innings. At the end, looking at the stats sheet, you might think that he did better than you’d expect considering his spring. After all, 5 Hs, 5 Ks, 4 ERs and 3 BBs in that timespan isn’t terrible. Yeah, it’s not good, but it’s one run and 1/3 of an inning away from the minimum quality start. It makes you think that if he does a tick better, he could give you a few QS this season, which is really the most you could have hoped for.
But that doesn’t tell the story of his performance. The story for the night may have been the late inning comeback. The Zimmerman PH homer. Dunn’s first homer, and really at the right time. Needed insurance runs in the top of the 9th. But that is not what’s important. A win is nice, and a confidence builder is good, too. But even the best hitting teams aren’t going to score 5 in the last two frames (although it’s nice to see that two games in a row, the Nats have scored in bunches).
Yesterday, I tweeted two stories. Ugh, I can’t believe I just said that. Anyway, one was from MASN’s Ben Goessling, the former Washington Times sportswriter, and it said that “Barring an injury or a drastic change, the Nationals will likely take 17-year-old catcher Bryce Harper with the first pick in the June Draft.” Ok, we thought, sounds good! Then a minute later I saw The Washington Post put up a story on The Nats Journal saying “The Nationals may very well take the ultra-hyped, ultra-talented 17-year-old with the first overall pick of June’s First-Year Player Draft. But, contrary to a report, they have not reached a final decision.”
Ok, what gives? First they’re gonna take him, then they’re not. Or maybe not. Or, as you read it, you may interpret that after the first story, the Nats realized this hurts their bargaining position, and didn’t want to make it sound like they definitely were in the tank for Harper, so they wanted to back away from the “definite” part. But it doesn’t matter that much – they can’t trade the pick, it doesn’t hurt that much to say right now today they’re gonna draft him. Of course, Rizzo and company don’t need to show their hand if they’re not comfortable… And the circular argument begins.
Well Keith Law, America’s favorite snarky ex-scout, has a blog on ESPN following the MLB Draft. You can subscribe, if you have ESPN Insider. Back to the Harper part of the story, he made mention of the young phenom in yesterday’s blog post.
I like Nyjer Morgan. I am not a big Guzman fan, but when he’s hot, he hits well. And I think he should be playing so that maybe someone will decide to try to trade for him. Still, I can’t look at this lineup order without getting sick:
I’m sorry, but that has to be the weakest first three batters any starting pitcher has to face. I think Morgan has the potential to be a leadoff guy, a high OBP with no power to set the table. I think Taveras is similar, except for having the potential to be a leadoff guy and having a high OBP. Meanwhile, Guzman is hitting at the moment, but he is a free swinger with little power.
Yeah yeah, 6 games into the season is a little early to talk about stats, records or anything being anything more than 1 week of games. But .500 is still .500, and a series victory against the Mets is still a series victory. Besides, the last time the Nats were .500 was two years ago. It was April 5, 2008, when they were 3-3. And the last time Johan Santana got a loss against the Nats was June 9th, 2007, when he was with the Twins. Since then he had been 5-0 in 5 starts.
Like I said, it’s a little early to be looking at the stats sheets… buuuuuuut, it is nice to see the Nats are 3-3 considering the only people hitting are Willingham, Desmond, and Pudge. Anyway, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give credit where credit is due, and it’s due to Livan Hernandez. I was critical of them bringing him back, but he’s had the best start of the Nats’ young season so far, and it’s the best start by far. It was a typical Livan “good” start – 5 hits and 3 walks over 7 innings, with only 1 strikeout. But he only allowed more than 1 baserunner in 2 of his 7 innings, and he looked in control throughout. It’s good to see he can still do this, the question with him, though, is one of consistency.
Shouldn’t we have to wait a few more weeks? The win last night was a bit of a surprise – especially if you watched the 9th inning. Matt Capps does not appear to be a stabilizing force in the bullpen, at least not at this point. And the bullpen DID blow the lead. In the 6th inning Sean Burnett came in with Stammen in line for the win, but gave up a run. So tied at 5-5, the bullpen had at least 3 innings to go, with no room for error. Tyler Clippard was very good, and though Brian Bruney wasn’t exactly spectacular, he allowed no runs, which is all that matters for this game. Capps came in at the end and barely preserved the lead, although not to disparage him too much, he was going against the heart of the best lineup in the NL.
So what we had, despite the bullpen blowing it in the 6th, was the bullpen holding on to a 1 run lead. Last year it took until game 8 for the Nats to get a win, also against Philly. First time they won a game where they held a 1 run lead last year was game 12 (the win went to Zimmermann). Oh, and the first time they got a lead as late as the 7th inning and held on to win the game in 2009? That wasn’t until May. None of these dates are particularly significant, but they should make you feel at least a little better about the state of the team.
The bullpen was able to plug the dam, and keeping the water from rushing through, which was the good thing. Unfortunately, they were already up to their armpits in water at the time. Or something like that. Jason Marquis is not a front line pitcher. He will have some good days, and he will have some bad days. The bad days are more likely to come against teams that can score run. You know, teams like the Phillies, Mets, Rockies, Braves… ugh. According to Baseball Prospectus, they forecast exactly 4 NL teams to score at least 740 runs this season. Those are it, and 3 of them are in the division. It could be a long year for Marquis.
Back to the good news, the bullpen. In the 5th inning, Ryan Howard hit a prodigious home run. Jason Marquis was replaced with Tyler Walker, who pitched 2 perfect innings and struck out three. Then came the 7th, where Jesse English, fresh off his perfect debut, gave up a liner hit at him, a walk and got Howard to fly out. He was replaced with Tyler Clippard, who walked someone and allowed a run, credited to English, on a sac fly. Clippard also pitched the 8th, and other than that run, didn’t give anything up. Finally, Matt Capps allowed an unearned run thanks to another error by Ian Desmond, and generally looked bad. But for the most part, outside of Capps, the bullpen looked effective.
A day off on Tuesday meant the Nats remain unvictorious for at least 2 full days. You can contemplate the gravity of that or move on to thinking about the Caps or McNabb… Seriously, though, people, it’s baseball season!