June 28, 2010 4:24 pm
By Miss Chatter
Oooh hey, look at that! They stuck my picture at the top of the page. Hmm... can I get a retake now that I've got the old "MissChatter" 'do' back? vanity
Too bad baseball games aren't only four innings instead of nine. If they were, this past series would have seen a reverse sweep over the Orioles. Just what the heck is going on with this team? They started out the season on fire, yet have played more historically Nats-esque over the last couple months. So much so, I had a hard time coming up with anything to write today that wasn't a string of bleeps. But I like to stay positive and upbeat, so I'll muddle along with my keyboard here and try to maintain some perspective.
Remember when I said a few weeks ago it seemed like the Nats lost the games they should win and win the games that look like sure losses on paper? Maybe the Orioles series was just proving that theory. If so, then this series against the NL East leading Braves should go in a new direction, right? One can hope, anyway. Of course, it starts tonight with the 'stopper', young Stephen Strasburg on the mound, and again a national audience as ESPN2 broadcasts the game.
It's really a shame that the momentum of the season has swung so far in the opposite direction at the exact same time the Nats are getting sensationalized national media coverage due to Strasburg. Maybe the hype and pressure is getting to the team as a whole? During a period when they should be showcasing their talent to a nation that has to-date really only noticed them in order to ridicule, they are not giving many reasons to end the jokes. At least there have been no spelling embarrassments, but it sure would be nice to show a national audience a polished, competent, winning team that turns heads and gives fans more reasons to pay attention than who's starting on the mound that day.
Consider this stat thrown on the screen during yesterday's postgame show: In games against Orioles this season, the Nats are 2-4. The Orioles have scored more combined runs in those six games yet also possess a slightly higher ERA than the Nats staff. How is this possible? Errors causing runs scored by the Orioles to be unearned, thus keeping the Nats pitchers' ERAs lower. Enough errors like throwing the ball into the dugout, failing to complete a throw, or missing a grounder had enough impact to skew the ERA over six games. Interesting.
There were still some bright moments during the final interleague series. While the fan backlash against leadoff batter Nyjer Morgan reached a deafening crescendo, he put on a spectacular performance Friday night in the first crushing loss of the sweep. Despite a fan trying to reach into his glove, Morgan snared a sure homerun ball after scaling the centerfield wall. He also quieted his critics with his performance at the plate, if only for one night, getting four hits in five at-bats with a double and scoring three times. He also managed to steal a base and not get picked off or caught stealing. See, it can be done! Even Willie Harris ended his 0-20 drought. In the end, the game was lost by giving the 6-0 lead back and ultimately losing on an error by Guzman in the bottom of the 9th that allowed the winning run to cross the plate. Ouch. And that was only the beginning of the series.
So what has been going wrong that worked earlier in the season? Is it sticking with the same lineup despite some ongoing weaknesses? If that's the case, maybe we'll see a change in fortune tonight as Jim Riggleman shakes up the lineup a bit, batting Pudge 2nd (Morgan is still leading off). Although, lineup changes were tried earlier as well, although not for any length of time as to draw conclusions. Is it the pitching? Batting? Defense? All played a role in the sweep by the Orioles. Through the fourth inning of each game, the Nats had the lead, however. The second half is where things fell apart each time. Luck? Karma? Auras turned dark?
Baseball is a funny sport. Rather than any single moment, game or series being the absolute indicator of a season, things tend to ebb and flow. Yet fans and even media can get caught up in surfing the current wave and losing sight of the big picture, at least to my observations. I suppose that's just how it works in baseball. Each game or series has a moment. Go back and read the awesome articles from late April and May with today's perspective. Now flip that around and read current articles with that rosy glow feeling of earlier in the season. Kind of funny, right? Now go enjoy the fifth day of Strasmas and let's just see how things go. I'm not going to panic yet. I never expected the Nats to make the playoffs this year anyway.