Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two Games in Two Nights — Two Very Different Results

A Busy Baseball Schedule

Two games in a row. Tuesday was suite night. Wednesday part of the regular packages of games. A little hard to get things up on the blog in a timely manner. This composite post will have to do. I’m writing this part of it on Wednesday morning.

Tuesday’s game was great. Due in no small part to the fact that they won the game. (Also the fact it was suite night for the season ticket holder group I'm part of.) Also it was great to see Ryan Zimmerman hit a grand slam with two outs no less.

Things got off to a rocky start when in the second inning the Padres got a two run homer off of Stephen Strasburg. But the Nats responded in the bottom of the inning with a two run shot of their own by Wilson Ramos.

But that was the only problem Strasburg had for the night. He had 102 pitches, 65 for strikes. He struck out 7 and had one walk.

Final score 8-3. It was a much needed win because the Mets one on Tuesday night as well. To get a little perspective on this win for the Nats, this was their third win in a row. It was the first time they’ve been able to do that since the All Star break. And that’s the main reason they are 5 1/2 games behind the Mets.

In another move last night, showing the Nats are taking the Mets seriously, something that should have been sooner, the rotation has been adjusted:

the Nationals adjusted their rotation following Monday’s off-day so that their big three pitchers — Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg — can face the Mets on Sept. 7-9 in Washington.
If Tuesday showed what’s gone right with the Nationals’ season last night showed what’s gone wrong.

The team seemed listless until the 7th when they got things going. But the last two innings they were back to form. There were some major opportunities missed to be sure. In the third inning:
Escobar made a critical throwing error. Matt Kemp drove in two runs when he smacked a low inside fastball into the right field gap for a double. Two pitches later, Gonzalez gave up a two-run home run to Justin Upton, who has struggled on the road and against left-handers this season.
In the 6th inning with two outs, after already scoring a run, with runners on second and third, Ian Desmond struck out. He had another horrible night. He was at bat four times and struck out on three of them. Another lost opportunity.

But the strangest at-bat had to be in the bottom of the 7th. The Nats had scored three runs (one of them was walked in no less with bases loaded). There was one out. Rendon is on third. Harper is on first. A hit ties the game for sure. Knowing Harper’s speed he might be able to score from first base. I’ve seen it happen before.

Then this happened:
The first three pitches from San Diego reliever Marc Rzepczynski to Yunel Escobar in the biggest spot of Wednesday’s game weren’t close. With runners on the corners in the seventh and the Washington Nationals trailing by a run, all three sinking fastballs crossed the plate low. Conventional baseball wisdom is to take the next pitch. But Nationals Manager Matt Williams preaches aggression and often allows his team to swing away in such situations.

Escobar swung — and grounded into an inning-ending double play, extinguishing the Nationals’ best rally of the night in a 6-5 loss to the Padres.
These two games are a microcosm of what the Nats season has been like. Great play one day and then poor day the next. Great batting one day and then poor choices and strike outs at the worst possible time.

The playoffs are still possible. But in order to do that they have to win the division. Their record is too poor to get in as a wild card (unless somehow they win 90 percent of their remaining games). But more important as my friend Mark said is that the Mets have to loose a few games (while the Nats win a few games). If that doesn’t happen it won’t matter how many wins the Nats get.

I’m going to try and remain optimistic. But most of all I’m going to enjoy the rest of the season no matter what.

Anyone for a Rendon Gnome

Ryan Zimmerman's grand slam!

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