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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Night and Day

I was unmoved to blog about Wednesday night's Nats/Phillies game just by itself. The play was sloppy, another "Bad News Nats" evening, and I just wasn't inspired to deconstruct the 9-3 loss right away.

Until today's Nats 4-2 win over the Phillies in the rubber game. Now, that Wednesday game provides such stark contrast, it's just irresistible not to compare the two and break them both down.

The problem with the 2007 Nationals is, they are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You never know just which incarnation is going to take the field on any given game day. Wednesday night, it was the brutal Mr. Hyde. Thursday afternoon, it was the sane and intelligent Dr. Jekyll.

First, let's contrast the Nats pitchers: John Patterson, once again, struggled mightily, throwing 101 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 6 earned runs, striking out three and walking three in the Wednesday loss. On Thursday, Shawn Hill threw 99 economical pitches in 8 innings, giving up only four hits and two earned runs, striking out three and walking two.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is the best we will see from John Patterson. In all seriousness, given his injury history, has his pitching potential already peaked? Keep in mind, I LIKE John Patterson and wish him only the very best, he's a quality guy and I have no doubt that he gives his all out there, but I fear that the John Patterson that we've been waiting upon to "break out" is never going to. This is the best he's got left. If he can improve his technique and mold himself into a Livan Hernandez/Jamie Moyer-type pitcher, perhaps he can pitch for years this way. I'm dying to be proved wrong, though.

Shawn Hill continues to excite on the mound, and we're watching the emergence of a great Nationals pitcher. If he can continue to pitch the way he did today, touching the magic 100-pitch barrier in the 8th inning and spelling the bullpen, then he's truly earned the designation of "Staff Ace", if for no other reason then by default. I felt sorry for Shawn, though, when Manny pulled him in the 9th after allowing a walk. Everyone knows that Manny wanted Shawn to walk away on a positive, and let Chad "The Chief" Cordero put the game to bed, but Shawn Hill looked like he'd just lost his best friend. I think that he REALLY wanted that complete game, and I don't blame him, he'd earned it, but he has nothing to be upset or sorry about, he was superb today.

Speaking of Chad, I swear, he's truly become the "Chief of Cardiology" because he's giving me heart palpitations with almost every pitch. He allowed one run, but two of his pitches almost went yard, one saved because Ryan Church snagged it right at the 400 foot mark (I forget who hit it, Victorino maybe.) At least Chad got himself a save in the process.

In terms of scoring for the Nats, these two games were awfully close. In Wendesday's loss, the Nats had 3 runs on 7 hits and one error. In Thursday's win, they had 4 runs on 8 hits and no errors. What's the major difference? DEFENSE! There were some beautiful catches made today, and the execution was more crisp, if not flawless. I think that mentally, the Nats play better when they establish the lead first. I have to think that it takes some of the pressure off and they can relax and play.

I gotta love Brian Schneider. Has any other player in baseball this season had so many RBI's without hits? His patience at the plate is inspiring, he doesn't just hack at everything.

Austin Kearns continues to hit well, going 2 for 3 with a double. Good things seem to happen when he comes to the plate, and he made a nice "Sports Center" catch, too.

Today's game lasted 2 hours, 24 minutes. That's like a blur in baseball terms, whew!

Ryan Report: Wednesday, Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with a double, Church went 0 for 3 with a walk. Thursday, Zimmerman went 2 for 4, and Church went 1 for 4, but what a 1! He had a bases-loaded double which drove in two badly-needed runs.

This was a great game for the Nats to end their road trip on, a positive note to return home to face the Mets on.

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