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Friday, June 15, 2007

Nats close door on O's, 3-1, sweep series 3-0, win "Battle of Beltway" 4 games to 2 OR Series sweep baffles Baltimore

Last night, the Washington Nationals won their 3rd straight game over the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, winning 3-1 and taking the Interleague series 3-0 and the season series 4-2.

Nats starter Jason Simontacchi was effective, if not overpowering, benefiting from strong defense and less-than-stellar play from the Orioles. Simontacchi pitched 7 innings, throwing 94 pitches for 62 strikes (66%), allowing 9 hits, but only the 1 run, walking 4 and striking out 2. Much more impressively, Simontacchi picked-off Melvin Morra at second base, his 4th such pickoff this season. Simontacchi and shortstop Cristian Guzman have perfected this timing play, which Simontacchi executes with grace and precision. I believe that I heard announcer Charlie Slowes mention on the radio that some pitchers never manage to do that even once per season, and here Simontacchi has already done it 4 times. It's fun to watch. He got his 4th win, evening his record. Perhaps most importantly, Simontacchi allowed the bullpen to get some rest before heading into Toronto for the weekend. Lefty Billy Traber pitched to 1 batter in the 8th, and Jon Rauch pitched the rest of that inning, and Chad "The Chief" Cordero notched his 101st save as he closed out the 9th

Felipe Lopez seems to be benefiting from hitting in the #2 slot. He got a ground-rule double in the 5th inning with 2 outs to drive in the Nats first run of the evening, breaking the stalemate at 1-0.

Ryan Report: Church has the night off, nursing a minor injury, Zimmerman went 2 for 4 with an RBI, Langerhans went 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI and a walk, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 4.

So now the Nats are 29-37, and there are 6 teams in baseball with worse records as of today than they have, 3 in the National League, 3 in the American League, and there are two other teams with 29 wins. The Nats have been surging lately. Since May 11th, they are 20-12, a .625 winning rate, one of the best records in the National League over that period. They are now only 8 games out of first place, 8 games below .500 and only 2.5 games behind the Florida Marlins. I'm not getting carried away, they aren't going to make a pennant run, for crying out loud, but they have pulled themselves out of the cellar and have a chance to earn more respect and have a dignified season. All this before they get their 4 injured starters back, as well as key set-up man Luis Ayala. I hope that we've heard the last of the talk that ran rampant two months ago with pundits projecting that the Nats could challenge the 1962 New York Mets for the worst record in MLB history. They are now on pace to win 71 games and lose 91 games. Not great, but a far cry from "historically bad". The 2007 Nationals are scrappy and resilient. They have heart and guts. They are a lot of fun to watch, and I can't wait to see how they do once they clear the disabled list a bit.

On to Toronto.

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