The unofficial home of "Neil and the Rushmore Four"!

Image Hosted by

Current Weather & Forecast (plan your gameday!)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Nats top Twins 3-1, take Inter-league series OR Speigner spanks Santana

To the young man wearing #36 on the mound for Washington tonight: Who are you, and what have you done with Levale Speigner? Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Joe and I might just be your newest fan.

Whoever it was, he was magnificent tonight. Either Levale Speigner has come around and is finally showcasing his heretofore hidden pitching mettle, or else it was a glorious anomaly, a moment for which all the planets aligned properly and allowed a man previously bedeviled in a starter's role to seize his moment, a definite turning point in his career, and upstage the reigning American League Cy Young award winner, Johan Santana, as the Nationals beat the Twins 3-1.

Speigner, whose two previous outings could charitably be described as "wretched", came into the game with an ERA that would be a a great score in most Olympic gymnastics contests (9.10), yet he demonstrated command, control and precision on the mound, throwing
85 pitches for 54 strikes (64%) and lasted 6 innings, allowing 2 hits, 1 run, and struck out 3. One of the two hits he allowed was a solo home run, the only blemish on an otherwise stellar night for Speigner.

Perhaps it was because he was playing in an American League park and, thus, didn't have to worry about taking his turn at the plate, so he could simply concentrate on his pitching. Maybe he succeeded because he was indoors, in pleasant 70 degree temperatures. Maybe he shone because he felt safer on this road trip, secure in the knowledge that celebrity probation-violator Paris Hilton was finally behind bars. In any event, he may very well have put to rest any criticisms about his performance this season up until now.

In my post after Speigners most recent outing, I called for the Nats to put an end to the Speigner-as-starter experiment and send him back to the bullpen. I am happy to eat those words as I prove yet again how little I know about developing young pitchers. Thankfully for the Nats, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and manager Manny Acta have more patience, and prescience, than I do. Either that, or they simply had no choice. One great start does not a wing in Cooperstown make - look no further than Ramon Ortiz, who came tantalizingly close to a no-hitter with the Nats last year, and is now in the Twins bullpen - but this could be the start that makes Levale Speigner an anchor for the rotation rather than an anchor to the rotation, dragging it down as its weakest link.

While Speigner was shutting down the Twins offense, Ryan Zimmerman, Nook Logan and Cristian Guzman were putting the Nats offense on the board. In the 3rd inning, Logan got on first and then stole 2nd. Felipe Lopez struck out, but then Cristian Guzman got a single to put the runners on the corners. Then Ryan Zimmerman came up to bat and drilled a Johan Santana pitch into the left-field seats to give the Nats a 3-1 lead, and with Speigner and the bullpen working almost flawlessly, that was all the offense they needed.

Cristian Guzman continued to demonstrate to his former team why they should miss him, as he went 3 for 4. I get pretty anxious when he gets up to the plate these days. Guzman's a singles machine, but you just never know when he's going to rip off a triple. A damned exciting guy to watch, I'm very happy for him.

Ryan Report: Church went 0 for 4 (I think he hates the Metrodome, so I'm not worried), Zimmerman only hit what amounted to a 3-run game winning homer, Langerhans didn't hit and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 4.

So Speigner got the win, Chad Cordero got the save, and another road series is won. The bullpen of King, Colome and Rauch allowed only 1 hit and 1 walk. They didn't have to kill themselves either, the bullpen should be relatively fresh and well-rested still.

Here I was fraught with worry that Speigner would be chum to Cy Young-winner Johan Santana, but tonight he looked as effective on the mound as Carlos Santana. Let's hope that Mike Bacsik can fare as well tomorrow against the man with the greatest name in baseball, Boof Bonser

No comments:

Song of the moment - Celebrating the longest homestand of the season

Survey of the Moment