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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nats, vs. Blue Jays - weekend series encapsulated

For the Toronto Blue Jays Interleague series, I decided to simply encapsulate the weekend series, as my fears about this series were confirmed. The Blue Jays are a strong team with a history of playing very well against the Expos/Nationals franchise, with the Nationals losing their last 6 games to the Blue Jays, and I knew that they weren't exactly going to roll over for the Nats, and they most certainly didn't.

Game #1, Friday, June 15th: Toronto 7, Washington 2.

Starter Mike Bacsik gave up 9 hits, 3 runs, 3 walks and struck out 4 in 4.1 innings, throwing 94 pitches for 48 strikes (51%). Winston Abreau pitched 2.2 innings, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits, and Billy Traber gave up 1 run on 1 hit.

Ryan Report: Church 0 for 4 (DH'ing), Zimmerman 1 for 4, Langerhans had a home run and went 1 for 2 with 2 RBI's and walked once, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 3 with a walk and a double. Congratulations to Blue Jay's starter, Roy Halladay, one of the toughest pitchers the Nats have faced all season.

(Complete box score here, if you dare.)

Other than a brief, but bizarre, on-field incident with home plate umpire C.B. Buckner, the game wasn't really notable.

Game #2, Saturday, June 16th Toronto 7, Washington 3

Nats starter Levale Speigner was once again fed to the wolves, unable to replicate the almost-magical outing that he had his previous start against the Minnesota Twins. The Toronto Blue Jays teed-off on Speigner and feasted on his sliders. He allowed 10 hits and 7 runs and walked 2 in 3.1 innings of work. He threw 72 pitches for 43 strikes (60%) but he was averaging 23 pitches per inning. The bullpen of Saul Rivera, Jesus Colome and Ray King allowed no hits and no runs the remainder of the game.

Ryan Report: Church went 0 for 4, Zimmerman went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI's and a homerun, Langerhans went 1 for 3 with a walk, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 2 walking twice.

Dmitri Young got another homerun, too, as the DH.

Robert Fick went 2 for 4 with a double, raising his batting average to .203, just over the dreaded Mendoza Line.

Congratulations to Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum, who had the Nats pretty much befuddled at the plate through 7 innings, allowing only 3 hits.

Game #3, Sunday, June 17th (Father's Day) Washington 4, Toronto 2

The Nats avoided the sweep, taking the 3rd game of this series, which I had positive feelings about going into it because the pitchers were much more evenly matched.

Nats starter Micah Bowie's official record this season is 4-2, but the Nats are now 6-0 in games which Bowie is the starter. Bowie had an almost brilliant outing on the mound today, throwing 96 pitches for 55 strikes (57%). He allowed 2 runs on 4 hits, walked 3 and struck out 6. The only real blemish was the solo homerun that he gave up to Blue Jays Designated Hitter Frank Thomas. I wonder what's going to happen to Bowie when the starters begin go return? How can the team send him back to the bullpen? Sure, he can transition to the role of stand-out long-reliever, but he's been so great as a starter. Since Levale Speigner is already scheduled to miss what would have been his next start (Thursday, June 21st) and it is highly likely that at least 1 injured starter will be back with the club (Williams? Bergmann? Patterson?) by the time his spot in the rotation would be up again, I predict that Bowie stays in the rotation and Speigner goes back to the bullpen. Time will tell.

On MASN, Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton showed what might be a new tradition building with the pitchers: The bullpen came out and wished Micah Bowie and the other starters well, as though to say, "We hope you don't need us, but we're here for you if you do." A gorgeous display of camaraderie and sportsmanship, and I hope that this is a new pre-game ritual that will take hold and become a National's "signature" moment.

The bullpen of Jesus Colome, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero each threw for 1 inning and allowed no hits and no runs. All you can ask for!

There was a BIZARRE amount of pollen flying around the Rogers Center. It was distracting players, fans, everyone. People were swatting it away. It really did look like goose down from a busted-pillow fight at times. Probably a subversive plot by the allergy medicine manufacturers - watch your stock in Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKlein, et. al. over the next few days, they should go through the roof.

Toronto's Frank Thomas set a career record for homeruns by a Designated Hitter. It was also Thomas' 496th of his career. Congratulations Frank, but why did you have to do it off of the Nats? I hate it when they are the footnote in another team's highlights.

Ryan Report: Church had the day off, Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with a homerun, Langerhans went 0 for 2 with a walk, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 4 with an RBI.

Ronnie Belliard and Tony Batista got the other two Nats RBI's.

So now the Nats are 30-39, playing .434 ball, as they finished up a 6-3 roadtrip, the "Tony Batista Tour", Manny Acta called it, Batista having played in all 3 cities of the trip. This was one of the BEST roadtrips that the Nats have had in the 3 years that they've been here (at least that I can recall) and it has to get some people noticing them.

Now to come home and face the reigning AL Champion Detroit Tigers for 3 games. At least the Nats won't have to face Jason "No, no" Verlander, but it still won't be easy.

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