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Monday, April 27, 2009

Cheesed in Philly: Nats blow lead in 8th, lose 13-11, fall to 4-14.

As an old-time radio character sometimes said, "I is regusted." Well, if he were a Nationals fan, that would be the understatement of the still-young season.

When have the Nationals ever had FIVE home runs in a game and lost? For that matter, when have they ever had five home runs in a game?

This was as down and dirty a slugfest as I've ever watched on a ballfield (at least in the 4+ seasons I've watched the Nationals.) The Nats had 11 runs on 12 hits, including TWO homers from Ryan Zimmerman, who also extended his hitting streak to 16 games. Nick Johnson, Elijah Dukes, and Adam Dunn all went long, in a ballpark where home runs are a staple.

But the Phillies had two - count 'em, TWO - Grand Slams. One from Ryan Howard (no surprise) and the second from Raul IbaƱez, which finally put the Phillies ahead in the 8th for good.

The Nats had the Phillies. Like Rasputin, the Phillies kept coming back to life just when we thought they were dead. But they never led the game until the bottom of the 8th inning.

I hate to point fingers, but tonight fingers NEED to be pointed. Relief pitcher Garrett Mock and closer Joel Hanrahan. They sinned by walking batters in a crucial situation (inexcusable) and not trusting their stuff, not elevating their pitches and throwing off the hitters' timing. Joel Hanrahan has no business being our closer if he's going to keep blowing it in crucial situations. Stick him in the bullpen, send him down to AAA Syracuse, but for crying out loud, take him OUT of the closing role! As it stands, he cannot get the job done, and he's had every chance. I'd like to see Beimel as the closer, once he returns from the D/L. In his post-game interview, Manager Manny Acta declined to say whether or not Joel Hanrahan was going to remain the closer, but I have to believe that Manny can read the writing on the wall in front of him and even his legendary patience must have its limits.

The Phillies are not a bad or even mediocre ball club, they are the defending World Series Champions. A team is not going to beat them if they make mistakes against them. Maybe a team doesn't have to play "perfect" baseball against them, but you cannot give them more than a couple of mistakes because they will make you pay for them.

On "Nats Extra" after the game, I watched a VERY agitated Ray Knight describe what he saw going wrong. It was somewhat cathartic for me to watch, as we never see anyone actually ON the club get angry about these things. As a former World Series M.V.P. and Major League Manager, Knight's perspective really helped me to resolve my own frustrations about the team.

This April has been a disaster for the Nationals. There is still plenty of time to turn things around, but decisions need to be made now.

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