Two games in a weekend. Both on television. Two opposite results. A great win and a really tough loss. I was able to watch a majority of both games this weekend.
Friday was an exciting, encouraging win. Patterson was lights out until faltering slightly in the eighth, while Soriano justified Bowden's man-crush with a pair of solo jacks off Braves ace John Smoltz.
After the Braves tied it in the eighth, the Nats got four runs in the bottom half off Remlinger and Villarreal, capped by Soriano's three run shot. Throw in some tremendous defense, including an over the top diving catch from Zimmerman that was as good as you'll ever see, Friday night was an encouraging one for Nats fans.
After Saturday's rainout, Sunday night was a different story. The only bright spot was Tony Armas' shutout 6 and 1/3 innings. In front of a national TV audience and the lowest announced crowd at RFK since the team moved to DC, the Nats put 14 men on base but could only push across a single run.
It seems to me, a few weeks into the season, that if this team is not hitting home runs in bunches, they're still the same weak-hitting team of 2005 that can't get clutch hits.
And that's why I think the Nationals were too aggressive on the basepaths yesterday. Royce Clayton was caught stealing twice, and I believe both were with Brian Schneider batting. At least one appeared to be a hit and run, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me with Schneider batting. Sure, the pitcher is up next so you want to do everything you can to get a run. But Schneider is not that reliable of a contact hitter and Clayton is not as fast as he used to be.
The one the pissed me off most, though, came in the fifth inning. Johnson was batting with Soriano on second and Vidro on first and one out. With a full count, Frank started the runners. Both were safe, but Nick struck out by putting a bad swing on a pitch around the letters.
I don't know if it was a hit and run, a straight steal, or just starting the runners with a 3-2 count. But it seemed to me that Nick put a bad swing on a pitch he normally would have taken. Perhaps he was protecting the runners or he was distracted by the movement of the runners in his line of vision. Either way, since it was a weak swing, I feel like he struck out as a direct result of the runners moving.
Johnson and Guillen have been hitting pretty well lately. With two on and one out, why not just let them hit rather than getting cute and managing and running yourself out of an inning?
That left first base open with two outs, allowing Bobby Cox to catch Frank with his pants down by intentionally walking Guillen to bring up the rookie Ryan Zimmerman. The inning ended when Bruce Froemming
struck out Zimmerman looking.
The bullpen was also a big concern, as Majewski picked up his third blown save and the loss by giving up a three-run homer to Betemit in the eighth. Svrluga's game story
focuses on how Frank thought he threw too many fastballs (which he did) and how Schneider and Majewski disagreed.
It also drove me BESERK when Frank used three pitchers to get three outs in the seventh inning (Armas, Stanton, Rodriguez) before bringing in Majewski for the eighth. Stanton and Rodriguez only threw a combined six pitches in the seventh. I didn't necessarily oppose using both Stanton and Rodriguez in that situation, but if Frank bothered to double switch when bringing in one of the two, he could have left one of them in the game instead of pinch-hitting to lead off the bottom of the inning.
Good news: Armas seems to be coming along. Bad news: Everything else. We can't score runs consistently without homers; Frank got outmanaged, and the bullpen fell apart again.
You gotta love this team. Fire Bowden.