Wednesday, April 25

Channeling the Time Machine

The Nats had a good shot of winning tonight; Jason Bergmann put together another good outing, and although he still scares the piss out of me, this is three good outings in a row. By the numbers, that's three quality starts, meaning that Shawn Hill might actually have to move over on the "unsupported quality starts" bench.

Still, the most shocking part about Bergmann's start wasn't that it was good, it was that he left with a 3-2 lead after the 6th. That's really all that you can ask for from these starters, right? Throw fairly well, hope the team puts up a few runs and then let the bullpen close it out. We're not going to see many complete games from these guys, and we're not going to see many blowouts, eihter. The pitchers lack the stamina, and the bats lack the punch. As a result, we're basically left with what happened last night; a relatively close game going into the top of the 7th that was - at this point - still winnable.

Unfortunately, the Nats jumped into the time machine - way back to a couple of weeks ago - and put together some bad innings in the 7th and 8th. Before we go any further, this wasn't Acta's fault; he can't be blamed for the complete ineffectiveness of the relievers, and he certainly can't be blamed for throws that the cutoff man decided to not get. (Well, he can't be blamed for them now. If these problems persist .... maybe.)

So we're 3-2 in the top of the 7th. FLop singled to lead off, Belliard (who's starting to make me feel stupid about the whole "he'll be great out of the 2-hole" line of thought I had two weeks ago) grounded to second to advance Lopez. However, Ryan Zimmerman - who might just want to change his name to Snakebit at this point - lined directly to Chase Utley, who wasn't playing where second basemen usually play but more where he would play if he was trying to catch someone stealing. All the same, he caught the liner and doubled off FLop, end of inning.

Enter Saul Rivera in the bottom of the 7th, who promptly gave up the lead with a HR to Aaron Rowand. After a Ruiz single and an Abraham Nunez sacrifice (which: it's a tie game, Manuel must have had no confidence in Madson's ability to get down a sac), exit Saul Rivera and enter Micah Bowie. Bowie did get out of the 7th with no problems, but now it's tied.

Top of the 8th: nothing to see here. Church singles to left.

Bottom of the 8th, Bowie is back in. It's not a bad play here, really: Utley and Howard - the first two guys Bowie would face - are both lefties. Hope for the best with the matchup advantage (since Manuel's not PHing for them) and then let Rauch come in. It's a good idea in theory, and it'd probably work decently. However, Bowie fired a pitch almost behind Utley (hit him) and struck out Howard. Not unforgiveably terrible. Anyway, exit Bowie and enter Jon Rauch.

Ruach hasn't had much luck lately; he blew up just a few days ago, and now he came in with 1 on and 1 out in a game that - had he gotten out of the inning unscathed - might've lasted a while. Again. He didn't have it tonight either - at least not after the first part of the Burrell AB (where he got ahead 0-2). He walked Burrell on 4 straight, and then Wes Helms launched a crud missle into center. You know those hits, the kind of dumpers that drive you nuts when they happen to your team because the ball is absolutely in no-man's land, and that guy is coming around to score no matter what. It was a crud missile.

The Yahoo! play-by-play reads as follows for this: - W. Helms singled to center, C. Utley scored, P. Burrell to second. However, that doesn't quite describe what happened: Ryan Church then turned around and threw to third - again, not a bad idea: it stops Burrell from advancing. However, the throw missed the cutoff man and missed Zimmerman too. Burrell scored, and Helms was in position to trot home on a Carlos Ruiz single. 6-3, end of game (effectively).

So ...who's at fault, right? I can't really blame Rivera too much, Bowie basically did his job, and Rauch's just not going to have it some nights. Church's throw didn't help matters, but if it's on-target maybe we only have a 5-3 loss. It wasn't a game-breaker. Maybe you can blame the lack of hitting with RISP, but Zimm's double play was more a result of great D than a giant clunker of a hit.

More than anything else, it's these kind of losses that hurt. The Nats had a clear shot to win the game ... and yet, they couldn't. Three relievers in a row just got unlucky, and an errant throw killed what little shot the Nats had to win at that point. It's frustrating; we know after the last week that there is the talent to win games like this, but we can't all the time. On an intrinsic level, I know this ...and yet I hope I'm wrong.

Still, we'll see if today will turn out any different than yesterday. In all the ways that entails.