Friday, May 11

Nats/Brewers: A Postscript

Good teams find ways to win games they probably shouldn't. By that standard, the Brewers are a good team; the fact they've won any games started by Dave Bush would indicate that. They're winning even with what's effectively an offensive zero at the hot corner - another sign they're good. It wouldn't be too surprising to see them continue this start through the season, and if they do - good for them. It's been hard times in Milwaukee for a while, and this season's incarnation of the Brew Crew is both young and talented.

What's the inverse of a good team? By the previous definition, it'd be a team that loses games it should win. The Nats certainly qualify here - bad pitching, bad hitting (especially with RISP), squandering what good pitching they do get, etc., ad nausem. It'd then stand to reason that when a good team faces a bad team, the good team should win going away - and that's what happened.

Take Monday night as the first example. Matt Chico had his first quality start - 7 IP, and a little high on the hits, but given his previous outings it wasn't terrible. It was probably his first good start as a Nat. Low pitch count, too - only 93 pitches through 7. Of those pitches, 92 were good - but 1 of them was a duck crushed by Geoff Jenkins for a 3-run HR. That type of result should happen; bad pitches, by their nature, should be punished. Still, it's kind of bad luck, but not so much that it's totally impossible to believe. In addition, it's only a three-run deficit - most teams can come back from that.

Unfortunately, most teams aren't the Nats (who, as previously stated, can't hit their way out of a wet paper bag). They had opportunities, in a fashion - 1st/3rd with 2 outs in the 4th (popout), a ground rule double with 2 out in the 6th (K). Their best opportunity was in the 9th, hands-down - 1st and 2nd with only one out. Granted, by that point they're probably not going to win anyway... but a swinging K and a flyout won't bring the runners home. Not great. With unexpectedly good pitching from the back end of your rotation, you have to take advantage of it... and the Nats didn't on Monday.

So what about Tuesday? The offense clicked, kind of - they scored in the first inning for the first time in ...well, a while. They scored four runs total - most in the later innings, but it's still four runs. (Why yes, David Bush was starting for the Brewers; how'd you know?) However, Jason Simontacchi couldn't get it together, allowing 4 runs in only 6 IP, leaving Winston Abreu (welcome to the big leagues!) to give up the 5th and ultimately deciding run. Blown opportunites this game? Let's check it out!
- 2nd inning: 1st and 2nd, nobody out (DP / 6-3)
So that wasn't really the problem. This time, it can just be blamed on bad pitching and questionable defense (read: Robert Fick, who's another issue entirely).

What about Wednesday? Well, we can revisit the mantra of crummy hitting (5 hits) if we want. Lack of clutch hitting? 2nd / 3rd with 2 outs in the 2nd (K) kind of counts - they got there on a WP. 1st and 2nd with one out in 6th (pop, flyout) was the only other opportunity; you have to get hits first to fail in the clutch! So, what was the problem here? This time, blame the relievers - the combination of Jesus Colome and Micah Bowie in particular. 1-1 going into the bottom of the 8th, 3-1 Brewers coming out. Why? Just your usual 1B / 1B / 1B / WP two-run inning (which are normally the most painful; they're not hitting the ball hard, but it's just where the defenders aren't).

So: three games, three losses in three different ways. The Nats are doomed, right? Fortunately, that's not quite the case (but it's close!). There is some talent, according to the technical definition of the term. That'll mean there's a little light at the end of the tunnel that may not be an oncoming train. The Nats won't continue to be as abysmal as they have been with RISP (...right?). At the very least, statistical variation means they'll win some games - there will be some combinatino of good pitching, decent hitting, and roughly passable defense. They can all occur separately - as they did last week - but they'll happen on the same night sometimes, too. Let's just hope it happens another 32 times the rest of the season.