Saturday, April 12, 2008

Nationals lose 9th straight, fall to the Braves at home

It’s a sad note that I am starting this blog on the night the Nats set a mark for their worst losing streak since coming to Washington. The season had started so well…a beautiful christening of a new ball park…a three game win streak….and the emergence of Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman as the corner pillars of the 2008 campaign.
Nine games later, and nine losses later, the Nats are looking face to face with the down to earth reality that they are truly the 4th or 5th place team in the N.L East and that the new park alone may not launch them over any hump.

Let’s consider then the founding of NatsPark to be the official turning point in the franchise…YOU CAN BE A PART OF HISTORY!

Let’s take a look at the game today:

After an hour and a half rain delay the game looked to be over before the Nats even got an at-bat. A four run Atlanta inning left the Nats with a big deficit early. When you factor the Nats ability to play behind, and that they were facing one of the best starting pitchers of the last two decades, John Smoltz, it was really an unlikely deficit for the team to overcome. Which it was as the Nats didn’t score a run until the Braves had scored their sixth in the fourth inning. The final score was 10-1, but lets face it the game was over at 6-0.

Pitching woes:

John Lannan took a step back today (4IP 9H 6ER 4BB 2K). It was only his 8th career outing however, and if you consider his age and experience, he has put together a good number of quality starts. Oddly enough for the 24 year old Lannan his best starts have come on the road, away from the pitcher friendly RFK and this was his first game at Nats Park. What can we learn from this? Probably nothing, I would place the blame on the poor performance of Lannan on the rain delay and the fact that most young pitchers with his amount of experience haven’t learned to adjust to a delayed start time like that. Warming up, getting ready to go and then having to sit for 91 minutes can throw you off if you are not prepared. Smoltz on the other hand has just a few more starts under his belt…

Expect the young Lannan to have road bumps like these along the way, he is only 24 after all. The good news is young players don’t stay young for long, and we can truly watch him develop before our very eyes into a solid number 2 or 3 starter down the road.

After Lannan was knocked out, Jason Bergman came on to “relieve” him and had about the same amount of success. In two starts this year Bergman has just been plain awful (10.1 IP 16H 13 ER 2BB 10K), and with today’s outing, giving up four runs and two homers in only two innings, it is evident to say he is not comfortable in the bullpen either. This isn’t to say Bergman lost the Nats the game, it was out of hand by the time he got there, but he certainly didn’t keep the score down.

Hitting woes:

The good news is Zimmerman has seemed to bust out of his slump a little bit. He turned things around today going 2/3 with a double to right center and a Sac-Fly scoring Willie Harris after his triple. Leading into today’s game Zimm was 0 for his last 18 with only 1 walk in that span. The Nats need more productive days like today from their young star to compete in the most competitive division in baseball.

Despite my affinity for Felipe Lopez and all the talent he has packed into that small frame, he has not been much of an improvement over tubby Ronny Belliard at second. The Nats need constant production from everyone in their line up with the lack of a big bopper to rake in tons of runs on his own. The Nats drew six walks which is great but they also left 19 runner stranded. On base percentage, a virtue Manny Acta teaches, is meaningless if no one hits those runners in.

Jeff Francoeur woes:

Jeff Francoeur had a day for the Braves…..eight words that pain me to say. Francoeur “The Natural” went 3/5 with two bombs and raked 7 RBI’s. That’s right he drove in more runs then the Nationals did collectively. Francoeur only had 4 RBI’s total coming into the game…

Will the Nationals win their game tomorrow against the Braves and end this 9 game skid? What does Manny Acta have to do, if anything, to turn this team around? Paul Lo Duca, or Jesus Flores? Leave your comments.

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