The Nationals try to avoid their second straight sweep and returning home on pace for over 103 losses. After five straight losses, we're starting to approach a "so awful you can't help but look" level train wreck. Since the league expanded to 30 teams in 1998, here are the teams that have lost 103 or more games:
1998 Marlins--108We're not going to catch the '02 Tigers. No way, no how. Six more wins beats them. (Think about that.) We only have to win just 14 more games out of 58 to beat the '04 D'Backs, and a 17-41 record beats the '98 Marlins. Now, could we join this group of 106-game losers? Hmm...
2002 Devil Rays--106
OK, that's enough. Stop right there. Manny says focus on the next game. That's what winners do. Sorry.
Clayton Kershaw: The 20-year-old lefty is one of the top pitching prospects in the game. His fastball sits at 94, occasionally touching 97, and he has a hammer curve and a change. So far, however, he's struggled badly in the big leagues, posting a 5.18 ERA. In nine starts, he has only finished the sixth inning once, and that was his very first start. His command has been the main culprit; he's walking 5.83 per 9 innings. In his last four starts he's been even worse, with a 7.13 ERA and a whopping .956 OPS against. That means the average hitter facing Clayton Kershaw over his last 17.2 innings has been about as productive as J.D. Drew or Brian McCann this year. Yeah, that's including the pitchers. I've never seen the kid pitch, so I don't have any deep analysis ("and that's unusual how?" you ask...), but we're a very righty-heavy lineup and we've hit lefties better overall this year. Flores, Milledge, Belliard, and Lopez in particular have had pretty big strong-side splits.
Jason Bergmann: Despite getting jerked around the last few years from role to role and then getting banished to Columbus for a month after a rough start this spring, Bergmann is quietly having his best season as a pro. If you're looking for things to root for in this final stretch, root for Bergmann to reach 150 IP with an ERA under 4. That would be a tremendous achievement for the kid and herald his arrival as a solid major league middle-of-the-rotation arm.
Dodger Stadium is a bit of a hitter's park, which poses some problems for the flyball artist. But the Dodgers are one of the few teams in the league who have hit fewer homers than the Nationals. The other thing to watch for with Bergy is the platoon split--lefties have always hit him hard. I think I heard Sutton or Krukow last week say that his problem with lefties is that the slider tends to tail back over the plate instead of running in on their hands. It's possible I'm thinking of someone else completely though, so take that with a grain of salt!
What To Look For
- We obviously haven't been able to take advantage, but the Dodgers' pen has a number of injuries (Saito, Proctor). The stud set-up man Jonathan Broxton is now the closer. If Kershaw gets chased early, as is his wont to do, we could get some fresh meat in the 5th-7th.
- Is it me, or is the body language out there getting worse? I mean, how could it not, but I'd kind of like to see more of Milledge taking the hand off from Tolman and that kind of thing. I know, some people don't like it, but this team needs some exurberance or attitude or something.
- Given Bergmann's platoon split, if Torre doesn't have Ethier in there for Jones and Loney back in the lineup, I might need to design a Fire Joe Torre t-shirt. I know, Joe's a Hall of Famer, blah blah. Jones's fat butt needs to be on the bench, if not in AAA. I don't like seeing bad Nationals baseball, but I don't like seeing bad player management anywhere, and the way the Dodgers bury their kids is just criminal.
- Milledge made a couple nice plays in CF tonight. There's another thing to root for in the final weeks.
- Whither Guzman? Sounds minor, but who knows? I hate to pile on, but if he's out for a while, is it really so shocking, given what an iron man Guzman's always (read: never) been? I worried about a steep decline in performance and an injury in the second half and argued against re-signing him at his peak value. I'm really tired of being right about these things, but if he is hurt, add him to the list of highly injury-prone players who predictably landed on the DL this year (Lo Duca, Hill, Johnson, Meat, Estrada, Dukes, Pena...).
- God, you really notice how great Zimmerman is in the field when he's been gone for a while, eh?
(Season record: 4-1, one bull's eye)
Tomorrow the streak ends. Bergmann goes 7. Rivera and Hanrahan combine to shut it down. Kershaw doesn't get shelled but is chased relatively early. The Nationals fly home a little happier. 5-2 feels about right.