Phillies at Nationals: Wednesday, July 30 at 7:10 ET
The Nationals break their scoreless streak. With one run. Unearned.
We're going to add a couple new features to the previews. Not just what to look for, but what to ROOT for and what to FEEL GOOD about. We need to get past this fixation on wins and losses. It's so reductive and judgmental. We need some things to cheer for, things that might not translate into wins now, but will give us reason for hope for the future.
But first, the pitching match-up.
Jamie Moyer: I'll be honest. I don't understand how Moyer does it. But not one else really does either, so I'm not alone. I figured that the move to Philly would be the death of him. Going from the pitcher-friendly Safeco to the bandbox in Philly seemed like a disaster in the making. Indeed, his ERA jumped to 5.01 last year, and he was much worse than that in the second half.
But then something funny happened. This year, his ERA dropped to 3.76, his best since 2003 when he was just 40. Recently, he's been even better. In his last 8 starts, his ERA is 2.86. People have been predicting his demise for more than a decade. But it hasn't happened yet.
He throws an 81 mph fastball, a 79 mph cutter, a74 mph change-up, and an occasional curve that clocks in at 67. He has impeccable control, keeps the ball down, pounds the corners and keeps batters off balance by mixing his array of off-speed junk. It's kind of amazing to watch actually.
Tim Redding: Redding's last start was one of his best, an 8-inning complete game one-run loss. He's been a model of consistency. Rumors are that he's being scouted for a trade, and if he isn't moved, you have to wonder why. When trades like this that make sense for the Nationals don't happen, you really do start to think that there really are a set of GMs out there who won't take Bowden's calls.
What To Look For
Manny really needs to shake things up. How about Felipe, Lo Duca, and Harris to the bench, and Casto, Orr, and Guzman into the lineup?
Willie Harris is out of gas. He's 2 for his last 18. The guy just isn't built to play every day. Hang that one on Manny.
Lo Duca popped up in the press again yesterday, this time complaining that because he isn't starting at catcher that teams aren't interested in him. That's right Paulie, it's not your .301 OBP or .286 SLG. It's Manny's fault. I think Manny needs to send a message and sit him. Why not Casto at first? Or if Guzzy's back, why not Belliard? Actually, why not Luis Jimenez, Larry Broadway or Bill Rhinehart? I know I've been a broken record on this, but after insisting that we need a defensive replacement at 1B, I'm now thinking we might as well see their bats here. They could hardly be worse.
The Phillies' best against Redding have been Jenkins, Utley, and Werth, while, curiously, Howard and Rollins have really struggled against him. The Nationals' best against Moyer have been Milledge, Kearns, and Flores, while Lopez, Zimmerman, and Harris have been the worst.
Will Bowden face the press with the Nationals skidding along at 7 straight losses? Now that most of his injured guys are back and playing terrible, what will he say?
What to Root For
Another great start from Redding to push his trade value! And a trade!
What to Feel Good About
Balester. He not only went 6 against the Phillies allowing only 2 runs, there were some real breakthroughs. For the first time I can remember, we saw him with all three pitches working--the fastball, change-up, and curve. Look at the video here. You'll see him get Victorino and Howard with the curve, Burrell on a fastball that was perfectly set up by the curve and change, and finally Geoff Jenkins right at the end on a change. I think that's the first time we've seen him get a K on the change-up, which is a pitch he barely touched through his first 3-4 starts. If he can throw all three pitches, he goes from an ok 4th or 5th starter to at least a good 3. I also like his make-up. With Kearns and Lopez moping and Lo Duca chirping at Manny about PT, it looks like the vets are starting to quit on us. Not Balester. Good for him.
(Season record: 5-2, one bull's eye)
Moyer induces more weak grounders than you ever thought possible. Phillies, 4-1.