Mets at Nationals: Tuesday, August 12 at 7:10 ET
Wow those Brewers are pretty good, eh? They have an Assistant GM and Scouting Director named Jack Zduriencik who drafted Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Manny Parra, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, and Matt La Porta, who was traded for C.C. Sabathia. And we didn't even see Gallardo. I know we're all rooting for Rizzo, but let's be clear, there are lots of execs in baseball who would be better than Bowden. Maybe if the cheapskate Lerners would let JimBo pay over slot he could afford that kind of production...
OK so drafting is an inexact science. I'm being hard on ol JimBo. Here's something that's not complicated: counting to 25. The Nationals are now up to 68 short-handed games out of 118.
We limp home to face the one and only team in MLB over which we have some bragging rights. Sweeping them in August (again) won't make everything ok, but it'd make my $5 ticket worth it. Cynical, embittered intro out of the way, here's my take on game 1.
Johan Santana: No complicated statistical analysis necessary here. Santana is brilliant. The change-up is deadly, coming in 11 mph slower than the fastball, and he pair it with an excellent fastball and slider.
Actually, some of his numbers are a bit down this year. His K/9 is down from 9.66 last year to 7.55, and his walks are up from 1.75 in 2005 to 2.46. On the other hand, a lot was made of his HR total last year, and he seems to have responded by working more groundballs and fewer flyballs. Previously, he was a slight flyball pitcher.
Of course I'm quibbling--the bottom line is a 2.86 ERA and still one of the top pitchers in baseball. Facing a team that has scored 5 runs in their last 40 innings, it could be a quickie.
Odalis Perez: Odalis has two nice starts in a row, and no matter what happens from here on out, he was a very good signing for the Nationals. My favorite part? Bowden hasn't resigned him for 2 years and $10+ million (yet).
What To Look For
--The Mets are 2 games back in the division, and with the Wild Card looking likely to come from the Central, the pressure is on them.
--Much like last year at this time, their bullpen is faltering. Aaron Heilman is closing while Billy Wagner is out with a forearm strain. Heilman is 2 for 4 in save opportunities and has been hit hard. Yesterday an excellent Pedro start was wasted when Smith, Feliciano, and Heilman were all bombed by the Bay-less and Nady-less Bucs.
--Their line-up is like the opposite of the Nationals--they have the superstars (Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado) but no decent complimentary players, while we're full of complimentary guys with no stars.
--You'll remember the "reverse lock" game when Levale Speigner beat Santana, but in fact a number of Nationals held their own against Santana. Zimmerman has a homer off of him in six ABS and Cristian Guzman is 5 for 6 against him.
--Perez has gotten knocked around pretty good by the Mets, especially Reyes, Tatis, Easley, and Wright.
--Carlos Delgado was looking like the epitome of the fading once-blockbuster free agent, but the first-baseman/human rights activist has bounced back big time, posting a .324 BA / .416 OBP / .682 SLG line since June 27.
--Ryan Church appears to be done for the year, suffering ongoing concussion symptoms. This season has provided enough fodder for both the Church-defenders who thought he would perform with the regular playing time he never got in Washington as well as the Church-detractors who felt he would never stay healthy. A kid named Daniel Murphy is getting his playing time lately and is knocking the ball around pretty good.
--Brian Schneider had been benched for Ramon Castro, a superior hitter who a lot of Mets fans wanted to start ahead of Lo Duca too, but Castro has a sprained ankle, and Schneider is back getting most of the playing time. Castro could be back anytime, however. Schneider is hitting .263 but has just 8 extra-base hits all season, a good illustration of why batting average isn't a very good way to evaluate a hitter.
--Luis Castillo, who at 4 years and $25m was one of the worse free agent re-signings in recent memory, has been out with a hip injury and may be back for the series, but Jerry Manuel says he may split time with Damion Easley (who is not making $6.25m a year).
What to Root For
Milledge hasn't had much success against his old team yet, to the tune of a .083 / .267 / .167 line. But he's coming into this series hot. Lastings--if you hit a homer, I'll give you a high five for sure. I'll be the guy in the "Fire Jim Bowden" t-shirt.
(Season record: 10-10)
Santana dominates. Mets win 6-0.