Nationals at Brewers: Sunday, August 10 at 2:05 ET
Manny says to think about the next game. What's done is done. Don't dwell. That's what winners do. So here's my take on what I prefer to think of as the series opener against the Brew Crew.
Manny Parra: Parra is a power lefty with the pure stuff to project as a good 3 or maybe even a 2. He throws a fastball at 92, a good curve, a change, and (my favorite) a splitter, a pitch I really wish more teams taught. Parra's Achilles heel has been command, and although he's cut down on his walks a bit this year, he's still walking 4.46 per 9, which is still too many.
This video gives you a good look at his arsenal. First he strikes out Matsui on a buried slider, then Bourn Ks on a very nice curve, Quintero hits into the GDP on a change-up, Wandy Rodriguez looks silly on another good curve, Carlos Lee chases a bad splitter that went nowhere near where Parra wanted it, Tejada Ks on another good change up and away, Bourn bunts a fastball, and then Tejada is badly jammed on a fastball on his hands. That gives you a good sense of a bunch of different ways this guy can get you out.
Parra's also had a lot of injuries, and the Brewers seemed close to deciding that his future would be in the bullpen. But this year he was given his chance to start the season in the rotation, and he hasn't disappointed. From May 30 to July 25, he was red hot, putting up a 2.66 ERA in 10 starts. However in his last two he's been knocked around by the Cubs and in the Great American Small Park. He'll surely be licking his chops after seeing the last two games thinking this is his chance to get well.
Oh, and one other thing... Prince Fielder is a freaking jerk. Dude's 100 pounds smaller than you, fat boy. Pick on someone your own size. And maybe someone on the other team? Or at least someone your team doesn't desperately need to make the playoffs?
John Lannan: Lannan had one of his best games of the year last time out, throwing seven innings of two-run ball in Coors. Watch how one guy after another swings over the top of a breaking pitch. You do that by spotting your fastball (he gets Baker and Tulo looking at fastballs on the black) and then putting guys away with good curves that fall right out of the zone. Those curveballs aren't huge knee-benders--they only put guys away because Lannan knows how to set it up and has the command to pull it off.
What To Look For
--At his best, Manny has been able to get the team to play with optimism bordering on amnesiac in situations like this. Look, we just got throttled by two of the best in the game, pitching their best. But a struggling team can go into a funk after a couple days like this. The NewNationals have been immune to that. Tomorrow's the day you want to see them break out of it, but even if Parra pitches well, I'll be watching the body language, the approach at the plate, and the little things that they've been doing right. The key is that their heads are staying in it.
--In very limited action, pretty much every Nationals who has faced Parra has had success, namely Milledge, Zimmerman, Guzman, and even Tim Redding. And in just one game against Lannan, the Brewers also did well, especially Hart, Cameron, and Weeks.
--E-Bone was 0-4 with two Ks and a flyout against Sheets, after going 0-fer Sabathia. Tough matchups for the kid (and I kinda wish Manny would have given him a blow against Sheets, maybe let Casto the lefty play)
--Guzzy's now 7-43 since the AS game and the contract. Don't think I won't be typing "I told you so" for as long as this blog exists.
What to Root For
This week, I'm rooting for draft picks to be signed and not much else. But in this game, I just want to see some bats come back to life, especially Zimmerman, Flores, and Bonifacio.
(Season record: 9-9)
Nationals win in a close match-up of young lefty starters. Bottom line, I like Rivera/Shell/Hanrahan in the 8th and 9th more than any mix of relievers including Eric Gagne. Final score: Nationals 4, Brewers 2.