Sunday, September 7, 2008

Scouting Report: Nationals at Braves (9/7)

The Nationals are coming off a five HR game, including another deuce from Dukes and one from Zimmerman. If you're looking for things to root for that will matter for the long-haul, root for these two to keep it up. There's real promise for better days ahead with them.

Five-HR games are quite rare for the Nationals. In fact, it's happened only once before this year (June 10 in Pittsburgh), and they have no four-homer games at all. They had no five-HR games in '07. They had just one in '06, on May 9 at the Great American Small Park in Cincinnati. And they had none in '05. So that's just their third five-homer game ever.

Here's my take on the series finale. (For more on Atlanta's offense, check out my preview of game one.)

Pitching Match-Up
Jo-Jo Reyes: I previewed Reyes before game one of the series, which he was originally scheduled to start before the birth of his first child. Here's what I wrote then:
Still just 23 in his own right, Reyes is having a fairly rough sophomore season, posting a 5.49 ERA. Since the All-Star Break he’s been worse, giving up a 9.50 ERA in five games. (I got that stat from a most unlikely source—the Washington Post! My goodness, a relevant game preview stat from the hometown paper? And the team is winning? What did we do to deserve this? Don’t go looking for stats on Martis though. Apparently no one at the Post can find

Reyes’s problem too is command. He's walking too many--11.3% this year (anything over 11% is a problem). But his stuff is pretty good. He throws fastball, change, curve, and slider, and he's striking out 16.5% and getting a very good 50.5% groundballs.

The Braves are letting him work out his stuff at the big league level in hopes that the can be a useful 3 or 4 down the road. But we got fat off of him back in July at a time when we weren’t hitting anyone. We should have a chance to continue it tonight if we make him throw strikes and punish the mistakes over the plate.
Collin Balester: Balester's last start was his longest yet, a seven-inning, four-run outing that the Nationals won 8-4 over Atlanta. He's doing a great job as a young pitcher giving his team a consistent 5-6 innings and keeping his team in the game. His fastball-curveball-change repertoire continues to develop, as the off-speed stuff catches up in quality to the fastball.

He's been actually a bit tougher on lefties, so the Braves' lefty-heavy line-up isn't the nightmare match-up for him that it is for Bergmann.

His command has been his greatest asset, walking a solid 8.3% of batters faced. Take out his five-walk outing against the Mets and it's much better. For tall guys, command is frequently a problem. I'm pleased to see that it hasn't been for Balester so far. If he can shave that walk rate to 7%, he'll get even better.

Fearless Prediction
(Season record: 23-15)
Nationals finish the series with a split, winning 7-4.

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