Yes, the Nationals are still terrible. And no, I'm not trying to make a big deal out of one win in the third game of the season in which we beat Nelson "Softball Girls" Figueroa, a pitcher who was released by the pitching-impoverished New York Mets just a couple days ago.
But this was a tight, hard-fought win against the NL champs. And the Nationals are a team that has lost so often so many ways for so long, that pulling out a victory like this is something to build on. They got the first win of the year in the books and showed some of the poise and resiliency that Mike Rizzo was hoping for when he overhauled the clubhouse.
And now they're 1-2 with a 3-game series coming up against the miserable Mets. The Nationals' pitching is bad, but against a line-up that includes out-machines like Mike Jacobs (.294 OBP in '09), Jeff Francoeur (.309), Rod Barajas (.258!), plus Gary Matthews, Alex Cora if Jose Reyes isn't back, AND a pitcher... well, it's a damn sight from the Phillies. It's suddenly not hard to imagine this team finishing their first week above .500.
Does that matter in the long run? Not really, but job one for this team is avoid being a laughingstock, and to do that they have to avoid the opening month tailspin that's become their calling card. Some other observations from win #1 of 2010 after the "jump."
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Pulling Craig Stammen after five innings was a head-scratcher. He'd only thrown 75 pitches, and he had just survived his third trip through the Utley-Howard-Werth part of the Phillies order. No, he wasn't fooling anyone, but Stammen never does, and his #1 redeeming quality (as MASN must have reminded us a dozen times) is his efficiency. And betting on the bullpen holding the Phillies for four innings is a poor bet. God forbid we'd reached extra innings. There was just no reason to pull him without at least letting him start the next inning.
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While we're on Riggleman's case, sacrificing Nyjer Morgan in the bottom of the 7th was the kind of dumb over-managing that drives statheads crazy.
The situation was a tie score, no outs, runner on first. Due up: Morgan, Guzman, Zimmerman. The aforementioned Mets castoff Figueroa pitching. By executing a successful sacrifice, Morgan's but reduced the Nationals run expectancy for the inning from 0.95 to 0.72 and their win expectancy from 62.5% to 57.4%. Especially given the Phillies' line-up and the Nationals' bullpen, you have to play for more than one run, but since calling for the bunt reduced the likelihood of even scoring one run, it was the wrong decision no matter what.
Now, Zimmerman's fluky bloop double later in the inning allowed the Nationals to score anyway, but had the Phillies scored again to tie, that decision could have cost them the game. And again, with a position player, it's not a judgment call--it's just giving away a precious out for no reason.
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Nothing looks real easy for Adam Kennedy at second base, does it?
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Since I never saw anyone rip Boz over it, I will now. Roy Halladay was not signed as a free agent. The Phillies traded for him. I know it's hard to keep up with everything that's happened in baseball since Cal Ripken retired, but this was only the top blockbuster trade in baseball in the last year. C'mon Boz. At least let Kilgore fact-check your stuff.
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In case you were wondering, the Nationals are on pace for 1134 walks this season. The record is 835, by the 1949 Boston Red Sox.