Tuesday, August 16, 2005

MLB: Nationals 6, Philadelphia Phillies 3 (August 15)

WP: Livan Hernandez (14-5)
LP: Brett Myers (10-6)

WAS: 63-55 (2nd in NL East, 5 behind Atlanta, 0.5 ahead of Philadelphia, 1.5 ahead of Florida, 3.5 ahead of New York; 1 behind Houston for Wild Card)

A quick notice: This post will be the beginning of an effort by me to post less game details (I know most of you get recaps elsewhere) and more opinion. As any good blogger knows, facts are for sissies. It's just taken some time for me to shake off the fact-oriented nature that my journalism degree has saddled me with. Anyways, on to the game recap...

Livo became Livo again, Nick Johnson continued to provide home run clout, Jose Guillen played hurt and got on base to set up a pair of two-run jacks by Preston Wilson, and the Nationals took a 6-3 win to start the four game set with the Phillies.

And just like that, the Nats are back in second in the NL East and the Wild Card race. They still remain a game behind Houston for the Wild Card, as the Astros pummeled the Cubbies, 12-4.

Livan Hernandez, who had struggled mightily in his previous two starts, went eight innings, giving up two runs on five hits. He also went 1-for-3 at the plate to raise his robust batting average to .242 (more than 50 points higher than Cristian Guzman).

Tonight is game two of the series at Citizens Bank Park. Start time is 7:05.

Ryan Drese (3-6, 4.69 ERA, throws right) will face Cory Lidle (9-10, 4.61 ERA, throws right).

In his last five starts, Drese has been showing why Texas dumped him earlier in the year (yes, the RANGERS dumped a pitcher that the Nationals then deemed was good enough for Washington), taking losses in all five and posting a 6.93 ERA. But Lidle has sucked in his last six outings also, going 1-4 with an astounding 8.31 ERA.

The difference is, Lidle's career ERA vs. the Natspos is 2.54, with a batting-average-against of .207, where as Drese has a 10.57 ERA against the Phillies and turns their entire team into Ted Williams, with a batting-average-against of .400.

Big big BIG win for the Nats. Preston Wilson and Livan Hernandez were the obvious heroes, but Jose Guillen is quickly solidifying his place as one of my favorite players in the Majors.

I have liked Guillen since he threw out some truly memorable blasts to the media about Angels manager Mike Scioscia after the Brendan Donnelly pine tar incident in June. Last night, Guillen was listed as day-to-day with tendinitis in his throwing elbow, but he played anyway, moving from his normal position in left field to right field where the throws are usually shorter. Guillen then proceeded to get on base three times and score twice, helping the team to victory.

Yet I am still worried about this team and this series.

The win last night was great and all -- Preston Wilson hitting homers, Livan Hernandez returning to form (all that acting up was just Livo being Livo, baby!) -- but in such a crucial series, it sucks that the Nats have to rely on Ryan freaking Drese, even in just one of the games. I would say that there has to be someone better in the farm system, but the farm system is awful. Left-hander Matt White in Triple-A New Orleans has been pretty solid, going 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA and a better than 2-to-1 K/BB ratio. While the numbers aren't stellar, he at least should get a shot to prove he's better than a Rangers reject.

Hell, Omar Daal is a free agent with a 4.55 career ERA and had a few good years in the National League (a 2.88 ERA in 33 appearances for the Diamondbacks in 1998, 16-5 with a 3.65 ERA in 1999, 13-7 with a 4.46 ERA with the Phillies in 2001, 11-9 with a 3.91 ERA with the Dodgers in 2002). It looks like his possibly-career-ending mistake was going to the American League. C'mon Nats! Pick him up! Yeah, his best years are behind him, but Drese's "best years" never occurred -- and never will.

And while we're at it, is there any chance Rick Short can play shortstop? (So far he has played almost entirely third base and first base.) The 32-year-old career-minor-leaguer is batting .400 in in New Orleans this year, and I have a hunch that he would post something slightly better than Cristian Guzman's .188 AVG/.231 OBP/.497 OPS. Guzman has 16 RBIs and 15 extra-base hits in 103 games! WHY IS HE IN THE MAJORS????? It's driving me crazy.

I know this is all dreaming here, because in all likelihood, Short CAN'T play short and there's a big reason why Omar Daal didn't get picked up by anyone (although I still think Matt White should at least get a shot).

That being said, the Nats are still in position to take the Wild Card, and let's hope Drese finds some skills between now and game time and the Nats get another big win tonight.

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