Monday, August 15, 2005

MLB: Nationals weekend recap (August 12-14)

The weekend in review for the Nationals (Sunday's recap includess previews and standings information)...

Nationals 4, Colorado Rockies 2

WP: Esteban Loaiza (7-8)
LP: Jamey Wright (6-13)
S: Chad Cordero (38)

The Nationals used a three-run first inning against the Rockies to get back in the win column after dropping their last two against the Astros. Nick Johnson had an RBI double and Jose Guillen had a two-run single in the first inning to give the Nats a lead that they would not give up. Esteban Loaiza pitched 6.1 innings, giving up one run on five hits to get the win.

Brian Schneider hit an RBI double in the fourth inning to make it 4-1.

Chad Cordero worked a scoreless ninth to record his 38th save.

Nationals 8, Colorado Rockies 0

WP: Tony Armas Jr. (7-5)
LP: Byung-Hyun Kim (3-9)

The Nationals put on an offensive display at Coors Field on Saturday, scoring in five different innings to take an 8-0 win and guarantee a series victory over the Rockies.

Tony Armas Jr. scattered nine hits in six innings of shutout ball, and six different Nationals had RBIs in the victory. There were no homers in the game, but Vinny Castilla, Nick Johnson, Brian Schneider and Jose Guillen all had RBI doubles (Johnson had two). Cristian Guzman and Preston Wilson both had RBI singles, and Guillen added a sacrifice fly.

Nationals 9, Colorado Rockies 2

WP: John Patterson (7-3)
LP: Jose Acavedo (2-3)

WAS: 62-55 (3rd in NL East, 5.5 behind Atlanta, 0.5 behind Philadephia, 1 ahead of Florida, 3 ahead of New York; 1 behind Houston for Wild Card)

Just three days after falling three games behind Houston for the Wild Card in what manager Frank Robinson said was the lowest point of the season, the Nationals are back within one after sweeping the Rockies. Houston helped out by dropping the last two games in a three game set with Pittsburgh, and the Nationals are still in the midst of a tight playoff race.

On Sunday, the Nationals blew out the Rockies for the second straight day, scoring nine runs before Colorado got on the scoreboard. Nick Johnson led the way with four RBIs, including a three-run homer in the middle of a five-run fifth inning. Jose Guillen and Preston Wilson both added a pair of runs driven in, themselves.

John Patterson had another stellar outing, giving up just one run on nine hits in eight innings to drop his ERA to 2.44. He struck out five Rockies and walked two.

Now the Nats head to Philadelphia for a four game set against the team that is half a game ahead of them in the NL East and in the Wild Card race, the Phillies. Washington sends Livan Hernandez (13-5, 3.51 ERA, throws right) to the hill tonight to face Brett Myers (10-5, 3.46 ERA, throws right) in a 7:05 start. Myers and Hernandez have similar numbers on the season, but the Phils pitcher has won his last four decisions while Hernandez has dropped three of four.

The Nationals pitchers seemed to be unaffected by the thin air and tiny stadium in Denver, while the Washington hitters reaped the benefits. The Nats outscored the Rockies 27-4 in the three-game series.

Meanwhile, the Astros laid an egg in the last two games against Pittsburgh, allowing Washington to get back within a game in the Wild Card Standings.

The series against the Phillies is GIGANTIC, because the teams are jockeying for second place in both the NL East and the Wild Card. Even a series split could mean both teams losing ground to the Astros, who play the sub-.500 Cubs for three games, then start a series against the sub-.500 Brewers.

On the other hand, a series win or a sweep for the Nationals would definitely mean retaking second place in the NL East, and could mean earning a share -- or even sole possession -- of the Wild Card lead. So now you see how this series is important.

Tonight's game is especially important for the Nationals to set the pace, because they need Livan Hernandez to set the pace before they have to rely on Texas Rangers reject Ryan Drese tomorrow.

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