Thursday, August 18, 2005

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies 4, Nationals 3 (August 17)

WP: Jon Lieber (12-10)
LP: Esteban Loaiza (7-9)
S: Billy Wagner (28)

WAS: 63-56 (3rd in NL East, 5.5 behind Atlanta, 0.5 behind Philadelphia, 1 ahead of Florida, 2 ahead of New York; 0.5 behind Philadelphia and Houston for the Wild Card)

With Houston losing, the Nationals had a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the Wild Card standings. Instead, they couldn't get their offense going and they lost game two of their four game series with the Phillies.

The Phillies got two runs in the first inning off of Esteban Loaiza, then the Nats tied it with a Vinny Castilla solo homer and a Jose Vidro RBI single in the top of the third. But in the bottom half, the Phillies added two more on a Bobby Abreu double, and that was all Jon Lieber and the Phils needed.

The Nats cut the lead to one in the seventh on a Castilla sacrifice fly, but couldn't tie it up as Ugueth Urbina and Billy Wagner shut them down in the eighth and ninth innings.

The loss sets up a series/second-place-in-the-division/Wild-Card-lead deciding doubleheader today in Philly. The first game is a 1:05 start, with Tony Armas Jr. (7-5, 4.33 ERA, throws right) facing Vincente Padilla (5-11, 4.65 ERA, throws right).

Game two is set for 7:05, with Ryan Drese (3-6, 4.69 ERA, throws right) going against Cory Lidle (9-10, 4.61 ERA, throws right) in what was supposed to be Tuesday's match-up before the game was postponed.

OK Nats, today is the day to get it done.

The loss last night stung, because Esteban Loaiza didn't pitch particularly poorly and the team was in the game to the end, but today should be interesting with four pitchers who have all posted similar ERAs this season.

The first game, in my mind, is the big one, because Tony Armas Jr. is on the mound, and he has been good in his last two starts (one run in 10 innings) and has been fairly consistent all year. If the Nats can't take game one, though, they have to rely on the much-maligned (by me, at least) Ryan Drese, who has stunk lately and showed no signs of improving in his rain-shortened third of an inning on Tuesday.

A pair of wins today could mean first place in the Wild Card standings, and would at least mean second in the NL East and no more than half a game out of the Wild Card.

A pair of losses, on the other hand, could mean fourth place in the division and would mean being three games behind the Phillies for the Wild Card.

A split? Well, splits are for wusses, and it wouldn't really change much. The Nats would remain a half game behind Philly for second in the division. In the Wild Card race, a split wouuld mean that at worst they would fall a full game behind Houston, at best they'd be a half game behind the Phillies.

At the very least, it should be an exciting day/night of Nats baseball.

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