Oh my goodness, Nationals fans – this whole being-in-first-place thing has me under such stress! I was going to blog earlier this week about Stephen Strasburg’s struggles to earn a win, but then life got in the way and I didn’t get a chance to sit down and type. Then on Tuesday I was going to write about the Nationals’ latest call-up, Michael Taylor, and how he had a base hit and a home run in his Major League debut against the Mets. But again, things got busy and I didn’t get the opportunity. Now after Wednesday night’s game, there are plenty of topics on which I can elaborate.
First there’s Jayson Werth. He hasn’t played in the Mets series because of an ailing shoulder. An MRI did not show any structural damage, so he got a cortisone shot and is expected to return to the lineup soon.
Then there’s Doug Fister and his stellar pitching performance earlier this week, which earned him his 12th win of the season. Fister is not only a great pitcher, but he can field the ball very well and has indicated that one of his goals is winning a Gold Glove for his defense.
We could also talk about Denard Span, who had a 14-game hitting streak and got on base in 36 consecutive games until going 0-5 in Tuesday’s game. This guy earns his paycheck, finding ways to get on base and playing a very good center field.
Oh, and don’t forget that the Nationals continue to be in first place in the NL East, thanks to the struggling Braves. And don’t ignore the red-hot Miami Marlins – they’re not too far behind!
But I actually want to talk about Nationals’ closer, Rafael Soriano. If the Nationals make it to the World Series, I hope they’re always ahead by more than 4 runs when they get to the ninth inning, because if Soriano has to face a save situation in a crucial game (say, a game 7 against the Orioles in late October), I may need to be medicated. Soriano is no Craig Kimbrell, no Dennis Eckersley, no Mariano Rivera. When he is at the plate, it is usually not a 1-2-3 inning. He’ll walk a guy, he’ll give up a home run, and he will even occasionally blow a save. He doesn’t have that one commanding and overpowering pitch that batters just can’t hit. It is very stressful to watch Soriano falter, especially after the starting pitcher has done a good job and deserves to win. I usually have to get up from the couch (which wakes up my husband, who usually falls asleep around the seventh inning) and pace back and forth until the end of the game. Luckily, the fact that my kids are sleeping by that time prevents me from yelling at the TV. I think Soriano is kind of an enigma too – people don’t know whether to like him or not because he’s kind of a loner – very quiet, has a hyperbaric chamber in his house, shows up late to work and doesn’t talk much. When he does talk, he’s quick to criticize his teammates, saying they should’ve made a catch or could’ve hustled more. There was even a game last week when a runner easily made it to first base because Soriano didn’t cover the base – a fundamental play that even my 10-year-old is aware of. Nationals’ manager Matt Williams says that Soriano needs consistent work; that when he goes a few days without pitching, it affects the location of his fastball. Well not having regular work is the nature of a bullpen pitcher – especially a closer. Sometimes you pitch, sometimes you don’t. Is it that hard to adjust? I don’t know; I’m not a relief pitcher. But for someone who has to warm up quickly and be available on short notice, you’d think Soriano would know when he’s had too much rest and would try to do some tossing on the side to stay limber.
My husband and I are off to Nationals Park this Friday for our fourth Nats game this season, this one against the McCutchen-less Pirates. They will then stay at home to host the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants, where former Nat Michael Morse will be returning to Nationals Park for the first time since he left the team two seasons ago. Let’s hope the Nationals continue their winning ways, whether they win with a save from Rafael Soriano or not.