For the first time this season, the Washington Nationals are not in first place in the NL East. That’s because they lost yesterday’s game, which put them half a game behind the Atlanta Braves. Now, with 9 players on the Disabled List it’s a miracle they have a 21-13 record, but still, not being first anymore kind of stinks.
Two of last week’s losses were due to blown saves by closer Henry Rodriguez, including a Joey Votto grand slam in yesterday’s 9-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Rodriguez also blew a save against the Pirates last week, which caused me to lose a bet with a co-worker. The Nationals are physically falling apart too, with catcher Wilson Ramos being the latest casualty. Ramos ruptured the ACL in his right knee during last Saturday’s game and will more than likely be out for the rest of the season. Other notable members of the DL are Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, Brad Lidge, Mark DeRosa and Drew Storen.
So what’s manager Davey Johnson to do with over 120 games left in the season? Davey says he’s sticking with Rodriguez as his closer, instead of giving the job to relievers Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen or Sean Brunett. That means that if the Nationals are ahead by less than 3 runs going into the ninth inning, we can’t assume they will get the victory. Rodriguez can strike out the side with 9 or 10 pitches, or he can walk a couple of guys and allow a walk-off home run. There is just no rhyme or reason to Rodriguez’s Jeckyll-and-Hyde behavior – his inconsistency makes him a true enigma.
On a positive note, the Nationals’ bats have finally woken up, having produced 34 hits in the last 3 games. Danny Espinosa has finally broken out of his slump, Roger Bernadina has contributed with a couple of home runs, and Adam LaRoche continues to be hot. Up next is a homestand against the Padres, Pirates, and red-hot Orioles – that’s a 3-game series that should draw big crowds to Nationals Park this weekend.
And what about Bryce Harper? Well, I hate to be negative, but sometimes he can be a real idiot. Not only did he call everyone in the outfield off yesterday to make a diving catch that was totally unnecessary, but he got mad at himself after going 0-5 with 3 strikeouts last Friday and hit himself with his bat, requiring 10 stitches above his left eye. He didn’t MEAN to hit himself – he had a tantrum and hit a wall with his bat, and the bat bounced back and hit him on the face. I know, it’s kind of funny when you think about it! And if the rumors are true, Bryce was the one who caused teammate Mark DeRosa to go on the DL because he high-fived him so hard that DeRosa strained his oblique muscle (the Nationals have not confirmed nor denied this rumor). Bryce needs to chill – while it was nice to see him react to being hit by a pitch by stealing home plate recently, he’s been coming across as cocky and arrogant, and nobody likes that.
So… things are getting interesting in “Nats Town!” Let’s hope the team that’s leading the Majors in pitching with a combined ERA of 2.73 can continue dominating opposing batters, and may the Nationals’ bats remain hot for the rest of the season. Because being in second place is just not fun.