Hello, Nationals fans! What a week it’s been, with the Nationals coming back from a 4-3 road trip. Not bad, considering two of the losses were to the first-place Atlanta Braves, who had beaten the Nationals in their previous 9 encounters until Jordan Zimmermann’s stellar pitching performance last Wednesday.
During their road trip to Atlanta and Pittsburgh, the Nationals did something they hadn’t done since the second week of the season – they scored at least five runs in consecutive games. Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa finally figured out how to hit in key situations (LaRoche went 5-for-10 and drew six walks over the last four games), and Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos came off the Disabled List and contributed offensively as well.
The Nationals’ pitching still seems a bit inconsistent, but starter Dan Haren is starting to look sharp and Gio Gonzalez was dominant in Sunday’s game after allowing a first-pitch home run to start the game. Gio was visibly rattled after Bryce Harper was ejected in the top half of the inning, but calmed himself down after the home run and ended up having a very good outing.
So why was Bryce Harper ejected? In case you missed it, he tried to check his swing after a curveball was thrown by Pirates’ starter, Wandy Rodriguez. Third base umpire, John Hirshbeck, said that Harper swung (I think he did too, after seeing replays from four different angles), and Harper raised his arms in disbelief while still holding on to his bat. Hirshbeck stated walking down the third base line towards home plate while raising his arms to imitate Harper, and that made Harper throw down his bat and helmet in frustration. This is when Hirschbeck ejected Harper for an “equipment violation” and for being “disrespectful.” I think it was a bit harsh for Hirschbeck to eject Harper – yes, Harper should have kept his cool, but it’s not like he spit at Hirschbeck or anything (someone else did, back in the ‘90s, and he’s in the Hall of Fame despite that). I never cared for Mr. Hirschbeck – he’s always been a hot-head, and he gives umpires a bad rap.
So what’s next for the Nationals? They return to DC to entertain the 19-11 Detroit Tigers for two inter-league games and the 11-20 Chicago Cubs for three before packing up and heading west. The Nationals need to win at least one game against Detroit and two of three from the Cubs, because they don’t normally do well on west-coast road trips. Stephen Strasburg needs to get better command of his fastball, Ross Detwiler has to be more dominant, and the bullpen needs to stop walking so many batters and allowing so many runners to steal bases. Yes, it will be fun watching last year’s Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera; let’s just hope the Nationals can stop his hot bat and make some good memories of their own.