In case you haven’t heard, the Washington Nationals are in the middle of a four-game “Battle of the Beltway” series with the Baltimore Orioles. Two games were played at Nationals Park and two games will be played at Oriole Park. The games have so far been well-attended and over-hyped, with some people saying that the two teams playing each other could be a World Series preview.
Not so fast, people! While the 28-24 Orioles and their fans are singing the praises of Manny Machado and Chris Davis, Nationals fans are left wanting more. The Nationals’ 9-3 victory over the O’s gave us a glimmer of hope, but it’s a very small and not-too-bright glimmer. We want Bryce Harper back (he’s listed as “day-to-day” with bursitis in his knee); we want Gio Gonzalez to pitch like he did last year (when he was 21-8 and a Cy Young Award finalist); and we want the bullpen to dominate. Is that too much to ask?
Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, continues with his “it’s still too early to panic” attitude, and frankly, that’s getting old. The season is over ¼ of the way done, and even though there are 162 games, each one of them counts. Is he going to say it’s “still too early” in July, after the All-Star break? He better not keep saying that, or before he knows it, he’ll be packing his bags and going home. Don’t get me wrong; I have liked Davey Johnson since his days of managing the New York Mets; but I think in his old age, he’s getting too lackadaisical and wishy-washy. He needs to inject some intensity and swagger into this team (something I believe was lost when Michael Morse went to Seattle during the off-season).
One thing the Nationals have no control over are injuries. Jason Werth and Wilson Ramos are both out with hamstring strains; Ryan Mattheus broke his hand punching a locker after a particularly bad outing in relief (and should not be collecting a paycheck during his time on the DL, in my opinion); Harper has not been in the lineup consistently since that crash into the outfield wall in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago; starting pitcher Ross Detwiler is on the Disabled List with a pulled back muscle, and second baseman Danny Espinosa is out with a broken wrist (though his .163 batting average indicates that we don’t miss him too much). But last year, the Nationals dealt with a lot of injuries too – Ryan Zimmerman had a shoulder that acted up throughout the season, requiring off-season surgery; Ian Desmond had to bow out of the All-Star Game because of a pulled oblique; Jayson Werth broke his wrist; Wilson Ramos was out for most of the season with a knee injury, and Stephen Strasburg had to be shut down before the season was over because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. And do you know who’s in first place in the AL East? The New York Yankees without Teixeira, Jeter, Pettite, or A-Rod. So don’t tell me that injuries are the reason the Nationals aren’t playing better.
After the two games in Baltimore, the Nationals head to Atlanta – that awful ballpark where fans do that terrible “tomahawk chop” (which I’m going to ban when I become Commissioner of Baseball). Let’s hope the Nationals can take 2 of 3 this weekend before their next homestand against the New York Mets and Minnesota Twins, and let’s hope their bats can stay awake like they did in game 2 against the Orioles. And for the love of mankind, STOP SWINGING AT THE FIRST PITCH!