Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Are the Nats Really This Good? Don't look now, but the Nationals are hot. With a 13-inning marathon win tonight, the Nats have won 4 of the last 6 games. They are getting decent outings from the starting pitching, each time out. The streak started with Jason Bergmann's win in Atlanta, last week. It was Bergmann's turn again, tonight. He pitched very well. In the second, he got careless and served a meatball that the Phillies' pitcher drove to deep center for an RBI double, and he ran into a rough patch in the 7th inning, before being relieved. Otherwise, Bergmann was dominating the Phillies' lineup.

The offense looked good, too. Brian Schneider rallied the Nats in the bottom of the 2nd, with his first big hit of the year -- a 3-run home run. Then, the Nats actually worked together to manufacture a run, just the way you plan it when you set the lineup. Felipe Lopez led off the third inning with a single, and then stole second. Rafael Belliard was walked. Ryan Zimmerman hit a long fly down the right field line, allowing Lopez to tag up and advance to third. Finally, Dmitri Young drove a ball to deep center, again allowing Lopez to tag up and, this time, score.

So, everything was clicking, until the seventh inning, when Bergmann got in a little trouble. Saul Rivera wasn't able to deliver, in relief of Bergmann, allowing the two inherited runners to score, but Micah Bowie came on to get an inning ending, lead preserving double play. Jon Rauch was great in the 8th inning. Then Chad happened. A closer cannot continue to live as dangerously as Cordero does. Unsurprisingly, he allowed the first two hitters to single off him. After that, sacrifice bunt and a ground ball out was enough for the Phillies to score the tying run, touching off the mini-marathon that ensued.

The surprise hero was probably Michael Restovich. Called up in the afternoon, as Kory Casto was sent down, Restovich made a big sliding catch, and had two hits, including the big hit in the 13th inning that advanced Chris Snelling to third. A Lopez fly ball was enough to score Snelling with the winning run. Except for Rivera and Cordero's big hiccups out of the bullpen, this is the kind of game every good team tries to put together each night out.

So, are the Nats turning into a good team? Well, last time I saw them in person, on Opening Day, they were a terrible team. They had one good inning in the first week. They are definitely looking a whole lot better. I'm planning on going to tomorrow afternoon's game. Hopefully, I'll get to see a pretty good team. It will be a get-away day lineup, but I'm looking to see John Patterson turn in a good effort, in contrast to his opening day nightmare. Then, I'll answer the question about how good the Nationals are.

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