Who Were Those Guys (in the Nats' uniforms)? I just got home from RFK, and a few of us waiting for the Metro were wondering just who those guys were -- the ones that pounded out 15 hits, and shutout the Florida Marlins (who are the highest-scoring team in the National League), winning 6-0. Apparently, the Nationals just needed a little home-cooking to snap the seemingly endless losing streak that began in San Diego, and continued for swings through Chicago and Milwaukee. Were those really the Nationals?
The Nats weren't perfect, but they were pretty darn good. They left 8 men on base, and probably should have scored more than 6 runs, considering how many hits they had. Austin Kearns made one boneheaded play, when he took off from second base on a fly to centerfield that had a chance of falling in for a hit, but was caught by the Marlins' Alfredo Amezaga. Kearns whipped around third and then stood and watched in bewilderment as the Marlins' doubled him up with a throw into second. The infield botched a couple of throws to first base, as well.
Despite all that, the Nats looked pretty good, and they beat up on the Marlins' getting a little revenge for last month's 12-6 drubbing in Miami. No home runs, but the Nats hit some balls hard, and hit some 'seeing-eye' singles. They also had some good defense, including the team's most spectacular outfield catch, when Ryan Langerhans dove for and robbed Miguel Cabrera of an RBI line-drive double that would have ruined the shutout.
The Nats weren't perfect, but starting pitcher Shawn Hill nearly was. He retired the Marlins in order through the first four innings. In the fifth inning, he got ahead of Josh Willingham, and nearly struck him out, but just managed to hold up his swing on the two-strike pitch. The Nats appealed the call, but to no avail. Hill seemed a little rattled by that decision, and lost his bearings. His next three pitches to were balls, giving the Marlins their first baserunner. Hill also walked the next batter, Aaron Boone but then retired the final three batters of the inning, preserving his no-hitter.
As Hill finished his warm-ups for the sixth inning, Manny Acta came out to the mound, and Hill's day was done. Early reports are somewhat encouraging, saying there was no one moment when Hill injured himself. He has an inflammed elbow, and will have an MRI next week. With luck, there is no serious injury, and Hill will return to the rotation in two weeks. Hill is on the verge of stardom. He has pitched as well as anyone in baseball. He has a history of elbow trouble, but if he can avoid any further serious injury, Hill will become an ace starter.
Still, Hill's injury -- coming while he was in the middle of a no-hitter, and on the night the Nats played their best game to date -- is the kind of bad luck that seems reserved for the Nationals. Manny Acta has to wonder what he has to do out a major-league team on the field, and win some games. At least the Nats got their 10th win, and started the home stand on a pretty good note. Hopefully, that will continue with a few more wins, and some good news about Hill's elbow.