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NATS PREFER DESERT TO MOUNTAINS, BEAT D-BACKS AGAIN

[September 13th] -- It would appear that the Arizona Diamondbacks didn't didn't bother to scout the Washington National this past weekend. More likely, they've never scouted them. The Rockies, who swept the Nationals this season has Washington's number plain and simple. No matter how well the Nats played, the Rockies played better. Yet, a couple of days later, and a couple of states over, it's the Nationals who own Arizona. They are just a couple of games away from sweeping the Diamondbacks, who are clearly the better team. I'm not complaining, mind you. It's just a pretty weird deal.

Ryan Zimmerman had another one of his off nights at the plate, doing what he always does when he's not seeing the ball well. He struck out once, left three runners on base, and popped out to second, grounded out to the right of short, and flied out to right. This is a clear signal that he is, once again, lunging over the plate and trying to pull the off-speed stuff. Not a big deal, though; he'll get it straightened out tomorrow and go 2-5 with an RBI or two. But while his offense was suffering, his defense was sparkling. With two out in the 9th, and speedy Eric Byrnes at the plate, Zim edged near the grass in case Byrnes tried to bunt for a base hit, something he often does. On Cordero's first pitch, however, Byrnes lined a one-hopper at Zimmerman who snagged it, did a 360 before righting himself, then threw a perfect strike to end the game. S-m-o-o-t-h, baby. Smooth.

Nick Johnson continues to push hard to end the season on a high note. The burly first baseman went 2-3 and hit his 22nd homer off of Tony Bautista, giving him 75 RBI's for the year. He could finish the season with 25 homers and 85 RBI's, a solid first "full" year for Johnson. As I mentioned in my last post, I think he'll be the National most coveted during the off-season. He's still relatively young, signed to a long-term cheap contract, and normally plays a solid, just-a-notch-below gold glove first base. With Larry Broadway in the wings, and Robert Fick available should Broadway falter next year, the Nationals can afford to trade Johnson for a #2 / #3 starting pitcher and a prospect. I'm talking a guy who has a history of winning 13 games a season with a ERA under 4.00. Frank Robinson mentioned last night that he felt Nick Johnson isn't a natural clean-up hitter, and I completely agree. Nick is a born number-three hitter. If he returns (and I'm guessing he will), look for he and Ryan Zimmerman to flip-flop spots in the batting order.

I think the time has come to say that Jason Bergman is not a major league starting pitcher. I know, I know, they said the same thing about a young lefty named Sandy Koufax, and he turned out okay. But unlike Koufax, Bergman has no knockout pitch; he is what he is. He lasted only three innings against Arizona, giving up 6 hits while allowing 3 runs. It's time to turn his spot in the rotation over to Mike O'Connor, who, unlike Bergman, had considerable success before a spate of poor outings and eventual demotion to New Orleans. O'Connor has no more "stuff" then Bergman, but he is a lefty, and that helps. I still think Shawn Hill can plug a hole in the rotation next season as well.

Kudos to Felix Rodriguez, who pitched a 1-2-3 7th inning, and ended up winning the game for the Nats. I thought Rodriguez was a great pickup last winter, and felt he had the potential to regain his form that he had with the Giants. He pitched poorly early in the year, however his injury may have had something to do with it.

Darn that Nook Logan. He had another couple of hits and an RBI and is now batting .308. Please, let's not give Jim Bowden any ammunition in his zeal to destroy Ryan Church. I have nightmares where the world "toolsy" chases me down the street, beating me over the head while screaming the names of Endy Chavez, Kenny Kelly, Brandon Watson and Nook Logan.

Way to go, guys, but I got to tell you, this whole "roller coaster" win-loss thing is starting to make me queezy.

[NOTE: I have no idea why the "leave a comment" link is missing -- it's on all the other posts. I'll do some snooping and see if I can fix it.]




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