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HILL HANDLES METS, METS HANDLE NATS

[August 19th] -- So the Nationals have now lost five out six. That it happened isn't surprising or worrisome. How they react to their recent poor play, however, is something to watch. If they go on another winning streak - something they often do after losses - then there is little to worry about. That said, it's been a long long time since the team was mired in a losing streak.

It'll be interesting to see how they react to their very lackluster performance this week.

Okay, forget everything I said about Shawn Hill last week. The 26 year old followed up a stellar six inning, one hit performance against the Phillies with a seven inning effort that saw him give up two runs on seven hits. He walked two. If anything, Hill's outing on Sunday was even more impressive because he was fighting his "stuff" all afternoon. If the kid can succeed when he isn't pitching well, then man-oh-man, we've got ourselves a winner.

A few observations on Wily Mo Pena. First, the guy is very good looking (though that's not terribly important unless you're kissing him). Though his 6'3", 245 lb frame seems better suited for creating upper-deck shots, the guy is very fast, I mean 5-tool fast. His game on Sunday was a microcosm of what he's going to do for the Nats: he's going to play good defense, hit long home runs and strikeout a lot. At this point, I think I'm more comfortable with Pena in the outfield and not Austin Kearns. That said, the Nationals have to give Kearns another year before pulling the plug. I can't believe he's this bad. With a smaller park next year (not to mention better hitters around him), I think that Kearns can produce like this:

I still think it's a very good possibility that next year's starting outfield will be the same one that played in Cincinnati (Adam Dunn, Kearns & Pena)

This 'N That: Remember that most journalists are now saying that the Nationals signed THREE 1st round draft picks (Ross Detweiler, Josh Smoker, Jack McGeary)? Well, make it four. Michael Burgess was listed as the 4th best player available in the 2007 draft as late as this past March. A bad senior year (where he tinkered with his swing) caused him to play poorly, allowing the Nationals to grab him at #49. In 128 at-bats for the GCL Nats, Burgess has hit .336-8-32 with an incredible 1.059 OPS. He's shown remarkable plate discipline as well, walking 25 times. And he's just 18!

Chris Marrero, who was named the best hitting prospect in two different leagues this summer, has seen his batting average dive from .325 to .261 in a month. How come? Have pitchers found a flaw? Perhaps. More likely, however, is that Marrero is suffering from sheer exhaustion. This is first full season and all the bus rides to all the towns and cities in those two leagues have taken its toll.

Glen Gibson of Vermont, whose first bad outing of the year caused his ERA to rise from 0.62 to 1.74 last week (though he still leads the league) has returned to baffling New York-Penn League hitters. Pitching against the Lowell Spinners on Sunday, Gibson gave up just three hits and one run in six innings while striking out seven.


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