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NATS, STARTERS ON THE REBOUND

[September 4th] -- There is an old saying that bad news comes in threes. Well, maybe. But in the case of the Nationals' starting rotation, it's good news that comes in threes.

Joel Hanrahan came off a bad outing - no, a horrid outing - and allowed just one hit in six innings on Friday. Then came Matt Chico, who was coming off a bad summer, who returned from the minors with a shortened delivery point and a strengthened resolve. He allowed just one run in seven innings on Sunday.

Monday? Well, Monday was Jason Bergman's time to shine.

Bergman's season has been neatly divided into two halves, pre-injury and post-injury. Before he was hurt, he was one of the best pitchers in the majors and had the lowest batting average-against in the National League. After he returned from his injury, he was easily one of the worst.

To say that Bergman had something to prove after returning from his second stint on the DL would be an understatement. A strong finish would just about assure the 25 year-old of a spot in next year's rotation. But if his poor outings continued ....

His return on August 28th was good enough, six innings pitched, three runs allowed. Good enough, but not great. But Sunday's game was a masterpiece. Bergman pitched seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits. He struck out nine.

The old Bergman is back.

If he can continue to pitch this well in September, the Nationals will go into 2008 with Hill and Bergman leading the rotation. To be sure, these aren't exactly "names," but - based on their pitching in 2007 - they'll become "known" soon enough.

I haven't decided what to think about Wily Mo Pena yet. Though he homered and singled, I'm still not certain that the Nationals are a better team with him in left field and Ryan Church on the bench. True, the guy can mash the ball - 5 homers in less than 3 weeks is a pretty good indicator, but he continues to be an "all or nothing" hitter. Home run. Strikeout. Church, on the other hand, can help the team win in other ways. Like I said, I'm just not sure what to think. What say you?


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