NATS BEAT MARLINS, MONSOON
[September 11th] -- Allow me this opportunity to remember those who lost their lives on this day six years ago. Six years? Wasn't it just yesterday that a united Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol building and belted out their impromptu rendition of "God Bless America?"
Regardless of which side of the aisle you may be, regardless of whether you believe the war on terrorism has been properly prosecuted or not, let us together keep the memories of the fallen within our hearts this day.
Okay. Let's play ball!
For the past week, I have been railing on Wily Mo Pena, saying over and over that the last thing this team needs is a one-dimensional player who can't do anything other than hit mammoth home runs every now and again. We want Church! We want Church!
Did I say that?
I don't like players who tease me with their talent, who pretend - for a game or a series or a week - to be stars. Just when I'm ready to pull the plug on WMP, he walks, singles to right field and hits two long home runs. He's now batting .263-7-13 in 72 at-bats with the Nationals. Do a bit of extrapolating, a tinch of mathematics, and voila: we can figure out his production based on a full season: .263-40-80. That's great. He's also projecting to about 160 strikeouts, not really as bad as his past would indicate.
I think that Pena could really help the Nationals next year, that he can hit 40+ homers and drive in 100+ RBI's. But he could also stink really bad, strike out 200 times, and make us wish that Ryan Church was still with the club (trust me, if Pena starts in left, Nook Logan will be the 4th outfielder and Ryan will get traded somewhere). And without Church, and without a productive Pena, any hope of the Nationals approaching, and surpassing, the .500 mark would be gone. I guess I can live with Pena in left next year, but please, Jimbo, have a plan 'B' just in case.
Shawn Hill is a stud. He's learned how to win when he doesn't have his good stuff (last start vs. Florida: 6.1 innings pitched, 11 hits, 6 strikeouts), and when he is sharp, he's pretty much unbeatable. He pitched 6 innings on Monday, allowing 4 hits and no walks while striking out 4. He didn't walk a batter for the second straight outing. With each passing game, Hill is slowly but surely turning himself into the team's #1 starter for next season. The question then becomes his health. Will he, after two straight years on the disabled list, be able to start 30-35 games next year? If he can - if he does - then the Nationals' rotation will be strong next year.
Just when we thought that Ronnie Belliard was about to slowly sink into the Potomac, he goes 3-4 and raises his batting average back up to .282. I never thought he was going to hit .300 (he has a career average of .272), so the .282 looks great to me. However, after averaging 14 homers a year the past four seasons, he's on pace to hit 11, but that can be attributed to playing at RFK instead of Jacobs Field (and playing a few less games). If he returns next year as a starter, it's not a stretch to assume that he'll hit 14-16 homers at the new ballpark. Please please please, Jimbo, let Ronnie be the starting second baseman next year.
The Nationals are now 65-79, four games out of last place, and on track for 73 wins. That would be an astounding feet considering this is a team rebuilding for the future. If they can sweep the Fish, they would need only five wins the rest of the way to better last season's 71-91 mark (a record of 5-11). And that's without Alfonso Soriano, Jose Vidro, Jose Guillen, Nick Johnson ......
Granted, the jury's still out on Wily, but at least he's fun to watch. That laser beam he hit for his first HR last night gave me goose bumps.
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