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CHICO AND THE MAN!

[September 2nd] -- It's really no big thing that the Nationals have won two games in a row after losing the previous seven. The San Francisco Giants, after all, aren't all that much better than we are. No, these past two games aren't really any indicator of how good the team is just as most of those losses weren't an indicator of how bad they were. Most were one-run games anyway. Over a 162 game season, the best teams are going to lose seven in a row, and the worst are going to win seven in a row. This late in the season, wins and losses - to me anyway - are meaningless.

What is important is looking at players who may impact the team next year as well as making sure that the players who are already here are playing like they will make an impact as well.

Enter Matt Chico.

A day after Joel Hanran reemerged as a candidate for next year's starting rotation, Matt Chico did the same, pitching almost as well. Chico, who entered Sunday's game with a shortened delivery point, looked unhittable for most of his seven innings, allowing just four hits while striking out three. The better news, however, is that when he did look hittable, he was able to wiggle out of danger without allowing a run.

Now, I'm not suggesting that one good start negates the other twenty-six; what I am saying is that ... man ... he looked really really good. After a really bad start, Tim Redding pitched well against the Dodgers. Afer a really really bad start, Joel Hanrahan was lights-out against San Francisco. Now, after almost two months of poor starts, Matt Chico returned from Columbus with some pizzaz on his pitches.

Here are some of the possible starters for next year, in order of my confidence in them (and their age):

Based on what we've seen so far, I would be content to go into the new stadium with that rotation. And while it's very possible that one, or two of them, will fall flat on their face, the Nationals will have John Lannan and Ross Detweiler waiting in the wings, with a bunch of other guys who could be ready by spring training next year. Based on the cost of free agent starters, I'd be very happy with those five (assuming the team does bring in some bats, that is).

With a month left in the season, Ryan Zimmerman's numbers look acceptable-to-very good across the board. I'd really like to see his batting average be above .270, however. Twice, he's gotten his average up to .275, and twice, he's slumped thereafter, allowing it to return to the .260's.

Did you read Barry Svrluga's blog today? He's quoting "highly placed" sources within the organization (doesn't that always mean Jim Bowden?) saying that the team is "sick" of Felipe Lopez's "actions/attitude." Apparently, the Nationals must either accept arbitration or "non-tender" him this fall, meaning the team gets nothing for him if he doesn't remain with the team. If he was hitting like he was in Cincinnati - .275-20-80 - then we could probably live with his erratic arm (and, apparently, personality). But a .245 hitter CAN'T field poorly. And regardless of what Jim Bowden has said, I believe that Ronnie Belliard is going to be the Nationals' starting 2nd baseman next year, which means that Cristian Guzman would patrol short (assuming he stays healthy). That would be my choice, anyway.

How come no one has mentioned Shairon Martis as being one of the team's "young arms" this year? Martis, 22, acquired from the Giants for Mike Stanton, won his final start on Thursday for the P-Nats, finishing the season 14-8, 4.23, allowing just 150 hits in 151 innings. He'll begin next season at 'AA' Harrisburg, and could - possibly - the year at Columbus. He might be close "the show" by 2009.

Happy Labor Day!


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