Things were going so well last night, weren’t they? When I stepped out of my car, the Nationals had just given Scott Olsen a two-run lead. That seemed like more than enough for the temperamental left-hander, who had absolutely cruised through five innings. Well, apparently sitting on the bench in the Atlanta humidity during that long fifth inning sapped whatever mojo Olsen had in him last night. Diory Hernandez pinch hit for Mike Minor to lead off the sixth, which should not have been a problem, seeing as Hernandez was 0-2 on the season. It turned out to be a problem, as Hernandez promptly hit a solo homer. Then Omar Infante tripled, and Jason Heyward walked. At that point, Scott Olsen was yanked and the wheels had officially come off. By time Joel Peralta, Doug Slaten and Craig Stammen were finished, the final score was 10-2. Only the Nats defense (two errors were involved) and bullpen can turn a 2-0 lead into a 10-2 loss so fast. Tonight, the amazingly consistent and unflappable Livan Hernandez takes the hill for the Nats, hoping to settle them down. The only problem is, his opponent is having a Cy Young-caliber season.
Game #120: Nationals (51-68) at Braves (70-49)
Turner Field, 7:10 PM
Josh Willingham is the next outfielder to go down: The Nationals have known for some time that something just was not right with the Hammer. On Sunday, Josh Willingham hit his 16th homer of the season. It was his first homerun since July 2. At that point, Hammer looked to be on pace for a 25-30 homerun season with a .400+ OBP. Now, his average is down, his power is non-existent, and he has stopped driving in runs.
He revealed a couple of weeks ago that he was experiencing pain in his knee, and would probably require surgery in the offseason. Yesterday, it was discovered that the pain was being caused by a torn meniscus in his left knee. He was held out of last night’s game, and a trip to the disabled list (perhaps a season-ending one) could be next. Willingham did establish himself as a solid regular for the Nats, but it is a shame that he will not have the season numbers to match his performance.
More time for Morse? This is not a good thing…: With Willingham out, this would seem like another way to get Michael “The Artist Formerly Known as Mike” Morse some playing time. This was a problem the Nationals were trying to solve last month, as Morse was hitting everything in sight (and hitting a lot of things out of the stadium). Well, now that Morse has seen regular playing time (with Nyjer Morgan on the shelf), his production has disappeared. This month, in which he has only appeared as a starter, Morse is hitting .128 (6-47) with a .277 SLG%. Compare that to his July numbers (when he was still in his super-sub role) of .385 and .718, and it is hard to argue that Morse is better suited to be a utility player than a starter.
Zimmerman weighs in on Dunn: Ryan Zimmerman says it is time to re-sign Adam Dunn. After seeing the money splashed out on Yunesky Maya and Bryce Harper, Zim says Dunn is the “big thing we need to worry about now.” In referencing why he thinks Dunn is so crucial to the team’s success, he claimed not only is he a premier power hitter, but is also a leader in the clubhouse. That is the key to the whole Dunn issue. This team, despite its struggles and mix of young, old, underpaid and overpaid, has been incredibly copasetic and an overly tight group. That is why Willie Harris has stayed with the team all year, and that is why Adam Dunn (the papa bear of the group) needs to stay.
On the hill:
- Nationals – Livan Hernandez; 8-8, 3.08
- Braves – Tim Hudson; 14-5, 2.13
Chomping at the bit:
Nats vs. Hudson –
- Pudge Rodriguez; 14-32 (.438), 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR
- Adam Dunn; 9-25 (.360), 1 2B, 2 HR
Braves vs. Livo –
- Martin Prado (who by the way, has become really good); 7-13 (.538), 2 2B
- Jason Heyward; 2-3 (.667), 1 2B, 1 HR (2.000 SLG)
Hoping to draw a walk:
Nats vs. Hudson –
- Kevin Mench; 1-14 (.071)
- Ryan Zimmerman; 5-31 (.161), 1 2B
Braves vs. Livo –
- Alex Gonzalez; 4-43 (.093), 1 2B
- Melky Cabrera; 2-13 (.154)
News and notes from Nationals Park:
– With Willingham out, Ben Goessling looks at the Nats’ new outfield
– Wil Nieves got a surprise call last night when Pudge was ejected, but he is waiting for a much more important call.
– Here are all the numbers from last night.
Small notes from around the Bigs: Manny Ramirez is set to begin a rehab assignment, returning from a calf injury that has sidelined him since July16. The funny thing is, no one in Los Angeles is all that excited to have him back. Manny has performed pretty well this season (he is hitting .317, but his power is down), but the love affair in LA is over. The “Mannywood” sign has been taken down, and the team acquired Scott Podsednik to take his place and bat leadoff. When Manny comes back, expect him to hit the waiver wire ASAP and the Dodgers will actively begin trying to deal him.
As always, check out my homepage for all of my thoughts on the Nationals. Please share your thoughts, complaints and comments below. For daily updates, you can subscribe to these articles (top of the page, at no charge) or follow me on Twitter (@Neuman85). Enjoy today’s entertainment below!
Song of the Day: The XX – “Islands”
Nats Video of the Day: The AP gives all the details on the Harper signing