Stephen Strasburg probably sat in the dugout in the middle of yesterday’s game thinking, “here we go again.” The young phenom has met nearly all of the expectations placed upon him so far, but has not exactly gotten much offensive support from his teammates. The nadir of his season, from a run-support perspective, came in his first loss (which he dropped 1-0 to the lowly Royals). In the top of the sixth, however, Josh Willingham quickly assuaged Strasburg’s fears. His three-run double busted the game open, and the Nats cruised to a 4-0 victory. Strasburg was great again, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out seven. The Nats offense will get challenged tonight, as they face Josh Johnson, who leads the Majors with a 1.70 ERA.
Game #91 – Nationals (40-50) at Marlins (42-47)
Sun Life Stadium, 7:10 PM
Riggleman says, “Play Hard:” Jim Riggleman may quietly understand that this team is probably right about what it should be, but publicly he wants better results. Speaking to MLB.com, Riggleman stresses his second half focus for the team is to “go out and play hard and play good solid baseball.”
I think it is fair to say this team has played pretty hard all year. Over-blown egos and lazy players have not been a problem this year, which has lead to a pretty cohesive clubhouse. Playing solid baseball, well that has been a problem. The team has a MLB-worst .978 fielding percentage and looked a little sloppy at times last night (especially when Cristian Guzman one-hopped a throw to Adam Dunn from about 15 feet away. If this team does want to improve, they may not need to play harder but they do need to stop giving away runs.
Clutch Dunn: Adam Dunn has been popping off homeruns at a torrid pace recently, and his dingers have been pretty useful as well. Dunn leads the league with 50 extra base hits (uh, sign the guy, Rizzo), and 13 of those hits have been homers to tie a game or take the lead, also the best of any player in the league. Stephen Strasburg has been the main beneficiary of those shots recently, as Dunn has homered in four of his eight starts.
Stay with me, Livan: Livan Hernandez did not concede his fifth earned run of the season until his sixth start. He was about the hottest pitcher in baseball not named Ubaldo Jimenez through mid-May. Since then, he has been fading.
He has not been terrible, having only one real blowup (an eight earned run night in Detroit), but has definitely come back to earth (he only has two wins since May 4). Having conceded four or more earned runs in three of his last four starts, Livo definitely enjoying the break provided to him by the All-Star game. As the team waits for reinforcements to arrive, they could use Hernandez to look a little more like his early-season self.
On the hill:
- Nationals – Livan Hernandez; 6-5, 3.37
- Marlins – Josh Johnson; 9-3, 1.70
Chomping at the bit:
Marlins vs. Hernandez –
- Hanley Ramirez; 7-19 (.368), 3 HR
- Chris Coghlan; 5-6 (.833)
Nats vs. Johnson –
- Ian Desmond; 1-3 (.333)
- Yup, that’s the best they’ve got…
Hoping to draw a walk:
Marlins vs. Hernandez –
- Dan Uggla; 4-22 (.182), 1 3B, 1 HR
Nats vs. Johnson –
- Adam Dunn; 4-21 (.190), 1 2B, 1 HR
- Roger Bernadina; 1-8 (.125)
- Nyjer Morgan; 1-6 (.167)
News and notes from Nationals Park:
– Scott Olsen is itching to get back on the field, and should return very soon
– Matt Capps talks about his All-Star experience (a game in which he earned the win)
– Here are all the numbers from last night
Small notes from around the Bigs: The Padres were supposed to be key players in the trade market this July, and it looks like they still will be. Their role in that market, however, is very different than expected. It was thought that veteran players like Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell would move to contenders and greatly alter some other pennant races. Instead, the surprising division-leading Fathers are looking to add pieces. The Pads are little strapped for cash, but if the right veteran popped on their radar (Ty Wigginton’s name has been tossed around), they may pounce.
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 Thermals – “Here’s Your Future”
Nats Video of the Day: Some footage of Strasburg in the pen warming up last night