July 22, 2009
We're on a winning streak! If you're the Washington Nationals, or one of their forlorn fans like me, you've got to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment from whatever small triumph they achieve. And the last two games against the Mets were indeed praiseworthy, not flukes. It's the first back-to-back wins since July 4-5, against Atlanta. John Lannan (Tuesday) and Craig Stammen (tonight) proved once again that they are reliable starting pitchers who can "go the distance" and win games, as long as the batters score a few runs and the fielders don't make too many errors. Lannan pitched a complete-game shutout, the first of his career, as the Nats scored four runs on four hits, while the Mets got seven hits, for nought. Weird! In tonight's game, Josh Willingham came very close to batting "the circuit," with a single, two doubles, and a home run. Tomorrow the Nats host the Cardinals in a rained-out makeup game, and another win would put the "D.C. 9" back over the .300 mark. (Lowered expectations...) Then the last-place Padres come to town, another team that has been underachieving lately.
The Mets are now in fourth place in the NL East at 44-50, while the Braves have surged into second place. That's a pleasant change of pace. The collapse of the Mets is one of the biggest surprises of this season. Usually, they excel until about mid-September, and then collapse.
Jim Riggleman [the Nationals' new manager] wants to give more playing time to Ronnie Belliard, thinking the extra at-bats will raise his batting average. I hope so. The surplus of second basemen means that either he or Alberto Gonzalez or the versatile hustler Willie Harris may be traded in the next few days. The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, and first baseman Nick Johnson is another Nationals player who may be changing residence soon, according to MLB.com The Cardinals and Tigers have expressed interest in Adam Dunn, but he will probably stay put unless some other team offers the Nationals a very lucrative deal.