Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - the true test begins

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Quickie - the true test begins

It's very hard to be the chaser. While a loss will always be bad, how good a win is is dependent on the team you are chasing. If they lose it's great step forward. If they win as well, then your win is just a frustrating holding of ground. How am you supposed to feel? Hold on, let me check the Reds' score first.

Anyway here is the big moment for the Nats. They've beaten up the little guys. Nine of their next 13 are against quality teams. These first three are against an Atlanta team that has dominated the Nats this season. 4-12 over the first 16 contests. Meanwhile the Reds (the Pirates and Cardinals at 8 games out almost certainly uncatchable at this point) get to play the Astros. They should handle them. Then again, they should have handled the Brewers.

Let's go to the internets!

Minor v Haren
Garcia v Roark
Wood v Ohlendorf

That's right the Nats roll into a series where they need to beat possibly the best team in the National League and throw out Haren, Roark, and Ohlendorf.  All three have been decent or good recently but still its not what you want to see. There are a couple things working in the Nats favor, though. They miss the bulk of the Braves better arms, getting the fill-in Freddy Garcia and the rookie Alex Wood.  Also, the Braves bats have been pretty cold recently. .229 / .318 / .370 over the past week, worse than that the week before.

Whether or not the Reds cooperate, this is where the Nats can prove they belonged in the playoff picture. They could show that if circumstances (and management choices) had been different from the get go then they wouldn't have been fighting for the last WC spot but rather securely in the playoffs. However, lose 2 of 3 or get swept and it exposes the Nats as something less. They are the best of the rest, rather than a true contender. That is the story so far. 1-3 v Baltimore, 1-2 v Cleveland, 2-2 v Detroit, 1-5 v LA, 3-4 v Pittsburgh, 0-3 v St. Louis. This is their chance, if not to make it in the playoffs, at least to rewrite that narrative.


Kenny B. said...

Haren, Roark, Ohlendorf.

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Donald said...

The Nats are highly motivated for this series...the Braves not so much. I'm not sure how much winning this series proves, though losing it would definitely show up the Nats weakness.

It's going to be tough to gain much ground over the next three days. Why oh why can't the Reds pull a Texas collapse and go 1-9?

How much stock do you put into the notion of a crushing defeat like the Reds had yesterday impacting them going forward?

Wally said...

I didn't realize the rotation was that bad going in to this series. Why isn't Karns at least up here to throw some IP from the bullpen? Any other minor league arms already on the 40 man? Maybe their newness can steal a few innings.

Chris Needham said...

The Braves, who could clinch the division with two wins, rubbing it in the face of the team they're starting to hate, aren't motivated?

DezoPenguin said...

Definitely not what I'd have wanted to see going into the Braves series. Mind you, both Roark and Ohlendorf have been surprisingly competent this year, so we can keep our fingers crossed, but the Reds playing the Astros is a killer just since, well, even getting 1 win out of the Astros would be celebration-worthy.

In its way, the Nationals' performance against the Braves this year is a microcosm of their season. Last year, we basically owned them until the September sweep, and finished 10-8 against them. If we were 8-8 now against the Braves, we'd basically be running neck-and-neck with the Reds and seen as one of the elite teams in the NL. The narrative would be all about how Espinosa's non-injury and Strasburg's lack of run support and the bullpen meltdowns and the weak bench were holding us back from last season's success, but not one of a "disappointing season."

Unfortunately, not only are the Reds going to have to have an epic collapse (go go Dusty Baker managing magic!), but we'll have to at least hold serve against ATL, St.L, and Arizona in order to take advantage of this hypothetical collapse.

Strasburger said...

I said once we lost, I would post again.

All you non-believers acting like you weren't ALL talking about next season.

Well here we are, looking at a glimmer of hope again.

The line up against the braves is pretty doom and gloom, but why is Ohlendorf pitching where Stras should be? Why isn't Ohlendorf done like he was supposed to be. Granted he has pitched well, but this six many rotation BS isn't cool.

Still, if the bats are as hot as they have been, there is no reason we can't win 2 of these 3, and then just obliterate Miami for a four game sweep, which I would guess would put us within 2 games.

I'm going to keep believing because it seems to be working.

Harper said...

Kenny B - Stranger things have happened. Nats are a different offensive team now so... maybe?

Donald - yeah, the Braves actually skipped Wood last time. This game doesn't matter to them all that much though he's back. I can't see the double sweep (Nats Astros) so best case I have the Nats 3.5 games out heading into Marlins (worst case Nats lose a game to the Reds).

I think it can matter to the Reds but they need to have a couple pitchers in a row that are off and no early leads. Get it stuck in their heads that something bad is happening. If only it wasn't the Astros, you know?

Wally - Don't know, I guess they like the arms they have. I'm not going to disagree much on that.

Needham - It's Fredi. He's the managerial equivalent of a cooler.

Dezo - Yet they were 9-9 vs last years Marlins team and 11-4 so far this year so evens out? Win 3 more games vs anyone and things are different. The Nats are who they are.

Burger - Don't stop.

Anonymous said...

Houston will take 2 out of 3, All hail Bo Porter!!!! The Nats just need to take care of business to pick up another 1 or 2 games so the real excitement can begin.

Chas R said...

Anybody bout the post season strips yet???

We're looking at tickets to Phoenix!

Don't stop believing!

nicoxen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nicoxen said...


The Nats are playing great baseball and are joy to watch (unlike another professional franchise in the DMV). However, I have two ongoing concerns:

1) In clutch situations, like Saturday night, it seems like Ian Desmond walks up to he plate with an 0-2 count. I know so many batters and coaches preach aggressiveness, but Desi is overly aggressive in high leverage situations. I wish a little bit of Werth would rub of on Desmond in these instances.

2) Where has Harper's power stroke gone? He's had six home runs since the All-Star break. I feel like the true nature and extent of his injuries is being covered up. What other explanation could there be for his lack of pop?

Saturday night's rally was fun to watch, but the Nats failed to get the big blow they need to beat a wobbly Philly team. Infield singles solo homers are nice but where's the bases clearing double or 3-run homers that we need?

Anonymous said...

I think the Braves are a very good team but to think how many one run games we lost to them really killed us. I know a 10 game lead sounds huge but all it would have taken to be tied was winning 5 of those close games against them. And to be honest many losses were due to our own errors.

blovy8 said...

If I go into full superstidiot mode I could blame my brief thought about buying the playoffs strip Saturday afternoon for the loss to the Phillies on Saturday. But I fear that I'm not really the Omnipotent Jinx the God of Baseball Fortune, patent pending, so I figure a few liners didn't fall in that game.

Lookit, we all know they will still be in it by Friday, and I will be temporarily loaning the Lerners some money they'll never need, while they charge me to process my postseason interest, that has somehow begun compounding daily.

blovy8 said...

Harper was tagging the ball pretty good yesterday and hit one off the top of the wall when the ball wasn't particularly carrying. I think he's starting to feel better, or hitterish, or whatever the kids say.

Harper said...

Anon - Bo knows beating the Reds?

Chaz R - for a sec I thought you were saying the D-backs would also make the WC.

nicoxen -
1) Desmond is not patient and is encouraged to play that way. That's fine until pitchers are careful on every pitch. You aren't going to see a change in this. He's still good enough that it's not a give away at bat - that's the best we can say.

2) talked about Bryce before - said he was injured, then HE and the team confirmed it, just going to take an offseason IMO.

blovy8 - With E# at 9, technically will be in it regardless of what happens so it depends on how big a fan you are

Chas R said...

I'm with you blovy... not only did we buy the post season strips, we bought extra tickets for this week.

@Harper- good grief no... following the Nats is frustrating enough! Flights to Phoenix are
$1K each at the end of the month!

Dan said...

Braves fan here again, and the group over at are posting/sending prayers and thoughts to the families of the victims of today's shootings. Baseball's just a game in light of life and death, and I bet the players on both teams will show respect tomorrow in how they treat each other.

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