The D.C. Daily Diary

By Asher B. Chancey


Asher will be working in Washington D.C. for the summer, and while he is there, he will be keeping tabs on the Orioles and Nationals via a semi-daily diary that he will keep as he gets the opportunity to watch these two teams close-up.


August 1


The Nats managed to avoid the sweep last night, and stay in second place, and stop their six game losing streak. The Braves also managed to win, but the Phillies and Marlins both lost, so the Nats have a little breathing room between themselves and third place.


In what would seem like a good thing, the Nats play the luke warm Dodgers at home in the beginning of the week, and then face off against the mightily struggling Padres in Washington for a weekend series. This week gives the Nationals what they need – mediocre competition and games at home. If the Nats are going to make a push here, these are must win games. If you can't win the easy ones at home, you probably can't win the division.


Meanwhile, the Braves go on the road to face the suddenly hot yet still quite bad Cincinnati Reds, and then show down against the still very good but suddenly injury plagued St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis. There is serious potential for the Braves to lose some games this week, and the Nationals could wake up a week from now and find themselves within a game and a half of the division lead.


The Orioles, on the other hand, may be playing for next year. HOW ON EARTH did the Orioles manage only to trade Larry Bigbie for Eric Byrnes? You have got to be kidding me.


The Orioles got their butts rocked last night as the White Sox hit them early and often. For the second straight day, the Orioles started failed to make it through 2 innings, and for the second straight day, Bruce Chen came on in relief. Rodrigo Lopez gave up eight earned runs in 1.1 innings of work, and got yanked one night after Daniel Cabrera had to leave after getting injured in the second inning. Last night, Chen gave up two runs, and tonight he has given up a sac fly to score a run which he didn't get credited with. How did the Orioles NOT get a starting pitcher before the deadline?


Today's games really made clear what is going on in the AL East. The Yankees managed to pull one out against the AL West leading Angels by scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the score, one in the tenth to tie it again, and one in the eleventh to win it. The resurgent Jason Giambi had two more home runs to bring his July total up to 14 after hitting 5 the first three months combined. The Red Sox scored the tying run in the seventh and the go ahead run in the eighth and then held on to win as Curt Schilling pitched the ninth for his fifth save. And, as the troubled Manny Ramirez came up to pinch hit in the eighth inning, the Red Sox fans gave him an uproarious ovation, indicating their forgiveness after his recent brooding shenanigans. In Toronto, rookie Guztavo Chacin held the mighty Texas offense to one unearned run over 6.1 innings, despite walking four, and the Blue Jays beat the Rangers to move back to two games over .500, and are now a full two games ahead of the Orioles.


And then there is the Orioles. Lopez gave up the five first inning runs, and the game was over. Sammy Sosa struck out his first two times up on six total pitches. Melvin Mora started the game 0-3, to lower his average to .294, the lowest it has been since May. By the time Brian Roberts hit his 16th homerun of the season in the seventh inning, and then Eric Bigbie hit another right behind it to chase Freddy Garcia, the game was already out of reach.


Its all over but the crying for the O's. Here's to next year.


July 31


You know what JUST occurred to me? The Nationals are coming out of a July in which they have gone 8-18. They have lost every series they have played this month, except for one, which is remarkable. But the one series they won was against the Cubs.


They swept the Cubs to start the month of July. Of all the teams to play well against, my adopted team the Nationals picked my main team the Cubs. Couldn't have beaten the Astros three out of four. Had to sweep the Cubs.


The Orioles face off against the White Sox tonight (Rodrigo Lopez vs. Freddy Garcia), hoping to get back to .500.


The Nats face the Marlins , hoping to a) avoid the sweep, b) stay in second place, and c) stop their six game losing streak.


If I were betting man, I would take the Nats over the Marlins, and the White Sox over the Orioles.


July 30


The Orioles are starting to remind me of the 2002 Cubs, who got off to a fast start and then absolutely swooned and failed to win 70 games. The "I can't believe that this has happened" streak continues as the Orioles are officially one game under .500 after last night's 9-6 heart breaker at home against the White Sox. After seven inning, the O's were up 6-4 despite losing Daniel Cabrera after he got hit by a line drive off of Joe Crede's bat (pitching hand). In the eighth inning, they handed to ball to Chris Ray who has been solid all season, but he gave up four big runs, and the White Sox went on to win. Ray's ERA jumped from 0.92 to 2.61 based on his inning's performance.


The Orioles are now 8-17 in the month of July after starting the month 43-35.


The Orioles are now in fourth, are one game under .500, have one of their only solid starters injured, and are looking up at, of all teams, the Toronto Blue Jays. They are only seven games out, but need to turn it around ASAP. As for wild card hopes, they are currently the tenth best team, out of 14, in the league, and almost have a better chance of winning their division at this point.



Phil Nevin


This by the way, is too good. The Padres had a deal to trade Phil Nevin for Sidney Ponson, which is truly giving up something for nothing, but Nevin balked at the idea of going to the Orioles.


The Padres should have been thrilled to not have to take on Sidney Ponson. But the Padres didn't learn from their near disaster, instead shipping Nevin to the Rangers for, I hope you are sitting down, Chan Ho Park!


Unreal. What was their next option? Shipping him to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Danny Waechter? And if that fell through, sending him to the Mets for Tom Glavine?


Holy Mackeral.



Things continue to unravel for the Nats. The Phillies have won three straight, the Marlins four straight, and the Braves five straight, while the Nats have lost six straight and 9 out of ten.


They are 8-18 in the month of July, and they have lost ten straight one-run games.


Today, the Marlins pitching handled them to the tune of no runs and 4 hits. A.J. Burnett, once thought to be Baltimore bound, pitched seven innings, and the Marlins look like they are now in playoff contention.


Get this – if the Marlins beat the Nationals today (Livan Hernandez vs. Brian Moehler) and the Phillies beat the Rockies in Colorado (Lieber vs. Francis), then the Nats will be in fourth place just like the Orioles. Now, this is a better, and tighter division than the AL East, but it is NEVER good to be in fourth. And, unlike the O's, the Nats still have a wild card to play for here – at this point the Astros, Nats, Marlins and Phillies are the only real wild card contenders (the Cubs are two games over and the Mets are even). I've said this in the past, but this is a big game for the Nats – they have to win or else watch the rest of the team fade over the horizon.


July 29


So, almost two months after I arrived, and about a month since they last each sat atop their respective East division, I awake on July 29th to find the Nationals in second place and falling fast, and the beloved Orioles in fourth place, one game over .500, a most disgraceful place.


Though, I must say, the 3-games-over-.500 now-in-third-place Toronto Blue Jays have managed to keep their heads above water – you heard it hear first.


Their mutual demises actually reflect two totally different scenarios for these two teams. For the Nationals, what had been working simply stopped working. Their record was already anomalous, as their merely solid pitching and remarkably poor offense allowed them to squeak clean in the close ones, but you can’t win for long with that formula, and the Nats had to come down eventually. One thing that also helped the Nats get to first place was that the teams in their divisions consistently beat themselves, literally and figuratively:

-         The Mets beat themselves in the off-season, putting together a rotation that only a mother could love. With Benson, Zambrano, Ishii, and Glavine lined up behind Pedro, the only to be sure of was they would win at least once a week. On offense, they had pleasant surprises from Cliff Floyd and David Wright, but they were not enough to off-set uneven performances from Piazza, Cameron, Matsui, and Reyes, and an abysmal season on both sides of the ball from Carlos Beltran. Truth be told, they are still two games over .500, and playing better of late, and would be in first place out West, but in the NL East that gets you last.

-         The Marlins have had unproductive seasons from too many players – Castillo, Lowell, Pierre, Gonzalez, and Lo Duca – to off-set the seasons that Delgado, Cabrera, and Encarnacion (of all people) are having. Their pitching has been excellent at times, but has failed them too often of late, and injuries to Mota and Beckett have hurt them.

-         The Phillies have little pitching – with Randy Wolf hurt, Vicente Padilla, Jon Lieber, and Cory Lidle don’t get it done even with a surprising Brett Myers – and weak hitting – with Thome hurt, there isn’t much going on after Abreu Burrell and Utley.

-         The Braves broke training with Raul Mondesi and Brian Jordan as their starting corner outfielders. Their pitching got off to a quick start, then got hurt. Andruw Jones ripped it up in the spring, then stumbled the first couple months of the season. Their off-season acquisition closer, Danny Kolb, flopped, and Chipper Jones got hurt after a quick start.


Given the ways in which the other teams in the East found to beat themselves while the Nats were hot, it is little surprise that the Braves are now the team on cruise control in the division. Pitching is rarely a problem in Mazzone-land – Hampton and Hudson returned from injury (though Hampton is hurt again) and the Braves have used youngsters Horacio Ramirez, Kyle Davies and Jorge Sosa as effective compliments to the resurgent John Smoltz. And as poor as the Mondesi-Jordan experiment went, that is well the impromptu youth movement has gone in Atlanta. Faced with a fourth place ranking in June, the Braves freaked out and started calling up the future stars, who have been remarkably productive. The Braves currently have four players – Pete Orr, Ryan Langerhans, Jeff Franceour, and Kelly Johnson – who are seeing significant playing time after making their Major League debuts this season, and two others – Andy Marte and Brian McCann – on the roster in their first ever ML action. And Andruw Jones, well, he finally stepped up.


This situation typifies the Braves during their run of the last 15 years – whenever something goes wrong, the Braves always right the ship in a way that no other team could ever hope to do. In this era of player movement and free agency, the Braves yesterday afternoon filled every position in their lineup, other than pitcher, with a player who had never played a game for a team other than the Braves. That is amazing.



In the blockbuster, put us over the top trade we've all been waiting for, the Orioles today traded Larry Bigbie for . . . . Eric Byrnes!?!?!?!


















Larry Bigbie
















Eric Byrnes

















Okay, so Byrnes is technically better than Bigbie, but why even make this trade. Sure, it is an upgrade in terms of upside, but Byrnes is significantly more expensive than Bigbie, and the Orioles are desperately in need of pitching. Good job, guys.



Nationals lost to the Marlins 4-3, Orioles lost to the White Sox 7-2. Orioles were down 4-1 after three innings, and the Nationals were down 3-0 after one. Not even worth talking about.


July 28


Wow. What a week it has been for the Nationals! At 7pm last Thursday, the Nationals were getting ready for a four game set with the Astros (who we may have to rename the Astors due to my inability to type their name correctly on the first try). The Nationals were in first place, a half game up on the idle Braves. Well, today at 7pm, the Nationals have lost six of their last seven, including a three game sweep in Atlanta, and are now three games out of first place. LIKE THAT. It seems like the Nats were riding high twenty minutes ago.


July 27


The Nationals are bearly putting up a fight against the Braves, going down again today 4-3. Danny Kolb of all people got the win.


Interestingly, the Braves started eight position players who have never played a major league game for a team other than the Braves. Unbelievable.


Even more interestingly, the Braves started two guys, Jeff Franceour and Brian McCann, who were born after current Brave Julio Franco made his Major League debut, and another, Kelly Johnson, who was born in the same year, 1982. Unbelievable.


The Orioles lost a high scoring one today to the Rangers. Jorge Julio once again took the loss, which only brings him one step closer to being chased out of town. Lots of home runs for both teams, but not enough pitching (so, you say the Rangers are in town).


Bruce "on-again off-again" Chen was off-again, giving up 5 runs in the first two innings, but the Orioles managed to rough up Chris Young for five runs in four innings.


Chris Ray continues to look good, going two scoreless innings and striking out three to lower his ERA to 0.51.


Bruce Chen has truly been on-again off-again. Check out his game log:












































































































July 26


My father-in-law was in Atlanta for the game today, which the Nationals managed to blow in what has become all too familiar the last few weeks – they led by one in the bottom of the ninth after eight innings of Livan Hernandez one run ball, only to give up the tie in the ninth, walk in the winning run in the tenth, and lose the lead in the division for the first time since the first weekend I was in town.


Anyway, my father-in-law reported that Braves fans are quite strange, only occasionally getting into the game, and then mustering one good Tomahawk chop when the timing is right. And, he added that the chop was incredibly annoying.


Chad Cordero got his 4th blown save and Mike Stanton, the former Brave, took the loss.


July 25


A sign that things really aren't going to Orioles way right now – they had a trade all wrapped up to get rid of Sidney Ponson in exchange for Phil Nevin, and Nevin exercised his no-trade clause. Phil Nevin, of all people. I'm surprised the Orioles didn't counter with, "Yeah, but would you take Ponson anyway? Please?"


July 24, 2005


This is definitely the sorriest day of the summer – the Washington Nationals are now officially tied for first with the inevitable Atlanta Braves, having lost three of four to the surging Astros. These two teams, the Braves and the Astros represent the Nationals two biggest problems – the Astros are their chief rivals for the wild card, and the Braves are their chief rival for the division. And now, the Nationals will face the Braves for a three game set with the division on the line.


However, the truly sorry occurrence of the day, indeed of the weekend, and possibly the year, is that the Baltimore Orioles, engaged in a three way battle for the AL East, managed to allow themselves to be swept by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. There is no good side to this one – they lost 6-2 even though Erik Bedard was pitching. BRob and Rafie were a big 0-8 at the plate. The lone offense came from solo home runs from Sammy Sosa and Sal Fasano.


Things are not looking good for the O's. I thought they would need to acquire pitching to win the division. They may need to acquire pitching to have a winning season.


July 23


Another one-run loss for the Orioles. On the bright side, the pitching looked really good – Ponson pitched 7 innings and only gave up 3 runs while walking none, and this Chris Ray kid continues to impress, lowering his ERA to 0.61 after pitching a perfect eighth.


Still – one run loss to the Devil Rays!?!?!?! Two in a row to the Devil Rays?!?!?!?!? This is a team that is supposed to the be contending!



The Nats did what they needed to do today – they beat the weaker Astros pitcher, Brandon Backe. The Braves also won, which means the two teams are now tied for the third straight day.


Cleverly, I went around telling anyone who would listen to look out, because the 14-1 shellacking was going to wake this team up, and it did! Lets see if they can keep it up.


Importantly, all five teams in the NL East now have winning records are within 5 and half games of first place, so the Nationals could very easily end up in last place if not careful.


By contrast, the Padres just lost their sixth in a row and are now only two games over .500, and yet still in first place by three and a half games. Ah, the demands of a lesser division.


July 22


I would hope that Frank Robinson will not even talk about tonight's game. For those that missed it – Clemens vs. Drese, Clemens went six innings, giving up 3 hits and no runs and striking out 10 to lower his ERA to 1.40, which seems like a typo. Drese pitched fine for a while, but was ultimately chased in a four runs seventh, and then Sunny Kim got obliterated to the tune of 10 hits and 8 earned runs in 1.2 innings. The Nats ended up getting destroyed 14-1 in their worst loss of the season. Their sole run didn't come until the eighth, and Preston Wilson struck out 4 times.


That being said, the Nationals got lucky as the Braves, down 5-1 in the ninth, came back to tie the score before ultimately losing in the tenth, allowing the Nats to hold on to a tie for first place.


The important thing is - this may be just the type of thing to wake the Nats up. Lots of close games can make it feel like you are just missing, and can make you wait for things to turn around, but a 14-1 blowout can really force a team to reassess things, like a slap in the face. In that sense, this may be exactly what the team needed.


The Orioles, meanwhile, coming out of a series in which they lost two of three to an impressive Minnesota Twins team, began their three game set against the unimpressive Tampa Bay Devil Rays with a 7-5 loss tonight. Bruce Chen was off-again, and Seth McClung won his first game of the season. The struggling Aubrey Huff, of all people, hit a grand slam and it was enough to overcome Larry Bigbie's 3-4 day.


You know, if Chen can’t beat McClung, what hope does Ponson have against Scott Kazmir?


July 21


Brian Roberts, through 94 team games, has played 87 games and sits at 15 HR and 19 SB. At this rate, he will finish the season with 150 games played, 26 HR, and 32 SB, a far cry from what his early numbers were headed for.



Last night I took in my second Nationals home game of the season (can it possibly be July 21st and I have only been to two Nationals games). It was a somewhat noteworthy experience despite the loss to the Rockies. First, it was Mike Stanton's 1,000th game (is that possible?), which makes him only the tenth pitcher to accomplish that feat (Orosco, Franco, Tekulve, Eckersley, Lee Smith, Wilhelm, Plesac, Gossage, Mike Jackson). This is probably a club which will have many more members ten years from now than it had ten years ago.


Secondly, I got to see Livan Hernandez tie a modern major league record by hitting 4 batters. It was a wild night for Livan, who walked two in addition to the four HBPs, and only through 65 of his 104 pitches for strikes. After the game, he threatened to have surgery on an aching knee, but it is rumored today to just have been frustration.


Another rarity happened in the fourth inning. After a Brad Wilkerson strikeout, the Rockies catcher J.D. Closser, in his first full year with the team, jumped up to start the throw around and ended up sailing the ball into left field, where Matt Holliday calmly retrieved the ball and threw it back in to the third baseman. Pretty hilarious. Closser had a pretty wild night as well, although he didn't really give up any passed balls or anything, he regularly looked out of position on pitches, and at least once bobbled a throw from the outfield.


In contrast, Brian Schneider looked fantastic. In the second inning with a man on first and second and 1 out, Brian Schneider took a low pitch and rifled the ball to second base where the runner, leaning to third, was unable to get back in time. Then in the sixth rookie leadoff man Cory Sullivan tried to steal second and Schneider threw him out easily.


In the end, it was a poor loss for the Nationals, as they made silly errors on both sides of the ball and squandered some opportunities. Jamey Carroll led off the game with a single, and then Jose Vidro doubled to score Jamey Carroll, but when the Rockies bumbled the relay throw, Vidro took off for third where he ended up getting tagged out easily. Then, after a Brad Wilkerson single, Jose Guillen popped up to first. The ball went just over Todd Helton, who made an over the shoulder grab, but when he turned around, Wilkerson was about twenty feet from first base. Jason Jennings made the heads up play by covering the bag, and Helton threw to Jennings for the easy double play.


The Nationals should have been up 3-0 with one out and had Jennings on the ropes, but instead the inning was over. This is a team that had been finding ways to win, and they went out of their way to find a way to lose last night.


From an aesthetic standpoint, even in the six weeks or so since I was here last, the Nationals have stepped it up – more concession stands, more booths, more employees, more souvenirs. They even had a souvenir cup for me! Additionally, the outside vendors tripled in number, as there was no shortage of Nationals merchandise on sale across the street or even a couple of blocks from the stadium. The six weeks of being on top have been very good to this team. There were even 32,000 plus at the game last night, and it was a Wednesday night game against a last place team.


I would just like to say that RFK Stadium is not the Astrodome, or the Kingdome, or Busch Stadium. This is a legitimate ballpark, and I think it just needs a solid renovation. This team and this city do not need a new stadium.


Of course, I don't think that any of the cities that have new stadia need them, so what do I know.


Except Tampa. Tropicana Field – Yikes.


Hey, you know what would be neat? A Tampa Bay/Houston World Series. The Orange Juice Series, played at Tropicana and Minute Maid.



Not surprisingly, but certainly disappointingly, the Nationals lost the opener to the Astros tonight. Roy Oswalt, frankly, is just too good to be beat by a mediocre hitting team – he went eight innings without giving a walk or a run and struck out six. The Nats managed a meager rally in the ninth, but came up short, losing their sixth straight one run game. Playing at home and playing in one run games were strengths for this team, but are now killing them.


On the upside, Esteban Loaiza scattered 11 hits, only giving up 3 runs, 2 earned, and walking none, and Eischen and Carrasco each pitched a scoreless inning. But the hitters are just not getting it done – Jose Guillen went 0-4 to lower his average below .300 for the first time since June 21st.


For the first time in almost two months, the Nationals are no longer in sole possession of first place. The Nats are narrowly clinging to a tie for the lead at this point, with the Braves taking the night off.


With Clemens pitching tomorrow, we could be talking about the second place Nationals this time tomorrow.


July 20


Throughout the season, any team has a number of games where you can tell their collective heads aren't in the game, and they just go out, go through the motions, and get beat. You know what I'm talking about – those meaningless, middle of June, give the stars a day off, try a new batting order games which really don't mean anything. Kind of like the stages in the Tour de France where the lead rides with the pack, lets someone else win a stage, and maintains his lead while expending very little energy. It has always bothered me how, at the end of the season, when a team is 2 games out, a loss can be devastating, and it can mean the world, but in the middle of the season, the loss means nothing. Hey, idiots, if you had won the meaningless June game, you wouldn't need the do or die 2 games out victory.


I bring this up now as a contrast to last nights Orioles-Twins game – a game which probably hurt a lot more than its ultimate significance will indicate. For an instant, the Orioles appeared to be ready to pull out the victory. When I say an instant, I mean a literal instant, the amount of time between a strike out and a stolen base. With one out and a man on first, and the Orioles ahead by one in the ninth inning, B.J. Ryan struck out Shannon Stewart to record the second out of the inning. But the man on first was running, and the rookie catcher Eli Whiteside pounced, ready to throw the man on first out and end the game, but his throw took off into centerfield, and the man on first became the man on second, and then quickly the man on third. The instant was over.


Ryan for his part looked rough, walking two with a one run lead to protect. You're the closer, dude. Go up there and throw strikes and dare them to hit you. Closers don't live on placement pitching, and you shouldn't either.


The point of all this is that the O's lost a close one that they thought they had wrapped up, and failed to take advantage of the Yankees loss. They now sit in third place, a game back of the Red Sox and half a game back of the Yankees. Ultimately, this loss will not matter a lot, as these three teams are in a dogfight in the middle of July, and there is still a long way to go. Hopefully, the O's realize that and won't be too demoralized by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory last night.


The Nats, meanwhile, got some breathing room from the Braves by shutting out the Rockies on John Patterson's brilliant pitching. Patterson now has 97 Ks in 103.2 innings and a 2.69 ERA to go with a meager 4-2 record. Chad Cordero lowered his ERA to 1.07 by pitching a scoreless inning with two men on to preserve the shutout.


This is what these guys needed – a reminder of who they are. The Nats are good pitching and enough offense to win. They played Nats ball tonight.


And it is always nice of Danny Kolb to once again give up the winning run, this time against the Giants (not actually how it went, but he was credited with the run and the loss). Still, big series this weekend against the Astros.


The rotation looks like it will fall like this:


Thursday – Loaiza vs. Oswalt

Friday – Drese vs. Clemens

Saturday – Armas vs. Backe

Sunday – John Patterson vs. Wandy Rodriguez


Obviously, with the way he has been pitching, you would like to have seen Patterson matchup against with Oswalt or Clemens, and maybe Livan against the other one instead of pitching tonight against the Rockies. It would appear to me, especially with Armas coming out of his last start after two innings, that the Astros have the advantage in three out of four of these games. The only thing to say about Clemens is that the Astros have done a terrible job of giving him run support this season. Unfortunately, Oswalt got roughed up in his last start and the odds of that happening twice just don't seem that good. At least the Nats will miss Pettitte, but they also don’t get to use Livan, so they are even in that respect.


July 19


Well, well, well. Thing certainly are tense around here. The Yankees, after all the talk and hype and baloney, are back in first place, with the O's AND Boston a half game out. Not that I know off the top of my head, but I would be willing to bet that this is the tightest the AL East race has been on July 19 in at least a decade.


Let me put into perspective how close this race is at this point – fourth place Toronto is five games out. Five games out would be good for second place in any other division except the NL East, and it would be good for third there. A.J. Burnett, we need you baby. Hurry up and get here. Sammy Sosa, we need you to start playing competent ball. Rafael Palmeiro, don't cool off. We need you, too.


It has definitely been an alarming couple of days for the O's. If the Red Sox really have a rotation so set that they can use Curt Schilling as their closer, and if the Yankees are going to be winning with Al Leiter on the mound, it is a scary time.

Speaking of scary, the Nationals are now only a half a game ahead of the Braves and the Braves now have Hudson, Hampton, and Jones back. Hudson Hampton and Jones – didn't I apply to them for an internship last summer? Anyway . . .


I don't like what the Braves are doing one bit, though it appears from the rumors that the Braves are the only teams the Nats need to worry about. The Mets, Marlins, and Phillies are all rumored to be moving their big name players (Floyd or Cameron, Burnett and Lowell, Wagner and Thome). If this is going to be a tight race, at least it will be a tight one with only one team.


Tony Armas came out of the game in the third inning last night, which upset the balance of the bullpen palpably. Joey Eischen had to go three innings, which is something for a guy who is generally used situationally, and Carrasco and Ayala both pitched for combined three innings before Cordero came in to finish.


Apparently, Armas early departure rattled the infield, too, as Castilla committed two errors, the second of which allowed the tie-breaking run (unearned) to score. Cristian Guzman also had an error which led to an unearned run in the sixth. I mean seriously, if the dude can't field, it may be time to take him out back and shoot him, because he's worthless.


Hopefully, John Patterson can spell the bullpen tomorrow with a solid outing.


Unfortunately for the Nats, they have the now scary Astros coming to town. Let me put the Astros turn around into perspective for you. First of all, this is the second time this summer I am going to go see the Astros, which for a guy who has seen 90% of his regular season games, lifetime, in Houston, this sucks. You know, I have seen the Astros in Houston, Chicago, Baltimore, and now it will be DC. Can't get the damn Cubs to come to one of the two area ballparks during the two months I am here, but the Astros are here twice. Unbelievable.


Anyway, so when the Astros played the Orioles in June 14th, the Astros lost to fall to 26-37, and essentially looked sunk. But they have gone 21-9 since then and now sit one game over .500, which is quite scary for a Nationals team that is treading water right now. This will probably be a big series for the Nats, as they will be tested at home in a four game series by a hot team, while the Braves will be on the road playing a lesser Arizona team.


This is all assuming that the Nats are still in first place by the time the Astros series begins.


July 18


Yesterday was Much Ado About Nothing Sunday. With both local teams at crucial points in their respective races, everybody lost. The Nats and the Braves both lost to maintain the game and a half chasm between them, and the Red Sox and Orioles both lost to keep themselves a game apart, but the Red Sox lost to the Yankees, which allowed the Yanks to leap frog the O's and take second, for now, half a game out.


The Nationals and Brewers game was an interesting match-up – Tomo Ohka versus Ryan Drese in the battle of players essentially, though not actually, traded for each other, with Ohka taking the victory.


Frankly, the Yankees had no business beating the Red Sox with Al Leiter of all people on the hill. After pitching batting practice to National League opponents all season, Leiter came out and struck out 8, walked three, and gave up one run in 6.1 innings. You know you had a rough night when Al Leiter handles you. The one run lowered his ERA to 6.25!


Meanwhile, the Orioles continue to send Sidney Ponson to the mound, and he continues to get rocked, last night to the tune of five runs in 5.2 innings. The good news is that there is talk of A.J. Burnett headed to town soon. It appears as though the Orioles may have a deal worked out to bring Burnett and Mike Lowell in a trade to make the big push. I would still like to see the O's try to land one more pitcher before the deadline, and I hear Jason Schmidt may be available. He's not the Jason Schmidt of years back, but I would take the Jason Schmidt of ten years from now over what Sidney Ponson has been doing.


Mike Lowell on the Orioles? Wow, maybe they could snag Cristian Guzman away from the Nationals and the O's would have the three most disappointing players in the Majors this year, with Sosa being the third.


July 16


As I type, the Red Sox have lost to the Yankees today, meaning that the Orioles could be back in a tie for first. They need to win tonight not only to tie the Sox, but also to fend off the Yankees, who are now a game and a half back.


As I mentioned, yesterday's pasting game courtesy of Tim Redding, who was in his first start with the Yankees. Well, tomorrow we are in for a special treat as Al Leiter makes his return to the Big Apple to start for the Yankees after being designated for assignment by the Marlins, and then ultimately traded. This should delight Red Sox fans, as Leiter has been atrocious this year – 3-7, ERA over 6, 1.85 WHIP, 50/62 K/BB ratio – legitimately ineffective. Good luck Yankees.


I would, once again, because it never gets old, just like to point out one thing to the Yankees – you have the biggest payroll in the history of baseball, and yet your pitching sucks while Esteban Loaiza, Jose Contreras, Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, and David Wells are all out there pitching effectively. I mean, come on, George, you've got to be doing something majorly wrong! It couldn't be throwing tons of money at players without assessing need and fit, and it couldn't be that your coaching staff is so reliant on signing talent that they stopped coaching long ago! But it must be something.


The dark cloud that continues to loom over the D.C. area has only gotten darker as the Braves won at New York tonight 3-0. Tim Hudson pitched six shutout innings, and the Braves look good. As I write, the Nats are up two on the Brewers in the top of the ninth, so we will have to stay tuned.


July 15


Well, the Nationals have been living on the edge all season, getting most of their wins with hard fought, close games. And if you play like that, eventually you get burned. And the Nationals are certainly in a slump . . .


Okay, now that the caveats are out of the way, we can say what we are all thinking – this is ridiculous! Somehow, the Nationals, or more specifically newly acquired Mike Stanton, managed to balk in the winning run tonight against the Brewers! I don't know that I can remember that EVER happening before.


Frank Robinson was incredulous, comparing the "balk-off" to an NBA ref calling a touch foul with a tenth of a second left on the clock. I am not sure this situation is quite so subjective as Frank's basketball comparison, but his frustration is understandable. It’s a hell of a way to lose a game.


You may recall that I mentioned recently that Nate Robertson's one pitch performance for the Tigers would be the shortest outing of all time for a starting pitcher. I explained that a relief pitcher can do things to end innings without throwing a pitch.


Well, tonight Mike Stanton did exactly that, balking to first before even throwing a pitch. Unfortunately, the balk saddled Luis Ayala with the loss, as the run went to him, and squandered a good performance from Livan, who gave up nine hits in eight innings, and Hector Carrasco, who pitched a scoreless ninth.


Also unfortunately for the Nats, they have gone on a four game losing streak at a time when the Braves are surging (does the word "inevitable" come to mind?). In the intriguing pitching matchup of the night, John Smoltz beat Tom Glavine 2-1 in a matchup of former Cy Young winning teammates. Both went seven and gave up only one run, but Smoltz struck out 5 and walked one, while Glavine struck out 2 and walked 4. For the record, Glavine now has a 48/45 K/BB ratio, which is problematic to say the least. The Braves are now 1.5 games back of the Nationals, and are looking pretty good.


As much as it pains me to admit it, today was really the first day that it really dawned on me that the Nationals probably won't win their division. Kinda bummed me out. But when you sit around saying, "Wow, with their payroll, and their new relocation, and the fact that they score very few runs, and the fact that they have no major stars, its really incredible what they are doing," you eventually realize that it IS incredible, and incredibly difficult to maintain for whole season.


Speaking of close races, the Orioles looked pretty good tonight in handling the Seattle Mariners. The O's really brought the party to Safeco, as Rafael Palmeiro got his 3000th hit, Sammy Sosa hit second in the lineup, a rare spot for him, and went 3-5, preventing his OBP from dipping below .300. Wouldn't it be something is batting second, of all things, turns out to be what gets Sammy out of his funk. I doubt it will be, but wouldn't it be something.


The Orioles won, but made up no ground on the Red Sox, who for the second time this season beat the Yankees 17-1! I mean, is that odd or what? I wonder if there is some sort of special meaning behind those numbers – 17-1 – some sort of mysterious thing that Red Sox fans can harp about for the rest of the season.


The Red Sox benefited from the fact that the Yankees are now somehow at the point where they have to start Tim Redding of all people, who I think may still be bruised by the malicious heckling he received in Spring Training at the hands of one Scott Glab. I believe at one point, with Redding warming up maybe eight feet from us, Scott yells out, "Answer – obscure Astros trivia five years from now. The Question – Who is Tim Redding?" If you include Spring Training, Redding is now with his third team of the year, and has an ERA of 10.57. And Redding lost to . . . David Wells! Beautiful.


So the Orioles are back to within a game of Boston, but as long as the Orioles can win a few, I think they are happy to have the Red Sox beat the Yankees as much as possible. Its good to see the Orioles are actually planning on making a stand, but they are going to have to get pitching. I don’t know who is in the farm system, but the time is now to see what they can do to get some arms.


Of note, and this is a cause for concern I think – Brian Roberts OPS now under 1.000! Not that he needs to produce over 1000, but it is there.


July 14


-         Nationals squandered a beautiful game by John Patterson (6 IP, 9K, 2ER) when Gary Majewski gave up a two run double to Damien Miller of all people

-         Newly acquired Preston Wilson hit a home run in his Nationals debut.

-         Daniel Cabrera went eight innings, giving up two hits, two earned runs, and striking out six to lead the Orioles to another victory, their third in a row. It was Cabrera's third straight win in three starts, and he has given up three earned runs in July. They have to have this guy producing.

-         Palmeiro is one hit away now.

-         Brian Roberts now hitting .342


July 13


I don't know if Nationals Jim Bowden was ever a player (actually, I do know that he was not), but if he was a player, I'll bet he was scrappy. Because that is the only way to describe the job he has done as General Manager of this team. Scrappy.


Already in the midst of a very active first year on the job, Bowden made another big move today trading Zach Day to the Rockies for Preston Wilson and cash. That's right, he gets Preston Wilson and he gets him paid for, too.


As much as I want to give him props, and I do give him props, this is a risky move. What, did Bowden not think he had enough former Rockies on the team? Is Vinny Castilla's .390-ish slugging percentage not enough to convince him to stay away from Fountain of Coors guys?


Nevertheless, Bowden has been unwilling to rest on his laurels, and this is still pretty solid. Pitching he has, hitting he doesn't, and Zach Day didn't exactly have suitors ringing his phone off the hook.


The bigger message here, though, is that Bowden has been willing to make risky moves, and they have paid off. This is a guy who traded away Tomo Ohka because he was going to pick up Ryan Drese for Pete's sake! Who would have thought that would have worked. I can't wait to see what Preston Wilson does now that he has something to play for.


Speaking of Bowden moves, Junior Spivey is expected to be out 8-12 weeks after breaking a bone in his hand while batting. Oh, I'm sorry, did I say batting? I meant while taking batting practice. Oh wait, did I say batting practice? I meant hitting off a tee!!! Unreal. That's the type of thing that can really mess with you head, make you think about fate, and luck. I really feel for that guy. Fortunately for the Nationals, it deprives them of the need to play him.


Here's a little something I bet you did not know – the Nationals count Jose Rijo, Barry Larkin, Jose Cardenal and Bob Boone as special assistants to the General Manager. Bowden isn't a former Reds GM is he?


I would be willing to bet that if they fitted Larking for a uniform tonight, and he skipped batting practice, he could still out hit Cristian Guzman.


July 10


Those Nationals travel well. Watching the game on television, I think I see about as many Nationals jerseys as Phillies jerseys. Hmm . . .


Baltimore to Philadelphia                       97.9 miles

Baltimore to Washington D.C. 44.5 miles

Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia          136.3 miles


This is so great. Three teams within 150 miles of each other. AND, the Mets and Yankees are within an additional 100 miles. Five teams in 250 miles. That’s one team every 50 miles. Hey, funny thing – if you would have had to put those three teams in order according to how well they were doing this season, would you have guess that they would all have winning records, but that the Phillies would be the worst of them?


ANOTHER exciting game for the Nationals, as they took it into the 12th tied at four before losing on a bases loaded single by Ramon "Ramonie" Martinez. Loaiza pitched solidly again, but Gary Majewski couldn't hold it, giving up the tying runs in relief, an ultimately it was the Nationals third one run loss in four days. The Nationals pitchers managed to walk nine guys in 12 innings, though three were intentional, but that is still too many. Remarkably, the Phillies managed to strand 27 runners, which would have been a ridiculous 30 if Sunny "Asian Guy Gets a Red-Neck Nickname in American" Kim could have gotten out of the bases loaded jam at the end.


The Rafael Palmeiro train continues to churn along, as he moved within two hits of 3,000 and hit a home run for the third day in a row. He is actually having a decent season at this point - .269 15 50, OPS right at .800. Now, I know this is not great, but compared to how poorly he performed last year, its pretty solid. He hasn't hit over .260 since 2002.


The AL East is quite interesting heading into the break, with the third place Yankees 2.5 back and the O's 2 back.


Logged on to last night to see about tickets. When I got the site, I thought I heard my computer snickering. Barring a slump, Rafie is gonna get number 3,000 on the road in Seattle, which means late nights for those of us who want to see it live, with start times at 10:05pm eastern for the first three games.


Frankly, at this point, it doesn't look like the Orioles have the arms to get it done down the stretch. Lopez, Ponson, and Chen do not inspire confidence, and Daniel Cabrera has not been consistent whatsoever. Even the return of Erik Bedard will have a questionable impact as he has been out for quite a while. As the All-Star Break arrives, the Orioles need to start looking for pitching help from other teams, or they will have no chance.


And, of course it would be nice if Sammy Sosa would like to start hitting the ball.


July 9


So, this morning I woke up around 7:30, got up, stretched a while, showered, walked downstairs to eat some breakfast, and whatever, goofed around for a while. Right around 11 am I started picking through the paper, and I happened upon the sports section, and it suddenly occurs to me – the Red Sox are playing the Orioles and Rafael Palmeiro is 5 hits away from 3,000. This might be a game I want to see! So, I casually log on to, where I discover that there are no two adjacent seats in all of Camden Yards left. That's odd, I think. Oh well, no baseball game today.


Only later does it occur to me that just what a hot ticket this is. Forgive me for forgetting, but Red Sox-Orioles in July does not usually have AL East title implications. Apparently, the Boston fans represent quite well on the road, and the crowd in Camden was the fourth largest ever to see a game there. What they got to see was that unfortunately for the Sox, they must continue to send Wade Miller to the mound every fifth day, and he is struggling. Bruce Chen on the other hand, returned to bend but don't break, allowing only one run in seven innings while striking out five but walking three. Oddly, Chen and Miller managed to each throw exactly 108 pitches, with Chen throwing 66 for strikes and Miller throwing 67 for strikes, and both managed to strike out five and walk three. That shows you just how bend but don't break Chen is,  because he had essentially the same pitching day as Miller but gave up three fewer runs.


The Orioles bats warmed up a little, as Rafie hit his second home run in two days and had six RBI, while Miguel Tejada tay-had a 5-5 day. And, Miller had such a poor day that Sammy Sosa managed to walk twice!


The Washington Nationals were involved in their sixth one run game of July, losing their second out of the last three in a spectacular 1-0 game which ended in the bottom of the ninth on a sac fly of all things. After that game, the Nationals stand as the worst case scenario of the Pythagorean Theorist's dreams. The Nationals are currently 52-35, but have scored the fewest runs in the league with 353, and have actually given up 356 runs, three more than they have scored. We have already talked about the Nationals' ability to do the little things, and win the close games, but that is unreal.


That having been said, there is something to be pointed out about the Nationals – their pitching is looking good. John Patterson was brilliant, giving up two hits while striking out eight in seven innings to bring his ERA down to 2.91. With Patterson, Loaiza, and Livan Hernandez pitching so well at the top of the rotation, and (still uncomfortable saying this) Ryan Drese really coming out strong as this team's number four guy, this team is looking like it may stick at the top of the NL East. From here on out, their success really will depend on how well they can fend off the Braves.


July 8,


The good news for the Orioles is that Miguel Batista blew his second save of the year against the Rangers, so the Blue Jays lost and the Orioles don't have to worry about them. The bad news is, well, everything else. The O's lost tonight to the Red Sox in one of those "over before it started" games. The only thing that was surprising about the game is that the score was not more than it was, because the Red Sox left 29 men on base, which is quite a load.


Well, the Yankees also won tonight, and have been on an absolute tear, part of which was a two game sweep of the O's earlier this week. The Yanks have won 6 in a row, and 8 of their last ten, to take advantage of a team gone cold in the Orioles and leap frog them into second place.


So just like that the O's are in third. And they will probably be there for quite a while as the Yankees and Red Sox remind everyone else that this is the AL East.


Meanwhile, the Nationals won, get this, a one run game against the Phillies. Apparently it was turn back the clock day in Philly as Carlos Baerga went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI and 3 runs. Ryan Drese pitched well once again and, despite attempts by Joey Eischen and Luis Ayala to give away the game. Despite an inconsistent performance, Drese held on for his 3rd win in four decisions since coming to the Nationals. It was a problematic performance for Drese, as he walked 5 and struck out only four, but a win is a win. The Chad Cordero train continues along, as the closer lowered his ERA to 1.17 while securing his 31st save.


July 7


Well the Nationals lost today on what was a tense day in D.C. The terrorist attack on the subway line in London had D.C. police on the street by 9 am, and all signs and announcements on the roads or in the subway tunnels reminded people to maintain their diligence and report any suspicious activity. I got a taste of just how serious about this they where when I went to the subway after work. I was talking on my cell phone as I approached the stop, so I lingered before taking the escalator down because I wanted to finish my conversation. Well, after about 90 seconds of lingering, a police officer comes up to me and says, "Alright, chief, you got some ID?" Startled, I hung up the phone and handed him my ID, and he took it and started writing down my information. He assured me that I was not in trouble, and after a second or two, I asked, "Is this because of the London thing?" To which he nodded but did not reply.


Well, once I finally got into the subway, I was greeted by lots of disappointed people where red hats. Rarely are the big baseball crowds going in the other direction, but today was a one o'clock start time, so by the time I got to the subway, people were returning from the game. As it turns out, the Nationals had a rare one run loss, and rare home loss, to the Metropolitans, but the winning run scored on a wild play.


With one out, Beltran on second, and Floyd on first, Mike Piazza singled to right, scoring Beltran just ahead of the throw to Brian Schneider. Piazza tried to advance on the throw, but Schneider rifled the ball to second just ahead of Piazza, and he was out. At the same time, Floyd tried to advance home on the throw to second, but the ball was immediately returned to Schneider, this time ahead of the runner, and he tagged Floyd out for an inning ending double play. The Nationals ultimately lost in the bottom of the inning, but even in losing the Nationals show hustle and heads up play which demonstrates how they have gotten as far as they have.


FYI – the announced attendance for the 1 o'clock, Thursday afternoon start was 44,492. For a middle of the week day game.


Importantly, the Cubs misery is also the Nationals right now, as the Braves have pasted the Cubs in their series this week, and have now won 5 straight and are only 2.5 games back of the Nationals. I really like the Nationals this season, but we've seen this from the Braves before, and it is difficult to believe they are not about to do it again.


The Orioles, meanwhile, caught a break as rain ended their game against the Red Sox in six innings. Brian Roberts' average is down to .350, and he went 0-3 today. As the NL East starts to look not so tight anymore, the AL East is tightening up as the Yankees and Blue Jays keep winning.


Incidentally, I think it may be time to check Jason Giambi for roids. He hit his fourth home run of the week tonight in the Yanks win over Cleveland, their fifth straight win.


July 6


In the "Anything's Possible" category, the Nationals lost at home with Livan pitching to Tom Glavine and the Mets. As Glavine climbs the latter to reach the Tommy John/Bert Blyleven area of 280-plus wins, he is probably paying guys to take the occasional loss so he can pile up some victories before he becomes completely ineffective.


Very reassuring news from the bullpen, though – Joey Eichen, Hecter Carrasco, and Gary Mejewski combined for three scoreless innings, and Cordero got the day off. Almost worth losing if you can get that sort of practice and rest in for your bullpen.


Key to the game, though, was Jose Guillen and his 0-4 with five left on base. Live by Jose, die by Jose.


July 5


The Orioles got handled for the second day in a row by the Yankees.


Signs that things aren't going well – your pitching gives up three homeruns in two games to Jason Giambi.


In the "O's by the Way" department – Orioles starters have given up 22 runs in 5.2 innings over the last three games.


That is a textbook way to lose games. And it has worked – the Orioles lost all three games.


The starters, by the way, were Bruce Chen, Rodrigo Lopez, and Sidney Ponson – three guys the Orioles must have playing well at this point.


In the "Insult to Injury" department, Brian Roberts struck out all 4 times up. This brought his average down to .354, the lowest it has been since the third game of the season.



Meanwhile, Esteban Loaiza outpitched Pedro Martinez (when was the last time you heard that), and the Nationals won again. Of note, Chad Cordero damn near blew another save but held on for save number 30. He now has 30 saves through 83 games, which puts him on pace for 59 saves, which would break Bobby Thigpen's record by two. Now, every year someone challenges this record, only to come up short, but it is interesting nonetheless. I kind of think that if SMoltz and Gagne couldn’t do it, Cordero probably won't. But you never know.


The most interesting thing about Loaiza's performance was his 8 Ks and 1 BB. Very un-Loaiza like. But, I guess that is what consistency and stability can do for a pitcher's confidence. Hear that Yankees?


July 4


Kelly and I ventured up to the Empire State for the 4th of July weekend, and we decided to take in a game between the Yankees and, appropriately enough, the Orioles. We were staying with Kelly's friend from high school who now lives in New York City.


So, we are at lunch before the game, trying to plan our evening, and Kelly says to her friend, "The game starts at 1, so it will end around 4, and we can be back here around 5:30."


Kelly's friend, in kind of a know-it-all tone, says to Kelly that there is no way a Yankees game that starts at 1 will be over before 5. Kelly looks at me for confirmation, and I agree with Kelly, "No, 3 hours is generally pretty standard for a baseball game." But Kelly's friend swears that it will take at least 4 hours.


Well, as it turned out, we were in for the longest game in the Majors this season. In a game that only went 8 and a half innings because the Yankees didn't even have to bat in the bottom of the ninth, the total game time was 4 hours and 12 minutes! On the way out of the stadium, I looked down at my watch and said, "Boy, that was a long one. Man! Over four hours," to which Kelly's friend of course responded, "I'm not surprised" with a very pleased look on her face.


I tried to reason with her – "No, you don't understand. This may have been one of the longest 8 and half inning games in the last twenty years."


To which she responded, "That's just how Yankees games are."


Damned New Yorkers.



In the odd coincidence that isn't really significant department, the Yankees honored Lou Gerhig on the anniversary of his famous retirement speech, which was on July 4, 1939.


They honored him by having Tommy John's son, who is a former Broadway performer that now sings to raise awareness about ALS, sing the national anthem and God Bless America.


The coincidence? The Yankees were honoring a former player who died of a disease that now bears his name by having a person who's dad is a former Yankees and had a surgery that now bears his name sing the national anthem. Interesting, eh? Yeah, not really.



I felt like I might be violating some city ordinance by going through the gates without some sort of Yankees memorabilia on. I mean, seriously, you wonder how these guys have as much money as they have. Every single person there had something that said "NY" or "Yankees" on it.



I also felt weird being in a place that so unabashedly roots for the Yankees. I mean, I just kept expecting everyone to admit that they were the bad guys, and it was obnoxious the way they do business. But no. Everyone wholeheartedly cheered whenever they did well. Like they don't even realize that their team is everything that is wrong with sports.


When they introduced the lineups, they played Star Wars music. Only, the played the "Princess Leia giving Han, Luke, and Chewy medals while 3PO and R2 look on and make droid noises" music when they introduced the Yankees, and played the "Darth Vader just came aboard your ship, you're in trouble" music when they introduced the Orioles. They don't even realize that THEY are the evil empire.



I was particularly annoyed at all of the Rodriguez 13 jerseys I saw. What has he done for this team? Last year, he came to the team and had a down year, and then DID NOT lead them to the World Series. This year is playing fabulously, but to what end? This team is not playing the way it should. But I think ARod jerseys were easily the most popular ones there. What has he ever giving the Yankees fans to believe in? I would name Jose Guillen National League MVP before I even considered ARod for AL MVP.

Assuming that Joe Torre and Derek Jeter are well on their way to having their numbers retired, numbers 1 through 10 will soon no longer be available to future Yankees.



At one point, Sheffield got hit by a pitch on his hand, which seemed very painful. The trainer came out, and after several minutes, the trainer walked Sheffield over to first base. They walked very slowly, and at one point looked like they weren't going to make it.

At this point, Kelly was watching what was going on, and said without an ounce of sympathy in her voice, "I hope he doesn't need someone like that to help him around ALL the bases."


That's my girl.



July 3


Well, I have been rooting for the Nationals all summer, so I guess it would be wrong of me to expect to be able to suddenly root against them and have it work. Last night, the Nationals beat the Cubs 4-2, as Derrek Lee and Jose Guillen, the stars of each team, hit homers. Then, today the Nationals beat the Cubs in a one run game in which Ryan Drese pitched 7 scoreless innings, striking out only one but walking none for his third successful outing out of four since joining the team.


The Cubs were unable to make a Chad Cordero blown save hold up, and then couldn't make Joey Eichen's blown save hold up either, as the Cubs and Nationals each scored two in the eleventh before the Nationals won it in twelve.


Interesting note – how many times has a team blown a save twice in one game, and then gone on to win? I don't know, but it would be interesting.


Remarkably, the win moves the Nationals to 21-21 on the road, making them the only NL East team with a winning road record.


And, here's the clincher – the win


July 2


How do you win games if you are the Washington Nationals, and work your way towards compiling the aforementioned record in one run games?

It's the little things.

Last night against the Cubs, Jeromy Burnitz hit what seemed to be a two run game tying home run late in the game. But, Frank Robinson calmly trotted out and conferred with the umpires, and after a brief discussion, the umps ruled, correctly, that the ball was foul.

Little things

Then, after Burnitz eventually doubles and advances to third on a sac fly, catcher Brian Schneider takes a pitch just over the outside of the plate and rifles it down to third base, picking off Burnitz!

Little things

For those who missed it, the O's lost their seventh in eight games yesterday, but didn't lose ground to the Yanks or the BoSox, because the Yanks lost to the Tigers and the Red Sox lost big to, guess who, the Blue Jays. You heard it here first.


Nevertheless, the Orioles are not looking like winners right now.

With Randy Johnson losing big yesterday, and Javier Vazquez losing a close one for the D'Backs, I wonder - is it time to look at Yankees pitchers past present and future and do a little comparison? Pettitte, Clemens, Vazquez, Loaiza, Weaver, Jose Contreras, Orlando Hernandez, Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano (there's got to be more) David Wells. Are there any recent trends?

Something has got to be said about the Yankees defense. They have a gold glove shortstop playing third, and Derek Jeter playing short. Robinson Cano has been a delight at the plate, but is a liability in the field. Bernie Williams, et al, have been a disaster in the outfield.

Pitching and defense win championships. Too bad the Yankees only have sluggers.

With the Mets beating the Marlins, and the Phillies struggling, it looks like the Nationals only competition will be the Braves. Unfortunately, Andruw Jones and John Smoltz have decided to make the Braves look like winners again, making it hard for the Nationals to run away.




June 30


How does a team that has scored the second fewest runs in Major League Baseball, and ranks tenth in the league in team ERA, manage to be 15 games over .500 at the 77 game point? Find the answer by looking at that team’s record in one run games. The Nationals are 20-7 in one run games, but 13-13 when the margin of victory is 4 or more runs. That means to me that in the close games that come down to decision making and know-how, the Nationals have the advantage. That’s a good thing to have the advantage in.



Keith mentioned in his Nationals analysis that Vinny Castilla discovered the Fountain of Coors his second time around. I’m not so sure. Going into today, Vinny is currently hitting .256, which is lower than he hit in the three seasons before his return to the Rockies. Further, his slugging percentage is now below .400, or 66 points lower than it was in 2003 with the Braves. Additionally, through 72 games, Vinny has 36 RBIs, which puts him on a slower pace than he was on in 2003 with the Braves. Home runs? 5 through 72 games after hitting 22 in 147 games with the Braves in 2003.


In short, it would appear that Vinny bathed himself in the fountain of Coors, but forgot to get some for the road on his way out of town.


However, Vinny is old now, and as we all know, you can’t put a price on "veteran leadership"!



You know, with all the talk about the Yankees struggling, and the Orioles playing so well, and the Red Sox playing red hot, I really hope people aren’t losing site of the Toronto Blue Jays. They are currently tied for third with the Yankees, and are playing better over the last ten than the Yankees and the Orioles. I’m just pointing that out. I don’t expect it to continue.



Strange thing happened this week – the Orioles and the Nationals were both at home at the same time. I don’t know how it happened, because I had assumed that their schedules were mutually exclusive. In fact, I had already informed my father-in-law that their schedules were so designed, such that last night when he pointed out that both teams were in town, he had a “told you so” look on his face.


Their schedules are definitely mutually exclusive on the weekends, though. Except for the fact that they are not, as it turns out. I guess I am an idiot.


It would be a good idea, though.


And, ironically, the Orioles game got rained out but the Nationals game didn’t. You gotta work pretty hard to rain out those Nationals.



Last night, I got on the Metro to head home at the end of the day, and it was PACKED with people headed for the Nationals game. It gets harder and harder to get on the train on nights when the Nationals are playing. And then, everytime you stop, there are panicked people worried that they won’t be able to get through the crowd to get out before the doors close and the trains moves on towards the game.


Anyway, in case you’ve never ridden the Metro, or an L, or a subway, the announcer is usually very monotone. “Next stop, Capital South. Doors open on the Left. Orange Line to New Carrollton.” Very boring stuff. Occasionally, the announcer will demand, “Please stay clear of the doors,” and sometimes the announcer will forget which train he or she is driving, and say something like, “Blue line, I mean, Orange line . . .” That is about as exciting as it gets.


Well, last night, as we were making our way to the “Stadium-Armory” Metro Stop, which is your stop if you are going to RFK, the announcer was no different. He quietly, somberly announced each stop as we passed Eastern Market and Potomac Avenue. Then, as we pulled up to the Stadium-Armory stop, he suddenly comes to life – “That’s right, Nationals-fans, Stadium-Armory, your stop for the NL East leading Washington Nationals!” And, of course, like a scene from a movie, everyone cheered; not just the people going to the game, but all the people just trying to get home cheered, too.


It was a moving moment, I must say.


June 29


Well well well. Dr. Drese made his second strong start for the Nationals, giving up one run in eight innings for his second win since being picked up off of waivers. We'll have to see if Frank Robinson can somehow make sure it continues to be Dr. Drese that takes the mound, or whether Mr. Hyde is going to come out again and give up five runs in three innings again.


When I said that the Orioles needed Brian Roberts to break out of his slump and start producing again if they were going to get back on the winning track, I am not sure I meant it this literally. The Orioles broke their 6 game losing streak last night on a Brian Roberts home run in the bottom of the tenth. Way to come through, baby.


Here is something that my brother Eric pointed out to me. Every team in the NL East has a winning record right now, with the last place Mets at an even .500. However, every team in the division has a losing record on the road. Therefore, Eric points out, the team that wins this incredibly tight division would probably be the team that plays the most games at home coming down the stretch.


June 27


The O's look as sunk as possible. Red hot Sox blowing by, and the O's can't get a win. Therefore, the series that starts today at home against the Yanks is hugely important.

-         neat moment in the second inning tonight – Daniel Cabrera had loaded the bases and then went 2-0 on Tony Womack. Before the next pitch, Miguel Tejada comes over to talk to the big pitcher, and once Tejada returns to his position, Cabrera puts the next one over for a strike and then gets Womack to pop out to left to end the inning. Leadership

-         there is no point pretending that Sosa isn't on the downside of his career. Two things I have noticed this season is that he is a sucker for the low and away (a condition that has really just been in remission since 1998; he has always had the disease), and he can really no longer turn on the inside pitch. In the first inning he swung at an inside fastball and lofted it harmlessly to the second baseman.


The local promotional adds which try to sell tickets to the Nationals games feature footage of Jose Guillen hitting and fielding, and encourage fans to come see the Nationals because of Jose Guillen. They are fantastic! I could watch them over and over. I bet 9 months ago, when Jose was being run out of Anaheim, he never imagined he would become the face of a fledgling franchise.


The only thing better than that would be if the New Orleans Hornets were so out of stars that they had to build their promotional campaign around Chris "The Birdman" Anderson. Oh wait.


June 26


Boy oh boy, the O's are in trouble. Lost again today, just getting downright handled by John Smoltz. And, it looks like Andruw Jones may in fact have decided to become a leader this season.


The Nationals lost a close one. Tony Armas couldn't get out of the fifth, but the difference came again in the bullpen. Luis Ayala and Sun-Woo Kim each gave up 2 runs in one inning of work, and the four runs were the difference.

-         Oh by the way, Nick Johnson had two more walks today, bumping his OBP to .444, and his slugging percentage is already .508 for an OPS of 952. At this point, it appears as though he will easily be a 3-4-5er this season. By comparison, Jason Giambi has an OBP of .396 and a slugging percentage of, brace yourself, .375, for an OPS of 771. And Nick Johnson is only making $12 million less than Giambi.

-         During the off-season, while I was in the middle of deriding the Nationals for signing Cristian Guzman, Scott was telling me what a good move he thought it was. In fact, Scott went so far as to say that CG's OPS would be over .750, to which I scoffed. Yesterday, CG went 0 for 1 with a walk. His average now stands at exactly .200, his OBP is now .236, and his slugging percentage is now .286! That's right, Cristian Guzman has an OPS of 522. Through today, over 30 players have a slugging percentage higher than CG's OPS.


June 25


The drought is officially over! Brain Roberts finally hit a home run, his first since May 17th. Funny – even after going over a month without a home run, his 12 HR and 16 SB are still pretty impressive.


Interesting element to the various series this weekend. With the O's facing the Braves, and the Red Sox facing the Phillies, the two teams vying for first in the AL East are battling against the two teams trying to keep pace with the Nationals in the NL East.


Ryan Church, by the way, looks great in left field. He's ended two games with fantastic catches, saving wins with both of them. He is also hitting .325, but is currently hurt, apparently as a result of giving up the body.


Just two days after getting shelled, Majewski and Ayala combined for two scoreless innings to get the Nationals from  Esteban Loaiza to Chad Cordero. Everything went right for the Nationals, and Loaiza is actually looking like a solid pitcher again. Not only that, but Loaiza, who has not had much run support, hit a two run double to provide all the offense he needed. Not bad at all.


Oh by the way, Cristian Guzman is hitting over .200. I don't think this will be true for much longer.


June 24


Well, the Orioles lost last night, and their run in first place may be over today. The O’s have lost two in a row and are now only a half game up on the BoSox, and the Sox have won 4 straight and nine of their last ten.


It doesn’t get any easier for the O’s, as the BoSox get to face the slumping Phillies. Coincidentally, the Blue Jays, having just taken three of four from the O’s, now face the Nationals. Hopefully, the Jays won’t manage to wreck both of the local teams this week.


Meanwhile, the “Ryan Drese reality check” hit in Pittsburgh, as Drese gave up 5 earned on 8 hits and two walks in 3.0 innings. His start last week against the Angels, when he pitched eight shutout innings, was “instant hero” stuff here in D.C. But the fans here got treated to the real Ryan Drese last night. To be fair, he got beat by a Pirates team that is playing quite well. Really, the concern for the Nationals is not Drese, upon whom little faith has probably been put, but rather the bullpen. After Hecter Carrasco and Travis Hughes combined for 3 hitless innings in relief of Drese, and with the Nationals down only 5-3, Luis Ayala and Gary Majewski gave up a combined 6 earned runs in two innings of work. This team isn’t pinning its hopes on Drese, but a performance like that from the bullpen will make Frank Robinson start to look real old real quick.


Oh, wait.


On another note, ever notice that when you visit other towns, Sports Weekly (and similar publications) have local stars on their covers? Example – when we were in the Tampa area, Scott Kazmir was on the cover of a “stars of tomorrow” type feature. Scott Kazmir? Oh yeah, we are in Tampa.


Well, I always forget this phenomenon, and I have walked past the Sports Weekly stand outside of my Metro Stop for three days now wondering to myself why, of all the veteran players in the league, Vinny Castilla made the cover of the “Golden Oldies” article about older players still doing well. The guy is hitting .255 with 5 homers and .397 slugging average. This is golden?


The oddest thing about Vinny, actually, is that he has four steals in four attempts. He has only stolen more than 4 twice in his career, and his career high is seven. Other than that, there is very little to say good about Vinny this season, which comes as a surprise to “Fountain of Coors” disciples, but not to me.


I just noticed something about Vinny’s career stats. In 1996 and 1997, Vinny had 113 RBIs both years. Then, last season, Vinny had 131 RBI and 113 strikeouts. Weird, eh? Okay, not really. Still, if anyone dares to mention Castilla’s name in connection to the Top 200, it will be too much.


June 22


Its great to be in a town where there are no established heroes. Because anytime anyone does anything at all remarkable, he is the new hero of the day. I just love reading the articles about Ryan Church and Jamie Carroll.


Jose Guillen has reaped the benefits of his new home. Remember, Jose got himself run out of Pittsburgh, caught on with the Reds and looked good before being shipped off to the A’s. Then he ended up with the Angels, where he wore out his welcome with Mike Scioscia, and was left off the playoff roster last year. Well, in a town with no established stars, Guillen is hugely popular, and not going anywhere. Yesterday he had his second two homers game of the series against the Pirates and pushed


June 21


The drought is over! Brian Roberts stole two bases today! He may never hit another home run, but at least he is running again. He also had two walks and a run, and the O’s won 9-5. It may be a little early to say this, and perhaps overly simple, but the O’s need BRob if they are going to stay in first.


June 20


Well, to the extent that Bruce Chen was bend but don’t break against the Astros last week, he had very little bend left to give today. Bruce got lit up for nine hits, 6 earned runs, and two home runs against the Blue Jays today. Ted Lily got the victory for the Jays, giving up 2 runs over 7 innings to lower his ERA to 6.08. Losing big to Ted Lilly – not a good sign for the O’s.


Brian Roberts continues to struggle, going 0 for 4 today. Average is still .355, but it has dropped 30 points over the last month.

June 19


After losing two in a row to the slugging Rangers, the Nationals managed to win the final game today. Sun-Woo Kim pitched well in a rare start, allowing one run and walking one while striking out five, but was a victim of an injury with two outs in the fifth, which robbed him of the win. Every regular had a hit for the team today, and Brad Wilkerson and Jamey Carroll each had three.


In baseball, when so often you see a Kansas City or an Oakland overachieve, or a New York Mets or Yankees underachieve, this Nationals team truly puts off a feeling of a team simply achieving. The truth is that none of these guys are exciting, but guys like Jose Guillen, Nick Johnson, and Brad Wilkerson  have all been very good this season, and other players have done what they are asked to do. This is certainly a bend but don't break team, and in their division, that could really take them some where.


Orioles won again to take 2 out of three from the Rockies. Frankly, it should have been a sweep. Palmeiro had two hits and a home runs, which means he needs 40 more homeruns to get to 600, and he needs only 19 more hits to get to 3,000.


And, today, with Palmeiro 19 hits away, it finally occurs to me – I need to buy some tickets for when I think he is going to get his 3,000th. Wow! I could be at a game where a player gets his 3,000th hit!


Really, I love it here.


June 18


This area has gotten really excited about the Nationals, but you can tell it is a cautious excitement. Whereas in a city like New York, where the teams are treated to a litany of absolute abuse from the local media when they do badly, the local media here in the Washington area seem so appreciative of what they've seen so far that, if the Nationals do return to earth, you get the feeling that no one will really mind.


The Nationals lost their second straight game tonight for the first time since May 28th, and only their fourth loss in June, to a Rangers team that apparently likes RFK Stadium very much. In two games they have scored 15 runs and hit 6 home runs.


June 17


While the Nationals were losing big to the Rangers, the Phillies were winning big against the Athletics. The Phillies are right on the heels of the Nationals, and both teams have been playing fantastically. It will be interesting to see how the city reacts if the Nationals fall out of first place for the first time in two weeks.


Does everybody know what today is? It is the one month anniversary of the last time Brian Roberts either hit a home run or stole a base. Earlier in the season, I was talking about him going 50/50, and now 30/30 is starting to look doubtful. On May 17th, through 38 games, he was on pace for 46 home runs and 55 stolen bases. As of yesterday, he is now on pace for 30 home runs and 36 stolen bases.


I know he's been hurt, but that's a pretty big drop off.



June 16


The Braves, who won by the way, and are still in third place, did something interesting tonite. They batted Julio Franco in the number three spot. Even more interestingly, he responded, going 2 for 5 and scoring a run. I do have to wonder how long this will keep up. I know Bobby Cox is trying new things to get his team on track, but wow.


Nationals and Orioles both off tonight


June 15




Ryan Drese, recently picked up off of WAIVERS to replace the traded Tomo Ohka, pitched 8 innings of shutout ball, giving up two hits and striking out three. Troublingly, he walked four, and of his 98 pitches, only 55 were strikes, but nonetheless, its been that kind of year for the Nationals. Seems they can do little wrong. Now, if only they can get out of that silly contract with Cristian Guzman.


June 14


Nationals back to their winning ways, taking 6-3 victory from the Angels. They trailed 3-1 going into the eighth, but scored 4 runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to get back on track.


So, Kelly called me at work around 3pm asking if I wanted to go to the O's game tonight, which I of course did. I left work from the Hart Senate office building at 5:45pm, took the Metro to the park and ride, got into my car, drove up Route 295, met Kelly at the Baltimore light rail park and ride, and rode in for the game just in time for the 7:05 start. I really love it here. Its like a dream come true.


The Orioles run a deal on Tuesday where you can get the worst tickets in the house for eight bucks, so we took advantage of that. Then, we walked in to Camden Yards, walking past that great warehouse, and found a seat in the shade in what must have been the 20 dollar section. Nice.


Camden Yards is, to say the least, the polar opposite of RFK. It is a brilliant, beautiful stadium, right in downtown Baltimore, and it is loaded with amenities.


We saw Sammy Sosa, of course, but it was hard to get excited about him in that damned orange and white uniform. I was totally reminiscent of the adoration we pelted him with in Chicago, and I was quite dismayed when my cheering was the loudest amongst the smattering of applause he got from the O's faithful. They are far more into Tejada, Mora, Roberts, and even Palmeiro than they are Sosa at this point, as he has showed them little in his time there. The old boy didn't have a bad game, going 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI, but he continues to look bad on any pitch below the waist or on the outer half of the plate.


Humorously, the O's were playing the Astros, so it was Sammy against the 'Stros just as I have seen so many times.


And, it is ALWAYS good to see the Astros go down. Better still, it was Andy Pettitte that was pitching, and the O's lit him up for 6 earned in 7.2 innings. Nice.


Bruce Chen went for the O's, and he looked solid at times but scary at times. He threw seven innings of three hit ball, but he also walked 4 to go with his 5 Ks. The telling factor for both teams, though, was the Astros astonishing twenty-three men left on base. Chen loaded the bases a couple of times, but he made good pitches when he needed to.


Its pretty wild, by the way, how quickly Jorge Julio's stock has dropped here. When they brought him in to pitch the eighth, there was more than a smattering of boos, and he didn't disappoint, walking one and hitting one before being yanked without getting an out.


From where I sat, for a second I thought I saw Antonio Alfonseca.


June 13


Well, if it had to end, it only seems appropriate that it would end this way. But still, you would think the guys could have taken it easy on his own team.


The former Expos went to Anaheim tonight, and got clobbered by a former Expo. Vlad Guerrero hit a home run, and went 4 for 4 with 5 RBI to lead his new team to a victory, and to end his old team's 10 game winning streak.


Jose Guillen, playing for the Nationals against his former team, did not fare as well, going 1 for 4 with an RBI.


The fact that Vlad and Jose were playing against their former teams is not the only coincidence in this series. The two teams are also the only two teams this season playing under different names from last year.


This matchup last year would have been the Montreal Expos vs. the Anaheim Angels.


Still, the streak was very important for a number of reasons. The Nationals are now in first place, obviously, but the streak also made the Nationals the talk of the town. That type of thing is very important for a team in its first year in a new city, which still has no owner, trying to get a new stadium deal, and which had extremely low expectations to begin with.


Geez, if the Nationals could go to the World Series, Congress would probably pay for a new stadium with federal funding and put it on the mall between the Washington monument and the Capitol. It could become part of the Smithsonian.


June 9


The Nationals had a busy transactional day today, and I am not sure they have anything to be happy about. First, they traded Tomo Ohka away for Junior Spivey. This comes on the heels of some shaky defense by various replacements for Jose Vidro and a rough outing by Ohka, so the acquisition of Spivey would seem likely to shore up the middle infield, but giving up on Ohka seems a little premature, especially for a rotation which has not been stellar.


The answer? The Nationals picked up, of all people, Ryan Drese to fill the hole left by Ohka. Don't guess I have to tell anyone how bad Drese has been, so this has certainly been a shaky day.


But the Nationals are winning, so who am I to question?


June 5


You know, I really thought the Marlins would have taken this game from the Nationals. But the Nationals, down 2-0 in the eighth, got 6 runs in the last two innings to beat A.J. Burnett and the Marlins and, get this, take over first place in the NL East. Burnett had been cruising, but he got roughed up in the seventh, and the Marlins couldn't make his brilliant six innings stick.


All of Washington is overjoyed, but I have seen other teams look good in the NL East before ultimately succumbing to the Braves, and I don't think this season will be different.


Meanwhile, the O's won behind big Daniel Cabrera. Why is it that every time I see his name in the box score, it seems like he has just given up 2 runs in 7 innings but has an ERA over 5.00?


June 4


Made off to the Nationals Marlins game today. RFK Stadium is wild. It has all the banners of a baseball team, lots of promotional stuff, but the banners and the glitz do not cover up the fact that this is an old stadium that is not baseball ready. Despite all that I have heard, the field looks fair enough. But the facility is very patchwork. I sat in the mezzanine section, which with renovation would be where the suites would be – a little four row section with a roof so that it feels like you are in a room. It was definitely a neat place to be, right on the foul pole, looking down over left field. The wall of my section was actually replaced with ply-wood. Everything has a hastily thrown on coat of paint, there are lots of walk-ways which are not open. And, the concession stands only take cash, and there are two ATMs in the whole stadium. Plus, apparently there are concessions on only two levels.


The field is awesome. Its kind of retro, in the sense that Three Rivers and Riverfront and Fulton County would be retro now. The outfield seats sit high over the field, so that there are no stands in the batters' vision behind the pitcher.


Actually, in era of big money and glitz and glam, RFK has the comfort and ruggedness that one appreciates in Wrigley or Fenway. No super amenities, but a good time.


The game of course was fantastic. The whole reason I went was that the Marlins and Braves came into the game tied for first, with the Nationals are all bunched a half game out in an incredibly tight NL East, and the Nationals just handled the Braves three out of four, so Washington went into the series with a chance at first place. The victory left them half a game back of the Braves and half a game ahead of the Marlins.


An interesting thing happened at the end of the sixth. I was kind of zoning off, checking out the stadium, when my gaze went back down to the field just in time to see Marlon Byrd running across the field and just level one of the umps. It was unreal. I think he actually knocked him out. Apparently the umpire, after he came to, said that it was clear to him that it was an accident, which is good, because I would hate to the league take the moral high road and suspend a guy for ten days for accidentally bumping an ump while doing something that the league loves – arguing with umps.


June 2


So, the Nationals and the Braves played a game of "who's bullpen is worse," with the Braves winning with the worse bullpen but losing the game. The Braves scored 4 in the eighth to take a 6-3 lead, only to give up five runs in the bottom of the inning. Hecter Carrasco, last night's goat, came out with the victory, while Danny "I used to could pitch, really" Kolb blew another one for the Braves, this time in middle relief, giving up 4 runs in only a third of an inning.


Excitingly, the Nationals are now a game and a half out of first, behind the Braves and the Marlins, who are tied for first. And guess who's coming to town tomorrow. The Marlins.


Meanwhile, the Orioles, who were without Brian Roberts for the second straight game, fell to the Red Sox as B.J. Ryan blew a 4-3 lead by giving up 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth, including David Ortiz walk off homer with two outs.


This match-up against the Marlins could make for some VERY interesting times up here in Maryland.


June 1


Just got to town today, and the Braves are in town for a four game set with the Nationals. The Nationals took the first two games by scores of 3-2 and 5-4, but the Braves took the Nationals tonight 5-4 when Hector Carrasco couldn't hold the lead for Tony Armas, Jr. It seems that, if there is a key holding these Nationals together, it is their pitching, and as the Nationals fade later this summer, it will probably be their pitching that gives in. Nonetheless, with the Nationals making it interesting right now, it is an exciting time to be in the Washington area, because the O's are still in first place, beating the Red Sox tonite easily, while the Yankees don't seem likely to make a run anytime soon.