Tough Weekend by the Bay

There are times in baseball when you have to wonder, “What is going on here? Is there any justice in this game?”

This past weekend’s three-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays was one (or two or three) of those times.

Friday night: The Nats scored 3 in the first - we’re feeling great - then 2 errors led to 2 Rays runs and the Nats lost 4-3 on a home run by Gabe Kapler after Nick Johnson dropped a foul pop. (By the way, “The Babe” Kapler hit a walkoff HR against the Nats in Milwaukee last year.)

Craig Stammen pitched well, but he couldn’t go deeper than 5 1/3 innings, typical of a young pitcher against the American League’s highest-scoring offense.

Saturday: We arrived at Tropicana Field to learn of the tragic death of Josh Willingham’s younger brother in a car accident Friday. Manny was visibly shaken and his eyes looked misty as he shared the news with us in his pregame briefing. Corey Patterson was called up as Josh returned to Alabama and went on the bereavement list.

Right before the game, we heard of Ken Rosenthal’s Fox report that Manny is about to be fired. We all wondered how he can know that when we’re with the club every day and haven’t heard a thing. Reporters usually don’t run with something like that unless they have solid information, but where do you get info like that?

Saturday night: Ryan Zimmerman jacked a long HR in the first and drove in another run with a 3rd-inning grounder and the Nats led 2-0. But, Jordan Zimmermann couldn’t pitch beyond the 5th and Jason Bergmann had an outing in the 6th that will lead to his returning to Syracuse: 5 hitters, 4 hits (2 HRs), a walk and 5 runs. Game over, as the Nats couldn’t score an earned run after the 3rd.

Sunday: Alberto Gonzalez drove in 3 runs, Josh Bard another and the Nationals led 4-0. So, we were thinking about a nice win to carry to New York. But Ross Detwiler walked 2 in the 4th, they both scored and he walked another in the 6th before another home run by (guess who?) Kapler and the game was tied.

The ultimate slap in the face happened in the 8th when Willy Aybar’s bouncer to 3rd hit the bag and careened into left field and the Rays won 5-4 to sweep. I’ve seen balls hit the bag before, but never change directions like that one did. It appears ‘09 it just not our year.

The Nats offense has become a mystery: 1 unearned run on 6 hits after the 4th inning in the three games combined. Early offense usually means wins, but not this past weekend.

Now, we have a day off in New York City and we’re in the same hotel we always stay in while playing the Mets, but Tuesday it’s on to the new Yankee Stadium.

I’ll tell you about that next time. Until then, let’s keep our heads up and believe our young team can start winning these close games!