The starting pitching the Nationals face this week against the Phillies has been a focal point of the series. Jayson Werth said it after game one: “It was good to get a win off Joe Blanton, because it will not get any easier facing Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.” After all, the Nationals avoided Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt in this series.
It is a difficulty the Nationals will face almost every week in the National League East. The Braves have Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson, not to mention Jair Jurrjens and Mike Minor.
The Marlins feature the All-NBA team of the majors with 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8-like pitchers, featuring Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Javier Vasquez, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad. The Mets have Johan Santana (when healthy), Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese.
It is unavoidable. For the Nationals to step up in this division, they will have to solve some of the best starting pitching in the league day in and day out.
But instead of looking at it as a problem or a difficulty of facing Lee, tonight’s opponent, Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche sees opportunity.
“Another tough one, and nobody is backing down,” LaRoche said. “I don’t think anybody is intimidated. I think this whole clubhouse sees at it as a challenge. It is not going to be easy.
“It is a lot like (Wednesday) night,” LaRoche continued. “(You need to) scramble, lay a bunt down, take your walks, whatever you can do to get on base and get some big hits. Put a little rally together. (Last night) it happened a little too late.”
This is an important point to make. The sooner the Nationals take it as a challenge when facing these big-time pitchers and not as an insurmountable task, the sooner they will be out of the basement and contending for the East pennant.