Rachel Levitin: Nats need to put Phils in rear-view mirror

"If you have played a game and lost it, you cannot erase that loss; but if you have not played a game, there is still an opportunity to win it. A loss is as loss is a loss. Only a game not yet played can become a victory," the late New York-based Hall of Fame baseball scribe Jack Lang once wrote.

The Nationals lost their first 2011 series to the Philadelphia Phillies after starting strong Tuesday night by beating right-hander Joe Blanton 7-4. It stings a little extra for the team and for fans because losing to the Phillies is like Dorothy and friends showing up to the Wizard of Oz with the witch's broomstick and being told, "No, can't help ya. Sorry." But Lang's got a point.

After the Tuesday's game at Nationals Park, manager Jim Riggleman expressed that it was only one game that his team won that night and nothing more. It's early in the season. It's April. There's a whole lot of baseball left to play (as if you didn't already know that). That's the thing about April baseball - it's easy to forget that it's still early and that October is but a glimmer in the eyes of the men, who were once boys, playing baseball for a living.

The Nationals' biggest issue against the Phillies was their inability to string a rally together. But when you face the one-two punch of the best rotation ever (according to some baseball writers like Jayson Stark), it's almost expected that the opposing team's sole goal should be to hit the ball.

Roy Halladay is a two-time Cy Young winner, a three-time 20-game winner and a pitcher who finished 2010 leading the National League in wins, innings, shutouts and win probability added.

Cliff Lee is a former Cy Young winner, one of three pitchers in baseball history to win his first seven postseason decisions and the pitcher who led all starting pitchers in all of baseball in wins above replacement (WAR) in 2010.

It may be time for Riggleman to switch the lineup a bit, but that's likely not going to happen during this homestand since he's hoping the team can put it together - just as long as the guys currently slumping can break their way out of it.

Washington starts its series against the National League Central's Milwaukee Brewers tonight. It is the Nats' first game facing ex-teammates Nyjer Morgan and Wil Nieves.

Morgan is hitting .476 this season for Milwaukee after five starts over 12 games with two RBIs and one stolen base, which sounds reminiscent of the 2009 player Washington once knew.The 2010 incarnation of Morgan, however, made it apparent to Nats fans that the honeymoon was over and his stats said so.

Morgan returns to Nationals Park after hitting .253 with Washington in 2010 (he hit .351 in 2009, his first year with the team) with an on-base percentage of .319 (down from .396 in 2009).

Milwaukee is fresh off a 6-0 win versus Pittsburgh. The Nationals are fresh off a stint against a tough rotation. Tonight is a fresh start. The game hasn't been played yet, so there's still a chance for Washington to win.


Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and has shared her observations about her adopted team this week as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. Next week, Will Yoder of The Nats Blog takes over guest-blogging duties. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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