The Nationals couldn't get anybody out for almost two months.
The offense was lights out, hitting home runs at a Nats record rate and scoring runs like crazy--5+ a game from April to May 27th.
Now, after about 10 pitching changes and the emergence of five solid young starters, the Nats are finding themselves in every ball game.
The young starters are coming fast, throwing strikes consistently and working ahead of hitters constantly. I have immensely enjoyed going to the park every day and watching these young men develop into quality major league pitchers.
And the bullpen has been even better.
The addition of Mike McDougal has put the whole pen in order. He blew away Gary Sheffield the other night on three pitches - 95, 96, 97 - with movement that was unreal.
Villone has been Nails all year and Joe Beimel is back to pitching the way he did the last three years in L.A. That gives Manny three, yes, THREE choices to get hitters out in the latter part of the game.
Add Jason Bergmann, who came back from Syracuse firing bullets, is throwing strikes consistently, and he's being clocked at 94. He's putting his devastating slider into good spots. He looks more confident than at any other time that I have seen him here.
Joel Hanrahan might be a little more comfortable in middle relief than closing - at least it appears that way to me. He took only 11 pitches to retire the side on Wednesday night and his fastball was sizzling at 96-97.
Three weak ground balls on pitches down and away was all the middle three hitters for the Reds could muster. Hanrahan definitely has closer stuff; maybe he just needs a little more sucess in his new role. Either way, he is a very valuable piece to the bullpen puzzle.
I guess Julian Tavares is going to pitch forever; after three or four rough outings, he pitched as well as one can in Thursday's victory against the Reds, going two strong innings and giving up zilch.
Yep! Bullpen is in Great Shape...Can you believe it?
The offense, now, has all but stalled. Dunn has struggled big time over the last two weeks; Zim has cooled down; Elijah is just starting to get his timing back. Willingham was sick. Kearns is putting a whole lot of pressure on himself and has been a little lost lately. Nick hasn't hit with runners in scoring position lately...Come to think of it, who has?
I have always had a theory--not something that I dreamed up, but something based on my own experiences as a hitter.
June has always been the toughest month to hit!
Pitchers are in shape. Their legs are stronger than at any time during the season. The weather is warming, and they have had about 10 starts to work out mechanical flaws and acquire their rythym. They also have seen enough film on any new young hitters or anyone who has changed leagues.
Just check out the batting averages in both the leagues. They always seem to take large dips around the start of June. I know that pitchers were always a little sharper the second or third time that I faced them. Their breaking balls were tighter and commanded better and their velocities were a couple of mph quicker.
When mid-August rolled around, I could also see a change the other way. The weather takes a toll, legs get tired, arms get sore and drag for a while. Curveballs hang (much like early in the year), sinkers don't seem to sink as much and become flatter, and a little juice is lost off the fastball.
Why all this jibber jabber though...The hitters smoked the ball early--They WILL smoke it again! Sometimes you just have to give that guy on the mound some credit.
-We must find a way to have more quality ABs in RBI stiuations. We have done a poor job at getting the runner in from third with less than two outs. (I don't think that surprises any Nat fans).
The pitcher is the one with all the pressure on him. We often swing at the pitcher's pitch, even when the count is in the batter's favor. Why? Too anxious to get the job done. You must get a good ball to hit!
My friend Ted Williams made that statement when asked what the number one key to hitting success was.
-Alberto Gonzalez looks great at the plate and defensively since his return.
-Josh Bard is starting to show signs of why he hit .300 with the Padres.
-Ryan Zimmerman is one of the top five defensive third basemen...EVER
-Nice going Mike Rizzo and staff - Tremendous job getting Drew Storen signed so quickly and taking Strasburg first. I BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU GUYS ARE DOING!