Finally the Nats have begun to play solid baseball.
The most improvement in my opinion has been in the defense and in the number of clutch hits that the boys have put together recently.
The starting pitching hasn't been real consistent lately, but with the offense scoring more runs than anyone in baseball over the last 10 days, they haven't had to be.
The bullpen has been solid for the most part. MacDougal has shut down the opposition four straight times. You have to go all the way back to 2003 to find a stretch where he was as effective.
Clippard and Bergmann have been eating up innings, both men going two-plus and putting up nothing but zeros. Clippard has shown an uncanny ability to elevate his fastball to punch out guys at a clip of better than 10 per nine innings. Bergmann's power slider and 94 mph fastball have been equally impressive.
Villone has been a Rock. Burnett has had only one bad outing since the trade, showing why the Pirates rated him their best prospect for three straight years. He seems to be all the way back from the Tommy John surgery.
Speaking of the trade, kudos to Mike Rizzo--in my opinion he has done a fantastic job weeding out people who do not fit into his philosophy as character people. He realizes more than anyone that MAKEUP is as strong a factor as tools.
Nyjer Morgan is a prime example...He has made the difference on this ballclub. Since he's been here, the energy level looks as if it's doubled.
I believe that Jim Riggleman has had a lot to do with that too. Jim is a no nonsense guy. I managed against him for two years, and I promise you that he excels at running a game.
He runs a game much differently than Manny. The biggest difference that I have noticed is that Riggs is more of a match-up guy, a gut manager. He will stay with a reliever as long as he feels that his stuff is there. When he does make a change, you can bet that he finds the best possible match-up available.
Manny, on the other hand, had a tendency to set his bullpen up with a reliever ear marked for a specific inning.
I have always strongly believed that if you depend on four relievers for four innings that at least one of those guys is going to have an off night. With match-ups, you read your man's stuff and make a move as soon as you see it change.
Furthermore, Jim does not tolerate bad defensive plays, nor does he allow his team not to be fundamentally sound. It's not always about how much work you do. Sometimes - or maybe I should say most of the time - it's about how you go about your work.
You must have high expectations and not make excuses for failure--It's all about attitude.
On one final note, I'll miss Nick Johnson. He goes about it all the right way.
Keep swing those bats Men...