I'm going to keep this short this morning, since we're turning around for a day game and I've got to hit the road for the MASN studios, where I'll be discussing the bullpen with Johnny and Ray on Nats Xtra at 12:30 today. But what we'll be talking about is what I'm sure is on most of your minds this morning, so I'll get right to it:
The way the Nationals lost to the Mets last night - allowing six runs in the eighth inning - reminded me more of the 2009 team than anything I've seen this year. Between Brian Bruney and Tyler Clippard giving up all those runs and Ian Desmond extending the inning with an error, it was reminiscent of last year's team, which found ways to lose games like that with regularity. Now, the difference is, that was a habit for the 2009 Nationals; for most teams in baseball, it's an isolated incident. Which is it for the 2010 Nationals? We'll get an answer to that question today.
The Nationals had the series with the Mets all but won last night, taking a 6-2 lead into the eighth inning. Now, they've got to beat Mike Pelfrey, who's made the transition from inconsistent to nasty since the Nationals last saw him - mostly because of his split-fingered fastball. And they've got to hope Craig Stammen, who has a 3.38 ERA at home but a 16.88 ERA on the road, can put together a decent outing at Citi Field. It's a pivotal early-season game for the Nationals, and it's the first time you've been able to say that in quite a while.
Now, some Talking Points:
1. Do you pin more of the bullpen problems last night on Bruney, who set up the mess in the eighth inning by failing to put David Wright away on an 0-2 count, or Clippard, who hasn't been the same pitcher when he's entered the game in the middle of an inning? What moment, in your mind, turned the eighth inning?
2. To paraphrase Laurel and Hardy, this is another fine mess the Nationals have gotten themselves in; how do they fix it? In other words, where's the bridge from the starter to Clippard so he doesn't have to do mop-up duty in the seventh? His mop-up duty came in the eighth last night, but only because it wasn't a save situation to start the inning and manager Jim Riggleman was trying to give Clippard a second night off. So how do you fix it? Doug Slaten and Tyler Walker have looked better; should they get a shot? Do you stick with Bruney and hope he fixes his problems? Sean Burnett? What's the solution, at least until Drew Storen gets here?
3. What's your feeling about how the Nationals will come back from this game? They've made a habit of rebounding nicely after tough losses this season, and have kept themselves out of any extended losing streaks. But this was probably the most deflating loss they've had this season. On a short turnaround, will that carry over into today's game, or have they proven themselves capable of moving on quickly?
Leave your answers to the Talking Points questions, as well as anything else on your mind, in the comments section. The live thread will start as soon as I get back from the MASN studios - probably around 2:00 or so. I'll be in touch with you then.