In last night's 2-1 win over the Mets, the Nationals got something they haven't had for the better part of a month: clutch hitting. Now, they didn't get it in especially large doses, but it was enough for a win against a contending team and it set them up to, at worst, split the series with their divisional rival. They have three games left with the Mets, one with Stephen Strasburg on the mound.
But the Nationals should be thinking more than a split. They need wins badly, and have a chance to grab a few off a beaten-up Mets team that just flew back from Puerto Rico without the benefit of a day off. They're 6-3 against the Mets this year, and should be trying to win three out of four in this series.
Here are the awards from last night's game:
Livan Hernandez: It looked like it was going to be a long night for Hernandez when he gave up four hits in the first three innings. But he kept on course, throwing a harder curveball than usual and peppering the strike zone. He has allowed three runs in 20 1/3 innings against the Mets this year, and delivered a much-needed performance against the team that released him last year. "You do what you've got to do," Hernandez said. :I don't like it. I don't feel good when they do that to me. (But) I don't bring that to mound. I try to pitch my game."
Nyjer Morgan: Morgan, who turns 30 today, was on track for another rough night in his first three at-bats, when he struck out twice (once on a close pitch for a called third strike) against Johan Santana. But he worked a tremendous at-bat against the left-hander in the seventh inning, punching a 2-2 fastball to left field for the game-tying single, and pushed a bunt down the first-base line in the ninth, beating it out for a hit and helping set up the Nationals' winning rally. They need to see more of that from Morgan; it's startling how much the offense rises and falls with him.
Ian Desmond: For at least one night, the struggling shortstop came through again with a couple big hits. He doubled in the fifth inning, narrowly missing a homer when his shot bounced off a pad on the side of the visitors' bullpen. Had it landed a foot in any other direction, it would've been a homer. And Desmond led off the seventh with a base hit, scoring the game-tying run. He also played a clean game at shortstop.
Michael Morse: He's gotten a couple chances to start this week, and Morse isn't doing much to build a case he should be in the lineup every day. He's 1-for-13 in his last five games, three of them starts, and went 0-for-3 last night, missing a chance to tie the game on a deep flyout to center with Cristian Guzman on second base in the sixth.
Vuvuzelas: Here's the thing: I don't mind them at soccer games, when there's not prepackaged entertainment to compete with and they're part of the culture of the game. But we don't need them at baseball games, NatsTown. You're only interested in them because of the World Cup fad, and once you go back to griping about soccer for the next four years, you won't care about these, either. So don't bring them to baseball games. It'd be as silly as having an organ playing "Charge" at a Champions League match later this summer.
In Case You Missed It:
--Nyjer Morgan's impressive running catch in the third inning was more difficult than it needed to be after Morgan appeared to lose track of the ball in the sun. He started tracking the ball over the wrong shoulder, but recovered in time to snag David Wright's liner.
--The consensus in the press box was that the review of Desmond's homer was not the first replay review at Nationals Park, though nobody could remember for sure when the previous ones were. Can anybody help me out on that?
--Jim Riggleman didn't have any major issues with the fact Ian Desmond slowed up around second and didn't end up at third at his homer-turned-double; Riggleman thought the ball was a homer when he saw it, too.
1. See anything different in last night's win? Do you buy the idea that it could be the start of a better streak of play?
2. There's been a lot of talk in the last couple days about the Morgan/Sean Burnett trade and whether it doesn't look as good now that Morgan has been struggling? What grade would you give it now? I still would give it a B+/A-, on the grounds that the Nationals got something for two players (Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan) who couldn't have had much less value to them last June. Burnett has been a solid reliever, and Morgan has shown the potential to do more, offensively and defensively, than Milledge ever did for the Nationals. What's your take on it?
Leave your answers in the comments, as usual. More in a bit.