At various points this year, the Nationals would win three straight games, or five of eight, and manager Jim Riggleman or a player would say, "We're playing good baseball, and we really haven't hit our stride yet." We're late in September, and the second part of that statement still holds true.
For the eighth time this year, the Nationals are on a three-game winning streak, after having taken three straight from the Astros. But the previous seven times, they've failed to extend the streak to four games. That's a big part of the reason the Nationals are sitting at 65-88; they simply haven't put together the extended stretches of wins they needed to counterbalance the losing streaks. This hasn't been a team as likely to go into long losing stretches as last year's, but without a long winning streak, even the four losing streaks of five or more games the Nationals have will start to add up.
So they're at three straight again, looking for No. 4 tonight against familiar nemesis Tim Hudson, who always seems to show up with a bucket of cold water right when the Nationals are playing well. They won four of five games at the end of July, and the one loss was to Hudson. They'll get one more shot to solve him tonight, and try to extend their streak to four for the first (and probably last) time this year.
Here are yesterday's awards, economy-style.
Ross Detwiler: He won in the majors for the first time in almost a year, used his changeup well, got 13 groundouts and allowed two runs in six innings. Detwiler will get another start before the end of the year, and can salvage his injury-shortened 2010 season somewhat.
Danny Espinosa: The second baseman went 1-for-3 with a walk, two runs and his sixth homer, which landed a few rows behind the Astros' bullpen in left. He's hit two homers in as many games.
Michael Morse: There's not much more the outfielder can do to prove he should play consistently next year. He went 2-for-3 with a homer and a two-run double, and has 13 homers for the season. Said Morse: "I would love to get 500 at-bats in a season one day and see what happens."
Justin Maxwell: In the penultimate game of Nyjer Morgan's suspension, Maxwell still didn't do anything to help his case for next year. His only productive plate appearance was a walk; otherwise, he went 0-for-3 and grounded into a double play.
The Bobby McKey's video: This auditory and visual insult arrived at the beginning of the Nationals' last homestand, as an advertisement for some dueling piano bar that has a sponsorship with the Nationals. As such, they created a video designed to make you think they know something about baseball. But that amounted to rewriting lyrics for K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight," with sparkling prose like, "You've gotta get the sign, get the sign, get the sign. Get ready to swing, ready to swing, ready to swing." And then there's the section where the piano player (Mr. McKey, I presume) starts yelling about running the bases, with dancers dressed in Nationals uniforms acting it out. Just awful. And Nationals PR intern Kyle Brostowitz has come up with the hackneyed theory that this thing is a good-luck charm for the Nationals, since they've rallied to win two games this week after it's played - sort of like a more annoying Rally Monkey. OK, this part wasn't short. But I had to get it off my chest. At least they got rid of the live dancers on top of the dugout.
In Case You Missed It:
--With Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn out of the lineup yesterday, the Nationals put out an infield of, from third to first, Alberto Gonzalez, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Adam Kennedy. In other words, they had four middle infielders playing behind a ground-ball pitcher. Think that might be a good recipe for success? "It was amazing," Detwiler said. "It was the best defense I've ever played with."
--Drew Storen worked a scoreless eighth inning with the Nationals up 7-2; Riggleman had said he was staying away from Storen during Wednesday's 4-3 win, and the rookie would be in the game in a big situation on Thursday. But a big situation never presented itself, so Storen worked in a blowout.
1. We've spent quite a bit of time talking about the departure of team president Stan Kasten, which is somewhat unusual for an executive that's not responsible for the day-to-day composition of the baseball team. But it speaks to just how many things Kasten did in the Nationals' organization. So here's my question: How interested are you in his departure? Does it have a big effect on your feelings about the team's direction, or is it too 30,000-foot level for you to get worked up about it?
2. How would you handle Detwiler in the future? Does he deserve a shot to make what's likely to be a crowded rotation next year, or would you send him back to the minors for more seasoning?
Leave your answers in the comments section. I'll have a few more thoughts on Kasten's departure later this morning.