Record: 6-4. Change on last season: +2
Damn you, Livan Hernandez, for going out there in the ninth innings, and spoiling what was a perfectly good headline for the day. Up until that point, you'd done just about everything else right though, keeping our sixteen-wheeler offense (recently suffering a flat tire or two) to a single hit - and that an infield one from Gonzo.
There are times when a pitcher is "on", and in games like that, you really just have to tip your hat to them, because there's not much hitters can do. The only chance is that your pitcher will be equally as good, and then you might sneak a 1-0 win. However, Vazquez was not on, though he certainly had his moments, such as striking out the side in the third innings.
Beyond that though, he made too many mistakes, and hitters like Castilla will pounce on those like a rabid panther. Vazquez made Mark Grace look like Nostradamus; he'd barely finished saying how good a fastball hitter Castilla was, when Vazquez sends one down the pipe for Castilla to float into the corner, and send Green scurrying around like a dog chasing its own tail.
Interesting then to see Cormier punk Castilla in the shoulder in the eighth when he had a chance to hit for the cycle: was this deliberate or an accident? And, more importantly, how will Nats manager Frank Robinson see it? Put it this way, if I was Gonzo, I'd stock up on Tylenol.
As pointed out in the comments (thanks today to IndyDBack, William K, azpenguin and Otacon), another poor start for Vazquez, who has an apparently insurmountable tendency to mix batting practice with brilliance. You can only say he's been "unlucky" for so long; three starts so far, he hasn't made it past six innings in any of them - here's his season line:
13 IP, 23 H, 4 BB, 17 K, 17 ER, ERA 11.77
There can't be many pitchers with the same number of earned runs as strikeouts. In K's per nine innings, 11.77 puts Vazquez 4th in the majors - but opponents are still hitting .377 against him. Go figure.
Offensively, little to report, up until Chad Tracy's three-run bomb in the ninth gave us brief hope, before pinch-hitters Cintron and Clark failed to do anything. Counsell had his first game of the season where he didn't reach base, while Clayton and Snyder both went 0-for-4. But it's hard to pick out specially impotent players on a night that will be remembered for many more reasons than our hitting.
Ludicrously implausible moment, as reported by AP: "President Bush walked into the Nationals' clubhouse before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. He shook hands with each player, and stopped at veteran reliever Joey Eischen. "Eischen, right?" said Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers. "He remembered trading me," Eischen said, his eyes wide. "That was pretty cool. I was some Single-A punk he got rid of to get a major league pitcher. It was gratifying.""
My first thought? "Yeah, like Bush hadn't been prepped beforehand on this, and told to 'remember' the guy before the fourth locker on the right". Because I'm sure team owners like Bush regularly hung out with Class-A pitchers like Eischen - and from what I've heard about Bush's younger days, he had difficulty remembering anything beyond where his nose was...
...but according to The Baseball Cube, in 1991, Eischen was traded from Charlotte to West Palm Beach, in Class-A. Okay: except, at that time, Charlotte was a Cubs affiliate, not a Rangers one. So how could Bush remember a trade that didn't apparently happen? I demand a full-scale congressional investigation immediately. :-)
We grabbed another Rockies pitcher off waivers, Javier Lopez, designating Adam Peterson (who came from Toronto in the Hillenbrand trade) for assignment off the 40-man roster to make room. Lopez joins Darren Oliver down in Tucson, and both can expect to be high on the call-up list should we lose any more players. At least we know we shouldn't do so today, since we have an odd blank Friday in the schedule. A bunch of our guys are going to visit a military hospital, while others tour the White House. Which is nice.
Ironically, after my previous comparison between Boston-New York and The Jerry Springer Show, what should break out there last night, but a spot of argy-bargy between Gary Sheffield and a fan. The exact circumstances would still seem in doubt, but it appears just another chapter in the ongoing thuggishness between the two teams: Nelson and Garcia slugging a Boston groundskeeper; Pedro hurling 72-year old Yankees coach Don Zimmer to the ground. I'm all for passion, but really, you guys can point at British football matches and make disapproving sounds no longer...