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Gorzelanny’s gem gets Nats back to .500

May 3, 2011, 3:57 AM EDT

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Tom Gorzelanny tonight authored the latest gem by a Nationals starter.

They weren’t supposed to pitch like this. The Nationals’ rotation was supposed to be this club’s weakest link. Certainly, that’s the way it had been in previous seasons. And with Stephen Strasburg spending his spring and summer in Viera, Fla., rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, conventional wisdom suggested the Nats would be severely lacking in quality starting pitching.

So how to explain the fact that after Monday night’s 2-0 win over the Giants, the Nationals now own a .500 record, having accomplished that almost entirely on the backs of a rotation that was supposed to be lacking dominant arms?

“It’s been everything,” utilityman Jerry Hairston said. “For us to be .500 the way we’ve started off slow swinging the bats, our pitching staff has kept us right there. They’ve been outstanding and just giving us the chance to win, and that’s how you start to win. First you have to have pitching, then you have to have defense and then timely hitting.”

The Nationals haven’t been getting much in the way of hitting. They somehow won Monday’s game totaling five hits, four of them comingRead more

  1. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - May 3, 2011 at 4:52 AM

    I know the Riggs bashers here won't like this, but right now Riggs would be in the hunt for Manager of the Year. Terrific job. I've got 82 wins in the pool. Win tonight and they're right on pace.

  2. Will - May 3, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    Winning feels great, but let's not get carried away with ourselves again like last year.As someone else recently pointed out, does anyone else have deja vu? Remember when the Nats went to 20-15 on May 13, 2010? It wasn't long ago.Naturally, there were plenty of pronouncements of .500 ball and possibly a playoff run! Then we finished the season going 49-78 to finish another pretty miserable season.This team isn't much different. The starting pitching is still not good, despite their best efforts to make it look otherwise. Gorzelanny has not suddenly turned into Roy Halladay, nor has Livan and Marquis turned into Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. They will fall back down to earth. You can be assured of that. Improved defense will help quite a bit, but what we really need to be concerned about is our offense. If they keep playing like the AAAA lineup they look like, then we're in for another long season. We will not and cannot continue to win games with 5 total baserunners. All these 2-0 and 3-1 wins are quickly going to turn into 2-5 and 3-4 losses.

  3. Rabbit - May 3, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    @ Will……..I hear ya. It is hard for fans to relax and feel confident in a team that has proven it can't maintain it's winning ways. I am also waiting for the letdown. Hopefully I can break that mindset this year. The pitching is doing great. It has me NOT thinking about Strasburg. But, the team continues to feel so "iffy". Our next road trip should prove interesting. But, if the Nats win all the series I think I would still be skeptical.

  4. Jim Webster - May 3, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Ah, Doubting Thomas.Oh, Fred and Ethel Whiner.Oy, Jake and Elwood Blues.To all I say, with apologies to Luke, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?"

  5. Sunderland - May 3, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Hey Will, so I'd suggest there is a difference. Last year we had a AAAA rotation and an MLB lineup. At this point this year, it is reversed, a legit MLB rotation and a AAAA lineup. That means we are in more games, and that also means we won't ruin our own bullpen. Last year our bullpen came out smoking, but through overuse became less efective. In 2010 our bullpen led MLB in IP. In 2011, we have the second fewest IP in the NL. The result of this is that we should not deal with long losing streaks, and we should perform better over 162 contests than 2010.This is what the Padres and Giants did last year, no? And if our lineup improves? If two middle of the order batters respond well to injuries and June brings a decent MLB offense? Alright, that's just crazy talk. I'll quit now.

  6. Anonymous - May 3, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Will said… Winning feels great, but let's not get carried away with ourselves again like last year.You know, sometimes reason defies logic. Last year a co-worker ask me about the Nationals. I told them they pretty much stink and this was when they were five games above .500. My eyes rarely betray me. Many folks in baseball or who are into baseball are statistcal freaks. To me the only stat that really matters and I know this is cliche, is wins and loses. When I was a kid I was into the stats thing like all baseball fanatics. Today I find that I enjoy the game better just by watching them play and looking at the standings the next day to see whether they added a W or L, and yes I look at the box scores too. I've seen starting pitching before and this team has starting pitching, right now, this moment. And every now and then, teams like the 2011 Nationals, the 1969 Mets, the 1980 U.S.A Hockey Team, the 1969 Super Bowl Champions Jets catch lightning in a bottle and engender so much momentum that nothing will hold it back. We are witness…UNTERP

  7. NatsJack in Florida - May 3, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Two things to get excited about: Jason Marquis and Tom Gozelany. These two are the real deal. Jasons sinker is back and if Gorzo keeps up the quick pitch pace plus pounds the strike zone, you're looking at two 15 game winners.And this years Syracuse staff is probably better than last years Nats staff.

  8. Anonymous8 - May 3, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    This was like a role reversal of the game 2 weeks ago with Cliff Lee and Jordan Zimmermann. Both dueling and it was JZim with the no hitter going and then a costly error puts it out of reach.A shame the Nats now have to go to Philadelphia and couldn't get an easier opponent.What I like is the pitching staff has confidence and really the only pitchers on this staff with a history of winning seasons is Marquis and Livo so Gorzelanny, JZim, and Lannan are establishing themselves to become winners.Bumgarner was just filthy and he was let down by Tejada. Gorzelanny and the Nats defense backed up a Nats victory. If the Nats can continue this formula, then yes, success. Some nights though, you still need hitting and more than 2 runs!

  9. Sunderland - May 3, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    Fewest numbers of SB's against an NL team? Nationals have given up only 9 SB's in 28 games.Fewest number of SB attempts against an NL team? Oponents have attempted to steal only 16 times in 28 games v the Nats.Best CS rate in the NL? Nationals catchers have thrown out 7 of 16 attempts, a 44% CS rate.I know Pudge has gotten some deserved press for throwing out Reyes last week, then Ford again on Sunday, because both contributed to wins.But on Saturday when Ford ran against Ramos, that might have been as good a throw as a catcher could make. There was no tag. Ramos threw a strike to the front inside corner of the bag. Espinosa caught it just as Ford slid into Espinosa's glove. If that throw was 8 inches higher, Ford would have been safe.

  10. carolync - May 3, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    I apologize to everyone who reads this blog for stating in my previous post that the Giants are bad. I had not kept up with the game reports enough to know that that was against the rules. The series was won by the Nats' great pitching, great defense, and timely hitting.I've been spending too much time reading blogs and on the computer in general so I'm actually glad for this terrible indiscretion. This is my last post here and I will only come to INSIDER from time to time to read Mark's reports.Go Nats!

  11. DCJohn - May 3, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    This is the week. The nine game road trip to Philly, Miami, and Atlanta. Right now, What will the record be on May 13th. Last year, the Nats were five games over .500. Holding my breath.

  12. Anonymous - May 3, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    The 69 Mets didn't hit much either. I'm drinking the kool-aid. Bring on the Phillies! My man Riggs will have the troops ready. We got something for their butts this time! They ain't nothin!

  13. Bowdenball - May 3, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    UNTERP:I gotta ask … if you don't look at stats and the only thing that matters to you is wins and losses, how did you conclude that the Nats stunk when they were 25-20? Something other than wins and losses must have mattered to you.Question for Mark or anyone else- Do the Nats have to face Halladay on Thursday? It would only be the fourth game since he last pitched on April 30, but it would be five days. CBS Sports has him listed as the probable starter. Are they going to a temporary four-man rotation after their off day yesterday to adjust for Oswalt's absence?

  14. Dave - May 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    @carolync: Really? After only one rather mildly challenging comment by one person? I think you should stay around. You have a point, and the other person had a point. Come on back and join the club.

  15. natsfan1a - May 3, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    carolync, I've been fed up with blogs at times myself, so I hear you there. However, I've enjoyed reading your posts and will look forward to the possibility of "seeing" you on here again.Re. our road trip, at least we don't have to face the best team in baseball. Let's see, who is that again? The Yankees? Nope. The Phillies, then. Uh-uh. Can't be the World Champion Giants, 'cause look at the standings. hmmm…what's that you say? Manny Acta's Cleveland Indians? Niiice. (ducking and covering now :-))

  16. fpcsteve - May 3, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    I would be glad to hear anyone's comments on this: I think a 4-5 road trip would be a success. 1 win in Philly, 1 in FLA, and 2 in ATL. That would match our usual success with those teams. In the short run, why should the pitching regress? In the long run, the hitting can't continue to be this spotty. Just a thought… Any takers?

  17. NatsJack in Florida - May 3, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    I agree fpcsteve… 4-5 would be great and 5-4 would be ecstatic!Guys like Morse and Ankiel need to go back to the shortened stroke until consistant contact can be made. And I don't know what to make of Espinosa's latest dive. Either he's not seeing the ball well or he's overmatched.

  18. Anonymous - May 3, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Bowdenball said… UNTERP: I gotta ask … if you don't look at stats and the only thing that matters to you is wins and losses, how did you conclude that the Nats stunk when they were 25-20? Something other than wins and losses must have mattered to you.Very simply looking at their starting pitching and defense was poor. Cant' win many games when your pitching can't get through five innings (or at a hundred pitches by the end of the fifth every night, etc) and poor fielding. All you have to do is watch the game. And sometimes like last night, for example, this wouldn't show up in the stats, is Tejada's error (which they ruled a hit by Ramos). Now if I was only looking at stats I would have thought it was a clean hit by Ramos, but in reality it was poor fielding by Tejada. Don't get me wrong, I understand stats, but sometimes, not most of the time, sometimes without watching what a player does and when he does it can be deceiving. It's sort of like it's not always how many hits you get, it's when you get them. This team and I'm stretching myself is like "one player". One player went two for six and drove in two runs (actually, I know it was two) but it seems to be a different player every night, one player doing one thing a night that's getting them over. You wonder how long they can go on with winning with only five hits, but they can because their starting pitching keeps them in the games. On the other hand, it falls to pieces if three or four of their starting pitchers go down with injuries… UNTERP

  19. sunderland - May 3, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    carolync, please don't go. You were right, the Giants are bad right now. Our offense stinks, and we're scoring more runs per game than they are. So yeah, the Giants reigning WS champs, but they're bad right now, who knew?fpcsteve, yeah, I'd take 4 – 5. A success though? Dunno, depends too much on how that term gets interpreted. But I'm aching for us to win the series in FLA.Captcha = igetsiltI kinda don't, but whatever.

  20. Richard - May 3, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    Something else to get excited about: Henry Rodriquez. Watching him pitch the 9th on Saturday was pretty awesome. Triple digits on the gun plus a killed slider that he got over the plate. Nobody's gonna do much with that.

  21. Nattydread - May 3, 2011 at 1:59 PM

    Jason Werth has definitely saved something for his return to Philly. Livan is hot. One game at a time!Let's get above .500.Go Nats

  22. Anonymous - May 3, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    carolync,You can't leave. First of all, there aren't any rules. Second of all, they are bad, at least poor hitting. Third of all, have you seen my posts? I'm worse than anybody. I just don't take myself too seriously and don't take anyone here too seriously either. We're all on the same page trying to get to the same destiny…UNTERP

  23. NatinBeantown - May 3, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I'm not into fool's gold either, but the biggest difference between this team and year's past is genuine depth, especially in the starting pitching, bullpen, catcher and MI. The season doesn't go down the tank because of injury or slump as it has before. From Mark's post yesterday, the usual question arises, the stats stink but the record's good–either the Nats will crater to the level predicted by the stats ('05 Nats) or the stats will generally rise to even out with the W-L record ('10 Pads).

  24. Steve M. - May 3, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Last year about this time I was drinking the Kool-Aid as the Nats were finding ways to win and we have all discussed the run up to May 14th and 5 games above .500 and then slowly the wheels came off. Also keep in mind that Ryan Zimmerman had missed over a week in that stretch with hamstring problems.The NL East is good, real good. Phillies and Marlins have great pitching and the Braves and aren't far behind and the Nats want to be in the discussion. The Marlins, Nats and Braves have strong bullpens. Luckily, all these teams are having their own struggles on offense. The last series the Nats played the Phillies and took the 1st game against Blanton and lost against Halladay and CLee.This is a tall order this week and could define the season if the pitching holds up and the Nats can find a way to win. I think the Nats pitching is real and the offense has been offensive. Go Nats!

  25. A DC Wonk - May 3, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    Will wrote: "This team isn't much different [from last year]"Balderdash!- Marquis has gone from injured to solid; JZimm has gone from DL to starter- Pudge is now backup to Ramos; rather than Will Nieves backup to Pudge- improvement in fielding (at least at 1st base! and CF)- Lannan back to 2009 form- at least one cannon-arm in the OFWe improved more than any other team (except one) in MLB last year; and this year we are improved again. We're solidly headed in the right direction. Pennant for this year? No. Essential pieces being put into place? Heck yeah.

  26. NatinBeantown - May 3, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    Mark:Speaking of depth, sometime on the road trip can you ask Rizzo and co. for updates on some of the folks down on the farm or Viera? – What's Wang's progress? Throwing simulated games? Velocity?- Any thoughts about how long Harper will need to slug nearly .700 in Hagerstown before a bump to the P-Nats?- What's the timeline on Ramirez's DL stint?

  27. Steve M. - May 3, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    carolync, nobody takes more criticism than those who fly against the wind and I am one of them and I keep coming back for more.I read what you wrote and even ESPN gave Marquis credit for pitching better than Lincecum. Neither team is an offensive juggernaut but give the Nats credit when they "find" a way to win as this team has only scored 7 or more runs 3 games this year. The Giants have scored 8 or more runs 3 times and given that they are the World Series Champs, lets give the Nats big credit for beating them 3 out of 4!!!!I am actualy a "homer" which is hard to believe and just happy to participate in good discussions. I do try to be open to others viewpoints and like I say so many times when I am critical "I hope they prove me wrong". I also stated that I had liked most of Riggleman's moves—-he gave his best post-game press conference of his tenure last night explaining the 2 run lead vs. Marquis 3 run lead which was good to hear.

  28. Gonats - May 3, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Gonats said… carolync said… Who knew the Giants were this bad. I didn't._______________________________Way to give some credit to the Nats. The Giants have exceptional pitching and are struggling at the bat but how's about how well the Nats pitchers, catchers and defense did on shutting them down! May 2, 2011 6:33 PM Wow, I hope this wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back. I am a glass 1/2 full person. Instead of the Giants were this bad I went with the Nats were good as in the better team in that series. Just trying to be an optimist although after Burnett's blowup last week there were many of us ready to dump the Nats!Everyone is entitled to their opinions as you were with yours, and I didn't agree with it. If you were a Phillies fan posting that, I wouldn't have been as cordial as I thought I was. I apologize if you didn't like my response.

  29. Will - May 3, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    DC Wonk,What about the subtraction of Willingham, Dunn and Zimmerman's (for the first half at least) bats? Morse's defense in LF is hardly better than the Hammer's. Or how about the lack of those 12 starts from Strasburg? You'd also be hard-pressed to expect similar results from the bullpen. It was a miracle guys like Peralta, Slaten, Burnett, et. al. pitched as well as they did last season.I never said we didn't improve, I just said we haven't gotten much better, right now. I love what we've done to improve in the future. I can't wait to see what Stras and Harper can do next season, and I'm excited for Espinosa and Ramos' futures, but I'm not holding my breath for a .500 season, but I'll enjoy each win just the same.

  30. JD - May 3, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    Will, I think you nailed it pretty well. Everyone keeps talking about the lineup 'waking up' but the reality is that the lineup contains players who shouldn't be expected to 'wake up'. Ankiel and Hairston/Cora should be bench players, Morse,Desmond and Espinosa are unproven question marks. Werth and LaRoche will get back to what they normally do but this will likely be mitigated by Ramos regressing to more realistic levels. The point is that this lineup is what it is and scoring runs will continue to be a challenge at least until Zim returns. The starting pitching and the back end of the bullpen has been wonderful and if that continues we should remain respectable; the middle relief has been spotty but so has everybody else's. Finally; Riggleman has had a great month; I have criticized him in the past for being too quick with the hook and for making mechanical moves (lefty vs. righty etc.) without statistical analysis but in fairness; other than the past Saturday's game he has been very good or very lucky.

  31. Strasburg - May 3, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    We really need to go at least 5-4 on this big road trip..Henry Rodriguez was absolutely amazing the other day against the Giants.. he should pitch the 8th with Clippard in the 7th and Storen closing.. I feel so much more comfortable with him as our closer than Burnett. Burnett has been all over the place lately.

  32. A DC Wonk - May 3, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Will asked: "What about the subtraction of Willingham, Dunn and Zimmerman's (for the first half at least) bats? Morse's defense in LF is hardly better than the Hammer's."We seem to agree that both Morse and Hammer have roughly equivalent defense (both are slow). As for hitting — we don't know yet that LaRoche will hit worse than the strikeout king (and he certainly fields a whole heckuva lot better).Of course Zimm's absence is major. But when you said "this team" I didn't know you meant "without Ryan". Clearly, the Nats *right now* are not necessarily much better than last year; but as a _Team_ they are better, and will perform better when Ryan Z is back.

  33. The Great Unwashed - May 3, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    I don't get why people are so down on Burnett. There seems to be some short memories lately. I think he's been pretty good so far. So he threw a stinker the last time he was out. Throughout the course of the season, everyone in the bullpen will get lit up now and then. If it becomes a regular occurence, like what happened frequently when Brian Bruney took the mound, then it's cause for concern. Remember how some people wanted Storen sent back to the minors out of spring training? Well, he's been pretty lights out so far. Relax and enjoy the pitching while it lasts.

  34. A DC Wonk - May 3, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    JD noted: "I have criticized him in the past for being too quick with the hook"And yet, didn't Mark write somewhere that, on average, our starters have gone longer than any other team this year?

  35. A DC Wonk - May 3, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    Unwashed asked: "I don't get why people are so down on Burnett."But then he answered his own question: "There seems to be some short memories lately."I would take out the word "lately" in that last sentence! It seems that everybody is only as good as they've played in the past week.And speaking of "recently" . . . Bryce Harper is up to .355 (with a .697 SA)His last 10 games he's batting .500 (!).He's 16 for 32, with just five singles — because he also has 6 doubles and 5 HR's, for a SA of 1.756 (Oh, and 8 walks too — giving him an OBP of 1.156 during the last 10 games and .600 overall for the season).Overall for the seaons:BA with bases empty: .297BA with runners on: .410So, let's see, that puts him, currently, for the Sally League, at:11th in BA, 5th on OBP, 3rd in SA1 off the lead in HR's, 5th in RBI's, 6th in BB's(and the two guys ahead of him in SLGA are five and seven years older than him)(and is there any slower server in the US than MILB.com?)

  36. sjm308 - May 3, 2011 at 6:32 PM

    Great group of posts and I hope Carolync now understands how this works. People here love baseball and most love the Nats but of course we can all have different opinions on what success is.Love the fact that so far this season our bullpen has pitched fewer innings then any other NL team.Just makes the point of how well our starters have been.I would be extremely happy to return to DC just one game under .500 after this trip. It would also keep us in the hunt for the wild card which I guess is a ridiculous thing to follow this early but a fan can still dream in May, can't he?

  37. Cwj - May 3, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    Yeah definitely stick around Carolync. It's easy to get annoyed with some opinions/comments, but as Sjm308 implied above we're all in the same boat.Agree with Great Unwashed about Burnett. This is now his third season as full time reliever and his track record is good. He's a solid setup man.

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