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Who could upend Nats in East?

Jul 3, 2012, 10:00 AM EST

US Presswire file photo
Could the Mets prove to be the Nationals' toughest challenge in the NL East?

The Nationals tonight will take the field for the 78th time this season, and incredibly this will be the 68th time they do so as a first-place ballclub.

Yes, the Nats have spent only 10 days outside of first place in the NL East, and all 10 of those days were spent in second place, none of them since May 21.

None of this, of course, guarantees anything. There is still more than half of a full season to be played, and anyone who followed this team during its inaugural 2005 campaign knows all too well how different the standings can look on October 1 vs. July 1.

But if the Nationals were to be overtaken in the NL East, which team would be most likely to do it? Who should the Nats most fear in their division?

The answer isn't as clear as most would have expected when thisRead more »

131 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Will - Jul 3, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    I'm still not writing off the Braves. They have a lot of talent, most of which is underperforming right now.If Delgado, Minor and Venters start pitching closer to what was expected of them (and not the disaster they've been so far), and if McCann can put the pieces together and Chipper can avoid any more lengthy DL stints, they can be a very good team.Regarding the Mets, I really cannot take them seriously. I know they've been playing well for over 3 months now, but their rotation seems to be pitching wayyy over their heads. I just don't see Gee and Dickey suddenly reinventing themselves, especially Dickey at age 37. Then their offense is pretty pathetic. Besides Wright, is there any Mets starter that could make it into the Nats starting lineup? And that's not saying much. The Nats offense isn't anything to brag about…But then again, maybe that's precisely why we should be wary of them Mets, they're the dark horse candidate.

  2. Another_Sam - Jul 3, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    One of the cool things a out having a team again and livivg and dying with them every day from spring training forward is that one is reminded how grueling the season is on these guys. The athletes perform on the edge every play every day and thus the tension – anything can happen at any time. So I think that for any team the most likely spoiler is themselves. Play ball. (Sent from iPhone. Power out. Again. -( )

  3. Joe Seamhead - Jul 3, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    I posted this last November 1st. I said it then, and I say it again now:___________________________________________________________________Joe Seamhead said…I honestly think that the last regular season series against the Phillies next year will be meaningless. The Nats will have the division sewn up and the Phillies will be out of the playoffs. Regardless of what Vegas says, the Phillies are in serious trouble. Starting with Howard, moving on to old age setting in, and with few guys coming up from within. Utley is a shell of his former self, Rollins is insisting on a new five year contract, Polanco and Ibanez are toast, and I don't see the starters carrying this team as they did last year. Those guys threw a lot of innings with a " win now" mentality, and it will show next season. Their bullpen is questionable, at best. The torch gets passed to the Nationals and Braves, starting now, and the Washington club has a better manager and similar talent. GYFNG!!!November 01, 2011 7:38 AM

  4. Positively Half St. - Jul 3, 2012 at 10:56 AM

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  5. Positively Half St. - Jul 3, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    One difference between this year and 2005 is that the Nats are not winning beyond their peripheral stats. Their run differential of +48 is the second best in the NL, while I remember the Nats of the first half of 2005 winning way more than their share of 1-run games.To the extent that this really is predictive, the Mets and Braves do seem to be the main competition, although the Mets were in negative territory before shutting out the Dodgers constantly.The main smoke-and-mirror winning team this year, as figured by Baseball Prospectus's various "pythagorean" reckonings, is the Orioles. The Daily Hit List rankings currently have them ranked 19th, and indicate that the O's have won about 6 games more than their peripheral stats would suggest they should have. Perhaps they are the team more like the 2005 Nats, playing out of their shoes for now, but destined for a fall.+1/2St.

  6. Joe Seamhead - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    I still see the Mets as a very fragile team that is one serious injury away from being in serious trouble. Leaving Johan Santana in for over 130 pitches to finish the no hitter was one of the worst cases of baseball player abuse that I've seen of a guy coming back from serious surgery. He, and they, will pay a toll for that outing before the end of the summer. As to the Braves, they are still a very good team, but I see them fading due to just not quite having enough in the tank to make it through the dog days of August.And Davey will out-manage their guy.I had one more post that day on Nov. 1st that I find kind of fun to look back on now:_______________________________________Joe Seamhead said…One more thing; I think that it's high time that we knock this crap off of letting Philly making our house their home away from home, starting now. I want to start a movement, "Occupy Nats Park". I think that bars and restaurants could run promos for spiffs if you bring in any ticket stub from a Nats-Phillies game. This whining from our fans that they won't go to the park for Phillie games has got to stop.Michele, I love your countdown clock until the start of ST idea. What say you , Mark? Can it be done?November 01, 2011 8:12 AM

  7. sjm308 - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I am just so happy to have power! I think the key to the remainder of the season is pitching and the staff that scares me the most are the Braves. They have both starters and bullpen depth although losing their top pitcher certainly doesn't hurt our lads chances.At the beginning of the season, I would have been happy if someone told me we would be fighting for a playoff spot. Now, I will be disappointed if we are in that one game playoff situation. How great would it be to be resting while two other teams are battling to get the right to open at Nationals Park!!Off to answer/delate many many emails and also mourn the loss of the sport I coached for way too many years including 5 at The University of Maryland. So sad (I know, I know its a baseball blog but this is the first place I came when I got power back).Go Nats!!

  8. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    I think I also have more of an awareness now of how every game means so much. These guys are young but tough, level headed and smart. Keeping the concentration day after day will be a challenge. I really think they are up to it.

  9. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    Glad to hear that you're back online, sjm.I don't do predictions, so I'll leave that to others. I will say that I'm enjoying this season's ride, though. It's kinda fun looking down on the Phoolies for a change, eh? 😉

  10. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    On another (sad, imo) note, Dontrelle Willis announced his retirement. Always liked watching the dude (well, maybe not when he was beating us).

  11. MicheleS - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    The Marlins still give me pause. not saying that they will win the division, but they have always had the Nats number. The Mets – o my- what a suprise. Someone needs to learn how to hit that Knuckleball. Braves.. geesh, can't they be stinking? That org is so well run, they just re load from the farm every year. And all i can say is.. Just so nice to see the Phillies at the bottom!

  12. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:38 AM

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  13. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    So, is this how Rizzo makes his decisions? I don't think so. I'm pretty sure I saw a few armchair GM action items on there. :-)

  14. terpman33 - Jul 3, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    I may be in the minority with this opinion, but I really think we should REALLY go for it all and trade for Cole Hamels. Maybe we could give up an A and two AA prospects, with the understanding he would ONLY be a 3 month rental. This team really has a chance to do something special, and if we could get him in the rotation(esp. considering Straus will be shut down), I believe we would be the team to beat! Also, the thing between him and Bryce is a distant memory. That's all for now. GYFNG!!!

  15. Joe Seamhead - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    I can't see the Phillies letting Hamels go to anyone in the NL East.

  16. alexva - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    It all starts with the Nats, if they play to the same record in the second half they will win 94-95 games. No way the Philthyies could catch them. Of the others, only the would Marlins worry me. Now if they regress to .500 or don't get to 90 wins, I'd add the Braves to my concerns.

  17. Jimmy - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    The Nationals and Braves appear to be the only "complete" teams in the division. I'll put them 1 and 2, respectively. I give the Nationals the edge in my prediction in part out of homerism (I'm ok admitting that), and because I think from top to bottom they are just a little bit better at most positions, and our pitching is just insane top to bottom. The odd thing about this season is that I'm more comfortable predicting the 1st place team than I am picking a last place team. Someone has to be in the five spot, but I can't seem to call it. Just when they look ready to turn it around the Phils just find ways to dig deeper into Phith Place (TM). The Marlins have too much talent, even if they are totally dysfunctional, to land at the bottom. And the Mets 1-2 punch should keep them at least playing decent baseball, but if either of them slip then I predict a quick fall to last place. I'm 100% supportive of Strasburg's innings limit. I do, however, wonder how we will fare once he hangs it up for the year. He's more than just a really good pitcher to this team.

  18. ehay2k - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Natsfan, nice dartboard. But they missed "watch MLB Network", because no GM watches ESPN for baseball news. :-)

  19. Faraz Shaikh - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    heard Braves are interested in Greinke. Good thing Greinke isn't interested in a contract now so teams are possibly staying away from him. Hope Atlanta does not get him.Mets are playing very well but I think their budget constraints stop them from making any moves at deadline. They might be forced to move players like Wright and Santana (high value and issue of keeping them long term).Marlins just annoy me because we always have trouble defeating them but if we keep beating everyone else in the division, we should be fine.Phillies are only 11 games back on July 2nd. Come on,Cards and Rays came back from what, 9 games back with one month left. I think with Roy and Howard expected back, they shouldn't be too quick to trade Cole. However, I won't complaint if they do. One less team to worry about in our competitive division!

  20. Donald - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    While I'm still nervous about the second half, one thing that gives me optimism is that the Nats should be improving with Morse and Zim's returning to health and Storen and Werth expected back. Other than the Phillies, I don't see big additions coming back to bolster the other teams. I also don't see the Mets or Braves making a big splash at the trade deadline. Miami may be the wildcard there, where they try to pick up a major addition.

  21. ehay2k - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    Name a team in the NL East with better overall pitching and defense. None. That will keep the Nats in the lead. Awakening bats are a plus, but not what will drive the team, IMO.

  22. Stew Magnuson - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    Every time I watch the Mets play, I think to myself, "How?"They are an awful defensive team, for one.They are pretenders.

  23. JT - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    The old saying of never look back cause something might be gaining on you always has me worried. Usually if its to good to be true, its just that. Can I really believe, now that July has come, that this is all real, that the nats are in 1st place and the sillies in last place? Nah, can't be, I must be in a coma and dreaming. The Mets…2nd, now that is a surprise and I won't write them off just because of the manager they have, he seems upbeat and driven to have success. The Braves, while always good, are just a bit to streaky this year for me to consider them legit in October. The Marlins have tons of talent but for some reason they just can't put it all together, at least as of yet but don't ever count them out with that lumber yard. Still yet, the nats are the team to beat with that pitching and line-up starting to produce now. Just keep me in a coma til October, ok.

  24. JamesFan - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    A lot depends on who does what at the trade deadline. If the Marlins or Atlanta get another top starter, they could threaten the Nats. I see the Marlins as the most dangerous team. NYM have big holes in their line up. Atlanta does not seem that tough, especially with their best pitcher down.Another huge factor is the health of the Nats. One of these starters goes down and we have an issue.

  25. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    MicheleS==> the Harper earrings are made of cardboard. Really, if they cost 50 cents to produce I would be shocked. OTOH, the clown question shirt is very cool. I will wear the patriotic Harper earrings tomorrow, but not the shirt, gotta bring out the July 4 shirt for OUR WIN TOMORROW!!! (And let's win one for JZ tonight, keep those runs coming.)

  26. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Stew, did you catch a glimpse of the Fish game? Plenty of errors, including a couple of "homeyhits" by the official scorer. You drain runs and make your pitchers throw scared when you do that. Not that crazy Z was scared–just crazy. I would not write off the Mets. There is a surprise team every season, and they could be it. Yes, they have weaknesses, and hopefully we can take advantage, but they are playing tough and not sinking into their predicted last-place–as the O's are.

  27. jcj5y - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Some people may remember this, but I was surprised when I looked it up. The Nats were 51-32 on July 5, 2005, but they had scored and allowed the same number of runs. In other words, their expected record was .500–exactly where they ended up at the end of the season.Today, their expected record is 44-33, which is still the best expected record in the division and second only to the Cardinals in the NL.My point is that this team is real. They may face a challenge from the Braves or Mets, or they may suffer some devastating injury, but they are the best team, top to bottom, in the division. As Storen and Werth return to replace CMW and DeRosa, they'll get even better.There are no guarantees. This is going to be fun to watch. But I'm not looking over my shoulder just yet.

  28. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Any Insiders doing brunch and baseball tomorrow?Red Porch brunch

  29. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    Menu looks great, but I hope the BBQ shrimp is not mixed in together with the grits…

  30. Doc - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    The only reason that there are the other teams to consider, has to do with the Nats weak offense during the 1st half.That has changed. I see our offense taking off and challenging the Cards for top batting team in the NL–and leaving the Meties, Philthies, Braveless, and that Fishy team in Miami, choking on the dust flying from our cleats.

  31. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Early game tonight, 6:35 start (I assume because of the CBA and the 11 a.m. start tomorrow–still a quick turnaround). No cell or internet service at my studio yesterday in Burke. Hope that improves or I won't see results until I'm driving home at 9 p.m. Not complaining too much, though because we had power AND a/c!!

  32. NCNatsie - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    With responsibilities come worries, and there’s a lot of responsibility being in first place. Here are a couple of my worries:First, weather. Strasburg and Gio’s heat-related problems in Atlanta are a definite concern. It’s going to be hot in DC for the next two months. Do we have a team that can stand up to dog day weather?Second, the schedule. We’ve played fewer games than any of the other teams (2 fewer than the Mets, 3 fewer than the Braves and Fish, 4 fewer than the team in Phifth place — Thanks for the great pun, Jimmy) Now on the one hand, that sounds good, because it means our lead is greater in the loss column overall, and games lost cannot be made up. But on the other hand, it means our schedule after the ASB is going to be denser, which will test the team's stamina, during the hot weather days and, because such problems are cumulative, at season’s end. Davy will have to rest people as much as possible. Anyway, we need to get used to it. Our Alfred E. Neumann days are over. We’re in first. Let’s try to enjoy, and drown the worries in B&M’s.

  33. Section 215 Row A - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Joe Seamhead:Very prescient! I think most of us thought the Phillies were not in ascendance but I think most figured them to be in the mix. Nicely done!

  34. Candide - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Mark, a quibble regarding your claim that Zimm is "healthy."His shoulder is still injured; the cortisone injection "suppresses the immune system, thus reducing inflammation and attendant pain and swelling at the site of the injury." (from wikipedia, which knows everything)I had a knee problem a few months ago and saw an orthopedist about it. We talked briefly about a cortisone injection. She explained to me that while it might help, by reducing the inflammation, it would actually have the effect of slowing down the healing of the actual injury. She recommended seeing if it would heal on its own – it did – before going the cortisone injection route.I haven't read anything that says how long the benefits of Zimm's cortisone injection will last. I suspect no one knows. Allegedly, there's no risk of aggravating his injury, so maybe all will be well. But if he starts needing them more and more frequently – which is medically inadvisable – then look out.That having been said, the Nats' run totals the last week show just how important FoF's bat in the middle of the lineup is. With our pitching, if we regularly start scoring 5-6 runs per game, we could suddenly be putting a lot more space between us and second place.

  35. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Yes, rescheduling those rainouts to after the ASB is a mixed blessing. We had a lot of injuries at the time, so with Morse back, RZ hitting, and Storen in the BP, not to mention Tracy and I hope a stablized Henry, we are better off rosterwise–assuming no more major DL stints.______________________________________________ But on the other hand, it means our schedule after the ASB is going to be denser

  36. Tcostant - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    On vacation at the Jersey shore, nOt much Nats news here. This site is a godsend, thanks!

  37. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Stew Magnusun re: the Mets….. defense is their achilles heel. People need to realize the true founder of "Moneyball" is Sandy Alderson and he has developed a lineup that reflects the OBP mantra that is at the root of that approach. Johann Santana, Dillon Gee and the totally unhittable R.A. Dickey are solid and the Mets will continue to score runs but that defense… everywhere but 3rd is horrible.

  38. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    Thanks for the menu, NatsLady. I'd seen brunch mentioned on the broadcasts but hadn't seen any specifics. Wonder whether the "duel" omelet station is deliberate or a typo. I wouldn't mind some breakfast food at the park tomorrow, but wouldn't be up for a buffet, particularly at that price. I'll have to have something before I leave home in the morning to "tide myself," and I'll likely just be ready for something light by the time I get to the park.

  39. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    OK, this was a minor league game, but the temporary "manager" was honest. How would you rule? Just opening it up for debate in the hours before we get a game here!Balking for a loss

  40. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    1a, agree that buffet is pricey, but we've spent plenty more for Thanksgiving buffets. If my family were here I would go for it, but not by myself.

  41. Kenz aFan - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Positively Half St. said… One difference between this year and 2005 is that the Nats are not winning beyond their peripheral stats. Their run differential of +48 is the second best in the NL, while I remember the Nats of the first half of 2005 winning way more than their share of 1-run games.__________________________________________You hit the nail on the head with that one…At no point during the 2005 season was the Nats run differential ever more than 5 runs above .500 and one time came on June 12, when after a 10 game winning streak they had scored 260 runs, while allowing 255.

  42. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    NatsLady, looks like breakfast items will also be available elsewhere. Need to check with the hubby, but I think we'll be more likely to go the concession route tomorrow:Brunch and BaseballBreakfast items will be available at the Dupont Deli and Grand Slam concession stands on the Main Concourse Level as well as in the Stars and Stripes Club.A brunch buffet will be available in the Red Porch Restaurant @ Nationals Park from 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. July 4th Brunch in the Porch will be available for $39 with your game ticket.

  43. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    I feel like I say this every single darn series, but here goes — this series with the Giants is going to be a critical test. We have been hitting well but against some not great pitching – not Hudson, of course, but a number of guys making debuts or who would otherwise be in the minors. Not so this week. We have Lincecum, Cain ( terror) and I think Baumgartner. Those guys have won a world series with a team similar to ours. Now we have to actually hit really good pitching, pitch well and the fielding has to be sparkling. I am glad it's a home series, though. It is not hot and humid in San Fransisco. One more note about the concerns with Strasburg and the heat — it has been mentioned that guys often have problems the start AFTER Colorado. He was up on the very first game back and it was over-the-top kind of hot. Maybe a combination of factors that included a long first inning and time on the bases. I am guessing he has already figured out a way for that NOT to happen again. Pretty determined kind of guy. We have lots of that bulldog mentality going on out there. Awesome.

  44. Candide - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    NatsLady said…OK, this was a minor league game, but the temporary "manager" was honest. How would you rule? Just opening it up for debate in the hours before we get a game here!Manager obviously didn't learn anything from Cole Hamels comment after he plunked Bryce. The right, smart answer would have been, "Of course I didn't tell them to deliberately balk. But these guys aren't pitchers, so I'm not surprised they didn't pitch well. Just like I'm not surprised when a pitcher comes to the plate and looks totally lost when he strikes out. Next question."

  45. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:02 PM

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  46. Section 222 - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:03 PM

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  47. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    The Nats have six home games left before the All Star break. After the break they've got 41 home games vs. 38 away games. That means a total of 47 home games and 38 away games left on the schedule. I like those numbers and that distribution. And while a majority of those games are, indeed, against division rivals, 38 are not. It's a cliche, I know, but the key is to beat the team you're playing and not worry about anyone else in the division.I certainly hope the team doesn't get caught up in 'who's catching up with us' questions, but instead focuses on 'one game at a time' (just like our high school coaches taught us).Keep winning almost every series, sweep some of the lesser teams that picked up a game earlier in the season (e.g., the Astros and the Cubs), and avoid those nasty losing sweeps that — thankfully — haven't occurred often.

  48. Section 222 - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    Re: balking for a lossIntegrity of the game? In the minors? Really? Where they routinely have guys coming in for rehab starts, playing a few innings, maybe playing the field, maybe not? And pitchers coming off injuries giving up hits and runs all over the place to get stretched out or "get their work in"? Everything they do there is done for the benefit of the major league team and the development of its players. This decision, while unorthodox, was no different. I wouldn't have taken any action against the manager.

  49. Gonat - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    Eugene, all good points there. As the season goes on, the home games and less travel will make a big difference.

  50. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    swami…I've said it a bunch and I'll keep on saying it. It's not who you're playing, it's how you're playing. It's how the Cardinals won the World Series last year. It's how the Yankees swept the Nats and how the Nats swept the Red Sox and Blue Jays.And now the Nats and Giants, both playing well, meet up in a potentially great series.It's why I watch baseball.

  51. MicheleS - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Swami @9:44. Just save that comment and insert new team and new strengths of the team (for Giants-Pitching), etc. for every series we have for the rest of the year (okay maybe not CO or the Cubs).Everyone needs to get used to this is the because every series is going to be critical

  52. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    On another food note, there's a food drive at the park on July 7 and 8. We have tix to Sunday's game and will be bringing donations with us. We won't take advantage of the future game tix offer (8/21, 9/5, or 9/7), though, as we have scheduling conflicts.

  53. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    For those of you out of the area–Free baseball on TV! (OK, internet TV).Washington Nationals ‏@NationalsToday's MLB.TV Free Game of the Day is Giants vs. Nationals presented by SiriusXM. Blackout restrictions apply.

  54. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    1a, thanks. A friend and I are going on the 8th and will bring food.

  55. smurff - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    Very pysched for my first Nats game of the season tomorrow! Sec 132 with 8 close friends. Any planned NI rendevous in the works?

  56. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:20 PM

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  57. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    You're welcome, NL. On a related broadcast note, MLB Network is scheduled to have the Thursday Nats/Giants game.

  58. Theophilus T. S. - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Except for Wright, Mets play defense like the '09 Acta Nats. Without more depth in their pitching staff, I don't see how they can possibly continue at their present pace.Somebody made the point about the Washington weather, which is very apt. Gio pitched in Oakland, and Strasburg was in sick bay the last two Augusts. Neither is accustomed to this kind of weather. Atlanta's pitchers are, and though they are underperforming now they could rejuvenate between now and September.This Giants series is a very important indicator how Nats might fare in a short playoff series. Lincecum allegedly is getting things back together, plus Cain and Baumgardner. Despite the past two weeks, I worry about whether the Nats offense is up to a short series against a team rich in starting pitchers. I don't know if they can hit enough against a team's top three pitchers (in the playoffs, no one really needs to start their 4th, let alone 5th). Can they win 3 of 5 (or is it 4 of 7?) one-run, low-scoring games? I think this series will say a lot.

  59. smurff - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Good insight, Theo. that's why I think this will be a telling series.Stras and Gio will recover well from thier heat-related issues, I think. It's all about acclimization, and staying ahead of the hydration. Maybe there's some good to come out of the Atlanta series — they both saw it, and hopefully immproved their gameplan on how to combat it.

  60. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    I guess my main feeling about this particular thread is that I don't think anyone can upend us if we do what we are capable of doing. I think if we don't reach the baseball promised land it will be because we up-ended ourselves and gave it away.

  61. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    Name a team in the NL East with better overall pitching and defense. None. That will keep the Nats in the lead. Awakening bats are a plus, but not what will drive the team, IMO.When Stras gets shutdown at his innings limit this changes. They will come back to earth. If the Braves manage to acquire Grienke they might end up with the better rotation. CM Wang does not look like a potentially competent replacement as he did in the spring and toward the very end of last year. And John Lannan? Puuuuhleeeeese, talk to the hand. Its possible they still win the division but its going to be a squeaker without Strasburg.

  62. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    But I still think they do it.

  63. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    Oh- and thanks for the heads up about the JZim article. Most of you know he is my favorite Nat. Interesting fan dilemma this series for me. I have a fan-crush on Buster Posey and loved watching him when they won the world series. I do admire him the way he recovered from a very serious injury. BUT — his bat can stay ice cold while he is in DC and then he can pick it back up after he leaves here. I am all in for the Nats for the next three days, especially with Jordan going against Timmy boy. And if you think Detweiler is skinny – look at Lincecum. He must be 165 with wet hair.

  64. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Thanks, NL, hadn't seen that. I can connect it to baseball. For his 50th birthday, Tom Hanks visited ballparks around the country. Ron Howard (AKA Opie) and Dennis Miller accompanied him on the trip. hmmm…I do have a milestone birthday coming up next year… :-)

  65. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:39 PM

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  66. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    swami, I don't have a crush on him, but I do have a soft spot for Posey, who was my late brother's fave Giant. I was also happy to see Buster come back from injury. I have a dear friend in the Bay Area who is a Giants fan (the rest of my family is not so much into the game, other than an octogenarian aunt, who is a rabid Cleveland fan, and my other brother, who roots for the White Sox). All of that being said, I'd be just fine with the Giants going ice cold for the next three days. :-)

  67. Wendell - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    NatsLadyA Saudi friend of mine watched his first football game. He was completely baffled. So I sent him Andy Griffith's "What is Was, Was Football."

  68. sm13 - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    This divisionn is likely to be a dogfight all the way into September. I'm not sure we have the firepower to just run away with things. And, realistically we're due for bit of a week or two summer slump that will tighten things up. The scariest team, despite all of their psychological issues, may be the Marlins. They could go on an extended hot-streak, fueled by the big boppers — Stanton and Ramirez — and Reyes. For us to stay at the top, our pitching will have to excell. That includes Lannen or Duke, or whoever we tap to fill Stras' place in the September rotation. I'd be surprised if Rizzo tries to acquire a "rent an arm".This is gonna be a fun ride!GO NATS!

  69. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    natsfan1a — funny story about the Tom Hanks trip. My two sons and I went on a much smaller version of that trip at the very same time. Our first three parks were Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and their group was at the very same games. Every night they were up on the scoreboard. We decided to think that they were following us! They are out of the house now, but that was a lot of fun and a great memory. I highly recommend it. Another funny note about that trip – when we got to Cincy, it was just following the trade where we got Kearns and Lopez – the fans there were not happy. Hindsight is 20-20. We also went to see Nolan Ryan's induction into the HOF for my son's 16th birthday – that was his favorite player. Lots of great baseball memories in my family. You should do it!!

  70. NCNatsie - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Smurff, I hope you're right about hydration, etc, but Strs said he had been aware of that and had been preparing for days for the hot start in Atlanta. Then Doc (sounding like a real doctor, which he may well be) commented a few days ago that he apparently has hypertension which could be exacerbated by heat. So I'll remain worried.In fact, if he's sub-par on his next hot day start, I think Davey should look for a way to skip a start or two for him in August, and save them for (presumably) cooler September.

  71. sm13 - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    I agree with Swami on both counts. My daughter I want to Cal Ripken's HOF induction and we count it as one of like's unforgettable moments. We're already talking about going again to see Pudge enshrined. This past weekend's trip with my daughter to Atlanta to see the Nats was great fun. I've been to lots of ballparks, but never to see the Nats and there was something special about meeting the scattered other folks wearing curly W's and hearing yourself clap when the rest of the ballpark is quiet. These are memories we'll always have together that we'll cherish for ever.

  72. Kevin Rusch - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    So about the balking – I see both sides, and I totally get the manager's decision to just "get it over with." And frankly, being so obvious about it removes any "suspicion of impropriety" as it were — there's no chance he was trying to shave a run or something; he just wanted the game to end. HOWEVER, if you're going to do that, can't you just call up yesterday's starter and say "just toss 'em up there like batting practice so we can get out of here"?

  73. John C. - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    Note for Theophilus:Somebody made the point about the Washington weather, which is very apt. Gio pitched in Oakland, and Strasburg was in sick bay the last two Augusts. Neither is accustomed to this kind of weather.Stras yes – he grew up in San Diego, home of perfect weather year round. But Gio grew up in Miami, and pitched in HS there. I'm confident that Gio knows about pitching/playing in humidity!

  74. Wendell - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Davey on Harper & the ASG, plus update on voting

  75. NatsNut - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    1a, if you wanted get your free tickets for 9/5 or 9/7, I'd happily take them off your hands. =)

  76. NatsNut - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    What worries me about the second half is that 1) this is when sleeper teams emerge and surprise us and, 2) we play so many more games against NL East. I have the feeling we're going to be bobbing up and down from 1st place for the rest of the season.

  77. Oldguy - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Game time tonight 6:35. Why? 4th of July Eve? Maybe it's the fireworks.

  78. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Deal. It's while supplies last, so if I acquire them, they're yours. :-)Thanks to others for the ballpark tour comments. We've been to some of the parks, but haven't yet done a multi-park trip. Would have to talk the hubby into it as well. Heh.NatsNut said…1a, if you wanted get your free tickets for 9/5 or 9/7, I'd happily take them off your hands. =)July 03, 2012 11:23 AM

  79. MicheleS - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Swami.. I was at that Nolan Ryan Induction ceremony as well. I had a blast (Friend was there to cheer for George Brett – I was there for Nolan).

  80. MicheleS - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    And SM13 I was at the Cal Induction too! Us and 75K other people!Also went to so Ryne Sandberg! I am going this year for Ron Santo.

  81. MicheleS - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    This made me giggle about Ian (from Johah Keri on Grantland's Power Rankings).Meanwhile, Ian Desmond's having one of the biggest breakouts of any player in baseball. After hitting just .253/.298/.358 last year, he's up to .276/.308/.484, still showing the patience of a rabid squirrel on his 14th Red Bull, but making up for it with a huge power surge.

  82. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    On another Desi note, nice "feel good" story here.

  83. Feel Wood - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Oldguy said… Game time tonight 6:35. Why? 4th of July Eve? Maybe it's the fireworks.Maybe because tomorrow's game is at 11:00 am? Which is definitely because of the fireworks. Because as we all know, Metro just can't handle the heat and the crowds for two big events on one day.

  84. Faraz Shaikh - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Do you all think we have prospects to land Greinke and sign him long term in the off-season?not sure if we 'need' greinke long term but we need another starter once strasburg is shut down this season. dempster could be a better option I guess because his price would be lower.

  85. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  86. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  87. natsfan1a - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    In other news, according to this MASN-related piece, MLB officials were recently in Baltimore, presumably (its author says) to talk to Angelos about the contract situation.

  88. Theophilus T. S. - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Greinke is unbeatable — sometimes lucky, like last night — at home, a mediocrity (1.4+ WHIP, .301 BAA) on the road. It has been said this is because it is difficult for him to adjust to life on the road. Assume, hypothetically, the Nats were to rent him for the remainder of the year and uproot him from his favorite pillow in his cozy condo in Milwaukee and dump him in a hotel in DC. So we would get a mediocre but extremely expensive pitcher who would be on the road seven days a week for the remainder of the season. Not worth it.

  89. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    CMW gets one more chance before Storen and Henry get back (maybe two if we have another 11-1 lead, which is unlikely against the Giants, although I guess possible against the Rox). Unless by some miracle he finds his "mechanics" we need a SP on board and acclimatized for August-September… Lannan and the rest of the 'Cuse staff are frail reeds. They can maybe come up and help out in September with expanded rosters, but we need a real pitcher. We have been extremely lucky not to have a major injury in the rotation.Don't know if it's Greinke (don't know how he handles the heat, among other things)–could be a subject for an article, who exactly is available and at what approximate price?

  90. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Greinke handle heat…..?……two words…..Kansas City.

  91. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Oh…..and he grew up in Florida.

  92. Theophilus T. S. - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    I suppose others have seen this, re the Jones/Harper mutual admiration society, but here it is for everyone else:

  93. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    NJ, good point. And he may have been just as unlucky as lucky in Milwaukee, y'know, with Nyjer in the outfield… I like watching him pitch, but my vote doesn't count for much since I also voted for CMW.

  94. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    So we would get a mediocre but extremely expensive pitcher who would be on the road seven days a week for the remainder of the season. Not worth it.Rizzo, Clark, and the Lerners went after him first. His overall stats put him above Strasburg and Gio and so he has a higher WAR. He seems like a long-term solution for sure. Is he worth the price? He is major league proven and still young enough and he doesn't have to be the ace on a team with Strasburg, Gio, and Zimmermann. Seems like the Nats would be a perfect situation for him in 2012. He's worth it.

  95. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    LSo we would get a mediocre but extremely expensive pitcher who would be on the road seven days a week for the remainder of the season. Not worth it.Too many said the same thing about Gio and EJax because they gave up too many walks. Both seem vastly improved in the Nats situation. Me thinks Rizzo and Clark know SP's better than we do … so ….

  96. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    They absolutely must extend Zimmermann though …

  97. NatsLady - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    I'm with peric on Greinke. Get him into the Four Seasons or one of those nice condos near the park with all his furniture and his pillow. If his only objection to the Nats last time was he wanted to go to a winning team, well, we got that now. DC ain't that much further from Florida than Atlanta–and it's a southern city with a slow pace in the summer.

  98. NatsNut - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    cool. thanks 1a.

  99. Shedd - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    This sounds like a dumb cliche, but the way I see it is that the only team that can upend the Nationals is the Nationals. I don't think any of the other NL East are capabale of going on a tear where they catch the Nats and then put distance between themselves and the Nationals. To me, the only team capable of going on such a tear is the Nationals. One 15-5 run and .500 the rest of the time wins the division for the Nationals. I agree with Baseballswami in that the Giants series is critical. This is probably the best team the Nationals will see for a while. Pass this test and it's another big step toward the division title.

  100. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    Yes, the early start tonight is because of the early start tomorrow. The collective bargaining agreement has language about times between starts. The Nats have played games on the 4th since they got here, but they have gone progressively earlier due to the goings on in DC later in the day and the possibility of a tie game making it later. Breakfast with the Nats! I like it. I still think part of the heat-related problems stem from the colorado trip. And I still think in our division no one can overtake us unless we collapse and give it away. It's completely in the hands of the Nats at this point. I think they will have slumps but need to minimize them and always stay close. The offense definitely needs to keep clicking through the season. Situations to watch: trade deadline moves, Wang, Storen and Werth and associated moves.

  101. Feel Wood - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    peric said… They absolutely must extend Zimmermann though …Eventually, sure. But no rush now. He has three arbitration years left. He's not going anywhere.

  102. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Shedd – I see that we are thinking alike :)

  103. Laddie Blah Blah - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    "Who should the Nats most fear in their division?"No one. The Nats have the best pitching staff and the best defense. And now our bats are coming around. The rest of the East should be wondering how they can possibly beat the Nats. They can't. If the Nats are to lose the NL East, they will have to beat themselves.Of course, there are always injuries to key players, which no one can control. And Nats have already had their share, and are still in first place.

  104. realdealnats - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    1) Make sure Strass eats his bananas to combat the heat. 2) Don't think Gio is bothered so much by heat. 3) Everyone should look around for Gio's biting curve, it's lost. Love Gio tho4) Pitching & Defense win, especially w/avg hitting5) Our bats will ride the rollercoaster hereonout: when we're hot we're hot and when we get shut down by a good staff, we'll have to slowly recover.6) The NL East team who gets Greinke will make it a real horse race (ATL)7) Marlins will be dangerous, Mets will fade @ the end, Braves will hang in, Phils to far back for the run to matter.8) No one in the NL has better team chemistry or better talent–9) This is one of those years were the team from nowhere to steal the NL10) Might take more than luck to beat the Rangers or Yankees but as NJ says that's why we watch'em and that's why they play'em.11) and as Stuart Smalley says:What the heck, we're good enough, and we're smart enough, and doggone it people like us!

  105. realdealnats - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    NatsLady:DC ain't that much further from Florida than Atlanta–and it's a southern city with a slow pace in the summer.JFK used to describe DC as having all the charm of the north and all the efficiency of the south…_______________________________________________________________________Peric: What players will we have to give up for Greinke do you think? Educated guess?_____________________________________________________________________A July 4th Message to Nats and Nats' fans: Show no fear and Full steam ahead. Who ever wore goggles?!

  106. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    I'm with peric on Greinke. Get him into the Four Seasons or one of those nice condos near the park with all his furniture and his pillow.Take him to the Willard, show him where the word "Lobbyist" got invented. Then "Lobby" him.

  107. SonnyG10 - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    NatsLady, thanks for the post on Andy Griffith. I am related to him several generations in the past, but I don't know exactly where his line connects my line. I've wanted to find out this information for years, but was hesitant to try to contact him. I know he was a very private person and I am sure I was a nobody to him. He looks very much like my father in the eyes and eyebrows. I will record his death date for my geneology data.

  108. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    Peric: What players will we have to give up for Greinke do you think? Educated guess?They'll want JZimmnn … Rizzo will say no and offer Detwiler, Wang, Lannan, Drew Storen, Nate Karns, and perhaps Lombardozzi or Kobernus. It could end up being excruciatingly painful in the end … which is why I hope they follow the original premise and not pull the trigger unless Grienke signs an extension. It'll be extra painful thanks to Selig's new rules.

  109. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    I just hate the part where we have to trade our guys away. I know it's just baseball, but I get attached to them. Can we just give them some prospects I never heard of?

  110. JD - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    Peric, That package won't do it because Lannan and CMW wont be interesting to a team looking for young talent. They will want at least one sure fire stud starter like JZimm. This is why Atlanta has the advantage with Delgado and Tehran.

  111. JayB - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    Division will come down to the last week between the Nats and Braves. Mets will stick around until August. Mia will make a run late but fall short. Winner will have 90 wins. I worry that Nats will come up short in the end. If so I am going to remember Davey forcing Henry R. into closing role that cost at least 2 wins and Rizzo's ego forcing CMW on everyone costing at least 3 wins. That is the difference between 90 and 95 wins……completely avoidable….did anyone not see Herny's walks and wild pitches before he even took the mound? CMW…..just an ego trip for Rizzo…he never makes a mistake….like he told me once in person…..Chapman is not worth the money….I have a better plan… turned out to me Maya.

  112. sjb - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    Is it worth it if we have to make Detwiler part of a trade for Greinke (or another pitcher such as Dempster or Wandy Rodriguez?) I thought a major reason for making such a deal is so we don't have to use one of the guys from AAA (Lannan, Duke, or Maya) as a fifth starter down the stretch in September (of course, as everyone knows, you don't need a fifth starter in postseason). But if we trade Detwiler, that's the position we'll be in.

  113. sm13 - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    MLB Ballpark cam just showed Henry long-tossing in the outfield. Must mean he's close to being back on the roster — decision time for CMW could be here…

  114. JD - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    JayB, Your criticism re Henry is hindsight. He pitched great in spring training and into the season. Davie had to go back to him until it became apparent that the problem is inherent. The major are full of successful players who were given up on by previous teams. it takes patience. CMW was also a worthwhile gamble by Rizzo IMO. You wait and see he will be an effective starter for someone who will have patience until he regains his form. BTW; last I checked we had the best record in the NL and were 5 games ahead of the Braves so Rizzo aint doing that bad of a job is he?

  115. sm13 - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    I'm not a big fan of acquiring Grienke or any other big name, especially if it is going to cost us big leaguers or key prospects. This year is all about taking the next step, not going for broke. This team is built to be a playoff team for the next 5 years or more down the road. I am not ready to give up the future for a quick fix. I have no problem going with what we have and filling in late September with Lannan or Duke (please, not Maya). A 4-man playoff rotation of Gio, JZimm, Ejax and Det will match up with anyone.

  116. JD - Jul 3, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    sm13, Greinke wouldn't be a quick fix. Presumably he gets signed to a long term deal and is a mainstay in the rotation for years to come. He is as good or better than just about any one we have. Having said that I wouldn't agree to include JZimm in a deal for Greinke because he is still under team control for several years at a relatively cheap price and removing him from the rotation still leaves the same hole. I don't agree with your last statement at all. The way to look at it is that you are replacing Strasburg with a Lannan or Duke; that will certainly cost you a couple of games in the standings. I really think we need to get someone to plug that hole maybe Dempster or Rodriguez. I would agree to include any prospect except Rendon or Goodwin.

  117. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 3, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    JD… you include Tyler Moore in that "any prospect" group?

  118. JD - Jul 3, 2012 at 7:26 PM

    NatsJack, Not specifically but if he's the key piece to get Greinke I would pull the trigger.

  119. Catcher50 - Jul 3, 2012 at 7:27 PM

    I just love JayB's comments. He's been on this roll for years. He's always right. BTW, nobody has ever paid him $5/year to be a GM. Must be something wrong.As we head int ASG, I have to believe that the Bravos are the only worry.Guillen & Miami roster will have a meltdown (like predicting that the sun will rise tomorrow) and they will tank by mid August.Someone will solve Dickey (just using experience that says that either he'll lose control of the knuckler or its "high" speed will allow someone to figure it out. The other parts are just not very good.Philly just got old too soon. Many thought that their window of opportunity was closing, but just not as quick as it did. If the Philthy Phans start to not show and/or boo loudly, some of those players who brought them championships might just say xxxx it and them.One of the real problems with projecting this year is the 2nd wild card. Teams that might, realistically, have been sellers in the past, will think that they are in it. Which means that the Grienkes Bourges, Victorinos, etc. will command higher prices and buyers may not be willing to shell out the asking prices. My conclusion…I don't know anyone who should be confident about making predictions.

  120. sm13 - Jul 3, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    JD — I understand the point, but I view September as moving Gio up to #1, JZimm to #2, etc. Most teams would be quite happy with that. I agree that we should only consider giving up high level players for someone we sign long-term. But, given how many young players we'll want to invest in over the next few years — JZimm, Ramos, even Stras and Bryce to tie them up for longer term, I worry about tying our hands because of one player. I just don't feel desprate to make a move.

  121. NatsJack in Florida - Jul 3, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    I'm not as concerned with adding Greinke to our staff as I am facing him 4 or 5 times a year on our chief rivals, especially if it's for 5 more seasons.

  122. baseballswami - Jul 3, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    I am so tired of reading all the depressing JZim stats. Certainly the law of averages has to swing in his favor at some point. Go Nats!!!!!!!

  123. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    I'm not as concerned with adding Greinke to our staff as I am facing him 4 or 5 times a year on our chief rivals, especially if it's for 5 more seasons.And the Braves would have to see it from the same viewpoint. Adding Grienke to the Nats could mean the Nats at the top of the division for the foreseeable future. Without the ability to over slot on top talent in the draft it would also leave Atlanta in a pickle if they continue to win … just not win the division. Being in that "tweener" state can constrain a draft as Rizzo is finding out in his negotiations with Giolito. Its why grabbing up Grienke and extending him now makes sense … at least until the rules change again in 4 years of so … if they do. Have to think they must …

  124. peric - Jul 3, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    This is why Atlanta has the advantage with Delgado and Tehran.Yup.With Purke and Solis down and Robbie Ray floundering some … there's really just Nate Karns at this point. The nice thing is the Nats should have all three available at some point very soon even if the Braves get Grienke. But that's gambling on unproven talent in the major leagues. Might be forced to do that though … I guess we'll have to wait and see what transpires? Yet another reason why the absolutely must sign Giolito somehow. Hopefully, they are looking for loopholes to get them out of the draft cap mess.

  125. Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa - Jul 3, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    Catcher50, good to see you back!

  126. Section 222 - Jul 3, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    But that's gambling on unproven talent in the major leagues. Wait, peric, did someone steal your moniker? I thought gambling on unproven talent in the majors was your standard advice. :-)I'm all for going after Greinke, though I think the Brewers' asking price is going to be too high. No way should JZnn be dealt. His ceiling is Greinke-like. And we have him under control for several more seasons. I'd happily trade just about any bat in our system except for Rendon, including TMoore, if necessary.





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