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PROOF THAT ON ANY GIVEN FRIDAY ....

[April 29th] -- One win does not entirely wipe out the bad memories of a six game losing streak, but it helps. Especially when the win comes against the mighty St. Louis Cardinals. Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman each hit two-run home runs in the first inning, and Tony Armas Jr. had another quality start, allowing only two runs in six innings, allowing four hits while striking out five; his ERA is now a solid 2.76.

A good game, a good win, against a good team.

Wow. Tony Armas. Who would have thought? Last winter, the Nationals had written off the oft-injured right-hander to free-agency. He only got one nibble, however, and that was from the Colorado Rockies, not exactly the place to rebuild your career if you're a pitcher. So he returned to Washington, signing a one-year contract. If he keeps pitching this way (the way scouts always thought he could), he'll earn a nice contract this fall, and he'll deserve it. And (finally) the Nationals will be in a position to provide it.

Ryan Zimmerman continues to learn from his mistakes. Though he's still striking out like a rookie (on pace to whiff 180+ times this year), he's not embarrassing himself on those outside changeups and curve balls as often. He's now on track to hit 25 homers and drive in 95 runs. Will he reach those numbers? Maybe. Perhaps he'll exceed them. Mike Shannon, the former 3rd baseman who now broadcasts the Cardinals' games, was stunned by Zimmerman's great catch of Yadier Molina's liner down the line and then his quick action to double off John Rodriguez at first. "Whoa baby!" exclaimed Shannon (I lived in St. Louis for three years, and I gotta tell you, I listened to the Cardinals' games to hear Jack Buck, not Mike Shannon)

Anyone missing Cristian Guzman? Royce Clayton, a minor league signee earlier this year, got two more hits Friday night and is now hitting .269 for the year. Clayton isn't a "plus" for the Nationals; that is, he doesn't do things to help the team win. Rather, he doesn't do the stupid things that cause the team to lose. And that, my friends, is major upgrade from what we had last year.

How is RFK effecting the Nationals so far this year? They are hitting only .229 at home, but .271 on the road. Is it a mind-set, or deep power alleys? Both? I was very disturbed when team president Tony Taveres said last winter that the team was not going to move in the fences, and that his team's hitters would just have to "deal with it." If the fences were placed where the distances markers indicated, then I'd be with him 100%. But when a 380 foot power alley is in reality 395 feet, then something needs to be done. I think bringing in the fence 10 feet from alley to alley would still leave RFK with the deepest left center to right center distances in the majors. I was around during the original incarnation of RFK, and the park was considered a home run park, especially when the city began to warm under the summer's sun. Frank Howard hit 36-44-48-44 homers from 1967 through 1971, and Mike Epstein whacked 30 in '69. With fairs distances, the park will give up it's share of homers.

Livan goes against Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter in a rare Saturday day-game. Because Hernandez is long-due for a solid game, and because the Nationals shouldn't be able to beat Carpenter, I think they will.

We'll see.


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