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NATS GARNER FIRST WIN IN RED TOGS

[May 8th] -- What a great game!

Forget everything else for a moment; the Nationals drew more than 30,000 fans to RFK for the first time in many games, a good sign that the "on again / off again" fans are "on again." The die-hards will always show up, but those on the periphery, those who would just as soon go to the Smithsonian as they would a baseball fan, are ready to return. That's very good news.

The Good Stuff:

Mike O'Connor: O'Connor won his second game since being recalled from 'AAA' New Orleans, in his third quality start. In five innings, O'Connor gave up five hits and struck out three; his ERA is now 2.12. O'Connor continues to struggle with his control, allowing another four walks. He has now given up ten walks in seventeen innings -- not exactly Greg Maddux like. That said, he has allowed only ten hits in those seventeen innings. If he can regain his control without giving up more hits in the process, O'Connor will develop into a very credible, very solid starter. John Patterson will be rejoining the Nationals in ten days to two weeks, and someone has to be optioned to New Orleans. More than likely, it will be either O'Connor or Jason Bergman, and that's too bad, as they're both pitching very well. How about Gary Majewski??

Jose Guillen: Guillen is starting to hit like the guy we remember from last year. He got two more hits on Sunday and launched what one writer described as a "Frank Howard" type of upper deck home run. Instead of boo-hoo'ing about RFK's deep alleys, he's begun to pull the ball to left -- where RFK gives up most of it's home runs. More than that, he seems to have his head in the game again, catching catchable balls and making good throws back towards the infield.

Ryan Zimmerman: Ryan had two hits on Sunday including a long double to the gap in right-center field. His batting average is slowly creeping up (now at .246) , but more importantly, he's not getting hurt by prolonged slumps. It seems he never goes more than one game without a hit. He made his second error of the year, but those occasional miscues are largely forgotten when he makes one of his stunning defensive gems. Like Tom Paciorek said, "This kid has the chance to become a very special player."

Chad Cordero looked good -- coming in with two out in the 8th and the tying run on third and getting the third out on one pitch. He pitched an uneventful 9th for his 3rd save of the year. His ERA is now 2.40.

The Nationals beat a bad team, and that's what they're going to have to do to make up for the losses against the good teams. The Nats are still heading for a tough finish -- 70 wins might be a number to shoot for. This season, though, has to be played "one game at a time." We will have to get our "jollies" by extracting a good thing that happened in a particular at bat, or inning -- hoping to find a lot of good every night would be asking too much.


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