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NIGHT OF NEW BEGINNINGS ENDS WITH SAME OLD CRAP

[May 4th] -- The night was heading for a story-book ending. After sixteen months of a mostly rudderless existence, the Washington Nationals, just a couple hours after the official announcement that they finally had an owner, overcame a five run deficit and tied the Florida Marlins at five. Brian Schneider, he of the totally screwed up swing, launched a pitch deep over the right field wall for his first home run of the year.

Great!

Too bad Chad Cordero allowed an inherited runner to score in the top of the 9th inning, ending the night's magic just a bit too early. Mike Stanton, who replaced Gary Majewski as Cordero's setup man, was the man who allowed the base runner that eventually scored. It seems that no matter the move by Frank Robinson, it just doesn't work.

Hey, it would have been a great story, but the Nationals took the field last night with the same roster that had lost nineteen times previously this season; only the owner was new.

Tony Armas' effort was terrible, and that hurt more than the loss. Coming into the game, Armas had a 2.76 ERA and had pitched well in all of his starts. You could tell there was a problem during the very first at-bat, when Armas went 3-0 to Alfredo Amezaga before eventually getting him to fly out. Armas wasn't "off," he was "OFF!" Schneider set up inside on one batter and called a fastball; Schneider through a bullet about two feet outside. The ball was past Schneider before he even reacted. With Patterson ... and Astascio ... and Drese ... and Lawrence on the disabled list, Armas has to pitch like a grown up. He has to give the team an opportunity to win, leaving those guaranteed losses to the guys that are called up to pitch a single game before returning to the bushes the next day. I mean, think about it; The Nationals were 9-18 going into Wednesday night's game -- that' s pretty bad. The Marlins were 6-18 .... downright horrid.

And we lost.

The Nationals hit well enough, as they garnered ten hits for the night. That's certainly enough to win. The Nationals pitched well enough, shutting out the Marlins for five innings before Stanton-Cordero gave up the eventual winning run in the 9th. The Nationals fielded well enough to win, save a couple of balls that got past Brian Schneider to the backstop. The team is playing well enough to win. The problem they face is that they've grown accustomed to losing; they know that at some point, a small lead will become a deficit, and a deficit will become a blowout. There is no glaring weakness just as there is no obvious strength. The Nats are just "blah." Perhaps they will play better over the next few weeks because luck will dictate it. Or perhaps they'll play worse for the very same reason. Until new ownership can change something, the current players are going to have to do it themselves.

Hopefully, the announcement that Ted Lerner is the team's new owner will help right the ship, at least a little bit. It's going to be a month before Stan Kasten can even consider making any changes, however. Until then, the Nationals are going to have to play for pride, with the knowledge that many jobs are on the line, both on and off the field.

Should be an interesting roller-coaster ride until then.


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