SORIANO SWINGS, NATIONALS WIN
[May 31st] -- Man, I hate these "Businessman Special" games that baseball teams play on "getaway days." Oh, it's not the afternoon ball I object to; I like that. It's that I ALWAYS forget that it's an afternoon game and miss the action! I surfed over to the Nationals home page to check on another story and noticed all the innings boxes were filled with numbers at the top of the page, and it wasn't the score from Tuesday's game.
Based upon Chad Cordero's problems during the 9th inning, however, I guess I'm happy I didn't have to watch the Nationals come that close to blowing the lead, and the win.
That said, the Nationals avoided being swept by the Philadelphia Phillies as Livan Hernandez continues to battle back to respectability, winning 3-2. Livan pitched seven strong innings, allowing five hits and two runs. I think that Hernandez could be one of the first "stars" run out of town by the new ownership group. Both Frank Robinson and Jim Bowden were upset that he came to spring training so out of shape after having his knee surgically repaired over the winter. Of all the Nats' stars, Livan probably is the most marketable, even more so than Alfonso Soriano, but only because he is a proven pitcher. And, of all the possible roster moves to come, Livan will be the player least missed. I have a really good feeling about Mike O'Connor's future in Washington, and whether it's Shawn Hill, or Mike Hinkley, or Colin Balestar, or Clint Everts who fills out the remainder of the rotation, it's going to become a young, talented staff. John Patterson can certainly take Livan's place as resident "stud," and if Armas remains healthy, the rest of the guys will pitch no worse than Ramon Ortiz et. al.
Alfonso Soriano hit his 19th homer of the season, trailing only Albert Pujols in that category. Each new homer brings more trade rumors, and I have to say, I like the latest. Whispers from the left coast are suggesting that the Angels are/were/will consider(ing) a trade that would bring Soriano to Los Angeles for Erick Aybar and Joe Saunders. Aybar is an intriguing player. At 21, he's playing at 'AAA' Salt Lake City (I've actually seen him play a couple of times -- never knew who he was) and is on pace for a .292 - 17 - 92 season with 52 stolen bases. Saunders, 25, is also playing for the Bees, and has crafted a fine 6-2, 2.61 ERA season thus far. Frankly, that sounds like too much talent in return for a guy who might end up playing less than 80 games for the Angels.
Mike Vento got another start, and went 1-3 with a walk. Vento has hit everywhere he's played, another one of those guys who just never seems to get a real opportunity at the major league level. When Guillen is traded (And Nats' mouthpiece Bill Ladson reported in the last few days that Guillen won't remain with the Nats too much longer), Vento could certainly take his place, at least in the short term. Vento reminds me of another outfielder, though, who has been (apparently) tossed overboard permanently by the Nationals, Ryan Church.
Some potential bad news: Jose Vidro, who was seen limping during Tuesday's game, was held out of Wednesday's contest as a precaution. Vidro says he's fine, and that his slump is just a slump, but his history says otherwise. If he is in fact is having problems with that same knee, his trade value will be such that if the Nationals do move him, it will be because of payroll considerations and not an attempt to stock the farm system. I hope it's nothing, but I don't feel good about this.
Oh, by the way, if you didn't see the game, Marlon Byrd's catch that "robbed" a home run was .... well .... nice, but not great. Byrd pulled back a ball that was heading over a six foot fence -- not exactly one of those "Michael Jordan" leaps that defied gravity. That said, it saved a run.
The Nationals are off to Milwaukee to play the Brewers, a team that had to wait more than a decade before finding the right combination of kids and veterans. Maybe the Nats can learn from the Brewers 1) what to do in the short term and 2) what not to do in the long term.
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