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NATS SWEEP CUBS, LERNERS NOW 3-0

[July 23rd] -- Two long home runs were the difference in the Nationals' 7-1 drubbing of the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. One, by Ryan Church, was his first in almost three months, and the other, by Alfonso Soriano, was his first in about three days.

But both players could have had a much better day. Soriano, who went 2-5, missed hitting two more home runs by a total of six feet. Now that would have been a good day. No complaints, though. Soriano still leads the Majors in total bases by a wide margin. Ryan Church, after popping out in the 2nd, hit perhaps the longest ball to right-center field that RFK has seen by a player not named Barry Bonds. Carlos Marmol laid a 91 mph fastball waist high, and Church turned on the ball and hit the pitch as hard has a baseball can be hit. Maybe harder. That was good. What was bad was the next three at-bats, when Church tried to duplicate his Ruthian blast. He struck out twice on pitches that my 14 year old son wouldn't have swung at and popped out his last time up. In the back of my mind, there was something about Ryan Church (one of my favorite players) that I didn't like, and today's game made me remember what that was. After hitting a homer, his next 3-5 at bats are automatic outs. Nevertheless, Ryan Church is back and (for the moment, anyway) helping the team. What a great platoon we'd have in center if Alex Escobar can somehow regain his health.

I am sure that Nats' GM Jim Bowden was on the phone from the second inning on, telling pitching-poor contenders, "Tony Armas is blowing away the Cubs, you better make a deal now before he goes somewhere else." That's the way it works this close to the trading deadline. One quality start is all it takes to embolden a team to take a chance on an "iffy" pitcher. Were I Jim Bowden (which I can't be because I don't drink), I'd move both Armas and Livan before they have the chance to pitch the team out of a meaningful trade.

After going 3-7 last night, Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez went 3-8 on Sunday. Lopez drove in two more runs and Kearns, for the first time in his career, laid down a sacrifice bunt. While there was initially some question about the "trade" based upon early returns, all precincts are now reporting and we have a winner. And it aint Royce Clayton, Billy Bray and Gary Majewski, that's for darn sure.

It's nice to see that even when Ryan Zimmerman is in a slump, he still produces. You can tell when Zimmerman isn't "seeing" the ball well because he either pops the ball up or hits choppers to the middle infielders. On Sunday, Zimmerman walked and singled and got his batting average back up to .289, four points below his season high.

The Nationals are now 3-0 under their new owners. Can you trace this to the team feeling some stability for the first time in five years, or was it the fact that they played the Chicago Cubs? I'm guessing it was a little bit of both. One thing is for sure, though, and that is when there's 30,000 or more in the stands at RFK, the Nationals play at a higher level.

Nice job, boys. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. I know I will.

Oh, by the way, you might want to do what I did earlier today. I emailed the Nationals and said:

"Dear Stan, There has been a change on our end. Please wire the $450 million to this new account number: 39483957309. The old one doesn't work any more. Oh, another thing, make the wire payable to "Farid Rushdi." It's still pronounced "Major League Baseball," just spelled differently."

Hey, you never know, right?


Comments:
Regarding Guillen's demeanor having a negative impact on the club house versus Matt LeCroy/s positive impact, I have an observation. Earlier in the season, when Guillen went on the DL for a rather lengthy period, the Nats went on a huge winning streak and almost reached .500. As soon as Guillen returned, the Nats immediately returned to their losing ways and quickly fell all the way to last place in the NL East. Following the sweep by the Pirates last weekend, Guillen went on the DL again and the Nats have now won three straight. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that, with Jose out of the clubhouse, this team is a winner.
 
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