[July 6th] -- I'm really surprised that when Ryan Zimmerman hit his 11th inning, walk-off single to centerfield, he didn't call time and ask for a "do-over." After all, it would have surprised no one if he had launched Jason Vargas' next pitch over the left field wall.
After all, that's what Ryan Zimmerman does.
How good has this young man gotten? When he came to the plate in the 9th inning with the winning run in scoring position and two men out, the almost 30,000 fans at RFK began to cheer their team's walk-off victory before it happened. He popped out, however, and the game went to extra innings. I guess he figured that an 11th inning walk-off hit would look better on the ol' resume than one in the 9th. Seriously, Zimmerman got two more hits on Thursday, walked once and is now batting .285, just one point away from his season high of .286 that he achieved after beating the Yankees on Fathers' Day with his first blast of superhuman heroics. A 1-27 post-hero slump, however, took that average all the way down to .261, and he needed an eight game hitting streak to make that slump "go away" on his stats line. Frank Robinson, not wanting to screw up a good thing, said on Thursday that he doesn't give the kid much advice; he just lets him go out and play. Talk about confidence.
So, what's the deal with Livan? As usual, I forgot that this was a day game until the 2nd inning, and by the time I fired up the MLB video feed, I saw the 7-5 second inning score and a picture of Micah Bowie in the pitcher's "box." I figured he started the game and got bombed, but had to "take one for the team" and pitch into the 5th inning to save the bullpen. It wasn't until I checked the box score to write this story that I realized that Livan got creamed. Man, he was horrid. This makes two straight games that the starting pitcher couldn't get out of the 2nd inning, the first time that's happened since 1997. Just when you think that Livan is "back," he gets whacked big-time. How is all this effecting his trade value? Well, the Angels' just traded Jeff Weaver to the Cardinals for a 'AA' prospect, Terry Evans. Evans, 24, was hitting .311 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 21 games with Double-A Springfield. He began this season with Class A Palm Beach, hitting .307 with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 60 games. So he's a legit prospect that the Cardinals gave up to obtain the disappointing Weaver, who had a 6-10, 6.29 ERA in 16 starts with the Angels this season. Livan has a better ERA, is a better pitcher (though not by much any more), and is signed to a "decent" contract that still has a couple of years to run. My guess is that the Nationals should be able to get a prospect similar to Evans. And that would be just fine with me.
A day after refusing to muse about the Nationals' bullpen, I can't think of enough positive adjectives to describe their work. Gritty. superb. Remarkable. Amazing. How's that for a start? Oh, there's one I missed: lucky. Billy Bray almost gave away the game in the top of the 9th by throwing an easy grounder so far down the right-field line that Reggie Abercrombie made it all the way to third. With no outs. Bray, however, buckled down and didn't allow the run to score, a tough thing to accomplish when a runner is a third with no outs. Good for you Billy boy.
Frank Robinson is a tough guy. After making an error in center and then misplaying the throw, Marlon Anderson was pulled from the game and was replaced by Alex Escobar, who replaced Mike O'Connor on the 25 man roster. It was initially thought that Anderson's rib cage ailment had flared, but it seems that it was Robinson's temper that did the flaring.
So the Nats won three of four against the Marlins and now take on Woody Williams and the San Diego Padres on Friday at RFK. Hopefully, the Nationals will give the "Boys in brown" a tough weekend in Washington
NATS NOTES: Will Mike O'Connor be back from New Orelans anytime soon, or was the past 2 1/2 months his "15 minutes of fame?" Some bloggers are suggesting we've seen the best that O'Connor has to offer, while some over at BPG think he'll work out some kinks and return later this summer. I wondered what the team would do regarding their sudden glut of starting pitchers, and I was afraid that this would happen. How does starting Pedro Astacio and Tony Armas Jr. and (pretty soon) Ryan Drese help this team learn about its future? They need to play the kids. Hopefully, Jim Bowden is only showcasing Astacio et. al. and then bring back O'Connor and Hill (when he's healthy) for the last two months of the year .... Felix Rodriguez, a guy I was certain would regain his status as a top setup man, was transferred to the 60 day disabled list and that, I'm guessing, is the end of Mr. Rodriguez' tenure in D.C. .... Chad Cordero was called out of the bullpen in the 9th inning to replace Billy Bray with a runner on third and two out. The only problem was that Robinson didn't call for him. Umpire Tim McClennan saw Robinson move his hand has he walked to the mound, and assumed that he was make a bullpen move. Nope. He just wanted to have the entire infield meet him at the mound. Weird .... Livan went 1-1 and upped his average to .257; maybe they should move him to the outfield? .... I'm beginning to think I like that red-topped "DC" logo uniform a lot, almost to the point of making it "the" home uniform, with the white one worn on Sunday's and holidays.