PICTURE THIS: ORTIZ BEATS DONTRELLE WILLIS 5-2
[August 10th] -- RFK Stadium must be smack-dab in the middle of "Bizzaro World." How else can you explain a night when Ramon Ortiz not only beat Dontrelle Willis, but ended the game with nine wins, two more than the Marlins' superstar?
Ortiz, who is now the (I can't believe I'm saying this) "ace" of the staff, pitched like it on Wednesday, pitching what was perhaps his best game of the year. Ortiz was solid over 6.2 innings, allowing 8 hits and just one earned run while striking out 6. You have to wonder if he is still on the trading block -- if he is, this outing certainly increased his value. But exactly what would that value be? If Livan Hernandez, a major league star, brought two 'AA' pitchers in return, what would Ortiz, a "fringe" starter at best, bring? A mid-level 'AA' player perhaps? If the Nationals had no interest in re-signing Ortiz for 2007, then sure, throw him out on the waiver-wire and see what happens. But the Nationals may want him to return next season, as he certainly would be a veteran presence on a younger staff. He wouldn't cost much, either. It'll be interesting to see what Bowden does -- his value will never be higher than it is right now.
Ryan Zimmerman looked terrible Tuesday night, as he once again swung at everything down and away, either striking out or popping the ball into shallow right field. He reminds me a lot of a young Andruw Jones when he lunges at all those outside pitches. It took Jones seven years to stop striking out on those balls a foot outside. Zimmerman, on the other hand, adjusts after every game. Against the Marlins on Wednesday, Willis tried to get him to swing at those low-and-away pitches, but Ryan made the adjustment, and walked his first two times up. He ended up going 2-3, raising his average back up to .291. The kid is becoming almost slump-proof.
The Nationals are a good team when the starters pitch deep into the game. If it's Micah Bowie, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero who come into the game, the Nationals stand a good chance of holding the lead and winning the game. Last night, those three relievers pitched 2.1 innings, allowing only one meaningless single. Unfortunately, the rest of the bullpen is either untested or just bad.
A night after drawing less than 25,000 fans, only 21,390 showed up at RFK to watch a game that featured all-star Dontrelle Willis. Stan Kasten and the Lerners have to be unhappy about that type of attendance drop from the last home stand. Some suggest that the Livan Hernandez trade had something to do with the smaller crowd, but I disagree -- all of us were expecting him to be traded, and I really haven't heard anyone suggest it was a bad deal for the Nationals. Hopefully, the weekend crowds will help the homestand's average.
NATS NOTES: Catcher Brandon Harper doubled in his first major league at-bat and was hit by Dontrelle Willis his next time up .... Matt Chico's first game as a Nationals' farmhand didn't go particularly well. The 23 year old allowed 9 hits and 3 runs in 5 innings, striking out no one .... the Nationals left 14 men on base, causing Frank Robinson to cradle his head in his hands several times throughout the night.
Nationals pitcher Jason Bergmann has mostly been a reliever, but has recently been moved into the starters role (in New Orleans) and is currently penciled in as a starter for Friday. Last one doesn't really work because he hasn't become an established major league level pitcher yet.