REMEMBER THE MAINE!
Last night, John Maine came into RFK, and scared the Nationals with his "arm." For five innings, he did to Washington what he had done to the Phillies earlier in the week. He shut them out. Heading into the 4th inning, Maine had a 23 inning scoreless streak before Nick Johnson launched his 18th home run of the year to make the score 3-1. Two innings later, Alfonso Soriano hit his 37th homer to bring the Nats to within one of the Mets, and a single by Nick Johnson tied the game at 4, ending Washington's scoring for the night. The Mets, of course, came back with two more runs and eventually won the game 6-4.
Like I've said for months, we can't judge the Nationals on wins and losses this season; we look for silver linings with the dark clouds. For instance, Jason Bergman gave up three runs and four hits in five innings, which doesn't seem particularly impressive, but we need to look inside the numbers. He gave up all three runs in one inning, and could have given even more had he not bore down and got some difficult outs to end the inning. He struck out four Mets. He was pulled not because he was pitching poorly, but because he was at 85 innings pitched heading into the 6th inning. I'd say that was a quality start for Bergman. Nick Johnson hit his 18th homer of the year, and is on pace to hit .293-26-85, much higher power numbers than was expected. Even his uncle, Larry Bowa, didn't see Johnson has a power hitter. On an XM interview earlier this season, Bowa said of his nephew, "Nick is a great hitter with alley power to both fields. He's never going to hit 30 homers a year, but 15-18 home runs, combined with everything else he does, is good." Seems that Mr. Johnson has good power when he stays healthy.
John Maine looks like the "real deal." I've been watching major league baseball for 45 years, and cannot remember a rookie pitcher throwing a consecutive inning scoreless streak like Maine did. He came to the Mets along with Jorge Julio from the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Kris Benson. Maine, 25, had a career 30-24, 3.24 minor league record before the deal. He and Julio were certainly better players than Garrett Mock and Matt Chico, players the Nationals received in the Livan Hernandez trade. Does that make Benson better than Hernandez? I don't think so. Just younger. I expect that if Livan was having a "typical" season this year, the Nationals would have recieved far more in trade than they ended up getting.
The Nationals are on pace to win 71 games this year, three less then I predicted in March, so I guess we can say they are playing roughly at the level that was expected. I hope that they do even worse, winning 65 games, perhaps even less. Why? The Nationals would then have one of the top five or six picks in the amateur draft next year, meaning that with a little bit of luck, they could find another Ryan Zimmerman. And don't forget, if Alfonso Soriano signs with another team, we'll get two more picks, the teams who signed him, and a pick between the first and second rounds. A few less wins will guarantee a much better draft pick. I'll make that trade, won't you?
NATS NOTES: Congratulations, Mark Lerner. After drawing 30,000 fans on Sunday, RFK was packed with 42,000 fans last night. I know that some of that comes from playing the Mets, but that said, that's a tremendous job of "bringing in the bodies."