July 1, 2011

Series Preview: Washington Nationals

At press time Joe Paterno is arguably still alive, so the Washington Nationals continue to ignore a great rivalry by refusing to play the Washington Wild Things every year like they should. The best we get is this series between the Pirates and Nationals. The two clubs play four games in the next 48 hours and despite a 7-3 run, at least two wins feel like a necessity to me.If the Pirates can become a legit contender as if nothing ever happened, then I can preview series as if I didn't skip two months of posts. Washington is the most similar team in baseball to this year's Pirates, a perennial last place team which has emerged with somewhat of a breakout season thanks to pitching. The Nationals rank 11th in the National League with 3.88 runs per game; the Pirates rank 13th with 3.80. The Pirates are allowing 3.90 runs per game, sixth best in the league; Washington's 3.83 runs allowed rank fifth. The Pirates are 41-39, the Nationals are 40-41. The difference is that the Nationals play in the NL East and are threatening to fall out of contention as they trail the Phillies by 9.5 games and the Braves by 5.5. Also important, this babe to your right may look scantily clad but that's actually the most clothing any babe has worn out in D.C. after 11 p.m.

Unlike the Pirates, the Nationals spent a lot of money to try and succeed this year. But after signing a seven year, $126 million contract, Jayson Werth has hit only .223/.326/.390 and is currently day to day with a sore left knee. Another free agent, Adam LaRoche, hit only .172/.288/.258 and is now injured for the season. A couple of stars have emerged, however: first baseman Michael Morse, hitting .300/.350/.550 including 15 home runs and 46 RBI, and second baseman Danny Espinosa, .238/.323/.465 with 15 homers and 48 RBI. Ryan Zimmerman, .241/.321/.404, was injured for most of the year but is starting to get his bat going.

Washington Nationals: Friday 7:05, Saturday 3:30 (2), Sunday 1:35
Tonight, Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.77) makes his triumphant return to the rotation. The Pirates claimed Morton was fatigued but make no mistake, his start was skipped due to recent performance. The Nationals are a good lineup to get Morton back to his earlier form. The Nationals go with our old friend Tom Gorzellany (2-6, 4.18). Was there ever a pitcher who seemed more likely to drop off the face of the earth after the Pirates traded him? My pick is the Pirates.

Saturday, the Pirates give the ball to James McDonald (5-4, 4.52) against John Lannan (5-5, 3.48). I picked up John Lannan in fantasy baseball for his two start week so obviously he has no chance to win either game. My pick is the Pirates. But is that the only game? No. The Pirates are dicked into playing a doubleheader. I have visited Washington probably 30 times and the only truly nice day I ever experienced there was Tuesday, May 17, when the scheduled game was postponed on an 80 degree sunny day. It was a complete bush league move, and one that ironically results in a bush league pitcher going for the Pirates tomorrow night as Brad Lincoln (6-7, 4.14 at Altoona) will be called up to face Livan Hernandez (5-8, 3.81). Look for Xavier Paul to be placed on the disabled list to make room for Lincoln; the Pirates are already down to three bench bats with Paul and Walker unable to go and certainly can't go with just two.

I have heard multiple radio callers say that Paul Maholm should be traded because Lincoln can adequately fill in. Lincoln is giving up more than a hit an inning in AA and flamed out in Pittsburgh last year when none of these people were watching. These were no doubt the same people who thought Brent Johnson could win the Vezina and Charlie Batch would be better than Marino if only they could start every game. Yet I've lived in Pittsburgh for three years and it's very rare that anything happens to stop annoying and ignorant sports radio calls; thus my pick is the Pirates.

In Sunday's, finale, Pittsburgh will go with Kevin Correia (10-6, 3.79) against Jason Marquis (7-2, 3.62). I am also using Marquis in fantasy this week. Using these Nationals pitchers is reminiscent of when I would go to Michigan football games and bet on the opposing team so that if they lost, I wouldn't have to pay for the trip. It sounded like a good idea, but Rich Rodriguez wasn't the coach so really the only result was losing a lot of bets. My pick,fs of course, is the Pirates.

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