The Nationals head up I-95 to Philly for a 3-game tilt before they hit the All-Star break, following yesterday's 3-2, 11 inning loss and a 3-1 series loss against the Mets (first home series loss since April). Nats blew a chance to win it in the 9th yesterday with two men on and one out, but neither Jose Guillen nor Brad Wilkerson could get the job done. For the second day in a row, the Nats left 9 men on base, which is probably the place to start if you're looking to play the blame game. Starting first baseman (and cleanup hitter?!), Carlos Baerga, went 0-5 and left 4 men on base. Needless to say, the Nats are missing Nick Johnson badly, who along with the injured Ryan Church will hopefully be healthy and ready to go after the break after rehabbing with AA Harrisburg.
If there's a silver lining to yesterday's loss, it would have to be the performance of Tony Armas, Jr. who tossed 7 innings of 4-hit, 2-run ball (walking 1 and striking out 3). With their recent 2-game stumble and a 5-game winning streak by the Braves, who swept a doubleheader against the Cubs yesterday, the Nats' lead in the NL East stands at a precarious 2.5 games. Ryan Drese takes the hill tonight, hoping to maintain the brilliant form of his last two starts (15IP, 9H, 1 ER 0BB, 5 K).
>While Livan Hernandez & Chad Cordero will represent Washington at the All Star game next week in Detroit, struggling Nat Christian Guzman earned the honor of being named to Sports Illustrated’s All Bust Team All Bust Team last week. SI's Tom Verducci offers this glowing assessment of Guzman's performance: 'The worst offensive player in baseball, period.'
>Happy returns: In the 3 games since his return from the DL, Jose Vidro is 3-12 with 2 walks and 3 RBI, which adds up to a .250 average and a .357 OBP. Meanwhile, Joey Eischen has been lightly used, but quietly effective since returning from the DL. In three appearances, Eischen has pitched 2.1 innings, giving up 0 runs, 2 hits, and a walk. As the only lefty currently in the pen, the Nats will need big things out of Eischen on the other side of the All-Star break. Look for Frank Robinson to run him into the ground by the end of August.
>This week in his weekly column for the DC Examiner, Jim Bowden blasts the omission of Jose Guillen from the NL All-Star team. While it remains to be seen if Bowden will pull the trigger on a big deal before the trading deadline, there's no doubt he'll make a move of some sort, offering this little nugget in this week’s column: “As we head to the All-Star break, we've been very active in discussions. Right now, if we're healthy we have enough talent to win. But if we can add a pitcher and a bat before July 31, this team will prove the first half was for real.” Bowden's column from last week is also worth a peek, offering a look at which prospects in the Nationals’ system have other teams interested.
>Anybody else concerned about Jose Guillen after Tuesday's confrontation with Esteban Loaiza & Brian Schneider? As you’ve probably heard by now, Guillen felt that Loaiza should have retaliated after being plunked by a Pedro Martinez fastball in the first inning of Tuesday night’s game. Not a good sign; there’s a reason Jose has played for 7 teams in 9 seasons, after all.