A weekend trip to Colorado might have been just what the doctor ordered for the oft offensively-challenged Washington Nationals, who appear to be breaking out of their offensive doldrums just in time for the second leg of their make-or-break 13 game road trip. After a 4-2 win Friday and an 8-0 thrashing Saturday night, the Nats completed the three game sweep by pounding the Rockies 9-2 yesterday. More importantly than winning (and sweeping) their first series since July 1-3 against the Cubs, the Nats got back to within one game of the Astros for the lead in the Wild Card race, improving to 4-2 on the trip.
It goes without saying, of course, that the games were played against one of the worst teams in baseball and at Coors Field in Denver, where offensive numbers are laughably skewed. But in outscoring the Rockies 21-4 over the weekend, the Nats head back East for a four game set in Philadelphia with a little swagger back in their step. With the Nats looking up at the Phillies by a half game in both the Wild Card and NL East races, the next four games are that much more critical. Livan Hernandez takes the hill for the Nats tonight against the Phillies' Brett Myers.
John Patterson, who earlier in the season couldn't buy even a little run support, has now won his last three starts in a row to improve to 7-3 on the year. In those three starts, Patterson has given up a total of four earned runs, while his mates have backed him up with a big, fat, 22 runs scored. While his last two starts (8IP, 9H, 1ER, 2BB, 5K yesterday; 5.2IP, 7H, 3ER, 4BB, 2K last Tuesday against Houston) weren't exactly as sharp as previous outings, he's been good enough to win both, just as he was so many times earlier in the season when the no decisions piled up like Nats' runners left on base during the month of July. It's gotta be pretty frustrating for him to think of what his 7-3 record in 22 starts might have been if only he had gotten a little run support along the way; we might be talking about him as a Cy Young candidate...
The logjam in the outfield provided an interesting sidebar over the weekend, leaving Brad Wilkerson a little confused about being the odd man out on Friday and Saturday: "I'm ready to go. It's the manager's decision, if he wants to keep me out. They didn't ask me yesterday, so they didn't know." Wilkerson was back in the leadoff spot yesterday, going 1-4 with a walk and two runs scored. So, [NE] wants to know: Among Church, Wilson, Guillen, Wilkerson, and Watson, it seems that Guillen is the only lock - so who should start, and who should sit? With a chance, however slim, of a playoff berth still hanging in the balance, [NE] believes that you've gotta start your vets: Guillen, Wilkerson, Wilson. There will be plenty of at bats waiting for Watson and Church when the calendar turns from August to September, should the Nats fall out of contention completely.