The Nationals ended their final road trip of the season in fine fashion, lighting up the scoreboard on consecutive nights and earning a three game sweep against the fading Florida Marlins. Last night's 11-7 win was highlighted by a seven run, seven hit 4th inning that guaranteed an easy road to victory despite a not-so-good performance from Esteban Loaiza (6IP, 10H, 6R, 1BB, 1HR), and also guaranteed that the Nats can finish no worse than .500.
The victory also moved the Nats out of the NL East cellar and into sole possession of third place in the division by a half game over the Mets. And for the second night in a row, the Nats put up double digits, a feat that prior to Tuesday night the team hadn't accomplished since May. Tuesday night's 11-1 rout of the Marlins was notable because it looked to have effectively ended the debate between Dontrelle Willis and Chris Carpenter for the NL Cy Young award - that is, until Carpenter stumbled in his final start last night (6IP, 9H, 6R, 1BB, 6K, no decision) in a 7-6 Cardinal loss to Houston to finish up the year 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA and 213 strikeouts. Willis got shelled in just four innings on Tuesday night against the Nats, giving up nine runs on nine hits and three walks - he's 22-10 with a 2.59 ERA and 158 strikeouts on the season and looks to have one more start coming on Sunday. So the Cy Young debate continues.
But back to the Nats: Don't forget to make note of another impressive outing by Hector Carrasco (6IP, 2H, 0ER, 6K) in Monday's 4-0 win over the Marlins. With an off day today, the Nats return home for their final three games of the season, a series with big implications for the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, who are still hanging on for dear life in the Wild card hunt at 2.5 games behind Houston.
>Potential Nats owner Jeff Smulyan, who has been feverishly bolstering his ownership group with Washington notables, chatted with Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, pleading his case for why he's the best match for the franchise: "We believe if the issue is who is best to manage this franchise and who will be the best stewards in this community and make baseball an integral part of this community, we believe we win hands down." Smulyan, the former owner of the Seattle Mariners, is criticized for, among other things, his rumored attempts to move the Mariners to Tampa Bay back in the day. Boswell tore Smulyan's credentials to shreds in a column in Saturday's Washington Post.
>[NE] continues to be impressed with Ryan Zimmerman: he has done nothing but hit since his September 1st call up - With another two hits last night, he's at .455 in his last 10 games (15-33, 4RBI), and .417 (20-48, 6RBI) with a .420 OBP in 17 games this season.
>Even this late, the injury bug keeps biting. Guillen: Out till Sunday. Vidro: skipped town yesterday to get his knee checked out in Cincinnati.
>The Guzman Watch: .217!? He was hitting .192 on August 31; it's amazing that he's been able to raise his average by 25 points hitting at a .329 clip in September.
>Livan Hernandez is scheduled for surgery on his balky right knee next Wednesday. He'll make his final start of the season tomorrow night against the Phillies.
>How about this little nugget of wisdom courtesy of ESPN.com: This year will be the first time since 1954 that a team from Washington will finish with a better record than the Baltimore Orioles. It really can't get any worse for the Birds, can it?
>Come to think of it, maybe it's too bad MLB decided to move the Expos to Washington. If they'd moved to Las Vegas, at 81-78 they'd be two games in front of the first place, 79-79 San Diego Padres in the NL West, who clinched the division with a 9-1 victory over the Giants last night. The Las Vegas One Armed Bandits has a certain ring to it, no?