Well, they just won't go away, will they now? In winning their last two straight against the Mets, your Washington Nationals have made up a little ground in the Wild Card standings. Hector Carrasco took the baton from an ailing John Patterson on Tuesday night, coming through with four solid innings and setting the tone for a 4-2 win (Rauch, Eischen, Majewski, and Cordero combined for five scoreless innings). Last night, Esteban Loaiza gave most of the members of the beleaguered bullpen a much needed breather, tossing seven gritty innings (7H, 3R, 0BB, 5K) to pitch the Nats to a 6-3 victory (Cordero earned his 46th save). Livan Hernandez takes the hill for the Nats this afternoon with a chance to sweep the series.
The revolving door routine between Houston, Florida, and Philadelphia for the top spot in the WC keeps going: Last night, the Astros beat the Marlins 10-2 and the Phillies beat the Braves 12-4. So Philly and Florida move into a tie for the lead, and Houston drops behind by a half game. And oh yeah, the Nats picked up a game in the standings last night; they're still hanging around at three back. It's a safe bet that the NL Wild Card race will go down to the wire, perhaps decided on the last day of the season. Mere percentage points could separate the winner from the losers. Realistically, the Nationals probably won't be involved, but as of this morning they still have a pulse. The situation reminds [NE] of the famous scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when King Arthur battles the Black Knight. For our purposes, the role of King Arthur is played by anyone ahead of the Nats in the standings; the role of the Black Knight is played by the Nats. When Arthur chops off the Black Knight's left arm, the Black Knight responds with "'Tis but a scratch," and keeps charging. When Arthur chops off the Black Knight's right arm and declares victory, the Black Knight promptly kicks Arthur in the head. When Arthur points out that the fight is over because the Knight has no arms, the Black Knight declares: "Just a flesh wound" and attempts to headbutt the King. You get the picture. Only after Arthur chops off both of the Black Knight's legs does the Black Knight concede: "All right; we'll call it a draw." As bad as things have been for this team - through injuries, infighting, sickness, slumps, and bad trades - the Nats are still standing. The question is for how much longer.
>[NE] thought Jose Guillen's temper tantrum and subsequent ejection in the fifth inning was actually pretty amusing. What won't be funny is if MLB cracks down on him for his latest meltdown and forces him to sit for a game or two. With 16 games left to play and the Nats still mathematically alive in the hunt for the playoffs, they can't afford to lose Guillen's bat, even if it is for just a game or two, and even if he's been in quite a funk lately: Over his last 10 games, he's hitting .162 (6-37) with no home runs, four RBI, and eight strikeouts. Loaiza summed up last night's fireworks succinctly in the WaPo: "You know how he gets...Guillen is Guillen."
>Hector Carrasco will get another shot at starting - he'll face San Diego on Saturday. John Patterson will start the series opener against the Padres on Friday.
>Old Frank is waiting to hear from MLB if he'll be fined or suspended after being ejected from Tuesday night's game.
>Don't expect to see Brian Schneider, who sat out last night with a sore shoulder, in the lineup this afternoon.
>The Guzman Watch: Despite an 0-4 night last night, Cristian Guzman's average is now a whopping .201.
>Will the new owner of the Nationals please stand up?