Stick a fork in 'em? The Nationals' three game cross-country trip to San Diego, which started out on a high note with Friday night's 5-1 victory (John Patterson was brilliant - 9IP, 3H, 0BB, 1R, 6K), ended in the worst way possible: back-to-back heartbreaking losses that might have finally, quietly, snuffed out their 2005 playoff hopes. As you remember, the banged-up Nats left for the West Coast on Thursday a giddy bunch, with their rookies in drag and their playoff hopes still very much alive following a three game sweep of the Mets in New York. As late as the start of the ninth inning Saturday night, the Nats were still sitting pretty, just two and half games behind Wild Card leader Houston and leading the Padres 5-0. But then the wheels came off faster than you can say "overused bullpen", and the Nats lost a game they not only couldn't afford to lose, but a game that was, for all intents and purposes, over. And so, the Nats ended up on the wrong side of a 6-5 decision sometime in the early morning hours on Sunday, a loss you can pin squarely on the back of manager Frank Robinson, whose baffling Bergman-to-Eischen-to-Hughes-to-Cordero moves in the ninth cost his team dearly. The saying, [NE] believes, is "Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."
By yesterday afternoon, following another all too familiar display of dormant bats and blown chances (when there were chances to blow), a loss was a foregone conclusion when the Padres came to bat in the eighth trailing 1-0. You just knew one run wouldn't hold up. And it didn't, as Joey Eischen's errant throw in the ninth inning hit Padre center fielder Dave Roberts and careened down the right field line allowing Miguel Olivo to score the winning run. And just like that, the Nats lose 2-1 and fall to four and a half games behind the Astros with a dozen games to go before the books close on the Nats' 2005 season.
After a day off today, the Nats welcome Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants to RFK for a three game series starting Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see what sort of welcome DC baseball fans give to Bonds. Livan Hernandez faces Matt Cain in the series opener.
>> The Guzman Watch: .209! Guzman is up to .209! Yes, you read that correctly: Cristian Guzman has been on an absolute tear the last few weeks. In his last ten games, he's hitting .353(!?), 12-34, 1 HR, 7 RBI. Too little, too late, we know, but since the Nats are stuck with him for the next few years, maybe there's hope he'll actually show up and play next season.
>> Tony Armas and his sore shoulder are done for the season. Actually, it looks like Armas and his sore shoulder may be done with the Nats, as he's a free agent at the end of this season, and he's been a big disappointment during his injury plagued, seven-year stint in the majors with the Expos/Nationals: 39-48 career record, 4.32 ERA, and has never won more than 12 games in a season. Hard to believe that the most notable career highlight for this former can't-miss-prospect is that the Red Sox traded him to the Expos in 1997 (along with Carl Pavano) for Pedro Martinez.
>> Raise your hand if you're surprised that District officials are squabbling over the stadium project; the lack of an agreement threatens to further stall the sale of the team.
>> Junior "Don't Call Me the Player Acquired in Jim Bowden's Worst Move as Nats GM" Spivey was activated from the DL on Saturday. Look for Spivey to contribute about as much as he did since going on the DL on July 13th, which was actually marginally more productive than he was in the 23 games he appeared in after being acquired in June for Tomo Ohka. Speaking of Ohka, he won his 11th game of the season last Thursday night; he actually had a no-hitter through five innings.