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Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Nationals: Down to the final 12 games, the team still, barely, has some limited hope . . .

. . . and the fans will be on the edge of their seats, for playoff chances ("Invoices for Playoff Tickets"), and watching players like Barry Bonds visit (first road game for the year for Bonds, who was injured for most of the year, and who played an exhibition game at RFK in 1989 against the O's - Post article).

12 games remain. The Nationals are in 4th place in the 5 team NL East Division, 8 games back from the Braves. Second place Phillies are 5 games back. I doubt that this will be the year that the Braves stop their consecutive streak of winning the NL East. Just 12 games . . . and 4 games back of the NL Wild card leading Astros (and behind the Phillies (1 game back), and the Marlins (2 games back)). At this point, it is much more likely that the Phillies or the Marlins will take the WC away from the Astros than for all three teams to completely collapse and for the Nationals to win 12 straight games. Of course, if the Nationals did win 12 straight games, the Braves would need to win just 5 games (I believe) to keep that winning streak from carrying the Nationals to the NL East title.

Strangely enough, though flirting with playing an entire season with a batting average worse than that guy who hit something like .195 in a complete season in 1991 (I believe), Cristian Guzman has hit .353 in the last 10 games. Guzman's batting average is a seemingly safe, .209, to stay over .200. Oh, and according to an article in the Washington Post, Guzman's hits are not bloopers but solid hits.
NL East:
Braves 85-65
Phillies 80-70, 5.0 GB
Marlins 79-71, 6.0 GB
Nationals 77-73, 8.0 GB
Mets 73-76, 11.5 GB
NL Wild Card:
Astros 81-69
Phillies 80-70, 1.0 GB
Marlins 79-71, 2.0 GB
Nationals 77-73, 4.0 GB
Cubs 74-76, 7.0 GB
Giants visit for Three Games: Tonight:
Livan Hernandez (15-7, 3.93) tries to stop Bonds and the NL West 2nd place Giants (69-80) from putting the finishing touches on the Nationals season.
Matt Cain (2-1, 2.00) makes his fifth start of the season for the Giants. Cain has pitched quite well for the Giants.

Scouting Report:
The 20-year-old Cain struggled through his worst start in the Majors and came out relatively unscathed with a no-decision. He lasted six innings in the start and allowed only three hits, but he walked six batters and only struck out two. In Cain's only other road start, against the Diamondbacks, he surrendered one run in seven innings to earn his first Major League win.

First start: 5 IP 3 hits, 2 ER 1 HR 4 BB 2 SO 103 pitches (67 strikes) - home (against Colorado)
Second start: 7 IP 3 hits, 1 ER 1 BB 4 SO 101 pitches (64 strikes) - road (against Arizona)
Third Start: 9 IP 2 hits, 1 ER 1 HR 1 BB 8 SO 105 pitches (77 strikes) - home (against Cubs)
Fourth Start: 6 IP 3 hits, 2 ER 6 BB 2 SO 107 pitches (56 strikes) - home (Padres)

Hernandez will face the Giants for the sixth time in his career. He is 1-1 with a 2.72 ERA against them. In his last start, Hernandez ended up pitching six-plus innings and gave up five runs on nine hits against the Mets. He struck out one batter and walked another. Hernandez didn't figure in the decision as the Nationals won the game, 6-5, in 10 innings.

Nationals.com Game Preview.
John Patterson (9-5, 2.65) vs. Brad Hennessey (4-8, 5.25)

Scouting Report:
Hennessey is on a nine-game winless streak -- he hasn't won since July 28 and has lost five straight decisions. He lasted only 2 2/3 innings vs. the Dodgers last Thursday, tagged for three runs in the Giants' 7-1 defeat. He's had some great outings, but the rookie needs to learn to compensate when his stuff is off-kilter.

Patterson will face the Giants for the seventh time in his career. He is 1-1 with a 7.23 ERA against them. In his last start, Patterson pitched his second complete game and helped the Nationals defeat the Padres, 5-1, at PETCO Park.
Hector Carrasco (4-3, 2.01) vs. Brett Tomko (7-14, 4.54)

Scouting Report:
Tomko is the Giants' hard-luck hurler of the year, not an honor he wants. Over his last 22 2/3 innings, he sports a 1.99 ERA but remains winless in his last nine outings. Alas, Tomko hasn't won a game since July 22.

Carrasco has spent most of the season as a quality reliever. Now, he has become a quality starter. In fact, in his last outing, Carrasco pitched six shutout innings against the Padres, but he didn't figure in the decision as the Padres won the game, 8-5. Carrasco will face the Giants for the third time season. He hasn't given up a run in 1 2/3 innings against them.
Friday: Mets (73-76) arrive for 3 games
TBA vs. Steve Trachsel (1-3, 3.42)

Scouting Report:
Trachsel's splendid pitching in his 2005 debut Aug. 26 -- eight, two-hit innings in a 1-0 victory in San Francisco -- almost has faded from memory, as the Mets' wild card chances have. He has lost three straight starts since then, producing a 4.91 ERA in the process. Trachsel hasn't faced the Nationals since they were the Expos. But he ought to like RFK Stadium -- he might be alone on that regard. It doesn't give up home runs readily, but he has -- five in his last 15 1/3 innings.

Saturday - Sunday vs. Mets, then:

Three games in Florida against the Marlins (79-71), and then a travel day on Thursday then a three game series in RFK against the Phillies (80-70) to end the year.

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