Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nats Sweep Mets @ Shea!

Who woulda thunk it??? With a two game lead and seven home games left - three against the Washington Nationals, a makeup game against the St. Louis Cardinals and three against the Florida Marlins, many were conceding the National League East race to the New York Mets. As I've been preaching for awhile now though, their pitching has been nothing short of bad lately. Pedro Martinez has been fine of late as has Oliver Perez, but outside of that the entire staff has underachieved.

The Nationals admittedly got a little bit of a break in missing Pedro and Perez these past three days. Last night they took on Mets prospect and 2004 first round draft pick Philip Humber. For three innings last night the Nats were humbled by Humber and the rest of his Mets teammates. Nats starter Mike Bacsik got off to a very rocky start, giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Beltran and a solo shot to Moises Alou (who extended his hitting streak to 30 games) in the first... a Luis Castillo single plated another run in the second inning to make it a 4-0 Mets lead. Beltran struck again in the third inning, hitting another homer and knocking Bacsik out of the game. You have to admire manager Manny Acta's managerial ability - it's very rare that you'll see him leave his young pitchers in the game if they are getting pounded. Of late, his skillful managing has probably been the key to the Nats recent success. Joel Hanrahan then took over for Bacsik and escaped further damage in the inning.

For three innings, Humber was masterful in limiting the Nats to three hits. Things began to unravel for him in the fourth though. Austin Kearns walked to lead off the inning and Ryan Church then clubbed his 15th home run of the year deep into the right field stands to trim the Mets lead to three. Humber was able to regroup after that, retiring the next three batters in order. In the bottom of the frame, the Mets got to Hanrahan for a run as an Alou single plated David Wright. In the top of the fifth, the Nats offense took over the game. Ryan Langerhans walked and Felipe Lopez singled to right to end Humber's night. Joe Smith was then brought in to relieve Humber and was completely ineffective. Ronnie Belliard doubled, Ryan Zimmerman singled and Austin Kearns singled. Suddenly, it was a 6-5 game. Mets manager Willie Randolph then pulled Smith and inserted Pedro Feliciano. Feliciano struck out Church, but left a ball right in Wily Mo Pena's wheelhouse and he didn't miss it, doubling into the gap in left center field to score Zimmerman and Kearns. The resilient Nats had come from five runs down to take a 7-6 lead!!

And the Nats wouldn't look back. They would add two runs on a Church double off the struggling Mets closer Billy Wagner in the ninth. Chris Schroder, Jonathan Albaladejo, Saul Rivera, Jon Rauch and Luis Ayala each pitched an inning of scoreless relief. For the Nats, the 9-6 win was their fourth straight victory. A 5-2 Philadelphia Phillies win over the Atlanta Braves last night drew the Phils within just a single game of the Mets in the NL East race.

Speaking of that Phillies/Braves game, did any of you see what Jeff Francoeur did to the Phillie Phanatic prior to the game last night? Well, Francoeur appears to still be very young at heart - he took the keys to the Phanatics little buggy that he uses to travel around the stadium in... the Phanatic soon found his keys were missing and that Francouer had them in his possession. Francoeur would only give the keys back after the Phanatic did the Braves' "Tomahawk Chop!!!" Finally, the Phanatic relented, doing a couple of very weak little chops with his right hand. With that Francoeur gave the Phanatic his keys back and everyone was happy... :) It was definitely one of the more fun, and lighter moments that I'll remember from the 2007 season.


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