Saturday, July 26, 2008

Nats hit new Lowe in L.A.

After splitting the final 128 games of the 2007 season, the Washington Nationals looked at 2008 with some hope and anticipation. A returning Nick Johnson, a promising young offense led by Ryan Zimmerman, comeback player of the year Dmitri Young and the slugging Wily Mo Pena and a promising young pitching staff led by Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann and closer Chad Cordero looked to at least be a .500 team this year as they opened Nationals Park in our nation's capital.

Things started going wrong almost before they began though for this year's Nationals. Team mainstay John Patterson was released during spring training, and then the injuries began... every one of the above mentioned players has been hurt some point this year, and in the case of Johnson, Pena, Hill and Cordero, they are either done or looking to be done for the year. This week, the Nats traded arguably their best player this year, fill-in closer Jon Rauch to the Arizona Dimanondbacks... being an owner of Rauch in two of my five main fantasy leagues, this trade was especially disheartening.

Coming into tonight's matchup against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, it should come as no surprise that the Nats came in with the worst record in the majors at 38-65. Ex-Dodger Odalis Perez took on his old Dodger teammates... It was no contest from the start as Derek Lowe had his sinkerball working all night long, while Perez struggled from the get-go. Matt Kemp homered in the first inning with Juan Pierre aboard, and a scoring flyball by Nomar Garciaparra in the same frame gave the Dodgers an early 3-0 lead. Garciaparra hit a homer of his own in the fourth inning to key another three run inning for the Blue Crew. That was more than enough for "D-Lowe" as he completely stifled the Nats, allowing only a hit and a walk in hos eight innings of work. How bad was it for the Nats? Lowe had as many hits as the Nats did combined, going 2-for-3 on the night. Joe Beimel took over for Lowe in the 9th inning to preserve the 6-0 Dodger victory.

Being an owner of Lowe in four of my five most important fantasy leagues, this strong outing was very important personally, especially in one where aces Justin Duchscherer and Cole Hamels got torched to the tune of 12 earned runs and 20 batters allowed in just 9 2/3 innings of work between them. By the way, I am not winning any of those leagues at the moment... however, one is in second place and three others are within striking distance of the top. The league races are so tight at the moment that only eight points separate first to seventh in the one where I'm in 2nd place, 5 1/2 points out of the lead. In another where I trail the leader by only seven points, I'm actually in 6th place at the moment - FYI, this is the same league where I was down 33 points and mired in 9th place just 2 months ago. You can never give up in this game or ever rest on your laurels for that matter. Yes, it's a long season, a marathon if I must say!

With the win, the Dodgers keep pace, 1 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks in the N.L. West, while the Nats move to 38-66, 18 games behind the New York Mets in the N.L. East and still possessing the worst record in baseball. For the Nats, 2008 is looking like it won't be ending soon enough... for the Dodgers though, there is a lot of hope, even with a 50-52 record thanks to their division being so weak.


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