To kick off their final home stand of the month, the Washington Nationals (10-8) will face the St. Louis Cardinals (10-8) in a series that is guaranteed to stir up conversations about 2012’s postseason.
The two teams have identical records, are both second in their respective divisions (the Cardinals are tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central), and are both considered 2013 postseason contenders, all of which should garner intrigue for the first of six highly competitive games between the two teams.
The Nationals went 4-3 against the Cardinals in the 2012 regular season, and this will be their first face-off since the National League Division Series last October. But there is no need to delve into the gory details of Game 5, as sports commentators will likely spend enough time doing throughout this series. Everyone knows what happened. Last season is in the past, and the Nationals are looking toward the future.
Boz Says It’s Still Not Time To Panic
With this matchup will undoubtedly come lots of postseason references and predictions. And though the Nationals may not look much like a postseason-caliber team right now, considering their recent string of losses, it is important to remember that we aren’t even one month into the season. There are still 144 baseball games left to play before October, and much can change and develop in that many games.
Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote today that the Nats still have plenty of time to be successful after their unsteady start to the season.
“I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen highly-touted teams start the year frustrating themselves and their fans for 100 or more games,” Boswell said. “You can make a long list of teams that started a year 52-50, then finished 40-20 to go 92-70, then made the post-season and went a long way.”
Hopefully it doesn’t take 100 games for the Nationals to return to the level of performance they played at for most of last year. But either way, Boz has seen a lot of baseball, and he is emphasizing that there is no need to panic, assuming the Nats eventually do play up to their potential.
“If they play as they have so far, they will certainly not be at .500 on June 2nd,” after playing through the toughest part of their schedule, Boswell said. “If they play as they are capable of playing, they will be well over .500 by then and may pick up steam the rest of the season.”
Because of the uncomplimentary things the Cardinals said about the Nats at the conclusion of their season last year, Boswell wonders “if playing the (hated) Cards snaps the Nationals out of their sloppy play funk.” Nats fans are anxious to start seeing their team dominate again as it did in 2012, and there would be no better team to find that dominance against than the Cardinals.
Holding Out For Haren
Dan Haren will get the ball and yet another chance for redemption in the series opener.
The Nats new addition has yet to have a quality start. He’s lasted 4.0, 5.0 and 4.1 innings through his first three starts, and the 26 hits and five home runs he’s given up have contributed to skyrocketing his ERA up to 8.10.
However, Haren has had success in the past against his former team. He is 4-0 against St. Louis in his career with a 3.65 ERA, and current Cardinals hitters are batting .288 of him. He is going to need to make an adjustment from his last starts, though, if he wants to continue to be successful against the hot-hitting Redbirds, who despite a low-offense-producing start to this season had one of the best offenses in 2012.
Pitching coach Steve McCatty thinks Haren is trying too hard to be something he’s not, according to MLB.com, and Haren himself believes that as long as he keeps trying to make good pitches, there is a chance his fortunes could turn around.
"I feel good, so it's just a matter of translating to good numbers out there,” Haren said. “Baseball is a crazy game. As bad as it is going now, it can change in an instant. I just have to remain positive."
Remaining positive will be key for Nats players and fans alike during this series, as the ghosts of Game 5 will remain until the Nationals are able to expel them permanently.
In The Zone
Bryce Harper (LF) .421 AVG, .500 OBP, .842 SLG, 2 HR (last five games)
Yadier Molina (C) .450 AVG, .476 OBP, .550 SLG, 4 RBI (last five games)
Carlos Beltran (RF) .375 AVG, .400 OBP, .792 SLG, 4 RBI, 3 HR (last six games)
Jon Jay (CF) .105 AVG, .150 OBP, .158 SLG, 7 SO (last five games)
Pete Kozma (SS) .133 AVG, .222 OBP, .200 SLG, 1 RBI (last five games)
4/22, Dan Haren (1-2, 8.10 ERA, .388 BAA, 5 HR) vs. Shelby Miller (2-1, 1.96 ERA, .169 BAA, 18 SO)
4/23, Ross Detwiler (1-0, 0.90 ERA, .224 BAA, 11 SO) vs. Adam Wainwright (3-1, 2.48 ERA, .279 BAA, 28 SO)
4/24, Stephen Strasburg (1-3, 2.96 ERA, .227 BAA, 21 SO) vs. Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.22 ERA, .267 BAA, 22 SO)