Fist-fighting for fun in San Fran, 51 runs in 27 innings in Oakland, and a tough series win against the second best team in the National League — that was a California vacation the Griswolds would be proud of. To go 7-2 on their last road trip, considering Bryce Harper was 2 for 21 with 11 Ks (when he wasn’t suspended), Joe Ross imploded, and Dusty Baker mailed it in, speaks to how good this team is.
My favorite moment was Koda Glover cussing out Yasiel Puig for no good reason after a game had ended. Not a lot of players would show that kind of fire after getting their head kicked in only a few days before. Dusty ran Glover’s right arm through the meat grinder — apparently just for kicks — in his previous appearance against Oakland which lead to an unsightly 5 runs given up and a sore arm. Why Dusty sent him out for a second inning after the team had run up a 6 run lead is dumbfounding. Look, I get that that the majority of the Nats’ bullpen is a flaming trash can filled with dead raccoons, but Koda is young, good, and the only man on the team who doesn’t let the 9th inning reduce him to a puddle of urine and tears. He deserved to go home early that day. So by closing the door on the Dodgers then sending Puig to his room without supper was a good sign. It showed the type of moxie required of first division relief ace we all hope he is.
My least favorite moment(s) is Dusty Baker hitting career scrub Ryan Raburn — fresh out of the discount bin — second instead of Anthony Rendon. It cost the Nats the chance to beat the best pitcher in the world. Had Rendon’s 9th inning flyball come in the 8th inning, Trea Turner would have tied the game, then who knows what would have happened. Maybe lineup construction doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, but there are only so many things the manager can control and that is one of them. Not overusing young pitchers with histories of injuries is another. Dusty does a lot of things right, but he cost his team one win and came close to costing them another in Oakland.
The Nats have been great so far this year, but the year is not over. Harper needs to get right (Thursday was a good start), the fifth spot in the rotation needs to be figured out (Thursday was a good start), and the bullpen needs reinforcing.
This last road trip showed the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Dominant starting pitching and a deep lineup coupled with old school managing and adventurous late-inning relief work. They won, but they sure kept it interesting.
This year’s Nats team is more fun than they should be. They’re running away with the NL East. They’re the best team in the National League by a long shot. Yet they keep us on our toes every night. Is Koda the real deal? Is Bryce the best player in baseball all the time or just occasionally? Did Ryan Zimmerman sell his soul to the devil? And my new personal favorite — The Joe Ross Experience. That dude just threw over 7 innings of 1-run baseball (with 12 Ks) to lower his ERA to… 6.16. He makes inconsistency look good.
Behind it all is Dusty Baker. His lineups are inexplicable. His pitching changes can be infuriating. But he wins. And wins. And wins. Ownership won’t pay him but they should. The Nats have had good years before, but they’ve never had two in a row. They’re a World Series favorite right now despite their blemishes and that’s a testament to their manager. Most of Dusty’s job happens behind closed doors. Whether it’s Max Scherzer swearing at himself, Koda swearing at others, or Harper defending himself, this team has a mean-streak that’s been missing in years past.
This team has an identity and that identity is bad-ass. Just like Dusty Baker. The man who smoked weed with Jimi Hendrix and invented the high-five. He deserves two more years at twice the salary.
Even if he hits minor-leaguers second (expletive deleted). We bloggers need things to yell about after all.Tags: Bryce Harper, Dusty Baker, Koda Glover, Nationals, Nats, Washington Nationals