Yankees @ Nats: A Series Wrap Up
The Nationals, in all the oddities that they have been known for in their relatively short time in Washington, have had one small bragging right over one of the Major League's best. The Nationals and Yankees had played each other all of 6 times before the opening of the series on Friday, and were able to take 4 of the 6 contests. However, the Yankees would march into Washington and finally play up the Nationals and take a series.
Friday night was one of Washington's top Pitchers, Gio Gonzalez against Phil Hughes. Gio had seen the Yankees a decent number of times having launched his career in Oakland, but his numbers were not exactly amazing against the Bronx Bombers. On paper, a baseball fan would say "Gio is due." That is, it was time for Gio to pick up a win against the New York Yankees. Sadly, it would not happen and Phil Hughes would perform quite well in the Nation's Capital. The Yankees hitters worked the count; elevated Gio's pitch count and got him out in the 6th inning. With timely hitting, the Yankees were able to come out on top over the Nationals and take the first game of the series. The Nationals had been playing quite well, so it was easy to have faith that the Nationals would come back to win on Saturday.
The Nationals sent Jordan Zimmermann to the hill against the Yankees in game 2. Jordan Zimmermann is a strike thrower, at times to a fault. In this series, it would figure Zimmermann would benefit from his bulldog mentality and go right after the Yankees hitters. Interestingly (or laughably typical), Jordan Zimmermann did something a bit different than Nationals fans have become accustomed to. Zimmermann worked his off speed stuff and was again a victim of the Yankees hitters working the count. Zimmermann was also on the bad end of a long inning, due to the Nationals defense. A missed double play ball and an error caused Jordan Zimmermann to have to throw more pitches against an already tough lineup. On the Yankees end, Andy Pettitte cruised through the lineup. Taking advantage of the Nationals best hitters and fooling Bryce Harper at bat after at bat. Harper struck out 5 times and went 0-7 in the 14 inning affair. In a moment that essentially defined the Nationals in the 2012 season, a late offensive spark came when Tyler Moore raced home and slid in to try and score. Moore was called out on Adam LaRoche's pinch hit, but replays would show that Tyler Moore was safe. A fact that one Citizen's of Natstown writer was able to see from the 300's at the ballgame, but I digress. Saturday's game was a fight, a battle of bullpens. A true contest to see who would be the last man standing. The Nationals would miss opportunities later, the highlight was having the winning run at 3rd base, but the Nationals could not buckle down and get a hit to bring it home. Brad Lidge came in in the 14th and he struggled. Brad Lidge could not protect the lead and the Nationals would lose in the 14th inning.
Sunday, the Nationals needed Edwin Jackson to go deep into the ballgame due to the marathon the previous day. Jackson was confident, telling Davey Johnson "I'm ready to go 9 today." The bout of confidence displayed by Jackson is admirable, but the Yankees hitters paid no mind. The Yankees batters did what they did against both Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, they worked the counts in every at bat. Jackson would have long counts on seemingly every batter he faced, ultimately only mustering 6 tough innings. Ivan Nova was again cruising through the Nationals line up and he would pick up the win and the Nationals were swept. Additionally, leave it to a Yankees pitcher to make arrogant comments about another team's fan base as well as Nick Swisher saying "The Yankees are taking over the Nation's Capital!." This is the kind of thing that makes losing to such a self-involved franchise frustrating, but again, I digress.
The one consistent aspect in the series that sticks out is how every Nationals starting pitcher would be worked to a long count. It is the experience that makes the Yankees, the Yankees. 27 time World Series champions, if you will. The Nationals lineup, on the other hand, did not take long counts on any Yankees pitcher, at least it did not seem that way. The young Nationals lineup swung early in counts, stuck out a lot, and got themselves out. It is a fine example of what the Nationals should aspire to be like, patient and calm. For all the credit one must give to the Yankees for their ability to play so well, however, it is foolish to believe these games cost more than any other. Over the course of a 162 game season, one game is worth all of .006. Thanks to the Yankees, the Nationals final season record will be a staggering .018 lower. Numerous local radio talk shows referred to the Nationals/Yankees series as "an eye opener" or a "reality check." I take a lot of solace in the fact that one reason I like to talk about baseball with my knowledgeable colleagues is that these radio types have no idea what they are talking about. In that train of logic, when the Nationals, who lost 103 games in 2009, should have opened the eyes of the Yankees when the D.C. team took a series from that would be World Series champs. On the topic of the Yankees crew mentioning how Nationals fans were leaving the game early, I want to clarify that I saw only Yankees fans leaving after every out in extra innings on Saturday. Pride comes before the fall, which is a big reason I like to remain level headed after a winning streak.
The Nationals have been fun this season, and this rough series would not change that. Despite the fact that the Nationals were swept, it will not change the fact that the Nationals have been playing good baseball. Stay the course, Nationals. Do, however, attempt to fix the small problems and inconsistencies. A little bit of patience and a learning experience such as this go a long way.