Coming into this four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies, I was fairly certain that the Washington Nationals would end up winning one out of four and move on to the weekend series at home. Once Charlie Manuel said that he wouldn't be resting any of his numerous stars, I was even more certain of that. When I saw that Ross Detwiler was set to face Cliff Lee today, I was certain that the Nats best chance was a split of Tuesday's doubleheader. I'm thrilled to have been wrong about all of those things. Here's a hodgepodge of thoughts, observations, and statistics from the Nats sweep of the doubleheader against the 2011 NL East Champs.
In Game 1 of the twin bill, Nats LHP Tommy Milone was robbed of a Curly W after Doug Slaten didn't retire either batter he faced, and Tyler Clippard gave up a three-run home run to tie the game. It is staggering to see how bad Slaten has been this season, and his so-so 4.20 ERA, doesn't tell the whole story. He has the 4th worst xFIP (5.30) on the team, which essentially tells what his ERA should be if it weren't for some favorable fielding, and a -0.2 WAR. The only 3 that are worse than Slaten in the xFIP department are Brad Peacock (1 MLB start and 1 misguided relief appearance), Cole Kimball (torn rotator cuff), and Chad Gaudin (unconditionally released in July).
The King of Clutch, Ryan Zimmerman, saved the game for the Nats with a low line drive in a 10th inning pinch hit appearance, which scored Michael Morse. Milone went 6 innings strong, allowing 0 runs on just 4 hits, giving up no runs, and lowering his ERA to 3.32 after just 4 MLB starts. My gut tells me Milone will be part of the Nationals Opening Day 2012 rotation. More on those predictions in a later post, though.
In Game 2, LHP Ross Detwiler, who I criticized right here on this blog not a week ago about his ability as a starter, was absolutely stellar. One start does not overturn the numbers that I went over in the linked article, but Detwiler looked as good as he ever has. He was even better than his fellow lefty Milone in the day game: 7.1 IP, 0 runs, 3 hits, 1 BB, 3 K, and lowered season ERA to 3.30. Jayson Werth scored a run but also left the game with what MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported was "a right elbow contusion" and is day-to-day. To make it a bit better, the Nats got to Cliff Lee, Cy Young candidate, for 3 runs (2 earned) on 11 hits in 7 innings. Lee has a way of minimizing damage (see: 3 runs on 11 hits), but the Nats pitching was too good to compete with tonight.
In just one day, the Nationals improved to 8-8 on the season against the NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies, the team that most consider the best team in baseball. The Nats may not end the season series with the Phils above .500, but the fact that it's even possible shows that they are becoming capable of competing against even the best teams. With a little more consistency and experience, these September series with the Phillies could be a lot more significant in the not-too-distant future.