The Nationals took the field in Washington Thursday night with a clean slate. Their only goal; have a better second half than first.
Defensive gaffs were one of the main ills of the first half for the Nationals. Whether it be Adam Dunn’s poor ball reading ability, Cristian Guzman’s disgustingly bad range, or Ryan Zimmerman’s mysterious throwing problems, errors took the Nats out of many games they couldn’t afford to lose.
Last night the problem continued as the Nationals had two errors and allowed three unearned runs last night en route to a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
So much for a clean slate.
Ryan Zimmerman recorded a throwing error in top of the third allowing catcher Koyie Hill to score later in the inning, giving the Cubs their first runs on the board. In the top of the 9th, with the Nats only down 3-1, new reliever Sean Burnett had a fielding error allowing two runs to score, essentially putting the game out of reach.
It didn’t help that the Nationals only got four hits all game, one being a meaningless solo homer in the bottom of the ninth by Ryan Zimmerman.
The only other hits came from Centerfielder Nyjer Morgan and second basemen Alberto Gonzalez who recorded a triple and a single.
Alberto has been straight nasty since returning to the majors for the Nationals. In June the middle infielder batted .368/.420/.395 and in July he has batted .455/.478/.636.
The Nationals think they may have their shortstop of the future, and secondd basemen of the present in Alberto. He is certainly making many other believers with his play.
The Nationals poor batting performance could have been for any number of reasons. Odd team chemistry with a new coach or rustiness from the break. However one thing is for sure that facing Cubs pitcher Rich Harden didn’t help matters.
Harden has long been considered by experts as ‘the best pitcher in baseball if healthy.’ Unfortunately for Harden, and whichever team has had him in the past, he hasn’t been healthy often.
Last year he was flat out dominant after his trade from Oakland to Chicago. In 12 games he went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA and a .97 WHIP.
So far in 2009 however he has struggled, to the tune of a 5.06 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Many have questions how healthy he has been as not only has he allowed more runs, his opponents batting average rose from .157 last year to .262 this year.
He certainly looked healthy Thursday night though, while through 6 innings he allowed three hits, no earned runs and struck out seven with no walks.
Give this one to Harden, he earned it, lets see what the new face Nats can do against another ace, Carlos Zambrano, tonight.
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