Tag Archives: Gio Gonzalez

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2014 Washington Nationals: Denouement

Last month, the Washington Nationals of 2014 completed the 4th best season in DC baseball history, but a second division title — they ran away with the National League East still yielded a first round exit. In the NLDS, they faced the San Francisco Giants, winners of the play-in game and lowest seeded team in NL, but eventual world champions. Four games later, the Nats were eliminated, despite strong pitching. Some strange mental errors and an opportunistic Giants squad overtook the Nats for two reasons:

The Nats bats with four days off did not hit. Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper, the two youngest hitters on the team, were able to handle being pitched to low and a way. The rest of the lineup was largely helpless and the manager of the Nats, Matt Williams made no adjustments to the lineup, leaving Harper at 6th throughout the whole series. Questions about that decision-making as well as hitting coach Rick Shu are there to be asked.

Williams decision making has been fairly scrutinized. I don’t mind that he pulled Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 with two outs in the ninth after yielding a walk. Facing Buster Posey for a fourth time with a tired arm wasn’t ideal. It just didn’t work out that Drew Storen did not get it done.

Game 4 proved to be much more baffling as Williams inserted Aaron Barrett into the 7th inning of an elimination game on the road instead of Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen. Stephen Strasburg, who had a decent Game 1 start, was also available, but my view is the best relievers available were the best choice. Williams never called for them and the Nats fell.

Was Williams management of the NLDS a fireable offense? Probably not, but I’m not saying I’d be disappointed; I could get used to spelling “Weird Wuss” with curly Ws, I think. His peers voted him NL Manager of the Year, perhaps in the way that I would suggest Hunter Strickland needs a larger stage, like closer on an NL East team. The Nats were not ready for playoff baseball, likely in part due to their success in the last month of season where the dominated weak NL East teams in the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. That schedule can’t be helped – it’s just the way it worked out. However, sticking to a lineup that wasn’t producing and sticking to bullpen roles rather than game situations is hardly unique to Williams.

Or maybe it was the red jerseys.

Now, let’s review the roster:

THE LINEUP

Denard Span‘s NLDS was a microcosm of the Nats year — when he hit, they tended to win. When he didn’t, they lost. 2014 was his most productive season, setting a modern DC hits record. Unfortunately, he only hit in game 3.

Anthony Rendon put up superstar numbers, led the NL in runs and played third base well. He also hit in the NLDS, going 7 for 20.

Adam LaRoche had a typical streaky season, but still played 140 games, had a .362 OBP, hit 26 homers and drove in 92 runs. He also hit a walk-off against the Arizona Diamonbacks in extra innings. He is done in D.C. as there will be no spot for him with Ryan Zimmerman headed to 1st.

Jayson Werth had another strong season at the plate (.292/.394/.455), but was useless in the NLDS. Really useless. His defense is starting to slip, so perhaps a move to left is in order. He also drives too fast.

Bryce Harper garnered more controversy than he deserved and miss significant chunks of time, but after he returned he was pretty much the same outstanding player he’s been his whole career. He also hit three homers in the NLDS. When he’s healthy he’s awesome.

Ryan Zimmerman
couldn’t stay healthy, first injuring his thumb and then tearing his hamstring. He’s done playing third base on a regular basis due to his arthritic shoulder and will probably move to first next season. He’s still a great hitter and not playing third may keep him in the lineup, though he got injured on the basepaths. He continues to be a consummate professional.

Ian Desmond strikes out a ton and tends to make more errors than he should, especially early in the season. He’s in a contract year and with no viable second baseman on the roster, he’ll probably be resigned and continue to put up 20-20 numbers for a few more seasons, but strike out a ton.

Wilson Ramos stared the season batting cleanup, couldn’t make it out of the first game without a trip the DL. He only played 88 games and runs very slowly. Aside from the WILLLLLL-SSSSSSON chant, a forgettable year in several respects. It’s still worth mentioning that the Nats traded Matt Capps for him.

Asdrubal Cabrera was solid at second base for the most part after being acquired from Cleveland for the stretch run and even had a decent NLDS compared to other Nats hitters (ejection notwithstanding) but is probably on his way out. A decent acquisition though, if only to keep Danny Espinosa out of the lineup.

THE ROTATION

Stephen Strasburg tried to hard to make a slider work, but in an up and down season still tied for the NL lead in strikeouts, pitched 30 more innings and walked fewer. He gave up more hits, but locked in during the stretch. His postseason debut was okay, but poor defense helped lead to an early departure.

Doug Fister
got traded for Robbie Ray and hero to fans of a certain age Steve Lombardozi. Fister went 16-6 in 25 starts with only 24 walks and no stolen bases. He also won Game 3. Good trade Mike Rizzo.

Jordan Zimmermann had a very strong 2014, earning an All-Star bid, being arguably the Nats best pitcher and throwing the first no-hitter in D.C. since the Hoover administration. He had an unflappable demeanor and came within one out of a complete game shutout in Game 2, but he walked Joe Panik when umpire ___ squeezed the zone a bit and got lifted. So close…2015 will likely be his final year in D.C. as he is a free agent after the season and indications are he’s ready for a change of scenary.

Gio Gonzalez can be an outstanding pitcher when he’s trusting his curve ball. When he isn’t, he runs into trouble. Always known for a high pitch count, Gonzalez has had trouble in three starts over two postseasons and is prone to brutal fielding lapses. He’s signed the longest of anyone in the rotation.

Tanner Roark was the player the Nats got for the Cristain Guzman rental. If he never pitches another game, it was robbery. Thirty-one starts, 2.85 ERA, 15 wins. That’s after going 7-1 in 2013.

THE BULLPEN

Tyler Clippard, while pigeon-holed into the 8th inning with a lead spot, continued to be a reliable, durable reliever. He did not fare well when sent into close, but overall remained the most consistent fireman on the team AND WHY WOULDN’T YOU USE HIM IN AN ELIMINATION GAME, MATT WILLIAMS?

Drew Storen had a bounceback regular season that had him return to closing late, but that is overshadowed by his giving up the tying run in Game 1 and even giving up a run in Game 3. Seemingly, he’s next year’s closer though Clippard should get a shot.

Rafael Soriano had a strong first half as closer, but fell off the table and almost off the roster in the playoffs. He’s not coming back.

Aaron Barret – Joe West broke him. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. He shouldn’t have been brought in late in an elimination game.

Jerry Blevins was great against lefties. And only lefties. Why do I know this and #9 doesn’t?

Craig Stammen had some big long relief appearances and continiued to be solid.

Ross Detwiler did not make the playoff roster and did not have the faith of the management. It’s a far cry from 2012 when he made the best start of the playoffs that year. He’s headed out of town.

There is some discussion that next year will be a last shot with the current core as Zimmermann and Desmond are in the final years of their contracts. I expect Desmond will be signed and Zimmermann will follow the money to a city not too far from a rural area. Span’s option has got to be picked up because he provides value on the field or as a trade piece. Who plays second base is undetermined. Werth is showing his age in right and will be hard pressed to match those numbers again. Maybe switch him and Harper in the outfield. An extension for Fister wouldn’t upset me and I’m okay with dangling Gio out to other teams. THe NL East should be more challenging as the Marlins and Mets are showing signs of ascendency. The Phillies are not a factor and the Braves stayed in it longer than they really should have in 2014. More divisional competition may help the Nats out and keep them sharp too.

It’s been over two weeks since the season ended and I still miss it. We’ve got the hot stove, winter meetings and of course the court figths with the Baltimore Orioles ahead, but that’s just not the same being able to turn on Charlie & Dave and listen to a game 5 nights a week.

It’s 152 days until Opening Day.

HIGHLIGHTS

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Gio Gonzalez pitches one-hitter against Mets; Nats hit five homers in 9-0 win

Wait, a one-hitter but no embedable MLB.com video? Your embedding policy is arbitrary and capricious, MLB.

In the most highly anticipated D.C. sports event of the night, Gio Gonzalez led the Washington Nationals to a 9-0 win over the New York Mets. All the hype that Washingtonians have been experiencing for last night – totally on point and worth it.

Gonzalez had one of the best starts ever by a D.C. pitcher.

                       IP H R ER BB SO HR
Gonzalez (W, 10-6)	9 1 0 0 2  8  0

ESPN’s boxscore gives Gonazlez a 91 game score. Jordan Zimmermann’s April 26 win over the Cincinnati Reds, perhaps the finest start by a D.C. pitcher since 1931 had a game score of 88. Here is an explanation of Bill James’ game score stat:

Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (or 3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.

So, is that better than Zimmermann’s April gem? Looking back, Zimmermann only had 4 strikeouts, but allowed one fewer baserunner. He also did it against the Reds, a team the Nats have been seemingly 7 games back of for the last month and a half. The Mets on the other hand, are nine under. Zimmermann also pitched that game with only one run of support, while Gonzalez had nine runs of support last night.

I’ll give the nod to Zimmermann for the best pitched game in modern Nats history.

Those nine runs I just mentioned came off of five home runs. Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman hit solo shots back-to-back in the 1st. Zimmerman has been on fire this last week, hitting homers in each of his last three games (4 overall) and 6 since September 2. Span and Zimmermann scored on Jayson Werth’s third inning home run. Werth is first in the NL in SLG and OPS. Tyler Moore hit a solo homer and Wilson Ramos hit a 3-run homer.

The Nats continued their winning ways, winning their 20th in 29 tries. The playoffs are long out of reach, but the team is playing up to it’s capabilities at last. That and an easier schedule.

Gio Gonzalez throws one-hitter as Nationals clobber 5 home runs in 9-0 win over MetsThe Post

So, what were you watching last night? Oh, that.

Get well, Bryce Harper.

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Will we still be happy that the All-Star Break is over during/after Nats game tonight?

A co-worker asked me this morning about the Washington Nationals. He’s a casual fan going to the Sunday game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom he expected to be a better opponent. I suggested that the Dodgers were better than their record now that Yasiel Puig was on the team. I also suggested that the Nats were less than the sum of their parts thus far this season. The lineup, incomplete for so long, is finally healthy so perhaps the players can start hitting around their statistical norms. Even Bryce Harper is slumping a little bit, but who knows, maybe finishing 2nd in the Home Run Derby will get him going. The lack of situational hitting is the biggest problem, a relapse to the 2005-2011 Nats that seemed to lead the NL in runners left on base annually. Well, maybe not in 2008 and 2009.

We are also really overdue for a Ryan Zimmerman walk-off.

On the pitching front, Stephen Strasburg is having an “off year” while sporting an ERA of 2.99. Gio Gonzalez has settled into a groove after a mediocre start while Jordan Zimmermann is an All-Star (and rural American!) who hasn’t been quite as good of late, but clearly the leader on the staff. The backend hasn’t been good with Ross Detwiler on the DL twice and having trouble getting through the order a third time. Dan Haren, on the other hand, has had trouble getting through the order once, though has shown signs of improvement.

The Nats are six games back of the Atlanta Braves and catching them over the next 67 games is certainly possible, some even say probable. But it probably won’t happen all at once if it does — read Nats Pennant Push for more as you watch games while breathing into a paper bab. and September scheduling favors the Braves.

They can win the NL East, but it will likely be a slog. I thought that some of the preseason predictions of greater than 98 wins was wishful thinking, but 48-47 at the break was not something I anticipated. On Opening Day, I predicted 94 wins and I think that’s optimistic at this point.

Of course, if the Nats just wear their red caps and the Braves don’t wear their alternate jerseys, it’ll all work out!

MSM PREVIEWS

Washington Nationals have their work cut out for themThe Post

Washington Nationals storylines to watch in second halfThe Wash. Times

2nd half storylinesCSN Washington

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS

They found a few!

It starts up again at 7:05 tonight — 11 game homestand. Time to get going.

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Nats split D.C. portion of the Battle of the Beltway, RIP Lewis Yocum

The D.C. portion of the Battle of the Beltways has concluded with a split. The Washington Nationals lost game 1, badly, and then rocked the Baltimore Orioles last night 9-3. In other words, the Nats are playing about the same as they always do this season.

GAME 1

Bad Gio. Bad hitting. VIDEO RECAP

GAME 2

Nate Karns debuts, can’t go 5 for a win, but shows promise. 4 home runs, 2 from Adam LaRoche and back-to-back by Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina. Is Moore finally hitting? Seems like it. VIDEO RECAP

I did not bother with my annual “why rooting for the Orioles is like rooting for Iran” or something along those lines post. How many times can I write the same thing? If not for the ridiculous “compensation for Peter Angelos” the Nats being kept off most D.C. area cable systems for most of 2 seasons and the awful coverage we’re forced to endure on MASN, I’d be pretty ambivalent about Baltimore’s baseball team. Their fans on the other hand, will not be missed. Enrico Pallazzo pays the national anthem more respect than they do.

There have been annoyances during the series, like the combination of both team’s broadcasters (does anybody like it?) and MASN incompetence (Nats Enquirer). You get the feeling for a lot of D.C. sports media the previous two games were their favorite of the year, because they get to see their team visit D.C.?

Oh and Bryce Harper is probably still out, so don’t count on him hitting the warehouse at Oriole Park tonight or tomorrow. One columnist, whose paper cuts sports in about 2 days, was hyping that up.
Reluctant superstar Jordan Zimmermann is on the mound tonight.

I’ll pay Bob Carpenter’s remarks about Nats fans as much attention as I pay him in the booth. Nice guy, mediocre play-by-play man at best, completely replaceable. It certainly does feel “fashionable” to get down on the Nats this week.

Lastly, RIP Lewis Yocum, who performed Tommy John surgery on Stephen Strasburg, Zimmermann and prospects Lucas Giolito and Sammy Solis. The Hall of Fame really needs to start a “doctor wing” to honor Yocum, Frank Jobe, James Andrews, etc.

Lastly, taking 2 of 3 from the Phillies over the weekend was nice.

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Nats undefeated and unscored upon after two games; Gio homers

Gio Gonzalez threw seven scoreless innings and homered to start the scoring for the Washington Nationals:

I had just “liked’ a tumblr post by Tom Bridge about his conversion to the light side of the force with regards to pitchers batting.

Gonzalez didn’t have his sharpest stuff, but facing the Miami Marlins he can get away with it. Asked how he felt about throwing this evening:

Um, Gio?

The second run came in the 7th with two-men on and Denard Span at the plate. Span grounded towards the second baseman, nearly hitting pinch runner Roger Bernadina who came to an aburpt stop and collided with the second baseman. A throw to first nearly got Span, but he was safe and the second run was in.

The third run was Bryce Harper scoring from second on Ryan Zimmerman single. Harper’s double was a few feet short of his third homer of the year on the right field wall.

MORE INTERESTING TWEETS

Bad faith, bad effort, bad channel, bad deal.

IN SCORES OF OTHER GAMES

Good night!

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ESPN says Gio Gonzalez is clean; Detwiler to World Baseball Classic

ESPN says Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez did not obtain banned performance enhancing drugs from the South Florida Biogensis Clinic Sources: Docs link 5 players to clinic:

According to two sources familiar with Bosch’s operation, however, the Washington Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, previously identified as being named in Biogenesis documents, did not receive banned substances from Bosch or the clinic.

Both sources, speaking independently, identified Gonzalez as the only Bosch client named thus far who did not receive performance-enhancing drugs. A document obtained by “Outside the Lines” bolsters their case: On a computer printout of clients, Gonzalez, identified by the code name “Gladiator,” is said to have received $1,000 worth of substances, but under “notes” are several substances not banned by Major League Baseball: “gluthetyn” (which a source said was a misspelling of glutathione), “IM [intramuscular] shots” and amino acids.

Glutathione is an anti-oxidant, and one source said the “IM shots” Gonzalez received were “MICs,” a medically dubious but legal combination of methionine, inositol and choline, often used for weight loss.

So, that’s good. I still wish he wasn’t pitching in the World Baseball Classic. I am not pleased that Ross Detwiler has joined him – 40% of the rotation is potentially pitching in it now. I’d rather they work up their intensity the traditional way. Throw in Danny Espinosa and his torn rotator cuff in his non-throwing shoulder and welp…

World Baseball Classic now a prime concern for Nationals The Wash. Times

Between the WBC and Bryce Harper on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the spring is nothing but doom for the Nats. Harper has bulked up in the offseason (The Post)

40 days until Opening Day…

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Gio Gonzalez pitching in World Baseball Classic to appease MLB following possible PED links is my favorite conspiracy theory of 2013 Nats

Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez will pitch in Bud Selig’s World Baseball Classic (Nationals Journal, The Post) for the United States team. This comes a few weeks after the Miami New Times reported he name came up on scraps of paper at a “weight-loss” clinic that is suspected of providing performance enhancing drugs. Gonzalez isn’t alleged to have used anything illegal, but suspicion by association is in play here. Federal Baseball has a good breakdown of what’s going on with it.

When I heard that Gonzalez was a later addition to the WBC, I joked on twitter that he was encouraged by MLB to pitch in the WBC so that the little investigation might go away. I don’t really believe that happened, but joking about it is kind of fun.

I have a few concerns with Gonzalez going forward:

Don’t get hurt during the WBC! Nats fans are still scarred by Luis Ayala tearing his UCL during the WBC. Given how much he was (over)used in 2005, it was likely to happen anyway I suppose, but the memory lingers.

The PEDs thing: Lawyer up, Gio. If you did something wrong, don’t lie about it and get the suspension over as soon as possible. Sacrificing April and half of May isn’t the worst thing in the world. Also, the lesson of PED scandals is pretty clear – if you did, admit and move on. That’s what Andy Pettite did and nobody thinks about it anymore. Roger Clemens on the other hand….

Opening Day is 50 days away

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I’m not taking the Nats elimination too hard (maybe I should be?)

The end of the Washington Nationals 2012 season in the final game of the NLDS was sudden and cruel for the team and fans. An early 6-0 lead powered by a Jayson Werth lead-off double, a Bryce Harper triple and later a home run, along with homers from Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse had the Nats leading the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals with 18 outs to go and a visit from the San Francisco Giants for the NLCS looming.

The Nats slowly came undone — as described so expertly be Barry Svrluga in The Post. While not an all out sense of dread, the mind wandering to thoughts of a “mayor’s bet” with a friend in San Francisco fought with the the insecurity of a 6-0 lead, then a 6-3 lead and so on. It was a group loss with pitching breaking down from starter Gio Gonzalez to closer Drew Storen and just about everybody in-between. A double-play ball yielding only an out here and there as the Cardinals pecked away at the Nats lead. An insurance run in the bottom of the eighth wasn’t enough either. Storen had the Cardinals down to their last strike over and over again, but couldn’t seal the deal. The loss is his according to the record books, but he’s not on an island. Davey Johnson’s managing was curious, not terribly engaged late and his decision to put in Edwin Jackson seemed like he was trying to hard. Why put in a starter coming off of two subpar outings after a couple of days of rest? I really wonder if Davey was too tired in the dugout. At 69 years old, having dealt with serious health problems too, the late start may have taken a toll. Nobody in the bullpen retired the first batter of an inning either, just brutal.

The loss, not inevitable, but not surprising as the game went on was tough. The 12:29 a.m. finish wore me out and the next morning came quickly. I hardly had time to pout though – an energetic 4 year old bouncing off the walls, floors and parents prevents that. He cared not that the Nats loss, though he had celebrated the walk-off win the night before. Perhaps he had the right idea and whether by design or as a way of coping, I pretty much went along with it. There is another factor too – the events at my alma mater over the last year or so have forced a perspective on mere wins and loses and how much they matter. Trust me, I’d gladly be in the position of other Nats fans who are still hurting over a shocking elimination. Maybe I’m still in the “derrrrrp, we have a team mode” and need to get over it too.

In the end, the Nats had an astonishing regular season, beating my wins prediction by 12. They were in first place most of the year, but ran out of gas late. Nationals Park came alive and BeltwayLand embraced the team more than ever. Being “the Nats guy” in the office was fun and an icebreaker for the first time. It is never easy going into as Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler say, “the season of silence” (particularly with the Capitals locked out) but the good overwhelmingly outweighed the bad.

Spring training is about four months away, Opening Day, less than six…

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Tyler Moore’s 8th inning single wins Nats playoff game 1 over the Cardinals

The first NLDS game in D.C. history belongs to the Washington Nationals. The Nats overcame 7 walks be Gio Gonzalez over 5 innings and came back in the 8th to beat the St. Louis Cardinals. From Nationals vs. Cardinals: Washington wins Game 1 of NLDS, 3-2 (The Post):

Davey Johnson, the 69-year-old managing his first postseason game in 15 years, sent left-hander Chad Tracy to pinch-hit. Rookie manager Mike Matheny countered by calling on Marc Rzepczynski, his only left-handed reliever. Johnson responded by pulling back Tracy and sending up Moore, the rookie who had a 10-homer season in limited time.

“I told Tracy when he went up there, if he takes him out and brings in Rzepczynski or whatever his name, I’m hitting Moore,” Johnson said.

Moore went the opposite way, dropping a single in right field to drive in the tying and winning runs.

Moore’s heroics were preceded by others. Jayson Werth made an important catch, 1-out, 1-runner on catch at the wall in the sixth:

The KMOX audio is quite something, make sure you watch the whole video to get it.

As you may recall from last week, above top of the padded wall is a home run. Not an easy catch in the sinister shadows of Busch Stadium III.

In the 7th, Ryan Mattheus came up huge, getting out of a bases-loaded, no outs jam. Two pitches, three outs:

I couldn’t believe the Cards were so impatient.

MORE RECAPS
Tyler Moore’s 2-run single helps Nats edge Cards in Game 1The Wash. Times
Moore comes through in pinch, Nats take Game 1nationals.com

THE BOSWELL COLUMN

With one key hit, Nationals overcome a nerve-wracking startThe Post

DC SPORTS GAMEDAY

I watched the game with my family and a friend from preschool. He was always one of the biggest Redskins fans I knew. He had no objection to switching to the Nats game at 3:05 p.m. Hey, the Redskins were beating the Falcons when we switched. Or flipped over during a commercial. I can’t remember the specifics.

Sunday's lunch

For the big DC sports doubleheader, we had Manger half-smokes (purchased at Canales at Eastern Market on Saturday morning) with homemade chili and DC Brau’s The Public pale ale. We’re going to have to do it this way again.


TODAY IS HIS BIRTHDAY TOO

Hey, there’s Tom Bridge at 0:26 on this NBC Washington report–

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Nats win 87th game for most DC wins since 1945; Gio beats Mets 5-1

Several milestones were reached by the Washington Nationals last night in 5-1 defeat of the New York Mets:

P Gio Gonzalez won his 19th game and leads the majors in the category. He worked around 5 walks, struck out 3 and only gave up a run on a homer. R.A. Dickey, starting for the Mets tonight, thinks the Gonzalez is his biggest competitor for the NL Cy Young Award (NY Post).

The Nats exceeded the previous D.C. 162 game season victory total of 86, set by the 1969 Washington Senators

Matched the win total of the last D.C. team in a pennant race, the 1945 Senators

Ryan Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a homer to the batters eye (just to the right of the Mets Big Apple). A fan ran out and to get it and probably got ejected from the stadium. He also made a great grab to end the third inning.

The victory also officially eliminated the Mets from the pennant race (Nats Enquirer).

C Kurt Suzuki homered after his opposite number, Kelly Shoppach dropped a pop-up behind the plate. That’s pretty much the Mets season right there, isn’t it?

The front of Stoney’s bar in D.C. is displaying the Nats magic number (DC Sports Bog, The Post), though the magic number to get to the playoffs, not the division.

Speaking of magic number, let’s hope the Nats win tonight and the Braves lose again. I don’t want to get to stay on 15 or hit 14 any longer than absolutely necessary.

Hey, today is Lannanmas Eve (Nationals Journal, The Post)!

Jordan Zimmermann is on the mound for D.C. tonight.

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