The Washington Nationals reached a .500 record last night (37 wins and losses — hey that Strasburg’s number, it MUST BE A SIGN) with a tight 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners. This the latest the team has not had a losing record since October 2, 2005. Only two members of the team were around then, Ryan Zimmerman and ¡LIVAN! and the latter was playing elsewhere for about 3 years of that span.
I thought today’s gamer by Adam Kilgore of The Post was the most successful in getting what .500 means to the team those who follow it. Kilgore framed the story around John Lannan, who along with Zimmerman, endured the leanest years of the franchise. Lannan, like the team has had his struggles. As recently as early May, it looked like Lannan might be headed to another long assignment in the minors like last year. However, Lannan has been excellent of late:
Lannan has allowed two earned runs or less in eight of nine starts, and in his last six starts he has a 1.15 ERA. He lowered his season ERA to 3.40. Five of the last six times Lannan has taken the mound, the Nationals have won.
The 26 year old sinkerballer has AA written on the interior brim of his caps to motivate himself, a constant reminder of his time in the minors last year.
The Nats are saying the right things. Lannan again:
“People doubt our ability, and they have for the last couple years,” Lannan said. “And we have to be able to prove them wrong. We’re not done doing that. We’ve struggled, but it’s a new organization. It’s a great feeling.”
“Nothing,” he said. “If we continue to play good, then it will mean more at the end of the season. A ton of teams are .500 in June.”
But, Zimmerman allowed, “the past two weeks matter.”
Reliever Sean Burnett, who after having a poor stretch has rebounded well – last night he struck out Ichiro, a rare feat and a critical out, said:
“Baseball’s been fun again,” reliever Sean Burnett said. “We knew what we were capable of, but we had to get back to .500 before we could really see how good we were.”
Of course, as @needham_chris noted, Burnett has only played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Nats, so how could it have been fun? Point taken.
Danny Espinosa, who factored in both Nats runs last night (1 RBI, 1 R) observed:
“I think people are going to pay more attention to us. Coming back from where we were, people probably just thought, ‘The Nationals this year, they’re going to flop.’ This team’s not like that. We’re not going to accept losing. It’s obvious losing hasn’t been accepted.”
It’s true, people are starting to take notice. Baseball Tonight did last night:
For an everyday Nats fan, there is certainly room to quibble with post-season aspirations or Jim Riggleman’s in-game managerial aptitude, but Riggleman deserves praise for getting this young team to play cleaner baseball. The errors have been fewer and they run the bases well. There seems to be a level of accountability in the team that has been absent in five years.
I took the day off today to head up to Nationals Park with my dad. So far, I haven’t seen a single win in my 3 trips to 1500 South Capital Street. I didn’t even see a run until my third visit. Hopefully, the Nats can break that streak, while building on their modest 2 game winning streak and shocking 10 of 11 run. A win today would give them a winning record for the first time during the summer since 2005. I am excited. I am pleased that they are at .500.