Have I mentioned that I love you people?
Forgive the late post, but flew into La Guardia, took a cab into Manhattan, grabbed lunch at Ess-a Bagel on 3rd between 50th and 51st (I mean, can you get a heaping turkey sandwich on an unbelievable bagel with Swiss and tomato and lettuce and onion with a drink for $7 in D.C.???? I think not) and then jumped on the John Rocker Special - the 7 Train - out to Shea. Just getting into the press box.
I want to commend you all for the showing yesterday. Post after post after post about reasons to stay interested or dismiss the Nationals. It's almost like the team responded to the question, because last night was pretty dang interesting, no?
So the one thing that we still await: A run in the first inning. Or the second. Or the third. (I mean, is that incredible or what? Three innings. No runs. (Someone who is mean-spirited could point out that Little Leaguers only play six innings, anyway. But we don't know people like that, so we move on.))
Anyway, last I checked, there were 128 comments on the post from yesterday, plus 30-something (remember that show?) on the post with the lineups. That would represent a high for the Journal, and the entire staff here thanks you for chiming in, and for generally discussing the matter in a civil manner.
All right, a few Didn't Make the Paper items:
John Patterson: Tonight's starter was one of the Nationals felled by flu-like symptoms this week, and he said it was really in his head and sinuses two days ago. But I asked him yesterday, and he said he felt much better. "It's not like it's making my whole body ache," he said. So no excuses, flu-wise, tonight. This is the kind of start Patterson is supposed to win - facing a rookie in Pelfrey, with the Nationals searching for something stable, some semblance of momentum. It's very cold here, and the wind is whipping in off the bay, as it always does here. (In April, take the temperature in Manhattan, subtract 15 degrees, and you've got the environment at Shea.)
Schneider getting doubled-up: Did anyone see the play on which Jason Bergmann tried to lay down a bunt and instead popped it up? That was bad enough, but then Brian Schneider - who was on second - ventured off too far, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones caught him off guard and made him look foolish, doubling him up. "I took a bad bunt," Schneider said, "and made it worse."
But some insight into the play: Schneider said he was caught in-between, because he figured Jones would let the ball drop and try to get a 5-4-3 double play. In fact, Chipper faked like he was going to let the ball drop, according to Schneider, and that was just enough to get Schneider to take one step toward third. He was dead from there. A veteran move.
With all the activity in the game, I didn't really address the lineup changes in the $.35 edition, though obviously Belliard moving to second makes sense. The other reason: They're not getting much from Kory Casto and Chris Snelling - though Snelling was hit by pitches twice and walked last night.
The problem with the lineup changes are obvious: Now, the bottom of the order features three left-handed hitters in a row in Church, Schneider and Casto/Snelling. That could be a problem late in a game against, say, Mets closer Billy Wagner, a lefty. This team, though, is fundamentally flawed, so getting Belliard up to the top of the order where he can perhaps provide some RBI chances for Zimmerman/Kearns makes sense.
(Speaking of Kearns, he'd be the National I think has been most victimized by hard-hit balls that have been right at somebody. Yes, he has his share of strikeouts, but just in the Atlanta series he had at least four bullets that could have been hits but were directly at defenders.)
I think that's about it for now. No lineups yet. Nick Johnson taking the field for his daily workout with head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz. He's in left field, almost in the exact corresponding spot to where he snapped his femur last September.
Man, this lineup would look a bit different with him, wouldn't it? The top the same (still mediocre), but right-handed hitting Zimmerman third, left-handed hitting Johnson fourth, right-handed hitting Kearns fifth, left-handed hitting Church sixth. I like it much better.
I'll try to get you some lineups. And please, feel free to chime in and continue yesterday's discussion. We can keep talking about that all summer.
April 13, 2007; 3:20 PM ET
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