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What a relief (lineups added edition)

So pretty stellar job last night by the bullpen, no? In case you're counting, that's 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB (I repeat: 0 BB) and 7 K.

All that has been asked of the pitching -- from spring training forward -- is to keep the team in the game. Well, look what happens when the pitching keeps the team in the game. The Nationals' ERA in May is 4.00, 10th in the National League. This is, let's be clear, not spectacular. But it is so far from embarrassing that it brings warm, fuzzy feelings to pitching coach Randy St. Claire and his troops. Over the last six games (since the team returned home from that 1-8 road trip), the ERA is 2.83, third in the NL (behind San Diego and Houston) and sixth in all of baseball.

A small sample size, yes, and there's lots of wood to chop coming up, what with Patterson and Hill and Williams (0-5, yes) out and now Speigner and -- gulp -- Micah Bowie in the rotation. And yes, I screwed up yesterday. It's Bowie, not Traber, into that open spot on Sunday. Traber had made two starts at Class AAA Columbus, and when he was called up, I just chucked him right into the rotation, didn't I? Looks like that Acta guy knows what he's doing, considering Traber pitched an inning and ended up getting the win last night. The bullpen's ERA: 3.75, which now ranks seventh in the NL and 13th in all of baseball. Again, not spectacular, but a long, long way from where it started out.

Let's just consider this for a minute: The Nationals have won five of their last six. Repeat that to yourself.

I'll give you a few updates during the game today, but I also want you to consider a few things. The Orioles come to town tomorrow for a three-game, weekend set. I think last year we figured this would be a tremendous rivalry, blah blah blah. And I always think back to what Frank Robinson said: "It will only be a rivalry over time, and if both teams are good. It has to be competitive."

I tend to agree. But do any of you think there's more juice to this series this weekend, or are they just three more games on the schedule?

Discuss. I may even tell you about my experience with Elisabeth Shue yesterday, if you're interested.

But for now, here's your lineups. A bit intriguing, really:

Atlanta:
Diaz -- 7
Renteria -- 6
C. Jones -- 5
A. Jones -- 8
Francoeur -- 9
Woodward -- 4
Saltalamacchia -- 2
Thorman -- 3
James -- 1

With the lefty Chuck James going for the Braves, a right-handed heavy lineup for the Nationals. And Dmitri Young's baalky achilles tendon isn't allowing him to play, so you get Tony Batista's first start in the field, which means you have to watch his crazy first-pitch routine out there if you're at the park.

Washington:
Lopez -- 4
Belliard -- 6 (just a day off for Guzman, Acta said)
Zimmerman -- 5
Church -- 7
Kearns -- 9
Batista -- 3
Flores -- 2
Logan -- 8
Chico -- 7

Beautiful day.

By Barry Svrluga  |  May 17, 2007; 9:38 AM ET
 
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