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They go for six in a row

Had I been granted the room, I could have written 2,000 words on last night's game. So much to mention... With one clutch hit in the fifth, Jesus Flores did to his slump what Bo Jackson used to do to baseball bats. Anderson Hernandez (the reputed weak-hitting infielder, a designation that's becoming more and more dubious) got three hits and three RBI. The bullpen, a patchwork of six relievers, allowed only two runs in the final 5-2/3. All in all, not bad. Jason Bergmann even had a sac bunt and a hard lineout, which might be even more surprising than Washington's five-game winning streak.

I could go on and on about all of those things. Then again, maybe I'm just wordy.

Anderson Hernandez was able to summarize the dramas with greater succinctness:

"We were down. We go ahead. They tie the game. And we win!"

Maybe he can write today's game story and the Post can save room for bigger photos.

Anyway, today the Nats go for their sixth in a row against an Atlanta team whose pitching has been as awful as advertised. And if that happens... well, perhaps the Nats can legitimately dream about a longshot charge at fourth place in the NL East. That's not exactly what September dreams are made of, but right now, this team is willing to claim any goal that might generate some momentum for 2009.

Here's where it stands right now at the bottom of the division.

4. Atlanta (59-77), --
5. Washington (51-85), 8 GB

Think it can be done? The odds are miniscule, especially given the schedule that Washington plays in Sepetmber. The team would need to play .600 ball or better, I'm guessing, to even have a shot. Then again, one month ago, the Nats and Braves were separated by 12 games... and Washington made up four games... despite a 12-game losing streak. The Braves, needless to say, are playing some bad baseball right now.

By Chico Harlan  |  August 31, 2008; 10:13 AM ET
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Too wordy? Nah. OTOH, pare down Hernandez' summary by one word and you'd have had two six-word headlines from which to choose.

As for catching the Braves, as Charlie often says, you never know. Also, the Nats are currently the hottest team in baseball (longest winning streak). Just wanted to point that out. If I recall correctly, their best month to date was May, when they went 13-16. At 13-15, they have a chance to improve on that today and go strong into September. How about that?

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 31, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

"Had I been granted the room, I could have written 2,000 words on last night's game."

Chico, you surely would not have felt this way for 85 games this year, but, to quote Bill Conlon, "the regular season is a feast with many courses," and last night was, well, to be savored and dwelt on, a portent of a glorious spring! And no wonder, since the Nats' garden is well fertilized with a bunch of anonymous crap from CBS sports about our team mailing it in and not caring. Here's to Manny for keeping them from giving up! Any other comrades celebrating Labor Day at NatsPark?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

people shouldn't be surprised that dukes can take a big walk. i know not everyone is, but i've seen a few people allude that he wouldn't have been able to do this earlier this season.

dukes has an OBP that's 120 pts higher than his avg over his career. he has 3 walks for every 4 hits. he's not barry bonds yet, but the kid knows how to take a walk.

and his career pitcher per plate appearance would be in the top 80 in baseball (based on 490 ABs, about a season's worth). not bad for a rookie.

Posted by: 231 | August 31, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Charlie asked Manny about how a guy like Hernandez can go from hitting .300 in AAA two years ago to .200 this year and then be hitting so well now. Manny said that he felt that he deserved to be with the big league club and was just not happy to be in AAA this year. More props to Manny for seeing a diamond in the rough, with apologies to Mr. Sample Size.

Posted by: flynnie | August 31, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

oops! 10:33 Anonymous was me - this coffee adds speed to my posting tools!

Posted by: flynnie | August 31, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

The Grounds Crew blog appears to have been abandoned, the last post is so old that comments are no longer allowed. They should have signed up a group of regulars from the Nationals Journal, people who know that the season lasts six months.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Catching Atlanta would really be a fantastic way to end this dismal season on a high note. A more realistic goal is to get the 12 more wins needed to hit the magic 63 total for the season. Taking five of six from the Phillies and/or Mets wouldn't be bad either.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

The Mets 'pen has been struggling of late.

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 31, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

mostly apologies to mr sample size, flynnie. even 200 hitters sometimes have hot streaks. ;)

Posted by: 231 | August 31, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

"Had I been granted the room, I could have written 2,000 words on last night's game. "

Chico, if you want the room to write, and the subject you want to write about is the Nationals, or indeed baseball at all, you need to find a new paper to write for. Every word you have written since before the Olympics (save I think one off-day piece on what was obviously a veeerrryyy ssslllooowww news day) has been buried deep in the bowels of the WaPo sports section. Twelve game losing streak, five game winning streak, whatever. The Post doesn't care about the Nats, except to provide saturation coverage on any hint that no one else is paying attention either. If some other TV show was garnering only 9,000 viewers a night, would they be writing stories about that? No, they'd be ignoring it. They wasted more ink, photos and front page space on a tennis match that drew 2,000 people live and had no TV coverage at all than they did on Nationals games that drew 30,000 people to the park and had 9,000 TV viewers. Shows you where the Post's priorities lie, doesn't it?

And hey, the Olympics are over and Sheinin is home. Where's my MLB Sunday?

Posted by: this pastime of nationals | August 31, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

"(the reputed weak-hitting infielder, a designation that's becoming more and more dubious)"


I think Austin Kearns' corpse even twitched and hit .300 for a week.

Posted by: Chris | August 31, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Go for 4th place? Are you kidding?

Let's remember the priorities: 1) secure the 1st pick in next year's draft; 2) play entertaining baseball.

Posted by: Ashburn | August 31, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Overtaking Atlanta is a heady goal. Last time we dreamed about rising up, the Nats tanked on a 12 game losing streak.

Let's live day to day and think positive.

Bergman, with his first Sac of the season, got himself out of the record books. That's progress.

How about not being the worst team in baseball? That's doable.

Steady rises in the BAs and slugging of Dukes, Zimmy, Flores, Milledge. Also progress.

The years longest winning streak? Doable.

But catching Atlanta? That's aiming high.

Posted by: Natty Dread | August 31, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I tried to post a three times in August but I guess I didn't meet the high standards of journalism expected from unpaid, non-professional writers.

Posted by: Grounds Crew Member | August 31, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Please ignore the superfluous "a" in my post. Thank you.

Posted by: Grounds Crew Member | August 31, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

To H w/the draft! Let's win 26! Besides the fact that I have to attend many of the upcoming home games on my syndicate's plan (optimism has its costs - I was sure the new arms and bats would have us in the hunt!)- this team is showing that good speed and small-ball can produce wins in this park, devil opposing pitchers, and, combined with a little power, make next September one to remember! If it could happen in 2005, it could happen anytime!

Posted by: flynnie | August 31, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Catching Hotlanta, not a reasonable goal (unless they completely tank). Getting to 63 wins a good and probable goal. Getting to 68 wins...that is what the Nats should be reaching for.

The losses, this year, are not be out of the realm of what we should have actually expected. I'm afraid that last year was really an aberration, given the youth and talent level.

What is really frustrating about this year is the injuries and the A/Bs that it cost our young players. We can see that, with the progress that Milledge and Dukes (to say nothing of Zimm), have made as they have come back and gained experience, all three are working towards becoming the sort of cornerstone of a lineup capable of scoring a lot of runs.

If we go by the C/W that says that a position player needs 1,500 PAs to reach their competency level, this year's injuries have probably cost us 1/2 season.

Posted by: Catcher50 | August 31, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Grounds Crew Member: So the Post pre-screens your blog entries? Interesting that they would just let it die with a month to go, must not have been enough hits for them to bother. Sorry if I was wrong blaming the bloggers if it was the editors who aren't bothering to post your submissions.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I'm with you, flynnie: forget the draft pick, let's get some wins and finish on a high note!

To "this pastime," there was a note in today's paper that MLB Sunday would start up again next week. Yay!

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 31, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

68 wins would mean shedding the title of the worst team in baseball that we have to live with everytime we read an out of town game report. It would prove that injuries were one of the prime reasons for the poor showing this year and give much needed hope for 2009.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 31, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie, I'm with you on the draft. Getting to 63 wins, even if it moves us back to 4th / 5th in the draft, is fine. IIRC, Zimmerman was 4th pick, as was Matusz. Wieters, even lower. Come up with guys like that, even Sheinin will show some love.

Other than Nick Johnson, Dukes is probably the Nat I would want up there if I wanted a batter to work a count. Zimmerman and Lastings should take notes on his at bats.

What I am hoping for in September is Lastings to hit like he has in August, pull his average up 5 - 10 points, and get to 18 HRs and 23 steals. A few deep pops from Zimmerman, too, with some plate discipline. And ED to win a good conduct medal. Get all three, a few nice starts, and I'll be well pleased.

Posted by: PTBNL | August 31, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Also, we won't make it to the park today as we have a few items to scratch off the weekend to-do list, but have fun if you do go, Flynnie (unless you meant tomorrow in which case have fun then, too ;-)). Go Nats!

Posted by: natsfan1a | August 31, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

anon grounds crew member...

if you look at what a relatively active blog is, 3 times a week would be relatively active.

3 times a month? that's not much of a blog. and with, what, 8 or so bloggers (i didn't bother going to look for exact #s), one would hope you could average at least an entry a day amongst them.

i know the team hasn't exactly been exciting to inspire positive blogging, but it really looks to me as if this was a failed experiment. i don't know whether it was due to who was chosen, the subject, the process, or what. but it certainly hasn't been successful for the whole season.

Posted by: 231 | August 31, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Lets face it Chico...more room to write about the Nats is a pipedream, especially now that oval ball has started up. I appreciate your snarkism, though I hope repurcussions aren't to follow. Perhaps next season when September rolls around and the Nats are on a pace for 94 wins, we'll see the reigns loosend on the column space. Thats my answer to the pipedream.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | August 31, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm up!

Posted by: Lineups post | August 31, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

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