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A remarkable pitching matchup, a remarkable season

Tonight, a 35-year-old pitcher who throws his fastball at 84.5 miles per hour will try to claim the league's lowest ERA and keep the Washington Nationals atop the National League wild card standings. Yeah, that sounds about right.

The Nationals' season already has been pretty remarkable, and the most enchanting moment yet may come tonight. If they win, they'll only need to hold on for 126 more games to make the playoffs. If they win and the Phillies lose, they will be tied for first place. If they win, there's a good chance Livan Hernandez will hold the best ERA in baseball.

Hernandez and his mystifying sinker - a fastball faster than only Jamie Moyer's and Tim Wakefield's - will try to topple Ubalado Jimenez, whose average 96.8 mile-per-hour fastball is the fastest in the majors. Jimenez enters with a 0.93 ERA, the only ERA lower than Hernandez's 1.04. If the Nats can get to him - which they couldn't in a 2-0 loss a couple weeks back - and Hernandez can shut down the Rockies, then Hernandez will overtake him.

Hernandez besting Jimenez would give the Nationals the pitching triple crown - Hernandez the best ERA, Tyler Clippard the most wins, Matt Capps the most saves.

A victory's big-picture meaning would add to this year's turnaround, the magnitude of which is staggering. If they win tonight, the Nationals will be six games above .500. Ryan Zimmerman was called up Sept. 1, 2005, and he has spent one day playing for a team six games over .500.

The Nationals have yet to add Stephen Strasburg, who will give them an Ubaldo Jimenez of their very own, or Drew Storen, who will give Clippard and Capps the support they need. Until last night, their offense really hadn't broken out. And they're still hanging right at the top of a muddled National League that, with more than a fifth of the season done, remains wide open. PECOTA projections, one of the prediction standards, gives the Nationals a 23 percent chance to make the playoffs. That's better than the Red Sox.

Maybe it's still too early to thinking too seriously about playoff races and such. Maybe not. But tonight, Jimenez against Hernandez, is sure going to be fun.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 14, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

Adam, I know you threw in the obligatory "if the Nats win," but please curb the enthusiasm. Plenty of time to get excited over opportunities to extend the season, etc. Let's enjoy how well the team is playing and take it a game at a time.

P.S. Most of us are of course watching the standings and thinking the same thoughts; we just worry about jinxing the team by expressing those hopes.

Posted by: NatsPark408Byrd306 | May 14, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully it doesn't rain like last night.... Well 14 runs, maybe we need it to rain....hahaha

Should be interesting either way....

Posted by: punchdaclock | May 14, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know why Slaton picks up the win for last night? I know why Lannon didn't get it, but the Nats never trailed last night. Why wasn't it Batista? I'm not complaining, Batista didn't deserve a win. But I'd like to know the rule that gives it to Slaton.

Posted by: elijah383 | May 14, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Jinx schminx!!!

If ever there was a reason for carpe diem, this is it. Strive for irrational exuberance! Root for the Cubs in their day game against the Phillies. Be satisfied that the Nats have the same record as St. Louis.

If it lasts, it lasts.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | May 14, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Re: Slaten getting the win, in cases such as that where the starting pitcher doesn't qualify for the win with 5 innings, the official scorer is then given the latitude to award the win to the reliever he chooses to have been the most effective (discounting if there is a save.) Since Batista allowed some runs, Slaten did not, and Bruney's scoreless inning came with an 8-run lead, the guy in Colorado decided to go with Slaten.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | May 14, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Elijah great question. I was stumped too so searched the google and the rule blew my mind, I had no idea this was the case. Copying and pasting directly from mlb.com, I know its long but you really need to read all of it:

Rule 10.17(a) Comment: Whenever the score is tied, the game becomes a new contest insofar as the winning pitcher is concerned. Once the opposing team assumes the lead, all pitchers who have pitched up to that point and have been replaced are excluded from being credited with the victory. If the pitcher against whose pitching the opposing team gained the lead continues to pitch until his team regains the lead, which it holds to the finish of the game, that pitcher shall be the winning pitcher.
(b) If the pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, is a starting pitcher who has not completed
(1) five innings of a game that lasts six or more innings on defense, or
(2) four innings of a game that lasts five innings on defense, then the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the relief pitcher, if there is only one relief pitcher, or the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment was the most effective, if there is more than one relief pitcher.
Rule 10.17(b) Comment: It is the intent of Rule 10.17(b) that a relief pitcher pitch at least one complete inning or pitch when a crucial out is made, within the context of the game (including the score), in order to be credited as the winning pitcher. If the first relief pitcher pitches effectively, the official scorer should not presumptively credit that pitcher with the win, because the rule requires that the win be credited to the pitcher who was the most effective, and a subsequent relief pitcher may have been most effective. The official scorer, in determining which relief pitcher was the most effective, should consider the number of runs, earned runs and base runners given up by each relief pitcher and the context of the game at the time of each relief pitcher’s appearance. If two or more relief pitchers were similarly effective, the official scorer should give the presumption to the earlier pitcher as the winning pitcher.

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | May 14, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

elijah383, the rules give the official scorer the right, when the starter doesn't go five innings, to basically award the win to a reliever who is the most effective pitcher.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 14, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I love red kool-aid. I drink it by the gallon. For those fans who have have hung in there for all 5+ seasons, I raise my glass to you. The rest of you, welcome aboard, enjoy the ride. I've been rooting for this team since day one and I'm not about to stop now, even if this is only a dream. This is a wonderful ride we're on, may it continue, please. GO NATS....STAY HOT

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 14, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

elijah,

It's part of the infamous "more effective" provisions of the Official Scorer's judgment. See Rule 10 of the MLB Rules.

See Rule 10.17 (b) & (c):

For those that want to read it. In Part:

"...then the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the relief pitcher, if there is only one relief pitcher, or the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment was the most effective, if there is more than one relief pitcher.

Rule 10.17(b) Comment: It is the intent of Rule 10.17(b) that a relief pitcher pitch at least one complete inning or pitch when a crucial out is made, within the context of the game (including the score), in order to be credited as the winning pitcher. If the first relief pitcher pitches effectively, the official scorer should not presumptively credit that pitcher with the win, because the rule requires that the win be credited to the pitcher who was the most effective, and a subsequent relief pitcher may have been most effective. The official scorer, in determining which relief pitcher was the most effective, should consider the number of runs, earned runs and base runners given up by each relief pitcher and the context of the game at the time of each relief pitcher’s appearance. If two or more relief pitchers were similarly effective, the official scorer should give the presumption to the earlier pitcher as the winning pitcher."

(c). The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.

Bottom line: Scorer's call.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 14, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I see others beat me to the punch on the winning pitcher thing...

BTW, the heck with jinxes. I'm supposed to worry about jinxing the Nats' chances of doing something I didn't think they were going to do in the first place? Please.

Additional BTW, the Nats are now 20-14. By the time, they won their 20th game last year, they were 20-46.

Savor, people, savor.

Posted by: baltova1 | May 14, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Or to put it another way in game context & looking at Batista's and Slaton's pitching lines -- the Official Scorer deemed Slaton the "most effective" reliever.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 14, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

You can still savor it, even though the Nats are actually 20-15...

Posted by: baltova1 | May 14, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

This is off topic but I am listening to Jim "I killed the Nats for Years" Bowden on XM Radio kvetch about how the Nats have not called up Je-SUS yet. Now, I would love to see him but the fact that old Jimbo is so annoyed that he is not up yets makes me think that Rizzo is doing a bang-up job. The motto I live by WW'TJD ("What Wouldn't Jim Do")

Posted by: mastroj | May 14, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

From the post: "...Ubalado Jimenez, whose average 96.8 mile-per-hour fastball is the fastest in the majors."

This month. I hear the Nats have a young guy coming up next month who has enough heat to melt a box girder bridge.

Posted by: gilbertbp | May 14, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I do not see how we are going to win tonight with Jimenez on the mound and some of the break possibly being taken out of Hernandez's pitches up in the high altitude. I'll watch and pray, but we've got about as much chance of winning tonight as Matt Chico has of beating Josh Johnson.

Posted by: souldrummer | May 14, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

gilbertbp: Maybe, but I'd be just as happy to see him throw that nasty two-seamer for quick ground outs. And the menacing slurve. And the devastating change-up. And the occasional 98 mph four-seamer under Chase Utley's chin.

Trying to stay medium is hard.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 14, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Trying to stay medium is hard.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 14, 2010 2:43 PM

Trying to stay hot is hard. Wait, that didn't sound right...

Posted by: joemktg1 | May 14, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, all (Baltova, Petey, MJHoya, GoNatsGo, anyone else) for the responses on the winning pitcher thing. Congrats to Slaton and GO LIVO and GO NATS!

Posted by: elijah383 | May 14, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

RE: Rule 10. There have been a couple of fairly egregious examples of games where the Official Scorer gave the win to a pitcher who supposedly was the "most effective," but most would argue otherwise.

The other thing – although not related to this discussion on winning pitchers is the save rule. There was a semi-famous game years ago where relief pitcher Willie Banks (I think he was with the Bosox) was awarded a save in a 22-4 drubbing of Tampa Bay. The reason? He pitched 4 innings in relief after the starter left, thus satisfying one of the required save rule situations, i.e. pitched 3 innings or more. Now that's a cheap save.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | May 14, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

>Trying to stay medium is hard.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 14, 2010 2:43 PM

Trying to stay hot is hard. Wait, that didn't sound right...

Posted by: joemktg1

No, trying to stay hard is hard. But I digress.

When you hot you hot
and when you not you not

We hot

Posted by: Brue | May 14, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Waiting for Wang is hard.

Posted by: JDB1 | May 14, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

You are a card Brue! Baltova, the key stat is when did the NATS reach 20 in 2005?

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | May 14, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Additional BTW, the Nats are now 20-14. By the time, they won their 20th game last year, they were 20-46.

Savor, people, savor.

Was that July Wow

Posted by: mintbucket | May 14, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

They beat the Cubs on May 15th, 2005 to go to 20-17.

Posted by: Bethesdangit1 | May 14, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Hurrah!! We are 3 games ahead of the long rememered sainted 2005 pace.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 5

Posted by: adhardwick | May 14, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Strasburg coming up, Storen coming up and the LeBron of baseball, Bryce Harper will be picked AND signed. Next year Jordan Zimmerman should be completely healed from Tommy John surgery...man oh man.

Posted by: nativedc | May 14, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

In case anyone is interested, they just mentioned that they will be discussing the Nats and the Silver Elvis wig on the Scott Van Pelt show on ESPN2 coming up.

Posted by: LColors | May 14, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Lets not get carried away. At some point this season there will probably be a hefty losing streak where everyone will jump ship but lets wait until mid-Aug before we start the playoff talk. But in the meantime it is fun to look at the standings and wonder what if.....

Posted by: Shiba-fussa | May 14, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Well, if we're going to whinge about pitching stats and rules, I always thought it was stupid that if a pitcher makes a fielding error that leads to a run being scored, it's an unearned, not an earned, run for that particular pitcher.

On a somewhat related note, it's also stupid that one can blow a save and still end up being the winning pitcher (cough...clippard). :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 14, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Zimmerman has been playing great since he returned from his second hammy and looks like he may be on pace for a 35 HR season. Still would like to see the Nats get Dunn signed to a LT deal so we have our cleanup hitter in place for the next few years. It's more than a coincidence that Zimm has been getting better pitches to hit the last two season with Dunn hitting behind him as well as Willingham.

Posted by: wizfan89 | May 14, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the heads up, lcolor. I missed the beginning of the segment, but it sounded like Zimm did get the Elvis wig. Maybe they'll have some footage on the pregame tonight.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 14, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"Hurrah!! We are 3 games ahead of the long rememered sainted 2005 pace."

Would it that the 2005 pace were knocked from its undeserved perch!

Posted by: Section506 | May 14, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

In case anyone is interested, they just mentioned that they will be discussing the Nats and the Silver Elvis wig on the Scott Van Pelt show on ESPN2 coming up.

Posted by: LColors | May 14, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see the locals get some luv from the national media.

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 14, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I do not see how we are going to win tonight with Jimenez on the mound and some of the break possibly being taken out of Hernandez's pitches up in the high altitude. I'll watch and pray, but we've got about as much chance of winning tonight as Matt Chico has of beating Josh Johnson.

Posted by: souldrummer | May 14, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Oh, wait . . .

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 14, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Technically Chico didn't beat Josh Johnson and got a no decision. Was at the game and remember thinking that the B-team lineup + Chico was a doomed proposition against Johnson. But hey, that's why they play the games.

Posted by: souldrummer | May 14, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

It is laughably early to talk about this season

Our SP is terrible still and until that improves, we will still be shaky

If our SP stays the same, we will go through some BAD losing streaks

Posted by: Bious | May 14, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Bious, stop bumming us out and go get yourself some Kool-Aid.

Posted by: thelonghaul | May 14, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see the locals get some luv from the national media.

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 14, 2010 4:08 PM

Local national media... Van Pelt is from Olney. Though I'd bet he's an Orioles fan.

Posted by: Kev29 | May 14, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Adam, I know you threw in the obligatory "if the Nats win," but please curb the enthusiasm. Plenty of time to get excited over opportunities to extend the season, etc. Let's enjoy how well the team is playing and take it a game at a time.

P.S. Most of us are of course watching the standings and thinking the same thoughts; we just worry about jinxing the team by expressing those hopes.

Posted by: NatsPark408Byrd306 | May 14, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

First of all, people who lecture others on "curbing your enthusiasm" are among the most unhappy people on earth. Second of all, people who "worry about jinxing the team" are among the least intelligent people on earth. There are actually studies that show a correlation between those who believe in jinxes and a lack of intelligence.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 14, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Our SP is terrible still and until that improves, we will still be shaky

If our SP stays the same, we will go through some BAD losing streaks

Posted by: Bious | May 14, 2010 5:30 PM

Boooooooo

Posted by: Kev29 | May 14, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

A better chance of making the playoffs than the Red Sox? Take THAT, Larry Lucchino! (Remember his putdown of the Nats last September?)

Posted by: VPaterno | May 14, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

@VPaterno:

Leave Larry Lucchino out of this. All he ever did was get Camden Yards built, turn the O's into a world class franchise before choosing not to work for a dreadful new owner, build Petco, rebuild the Padres, and then end the Curse of the Bambino.

He was right about the Nats last September, but things have changed since then. They changed the day the Nats signed Pudge.

Posted by: observer9 | May 14, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

"Adam, I know you threw in the obligatory "if the Nats win," but please curb the enthusiasm. Plenty of time to get excited over opportunities to extend the season, etc. Let's enjoy how well the team is playing and take it a game at a time."

NOOOOOOO, lets go crazy and hope we catch lighting in a bottle, we can catch, we can hit and we can pitch......why not? We CAN WIN!!! Go to the ballpark, scream and yell, have faith and give these guys your energy, anything can happen, the Habs beat the Caps and Pens,,,,,

Posted by: yodude1 | May 14, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

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