Streaks are hard things.
Streaks take you out of seeing the Big Picture, and they change your focus to the tiny reality of the streak. Streaks of either kind aren’t microcosms, they’re localized disruptions of the normal. As a good friend said Sunday, “Losing streaks are the result of talent, while winning streaks are the result of luck.”
The Nationals came into Sunday’s game riding as high as they’ve been all season, winners of eight straight and 10 of their last 13. They didn’t hardly look like the same team on the field on Sunday. Maybe they indulged a bit too much at Saturday night’s Dream Foundation Gala, but the Nats just couldn’t get it going. 3 errors, and some rough plate appearances were their undoing, and they dropped the game, and the streak, in a 7-3 loss in front of 35,439.
Ryan Zimmerman had a rough time in the second inning today as he struggled to get used to his new throwing motion. On a ground ball that looked like a routine 5-4-3 double play, Zimmerman paused and threw the ball wild into right field. The very next batter hit a soft ground ball toward Zimmerman, who charged, and thought about making the play, but ended up holding on to the ball. Given what had just happened, an errant throw there would’ve been a far greater disaster, and the Nationals did escape having given up just one run. It’s easy to see that Zimmerman still has work to do to process the change in his throwing position, and it’s going to be very tough on the Gold Glove-winner until he can master the new arm slot.
Zimmerman wasn’t the only one with sloppy defense today, with Wilson Ramos missing both attempts to catch runners in theft with throws that were far off the mark. Jayson Werth bobbled a ball in right, as did Roger Bernadina. The Nationals today looked far off their usual mark, and the Orioles took every bit of advantage today. The five runs given up by starter Tom Gorzelanny were enough to beat the Nats, and they came from all parts of the Orioles lineup. The ten hits he gave up in four and two thirds were evenly spread, and only Robert Andino and Nolan Reimold went without against Gorzelanny.
The Nationals had trouble against Baltimore’s journeyman starter Jakubauskas, who struck out six in five innings, and made few mistakes. Though the Nats got three against him in the fourth and fifth innings, there are problems with the team’s batting. Leadoff hitter Jayson Werth was 1-12 this series, drawing just one walk. While Zimmerman did have a homer in yesterday’s win, he was still just 4 for 13 this series, and Mike Morse was just 3 for 11. These are not hot bats right now, even with the scores that you’re seeing.
The writer’s job, when it comes to sports, is a difficult one. You are there to comfort when the team is losing, and you are there to bring people back to reality when they are winning. The Nats had some great moments on their eight game tear, and there were reasons to be pretty excited as a fan, but as much talk of the wild card as I’ve seen in the past 24 hours, today’s loss was remedy. Are the Nationals better than they were last year? Absolutely. Better than 2009? Surely. But to talk playoffs after just a winning streak is to be drunk on those victories.
The Stars: Roger Bernadina went 3-4 today with third homer in four days, and fourth of the season. The Shark’s batting average is up to .281. Sean Burnett and Collin Balester both had strong outings in relief today, combining for 3 IP, 2H and 1 unearned run. Balester’s curve in specific looked quite good today.
The Bars: Jayson Werth, 0-4 and a fielding error, was not strong today. His 1-12 this series has cost him 8 points of BA and OBP, and 17 points of SLG. Wilson Ramos was errant with two throws today, both wide to the right. While he’d had a wide throw on Friday night, it was perfectly placed to catch the runner. While the Nats have a league-leading CS%, it’s always tough to see plays like that.