June 17, 2011
Back home again in Our Nation's Capital, on the heels of a successful road trip, the Washington Nationals managed to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals this week. The Nationals thus extended their winning streak to six games. On Tuesday, Ryan Zimmerman appeared in the lineup for the first time since he went on the disabled list in mid-April. Ryan soon demonstrated how much he means to the team by hitting an RBI double down the right field line in the seventh inning, sparking a six-run rally, and the Nats came from behind to win, 8-6. On Wednesday the Nats' hitters finally let loose with a barrage of extra-base hits, including two homers by Michael Morse (his 11th and 12th), and one each by Danny Espinosa and Jayson Werth. No one was happier than starting pitcher Livan Hernandez, who pitched a complete game, giving up just three hits and no runs. It was the ninth shutout of his long career. Livan, who has been getting practically no run support at all this year, improved his record to 4-8. Final score: a whopping 10-0. See the Washington Post. On Thursday, the Nats had a 4-2 lead late in the game, as hopes rose for a sweep against the Cards, but solo home runs by Albert Pujols (in the 8th) and Yadier Molina (in the 9th) sent the game into extra innings. Would the Nationals blow it again. NO! Thanks to Danny Espinosa, who homered into the bullpen in right field in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Nats won the game 7-4 and pulled off the improbable sweep. As a consequence, the Nationals pulled ahead of the Florida Marlins in the NL East after spending nearly a full month alone in the division cellar.
Tonight interleague play resumed, and the Baltimore Orioles outhit the Nationals 18-10, but they just couldn't capitalize on the many opportunities they created, and the home team prevailed, 8-4. That makes it seven in a row for the Nats, their longest series of consecutive victories since the end of the 2009 season, when they won their final seven games. Ian Desmond was the hero tonight, with two hits, two RBIs, two stolen bases, and was also great defensively, including a double play. It just shows once again that the Nationals have a very deep roster full of top-notch talent, and they are not far from the point at which they will be considered serious rivals of the best teams in baseball.
First baseman Adam LaRoche had surgery on left shoulder to repair a torn labrum, and is not expected to play any more this year. See MLB.com. It's a disappointment, since he was one of the key acquisitions made by the Nationals in the off-season, but Michael Morse has done extremely well filling in at first base. So much so that he is a legitimate contender for the 2011 National League All Star team.
In Omaha, meanwhile, the top-ranked University of Virginia Cavaliers and seven other teams are assembling for the College World Series, which begins this weekend...