Giants/Nationals series preview

Rob Carr

If this were college football, maybe it would be the eHarmony Disappointment Bowl

Let me tell you a story. It's about the 2008 Giants.

Wait, hold on, come back, wait, no, stop.

This is a story that has a happy ending.


No, a different happy ending.

Stop it. You're like a teenager who can think only about one thing. A teenager who grew up fat and bald, who remembers that one thing from a lifetime ago because it doesn't exist in the present, and you wish you could go back, how you wish you could go back, oh, no, no, no.

Where … oh, right, the 2008 Giants and a happy ending. See, the 2008 Giants were awful. One of my favorite games to play is "Look at what the 2008 Giants' lineup was on this date." Let's see, August 12

Randy Winn - RF
Ryan Rohlinger - 3B
Aaron Rowand - CF
Bengie Molina - C
Fred Lewis - LF
Rich Aurilia - 1B
Emmanuel Burriss - 2B
Omar Vizquel - SS
Barry Zito - P

The two relievers were Geno Espinelli and Billy Sadler. The Giants, you'll be shocked to learn, did not win this particular game. They didn't win a lot of games that year, to be completely honest with you.

But they were 7-0 against the Nationals that season. Nationals fans in 2008 wished they had Fred Lewis. And Omar Vizquel could catch the ball, at least. The Nationals started an outfield of Wily Mo Pena, Lastings Milledge, and Elijah Dukes 23 times that season. When Dukes was sitting, Austin Kearns would start. They didn't have a GM. They had a @BA_ebooks account that would spam names from five-year-old issues of Baseball America.

The games between the two miserable teams:

Game 1
Jose Castillo hit a three-run homer off Jason Bergmann, who immediately retired after the pitch. Tim Lincecum pitched seven innings of one-run ball, and Alex Hinshaw and Sadler combined for two innings of perfect ball.

Tim Lincecum took a bases-loaded walk.

Game 2
Jonathan Sanchez pitched seven innings for the fourth time in his career. The Nationals took only two walks. Castillo had two more hits, and John Bowker hit a grand slam. Here's video evidence:


Whoa. That's some dystopian memory-scrubbing, that's what that is. I saw it on an episode of FreakyLinks. That game never happened, but it's been planted into your brain.

Game 3
Pretty boring, really. Bowker had another home run. Barry Zito pitched a typical Zito game. Aaron Rowand had two hits, raising his OPS to .922 (!) (in June!). Keiichi Yabu struck out two.

Game 4
Tyler Clippard started for the Nationals. One of the two Nats runs scored on a wild pickoff.

Game 5
Bengie Molina hit two home runs. Zito had a quality start. Ronnie Belliard hit fifth for the Nationals.

Game 6
Kevin Correia gave up 12 hits in 5.2 innings, but the Nationals only scored three earned runs off him. Of the 17 players used by the Nationals, two are still in the majors. One of those two is Austin Kerns, who doesn't really count. The other one is Ryan Zimmerman.

Game 7
Matt Cain threw a shutout. Tim Redding got cained, and the Giants won 1-0. In the eighth inning, Steve Holm singled, Velez pinch-ran, and Dave Roberts knocked him in.

There is a point to this. The Nationals finished with 102 losses. The Padres finished with 99. The Giants so thoroughly dominated the Nationals, they finished with the worst record in baseball. The worst record meant they got the #1 overall pick.

They picked Stephen Strasburg.

Because Jose Castillo, John Bowker, and Bengie hit against pitchers who had no business being in the majors, the Padres don't have Stephen Strasburg. Because Aaron Rowand waited a couple months to be awful, the Padres don't have Stephen Strasburg.

Do you know how annoying it would be to have Strasburg on the Padres? In that ballpark? He would have won the Cy Young last year. He would be throwing a shutout against the Giants this very second. He would be a well-mannered Mat Latos for a new generation.

So a Nationals series is a good time to say thanks. Thank you, Jose Castillo. Thank you, Fred Lewis. 有り難う御座います, Keiichi Yabu. The Padres don't have Strasburg. That's how close it was. The 2008 Giants were pretty lousy. But they weren't lousy enough to lose to the Nationals

Hitter to watch
I'll be honest with you, I wanted to do that scenario up there with Bryce Harper instead of Strasburg. But the 2009 Nationals were so awful, and the 2009 Giants were kinda good. But if Strasburg on the Nationals would be annoying, imagine Harper. He's 20. He doesn't turn 21 for a couple months. And he's getting better:

Year Age PA HR% SO% BB% SO/BB AB/HR
2012 19 597 3.7% 20.1% 9.4% 2.14 24.2
2013 20 331 5.1% 18.7% 12.7% 1.48 16.6
MLB Averages 2.6% 19.8% 7.9% 2.49 34.2

Everything's tending in the right direction. He's striking out less, walking more, and hitting more dingers. If he were doing all of this while moving from Salem-Keizer to Augusta, it would still be really impressive. If he were improving while moving from San Jose to Richmond as a 20-year-old, he would be quite the prospect. And so on, and so on.

He might crash into Yasiel Puig in the outfield one of these days and we'll get to see the Higgs boson, though. Which is to say, being young and talented is great until your knee starts being a dick. Literally! That'd be something, alright. Hard to fight through that particular scenario. But figuratively, too. Harper's already had knee issues. That's the only thing that can stop him from consuming us all.

Hopefully, he'll stay healthy, though. He's really, really fun to watch. And one of these days I'd want Harper to be a part of one of those pseudo-rivalries, like the Giants had with the Phillies for a while. Remember that? The Phillies/Giants rivalry? That was adorable. Maybe the Nats and Giants can get one of those going soon.

All they have to do is stop being crushing disappointments.

Pitcher to watch
No Strasburg, which is a delight. Except the first two pitchers in the series, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez, are generally pretty good against the Giants. Imagine that, good pitchers giving the ol' boys in orange and black a hard time, but it's true. But they haven't been that much better against the Giants than they have against other teams. They're just good pitchers.

But I'll take Gonzalez. Let's see if he can get past the Brett Pill-shaped roadblock the Giants are going to spring on him. At some point, there's a fork in the road with every wild, hard-throwing lefty. One sign reads "Jonathan Sanchez" and one reads "Gio Gonzalez." Pitchers should probably take the latter. Remember when the two were comparable? We're talking in 2009. That was adorable, too! Everything's adorable today.

Prediction
That we all eat moldy orange peels from a recipe in The Anarchist's Cookbook, paint our faces, and pretend this is really the NLCS. Well, that's what I'm doing, at least. You're welcome to join me.

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