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Nationals/Giants series preview

Rob Carr


That's how close the Giants were to playing the Nationals in the NLCS. If you want something adorable, revisit this thread to see for whom you were rooting. The poll showed the Cardinals were supposed to be the easier draw, which was an opinion that looked mighty stupid when they were up 3-1. Eventually, though, the masses were right. The Giants played the Cardinals, and it all worked out.

But I've never forgotten that Desmond play. You think the Giants won the World Series because of Pablo Sandoval gnawing on a bamboo Verlander, because Prince Fielder was waved around third for no good reason, because Miguel Cabrera popped up with the bases loaded, and because Ryan Theriot was a DH. And that's all true. But if the Nationals are in the NLCS, everything's different. Maybe it isn't that the Nationals would have beat the Giants. Heck, maybe the Giants would have swept them. But then Matt Cain starts Game 1 of the World Series, and maybe he doesn't have his best stuff …

That kind of thing. So I've watched that Desmond GIF 83 times. There are thousands of instances like it in any championship season. That's just one of the ones that sticks with me, and it's what I think of when the Nationals are mentioned. It'll be like that for the rest of the regular season, at least.

The other thing that I think of when the Nationals come up: They were supposed to be the perfect team. They signed Dan Haren to a one-year deal and traded for a center fielder, and then they were out of moves. They had to make crap up. They traded Mike Morse because they had too many power-hitting corner outfielders. They signed Rafael Soriano for a billion dollars because they had money and a spot for him. Relievers are the first-class upgrade on your flight to Paris. I mean, if the hotel is four stars, and you have no problems paying for the restaurant … why not get wider seats and more foot room?

They were the consensus #1 team in baseball before the season started. From lineup slots one through eight, rotation spots one through five, and bullpen roles from closer to mop-up man, the Nationals were stacked.

They're having a very Giants season so far. They're a couple games over .500, and it seems like they have room to get a little worse. A bullet-pointed list of their foibles so far:

  • They have more errors than anyone in baseball
  • Even the Giants
  • Whoa
  • Adam LaRoche is doing the Aubrey Huff every-other-year thing
  • Dan Haren has been pretty bad -- the Ryan Vogelsong of pitching
  • Danny Espinosa has been stunningly bad -- three walks and 38 strikeouts in 135 at-bats, while hitting .163/.191/.296
  • Remember those Gio Gonzalez comps for Jonathan Sanchez back in 2010? Gonzalez does
  • Injuries to Jayson Werth and Ross Detwiler
  • Two of their bench players have more than 50 at-bats and an OPS+ of 6

You can make a similar list for the Giants. The names and positions would be different, but there are some easily identifiable reasons why the Giants aren't in first place right now, even though a lot of smart people thought they might be. So it goes for the Nationals.

Now we get to the part where we talk about how we don't trust the Nationals' lackluster start. I'll start. I don't trust the Nationals' lackluster start. I'm still expecting them to win their division. It wasn't that long ago that we were treated to 300 different "Can the Braves win 116 games?" articles, so you know how quickly things can change this early in the season.

Remember that Nationals series last July? It was kind of a low point for the 2012 Giants, not counting the excommunication of Melky Cabrera. The Giants came in playing poorly, and the Nationals completely dismantled them. But the Giants were still a good team. That's what I'm hoping for from the Nationals. One more hiccup before they start being the team they were supposed to be.

Somewhere, there's a Nationals writer thinking the same thing about the Giants.

Hitter to watch
Bryce Harper is amazing. Watch him. At some point in your life, someone will ask you which baseball players you wish you could have seen. You probably have a ready-made list right now. Willie Mays. Ty Cobb. Cool Papa Bell. Cy Young. All great answers.

But in 50 years, people will give "Bryce Harper" as one of their answers. So here you go. This is assuming he doesn't run through a fence like the guy in The Natural or have Nick Johnson bones and muscles that haven't been discovered yet. If he stays healthy, he'll be one of those players. Which makes it kind of funny that a lot of folks are more worried about the mohawk and clown-question side of him.

Pitcher to watch
Stephen Strasburg is literally the pitcher to watch! This Tuesday, at McCovey Chronicles' Night at the Yard! We're meeting up at Zeke's to eat and drink over a covered pool table like we do every year, and then we'll head over to watch Strasburg take on Matt Cain. Literally!

Also of note: Strasburg's strikeouts are down this year. I remember there being an similar early-season freakout about Cain in 2007, so I don't want to read too much into it. It's the kind of thing that could be fixed by a 15-strikeout performance in a pitcher's park, but it's not like that's going to happen on Tuesday, right? Right?

Goofus gets drunk and falls down the steps for the third straight year*. McC Night at the Yard, everyone!

* Well, it's like that in the McC graphic novel, at least, and that's kind of canon.