Nationals News, "Grand Slam Willingham" Edition

  At risk of telling you for the eleventh time, Josh Willingham hit two grand slams last night, a feat accomplished only twelve other times in the history of baseball (by contrast, a perfect game has been thrown eighteen times). Enough has been written about Willingham's night, so I want to instead congratulate Adam Dunn on his incredible sliding catch (here, in case you missed it) and talk about Nyjer Morgan's propensity for stealing bases. He's stolen twelve bases since arriving in Washington on July 1, but has been caught stealing four times. He certainly has the speed and ability required to keep stealing bases, but the Nationals have to be more patient with Morgan (or Morgan has to be more patient himself). Last night, Morgan stole second on a pitchout; that is, the Brewers were certain enough that Morgan was going to steal to justify giving the batter a free ball in an attempt to throw out Morgan. He made it safely to second, but had the throw been two feet lower he would have been called out. Instead of attempting the steal on the first pitch, say, Morgan should stay on first and get in the pitcher's head (he's good at that) and try the steal a few pitches later.

  Under Jim Riggleman and Steve McCatty, both the bullpen and the starters have stepped up their game. Before the All-Star break, the Nationals' pitchers had a 5.21 ERA, but since, they've had a 3.14 ERA. I don't want to suggest too much, but my boy Tyler Clippard, who made his start with the Nationals on June 25, has a 1.15 ERA in July after posting a 6.00 ERA in two games in June.

  More pitching talk: John Lannan has a 2.44 ERA since June, and has something in common with Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum, both Cy Young winners last year. Do I think he'll get the Cy Young this year? Absolutely not, but he's only 24 and has his best years ahead of him.

  The Nationals have signed seventh round draft pick Dean Weaver, bringing their total up to 26 players signed, and nine of the first twelve picks.

  Well, it's all but assured now -- the Nationals won't be as bad as the '62 Mets. In fact, although their record suggests otherwise, they may not be the worst team in baseball!

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