Washington Nationals (2-4) at Houston Astros (4-2)
It seems to me that there's a substantial psychological difference between returning home at 2-5, rather than 3-4. A loss Monday would achieve the former, however unfortunately. If you can say "a lot rests on [anyone's] shoulders" this early in the season, then you might as well say a lot rests on John Patterson's shoulders---or, as it were, his forearm, which was stiff in the cold weather during his first start of the season on Wednesday night. Nationals' starters are averaging exactly five innings per outing; Hernandez did not turn things around on Saturday night, so Patterson will have to on Monday afternoon.
In fact, while the Nats are not exactly happy with an unusually road-heavy early schedule, if you're going to a) not get much endurance out of your starters and b) generally lose, you might as well c) do it on the road. The benefit, such as it is, lies in not having to pitch an extra half-inning in the ninth.
All things equal, however, a) getting solid starting performances and b) winning, is c) far more desirable.
With the Nats' early needs in mind, manager Frank Robinson aptly sums things up in the Nats.com game preview:
Nat at Bat: Alfonso Soriano. Why not? (I was just sort of messing around with the last post, obviously.) Soriano is hitting quite well at the moment---and I can't believe all of that is attributable to Minute Maid Park. His miscues on Sunday were hard to digest, but I once saw noted professional B.J. Surhoff forget how many outs there were; everybody messes up at times. Soriano is, after all, only human.
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I caught my first few innings of the new Bob Carpenter/Tom Paciorek MASN pairing on the MLB.tv archive today, and I cannot say I was particularly impressed. The team possesses absolutely no chemistry. Indeed, there was scant evidence of any rapport between the two, at least for the segments I watched. The team was recently thrown together (as with the Proctor/Darling duo of last season), however, so things can only improve with time. At the least, Carpenter is a competent, professional announcer. Paciorek, for his part, seemed even less substantial than when he was Hark Harrelson's partner in Chicago; "Wimpy's" go-to line appears to be "Oh boy" right now.
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Speaking of television, Just a Nats Fan did yeo(wo)man's work on Friday, memorializing the MASN/Comcast hearing with lightning-fast typing skills. There's a lot to chew on---even considering the dog-and-pony show nature of the proceedings---but this exchange between Eleanor Holmes Norton and Comcast's David Cohen was perhaps the most illuminating:
Cohen: I am.
Norton: In that case I'm astonished by the way you said the matter should be resolved - to nullify the agreement that has been made. I agree it's unfair.
Cohen: I'm a good enough lawyer to know I wasn't asking court or this congress to do anything... let me be clear. Notwithstanding Mr. Angelos' comments, I've tried very hard not to castigate him. An illegal legal contract. We are asking MLB and the Orioles to do the right thing for the Nationals and their fans and not use as a mechanism the wallets of cable customers and your constituents.
Peter Angelos and the Seligulans---for good or ill, almost definitely ill---have a deal. Comcast has . . . populist rhetoric? Criticism of "[a]n illegal legal contract"? A lawsuit---in state court, mind you---that is approaching its figurative 11:59 pm?
I don't particularly approve of MASN, and I certainly don't approve of the way the Nats were given absolutely no consideration in the purported negotiation (negotiating away is more like it) of their television rights. That said, Comcast really has nothing here. It's just stonewalling. I'm getting tired of it, to tell you the truth.