Watching Saturday's thrilling, improbable triumph over the Astros reminded me of what it felt like to watch Murder One about a decade ago.
You remember that show, right? Twenty-two-episode trial drama, airing during and shortly after the O.J. Simpson trial. High-profile murder, celebrity defendant, hard-charging defense attorney, no-nonsense female prosecutor, the works. I watched the first episode and thought it was plainly idiotic:
- "Hey, way to contribute to America's celebritytrialitis!
- The bald huckster attorney is too earnest and his voice is too gruff
- Jason Gedrick?
- Where's Judge Ito?
- Jason Gedrick?!
But I stuck with it, for some reason, and the show went on. In short time, the show got better. The plot evolved, the chemistry got better, and I quite enjoyed the show. I think I still have the season finale on videotape somewhere. Last night's game was much like this: ugly in the beginning, practically no hope, but perseverence paid off.
It is difficult to make too many conclusions five games in the season---or perhaps any conclusions. You don't think Ryan Church proved himself in 270 at-bats last season? These Nationals don't even have that many at-bats at the moment, not even close. But the middle of the order---especially when Jose Guillen's in there---looks to have a lot of cohesion and synergy. This isn't all attributable to Soriano, obviously, but some of it is. He's a slugger who is being asked to be a slugger. Vidro is healthy. Johnson is hitting with authority. I don't know if I'd call this "protection" as much as I'd call it situational synergy (whatever that is!), but Vidro-Guillen-Johnson-Soriano is a nice progression---an effective ordering that can enhance and exploit each hitter's strengths. Additionally, we might be seeing Mitchell Paige's influence as the new hitting coach
The pitching will be a problem. Livan Hernandez had a disasterous first inning but eeked out five more innings, essentially saving the staff for much of the coming week. Nevertheless, outside of a John Patterson-esque epiphany---Traber? Watkins? Dorf?---there might come a point when innings are filled at something approaching a replacement-level type of quality, something no one wants to see. But that's for another day.