Whatever that means, considering the team is still only its in fourteenth season. I supppose what I mean is that the Florida Marlins are a better ballclub since the last time. They've scratched their way back from cellar-dweller status and, although they're still not a very good team, they're currently in third place in the division---and were in second a matter of days ago.
A key would appear to be substantial improvement from the pitching staff. For instance, take the starters. I wish the Nats could, in fact. The last time the teams met was May 4. Here are the numbers from the Florida starters pre- and post-:
CAT PRE POST
ERA 5.05 3.82
W% .333 .581
K/9 5.7 6.3
BB/9 4.5 2.8
HR/9 1.15 1.04
K/BB 1.25 2.23
[Source: David Pinto's amazing Day-by-Day Database]
We'll see if the Nats can touch up Ricky Nolasco and the Marlins tonight; in the pregame, Charlie Slowes referred to Nalasco as property of the Cubs---perhaps a Freudian slip imbued by Jim Hendry.
Looking at the lineups, Jose Vidro's stint as the leadoff guy seems to have lasted all of two games. After a day off, Alfonso Soriano is back at the top of the order.
* * * *
I hesitate to bring this up, but the May 4 game---the last Florida/Washington encounter---may have been the low point in a season of low points so far for the Nats. From the AP gamer (of an 11-3 loss):
He let his thoughts flow freely minutes after watching his club reach a new low during an all-around poor performance, from Livan Hernandez's pitching to just about everyone's hitting, that produced an 11-3 loss to the Florida Marlins on Thursday night.
"I'm embarrassed for this team, because the fans are coming out here and being very supportive, and we're not giving them what they deserve. Not even close. And I'm surprised they're not throwing things at us," Robinson said.
"We deserve whatever they might do or say. I'm amazed they're still coming out here. I wouldn't pay to see us."
Imagine what must be going through the minds of the people who were picked Wednesday to pay $450 million for the right to own the Nationals. Some, including future team president Stan Kasten, were at Thursday night's game, a few hours after participating in the ceremonial groundbreaking for a $611 million stadium project.
They saw the Nationals lose for the 10th time in 12 games -- including two straight to the rebuilding Marlins, who until this visit to D.C. hadn't won a series this season.
It got better after that; recall that the Nats were hot-hot-hot a few weeks after that. But then it got worse. Let's hope it gets better again.
Update [2006-7-3 19:31:24 by Basil]: Bang! Zoom! indeed. Soriano homers to lead off the bottom of the first.