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Game Thread: Houston Astros at Washington Nationals - 2008 Game 95 of 162. "Game Three Of The Collin Balester Era...PLUS...Everyone Wants A Piece Of The Tallest Pitcher In MLB History."

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On The Hill...

24-year old Collin Balester, the Montreal Expos' 4th Round Pick, 114th overall in 2004, was (9-3) in 15 '08 starts for Washington's Triple-AAA affilliate in Columbus, OH before being called up to DC where he's (1-1) in his first two Major League starts, winning his MLB debut against the Marlins and then dropping his next outing against the Reds. At 6'5'' and around 200lbs, Balester's imposing on the hill, and he's got mid-90's heat and a dramatic curve that should help him make a name for himself in the Majors and keep him around for at least a little while.

Astros' lefty Wandy Rodriguez has faced Washington 5 times so far in this his fourth year in the Majors, (all with Houston), and he's (2-1) in 30.1 innings pitched against Nationals, over which he's allowed 26 hits, 8 ER's, 4 HR's and 12 walks with 22 K's and a 5.34 ERA against the franchise. After 12 starts In 2008, Rodriguez is (3-3) with a 3.23 ERA in 69.2 innings pitched, having missed a considerable amount of time after injuring his groin in mid-April.

Rodriguez has recorded no decision in his last two trips to the mound, (with the Astros suffering losses in both outings), and the 29-year old, 5'11'' left-hander hasn't lasted through the fifth inning in 4 of his last 5 starts, with his only win back on June 26th, in the one anomalous outing in which he lasted 8.0 innings and allowed just 5 hits and 1 run in a 7-2 Astros' win over Texas. Since that win, Rodriguez has allowed 13 hits, 8 ER's, 2 HR's and 6 walks with 13 K's in 10.1 innings pitched against the Dodgers and Braves. On the road this season, Rodriguez is (1-1) with a 4.05 ERA in 5 starts, as opposed to his (2-2) record and 2.72 ERA at home in Houston.

Nationals' #'s Against Wandy Rodriguez...

Austin Kearns - 1 for 3, .333 AVG, 3 RBI's.

Wily Mo Pena - 2 for 8, .250 AVG, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI's.

The "If They Were Playing" List...

Lastings Milledge - 1 for 2, .500 AVG.

Ryan Zimmerman - 3 for 9, .333 AVG, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI's.

Nick Johnson - 0 for 9, .000 AVG.

Johnny Estrada - (ed. note - "A National, I checked.") - 2 for 5, .400 AVG.

Everyone Wants A Piece Of The Tallest Pitcher In MLB History...

According to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article entitled, "Source: Teams interested in Rauch", the Tallest Pitcher in MLB History, DC's 6'11'', 250+lb, right-handed closer, Jon Rauch is drawing the interest of a number of teams, with Mr. Bowden writing:

"One source said at least 10 teams are seriously interested in Rauch, but the source wouldn't say which teams had Rauch on their radar screens because a deal isn't close. It's no secret that a team such as the Red Sox needs bullpen help, and Rauch would be a perfect fit for them."

DC GM Jim Bowden has said recently that he is open to any offers for just about anyone outside of the clear nucleus of the franchise, and the Nationals' 29-year old closer is probably never going to be as valuable a commodity as he is right now. By the time the Nationals are planning on competing...(ed. note -"Remind me again, did the 5-year plan start with the new stadium or back in '05?")...one has to wonder if Rauch would still be a viable late-game option at 31 or 32 years of age? Is Rauch the only tradeable player the Nationals have now that will bring anything in return? With DY injured, Felipe Lopez and Wily Mo Pena underperforming and veterans like Paul Lo Duca not drawing any serious interest...he might just be...(ed. note - "I'm hoping that if I just don't mention Belliard, no one will think of asking about him...")

Jim Bowden Being Investigated By Fede...

(content redacted by a paranoid e. chigliak)...

Next story...

Check The Rule Book, Rook! You Almost Missed A First...

Did you know that regardless of the size of a lead, a pitcher is awarded a save any time, according to Rule 10.19 (d)(3) of the MLB Rulebook, "He pitches for at least three innings," in a relief appearance in which (a) his team wins, (b) he is not the winning pitcher, and (c) he is credited with at least a third of an inning pitched? Nationals' reliever Steven Shell, who claimed his first Major League save for his 3.0 scoreless innings of relief work last night didn't know...

...According to Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's article entitled, "For a Night, Nats a Perfect 10", in which Mr. Harlan writes:

"Entering the ninth, a Washington clubhouse attendant had realized that Shell needed to pitch just one more inning for a save -- the first three-inning save in Washington history. So he paid attention, and grabbed the ball when the outcome became official.

"When Shell walked into the clubhouse, the attendant, Mike Wallace asked if Shell wanted the ball.

"'I didn't know it was a save,' Shell said soon after.'"

Check the NatCast if you're heading to Nationals Park...

7:10 pm EST start time for the second of three for the Astros in DC...Balester makes his third Major League start, and faces The Big Puma, El Caballo, Wiggy and Miggy for the first time...Can Austin Kearns keep swinging a hot bat? How 'bout Belliard's moonshots recently? Is Belliard playing himself onto the trading block? What does Boston want to give up for Rauch? How many of the 9,000 are watching? Let's Go Nats Go!!!...