(ed. note - "Before We Get To The Second of Three In Wrigley...")
THE STRASBURG FILES...
So what do you think the chances are that Aaron Crow and the Nationals could come to an agreement if Washington were to choose him #1 overall next year? After drafting him with the 9th pick in the first round this season, the Nationals failed to reach an agreement on a contract and signing bonus before the midnight 8/15 deadline, sending Crow into Independent ball and eventually back to the '09 Draft. I ask this only half-kiddingly after hearing the score in the US/Cuba Olympic baseball game Stephen Strasburg started this morning against the legendary Cuban national team that had its fiercest weapons along for this tournament...
But under closer scrutiny, it appears that Strasburg was not solely responsible for the Americans' loss. Over 4.0 innings, the twenty-year-old right-handed Strasburg allowed 4 runs, (3 earned), and 1 HR, without walking anyone, while striking out 5 Cuban batters. But after the fourth, the US trailed 3-1, and Strasurg had needed to work too hard getting through the Cuban order, as US Manager Davey Johnson explained in MLB.com's Mark Newman's article entitled, "U.S. falls to Cuba in semifinals":
"'He had 75 pitches after four, and we had a long fourth,' Johnson explained. 'He's got too good a future, I didn't want him to labor too long today.'"
The Americans pulled within a run at 3-2 Cuba after five, but Cuban left fielder Frederick Cepeda hit a solo shot off US reliever Brian Duensing in the sixth and the Cubans added 6 runs in the home half of the eighth to make it 10-2, ensuring that the US team would be playing for Bronze.
Stephen Strasburg's final '08 Olympic start, as Mark Newman describes, does not seem to have altered, in any way, the projections scouts have for his future success, but the Cuban team, Mr. Newman explains:
" ...was unfazed by the phenom buzz -- and 97-mph heat -- that distinguished Strasburg. He had struck out 11 and allowed only one hit in seven scoreless innings for an Aug. 14 victory against the Netherlands, and he was held back for his second Olympic start in this big test...(but)...Cuba was just too hard to contain."
"'(Strasburg)...was great out of the windup, but out of the stretch he was trying to be a little too quick. He pitched well. He's going to be a great pitcher. He picks when he wants to, he slide-steps, he's got it all. Whoever gets to pick him in the next Draft is going to get a good player.'"
(ed. note - "I'm really starting to get conflicted knowing that my desire to see DC draft a pitcher as talented as Strasburg, must, by necessity, be linked to the Nationals continuing to lose games at the same rate they've established so far in '08...It's not that I want them to lose...but...they've lost so many games already, they might as well get their just and proper reward...")
Scout's Eagle-Eyed Observations...
(My Brother Scout, Braves' Fan And Source For All Things Baseball calls on the phone, asking:)
Q: "How many at bats does Belliard have?"
Q: "...and 11 HR's?"
A: Yes, 11 HR's, 20 doubles, 40 RBI's.
Q: "So in 500-600 at bats...Does he walk much?"
A: 35 walks this season.
Q: "So where would 20 HR's, 40 doubles and 80 RBI's place him amongst second baseman?"
A: "That's Utley and Uggla territory, right up there...at the top.
Q: "So why not just start Belliard and Guzman up the middle next season, as long as they don't get injured?"
A: But when was the last time Belliard got that many at bats?
Q: "I'm the one asking the questions..."(hangs up)
A: (talking to no one)...The last time Belliard had 500+ AB's? Last season, and Belliard hit .290 with 35 doubles, 11 HR's and 58 RBI's. Before that it was '05 with Belli-Yard! collecting 36 doubles, 17 HR's and 78 RBI's. '04? 599 AB's, 48 doubles, 12 HR's, 70 RBI's, there is a pattern here...But Bonifacio is super-quick and slick defensively...at least second base is taken care of next season either way. Hello? Scout?...
Game 2 of 3 In Wrigley...Nationals vs Cubs.
On The Hill...
"Opening Night" Odalis Perez has 5 career starts, a (3-1) record and a 3.44 ERA in 34 innings pitched against the Cubs over 10 MLB seasons before today's matchup in Wrigley Field against Chicago starter Ryan Dempster. Dempster's faced the Nationals/Expos 19 times in his 11-year career with the Marlins, Reds and Cubs, posting a (6-0) record with 2 saves and a 3.33 ERA in 83.2 IP against the DC franchise.
Odalis Perez pitched 6.0 innings against the Cubs in a 5-3 DC win on April 25th at home in Nationals Park, allowing 5 hits, 2 runs and 4 walks while striking out 7, but receiving no decision. Away from home in '08, Perez is (4-4) with a 5.67 ERA in 60.1 innings pitched. In Wrigley Field? Odalis Perez has pitched in Wrigley 3 times...and he's 3-0...
Ryan Dempster is (11-2) in 15 starts at home in 2008, (just (3-3) in 11 road starts), and Dempster's got a 2.76 ERA in 97.2 IP in Chicago. Dempster opposed Perez on the mound back on April 25th in DC, allowing 4 hits and 3 runs (2 earned), a HR and 3 walks with 5 K's in his most recent outing against Washington, leaving the game with the lead and then watching the Cubs' bullpen blow it when Wil Nieves takes Chicago reliever Bob Howry deep in the bottom of the ninth for a one-out, two-run walk-off HR...
Nationals' #'s Against Ryan Dempster...
Ronnie Belliard - 4 for 18, .222 AVG, 1 2B, 2 RBI's.
Aaron Boone - 3 for 11, .273 AVG, 1 3B.
Cristian Guzman - 2 for 5, .400 AVG, 2 2B.
Cubs vs Odalis Perez...
Aramis Ramirez - 5 for 11, .455 AVG, 2 HR's, 5 RBI's.
Kosuke Fukudome - 1 for 3, .333 AVG, 1 2B.
Reed Johnson - 6 for 10, .600 AVG, 1 2B, 1 RBI.
Derrek Lee - 3 for 10, .300 AVG, 2 2B's, 2 RBI's.
Alfonso soriANO! - 1 for 3, .333 AVG, 1 HR, 1 RBI.
For A Chicago Perspective on the series check out the SBN's Cubs' blog:
Game Two of Three in Wrigley gets underway at 1:05 pm EST. "Opening Night" vs Dempster. There's a 40% chance of rain, so another delay is not out of the question...The Cubs come into the game with a 4.5 game lead in the Central Division over Milwaukee, and 7.0 games over the third place Cardinals. The Nationals have won 2 of their last ten, and are 26.0 games out of first in the East. But DC's #1 in the '09 Draft as of this morning...Who's Watching The Nationals?