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Game Thread: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies - 2008 Game 160 of 162. Game 159 Never Existed.

Pardon the dark fatalism, but why do I get the feeling that "Game 159" is going to eventually, one day, maybe years from now, carry a negative connotation in its relation to DC baseball lore? What if the Nationals lose out on the #1 overall pick in '09 because of "Game 159's" cancellation and the Seattle Mariners select Stephen Strasburg, who goes on to become, like, the next Walter Johnson, but in the wrong Washington?

(ed. note - "Like. Now if the Nationals can just get three more games cancelled, they can totally avoid losing 100 games? What? Are these games this weekend, like, important to Philadelphia?")

On The Hill...

DC's rookie right-hander Collin Balester was supposed to start in last night's rained- out game with Florida, but instead he'll go tonight in Philadelphia, against a Phillies' team he's lost to twice already this season. The Phils throw former Oakland A's right-hander Joe Blanton, who's recorded no decisions in two '08 starts against DC, having surrendered 21 hits, 12 ER, 1 HR and 7 walks to Nationals' batters, who've K'd 11 times with Blanton carrying a 7.20 ERA and .318 BAA Washington into the next-to-next-to last game of both team's 2008 seasons.

In Collin Balester's fifth start in the Majors, on July 29th at home against the Phillies, the Nationals' 22-year old righty lost a tight 2-1 game to Phils' starter Brett Myers, and in his second outing opposite DC's NL East rival, on the road in Citizens Bank on August 20th, the rookie right-hander suffered his second defeat at the hands of the Phillies, losing 4-0, again to Myers, who threw a complete game shutout the second time around.

Myers pitched against Atlanta this past Wednesday, so the Nationals will avoid him this weekend, lining Balester up against Blanton, who's faced Washington twice since joining Philadelphia on July 26th, with the one and only other start vs the Nationals before this season having taken place back in 2005, when Blanton started for the A's in a loss on the road at RFK.

Balester (3-6, 4.83 ERA) enters play tonight with a streak of four no-decisions dating back to his third win of the season on August 26th, with the Nationals 2-2 in Balester's last four appearances...Blanton's 3-0 in 12 starts and 64.2 IP since joining the Phillies, with the Phils 8-4 over the same stretch of games...

Nationals' #'s Against Joe Blanton...

Emilio Bonifacio - 1 for 5, .200 AVG, 1 2B.

Aaron Boone - 2 for 4, .500 AVG, 1 HR, 3 RBI's.

Kory Casto - 1 for 4, .250 AVG, 1 RBI.

Elijah Dukes - 2 for 5, .400 AVG, 1 2B.

Cristian Guzman - 2 for 6, .333 AVG.

Willie Harris - 2 for 3, .667 AVG, 1 HR, 1 RBI.

Ryan Zimmerman - 2 for 5, .400 AVG, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 BB and 2 RBI's.

Balester vs The Phillies...

Pat Burrell - 2 for 6, .333 AVG.

Greg Dobbs - 1 for 4, .250 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI's.

Jimmy Rollins - 2 for 6, .333 AVG.

Chase Utley - 2 for 6, .333 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI's.

Shane Victorino - 3 for 6, .500 AVG.

Jayson Werth - 1 for 3, .333 AVG, 1 2B, 1 RBI.

Sports Illustrated Takes Another Shot At DC...

(ed. note - "I normally avoid mixing politics and baseball, but by the end of this section it'll all make sense...")

This week in Sports Illustrated's "SI Players" section feature entitled, "They Said It", the SI writers point to a recent quote from US Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, which is pulled from an article by writer Alexander Burns entitled, "Nader On Bank Woes: 'I predicited this'" in which Mr. Burns writes:

"Nader recounted a recent meeting with editors at The Washington Post, who he said told him the paper wasn’t covering his campaign because he had no chance of winning. According to Nader, he replied: 'Then why are you covering the Nationals?' a reference to Washington’s long-suffering baseball team."

Baseball America's Top 10 Minor League Prospects...

In the most recent newsstand edition of Baseball America's magazine, the writers list the "Top 10 Minor League Prospects" from every level and league in the nation, and a few Nationals' prospects earn recognition for their performances during their '08 campaigns...

Jordan Zimmermann pitched for the Class A Potomac Nationals and the Double-A Harrisburg Senators this season, posting a combined (10-3) record and a 2.89 ERA in 24 starts and 1 relief appearance, and Baseball America has the Nationals' 22-year-old right-handed pitching prospect ranked 5th overall in the Double AA Eastern League, with Baseball America writer John Manuel noting Zimmermann's consistently mid-90's fastball and adding:

"Zimmermann also throws both a power slider and hard curveball to go with a straight changeup that has made progress to become an average pitch."

Chris Marrero's ranked 10th in the Class-A Carolina league where he played first base for the Potomac Nationals until a broken ankle ended his '08 campaing in mid-June, at which point the 19-year old first base prospect was hitting .250 with 15 doubles, 2 triples, 11 HR's and 38 RBI's in 70 games and 256 AB's. Baseball America writer Josh Leventhal's assessment:

"Marrero is extremely advanced and polished at the plate for his age. He incorporates his powerful lower half into a compact swing that allows him to drive balls to all parts of the ballpark. "

Other DC prospects who earn a mention...19-year old catcher Derek Norris and 19-year-old right-handed pitcher P.J. Dean, ranked 4th and 10th, respectively, for their work with the Class-A New York-Penn League's Vermont Lake Monsters...and left-handed starter Jack McGeary who is ranked 9th out of 10 in the Gulf Coast League, where he was (2-2) in 12 starts with 64 K's in 59.2 IP.

For A Philly Fan's Perspective, Check out the SBN's Phillies' blog:

The Good Phight

The first of three with Philly gets underway at 7:05 pm EST live from Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies' miniature ballpark. Philadelphia starts the weekend series with DC up 1.0 game on the NY Mets in the NL East standings, and the Mets and Brewers are locked in a dead-heat for the Wild Card lead. Balester vs Blanton. DC vs Philly. The New Capital vs The Original Capital. G.W. vs B.F. Who can guess that one? Who's Watching The Nationals?