With the weather playing havoc with the Nationals' schedule (among many other things) across the Midwest and the Rust Belt, Washington's baseball team should probably just be thankful that they'll get the chance to finish this six-game road trip with a flourish against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight at PNC Park. In the meantime, here's this week's edition of Three Up, Three Down for a week that saw some unexpected heroes (are you ready to live in a world where Jason Marquis is Washington's most consistent starter?) and unwanted villains.
1. Michael Morse--He honestly had nowhere to go but up when we spotlighted him in this space recently, but it was still nice to see him turn it around a little bit on this road trip. Since going 0-for-4 in the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader, Morse has picked up six hits in 11 place appearances, capped by his three-run home run in Sunday afternoon's 6-3 win at Pittsburgh. I'm still queasy over the idea of him hitting fifth so often, especially given his relative lack of power (Isolated Power as of this morning: .074), but all the same it's good to see Morse deliver on some of the promise he showed in spring training.
2. Laynce Nix--Only in baseball can you expect very little out of a guy making $700,000 for 2011. However, so far Nix has proven himself to be a solid left-handed bat off of Washington's bench, boasting a healthy OPS of .856 (the third-highest of any National with at least 10 plate appearances -- sorry, Jesus Flores). Nix also seems to have a penchant for hitting insurance home runs, with his solo shot in Wednesday's first game nicely complementing his three-run blast in the 11th inning April 10 against the Mets.
3. Drew Storen--To continue the tortured bullpen-as-law firm analogy from my first piece here, Storen is rapidly making strides toward becoming senior partner, as he pitched 2.1 scoreless innings this week, dropping his ERA down to 0.71 and finishing up Washington's only two wins of this road trip so far.
1. Livan Hernandez--What happens when your sinker doesn't sink? Well, for one thing, your strikezone chart looks a little something like this. Also, if you're Livan Hernandez, you give up five runs in the first inning to the Pirates Saturday night and raise your ERA by 0.60 runs.
2. Ian Desmond--After showing some signs of snapping out of his season-opening funk during the last homestand, Desmond has gone straight back into the dumps on this road trip, reaching base just three times in 15 plate appearances and seeing his OPS nose below .600. At least Jim Riggleman seems to have seen the light and removed Desmond from the leadoff spot, but if Desmond is going through a bona fide sophomore slump, as seems to be the case, than there's little Riggleman, or anyone other than Desmond can do about it.
3. Sean Burnett--Only made one appearance this past week and was lackluster, to put it kindly: he allowed three of the four batters he faced to reach base and only escaped being charged with more than one run by virtue of a Colby Rasmus double play. Throw in his blown save last Friday night against Milwaukee and the bloom seems to be coming off Burnett's rose just a little bit, though he has been very unlucky when it comes to batted balls, especially compared to last year.