With less than two weeks left in the season, the Dodgers have exactly forty more wins than the woeful Nationals do. Think about that – the Nationals are 51-99. By comparison, the Dodgers got win #51 by beating San Diego on July 3, the day Manny returned from his suspension. As I pointed out yesterday, beating up on this particular Nationals club is less an achievement and more of a joke. Nationals Fever! Catch it! Like swine flu!
So one would think, that with a playoff berth all but assured (they can clinch today with a win and losses by the Braves & Giants) and a Nats team that has their fanbase tracking things like “will Christian Guzman have the fewest walks among MLBers qualified for the batting title” and “how high will the 2009 Nats rate on the list of ‘teams with the most pitchers who have ERA’s above 9.50′”, tonight’s game would only be of interest to the mothers of Jason Repko, Blake DeWitt, and A.J. Ellis.
After all, 2009 All-Star Chad Billingsley is on the mound, and he’s 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 3 career appearances against Washington. Tonight’s game is a breeze! A cakewalk! Or whatever else old people describe things that are easy as! Not even worth watching.
Except… oh yes. The darkness. Unless you’ve somehow been living in a cave on Mars for the last month, with your eyes closed, and your fingers in your ears, you’ve probably noticed that Genuine Ace Chad Billingsley, well, sucks. Or is “teh suck,” as the kids say. On June 3, Billingsley threw 6 shutout innings to beat Arizona and move to 7-3, with a 2.59 ERA. Since then? 8-11 with a 5.18 ERA.
Now, it’s not exactly as bad as that. Since completely imploding in July (7.52 ERA, .802 OPS against in 5 starts) Billingsley rebounded in August (3.21 ERA, .688 OPS), before getting completely hammered this month – his September line is a brutal .347/.386/.573 (.959 OPS), which led to his briefly being removed from the rotation, only to allow 4 hits and 2 runs in 1.2 innings against the Giants on Friday.
Look, there’s a variety of theories out there as for what’s happened to him, ranging from fatigue (though he’s still at about 25 innings fewer than last year, including playoffs), injury (coming off a broken leg, and has strained both hamstrings lately) or emotional (he keeps saying “it’s all in my head”), and the simple truth is: it doesn’t matter what it is right now, because if he can’t handle a putrid Washington team, he’s sure as hell not going to get a chance against the Phillies in the playoffs.
Randy Wolf & Clayton Kershaw locked up their spots long ago (assuming Kershaw’s health, which he appeared to prove in last night’s game) and Hiroki Kuroda has to be #3 given his fantastic work since his return from that liner off the head (2.16 ERA and a 21/5 K/BB ratio in 4 starts), but spot #4 is up for grabs. I think we’d all like to think that Billingsley takes that job – but I’ll admit that’s partially selfish, just because I don’t want to look like an asshole for being so strongly against the Jon Garland move.
The point is, there’s actually a lot riding on this game tonight. And for once, it’s not just to see how the Nationals will lose 100!