Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bowling for Strikes

Ramon Ortiz had a terrific outing today in a game that, among the spring training games this season, might have meant the most to the Nats. The Nationals' 1-0 win over the Orioles in a Beltway scrum featured these highlights:

1. Alfonso Soriano in left field for a second straight day. It wasn't a fluke after all. Admittedly, I was somewhat holding my breath.

2. No errors. For this team this spring, that's amazing. Baby steps, I suppose. And with Baltimore out-hitting Washington 9-to-4, one error could have sunk the Nats.

3. Ortiz. Six shutout innings, 62 pitches, 43 strikes, only 19 balls. Terrific. Just terrific. We'll talk about this later, but the Nationals' offense is anemic, even with Soriano, who just will not be able to match his 2005 numbers now that he is playing half his games at The Bobby. (I miss The BOB.) That means the pitching has got to keep the games close; the Nationals' line-up can't dig the team out of any deep holes. The best way to keep games close is to limit the baserunners by throwing strikes and walking as few people as possible. Ortiz did that today.

4. Ryan Zimmerman. He's acting like this is his tenth spring training, not like it was only a year ago that he was hanging out at Coupe's and Bilt. Today, he singled in the fourth, stole second, and ultimately scored on a sac fly. Nats win, 1-0. Zimmerman isn't David Wright, but he's better than Mr. Right-now.

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