by Anthony Amobi, Staff Writer

Over the weekend, the Washington Nationals endured a pair of soul-crushing losses to the Cincinnati Reds, both games exemplifying the trouble the Nats have had for the last three weeks or so.  The losses are a stark contrast to off-the-field celebrations of the next two days, as the team is set to draft "The Next Lebron" and debut their once-in-a-generation ace on successive days.

On Monday night, the Nationals are expected to select highly touted 17-year old Las Vegas, Nevada native Bryce Harper as the first pick in the 2010 First Year Player Draft.

The very-much hyped Harper, who attended school at the College of Southern Nevada and is being advised by super-agent Scott Boras has set the baseball world on fire with his bat, arm, and amazing athleticism at such a young age. At 6'3" and 205 lbs, he's already got the size and pedigree that many look for in a baseball player much more a power hitter.

Harper skipped his final year of high school, got his GED, enrolled in college and excelled against the competition where players were a year, two, three or four older. Hes smashed school and conference records, so theres really not much else left for him at the collegiate level.

Right now, Harper's primary position is catcher; however, he is expected to become an outfielder down the road--perhaps a right fielder--to preserve his body and maximize the years in his pro career.

His numbers at the College of Southern Nevada in 2010: 21 HRS, 59 RBI, .410 AVG, .917 SLG, 1.414 OPS.

The can't-miss player is regarded as the best all-around player in the draft, although there are some concerns about his makeup, ego on the field and attitude at times.

Still, thats not expected to deter the Nationals from selecting him at all. The team will be expected to pay a huge amount for the youngster, but most are expecting him to progress within two-to-three years to the major league level.

Stephen Strasburg, 2009's No. 1 overall selection, will make his major league debut Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The team is expecting a sell-out, and has released some standing-room only tickets, as well as released individual tickets for some suites that are usually only sold as part of a seeason ticket package.

It should the the closest thing to a playoff atmosphere in Nationals Park since Opening Day 2008 when the team moved into the ballpark on South Capitol Street.

As for the baseball on the field:

On Sunday, the Washington Nationals endured another crushing loss to the Cincinnati Reds, this time in ten innings by a score of 5-4. Cincinnati used a Drew Stubbs RBI-single in the 10th inning to take two out of three games from Washington this weekend.

Washingtons record stands at 27-31 and they are now 6.5 games back in the National League East. They are also 3-7 in their last ten games.


Dark clouds loomed over Nationals Park during June 6 game
(Ian Koski/natsdailynews.com)

Matt Capps, who started the season off on fire after a tenuous year in Pittsburgh, blew his fourth of the season in the ninth inning. The Nationals had a slim 2-1 lead, but Drew Stubbs ripped a one out-single to right and then pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes hit a RBI-double to left, tying the game at two.

Moments later, Scott Rolen who pinch hit for starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo crushed a Capps offering and launched over the left field wall for a two-run homer that upped the Reds lead to 4-1. Rolens homer was his 14th of the year.

The Nationals would rally in the ninth off Reds closer Francisco Cordero and tie the game at four. Their offense could come alive as Mike Morse would hit a two-run double to right field that plated both Josh Willingham (who reached base on a walk) and Ian Desmond (who reached base via a single).

Cincinnati won the game in the tenth as Jay Bruce hit a two-out single to left and Drew Stubbs got the winning single off Washington reliever Miguel Batista. Pitcher Doug Slaten (2-1), who allowed the winning run to reach base initially in the frame, took the loss.

The Reds Nick Masset earned his first save of the season as he retired Ian Desmond with a groundout to second base with two men on. Cordero would earn the win (2-3) despite blowing the save.

The Nationals and Reds both got impressive pitching performances from their starters on the mound to close out the rubber game of the series.

Washington's Craig Stammen perhaps had his most outstanding start of the year as he went 6 2/3 innings and gave up a run on seven hits. For Stammen, despite his solid work on Sunday, he was sent down to Triple-A Syracuse after the game to make room for Stephen Strasburg who will make his major league debut on Tuesday at Nationals Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

RHP Craig Stammen had best start of season on June 6 and was sent down to
Syracuse immediately following game to make room for Strasburg.
(Ian Koski/natsdailynews.com)

After the game, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman remarked to the media assembled on Stammens start and showed quite a bit of empathy for the situation at hand.

"Somebody's got to go, and it's Craig and I feel terrible about that, too. One of the guys who has been leaving it all out there for you takes the hit on this."

Cincinnati scored on Stammen in the first inning as Joey Votto singled to right to plate Orlando Cabrera for a quick 1-0 lead.

Washington tied the game in the bottom of the inning off a Ryan Zimmerman RBI-single and made the score 2-1 in the fourth off an Ian Desmond RBI double.

Bronson Arroyo started the game on the mound for the Reds and went eight innings. He gave up two runs on six hits, plus struck out five, while walking one.

The upcoming week will be big for the Nationals and the eyes of the baseball world will be descending on the nations capital aside from Stephen Strasburgs aforementioned major league debut.

On Saturday, the Washington Nationals were defeated by the Cincinnati Reds, 5-1. They fell to 27-30 on the season, but the 22,896 in attendance would only remember what happened towards the end of the contest.

The game was pretty mush settled in an absolutely wild eighth inning in which Cincinnati held a 2-1 lead. With Washington reliever Tyler Walker on the mound, the Reds jumped all over him and the bullpen. Orlando Cabrera led off the frame with a double – in fact, he barely missed hitting a homer – and then scored on a Brandon Phillips RBI single.

After Phillips’ single, things would get real interesting. Reliever Sean Burnett would be called into the game and he would begin his night on the mound on shaky ground as he allowed Phillips to advance to second on a wild pitch. Moments later, Phillips would advance to third after umpire Dan Bellino determined that shortstop Ian Desmond interfered with his ability to get to third.

Washington manager Jim Riggleman, who thought the call by Bellino was incorrect, tried to plead and argue his case would find himself tossed.

Manager Jim Riggleman was ejected from June 5 game
(Max Cook/WeLoveDC.com)

Burnett would walk Joey Votto and Scott Rolen would ground out to short, but Brandon Phillips – who was on third – decided to be aggressive and advance home. Phillips would score, only after barreling over catcher Wil Nives and knocking the ball out of his glove.

After he crossed home plate, Phillips would then show a display of theatrics – perhaps something one would do in the pro wrestling on football – by pounding his fist on his chest and yelling like a caveman. The Nationals were not amused and they would exact revenge in ninth inning against him.

The Reds would add another run off a one-out Jay Bruce RBI-single in the frame for a 5-1 advantage.

In the ninth inning, the Nationals would engage in the ‘unwritten rules of baseball’ as reliever Miguel Batista threw inside to Phillips and would get him in the ribs. Umpire Joe West would eventually eject Batista, but most everyone figured it was in response to Phillips’ brazen celebration in the eighth inning. No other incidents would flare up on the evening.

The events of the eighth inning perhaps overshadowed the work that Washington starting pitcher Luis Atilano did on the mound. Although Atalino (5-2, 4.24) would take the loss, he went seven innings, allowed two runs – which one was only earned on six hits.

Although he pitched well enough for the win, he was outshined by Cincinnati’s Mike Leake, who won and still remains undefeated on the season with a 5-0 record with a 2.22 ERA.

With Stephen Strasburg starting on the mound this Tuesday and getting the lion’s share of national attention with his work in the minors, it seems that Leake’s work so far in the majors has gone completely under the radar. Amazingly, Leake actually never saw any time at the minor level and was promoted directly to the majors from spring training.

Pitcher Mike Leake slid twice during June 5 game
(Max Cook/WeLoveDC.com)

On Saturday, Leake showed why the Reds had so much confidence in him as he went seven innings and gave up one run on seven hits. He struck out five in his outing.

Washington’s only run came in the sixth inning as Ryan Zimmerman scored from second on a Joey Votto error.

Cincinnati took a 1-0 lead in the first off a Votto RBI-double to right. They would add another run in the fifth as Cabrera’s RBI-double to left plated Leake.

2 comments

  1. Anonymous // June 7, 2010 at 5:13 PM  

    Dave, I'm quite surprised that, while talking of Capps's recent struggles, there was no mention of the fact that the hit to right yesterday was a tough but playable ball, and (more egregiously) that Rolen whiffed on a two strike pitch. That's three times this week that Capps and the Nats have k'd a hitter in a crucial situation, the hitter has been reprieved by the umpires, and then the hitter beat them. And twice (with Guz's error against Houston) that RF let the team down.

    I'm not completely exonerating Capps; you should be good enough to overcome vagaries like crappy umpiring and poor-to-mediocre fielding. But in my mind it at least mitigates his guilt.

    John C.

  2. Dave Nichols // June 7, 2010 at 10:53 PM  

    John, your right that we kinda breezed over that. Capps has struggled over the last week, but has also been pitching in bad luck.

    the biggest point though is that he's having trouble with his slider, and needs to find it. the homer by Lee in Houston and yesterday's to Rolen were both on sliders that didn't move.