Washington Nationals rookie left-hander Tommy Milone is a control artist, rarely walking more than a batter per game. In fact, in his 24 starts for Triple-A Syracuse this season, he walked exactly one batter per game while striking out 9.4. Those are impressive numbers for any Triple-A pitcher, let alone one that has a hard time reaching the upper-80′s with his fastball.
Thursday, Milone’s pinpoint control was maybe a little off, but he made up for that with being nearly unhittable, allowing just three base hits over 5 2/3 innings, limiting the New York Mets to one runs (scored after he left the game), in the Nats 10-1 rout of their National League East rivals.
The win is the Nats fifth in a row and sixth in their last seven games. Not only did they sweep the Mets in the four-game series, but also leapfrogged them into third place in the division.
Milone was stellar. He allowed a double to the first batter he saw, Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, a single to Angel Pagan in the fourth — who he promptly picked off — and a two-out single to David Wright in the sixth. After that hit, manager Davey Johnson came out with the hook after just 73 pitches with the Nats holding a scant 2-0 lead at the time.
Collin Balester relieved and yielded a run-scoring double to Jason Bay that hit off the top of the wall in left field. The run was charged to Milone, the only blemish against his record. Balester was able to work out of the inning though, and for the rest of the afternoon, a parade of Nats pitchers kept sitting down Mets hitters.
On the other side, the offense went to work for Milone to secure his first MLB victory, scoring once in the seventh, three time in the eighth and four more in the ninth inning. By that point, much of the 22,205 at Citi Field had either left for cover from the rain that started to fall, or had just plain left.
The hitting star of the day was shortstop Ian Desmond. The second-year player has been on somewhat of a tear recently, but none more so than Thursday, as he went 5-for-6 with three RBIs. His big day pushed his season batting average — which had dropped as low as .215 at one point this season — up to .251.
With 13 games remaining, the Nats sit at 71-77. They need two wins to equal the second best season record since the move, which seems like a formality at this point. With the Mets, losers of their last six games, seemingly collapsing, it doesn’t seem a stretch to now anticipate a third place finish in the East.
Is winning a bunch of games in the last three weeks of the season really that big of a deal? Not really. But when you step back and take a look at things as a whole, a third place finish would represent progress, internally for the organization and across the baseball landscape in general.
THE GOOD: Desmond. Sure, he picks the day I write an analytical piece about him to have his best day as a big leaguer.
THE BAD: Jayson Werth. He went 0-for-5 on a day the Nats had 14 hits and scored 10 runs.
THE UGLY: Henry Rodriguez. The number of walks he gave up (3) was bigger than the number of outs he recorded (2). Thankfully, Todd Coffey came in and cleaned his mess up.
THE STATS: 14 hits, 5 BBs, 5 Ks. 5-for-14 w/RISP, 11 LOB, 0 GIDP. No errors.
NEXT GAME: Friday against the Florida Marlins at 7:05 from Nats Park. John Lannan (9-12, 3.65) hosts Javier Vazquez (10-11, 4.13).