- Braves 9, Nationals 7
It's okay. It was a better ride than we had any right to expect. Going from 67-95 last year to a five game lead in the NL East, and still being in the wild card race on Labor Day? Not bad for the first season of baseball in Washington in 33 years. But it's over now. Yesterday's loss to Atlanta was a sign. The Nats played their guts out and stormed back to take the lead in the late innings, but for once they couldn't hold it. That's because Atlanta has what Washington is missing. Two guys (conveniently both named Jones) who can change the game with one swing of the bat.
Jose Guillen is the closest we come. And Jose is great. An above-average outfielder and hitter. But he can't hit homers at RFK. The Bobby is in his head. So Jose gets tense, thinks he has to hit a dinger every time, and ends up popping out. And there's no one to pick up the slack for him the way Andruw did when Chipper was on the DL.
My biggest concern for next season is where the additional power in our lineup is going to come from. Certainly a healthy Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson and Brad Wilkerson will help. But none of those guys is a 35-40 home run hitter. Assuming (please, God) that Preston Wilson leaves as a free agent, I think the platoon of Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd will replace his power numbers, but probably won't improve on them. Ryan Zimmerman is a good young infielder, but I don't think it's realistic to expect him to hit a ton of home runs his first full big league season. And yes, I do think Vinny will be gone next year.
So next year may be a lot like this year. Pitching, defense and pray for enough offense to get by. Which is fine, but we're going to need to restock the minor league pitching staff this winter.