Baseball Tease Day

Rafael Devers

Wings and prayers—Rafael Devers’s tiebreaking two-run blast in the ninth Sunday punched the Red Sox’s ticket to the AL wild card game . . .

Crisis addicts of the world, unite. You won’t get the greatest possible fix for your addiction on what might have been Baseball Chaos Day. In fact, you’re getting a day off for reasonably good behaviour.

But at least you get four of the game’s most deeply storied franchises in the wild card games. That’s something, isn’t it?

If major league baseball fans must continue to bear with the thrills and chills of watching teams fight to the last breath to finish . . . in second place, at least you get to see the Cardinals host the Dodgers in the National League wild card game, and the Red Sox host the Yankees in the American League game. Right?

I know. I know. The crisis junkies among baseball’s fans were spoiling for that National League West tie between the Giants and the Dodgers. They wanted that four-way American League wild card tie so badly they could wrap themselves in it like frozen food in Reynolds Wrap.

The Blue Jays did their absolute best to make it happen when they parboiled the Orioles 12-4 Sunday afternoon. But the Mariners let them down by being unable to get past what was left of this year’s Angels.

Maybe we should have had a hint when Shohei Ohtani started the finish of his surrealistic individual season by hitting Mariners lefthander Tyler Anderson’s third pitch of the game about twelve rows into the right field seats.

Home run number 46, RBI number 100, for the guy who also finishes 2021 with a 3.18 ERA and a 10.8 strikeout-per-nine rate on the mound. If you can’t win it, just start playing spoiler. Ohtani’s surreal season could have finished a lot worse than becoming the Angels’ must-see-television in the injury-created absence of their all-universe Mike Trout.

The Mariners let themselves down, too, after a surprise season of playing slightly over their own heads to get thatclose to postseason-opening mayhem. Those were real tears in young outfielder Jarred Kelenic’s eyes as well as veteran third baseman Kyle Seager’s, when their run came one port short in losing two of three to the Angels over the weekend.

“It wasn’t a team where we were just more talented than the other team every single day,” said Seager postgame, after what may yet prove his last game as a Mariner, “but you had a group that just collectively played together and they collectively tried to win every single night.”

Trouble was, the Nationals couldn’t keep the Red Sox down despite opening an early 5-1 lead against them in Nationals Park. They couldn’t stop Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers from hitting a hefty solo home run to open the top of the fourth and a five-all-tiebreaking two-run shot in the top of the ninth—with former National Kyle Schwarber, who’d reached on an inning-opening infield error—aboard ahead of him.

But two years after the Nats’ staggering World Series win, at least they could bask a little in the home crowd’s applause for possibly-retiring first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the last truly Original Nat, the franchise’s first first-round draftee to play in their silks after moving from Montreal, when lifted from the game after the seventh. Even the Red Sox joined the applause unapologetically. Aretha Franklin used to spell that r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

Meanwhile, the American League East champion Rays battled the Yankees scoreless until the ninth. The Yankees even flashed something resembling past glories when third baseman Gio Urshela channeled his inner Derek Jeter in the sixth, chasing Austin Meadows’s foul pop 126 feet from an overshift position and catching it on the track, before he fell in a heap onto an empty spot on the Rays’ dugout bench.

But after Rays starter Michael Wacha pitched one-hit ball over five innings and the Yankees threw six pitchers at the Rays, Aaron Judge—the towering, snaggle-toothed, boyish-looking face of the Yankees—picked the right spot to deliver the first walk-off winner of his major league career.

With Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge freshly installed, after Josh Fleming allowed second and third with one out, Judge ripped a liner off Kittredge’s glove toward second, Tyler Wade dove home ahead of a throw from Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe. Thus the Yankees ducked a coming day’s chaos. “I wouldn’t say we exhaled,” Judge said of it postgame. “We still have work to do.”

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the Padres’ second-half implosion finished when they all but rolled over and played dead for most of an 11-4 loss to the Giants. Enabling the Giants to become the first in Show ever to win their 107th regular season game while clinching a title on the regular season’s final regular day. Leaving the Dodgers, 10-3 assassins over the NL Central-winning Brewers, to deal with the Cardinals in the league’s wild card game.

That ages-old blood feud between the Giants and the Dodgers would just have to wait for a possible showdown in a National League division series, assuming the Dodgers get past a Cardinals aggregation that managed to do what enough teams couldn’t this year—shake off a few serious injuries and a few tough spells to get to at least the postseason’s entry game.

The Padres made life just a little too simple for the Giants Sunday afternoon. They had no answer for Giants starter Logan Webb—who struck out eight and, at the plate, threw in a line drive, insult-to-injury two-run homer in the fifth—until they finally chased him with three straight base hits in the eighth.

Entering the season it sometimes seemed as if the Padres were anointed the lords of the National League West by default and the Giants were anointed lucky to survive the races at all. But while growing pains, internal dissensions, key pitching injuries, and manager Jayce Tingler’s exposure as an inconsistent in-game thinker came more vivid as the Padres season went deeper, the Giants surprised just about the entire baseball world with their ability to hang with the Dodgers and take it literally to the last day.

Veteran or largely-veteran teams don’t work anymore, right? Baseball’s for the young, right? Letting the kids play means the veterans can’t romp, right? The Giants would like a few words with you. Their veterans played up and had just as much fun as the kiddie corps. And the Giants took their remarkable season right down to the wire to beat the Dodgers out for the title by one game.

“I think we all knew at the beginning of the season, or even dating back to the beginning of spring training, what the projections are and what the industry sort of thought of us as a club,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler, who’d finally figured out what he couldn’t in Philadelphia—analytics hoists and supports you going in, but you’d better marry that to what’s in front of you inning by inning if you want to get the full job done.

“What I realized,” he continued, “is there are some intangibles that those projections and viewpoints failed to take into consideration.” There’s never a thing wrong with having the most possible information to open a game, but when it’s married unsuccessfully to the moments to come while you play, the offspring is usually disaster.

The Giants, the Brewers, the AL Central-winning White Sox, the Astros, and the NL East-winning Braves have to wait to begin their postseason dances. It’s both poetic and problematic that the party begins with the Olde Towne Team hosting the Empire Emeritus in a win-or-be-gone wild card game.

Poetic because of that similarly ages-old Yankee-Red Sox blood feud. Problematic because of . . . that ages-old feud having its script flipped in this century.

Go ahead and point to all those pennants and World Series rings, Yankee fan. You’ve only got one of those rings to show in the 21st Century. You may have the upper hand in division triumphs but that smothering Yankee dominance is just so 20th Century now. That’s the Red Sox sitting with four 21st Century World Series rings now.

If there’s one other thing by which the Yankees hold an edge over the Red Sox this time around, it’s a fan base that clings to “To err is human, to forgive cannot be Yankee policy” like a religious catechism. Calling for the manager’s perp walk and summary execution after a tough loss? Yankee manager Aaron Boone gets it after a tough inning as often as not.

The man who did what no Yankee manager before him could—lead his teams to back-to-back 100-wins-or-more seasons in his first two on the bridge—and has a .601 winning percentage as a Yankee manager must feel fortunate that his boss’s name is Hal, not George Steinbrenner. Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t have his father’s notorious hair trigger. It’s saved New York’s sanitation corps from barrels worth of washing blood from the streets around the House That Ruthless Built.

Maybe their own long-enough and disastrous enough history has finally given Red Sox Nation what some people thought would have been impossible to fathom—the patience of Job—compared to their counterparts turning to the south Bronx. The AL wild card game hasn’t been played yet, of course, but you don’t exactly hear Red Sox fans saying, to themselves and aloud, “OK, when’s it going to happen” and mean disaster over delight before the game actually begins.

Those two fan bases get only one day’s worth of living on the edge. If the Dodgers treat the Cardinals’ grand old man Adam Wainwright like target practise in the NL wild card game, the Dodger-Giant rivalry gets three games minimum, five maximum to go nuclear.

If the Cardinals treat the Dodgers’ cleverly imported grand old man Max (The Knife) Scherzer rudely, Giantland and Cardinal Country get to relive the 2014 disaster—disaster for the Cardinals, that is. This time, though, the Cardinals won’t have Mike Matheny on the bridge to decide The Book was more important than The Moment. Mike Schildt won’t risk paying through the feathers by allowing a Giant pennant to sail into the crowd atop Levi’s Landing behind right field. I think.

It’s enough to make you feel almost sorry for the White Sox facing the Astros in an American League division series. Even their first postseason meeting since the 2005 World Series the White Sox swept—that was before the Astros were traded to the American League, of course—doesn’t have half the blood boil potential. I think.

Baseball Chaos Day? Sunday’s regular season finales amounted more to Baseball Tease Time. It was fun to watch—but it was hell to pay. But as Hall of Fame scribe Jayson Stark would say, because . . . baseball!

Funeral to frat party and back in a Wrigley blink

2019-09-19 MattCarpenter

Matt Carpenter runs out the bomb that proved the difference maker in the tenth Thursday.

You knew it was just round one of total weekend war when a throw to first to catch Kolten Wong in the act was challenged, the safe call upheld, and the Wrigley Field boos rained louder than a heavy mental concert Thursday night. In the top of the first.

And, as Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks and catcher Willson Contreras ended the half inning with a strike-’em-out (Paul Goldschmidt)/throw-’em-out (Wong) double play,  the cheering from the Confines would have drowned the earlier booing out if both could have happened at once.

Then, for the following seven innings, Wrigley Field resembled a funeral home with Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty the chief undertaker. Until the Cubs tied things at four in the bottom of the ninth, turned the funeral home into a frat party and sent it to extra innings.

With Craig Kimbrel—returning from elbow inflammation, not having pitched since the beginning of the month—taking the mound for the top of the tenth. Cardiac Craig, about whom it was written snidely that every time he nailed a postseason save for last season’s Red Sox his high-wire act still made it feel like losing.

He struck out former Cub Dexter Fowler on a full count. Then Matt Carpenter—who’d lost his third base job to rookie Tommy Edman, who came into the game late when it looked like the Cardinals had it in the bank, and who hadn’t gone long since late August—hit Kimbrel’s first pitch over the center field wall. That’s what a quick trip back to the minors to fix your swing can do for you.

It also knocked Wrigley back into funeral mode for the moment, until Kimbrel settled enough to get rid of Goldschmidt and Steve Cishek came in to get rid of Marcell Ozuna and get the Cubs one more chance. Which Giovanny Gallegos—the guy the Cardinals surrendered Luke Voit to the Yankees to obtain—had no intention of giving them in his first-ever Cardinals save situation.

Late game Cub insertions Ian Happ (fly out to center) and David Bote (swinging strikeout) were dispatched almost in a blink. And Nicholas Castellanos, the Cubs’ midseason acquisition from the Tigers, who’d been nothing but solid and beyond for the Cubs since, flied out to center to end it.

The 5-4 win pushed the Cubs four behind the Cardinals in the National League Central and one behind the Brewers for the league’s second wild card, the Brewers having flattened the Padres earlier in the day. The Cubs have to win a mere three straight against the Cardinals this weekend to keep pace with them and maybe re-claim their second card grip.

Flaherty’s evening ended after a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, 118 pitches, eight strikeouts, a lone walk, three hits overall, and one rudely-interrupting home run, keeping the Cubs otherwise unbalanced with a blend of breakers, changeups, and fastballs a barista would have envied for its smooth richness.

He walked off the mound for the final time of the game so collected he could have been forgiven for saying, quietly, “Well, I guess I’d better be shoveling off.” Even if he knows about as much about the old friendly radio undertaker Digger O’Dell, whose catch phrase it was, as this year’s American League East-and-100 game-winning Yankees know about avoiding the injured list.

And he got a nice respectful hand from even enough Cub fans and he’d earned every finger of it. Even that was just respectful, low-keyed applause and cheering. The real noise came after the Cardinals brought in former starter Carlos Martinez to open the bottom of the ninth, and Martinez opened with a walk to Nicholas Castellanos before Kris Bryant, who’d been kept quiet by Flaherty all night, smacked a single up the pipe.

With Kyle Schwarber and his 37 home runs so far checking in at the plate with the potential tying run. With Martinez falling behind to him 3-0 before striking him out, but with Ben Zobrist doubling home Castellanos, putting the tying runs into perfect position, and with Javier Baez—whose thumb is still balky but who can still run swiftly—pinch running for Zobrist.

It took eight and a half for Wrigley to come back to life. And when Contreras flicked a squirty grounder up the short third base line with Bryant tearing home as if it was supposed to be an unintentionally intentional suicide squeeze, only with all hands safe and first and third, the Confines became as unconfined as you imagine when the Cubs re-awaken from the dead.

Then Cardinals manager Mike Schildt brought in Andrew Miller, whose formidability as an Indian the Cubs remembered only too well from 2016, but who’s been worn down since by health issues stemming from his former bullpen overwork, to face the lefthanded Jason Heyward. Heyward smashed a grounder to second that pushed home Baez to tie things at four.

You got the idea early that even with the Flaherty factor hitting was going to be a challenge thanks to the notorious Wrigley winds, when Nicholas Castellanos skied one that might have flown out elsewhere but hung up for a right field catch in the first, and Jason Heyward hit a cannon shot liner that died a shuttlecock into Wong’s glove playing second ending the second.

And you also got the idea early and often that both sides weren’t exactly going to be in a big hurry to blow plate umpire Bill Welke to a steak dinner any time soon. Welke called so many pitches strikes that didn’t even graze the floor or the outside edges of the zone it’s a wonder neither Cardinal nor Cub decided to serenade him whistling the ancient television theme from The Outer Limits.

But you also knew the delight Cub Country took in Anthony Rizzo deciding to test his recently-sprained ankle by playing first base would be matched only by a sense that it would do a bigger favour to the Cardinals. And in the top of the third, it was.

Flaherty batted with first and second with Rizzo ambling down the line, a la Keith Hernandez, slowly but surely, and practically in front of the mound, aiming as has become a Cubs mainstay to choke off the bunt even if it went near the third base line. Flaherty dropped the bunt, all right. Right up the short third base line. And on his still-balky wheel Rizzo couldn’t get the ball in time to keep the bases from loading.

The pillows stayed stuffed long enough for Dexter Fowler to dial Area Code 4-6-3 with Edman (a leadoff walk) scoring on the play. And Rizzo atoned for his ankle’s betrayal in the bottom of the inning, sending Flaherty’s first pitch to him the other way into the left center field bleachers to tie things at one. Smartly, Rizzo he didn’t run it out any faster than he absolutely had to or could.

The tie held up long enough for Edman to open the top of the fifth with a triple into the right field corner and for Harrison Bader, who’s been as much a struggler at the plate as reliable in the outfield this season, to smack a single up the pipe to break the tie.

The Cardinals got a scare when Wong had to leave the game after ending the top of the fifth with a ground out to first. He fumed over leaving the game and the Cardinals may have fumed quietly with him, since he’s their best player this season by wins above replacement-level.

Then they sent Carpenter out to play third and moved Edman to second. And Flaherty went back to work as though nothing short of an undetected tornado could interrupt his quiet pleasure in his work. You might feel that kind of quiet surety, too, if you took the fifth-best post All-Star break earned run average (1.07) of all time out to the mound to start your evening’s work of play.

Flaherty was so composed and efficient that the Cardinals didn’t even think about getting a reliever up until Martinez got up to throw in the bottom of the eighth, after Flaherty reached 108 pitches on the night. Don’t even think about it: Flaherty doesn’t look like a pure hard, grunting, thrusting thrower; he relies on mechanical soundness to provide the fastball’s power and the command of the breakers.

He nailed the Cubs’ impressive rookie call-up Kyle Hoerner (eleven runs batted in in his first ten games worth of impressive) on a called third strike that looked under and not on the floor, and while Hoerner objected mildly to the call Flaherty simply walked around the mound and went back to work.

Then he struck out his counterpart Hendricks swinging, and Hendricks to that point was working with equivalent composure, not letting the quirky Wrigley elements get as far into his head as a two-run deficit ordinarily might, though he engaged a long yet civilised-appearing discussion with Welke after that swishout before returning to the mound.

He was probably a little more miffed when Goldsmidt opened the St. Louis sixth with a sharp double down the left field line. The Cardinals must have wondered about his ump conversation when Ozuna was rung up on a pitch that didn’t even graze the outer strike zone before Hendricks nicked Paul DeJong on a runaway inside pitch.

But Yadier Molina, the Cardinals’ wise old man behind the plate, lined a single to left that Schwarber played on the carom off the heel of his glove before throwing home. Goldschmidt waved home from second should have been a Deadbird, except that he eluded Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, abetted by Contreras inside the baseline seemingly unable to get the handle on the tag.

Which ended Hendricks’s evening and gave the Cubs more reason to be miffed, when Bader stroked a liner to left center off Hendricks’s relief Rowan Wick, right after Wick turned Edman aside on a swinging strikeout. Then Schwarber opened the bottom of the seventh with a single up the pipe. And Flaherty in a momentary lapse of soundness wild pitched Schwarber to second while working to Ben Zobrist, before Zobrist grounded to second to push Schwarber to third.

And the Cubs’ basepath issues reared up and bit them flush on the fanny, when Contreras bounced one right back to Flaherty and Flaherty bagged the Schwarbinator in a 1-2-5-6 rundown out before Heyward grounded out for the side.

The Cardinals didn’t really look all that much better going 4-14 with men in scoring position in the first seven innings, but what matters is how you make it count when you do it and how you hang in there when the other guys decide it’s party time at the ninth hour. And Carpenter spoiled the party in the top of the tenth.

Leaving the Cubs to resist the temptation toward counting the days and accept the temptation to counting the ways they might keep both feet from their seasonal graves. They’d rather not be shoveling off just yet.

Discouraged even when the Mets win?

2019-09-04 AmedRosarioJoePanik

Amed Rosario and Joe Panik (2) celebrate the Mets’ Wednesday win over the Nats. So why does it still feel discouraging?

Four months ago, Dave Martinez couldn’t live five minutes without yet another pundit or sports talking head measuring him for the electric chair. Four minutes after the Mets blew one to the Nats in the bottom of the ninth that they led by six in the top, on Tuesday night, Martinez can live like a skipper who has about a 99 percent chance of seeing the postseason even by way of the National League’s first wild card.

Even if he and his Nats lose the afternoon after.

And a few moments before the Nationals started their off-the-charts Tuesday overthrow, Martinez had only one message for his players: “If you let this game go like this, it’s not going to be good,” as he put it in his post-game press conference. Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the ninth finished making damn sure the game didn’t go like that. He also made sure that what was left of the Nationals Park crowd went from chaos to bedlam while he was at it.

After Suzuki’s three-run homer landed halfway up the left field seats Tuesday night, the Mets looked like they wouldn’t live another five minutes without someone, anyone, preparing to stage an intervention on behalf of the Crisis Addiction Anonymous organisation for which this year’s Mets ought to be the founding fathers.

“It kind of just seemed like a bad dream,” said Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who accounted for two of the Mets’ ten Tuesday runs with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly and a ninth-inning homer.  “I don’t know. That’s hard to do even in a Little League game I feel like, come back from [six] runs down in the bottom of the ninth against guys throwing 99 mph. I don’t really have words for it.”

Mets fans thought it was bad enough watching the Mets blow a seven-run lead in what looked like a blowout in the making against the Braves in Atlanta while almost letting the Braves win it at the eleventh hour? That was just a hard day’s night of a 10-8 win. Tuesday night’s 11-10 loss after the Mets had the damn game locked in the vault was they should have known better. And didn’t.

“We had a six-run lead,” lamented Mets manager Mickey Callaway, whose own neck looked as though it were being measured for a guillotine in May. “Major league pitchers got to be able to hold that.”

How could Martinez and his Dancing Nats, the guys who’ve been baseball’s best since 23 May and think nothing of turning the dugout and the clubhouse into Soul Train after epic home runs or hard-earned wins, know that their still-testy, still-implosive bullpen was going to be taken off the Tuesday night hook by a Mets bullpen that would have fought the Chicago Fire with incendiaries instead of water and other retardants?

A Wednesday matinee between the two, their final meeting of the regular season, promised to be an anticlimax if the Nats won. Or, if the Mets’ self-immolating bullpen incinerated themselves and the Mets yet again. Well, some promises are made to be broken, after all. Some.

Come Wednesday, Luis Avilan struck out Juan Soto swinging after Jeurys Familia surrendered an RBI single (to ex-Met Asdrubal Cabrera) and a two-run double (to Anthony Rendon); Seth Lugo—who wasn’t allowed to work a second inning Tuesday night, with results that will still live in Mets infamy—got his usual two-inning gig and shook off a pair of hits with no runs; and, Justin Wilson pitched a spotless bottom of the ninth.

And the Mets held on to win 8-4. Which cynics, meaning practically any Met fan on the planet, might suggest means it just isn’t safe anymore to trust these Mets with any lead more than four runs. They even had another six-run lead in the middle of the sixth—and let the Nats get a little frisky in the bottom of the inning.

They tied the Nats at a run in the top of the third when spaghetti-bat outfielder Juan Lagares, of all people, led off and hit Nats starter Anibal Sanchez’s hanging cutter over the center field fence. They doubled their pleasure in the top of the fourth when aging second baseman Robinson Cano, returning fresh from the injured list, blasted a first-pitch splitter the other way, into the Mets’ bullpen in left center, with right fielder Michael Conforto (leadoff double) aboard.

And they kicked the train into overdrive when Pete Alonso sent his National League-leading 45th bomb inside the left field foul pole with one out in the top of the fifth.

But with Mets starter Zack Wheeler labouring through five innings and 101 pitches despite surrendering nothing more than Nats shortstop Trea Turner’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the second, Callaway decided he had no choice but to open the bullpen, and Familia came forth to open the Washington sixth.

Once the Mets’ effective closer, Familia hasn’t been the same since the Mets’ defense blew three World Series saves for him in 2015, or since Conor Gillaspie homered off him to help the Mets lose the 2016 wild card game, not to mention a domestic violence suspension and a blood clot putting paid to his 2017 before the Mets traded him away during 2018.

This season Familia’s been somewhere between lost and implosive, though he had a recent stretch of serviceability before he turned a two-all tie into an eventual 5-2 loss to the Phillies with a little help from a walk to Rhys Hoskins and, in due course, a three-run double by Scott Kingery on Sunday.

Now he took the mound in Nationals Park, walked Gerardo Parra and pinch hitter Andrew Stevenson back-to-back, and struck Turner out swinging. But he threw Cabrera—still bent on making the Mets pay for failing to re-sign him last winter—a creamy pitch that got turned into an RBI single. And he threw Rendon more fodder for the Nats third baseman to solidify a Most Valuable Player case in a walk year, Rendon driving one to the back of right center for a two-run double.

After Avilan dispatched Soto for the side, it took until the top of the eighth for the Mets to thicken the cushion, when Jeff McNeil squirted an RBI single through the right side for the seventh Mets run. The Mets made a push against returning Nats reliever Sean Doolittle in the top of the ninth but Doolittle managed to strand first and third with no scoring damage.

Then Wilson got a ground out, a line out, and shook off a walk to Suzuki—after spinning him around and into the dirt on the first pitch, perhaps just a little reminder against getting too comfy following Tuesday night’s discomfort—to end the game by getting Victor Robles to force Suzuki at second.

You’re encouraged to see a team recover that swiftly from a disaster like Tuesday night. Whether or not it means said team has one more run of derring-do in them before the regular season’s over. But maybe the Mets picked up a piece of Tuesday night news out of Pennsylvania that helped remind them it could always be worse.

Because as bad as it was for the Mets Tuesday night, it was absolutely worse for their Syracuse Mets AAA affiliate. The Mets blew a six-run lead in the ninth? The S-Mets blew a seven-run lead in the eighth, with the International League’s North Division title at stake in a tiebreaking game. But the S-Mets bullpen let the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders overthrow them, 14-13.

The Mets have been playing for a mere second National League wild card that looks more and more distant the deeper the stretch drive runs. Playing with dynamite, or matches at least, isn’t the way to reach it.

By and large the big boys have reminded the Mets how invincible they aren’t when they look like champions in the making but do it mostly at the expense of the bottom crawlers. Taking two of three from the first NL wild card-leading Nats, just like sweeping the American League second wild card-tied Indians last month, may yet prove aberrational.

Hi! We’re the Mets! And we’re crisis junkies. So who’s going to be the first Met to stand up, make the confession, and begin the recovery process?

The Mets have now won twelve of their last sixteen series, and have won the season series against the Nats, 12-7, but they don’t make you feel too encouraged anymore when they win. And the Nats don’t make you feel discouraged even when they lose two of three. (Even when you think they might think about joining CAA themselves.) Not until they open against the Braves Friday night, anyway.