Our discussions with Fansided blogs continues today as we talk to Aaron Somers from District on Deck about the surging Washington Nationals. The Pirates head into DC with a 17-19 record to take on the beat up, but only half a game back Nats.
1. We will be invading Nats Park again this week, we understand the parking lot bar–we think it was called The Dugout, is no longer operational and now it’s replaced by a trailer park or something–where do we go to drink a few Iron City’s before the game Wednesday and Thursday?
As much as I’d love to be able to answer this question, I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the options in the area. While I write about the Nationals and run this site, I’ve never actually been to a Nationals game or to Nationals Park. I live outside of Boston and haven’t even been to Washington D.C. in years. If you’re heading up to Fenway for a game, let me know, I’ll show you a few good spots myself but I’m afraid I’m clueless when it comes to the options in and around the park in D.C..
2. Bryce Harper–how much of an impact do you see him having on the team this season?
That’s no easy question to answer. I think prior to the start of the season I was certain that he’d have an impact, but it wouldn’t be an immediate one. I know we’ve all heard the hype and I think it’s fair to say that everyone has their own level of expectations regarding what he’ll be able to do on the field this season. He arrived much earlier than anticipated, has impressed since arriving, but still isn’t blowing the world away. Wouldn’t you say that’s fair? The fact of the matter is, however, that he’s going to be counted on for the rest of the season, due in part to all of the injuries that this organization is suffering from. Will Harper help this team win games this season? Yes, absolutely. Does his presence guarantee a playoff birth? Not by any means. Harper’s going to have an impact, we all just need to remember to be patient with him.
3. What can you say about Gio and Zimmerman, the Nats starters in this series?
I’ve believed since the offseason that Zimmermann was poised to have a big season this year. And I’m standing by that despite the start he’s gotten off to. He’s pitched well to date – career best ERA and career low BB/9 and H/9 – but he’s been hampered by terrible run support in his starts. I’d like to see a few more strikeouts from him as well. As for Gio, he’s been a huge pickup without a doubt. We all knew he could pitch, despite the high walk rates in Oakland, but there was some uncertainty about how he’d adjust to the National League and I haven’t seen any indication that he’s had a problem so far.
4. Do you see a weakness in the Nats club with the current roster?
Besides the ability to stay healthy? Yes, there are some weaknesses. The outfield depth is a concern, certainly. Rick Ankiel is playing above his head offensively and one has to wonder how long he can keep it up with regular playing time. Same can be said for Roger Bernadina with his recent hot streak. For better or worse that pair is going to be seeing a lot of playing time in the weeks to come. The bench is also a concern, as Chad Tracy and Xavier Nady (not to mention the injured Mark DeRosa) haven’t lived up to their already-low expectations. I’d personally like to see Steve Lombardozzi worked into the lineup more, perhaps developing him into the super-utility type of player that Ben Zobrist is for the Rays (though Lombo doesn’t have the power potential Zobrist does, which is too bad). I wouldn’t mind seeing the team give Corey Brown (currently in Triple-A) another opportunity at some regular playing time either.
5. What do you expect to see from the Pittsburgh Pirates this series?
The Pirates are a scrappy team. And they’re going to continue to surprise some people this year I think as things continue to fall together for the organization. Pittsburgh won two of three games from the Nationals just last week, let’s not forget. Andrew McCutchen is a beast and I don’t think we’ve seen the best from Jose Tabata just yet, giving the team a solid pair to build around. I still believe Neil Walker is a bit underrated and if Pedro Alvarez ever learns how to make contact with the ball consistently he could be among the league’s best third baseman. Brad Lincoln seems to finally be coming around and James McDonald has looked sharp, but otherwise there isn’t a player on the pitching staff that really excites me. That is going to be key for the organization to get back into contention, I think. Once they can consistently develop a few starters to pair with McCutchen, Tabata, and the rest of their position player foundation then the Pirates could be a really fun team to watch.
6. Series prediction?
Considering the scheduled starters for the series (Gio Gonzalez vs. James McDonald, Jordan Zimmermann vs. Charlie Morton) I’m actually going to give both games to Washington. Game 1 heads into extra innings – let’s just say Henry Rodriguez blows a save, somehow – before the Nats pull it out in the end. Game 2 isn’t quite as close, but is far from being a blowout.