The Nationals snapped their four-game losing streak last night by beating Milwaukee 5-3. The Nats were down 2-1 after two innings, but scored one in the fourth on Vinny Castilla's second double (that scored Preston Wilson for the second time) and one in the sixth on Jose Vidro's fifth homer of the season. When the Brewers closed to within one when Geoff Jenkins scored on an Esteban Loaiza wild pitch, the game was beginning to look very much like recent games when the Nats blow an early lead, give up late runs, and fail to score in the late innings.
But this game was different. With two out and men on second and third, the Brewers decided to pitch to Jose Guillen with first base open, rather than walk him and take their chances with Preston Wilson. That was a bad decision. Guillen singled in both Carlos Baerga and Ryan Church to give the Nationals a 5-3 lead. Wilson then struck out swinging. Gary Majewski, Mike Stanton, and Chad Cordero shut down the Brewers in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, respectively, to give the Nationals a win they badly needed.
This was a very big win. Had the Nationals lost, the Braves, who beat the Mets 3-0, would have closed to 1/2 game. But the Nats didn't let that happen, and the fact that they're still 1 1/2 games up after losing four in a row and seven out of their last ten is a pretty good achievement.
One last comment. Frank Robinson started Marlon Byrd in place of Ryan Church, presumably because Robinson wanted to platoon the two and play Byrd against Chris Capuano, a lefty. As we've said before, we think a Byrd/Church platoon is a bad idea. Church is hitting much better than Byrd against lefties. Church's stats against lefties are fantastic (.407 OBP, .625 SLG, 1.032 OPS) and actually are better than his stats against righties (.378 OBP, .535 SLG, .913 OPS). Byrd's stats against lefties are pretty bad (.338 OBP, .387 SLG, .725 OPS). Yes, we realize that Church has only 24 at bats against lefties, but given his early success why not play him until he shows he can't hit them? As for playing against righties, there is no argument that Byrd should start over Church because Byrd's stats against right handers are simply awful (.283 OBP, .250 SLG, .533 OPS). Until the Nationals get a better option in the outfield, Ryan Church should be the regular starter.