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Matchup/Diary Game # 97 at Nationals

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Brandon Backe   Tony Armas, Jr.
8 - 6, 4.87   4 - 4, 4.96

Although the results this afternoon weren't what I might have wanted, with the Cubs, Phillies and Mets all winning, the mere fact that I was Gamecast scanning and Fox-watching on a Saturday afternoon was quite the novelty, this being the first Saturday since April 16 that the Astros have entered with a winning record.

Saw that Jose Guillen went out and like, measured the power alleys at RFK, and found that they were longer than advertised. I'm not surprised to hear it, but what's up with Guillen? Sounds like he's thoroughly psyched by the ballpark, in the way Dierker always says his pitchers were by MMP in 2000. It also gives Guillen and any of the Nationals allied with him a convenient excuse for losing. I mean, yeah, we know that RFK is not exactly a slugger's paradise, but road teams don't come in and slug a ton, either, the Astros' game last night notwithstanding. But cultivating an attitude and getting all negative about how a park is "cheating" you or your team I think really sets you up for failure. If I was a Nats fan (and it's good that I'm not, 'cause that would mean I'd been an Expos fan), I'd really find this news discouraging.

Maybe it will help Backe tonight. There's not a baseball park constructed anywhere that is forgiving of the walk, but seems to me RFK will magnify the importance of each base on balls. It certainly seemed to do so last night, as Clemens battled through his off-kilter control. Even as I note that Backe has been more able to keep his bases on balls from turning into runs scored lately, I continue to await his emergence from this valley of extreme wildness he entered two months ago. He wasn't prone to the walk early on, or last year, so you have to assume he'll come out of it. He's gonna HAVE to come out of it, as it's very simple: the job market for major league pitchers who walk a man an inning is kind of slim right now, and is expected to stay that way.

Didn't mean to get all dark there, what I actually had intended to get to is that Backe's numbers in July look really good. He's 2 - 0 with a 2.55 this month, despite the 11 walks in 17 innings. He remains 3 - 5 with a 5.95 on the road, but RFK should give that road ERA a kick downward tonight, I'm thinking.