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Matchup/Preview Game # 112 vs. Nationals

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John Patterson   Ezequiel Astacio
5 - 3, 2.42    2 - 4, 6.33

Oh man, the Marlins! What an absolutely brutal sweep at the hands of the Rockies last night! Almost inexcusable, really, after they'd gone and put themselves back in the thick of the Wild Card race. If I were a hardcore Marlins fan, I'd probably be near apoplexy right now: to give up a walkoff shot in the opener, and to get beat by Byung-Hyun Kim in the nightcap, well, little wonder if there are gentlemen this afternoon stumbling around in circles through Little Havana in their guayaberas, mumbling to themselves in the Cuban dialect, and stubbing half-lit panatelas out on the forearms. . . the double feature out of Denver they'd watched yesterday was that brutal.

But enough of this glee I take in the Marlins' trainwreck, enough of this schadenfreude. The Astros have problems of their own. After struggling to hit Noah Lowry and Brian freaking Cooper on the roadtrip, the good guys now will attempt to turn it around against a pitcher who has broken through this year to become one of the truly feared hurlers in the NL, feared in the way Roy Oz is feared, or the way (heh-heh) Mark Prior used to be feared. And who, not incidentally, two Sundays ago was able to perfectly silence our puny little astrobats over eight innings at RFK.

Yes, John Patterson is suddenly in demand. Men want to be him, women want to sleep with him. And even Roy Oswalt has a higher ERA.

The Nationals appear to have their rotation in order especially for us, with Patterson, Livan Hernandez ("El Caballo"), and Ryan Drese. 1-2-3, and the Nationals know if they flunk this test, it's probably all over for them. Get swept in Houston, and they should prepare for life in the slag heap where all the other feelgood stories that didn't quite pan out end their days, along with Bernie Kerik, Ashlee Simpson, and Rafael Palmeiro.

So they're counting on their ace Patterson to end that kind of talk immediately, and other than the fact that they've found it very difficult to get him a decision, Patterson has proved himself more than able to shoulder the load as team ace.

With the back end of our rotation set up against the front half of theirs, I thought I might take a look at how the teams do in their cumulative matchups. Averages below are solely against the three pitchers slated to pitch this series.

Nationals vs. Astacio, Rodriguez, and Pettitte;
Astros vs. Patterson, Hernandez, and Drese
Avg. National Pos Astro Avg.
.429 Gary Bennett C1 Brad Ausmus .292
--- Brian Schneider C2 Humberto Quintero .000
.500 Nick Johnson 1B Lance Berkman .367
.111 Jose Vidro 2B Craig Biggio .375
.138 Cristian Guzman SS Adam Everett .083
.333 Vinny Castilla 3B Morgan Ensberg .176
.214 Preston Wilson OF1 Chris Burke .333
.333 Brad Wilkerson OF2 Willy Taveras .375
.167 Jose Guillen OF3 Jason Lane .500
--- Ryan Church OF4 Orlando Palmeiro .222
.185 Carlos Baerga Util/PH Mike Lamb .333
.074 John Patterson P1 Ezequiel Astacio .000
.000 Livan Hernandez P2 Wandy Rodriguez ---
--- Ryan Drese P3 Andy Pettitte .000

Specific talking points include the fact that Craig Biggio is 5 for 11 lifetime against Ryan Drese and that Ausmus is 7 for 22 with 2 doubles and a triple (!) against Hernandez, and that only Berkman owns a hit against all three.

Meanwhile, only Junior Spivey for Washington has ever faced Zeke Astacio. Both the hated Cristian Guzman and Carlos Baerga have more than 20 lifetime at bats against Pettitte; they're both carrying BA's under .220, although Baerga's got a couple doubles to his credit.

Lastly, it might be interesting to see whether Livan throws another temper tantrum. Robinson's probably had enough of Hernandez' duff, and more instability could get a damned good pitcher banned in D.C.