That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die. —The Necronomicon
Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain–Blue Oyster Cult, Don’t Fear the Reaper
Beating the Marlins doesn’t seem like a big deal. Especially for a Nationals team that is expected to be in baseball against a Marlins line-up including four or five players that shouldn’t be in a major league starting line-up and a pitching rotation that had Kevin Slowey and Wade LeBlanc pitching second and third. This is nothing against those two but they should be serving the same role that recently re-signed Chris Young is for the Nationals. Kevin Slowey didn’t pitch in the majors last season and LeBlanc made only nine starts. The Nationals roster sweeping the Marlins isn’t a surprise, but as Ryan Zimmerman said after the series it was good to get these wins against a team the Nats have traditionally struggled against.
While the Nationals .386 winning percentage against the Phillies from 2005-2011 isn’t a surprise their .373 one against the Marlins should be. In most of those seasons the Phillies were one of the best teams in baseball and won the division in all but two of those seasons. In 2012 the Nationals were 9-9 against the Marlins (the worst team in the division) and the Phillies (a .500 club). The history of the Nationals being just as bad, if not slightly worse, against the Marlins as they were against the Phillies is a strange one. It is one of those baseball things that doesn’t make any sort of logical sense. Even if it is only one series and three games out of 18 it was good to see the Nationals do what they are supposed to a team that could and maybe should lose 100 games.
Harper’s .500/.500/1.083 reminds me of a certain Marlins I once do something similar to the Nationals. Before the 2007 season the Washington Nationals were picked by most media outlets to be the best team in baseball and some felt they would be lucky if they could win 40 games. The roster was bad. It was beyond bad. While Kevin Slowey didn’t pitch in MLB last season and Wade LeBlanc sparingly the 2007 Nationals pitching staff featured several pitchers that were two or three season removed from pitching in the majors. The three starters that opened the season for the Nationals that season were John Patterson, Sean Hill, and Matt Chico. Combined they made a total of 29 appearances after the 2007 season. Against those three starting pitchers future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera hit .700/.800/1.500 causing Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young to remark, “Them’s High School numbers.”
It was the most impressive performance I have ever witnessed during an opening series and Harper’s great performance reminded me of that. Cabrera had two homers (one of which reached the upper part of the upper deck of RFK) in the series along with two doubles and six RBI. Harper finished the series with two homers, one double, and three RBI. Both had remarkable first series, but Cabrera’s was a little better, and yet I am still making the comparison. Harper had the best opening series I have seen since then, was for the Nationals, and most importantly was better than Chase Utley’s 2010 start of .417/.563/.500. Bryce Harper did to the Marlins what old division foes once did to the Nationals.
For whatever reason no matter who the Marlins have put in uniform they have beaten the Nationals, but 2013 may be the year that finally erases all that. The season that finally puts all the bad memories in the darkest depths of the past. In some ways it is important to remember where the Nationals came from. The Nationals pitching has been so good through these first three games that people were grumbling about Jordan Zimmermann in the stands yesterday. I even heard a couple people remark that it was about time when he was lifted for Henry Rodriguez to start the seventh. It is hard to say that Zimmermann had a good start giving up eight hits and several hard hit outs, but it did end up resulting in only one run. Even against the 2013 Marlins I am certain that the Nats 2007 game three starter, Matt Chico would have struggled. He did after all have a 9.78 and 2.217 WHIP in 23 innings pitched for the New Jersey Jackals of the Canadian-American Association last season.
The time gap of six years it has taken to get from 2007 to 2013 is nowhere near as wide as the talent gap. Of that 2007 team the only regular that remains on the Nationals is Ryan Zimmerman, and few regulars even remain in organized baseball. If the 2007 Nationals didn’t play in cavernous RFK the results of that season would have been even worse. In 2007 the Marlins and Miguel Cabrera decimated an understaffed and untalented Nationals team. In 2013 the Nationals and Bryce Harper returned the favor, and here is to hoping it is the start of the Nats scattering to the wind the ashes of a history in which they cannot beat the Marlins.