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Pitching Key for the Nationals in 2006
By Mike Rote (3/30/06)
The Washington Nationals ended their inaugural campaign at 81-81, by far exceeding the city of Washington’s expectations. How did they do it? All season long they relied on solid pitching from starters John Patterson and Livan Hernandez, and closer Chad Cordero.
Patterson finished up 2005 with a solid 3.13 ERA—a puzzling average when you consider his 9-7 record. Coupling his commanding pitching performances with awful run support from his club hurt both the Nationals and Patterson. In fact, seven times during the season, Patterson earned either a loss or a no decision in games in which he gave up zero or one run.
Hernandez too had a positive year in ’05, finishing at 15-10 with a 3.98 ERA. The remarkable thing about his story is that he spent the entire season with torn meniscus in his right knee—the leg that the right-hander pushes off with to generate the power behind his pitches. Immediately after the season, Hernandez underwent surgery to repair his knee, and reports are that he is feeling great this spring training.
Closer Chad Cordero had a breakout season with the Nationals in ’05. A relative unknown, “Chief” recorded a league-leading 47 saves in his all-star season. Without the bats putting runs on the board for the Washington, Cordero had to deliver under intense pressure, and that he did.
The positive news from spring training in Viera, Florida, is that all three aces are having a great warm-up to the regular season. Both Patterson and Hernandez are undefeated in the spring, at 2-0 and 1-0, respectively, and Cordero has pitched in two games, and has not surrendered a single run.
On the other hand, these three are going to have to carry the pitching staff. New starter Pedro Astacio has looked terrible, with two losses and a 10.50 ERA, and Luis Ayala will be out for at least two months following what was believed to be a season-ending elbow injury at the World Baseball Classic. Lastly, regular relievers Gary Majewski, John Rauch and Joey Eischen have had poor-to-mediocre performances this spring, with ERAs of 29.64, 5.40 and 6.75, respectively.
Despite the confidence in the three pitching stars in Washington, the Nats are going to need some outstanding run support from new stars Ryan Zimmerman and Alfonso Soriano, and the rest of the team to even come close to that 81-81 record of last year.