Our weekly Heat Check arrives in the form of a one-sport entity, which isn’t to say it’s a one-trick pony. At least we hope not.
THE BRAVES: They’re 3-4 on what figured to be a difficult road trip, with three games in Phoenix remaining. They were outscored 23-4 over their final three games in San Francisco. In those three games, they managed three extra-base hits – two of them Evan Gattis doubles – against 27 strikeouts. They still lead the National League East by a game, but this is largely because of ...
THE NATIONALS: They lost Saturday and Sunday to the Cubs, which always takes some doing but in these instances took real doing. Stephen Strasburg, who hadn’t won since April Fools’ Day, was working on a shutout Saturday when he was unnerved by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing error – Zimmerman would make another error in the game, giving him seven on the season – and yielded four unearned runs, two on a double by pitcher Edwin Jackson. Afterward Nats manager Davey Johnson expressed displeasure with Strasburg’s post-error mound demeanor, saying, “He’s too good a pitcher to let adversity behind him get him down.” And that was just Saturday. Sunday was even weirder.
BAT MEETS BALL, BUT NOT IN THE USUAL WAY: The Nats’ Gio Gonzalez yielded two hits through seven innings, whereupon Johnson pulled him for a pinch-hitter – Gonzalez had thrown only 86 pitchers – in the attempt to pad a 1-0 lead. The attempt proved unavailing. The Cubs tied the game in the eighth against reliever Drew Storen and won it in the ninth against Rafael Soriano, albeit oddly. Alphonso Soriano sought to steal third base. Catcher Kurt Suzuki sought to throw him out. The ball hit the bat of Welington Castillo, who was standing in the right-hand batter’s box, and careened eight feet wide of third base. Alphonso Soriano scored on the error.