Quick Links

Ready for more interleague play?

787600.png

Ready for more interleague play?

The Nationals probably won't face a more daunting stretch of games this season than what they're experiencing right now: 32 consecutive games against the NL East and AL East, with every team in each division cracking the .500 mark at some point during this period.

We've passed the midway point of that stretch now; yesterday's series finale against the Mets was Game No. 17 of 32 (Note: It would have been 33 consecutive games if not for a rainout against the Braves.)

So how have the Nationals fared against these tough opponents? With yesterday's loss, they're now 9-8. Not bad, though certainly as good as this first-place club would prefer.

The first three games of this gantlet came at home against the Orioles. Everything since has come against the NL East. Now, though, interleague play resumes again across baseball, which means the Nationals are about to play five straight series against American League opponents.

The home stretch begins tonight in Boston, where the Nats make their first appearance at Fenway Park since 2006. It continues next week in Toronto before the Nationals come home to face the Yankees and Rays, then head just up the road for a final series in Baltimore.

The 2012 Red Sox aren't nearly as imposing an opponent as they've been for much of the last decade, but they're no picnic, either. And nobody doesn't get a least a tad fazed the first time they set foot inside Fenway.

So it'll be interesting to see how the Nationals respond to this weekend's high-profile series, especially Stephen Strasburg (who starts tonight) and Bryce Harper (who should be in the lineup unless he's severely downplaying the state of his lower back).

This, of course, is the last time we'll see interleague play conducted in this manner. Beginning next season -- after the Astros switch to the AL, giving each league 15 teams for the first time -- there will be at least one interleague game every day of the season.

How exactly this will work, and whether it involves adding more interleague games or not remains to be seen. But it will be different.

So as the Nationals brush up on their New England accents in preparation for this weekend's series at Fenway Paaahhhhk, here's a morning topic of discussion: Do you like interleague play? And what (if anything) would you do to change it?

My personal opinion: I've never been a huge fan of it. I'd prefer to see teams play more games against opponents from the other divisions within their own leagues. But since that's not about to change at this point, I at least hope the new-look format in 2013 ensures that every team in a particular division plays the exact same interleague schedule. Have all the NL East teams play all the AL East teams, one series apiece. No extra games against made-up, geographic rivals.

That's my two cents. What do you think?

Quick Links

Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

usatsi_10296889.jpg

Nationals baffled by Dickey's knuckleball in Braves' 3-2 win

ATLANTA  -- R.A. Dickey frustrated Washington with his knuckleball for eight innings, Ozzie Albies had three hits and the Atlanta Braves beat the Nationals 3-2 on Thursday night.

After Ryan Zimmerman's leadoff homer in the second inning, the 42-year-old Dickey gave up only one hit -- a two-out single by Trea Turner in the third -- over the next five innings. Turner was picked off first base.

Dickey (10-10) gave up two runs, four hits and no walks. He made a strong case that the Braves should pick up his $8 million club option for 2018.

Zimmerman lined his homer into the left-field seats, tying the game at 1. He set a career high with his 34th homer, his fourth off Dickey this season.

Arodys Vizcaino struck out the side in a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 15 chances. It was a strong return to form after Vizcaino walked all three batters he faced in a blown save Wednesday night.

The Braves scored two runs in the fourth off Tanner Roark (13-10). Albies singled, moved to third on catcher Matt Wieters' wild pickoff attempt and scored the go-ahead run on Freddie Freeman's fly ball to deep left field. Nick Markakis doubled past Zimmerman at first base and scored on Johan Camargo's single up the middle.

The Nationals trimmed the Braves' lead to one in the eighth. Anthony Rendon doubled to left field and scored on Wieters' two-out single.

Ender Inciarte continued his push for 200 hits when he led off the first with a triple to right field. It was his 191st hit, the third-highest total in the majors. Inciarte scored on Albies' single.

The game was delayed several minutes in the middle of the eighth. There was confusion as Nationals manager Dusty Baker attempted to make several defensive changes and had to go over the changes with home plate umpire Nic Lentz, who also took questions from Braves manager Brian Snitker.

Quick Links

Ryan Zimmerman sets career high in homers vs. Braves

Ryan Zimmerman sets career high in homers vs. Braves

Ryan Zimmerman's resurgent season continues to get more and more impressive. 

Zimmerman hit his 34th home run of the season on Thursday night, setting a new career high. 

His previous career high was set in 2009, when he hit 33 while slashing .292/.364/.525 with a .888 OPS. 

He didn't get cheated on it, either: 

RELATED: MLB POWER RANKINGS