Cardinals' Molina hits a two-run RBI single off Nationals' Strasburg in the first inning of their MLB National League baseball game in Washington

The Nationals are under .500 for the first time since 2011


The Cardinals completed a three-game sweep in D.C. by winning 4-2 on Wednesday, dropping the Nationals to 10-11 on the young season.

It’s the first time the popular NL pennant pick has been below .500 since finishing the 2011 season with an 80-81 record. Last year, the Nats were over .500 after every game but one (they started the season 2-2).

Minus Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals scored just four runs in the three games against the Cardinals. One of those runs was scored by Stephen Strasburg today after his sixth-inning single, but that was the only run the Nationals amassed while he was in the contest. Strasburg dropped to 1-4 due to the lack of help.

It was the 10th time in their 21 games that the Nationals have scored two runs or fewer. Only the Marlins, with 13, have more such games. The Mariners, Padres and Phillies also have 10 apiece.

In comparison, the Yankees and Mets have just three such games.

Especially since the pitching staff is still healthy, it’s far too early for Nationals fans to panic. Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez haven’t been as dominant as hoped, but there aren’t any big warning signs there and both Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler have looked very good. Even if Dan Haren proves to be a lost cause, that’s something they can overcome once the offense gets going. And the offense is too good not to get going before much longer.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.

Billy Beane promoted to VP, David Forst named A’s general manager

billy beane getty

I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.

The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.

Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”

Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.