Originally written on Baseball Prospectus  |  Last updated 8/8/12

The Tuesday Takeaway
Sometimes, one play is all it takes to describe an entire season. But two such microcosms in two days, and in the same series, to boot? You couldn’t make this stuff up. If this was “the most Astros play of 2012,” then this may well be the most Nationals play we will see this year.

On Monday, Roger Bernadina scored the game-winning run thanks a defensive bungle straight out of The Bad News Bears. On Tuesday, the 28-year-old center fielder preserved a victory with a game-ending grab that may rank among the year’s best Web Gems.

That the Nationals have taken the first two games of the four-game series at Minute Maid Park should surprise no one. After all, Washington owns the best record in the league at 67-43, and Houston, at 36-75, sports the worst. But plays as fitting as the Astros’ error-palooza and Bernadina’s catch can make even the most predictable outcomes amusing.

With last night’s 3-2 defeat, Brad Mills’ squad fell to 0-11 in extra-inning games this season, joining the 1969 Expos as the only two teams ever to suffer that fate. Meanwhile, Davey Johnson’s bunch surged past the Reds, who lost a 3-1 decision to the Brewers, to regain its perch atop the major-league totem pole—a spot it has not held through 100 games since the strike-shortened 1994 season.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • The Athletics promoted minor-league strikeout leader Daniel Straily last week, and the rookie did not disappoint in his debut, tossing six innings of one-run ball to defeat the Blue Jays. Now, Straily will be thrown right into the thick of the American League playoff race and asked to take on Zack Greinke and the Angels in the rubber match of a pivotal three-game series at the Coliseum. The previously red-hot Albert Pujols has gone 0-for-7 in games one and two (3:35 p.m. ET).
  • Few players can claim to have ownage on CC Sabathia, but count Miguel Cabrera among that exclusive lot, as he’s 10-for-25 (.400 average) with two home runs in their past encounters. In fact, among active players with at least 20 career plate appearances versus Sabathia, only Evan Longoria, Alfonso Soriano, and Rod Barajas—yes, Rod Barajas—have a higher OPS than Cabrera’s 1.220.  The big southpaw will need to slow him down if the Yankees are to turn the tide in the four-game set at Comerica Park (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • Justin Upton has hit only nine home runs in 102 games for the Diamondbacks this season. Chris Johnson, who joined the team on July 30, has already smacked five in eight games with the team. On the heels of a trade deadline that saw the likes of Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke change hands, the 27-year-old former Astro has surprisingly made the biggest impact. Johnson is 3-for-5 lifetime with two doubles and a walk against Wednesday’s Pirates starter Kevin Correia (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • Ryan Vogelsong allowed four runs in 6 1/3 innings at Coors Field in his most recent outing, which marked the first time the 35-year-old right-hander had failed to deliver a quality start since April 26. Nonetheless, Vogelsong’s streak of pitching at least six innings each time out remains intact, as it has been since Sept. 21, 2011, a span of 21 starts. And, perhaps most impressively, in the second year of his renaissance with the Giants, Vogelsong leads all National League starters with a 2.38 ERA heading into tonight’s duel with rookie Joe Kelly at Busch Stadium (8:15 p.m. ET).
  • A two-week stint on the disabled list appears to have reversed Chad Billingsley’s fortunes in addition to healing his inflamed flexor tendon, as the 28-year-old righty has gone 3-0 since being activated on July 23 after losing his previous five starts. Billingsley has not allowed a home run since June 22, a span of six starts, and he has logged a 26-to-3 K/BB over the most recent five. He’ll look to outduel Jeff Francis and help the Dodgers avoid a potentially costly sweep at the hands of the last-place Rockies (10:10 p.m. ET).
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