Chien-Ming Wang will make his fifth rehab start, and his first at Class AAA, tonight in Syracuse. The Chiefs were rained out last night, but Wang will make his start as scheduled.
Wang threw six scoreless innings in his last start, in Class AA Harrisburg, and is getting awfully close to his first major league start since July 4, 2009. Wang hasn’t allowed an earned in 15 straight minor league innings, allowing nine hits and two walks over that span.
Wang made his first rehab start June 27, and players only receive 30 days of rehab. Today will be Wang’s 23rd day since his minor league rehab assignment began, so he could feasibly be in the majors within a week or so, perhaps one more start in Syracuse. We’ll see what happens tonight, but Wang’s sudden surge after almost two years of sputtering comebacks is shaping up to be one of the more improbable and fascinating stories of this Nationals season.
>>> Last week, after Derek Jeter hit his 3,000th hit, he received a phone call from a former teammate who’s also closing in on the milestone: Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, at 2,842, has the most hits of any active player after Jeter. He played briefly with Jeter in 2008 after a deadline trade to the Yankees, and he also came to know him well after playing in the All-Star Game with him on a near-annual basis. “Good man,” Rodriguez said.
After Marquis’s eight-inning, nine-strikeout, two-run performance last night, the Nationals are 13-6 in games he starts. That ties him with Mark Buehrle for the sixth-best winning percentage on days he starts, behind Roy Halladay (16-4), Jair Jurrjens (13-4), CC Sabathia (16-5), Josh Beckett (13-5) and Ivan Nova.
Of course, there are outside factors tumbling atop outside factors here. The Nationals have scored an average of 5.7 runs in games Marquis has started, and the rest of the Nationals’ rotation has to be wondering how to get some of that. The Nats have scored, on average, 3.6 runs for John Lannan, 3.4 for Livan Hernandez, 3.2 for Jordan Zimmermann and 3.2 for Tom Gorzelanny.
The Nationals’ .684 winning percentage on days Marquis takes the mound, though, does speak to his consistency, if not dominance. Marquis is third among Nats starters with a 3.94 ERA, which is about league average for a starter. But he’s thrown a quality start – at least six innings, three or fewer earned runs – in 12 of 19 outings. Only Jordan Zimmermann, with 14 in 18 starts, has more. (And the Nationals are only 10-8 in games he starts.)
Marquis has had some good fortune, but he’s also given the Nationals a chance to win most of the time he’s taken the mound.
>>> One brief note on the trade deadline: For the next two weeks or so, rumors and speculation will be flying around, and a lot of Nationals players will find their way into the mill. Just remember that a team taking a call or “listening” about a player doesn’t necessarily mean anything is actually going to happen. That’s what general managers do this time of year — they talk. About 99 percent of the team, that’s all it is. It’s fun to follow and discuss, sure, but just remember that it doesn’t always amount to much.