Saturday, July 22, 2006
THE " AT BAT" OF THE YEAR!!
In this afternoons 7-3 Nats win over the Chicago Cubs at RFK Stadium, Alex Escobar, came to the plate in the bottom of the 6th, injured, limping badly--AND DELIVERED WITH A DRAMATIC, PINCH HIT, 2 RUN, 2 OUT HOME RUN, that was the decisive blow, giving the Nationals a 6-3 lead that they never relinquished.
What was special about it, was the manner Escobar BATTLED AT THE PLATE. The Cubs had hard throwing left hander, Will Ohman, on the mound, in an attempt to shut down a Washington rally. Luis Matos had started the bottom half of the sixth with a clean double down the left field line. Cubs Manager, Dusty Baker, called for Ohman. Ohman would strike out Marlon Anderson on 3 straight pitches. Ohman would then get Robert Fick to ground out to short on 3 straight strikes. Frank Robinson then called on Alex Escobar to pinch hit for Livan Hernandez.
As most fans know, Escobar has been clutch in the few games he has played for the Nats, but he's injury prone. And, last night, Alex drilled a shot down the left field line to score two and give the Nats an eventual 7-6 win over the Cubs. He's batting over .400 with 12 RBI's now. But, on that play, Escobar, once again, pulled up lame running out the play, and pulled his right hamstring rounding first base and was immediately taken out of the game.
No one in today's crowd could have possibly expected Alex to play. The Nats had called up, my favorite, Ryan Church to add to the outfield depth, overnight and sent down pitcher Kevin Gryboski who had not been effective. (Church actually was not in uniform at the start of the game as he was traveling from New Orleans, but did make an appearance late in today's game--to a very nice ovation from the RFK FAITHFUL!!)
Frank though sent Escobar to the plate and Alex did so, noticeably limping. Ohman continued to throw strikes. Escobar took a called 1st strike. Swung at a second strike. Then proceeded to foul off the next 2 pitches. Ohman had, at that point, thrown 10 CONSECUTIVE STRIKES!! And, was in control. Ohman then threw one in the dirt that Escobar laid off. Escobar then fouled off 2 MORE PITCHES, protecting the plate nicely. Then, ON THE 8th Pitch of this AT BAT, Drilled Ohman's offering over the left center field wall for a FABULOUS 2 RUN HOMER! Escobar then proceeded to limp BADLY around the bases and was greeted in GRAND FASHION by MATOS and SORIANO at the plate, shuffled over to the dugout, where the players congratulated him in SHOCKING SURPRISE! Frank Robinson had a Grand Fathers' prideful look on his face like you have NEVER SEEN.!! Even Frank could not believe it!!
AND THE CROWD NOISE FROM OVER 38,000 WAS DEAFENING!!
Troy, sitting next to Sohna in Section 320 had joked that Ramon Ortiz was probably waiting, in the hole, to pinch run for Escobar--Alex, as it turned out, decided to act like Kirk Gibson, he of the famous injured, off the bench, game winning homer off Dennis Eckersley in the 1989 World Series in Los Angeles. If this game was as important--ESCOBAR'S AT BAT WOULD BE REMEMBERED FOREVER!! But, it will be remembered in NATS LORE, as a GREAT MOMENT IN 2006!! Escobar with the "AT BAT" OF THE YEAR!!
I know many will say the Ryan Zimmerman game winning blast off the Yankees Wang in June was UNBELIEVEABLE--and it was, but Z blasted out the very first pitch of the at bat. Escobar showed incredible patience, fouling off pitches he knew would not go anywhere. Alex has the most balanced, even swing, I have seen in a long time. Hope that he can get over the injury problems, HE IS A SPECIAL TALENT!!