Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Just An Awful Game
I am preparing myself for an atrocious last 2 months of the season for my beloved Washington Nationals, especially in the pitching department.
But what I can not accept was the TERRIBLE fielding and lackadaisical effort put forth by the Nats last night against the Florida Marlins. The eventual 4-2 loss was painful to watch.
Tony Armas was on the mound and had his usual high pitch count (102, rarely throwing a first pitch strike to any hitter--and when not giving up any of 9 Marlin hits off him, was hammered on shots right into fielders gloves. Despite all that, he was in a position to possibly win, but shaky defense just killed the Nats--and a very bad night on the bases by Alfonso Soriano.
In the first, Amezaga and Dan Uggla would get lead off singles, and Mike Jacobs would fly out to Soriano in left, for whatever reason, Amezaga tried to advance to 3rd and was gunned down by Alfonso. Things looked hopeful, but, Miguel Cabrera drilled a shot into the left centerfield gap with 2 outs and Dan Uggla still on first. Ryan Church just could not pickup the ball (error #1 on the night), and Uggla came around to score, Carbrera stopping at 3rd. 1-0 Marlins.
In the bottom half, Soriano would come to the plate and receive a VERY NICE STANDING OVATION from the RFK STADIUM Crowd, for still being a Washington National. Ricky Nolasco, not being in such a festive mood, promptly DRILLED Alfonso in the left shoulder, bringing some serious boos from the stands. Soriano actually appeared injured for a brief moment, as Medical Staff and Frank Robinson came out onto the field, but he eventually jogged to first. Soriano would advance to second on a Felipe Lopez ground out, but, never being patient and with Ryan Zimmerman at the plate, Alfonso took off for 3rd and was gunned down for out number two. Zimmerman's been pretty solid with runners in scoring position--Soriano can FLY--Alfonso had no real reason to steal 3rd.
The Marlins would go up 2-0 in the top of the 3rd when Uggla (who has got be the BEST RULE 5 Draft Signee in many, many years) slugged an Armas 2-2 pitch right over the left center field wall. But, Church would come back in the bottom half to hit a laser shot over the right centerfield wall to make it 2-1.
But Defense killed the Nats in the top of the 4th. Hanley Ramirez would single to right with one out, steal 2nd--a good throw by Brian Schneider would have nailed him--but the throw was on the shortstop side of second. Miguel Olivo would then smash a grounder right at Nick Johnson, (And Nick having some fielding problems lately)--for whatever reason, Nick tried to backhand the ball hit directly between his legs, it bounced off his glove (error #2), rolled into right--Ramirez scored easily. 3-1 Marlins. And, Johnson was obviously pissed at himself.
Pissed so much, that when Nick came up in the bottom half of the 4th, he turned around a Ricky Nolasco full count fastball and deposited it in the Mezzanine Level, Section 468--his 17th Dinger on the season. 3-2 Marlins.
But once again, fielding killed the Nats comeback. In the top of the 6th, Jeremy Hermida hit a routine ground ball to Marlon Anderson's right. Anderson fielded the ball cleanly, but inexplicably could not get off a decent throw. (Error #3) Of course, Hermida would advance to second on a Ramirez ground out, and Olivo would clean single to left, Soriano would run in pick up the ball and fire it to the plate, Zimmerman cut it off, turned, threw home--a good throw would have nailed Hermida-but the ball skipped off the dirt right of home and off Schneider's glove, Hermida scored to make it 4-2 Marlins. Zimmerman just slammed his right hand into his glove--looked down--disgusted with his effort. He knew--It was an OUT all the way.
Armas would labor through 6 complete innings before being replaced by Chris Schroder, (making his Major League Debut at 27 years old),just called up from New Orleans. Having never been seen by any Major League Hitters, he was on top of his game and shut down Jacobs, Cabrera and Cody Ross on 8 pitches and walked off the mound to a ROUSING OVATION from the fans behind the Nats 3rd base Dugout. You could tell he was very very pleased, but he didn't want to doff his cap--BUT HE REALLY WANTED TO--Its a moment, a long time coming, Number 55 will remember for the rest of his life.
Then came the game deciding bottom of the 7th. In most any game, even when you are behind, you usually get ONE CHANCE, to get back into the game. The 7th was the Nationals chance, and in an almost exact replica of Sunday's loss against the Padres (the game that got me to blog "One Of These Days")--the Nationals failed miserably.
Nick Johnson would slice a leadoff ground rule double down the left field line that bounced over the fence. Austin Kearns would follow, get 2-0 on Nolasco, swing mightily and miss a fastball right down the middle of the plate and eventually ground into the hole at short that Ramirez could not handle, everyone safe--Johnson moving to second.
Then, Frank began to over manage--again. Marlon Anderson is at the plate, Taylor Tankersly, a left hander, is warming up in the bullpen for Florida. There are NO OUTS. Church is next up. Tankersly is coming in to face Church. For whatever reason, and exactly as Sunday in San Diego, Frank lets Anderson give himself up, advancing the runners to 2nd and 3rd and wasting an out. As Church comes up, Tankersly comes to the mound to replace Nolasco--And, Frank takes out Church for the still hobbling Alex Escobar.
If Escobar had been 100% healthy and ready to play, I would have less of a problem with this decision. But, Escobar CAN NOT RUN YET, his hamstring has not healed. And--HE IS NOT GAME READY.
Church, on the other hand, has played well since the call up from New Orleans. And, HE HAS A BETTER AVERAGE, POWER NUMBERS, and ON BASE PERCENTAGE against left handed pitchers. But, Frank Robinson just will not give him the chance. He's already hit one home run today, he could clearly tie the game or put the Nats in the lead, but Frank sits him with the game on the line.
How do you think RYAN CHURCH FEELS?? Pretty Crappy. Not trusted. Just messes with the man's head. Terrible move on Frank's Part.
Escobar, down quickly 0-2 in the count, does fight back, gets a break from the umpires on a check swing and walks to load the bases. Brian Schneider comes up next--and looking like he has NO PLAN at the plate--swings at 3 straight Tankersly curve balls off the plate---A VERY BAD AT BAT!!
Luis Matos would pinch hit for Schroder--and also K badly on a slop curve in the dirt to retire the side. It continually amazes me how Washington just can not score with runners in scoring position and less than 2 outs. They are awful!!
The Nats last opportunity was wasted in the top of the 8th when Alfonso hit a lead off single, then, to the shock of just about everyone--fell asleep just long enough for Tankersly to pick him off with a SNAP THROW to first. He was embarressed, and so was everyone else not cheering for the Marlins.
It was a painful game to watch. The Nationals showed little effort or life. Not sure how much the depression of Livan Hernandez being traded has to do with the effort. But tonight was just unacceptable. When you have a team on the ropes, you have got to close it out. GOT TO!!