Thursday, August 10, 2006
If someone had told me the Washington Nationals would load up the bases with less than 2 outs--4 times (and 5 times total during the game), have runners on 2nd and 3rd twice with less than 2 outs and 1st and 3rd with less than 2 outs once, draw 11 walks and stroke 9 base hits, I would reasonably expect to have routed the opponent.
Unfortunately, that was not the case last night for the Nats, although, they did pull out a 5-2 win over the Florida Marlins in the most excruciating fashion.
And due to just a BRUTAL ERROR by Felipe Lopez, the Florida Marlins were actually in position to steal this one late, before Micah Bowie was able to quell the uprising, lowering the blood pressure and heartbeats of the 21,390 in attendance at RFK Stadium and relieving Manager Frank Robinson from a sure heart attack. This all on one of the most beautiful, full moon, comfortably cool, summer nights you will ever spend in our Nations Capital. In fact the weather tonight helped off the Section 320 cheering and singing as the voices carried BIG TIME on the cooler air and breeze in the park.
The Nationals left 14 runners on base, 35 total runners by all their batters. Alfonso Soriano and Felipe Lopez left 5 runners apiece, Nick Johnson, Damian Jackson and Marlon Anderson 4--Not to be outdone, Alex Escobar, Ramon Oritz and Luis Matos--3.
And all 5 runs scored--WITHOUT A BASEHIT--REMARKABLE!!
The Nats scored on a wild pitch, 2 ground outs and 2 sacrifice flys. I could personally strangle Felipe Lopez last night. He continues to show no enthusiasm for the game--NONE.
You could see Frank Robinson just STEWING on the top step of the dugout. At one point, I thought he was going to blow his top!!
This win, though, had alot to do with nats starter, Ramon Ortiz, who pitched a rather efficient and effective game. Going 6.2 innings scattering 8 hits, walking NO ONE and striking out 6. He would leave in the 7th to a rousing standing ovation from the RFK stadium faithful. And Oritz DOFFED HIS CAP APPECIATIVELY!
It all got started with Ortiz getting in trouble right from the start. Alfredo Amezega would lead off the game with a looping liner to left center, that Alex Escobar, could not get a bead on, circled around to his right, and allowed the ball to drop right in front of him for a single that should have been out number 1. Amezaga would advance to second on the very next pitch to Dan Uggla, when Ortiz and Brandon Harper (playing his very first MLB GAME at catcher for Washington) got crossed up on signs with Ortiz throwing the pitch to the backstop-prompting a quick visit from pitching coach Randy St.Claire. Uggla would K, but Mike Jacobs would lace a liner to center to score Amezega and it was 1-0 Marlins.
But, the Nats struck back when Soriano doubled to DEEP RIGHT CENTER FIELD in bottom half, Zimmerman blooped a single to left, Soriano holding on the play. Dontrelle Willis, tonight's Florida Starter, would then unleash his first Wild Pitch of the night, advancing the runners to 2nd and 3rd. Nick Johnson would then walk on a full count, but on the 4th ball, Willis threw another WILD PITCH that bounced off the screen behind home plate, Soriano scoring easily. Zimmerman to 3rd. 1-1. Austin Kearns would ground slowly enough to short to score Z, Johnson out a second on the fielder's choice. Kearns then would be PICKEDOFF FIRST by Willis to retire the side, killing the rally, 2-1 Nats after one.
In the 2nd, Escobar singles to center, and with one out, Brandon Harper would get his first MLB Hit, a bloop double down the right field line, advancing Alex to 3rd. Ortiz would come up to bunt. Ortiz would come up, could not get a sacrifice bunt down, and ends up grounding to second. Escobar, for some unknown reason, decided to run home. Was out by a mile. Soriano would then walk to load the bases, but FELIPE LOPEZ would strikeout BADLY on a Willis pitch so far in the dirt in front of the plate, it was laughable.
Ortiz would continue pitching well and in the bottom half of the 3rd, Z would slice a liner to left for a single, Johnson would K, Kearns single to right center, moving Zimmerman to 3rd. Kearns moving to 2nd on the throw hom. And, then, lo and behold, Alex Escobar would drive a deep fly to right field to score Ryan for run number 3. The NATS FANS went nuts over seeing the Nats actally drive a run home from 3rd. It was a nice moment. But, Damian Jackson would kill the rally with a terrible stike out at-bat.
During the bottom half of the 4th, Ortiz proved, once again, what terrible bunters the Nats are. Harper was hit by pitch to start the inning, but then, in horrific fashion, he bunts just in front of the plate toward first, the ball bouncing high, instead of just stopping and allowing the play to develop and advance the runners, Ramon tries to JUMP over the ball, which hits him, killing the sacrifice, making Ortiz an automatic out and returning the runner to his original base. Really, how stupid can you be.
Pitchingwise, Oritz would cruise through 5 and in the bottom of the 5th, the Nats would score in strange fashion. Zimmerman walked, Johnson opposite field single to left. Kearns walks. Bases Loaded, NO OUTS. Escobar would strike out swinging mightily at a Willis Fastball right down the middle of the plate. Damian Jackson would come up, and I was fully expecting the inning ending double play by my least favorite National, Damian didn't dissapoint, by dribbling back to Willis. Dontrelle picked up the pitch, no more than 5 feet from home, but threw off to the left of catcher Miguel Olivo. Olivo caught the toss and threw to first to retire Jackson, but Home Plate Umpire Kerwin Danley called Zimmerman safe at home, Olivo's foot off the plate as Z slid home. Lucky break. Big sigh of relief. 4-1 Nats after 5.
After Ortiz got through the 6th unharmed, the Nats loaded up the bases in the bottom half on a Ramon 4 pitch walk, Lopez single--(bringing Joe Girardi to the mound to replace Dontrelle with Randy Messenger) Zimmerman would greet him by walking to load the bases with one out. But, Nick Johnson would hit into a inning ending 4-6-3 double play to kill the rally. The groans in the audience were loud.
The crowd was getting mighty restless. As we have seen all year, the Nats tend to keep teams into games that should be routs. The 7th inning came back to haunt the Nationals.
Olivo would hit a ground rule double down the right field line to lead off the 7th. But Ortiz would fight back to strike out Cody Ross, and Amezega grounded to 1st, 2 outs. Dan Uggla came to the plate, and in a previous at bat during the game, Ramon had thrown a pitch near his head. Ortiz threw the second pitch of this at bat right over Uggla's head--Uggla glared at the mound. On the very next pitch, Ramon hit Uggla on the hands. Home plate umpire gave the warning, prompting Frank Robinson to come out and get into a good 5 minute jawing session with Kerwin. During that time, Micah Bowie came in to replace Ortiz. Frank got in a good spat, cap beak to cap beak and, as expected, didn't back down. Frank got a nice ovation from the RFK faithful.
With runners on 1 and 2nd, 2 outs, Jacobs grounded a routine, inning ending, ball to Lopez, who BOOTED IT BADLY, with the ball rolling into the grass towards left center. Lopez then, DID NOT GO AFTER THE BALL, at first, and Olivo ran all the way home for the second score. The crowd was all over LOPEZ--DESERVEDLY--Frank looked like he wanted to kill him. Miguel Cabrera came to the plate and walked to load the bases. But, Bowie was able to retire pinch hitter, Wes Helms, ending the inning to a great relief of most everyone at RFK.
The Nats would load up the bases again in the 7th with one out but Soriano and Matos K'd badly to end it. VERY FRUSTRATING. Rauch pitched a scoreless 8th for Washington. The Nats would load up the bases again with 1 out in the 8th on 3 walks, and, Escobar delivered again with another sacrifice fly to score run number 5.
I joked to my Section 320 friends that these extra runs were very helpful because with Chad Cordero coming in for the ninth, Cordero could have his typical inning and we would still pull out a 5-4 win. Everyone laughed.
The Chief did come on to get his 20th save of the season, giving up only a 2 out single. And, the Nats got CURLY W number 50 on the season.
As a side not, during the 8th, with Escobar at the plate, this totally drunken fan, early 20's, that earier had slobbered all around Section 320, and who MICKNATS yelled to: "Yeah, I remember my first beer too!!"
eventually made his way down behind the 3rd base dugout and JUMPED UP ON THE DUGOUT YELLING!..Frank Robinson turned around immediately, and so did the entire team. They were worried something was going to happen. The game stopped briefly, the fool jumped down and was arrested while walking away by MPD. WHAT AN IDIOT!! You can bet he will never remember it.
It was truly remarkable that the Nats could only pull out a 5-2 win. Easily, decent teams would have scored 10 runs on a night like this, and the game would have never been in doubt. For 2 straight nights, Washington got good pitching, not only from their starters, but the bullpen was solid. Its only a few games, but when we do get these efforts, the hitters have got to come through. It was really remarkable that the Marlins were in a good position to win this game in the 8th.
And, Felipe Lopez needs to get his head examined. Lopez has some decent talent, speed and pop in his bat, but he just does not seem to care. He struck out badly 2 times last night, had done so the previous night, all with runners in scoring position and the game on the line. And, his crucial error in the 8th that prolonged the possibility of an unimaged comeback victory for Florida was unacceptable. It was a routine ground ball, not difficult in any way. UNACCEPTABLE.
Oh Yeah--one more thing--DAMIAN JACKSON HAS GOT TO GO!! HE'S TERRIBLE!! Bernie Castro deserves the chance to play. Come on FRANK!!