Friday, September 22, 2006

100th RBI for Z--Good Tight Win

Ryan Zimmerman became the 49th player in the History of Major League Baseball to knock in 100 Runs in his Rookie Season tonight in an excellent 3-2 win over the Division Champion New York Mets in Flushing Meadows, New York. The Nats bullpen continued to show improvement--throwing 2 2/3rds scoreless innings. And, Alfonso Soriano (still swinging at EVERY SINGLE PITCH) added to his terrific season by knocking his 40th double. The only player in MLB History with 40 Homers, 40 Stolen Bases and now 40 Doubles, along with those 21 outfield assists.

Playing a solid New York Lineup, Washington tonight showed, that if the Nats can get good starting pitching, they can be competitive. Pedro Astacio was hanging tough tonight, going 6.2 innings, giving up alot of hits (9) and 2 walks, but was able to get the key outs when it counted the most.

Alfonso would be the game changer early, putting the Nats in the lead when, with one out, El Duque, Orlando Hernandez (Livan's half brother and former Expo- released by Montreal for no reason) would plunk Soriano (his former Yankees teammate) with a curve ball that didn't break, Alfonso laughing all the way to first base. FLop, Felipe Lopez, was next, and Soriano took off for second. Mets Catcher (and preseason National), Mike Defilice threw the ball into center, Alfonso trotting easily to third. Flop would follow with a solid single to right on a full count, scoring Alfonso and giving Lopez his career high 50th RBI. FLop then stole his 40th base of the season. Not sure if many teams have had two 40 steal players on the same team. 1-0 Nats.

With one still out, Ryan Zimmerman stepped to the plate, and with all the solid RBI hits Z has had this year, Ryan would be fooled on a 1-1 off speed pitch from El Duque and hit a seeing eye, opposite field, grounder into the hole between 1st and 2nd scoring FLop, giving the Nats a 2-0 lead and, more importantly, Z's (MSZIMMY's Main Man--AND YES I WAS DOING THE "COME ON ZIMMY!!" cheer in that fabulous voice for her's) 100th Run Batted In for 2006. Zimmerman has knocked in 76 of those 100 runs with runners in scoring position. THAT's CLUTCH HITTING, the best figure in the National League. The African Queen and I found it very appropriate to see the 100th RBI a mistake hit. Frank Robinson pocketing that run scoring ball in his Jacket on the bench--smiling like only a grandfather could.

Pedro Astacio would continue to knock down Mets batters through 4 innings. And, in the 5th, Alfonso Soriano would lead off with a poke down the left field line, jogging cleanly into second for his record setting 40th double of the season. Although Soriano would move to 3rd on a Lopez grounder to second, The Nats, once again, could not put the game away as both Z and Nick Johnson would go down on strikes---some wicked off speed pitches from El Duque.

The Mets finally got into the game in the bottom half when Chris Woodward would double to the wall in left, Astacio then walking the weak hitting catcher, DeFelice. After El Duque advanced the runners up one base on a sacrifice, another former National, Endy Chavez (traded to Philadelphia last season for Marlon Byrd) continued to resurrect his career with a clean single to right, scoring Woodward, moving DiFelice to 3rd. Chavez's 40th RBI in a limited role, going along with his .317 batting average. Tom Pacoriek, on the MASN Broadcast, noted that Chavez has choked up on the bat about 7 inches, giving Endy more bat speed, helping him utilize all fields with his speed. I guess that's something Washington Coaches could never figure out. Or, just another example of how we always put players in the doghouse (Ryan Church a prime example) and never see them develop.

Fortunately, the Nationals would strike back right away, when on a 2-0 count, Austin Kearns would get a fastball right over the middle on the plate from Hernandez, Austin depositing it into the left field seats for a 3-1 Nats lead. Austin has been knocking in runs lately. His 24th Homer of the season now giving him 85 RBI's. Its safe to assume that if Austin was not so home sick and downright mediocre the first few weeks after the BIG TRADE with Cincinnati, he may well have knocked in 100 runs in 2006. Kearns walks alot for a free swinger, needs to keep his right shoulder in more (as I have yelled at him on countless occaisions), but we are starting to see the talent that he possesses. Good outfielder, strong arm, decent RBI bat--capable of .275, 25 HR's and 100 RBI. On a contending team, you can win with a player like Austin Kearns.

Astacio would continue to be effective, reaching the 7th, ahead 2-1. With one out and on Pedro's 104th pitch of the game, pinch hitter Ricky Ledee, would SLAM a No Doubter Home Run into the Upper Tier of the Shea Stadium Cheap Seats in Right field. The ball glancing off the side of the facade, and going out of the ballpark. 3-2 Nats. Then, Astacio losing his composure, giving up a drag bunt single to Chavez on his very next pitch.

Frank Robinson, seeing more than enough on Pedro's 105th pitch of the game, and me SCREAMING FOR FRANK TO TAKE HIM OUT, Number 20 walked to the mound, signaling for Saul Rivera. As has been the case for the Nats relivers in their baptism under fire, the more these young hands have entered into action, the better these arms have developed. Rivera, Wagner, Schroeder, Bowie, Rauch and The Chief, now combining to give Washington HOPE in the final, nail biting, innings of close games.

Rivera trotted on to K Jose Valentin, then intentionally walk the dangerous Carlos Degado to bring up the equally dangerous, David Wright. It was an odd move, that I was seriously debating, in the comfort of my living room. Wright could put this game away for good. Delagdo and Wright can both slam the ball out of the park and hit for average. Saul would bear down and get Wright to ground hard to Z at 3rd. Zimmeman tossing to Jose Vidro at second to retire the side, to great relief for me.

The 8th would be a typical FRUSTRATING NATS INNING. With one out, Austin Kearns would walk against Mets Reliever, Guillermo Mota. Vidro would follow and hammer an outside high pitch to deep left centerfield. Even the swift moving Chavez couldn't reach hit. Kearns would have scored easily, but Shea Stadium Ground Rules came into effect, when Vidro's smack bounced over the outfield wall, hitting an advertisement sign, bouncing back onto the field. Chavez raising his hands for the play stoppage. Kearns had to return to first. Still one out--and as I said to Sohna, we are now in trouble.

Sure enough, Brian Schneider, ahead in the count, 2-1, would swing at an off speed pitch off the plate, grounding to Valentin at second, playing in. If Kearns goes on contact, he most likely scores. Austin makes no attempt. Now, with 2 outs, Nook Logan, batting from his very weak lefthanded bat, tries to drag bunt down the first base line, only he hard bunts the ball RIGHT DOWN THE LINE, Delgado only has to pick up the ball and tag Nook. Come ON NOOK!! USE YOUR BRAIN!!. Drag the ball between 1st and 2nd, that's your ONLY chance in that situation. You can use your speed, but you also have to USE YOUR BRAIN!!!

Mota's a fastball hitter, how much better would Ryan Church do in that situation. A good manager puts his players in a position to succeed. Frank does not. Church was the better choice for the moment. It will always bother me how Nationals Management continues to bury good players, publicly chastising them, then sending those players off, to a better career. Frustrating to watch. Vargas, Carroll, Rasner, now Chavez, it goes on and onl Ryan Church being next!

With the game still 3-2, Jon Rauch would come on to pitch a 1-2-3 8th, setting up The Chief for the 9th. Speed Demon, Jose Reyes, would pinch hit to lead off the bottom of the 9th. Showing no patience, down one run, Jose swings at the second pitch, popping to Logan in Center for out number one. Julio Franco, MY FAVORITE PLAYER TODAY AS HE IS THE ONLY PLAYER LEFT IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES THAT IS OLDER THAN ME!!! Franco 48, Screech'sBestFriend 47. You are not OVER THE HILL, until there is no one left older than you playing--or in this case--ME!! Franco brings a smile to my face every time I see him play.

Franco would smack a hot grounder right back to the mound, Cordero stuck up his glove, protecting his face, and the ball went right into his mitt. Chad recovering to easily throw out Julio. Chavez was next, 3 hits on the night for Endy. The Chief bore down, going 2-2 in the count, then Endy would slap the 5th pitch of this at bat, and final pitch of the game, to FLop at short, Lopez making a STRONG throw to first to end the game.

CURLY W number 67, Save Number 28 for Cordero. All on a night the Nationals were able to win with PITCHING. A solid Start from Pedro Astacio. Terrific bullpen by committee--Rivera handing to Rauch, handing to Cordero. 2006 is a lost season, winning wise, but as this season draws to a close, we may well be seeing the devlopment of the 2007 relief corps for Washington. The New Orleans Zephyrs call ups that were so terrible early on, have now become comfortable, relaxed, pitching their games, using their talents, not as nervous as previously. When we all look back at the second half of 2006, we may all remember the rebirth of relief pitching in Washington.

Just get us some STARTERS!! JIMBO!! PLEASE!!

I am most proud of Ryan Zimmerman, he came to Washington with HIGH, ABOVE THE CEILING, EXPECTATIONS. The Nats lowering those expectations as the 2006 season began. Yet, Z plays like a veteran, certaintly can improve his game in a few areas, but has been very solid. 21 years old, 100 RBI, most likely 20 Home Runs, hitting .285 and playing one of the best 3rd bases in the game today. Dan Uggla's had a terrific year in Florida, but he's 5 years older, and is nowhere near the defensive gem that Zimmerman is. I am not being bias when I say RYAN ZIMMERMAN IS THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR!!! NO DOUBT!!!


Eddie Cunningham said...

I know the Nats have one of the worst records in the majors, but I see plenty of hope for the future. Zimmerman (thank God!) is signed to a long term contract, and if we can do the same with Fonzie I don't think it would be long before this team can be a contender. BTW, is it too much for me to imagine Zimm (no relation to the troll Zimmm) and Fonzie immortalized in Cooperstown plaques wearing curly W's on their caps?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Zimmerman has all the makings--class, dignity and respect that Cal Ripken brought to the game for 2 decades. Ryan Zimmerman, hopefully, will be just as appreciated and revered for many years to come.