Sunday, September 03, 2006
The 8th Inning Wonders!
No Major League Baseball team had accomplished the feat in 88 years, Before the Curse of the Bambino ever existed, But, today, Our Washington Nationals rallied in the 8th inning, for their 4th straight victory, in a ROUSING 5-3 Win at RFK Stadium in Washington over the Arizona Diamondbacks. No one, NOT ONCE, since 1918, had won four consecutive games, coming from behind in the 8th or later innings. Baseball is a strange game. Just when you thought it was time to kick the dog (Our Nationals), Washington becomes a record setting team!!! This is why Baseball is SO SPECIAL!!
On a beautiful late summer day in our Nation's capital, before an enthusiastic gathering of 30, 771, the Nats let the Diamondbacks get comfortable, with Brandan Webb on the mound, throwing a terrific game. Fabulous slider and off speed pitches, set up by a wicked 95 mph fastball. Webb, a terrific talent, was on top of his game. Unfortunately, Arizona Manager, Doug Melvin, doesn't trust his bullpen. And today, his decision not to replace the tiring Webb was the decisive decision of the game--setting up Washington's SWEET VICTORY!!
The Nats would strike first, getting to Webb early, Alfonso Soriano leading off with a liner to left, then stealing his 36th base on the season. And, when Felipe Lopez grounded to short, Soriano trotted to 3rd, setting up the first score of the game. But, as always our Nats made it difficult. With one out, Ryan Zimmerman reached a 3-0 count on Webb, only to K BADLY on a full count. Nick Johnson would walk and up stepped Austin Kearns. Last night's second game Hero, Kearns would rope the second pitch of the at bat into right, scoring Alfonso easily--giving Washington the early lead. But, per their custom, were unable to capitalize when Jose Vidro tapped back to Webb to kill the rally. 1-0 Nats after one.
The game would settle down into a pitcher duel of sorts. Webb effectively retiring Nationals batters and Tony Armas, getting himself in trouble, never looking comfortable on the mound, but getting just enough defensive help to retire the side. In the Top of the 3rd, Armas would get STELLAR DEFENSIVE HELP, when the recently acquired, NOOK LOGAN, would make THE DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE YEAR, for the Washington Nationals.
Stephen Drew at the plate, swinging lefthanded, for the Diamondbacks, would HAMMER a LINE DRIVE to DEEP LEFT CENTER. No one, AND I MEAN NO ONE at RFK expected Logan to catch this ball, it had triple written all over it. Logan has TREMENDOUS SPEED, and he turned on the afterburners, running to his right with the ball quickly dropping toward the turf. Nook, at full speed, dove FLAT OUT PARALLEL to the ground and SNARED the ball, a split second before it hit the grass!! For good measure, Nook even sled for a few feet after making this SPECTACULAR CATCH!!
RFK STADIUM ROARED ITS APPROVAL!! NO ONE COULD BELIEVE IT!!! As Logan trotted off the field at the end of the inning, he not only received a HIGH FIVE from Second Base Umpire, Adam Dowdy, but Soriano, Kearns, Vidro and Armas--plus a HUGE STANDING OVATION from the 3rd base side stands.
I have been to nearly every single game at RFK since the Nats came to Washington. Only Atlanta's Jeff Francouer climb of the wall to rob Cristian Guzman of a Home Run in 2005 even comes close to this one. And, Francouer knocked down a portion of the right field wall on his catch. Marlon Byrd made a sprawling diving catch on a liner, a game saving catch, against the Dodgers earlier this season at RFK, but Logan's was FAR SUPERIOR!! Nook may not be much of a hitter, in the long run, but the guy has shown, over the past 2 games, he can PLAY DEFENSE!! With the best of them.
Unfortunately, this will give Frank Robinson and Jim Bowden ANOTHER EXCUSE to NOT PLAY RYAN CHURCH!!. Ryan may rarely dive for a hit ball, but he's a decent outfielder, with plus power, that the Nationals will NEVER, EVER, give the honest opportunity. It really sucks. Logan will only be a slap hitter with a low on base percentage.
Our Nationals, unable to solve Webb, consistently swung at EVERYTHING, getting RallyTimeRichard and I to chant, "TAKE A PITCH!!, TAKE A PITCH!!!" over and over. This still didn't help as Webb cruised through 7 innings.
Armas, during that time, continued to show why he is the THE MOST FRUSTRATING, pitcher in the game. Never able to close the door, has no confidence in his stuff. Rarely a first pitch strike. In the 5th, Chad Tracey would lace a first pitch Home Run over the right field wall to tie the score at 1-1. In the 6th, Tony would really lose it, going DEEP into the count on every single hitter. But, as is the norm for Frank Robinson, no one was warming up in the bullpen to bail out Armas. And, it proved costly, when Luis Gonzalez walked, and with one out, Johnny Estrada would single to right, moving Gonzalez to 3rd. Rookie Conor Jackson would then hit a medium fly to Austin Kearns in right, Gonzalez running all the way. Kearns unleashed a TERRIFIC throw to Schneider at the plate. Luis sliding just moments in front of the tag, but REPLAYS showed that Gonzalez slid past the plate to the right--AND NEVER TOUCHED IT!! Home Plate Umpire, Wally Bell called the play safe at the plate. 2-1 Diamondbacks. The RFK Faithful went NUTS over the call.
At this point, Armas was approaching 100 pitches, and to EVERYONE in Section 320's amazement, Frank sent Tony out for the 7th. It took only one hitter to FINALLY PROVE TO FRANK, that Armas should be out of the game, as Carlos Quentin would get a leadoff walk. After being sacrificed to second by Webb, Ryan Wagner trotted in to retire Drew on one pitch. But Orlando Hudson would close the scoring for Arizona with a liner to right, scoring Quentin and giving the DBacks a 3-1 lead after 7.
Wagner may have given up an inherited runner, but you have to like this guy's makeup. He pitches with CONFIDENCE!! Trusts his stuff. May well be the STEAL of the Bray/Majewski/Clayton/Harris deal for Lopez/Kearns and Wagner. Ryan would retire the side in order in the 8th. Which meant only one thing!!
RallyTimeRichard got us started with "WHAT TIME IS IT!!" RALLY TIME!!!" Section 320 was in FULL FORCE!! MickNats, Mrs. Mick Nats, RallyTimeRichard, NatsDelNegro, Andy, Jim, African Queen and myself bellowing throughout the game. Another spectator, filling in seats to the right of the African Queen mentioned how "Shocked" he was when we started chanting at the beginning of the game, was thoroughly impressed how "WE NEVER STOP" and how we held out for all hope during "RALLY TIME"!! He said Section 320 "MADE MY DAY MOST ENJOYABLE" And wished more fans were a fun as were were. It was well appreciated by all the 320 regulars.
And Nook Logan responded to "RALLY TIME" with a beautiful running bunt single down the first base line that Webb had no chance on. Ryan Church would pinch hit for Wagner, drawing a 5 pitch walk. With the CROWD NOW ON ITS FEET, expecting the MIRACLES of the previous 3 games, Soriano would strike out HORRIBLY on an off speed pitch that I called well before the toss by WEBB. How Alfonso could not figure this out is beyond me sometimes. More "WHAT TIME IS IT!!" "RALLY TIME" and Felipe Lopez responded with a ground ball, to left, scoring the fast moving Logan, moving Church to second. AND RFK STADIUM ERUPTED!!! Arizona is not a team that travels well with its fan base. This series was a true home game for the Washington Nationals. And that FAN BASE ROARED ITS APPROVAL!! 3-2 DBACKS, but you could sense we had them.
Amazingly, Doug Melvin did not go to his bullpen. Webb was tiring noticeable. A potential wild card playoff position is on the line for Arizona, yet their manager does not trust the 25+ man roster. And that spells disaster.
Frank Robinson sent in Henry Mateo to pinch run for Ryan Church, looking for any advantage to push the tying run home. Zimmerman was up next. "RALLY TIME" continued, and on the very first offering form Webb, Z LACED a liner to left. Mateo running ALL THE WAY. Gonzalez, not much of an arm. Henry tying the score at 3-3. The JUMPING began along the 3rd baseside stands. The Crowd on it feet, whooping it up. Everyone realized that the Nats had STORMED back late for the 4th consecutive game. Lopez and Zimmerman would advance to 2nd and 3rd on a throwing error on the play by Gonzalez.
Still, Melvin did not take out Webb. Nick Johnson was intentionally walked to get to Austin Kearns. And, on a full count, with the RFK CROWD ON ITS FEET, STOMPING AND CLAPPING and me yelling at Kearns to "KEEP THAT SHOULDER IN!!!"
Austin DRILLS a shot to deep right centerfield. I thought it was out of the park, but it landed on the warning track, Lopez scoring the go ahead run, Zimmerman making it 5-3, and as RallyTimeRichard so shrewdly pointed out, Nick Johnson may have been the ONLY baserunner in the Majors that could not have scored on that stroked ball. Johnson at 3rd, Kearns stopping at 2nd. 5-3 Nationals and, without a doubt--PANDEMONIUM AT RFK STADIUM. IT WAS ROCKING!!!! The shear joy in SECTION 320 was beyond comprehension, not believing, what we had just witnessed--FOR THE 4TH Straight Game!! .
Our Washington Nationals have consistently disappointed with the game on the line, in the clutch, yet over 4 consecutive games, had turned the table on an ugly success rate, pulling ahead, destroying confidence in a competitor. IT WAS VERY SWEET TO WITNESS!!
Although Arizona's Brandon Lyon would come on to retire Vidro on a sharp liner to second and Schneider striking out on a pitch in the dirt, Nationals FANS ROSE TO CHEER the 4 run, 9 batters to the plate inning. Bringing the Nats on the verge of a 4th straight victory.
Chad Cordero had pitched 3 innings in yesterday's DAY/NIGHT Doubleheader against the DBacks. He was truly not available. So Jon Rauch trotted to the mound, in an effort to record his very first Major League Save. The "WOOKIE" was up to the task. Carlos Quentin would ground to Lopez at short, FLop with a fine throw to first, retiring Carlos. Then Jon got pinch hitter, Craig Counsell to pop to Z near the dugout on the 3rd base side. Finally, Stephen Drew would ground a one hopper to Z, who calmly set himself, confidently throwing to Nick Johnson at first to END THE GAME--to the GREAT DELIGHT OF EVERYONE IN ATTENDANCE!!!! BANG! ZOOM GO THE FIREWORKS!
Jon Rauch PUMPED HIS FIST IN JUBILATION over his first MLB Save. Curly W number 59 for the Washington Nationals. Austin Kearns was MOBBED by his teammates. For the second consecutive night, "BLUEGRASS" was the hero. Hopefully coming around and showing the confident player that so many believe he can become. Frank Robinson, standing near the dugout, congratulating each and every player for a job well done. Grandfather Frank was beaming.
The Nationals had overcome great odds, down huge in the standings, just playing out the string of games to end the season, yet have resurrected themselves, in a effort to push back to respectability. No one could have expected the thrilling endings over the past 4 games, each a story themselves. Despite the rainout on Friday, it was an enjoyable 4 game weekend at RFK STADIUM. And you can bet all those who attended went home with new found respect for our Washington Nationals. We are not going to win anything this season, but it doesn't take away from the FUN AT THE BALLPARK!! Anything can occur on any day. And that's why we all ATTEND EVERY SINGLE GAME!!!
Stay Tuned Tomorrow, as there is a HUGE SURPRISE coming during the Monday, Labor Day game versus the St.Louis Cardinals--involving Section 320. Its going to be SPECIAL!!