Sunday, September 17, 2006
Historic Night, Great Win, Section 320 Rocking!!
Baseball history was made tonight at RFK when our Washington Nationals pulled out an exciting 8-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. A night that saw Section 320 in PRIME FORM. Tonight, joined, in chorus, by Alfonso Soriano's Family and Friends, sitting directly to our right.
Alfonso Soriano is on the brink on having one of the finest years of any player in Major League Baseball. Already, Alfonso has slugged 45 Home Runs, Scored 111 Runs, Hit 38 Doubles and 350 total bases. Oh yeah, he's thrown out 21 baserunners from left field in 2006. A Career Year for Washington's FINEST Player.
Tonight, he wanted to reach an elusive milestone, 40 Home Runs and 40 Steals. Coming into tonight's game, Soriano was sitting on 39 steals, and pressing badly over the past few games, attempting to reach that mark. In 2002, with the New York Yankees, Soriano had stolen his 40th base with 5 games left to play, but had hit only 39 Home Runs. He admitted he was thinking about the 40/40 club then too much. It hurt him, as he swung at everything, trying to jack the ball out of the park, failing to hit his 40th Home Run that year for the Yankees. Alfonso always saying it was the biggest disappointment in his career.
As Alfonso stepped to the plate leading off the bottom of the first, Section 320, STRONG tonight with MickNats, African Queen, SayHeyKlib, NatsDelNegro, KentuckyRob, MsZimmi, Shawn and Myself in attendance, went into the Alfonso! SORIANO!! cheer--TO BE ACCOMPIANED BY ALFONSO'S FAMILY AND FRIENDS, WAVING 2 DOMINICAN REPUBLIC FLAGS, sitting to our right in Section 320 and the left portion of Section 319. The combined troops Bellowing Out SO MUCH NOISE, everyone sitting on the 3rd base side of RFK turned to look. Felipe Lopez, in the On Deck circle, turning to peek while twirling his bat.
Soriano looking to get the record over with, came up swinging at everything against Brewers Starter, Dave Bush. Alfonso taking strike one, fouling off the second pitch, then on the third pitch of this at bat, rope an off speed pitch to left, a clean single. The 24, 252 erupting, now anticipating the record setting steal. It didn't take Alfonso long, as FLop would get ahead 2-0 in the count, on the very next pitch, Soriano took off for 2nd, the RFK CROWD rose to its feet in anticipation. Brewers catcher, Mike Rivera, couldn't come up with a throw, Soriano sliding, hands/head first into the bag, sitting up on his knees, knowing that HISTORY HAD JUST BEEN MADE--And a BROAD SMILE glistened across his face. RFK began to Rock. Section 320 going into the Alfonso!! SORIANO!! CHANT. Alfonso's Family going DOWNRIGHT NUTS!! Flags Waving, JUMPING UP AND DOWN!! Standing Ovation for Number 12.
Soriano would point to his teammates in the 3rd base dugout, thanking them for their support. He would then, stand up, pull up the bag and hold second base in TRIUMPH!! While holding the base in his right hand, he would slap his head, a personal thanks, to himself, for achieving this fine goal. A goal only reached by 3 other players. Finally he would hand over the base to the Nats Bat Boy for safe keeping, then took off his batting helmet, waving and acknowleging the RFK FAITHFUL. Soriano's uniform taken by the Baseball Hall Of Fame, immediately after the game. It was a very fine moment. I was glad it occured at Home in Washington, in front of the fans that have SUPPORTED SORIANO ALL SEASON LONG. We deserved the opportunity to see this moment. Thank you--Alfonso Soriano.
All this totally, for a time, superceded, all that was important to the actual playing of the game. The Brewers had jumped on Nats Starter Pedro Astacio, big time, in the top of the first when Tony Graffanino would receive a 1 out walk, and Prince Fielder followed with a MONSTER JACK!! into the 6th row of Section 467 in Right Field. Fielder hammered it. The ball flying majestically into the upper deck. You had to appreciate the POWER!! 2-0 Milwaukee right off the bat.
But Washington would strike back right away in the bottom, with Soriano now on second with the record setting steal, Lopez would reach on a infield single to 3rd. Ryan Zimmerman would ground into a force, putting Lopez out at second, Z beating the relay to first for the double play. Alfonso moving to 3rd. Z would steal second with Nick Johnson at the plate, Johnson grounding to second, scoring Soriano, moving Z to 3rd. Austin Kearns, swinging mightily, as always, hit a dribbler up the middle that Graffanino had no play on. Zimmerman scored. 2-2. Brian Schnieder, hot of late, followed and hammered a double to the wall in right, scoring Kearns, and just like that, Washington had fought back, to take the lead. 3-2. Bernie Castro would line a sharp liner to Bill Hall at short to end the rally. But that liner, was telling of what Castro would provide later in the game. Bernie the sparkplug that kept the Nats ahead throughout this exciting game.
Astacio would give up the lead right away in the top of the 3rd, as Corey Hart would single and David Bell would hammer a double to the left centerfield wall. Soriano double clutched on the throw to Lopez, the relay man. Lopez made a strong throw to the plate, just missing Hart. If Soriano just throws the ball right away, Corey may well have been out at the plate. FLop's throw was terrific.
But the Nationals would score right back, most believing this game would be one of those 15-13, last at bat is going to win games. Nook Logan would drag bunt, leading off the 3rd, no one covered first. Nook advancing to second on an Astacio sacrifice. Then, taking a page out of the Alfonso Soriano Game Changer Book, took off for 3rd, stealing. Rivera threw the ball into left field. What was really funny about it all, as MickNats and I laughed about it after the fact, was that Logan, confident in his speed, made no rush to get up after sliding into 3rd. Number 7 calmly stood up and loped home. Beating the good throw from Corey Hart in left. 4-3 Nats after 3.
Despite being shaky early, Astacio righted himself, getting the Brewers in order in the 4th. Then Brian Schneider lined a beautiful opposite field single to left, leading off the bottom of the 4th off Bush. Castro followed, and the fun began. On a 2-1 count, and Schneider running on the play, Bernie would slap a hard liner to right center, the ball getting past Tony Gwynn, Jr. Schneider at first stopped at second, then kept on running. Castro, once he gets started, can FLAT OUT FLY!! If there is someone that could churn up dust behind him, its Bernie Castro. "Speedy Gonzalez", as I call him, motored around first, then to second, Gwynn just picking up the ball. Everyone in the park, wanted to see an INSIDE THE PARK HOME RUN. Third Base Coach, Tony Beasley held him at 3rd, to the great disappointment of just about EVERYONE AT RFK!! Beasley should have sent him, as after Astacio was hit by pitch, Soriano, Lopez and Z all created outs to kill the rally. 5-3 after 4 innings.
Astacio would get through the 5th, in order. Chris Spurling, now pitching for Milwaukee-retired the Nats in order. But, in the 6th, Pedro would get in trouble and not make it out of the inning. Graffanino would single to center leading off. Fielder up next. The Nats shading to right for the pull hitter. Prince would slap a hard grounder right at FLop stationed just left of the second base bag. Lopez dropped the grounder, recovered, stepped on 2nd to retire Graffanino, then hurried his throw bouncing it to Nick Johnson, attempting to scoop the ball at first. Johnson missing. Fielder safe. Felipe had time, he forced it a little.
When you make a mistake, it most always comes back to haunt you. And it happened in the 6th. Last night's Brewers Hero, Geoff Jenkins would single to right, moving Fielder to second. Astacio obviously in trouble, but Frank Robinson not making the pitching change. Ryan Wagner warming up. On the very next pitch, Corey Hart would loop a single to right, scoring Fielder. Making the score 5-4. And then, Frank Robinson comes to take Astacio out of the game. One hitter too late.
Wagner, facing David Bell, would take a liner right off his right foot, the ball bouncing to Zimmerman for a THANKFUL inning ending out. That ball would have gone right up the middle and tie the game. The Nats were FORTUNATE!!!
The 7th was excruciatingly painful for Washington Fans. Saul Rivera was on the mound, and didn't have it from the start. Going deep into the count on all hitters faced. Mike Rivera, leadoff walk for Milwaukee. Brady Clark sacrifice to second. Then with 2 outs, Saul Rivera hits Graffanino. Prince Fielder walks, loading the bases. Frank had finally seen enough, bringing on THE WOOKIE, Jon Rauch. Bases Loaded, game on the line--Rauch known for giving up HOME RUNS. Didn't look promising. Bill Hall at the plate, 31 homers this season. Hall got ahead 2-1 in the count, looking for something to smash. Hall would get that pitch and lace a grounder between 3rd and short. Zimmerman, dove, extending his glove hand, to snare the ball, got to his knees and threw to Castro at second, just in time, for the inning ending out. AN OUTSTANDING PLAY--saving Rauch and the Nationals. Ryan receiving a standing ovation coming off the field.
Then came the game changing moments, the bottom of the 7th determined the outcome of this affair. With hard throwing right hander, Jose Capellan on the mound for the Brew Crew. Capellan can reach the high 90's with his fastball. With one out, Zimmerman would line a looper to deep left, near the line. Corey Hart attempted a diving catch--missing, the ball rolling all the way to the wall. Zimmerman, seeing the play develop rounding first, went full steam ahead, storming around second, sliding headfirst into 3rd for his third triple of the season. Nick Johnson was intentionally walked. Austin Kearns followed and, once again, swung mightily at a Capellan pitch, only to loop a liner to left, beyond the reach of Hart. Zimmerman scored. Johnson to third, Kearns just beating a throw to second for a RBI double. 6-4 Nats. And the crowd was jumping. Brewers Manager Ned Yost would bring on left hander sidearm pitcher, Brian Shouse, to face Schneider. Schneiderman, swinging the bat well, would line a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Nick Johnson. 7-4 Nats. Then, Bernie Castro came to the plate. Again slaps a liner past Tony Gwynn, Jr. Kearns scoring easily from third, but the RACE WAS ON!! Everyone at RFK wanting AGAIN, the INSIDE THE PARK HOME RUN!!! CASTRO KICKING UP DUST BEHIND HIM. Bernie running is a sight to behold. There really could not be many faster players in the game. Castro rounded second, heading for 3rd. Gwynn still not picking up the ball. As Castro reached third base, Gwynn had thrown the ball, but it was still in flight, to relay man, Graffanino. GO AHEAD AND SEND HIM BEASLEY!! But, no--Castro was stopped at 3rd, to the outright disgust of all NAT FANS AT RFK. WE REALLY WANTED TO SEE IT!! Castro's second triple of the game. Once again, Bernie stranded when Nook Logan would ground out to second to end the inning. 8-4 after 7 innings.
Rauch would get through the 8th unharmed. As the game headed to the 9th, everyone fully expected The Chief, Chad Cordero to enter the game. Frank chose, FRODO, Felix Rodriguez, and as MS Zimmi, Shawn and I discussed---that just means the Chief will come in later, for the save. As all of us know, NO LEAD IS SAFE for the Washington Nationals.
Sure enough, with one out, Tony Gwynn, Jr would single to right, and although would be forced out on a grounder to 3rd by Graffanino, Graffanino would advance to second on defensive indifference, (Section 320 calling for "WE WANT THE CHIEF" ) and score run number 5 for the Brewers on Fielder's sharp ground ball single to right, just to the left of Castro, playing in short right field.
Then Frank had seen enough, and Chad Cordero entered the game. On his very first pitch, Bill Hall would loop a single down the right field line, but Austin Kearns was on it quickly, preventing Prince from scoring. But the tying run was coming to the plate in GEOFF JENKINS. I was pretty nervous, as THE CHIEF, can be downright scary. Amazingly, Jenkins swung at the very first pitch, breaking his bat, and flys out to Kearns, ending this thriller. 8-5 Nats, Save number 27 for Cordero. BANG!! ZOOM GO THE FIREWORKS!! Curly W number 64 for our Washington Nationals.
Alot happened tonight, even outside of the game. SCREECH was mighty shocked to see the first pitch of the game, and NO ONE, except for Ms Zimmi and Shawn sitting in Section 320. The African Queen and I were guests at the DIAMOND CLUB PREGAME BUFFETT, and were making our way to our seats as the game began. MickNats, and the Noise Boys were their customary fashionably late. Ms Zimmi telling me that Screech "CRIED"--rubbing his eyes upset over not seeing his Best Friend sitting in his customary seat. Later, in the top of the 7th, Screech made it back our way, as the ENTIRE SECTION yelled "SCREEEEEEEEEEECH!!" As Screech attempted to reach me at my seat he was inundated with about 20 kids trying to grab him for pictures. It got so bad, he had to call on one of the NatPack to help him out. Sorry Screech. But, he eventually made it to my seat, me explaining that really weren't late, Screech getting a kick out of the fact Sohna and I were hanging out in the Diamond Club!
Ms Zimmi, who sits behind Sohna in Row 5, seat 13, realized that, even when she is not in attendance, she is represented by either MickNats or Myself yelling out, to HER MAIN MAN--RYAN ZIMMERMAN-"COME ON ZIMMI!!" In her voice!! We kid because we love!!! Mick, The African Queen and I, just can't get enough of that yell.
Its safe to say, that by the end of the game, Section 320 had the ENTIRE 3rd base side crowd involved in the game. One of the Ushers, that sits directly behind the Nats 3rd base dugout, that loves the Soriano Cheer, told Sohna after the game, that EVERYONE down low was involved in the Alfonso Cheer!!!
Tonight was a terrific, fun night at the old ball park. Soriano made the highlight reels by making history. Maybe he will get hot and slam 50 homers by the end of the season. The Nats won a fun ballgame. And, as always, win or lose--Section 320 was THE PLACE TO BE TONIGHT, JUST LIKE IN MOST EVERY NATIONALS GAME AT RFK STADIUM!!!