Friday, September 01, 2006
Marlon, FLop--INSANITY AT RFK STADIUM!! THEN MARLON/WARD TRADED!!
Only 22,221 folks decided to buy tickets to tonight's Nats/Phillies Game at RFK Stadium. And, many of those did not show up with the Washington Redskins playing their final exhibition tuneup 6 miles to the east at FEDEX Field against the Baltimore Ravens. By the time the RFK game ended there were only a few thousand left in the stands. Those faithful, WITHOUT A DOUBT, were treated and rewarded to the MOST INSANE LAST TWO INNINGS OF ANY GAME THIS SEASON. A 6-5 Nail biting thrilling win in 10 innings. And then saw the Nationals TRADE THE STAR OF THE GAME TO THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS FOR A TOP PITCHING PROSPECT RIGHT AFTER THE GAME!!
This one included a game winning run scoring Wild Pitch, a go ahead run scoring Passed Ball after a liner nearly decapitated a pitcher, arguably the LONGEST STROKED MONSTER SHOT HOME RUN AT RFK since baseball returned to Washington, a late jump last moment snare off the turf of a sinking liner to end an inning, a to the back, running into the wall catch of a liner to deep center, a Washington Second Baseman showing some serious range, an incredible gaff by 3 converging fielders and NO ONE EVEN COMING CLOSE TO CATCHING THE BALL, a perfect throw to second on a steal by a catcher, easily out, that went right threw the fielders mitt for a 2 base error, and a CLUTCH 2 out 2 strike game tying single by that same fielder. OH YEAH--It was also the 71st Birthday for Frank Robinson.
THIS GAME HAD IT ALL!! With all its WARTS!!
Pedro Astacio got the start tonight for out Nats, and retired the Phillies in order in the top of the 1st. Washington would get right to Philadelphia Starter, Randy Wolf, after Alfonso Soriano (a non factor tonight, swinging at everything) led off the game with a strikeout. Felipe Lopez reached on a infield single that Jimmy Rollins had no play on in the hole. Zimmerman would line one up the middle. Moving FLop to second. Nick Johnson walked to load the bases. Still one out. Austin Kearns would step to the plate and on a 3-1 count would loft a fly ball to center that Shane Victorino could only catch and throw back into the infield. 1-0 Nats. Zimmerman moving to third after FLop scored. Marlon Anderson was next. A KEY PLAYER TONIGHT. Marlon stepping into centerfield for the slumping Ryan Church. Marlon would take strike one, then foul off 3 of the next four pitches. I yelled out "COME ON MARLON--Just hit it down the right field line!" On the very next pitch, Anderson hit a HIGH CHOPPER with just enough speed to bounce right over Ryan Howard's head for a run scoring single down the right field line. Nick Johnson made it to 3rd. 2-0 Nats after 1 when Brandon Harper, getting the catching start tonight, popped to Howard to end the rally.
The Phillies would come right back against Astacio when, Howard, down 1-2 in the count, amazingly gets an off speed pitch right over the plate, slapped into center for a single. David Dellucci would follow and slam a liner to right center, Austin Kearns dove to his right, missing badly, the ball rolling all the way to the wall. Anderson retrieved, but not before Howard scores easily and Dellucci is standing on 3rd. Still no outs. Pat Burrell was next and hits a routine grounder to Lopez at short. For whatever reason, Delucci goes too far down the line toward home. FLop throws to Harper for a rundown play. Zimmerman tags out Dellucci. Helps kill the rally as Pedro was able to retire Lieberthal on a fly out to left and Abraham Nunez on a grounder to first. 2-1 Nats.
The game continues through the 3rd inning with both Astacio and Wolf holding their own, and Marlon Anderson would come to Pedro's rescue with 2 outs in the top half, when Shane Victorino hit a looping liner to dead centerfield, Anderson stayed back on the ball, at first, then realized it was well in front of him. If there is one thing Marlon does well, its run, and he turned on the afterburners diving to his right on the dead run, snaring the ball off the grass at the very last moment. It was a beautiful catch. He received a deserved STANDING OVATION!!
But in the 4th, this game started to change into the wild one that ended so thrillingly.
After Chase Utley grounded out on a fine play by the Nats Bernie Castro ranging to his left, Ryan Howard was at the plate, and if there's one pitch you don't give to this guy, its a low fastball over the plate. On a 2-2 count, Astacio throws one right in that spot and Howard TURNED ON IT--you could hear CLEARLY the sound of wood hitting ball--and a MAJESTIC FLIGHT ensued. Everyone on the field turned to look as its arching flight, ending in the 6th row of SECTION 461--TITANIC IN EVERY WAY. It set the Phillies Single Season Home Run Record of 49, with Howard passing the GREAT MIKE SCHMIDT. And you had to appreciate the shot. The applause from both Phillies and Nats fans was pretty loud.
Astacio would settle down, 2-2 after 4 innings. The 5th inning would pass with the game scoreless, but not without one great play and a couple of strange plays. Abraham Nunez led off the top of the 5th with a hard hopper up the middle. Castro ranged all the way across the second base bag, beating FLop to the ball, throwing off his wrong foot, stopping his momentum in the shortstops set position to retire Nunez. IT WAS A TERRIFIC EFFORT!! An effort we can not see from Jose Vidro and his limited range. The HOME CROWD APPRECIATED IT TREMENDOUSLY!! Then, Jimmy Rollins was at the plate, with 2 outs, and lofted a routine pop to short left field, Alfonso just jogged in on the ball, letting it drop about 3 feet in front of him. Soriano was booed loudly, and rightfully so, for loafing on the play. Then on the very next pitch, Rollins would take off for second, Harper threw a PERFECT throw, right on the bag, beating Rollins, only to see FLop let the ball go right through, never touching his glove, Rollins advancing to 3rd. How Lopez missed the ball is beyond me. This is the exact situation that bad teams lose ball game. Fortunately, on this night--all these errors were overcome. Shane Victorino would pop to Castro at second to retire the side.
In the 6th, Castro would again show his athleticism when Utley once again hit a hard grounder to Nick Johnson's right, the ball caromed off Nick's glove to his right, but behind him, Castro, never giving up on the ball, retrieved the ball on the edge of the outfield grass--Astacio, running hard all the way to the first base bag, took that throw from the hustling Bernie to retire Utley. TO A STANDING OVATION AT RFK STADIUM. Its safe to say that we have not been treated to such outstanding defense at second base all season long by a Washington National. Nothing is close to Castro's efforts tonight. NOTHING.
Unfortunately, Astacio running hard to cover first must have been the final blow to his pitching for the night. Approaching ninety pitches at the time, Pedro would walk Howard, get Dellucci to pop to left, and on pitch 91, Burrell would drill a shot to the right centerfield wall, Howard running hard all the way, scoring easily, Burrell stopping at second. Lieberthal would follow with a hard slash to center and the Phillies led 4-2. Nunez would then single to left, ending Astacio's night, and Saul Rivera came on to retire pinch hitter Joe Thurston on a chopper back to the mound. Phillie Fans very happy.
In the bottom of the 6th, Nick Johnson would slash a single to center off Ryan Madson leading off. and after Kearns and Anderson both K'd, Daryle Ward would pinch hit for Harper. On a 1-1 count, Ward DRILLED a rising liner to deep centerfield. Rising enough that it appeared it would just get over the fence at the 410 mark. Only to see Victorino, running hard, with his back to the play all the way, make an OUTSTANDING running catch, crashing HARD into the wall to end the inning. Burrell and Dellucci running over to see if Shane was OK. Another of a few very fine plays in tonight's game.
Saul Rivera and Ryan Madson would both get through the 7th unharmed. Jon Rauch would pitch a scoreless 8th for the Nats. Geoff Geary would retire Washington in the bottom half.
And then the INSANITY BEGAN!
With the Chief, Chad Cordero, on the mound to start the 9th, Jimmy Rollins would foul a routine pop down the right field line. Nick Johnson, Bernie Castro and Austin Kearns all converged. AND NO ONE CALLED IT. The ball dropping 5 feet away to their right. IT WAS AWFUL!! Especially when Rollins hit the next pitch to center for a single. Victorino would sacrifice Rollins to second, Utley grounded out to second, advancing Rollins to 3rd. With Ryan Howard at the plate, Frank Robinson walked the big guy intentionally, to a great amount of boos from the Phillie faithful. Chief would go FULL COUNT to Dellucci, then see David foul off 3 straight pitches, a hit putting this game out of reach, when Cordero reared back and hums a fastball on the inside corner of the plate for CALLED STRIKE THREE--to the great joy of Nats Fans still there.
In the bottom of the 9th, Arthur Rhodes came on to close it out for Philadelphia. He's saved 3 straight games against Washington. Anderson led off with a bunt between the mound and 1st base, Rhodes let the ball slip under his glove. Marlon safe. Schneider ROPED a double down the left field line, moving Anderson to 3rd. NO OUTS. Castro, swinging at everything in the clutch, struck out swinging and Henry Mateo, pinch hitter for Cordero, would dribble one back to Rhodes for out number 2 and it looked like it was OVER.
Soriano, 0-4 for tonight, and swinging at everything, was intentionally walked by Phillies Manager, Charlie Manuel. It turned out to be a GAME CHANGING DECISION. Up stepped Felipe Lopez. FLop has not been much in the clutch since coming over from Cincinnati. With the entire crowd still left in the stadium on its feet--CHEERING AND STOMPING--Felipe would take two balls, then look at strike one and foul strike two down the right field line. The man has rarely delivered in the clutch. Rhodes then delivered an off speed pitch that Lopez was able to get his bat on and ground into the hole, JUST OUT OF REACH, of Rollins at short. Anderson and Schneider scored AND IT WAS TIED, 5-5
What was left of the dwindling crowd had RFK STADIUM ROCKING! Although Zimmerman would strike out badly on 3 pitches to end the rally, the Crowd was HOPEFUL. A NATS WIN WAS POSSIBLE!!
And as quickly as Washington sucked you into believing in them, they broke your heart just a fast. Ryan Wagner now on the mound for Washington. Pitching with new found confidence. Gets Chris Roberson to ground out to Castro to start the 10th. Then hits Lieberthal, but Nunez would ground to Lopez at short, Castro just missing the pivot toss to Johnson at first for the double play. But 2 were out, everything looked OK. Then NEAR TRAGEDY STRUCK.
Jeff Conine, batting for Rhodes would ROCKET SHOT a Wagner fastball right back at Ryan, Wagner REFLEX ACTION deflects the ball off his glove, the ball caroms into short right field. Nunez advancing to 3rd. Frank, Randy StClaire and Tim Abraham, the Nats Trainer all came on the field. Wagner saying he alright.
Play continues with Rollins at the plate. On a swinging strike, Schneider misses the ball and it goes to the screen, Nunez scoring easily. And you could hear the bubble burst at RFK. It was that deflating!! And, even more folks headed for the exits. Wagner would get out of the inning without further trouble, but no one could expect the NATS to fight back 2 straight times in their last at bats.
But they DID!!
Lefthander Aaron Fultz on for the Phils to face mostly left handed hitters in the bottom of the 10th. Nick Johnson would hit a grounder to Ryan Howard's right. Johnson, not the fastest runner, Howard hurrying for no apparent reason, does not set himself, and throws a backhand toss--BEHIND the covering Fultz, Johnson safe at first. As, Troy in Section 320 said--"Howard had all day, why rush it!!" It was the turning point of the game.
Austin Kearns would then slam a DEEP DRIVE to DEAD CENTER, the RFK FAITHFUL anticipating a GAME WINNING HOME RUN, only to see, it die in the DEAD ZONE of RFK. Out number 1. But, Marlon Anderson, would stroke the very next pitch to center, moving Johnson to second. Brian Schneider up next.
Schneider has been on a tear at the plate lately, finally coming around after slumping through most of the first 5 months of the 2006 season. With a 2-2 count, Fultz tried to sneak a fastball over the outside corner of the plate, Brian, in his best AT BAT of the season, went with the pitch and laced a shot to left over the leaping Rollins at short, scoring Johnson, tie game at 5. RFK WAS ROCKING!!
"LETS GO NATS!!" erupting from the few left.
Marlon Anderson now on second, Schneider on 1st. One out. Bernie Castro up and I was fully expecting him to be THE HERO tonight. Castro gets ahead 3-0 in the count. Takes a called strike, then flies out to centerfield, but deep enough to move the fast Anderson to 3rd, setting up the DECISIVE PLAY OF THE GAME!!
Ryan Church steps to the plate, pinch hitting for Ryan Wagner. With the ENTIRE REMAINING CROWD ON ITS FEET---CLAPPING and STOMPING!!, Church takes ball one and then ball two. Then on the 3rd and FINAL PITCH OF THE GAME--Fultz throws a 55 foot curve ball that lands in front of the plate. CHURCH SWINGS AT IT--AND LIEBERTHAL CAN ONLY BLOCK IT BACK INFRONT ON THE PLATE. Anderson, never hesitating takes off as the ball caroms 8 feet infront on the plate. FULTZ CHARGES IN SCOOPS UP THE BALL AND DIVES TO TAG THE CHARGING ANDERSON. SAFE AT THE PLATE!!!, SAFE AT THE PLATE!!!
NATIONALS WIN IN EXTRAORDINARY FASHION!! 6-5. And the Crowd went NUTS!!
Bang ZOOM! Go the Fireworks. And Frank Robinson goes home happy on his birthday--Frank shown waving his cap to the crowd on the Big Screen as the players happily marched off the field. The happy look on Ryan Church, being congratulated for swinging at a pitch not even reaching the plate, setting up the winning score--WAS PRICELESS!!
This game had it all. Its WAS THRILLING TO THE VERY END. No one who attended this one will forget it for some time. This is why you go to the game.
I love BASEBALL!
And was STUNNED to read that Anderson was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers immediately after the game for one of the Dodgers TOP PITCHING PROSPECTS, 20 year old Jhonny Nunez. The 6'3" Nunez has been nothing short of OUTSTANDING in his 3 pro season. And, then Jim Bowden announced that Daryle Ward had been traded to the Atlanta Braves for another pitching prospect--21 year old Luis Atilano, the 35th selection overall in the 2003 draft. What's curious about this deal is that Atilano just had TOMMY JOHN Surgery, so why would we be trading for this guy. Need to look into it more.
Like the Nunez trade ALOT!!! Confused about Atilano--BIG TIME!!