Monday, September 04, 2006
OOOOH!!! SO CLOSE!!!
Ramon Oritz wanted it!! The Washington Nationals Wanted IT!! The RFK STADIUM Crowd DEFINITELY WANTED IT!! Unfortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals defintely DID NOT WANT TO SEE IT!!
Ortiz had marched through 8 innings of NO HIT ball this Labor Day in our Nation's Capital. And, with help of a 2 run Home Run from Austin Kearns and a nice running catch from Kearns, it looked like everything was lined up to let Ramon pitch the first No Hitter in the Majors in over 2 seasons.
And the RFK FAITHFUL (31,092 of mostly Nat Fans) WERE ROCKING!! Ortiz would cruise through the first 6 innings of this game, allowing 3 walks, two in the second inning, but still get out of the jams, and when Kearns ran in to snare a liner by John Rodriguez in the top of the 7th--those in attendance had to figure the No Hitter was a distinct possibility.
In the bottom of the 7th, the Nationals would break up the scoreless tie when Nick Johnson would walk on four straight pitches from Jason Marquis leading off the inning. Kearns would step up next, hot of late in the clutch, and on the very first offering from Marquis--DRILLED a hanging off speed pitch DEEP to leftfield, the ball bouncing off the "Welcome Nationals Fans" Sign. A no doubter 2 run homer--and the crowd ROARED its approval.
Ortiz would retire the Cards in order in the 8th, and the anticipation was great. Ramon receiving a STANDING OVATION while walking off the field. The Cardinals would replace Marquis with Jorge Sosa and today's hero, Ramon Ortiz led off the bottom of the 8th. Ramon, first pitch fastball swinging, HAMMERED a LINE DRIVE DEEP TO LEFT FIELD, the ball just getting over the fence and bouncing off the wall of the St.Louis Bullpen. And RFK ERUPTED, like not heard since Zimmerman's DRAMATIC WALKOFF HOMERUN against the Yankees in June!! Ortiz rounding the bases, clutching his fist and slamming it down, repeatedly--Nats Fans not giving up on the cheering until Ramon stepped out of the dugout for a DESERVED curtain call. Which Ortiz obliged. 3-0 Nats
ZImmerman would then double to left, Sosa taken out for Randy Flores with Nick Johnson greeting him with a drive down the right field line, a double, scoring Z, closing out the Nats scoring 4-0 going to the 9th.
Ramon Ortiz would walk to the mound for the 9th to a Standing Ovation. Aaron Miles, the Cards leadoff hitter, would take strike one. On the second pitch of this at bat, Miles would slice a liner to center--ENDING THE NO HIT ATTEMPT--deflating the crowd to no end. Nontheless, Ramon received another Standing Ovation as he paused on the mound to take in the moment.
Chris Duncan was next for St. Louis and, first pitch swinging, laced a liner right to Johnson at first, who stepped on the bag for a double play. It made Miles single even more frustrating. Then, Albert Pujols, one of the games most feared hitters came to the plate, Ortiz got behind Albert 2-1 and on the 4th pitch of this at bat, Pujols HAMMERED/CLUBBED a drive into section 449 UPPER DECK, left centerfield. THIS SHOT GOT OUT FAST!!!!! Killing the shutout, Pujols stomping on homeplate and pointing to the sky as he scored.
Frank Robinson then came out of the dugout to replace Ramon with Chad Cordero. Ortiz getting a THUNDEROUS Applause as he exited, and waved his hat JUBILANTLY to the 3rd base side crowd. The Chief would close out the win with a strikeout of Scott Rolen. But you just had to wonder, if Ramon had only thrown a better pitch to Miles, leading off the 9th, he could have pitched a No Hitter.
As I mentioned to everyone in Section 320, we were going home DEFLATED, despite the win, as our expectations were SO HIGH going into the 9th. A chance to see History, but to no avail. If was though, a great day at RFK. THE CROWD WAS FANTASTIC!!! INTO IT ALL THE WAY!! I have heard alot of criticism from others about Washington Baseball Fans, but they can take a hike, we have terrific fans and its showed today!!! For a team buried deep outside the playoff hunt.
As Ramon Oritz was doing his postgame TV interviews, Nats GM, Jim Bowden, came out and doused WATER all over Ramon to cool him off. It was a nice moment, the remaining crowd along the 3rd baseline appreciated the site.
Wow--So CLOSE!! Yet SOOOOOO FAR!!
PS--I will be away the next few days, once again covering the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. So I will not be able to blog until Thursday. Thanks.