Wednesday, September 13, 2006
They are RESILIENT these 2006 Washington Nationals. For stretches at a time, they look like the 1962 New York Mets (losers of 120 games) or the 2003 Detroit Tigers (losers of 119 games). And, for the past 7 games, the Nats have played from behind. Horrible starting pitching unable to make it through 6 innings, many times not even the 4th, putting the team in a deep hole, forcing the Nats to scratch and claw their way back into the contest. Yet, they do fight back, scoring runs, keeping it close. And, after last night's delightful 5-4 win in Phoenix, have won 3 of those 7 early deficit games. Now, one game away from a Season SWEEP against the Arizona Diamondbacks. That's a good sign, if we ever get decent pitching.
Jason Bergmann was Washington's defacto useless starter. Having nothing from the start. In bottom of the second, Conor Jackson would bloop a single to center, on a pitch he was fooled on, with one out, Carlos Quentin, behind in the count, 1-2, would get nailed on an inside pitch from Jason. It was the harbinger of things to come. Bergmann having no control tonight. Stephen Drew would follow and HAMMER a blast to DEEP CENTERFIELD---Well over the centerfield fence.
But here is where the gimmicky ballparks that are produced these days, hurt the game. The ball was a good 20 feet above the playing field as it cleared the wall, yet the DBacks have a YELLOW LINE that is painted across a railing, just in front of the grandstands. The ball went through a fans reaching, basket style, catching hands, and hit the yellow line. The ball was ruled IN PLAY--Drew stopping at 3rd with a triple. 2 runs scored. Arizona Manager Doug Melvin came out to argue the call for a Home Run for Drew. He must have realized, his own Ground Rules, had taken away a SURE 3 Run Home Run!! Drew flat out BLASTED that pitch. He should have been awarded a Home Run.
Stupidity on the part of Ownership Groups, to have the NEXT GREAT THING, when they build their new stadiums. The same can be said about Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Crawford Boxes down the left field line are slanted so far out, overlooking the field, a routine popup can result in a Homer. Remember last season, in his very first game as a National, the since long gone, Brandon Watson, blooped an outside pitch into the Crawford Boxes for a Home Run, and Nationals Management wrongly believed a GREAT PLAYER WAS BORN!! It was the field, not the player.
Hopefully, the Nationals new ballpark will not contain any of these gimmicks. They take away the value of a well stroked ball or a fine play by a fielder. These faux fixes, cheapen the game. This crap has got to stop. Can you imagine if some NFL team decided to put an Hill at the 15 yard line on one end of the field to be different, like the hill at Minute Maid Park. Do you think anyone would like THAT!! I doubt it!
Play would continue, after my long rant, not only here in the blog, but at home, during the game, in front of the TV talking to the African Queen (Of course the Queen commenting,"What are you bitching about, this rulings in your favor??!! "Well Yeah, but still...").
Arizona Starter Miguel Bastista would line a shot to Alfonso Soriano in left, to score Drew, anyway, on a sacrifice fly and it was 3-0 Dbacks after 2. The Nationals not doing much against Batista, hitless through 3 complete.
At this point, with the Nats down early once again, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaegler got into the dreariness of Chase Field. And, picking up on exactly what NatsDelNegro reports from his personal appearance there 2 night ago--the place is a MORGUE!! Charlie commented on how fans never cheer, unless prompted by the scoreboard. They hate the SNAKE NOISE!! "Sounds more like a hissing radiator" according to Charlie. Slowes finally pointing out, you can make a stadium as posh and modern, with all the amenities available, but if your fans don't have PASSION--you could be playing anywhere, it doesn't matter. Charlie is absolutely correct. It there is one overwhelming great thing about games at RFK, our fans are INTO IT--from the get go--and even when the Nats are behind. We have great fans and I believe the team realizes this--and cherishes that fact.
Good call by NatsDelNegro--Charlie and Dave have your back.
Washington would finally get to Batista in the 4th, when Ryan Zimmerman would draw a 1 out walk, Nick Johnson followed, and on a 0-1 count, broke up the No Hitter and Shutout on one swing of the bat--lofting a deep fly down the right field line, Johnson listing his body, willing it to stay fair. It DID, Nick's 22 Homer of the season. Career High. Getting the Nats back into it 3-2.
But, Bergmann would attempt to give it all back in the bottom half. Leadoff double by Chad Tracey to Center, single to left, in front of Soriano, by Quentin, moving Tracey to 3rd. Frank Robinson had enough of Jason, having seen, night after night on this roadtrip, the Nationals give back runs they just scored, replacing him with Mike O'Connor, the gangly lefthander. O'Connor would get Drew to fly out to left, setting up one of the best defensive thinking plays of the year by a Washington National.
Batista at the plate, attempting to bunt. Miguel squares around and pops the ball up. Both runners have to hold, near the bag. Batista does not run to first. Brian Schneider, thinking all the way, lets the ball drop to the ground, picks it up, fires to Felipe Lopez at second who promptly turns it over to Johnson at first for a terrific rally killing double play!! Two nights in row Schneider has made fabulous plays behind the plate. This one crucial to the outcome of tonight's game.
O'Connor would give up a No Doubt home run to Orlando Hudson on a 3-1 count in the 5th, but as it turned out, this would be the last time Arizona would score tonight. O'Connor also helped out by a nice running to his right, diving catch by Nook Logan, in center, off a slicing drive by Luis Gonzalez. A series of bullpen appearances by 4 more pitchers slamming the door shut on the Dbacks.
It was the 6th inning where this game finally turned the Nats way. The Patient One, Nick Johnson, lead off walk, Austin Kearns seeing eye grounder to right. Johnson moving to 3rd. Jose Vidro grounds out to first, but Johnson able to score, Kearns moving to second. 4-3 Dbacks.
Schneider was next, not much in the clutch this year, and it looks like much of the same on this at bat, when Brian grounded the ball back to Batista, Miguel, thinking he could get Kearns sliding into 3rd, threw the ball past Chad Tracey, Kearns scoring the tying run. Sohna and I said it was like watching the Nats play the Rockies last weekend. Still one out.
Nook Logan, using speed, would slap an infield single to Hudson at second, moving Schneider to 3rd. Then, with Ryan Church at the plate, Nook would get himself picked off, to great consternation of Frank Robinson, Frank shown clearly on the MASN broadcast lecturing Logan on his return to the dugout. Church would Strikeout to end the rally. 4-4 after Chris Schroeder keeps Arizona off the board in the bottom of the 6th.
Jorge Julio came to the mound for the top of the 7th. Last seen at RFK giving up the game tying 2 run home run in Game 1 on September 2nd to Soriano--in a post I called THE PERFECT STORM!! As fait would have it, Julio faces Alfonso to lead off the inning. Alfonso walking on a full count. FLop followed with a clean single to right, Soriano stopping at second. Zimmerman next, but in the hole 0-2 on the count. Swinging at strike 3--Soriano (THINKING SOMETIMES ONLY ABOUT HIMSELF) takes off for 3rd. Z swings badly at a pitch in the dirt, protecting Alfonso, but Johnny Estrada nails Number 12 with a perfect throw to 3rd. HELLO!!! ANYBODY HOME!! Alfonso, sometimes you have to think about the team and the situation, instead of just getting that 40th steal. Its going to come. RELAX!! WouldYA!! Soriano killed the potential game winning rally, even though Johnson would walk, but Kearns grounded out to end the inning.
Felix Rodriguez retired the Diamondbacks in the 7th, and the crucial 8th inning began. This time with Arizona's Tony Pena on the mound. With one out, Schneider, key player tonight for all the strange reasons, would hit a ground ball to Orlando Hudson near the outfield grass. Hudson inexplicably threw the ball away, Brian moving to second on the error.
Nook Logan would follow, he had failed earlier in the game, striking out badly on 3 pitches with 2 runners on and was picked off during 6th. Logan had killed 2 rallies. He seemed determined this at bat, being more selective, not swinging at everything from the left side. It paid off, when he was able to ground a Pena pitch right up the middle, bouncing all the way, scoring the not too swift Schneider, and it was 5-4 Nats. Another comeback, by the team with terrible starting pitching. Charlie Slowes was losing oxygen on the radio broadcast. I could just see Dave Jaegler getting out the Breathing Tank for Charlie.
Frank chose Chris Booker to relieve in the 8th, stating later that Jon Rauch and Ryan Wagner, overworked, were not available. Booker immediately gave up a leadoff single to Johnny Estrada. Sohna said to me, "Its looks like DEJA VU--All Over Again!!"
Booker would get Jackson to fly out to Logan. Tracey to pop out to Kearns. But, Frank had seen enough, and called on THE CHIEF, Chad Cordero, in an attempt for a 4 out save.
Cordero, came on firing strikes, and K'd the mighty swinging Carlos Quentin to end the inning---To the great relief of me watching at home. The Chief, would continue to pound the strike zone in the bottom on the 9th, looking confident, not waiting to much between pitches. Got Drew on a foul tip strike three, Craig Counsell pop out to Z in foul territory, then Z would make the final out of the game, whirling on a ground ball by Eric Byrnes, tossing to Johnson at first to end the game. Cordero looked GREAT!! Exactly what you want to see from your closer. Cocky, Confident!! Something missing from Chad earlier in the year.
Save number 26 for Cordero. A win that was earned, in everyway. And, totally unexpected, after falling behind once again early. You could see expressions of happiness on all the Nationals as they congratulated each other on the field after the game. With a very poor season, about to end--Washington is still making an honest effort. The Nationals are making a move toward respectability. You have to appreciate it.
They are RESILIENT.