Thursday, April 05, 2007
When SenatorNat posted up in Section 320 at RFK Stadium tonight wearing his Washington Redskins Knit Skull Cap and yelling, "BEAT DALLAS!! BEAT DALLAS!!, it certainly seemed appropriate. Tonight's weather was more conducive for Football than Baseball. Kick Off was at 7:05PM.
So, maybe,it was the Game Time Temperature--50 Degrees, a temperature that continued to plummet throughout the night. Maybe it was our starting pitcher trying to do his best Livan Hernandez imitation. Livan sitting in the Visiting Dugout Tonight watching his former team, The Nationals. Or, maybe it was just a starting pitcher not having his best stuff. But, whatever the reason, make no mistake about it, Jason Bergmann's 50 Pitch First Inning for Our Washington Nationals against the Arizona Diamondback's was stunningly painful to watch.
Arizona's first seven hitters in this game all went deep into the count. Expect for Clean Up Hitter Chad Tracey, who Bergmann walked on four straight pitches, none saw less than six pitches in any of their at bats. Jason was all over the place. And, the deeper he went into the count on hitters, you could see his frustration build on the mound. Even a visit by Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire after the Tracey Walk didn't help. When this 28 Minute top of the first inning THANKFULLY ENDED, three issued walks (one with the bases loaded scoring the nights first run) combining with two singles, put the Our Nationals, once again, in an early hole. The Diamondbacks Chris Young two out single to left with the bases loaded, scoring Orlando Hudson and Tracey, the key hit of the inning. 3-0 Arizona before Washington ever batted.
Then, when the Diamondbacks Orlando Hudson, batting lefthanded, slammed an opposite field homer to left center off Bergmann in the top of the third inning, some in this very modest announced crowd of 16,017 (the smallest paid crowd to ever attend a Nats game since the team moved to Washington) actually got up to leave on this bitter cold and windy night at RFK STADIUM. Although Our Washington Nationals would slowly climb back into this game, they failed in the clutch repeatedly, going 0-13 with runners in scoring position. Hudson's Homer would hold up and give The Diamondbacks a lead they would never relinquish tonight in a 4-3 win. The very first win for Arizona in 9 tries, over three seasons, in Washington, DC.
But, this game was all about staying warm, both on the field and in the stands. And, despite the cold artic winds, Section 320 was in FULL FORCE!! 12 dedicated fans total, all of whom, stayed throughout this 3 hour and 9 minute slow moving affair. NO ONE WENT HOME EARLY!! SenatorNat, Andy, Barbara, Richard, MickNats, Kathy, Dave, "The Noise Boys", The African Queen and myself. The chanting, cheering and song continued throughout the evening. So much so, that when the crowd had dwindled to "FAMILY & FRIENDS" size by the 7th inning, Team President Stan Kasten walked by, smilingly waved, nodding his head in appreciation, proud of Section 320's continued commitment, no matter what the situation. Everyone waved back at "The Boss Man".
Jason Bergmann struggled throughout the night, and could not make it out of the fourth inning. After Arizona Pitcher Eddie Gonzalez singled up the middle, Eric Brynes walked and Hudson lined a single to left loading up the bases, Our Manager--Manny Acta finally decided he had seen enough from his starter. After 91 laborious pitches (only 49 strikes), Bergman was sent to an early shower after just 3.2 innings. Another poor start for a Nationals Starting Pitcher, and another long night for the Washington Bullpen. Fortunately, the Bullpen was again up to the task once again, shutting down the Diamondbacks, allowing The Nationals to crawl back into the game.
Tonight, Micah Bowie was the long man out of the pen, called in to calm the storm and hopefully eat up some innings. And, he was terrific--striking out Tracey with the bases loaded to end the fourth. Then, Bowie would help his own cause, mostly by accident, in the bottom of the 4th when Washington responded and got on the scoring board. My Main Man!! Ryan Church would rip a double to right center, and move to third on a grounder by Ronnie Belliard to first. Bowie would step to the plate, and on an 0-2 pitch just fling his bat at the ball. IT WORKED, a chopper to Conner Jackson at first was slow enough to allow Church to score from third for Washington's first run of the evening. The now shivering crowd up on its feet applauding, but probably more pleased to have something to get body the moving and the blood flowing again, in an attempt to stay warm. The Winds were whipping throughout the cavernous stadium. Groups of fans, huddled together in packs trying to block the blistering cold air.
But, even with the temperature dipping into the 30's, Dimitri Young would stay hot and continue to impress at the plate. On the very first pitch he saw in the bottom of the fifth, Number 21, hammered a fastball from Gonzales over the Washington Dream Foundation Sign in right center for his first Home Run as a Washington Nationals. With the score now 4-2, the chilled crowd came to life, many stopped sitting on their hands and under blankets to finally begin making some serious noise. Many dreaming of a comeback similar to yesterday's thriller against The Florida Marlins. Sadly, RallyTime, was not to be tonight.
No doubt, Washington had multiple chances throughout this game to score runs. They outhit Arizona 11 to 6. And despite being down early, The Nationals had runners reach at least second base in each of the first four innings. In fact, during the third inning, The Home Team loaded up the bases with two outs on a Ryan Zimmerman walk, a Austin Kearns ripped grounder down the left field line that went for a double and a Dimitri Young walk. But, with two out, Brian Schneider just got under a Gonzales breaking pitch, lofting the ball to deep right field, only to see Eric Byrnes settle under it to retire the side, to great moans from the fans.
Even after Dimitri's Homer in the fifth, Schneider would double to right center, but be left stranded. Ronnie Belliard, as well, in the 6th after he singled and moved to second on a wild pitch with no body out. Chris Snelling pinch hit for Bowie and hammered a liner to center, but right at Chris Young. Felipe Lopez meekly grounded to first and Kory Casto (0-5 tonight), struck out for his third time tonight.
Finally, The Nationals would pull within one in the 7th when Austin Kearns singled to left and Dimitri Young again walloped a Doug Slaton pitch into deep right center--Kearns running all the way, was held at third by Third Base Coach Tim Tolman. With one out and a chance to tie the game with their next two batters, it was the right decision. Unfortunately, Brian Schneider would meekly ground to short, Kearns would score as Arizona Shortstop Alberto Callaspo would toss the fielded grounder to third to retire the advancing Young. And, when Ryan Church grounded to second, this short lived rally was over. 4-3 Diamondbacks, heading to the eighth. Not many fans left watching this one now, probably less than 1000 DIE HARDS.
Again, in the bottom of the 8th, FLop would double down the right field line, just over the first base bag off reliever Brandon Lyon. Only to see himself stranded also. And, when Diamondbacks Manager Doug Melvin sent out Jose Valverde to close the game out in the ninth, there was no miracle comeback waiting for Our Washington Nationals. Valverde struck out Zimmerman looking, Kearns on a first pitch pop up to second and, finally, Dimtri Young could not provide any more magic, nor do it all tonight. The Big Man grounded out to second base to put this loss officially in the books. The final out of this 4-3 loss sending the few remaining fans scurrying for the warmer climate of their cars or Metro.
As The African Queen commented when we were leaving, "Weather Forcasters are predicting possible snow flurries tomorrow night, temperatures below freezing, will they actually play the game on Friday?" "Yes," I replied, "But the question will be if anyone will show up?"
Game Notes & Highlights of The Evening:
Once again, The Nationals Bullpen was impressive--Bowie, Jesus Colome and Jon Rauch pitched 5.1 innings of shutout one hit ball. There is no way Manny Acta can continue to tax his relievers. Washington needs some quality starts from its pitchers. If not, we may well be seeing Tim Redding, Joel Hanrahan or someone else from that group of 38 pitchers that participated in The Spring Training Rotation Derby, but were demoted to Minor League Camp, soon. After 4 games, Our Starting Pitching has lasted a total of 16. 1 innings out of a possible 36. Once again, not good.
In the top of the 8th inning, Arizona's Tony Clark pinch hit for Doug Slaton. Clark bounced a grounder in the hole between first and second. Dimitri Young ranged to his right and, at the last second, flung himself down to the ground, while raising his glove on the ball's bad hop. The ball landed directly in Young's glove, and he easily tossed out Clark at first. "You can open your eyes now Dimitri!!", I yelled out. Laughs and giggles all around. The site of "The Big Dog", as we've come to call him, lunging to the ground, a terrific site.
Although Kory Casto went hitless tonight, he continues to flat out HAMMER THE BALL each time he connects at the plate. Whether its a stinging grounder or lacing liner, Casto's got a game plan at the plate. He just needs more experience. Very impressive, Number 5 is a better player than I ever thought or realized.
Recently, Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post wrote, describing Team President Stan Kasten as a "Sarcastic New York Lawyer". Mr. Kasten, while walking around RFK Stadium tonight, was handing out his new Washington Nationals Business Card, based on Barry's writing. He stopped by Section 320 to hand me a few. We all started laughing. The card, with The Nationals Logo and Address printed on the card stock read: "STAN KASTEN--Sarcastic New York Lawyer"
The Man's got a sense of humor. You gotta love that!!
Between Innings, The NatPack have a new announcer with a Wireless Microphone and Curly "W" Mic Flag that walks around the park handling the contests and giveaways. Tonight, for the "Around The Horn Trivia", he came to Section 320. New to the layout, he first chose a Washington Nationals Player's wife. She politely declined. We laughed. Then, he proceed to come over to our side and ask Barbara to participate. Which she did. But, what got everyone going, was when he said to everyone of us: "You guys come to the games often?" Total silence in Section 320. You could hear a pin drop. SayHeyKlib gave the guy the Crib Notes Version of Section 320.
Finally, as the crowd thinned out, more and more beer vendors were seen working their way through the stands attempting to sell their "anti-freeze". Nothing, on this cold night, was as important as the sight of this beer man (seen below) passing through Section 320. As I immediately stated upon seeing him: "Look 'The Guz' is selling beer to pass time during his rehab!!"
EVERYONE CRACKED UP!! Although the picture is not totally in focus, this Vendor's Look-A-Like Image with Cristian Guzman MADE THE NIGHT, AND WARMED THE HEARTS OF MANY IN SECTION 320!! JUST FABULOUS!!