Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Come ON!! Its JORGE JULIO!!!
When Florida Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez trotted out Jorge Julio today to close out the 9th inning against Our Washington Nationals, I could not have been happier. Jorge Julio and I, have history. If you've read the Nats320 blog for some time, you might be familiar with "THE PERFECT STORM" from last September 3rd. On that date, Julio, a freewheeling fastball pitcher like no other (then pitching for Arizona), faced the most dangerous fastball hitter in The National League, Alfonso Soriano. It was no contest then. Soriano cranked out a come from behind blast leading to Washington's extra inning victory over The Diamondbacks that day. Like BangTheDrumNatly told me after, I had called it all the way.
And today was no different. Julio, with the pressure on the line, once again crumbled badly. Our Washington Nationals cranked him all over the park. And, when Dimitri Young powered an opposite field high fly deep to left with the bases loaded and one out, all the Marlins Josh Willingham could do, was PRAY the ball dropped foul. It landed three feet in fair territory. Kory Casto trotted home and RFK STADIUM ERUPTED IN PURE JOY!! Our Washington Nationals had fought back from five runs down and a 6-1 score with three tallies of their own in the bottom of the ninth to defeat The Florida Marlins 7-6. Manny Acta's First Win AS A MAJOR LEAGUE MANAGER!! A win that could not have come at a better time.
You would think we had just won The World Series!! Those fans remaining from the thinned out crowd of 18,835 hollered and cheered for The Nationals as the home team scurried onto the playing field. Robert Fick jumping all over Dimitri Young. Ronnie Belliard jumping up and down thrilled with the comeback. But, nothing beat the site of Our Manager, Manny Acta, literally leaping into the outstretched hands of the large Dimitri Young. For a briefest of moments, Acta hugged Dimitri dearly, while Young held him tight. Both, CHERISHING THE MOMENT!! As Young bounced off the field, he JUBILANTLY FISTED PUMPED THE CROWD WITH BOTH HANDS!! The Cheering Throng behind the Nats Third Base Dugout ROARING ITS APPROVAL!
WHAT AN ENDING to a game that seemed all but over heading to the bottom of the 6th inning. Down 6-1 with today's Washington starter, Matt Chico, already out the game after surrendering three homers--two Titanic Shots, to Cody Ross and Miguel Cabrera, and another blast to right by Florida's Mike Jacobs, all the Marlins where looking for was their starter, Anibel Sanchez, to continue to cruise through The Nats Batting Order. No one in the crowd was really expecting a comeback, not after Washington's performance in their first two games against The Marlins and, especially, with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the sixth.
THIS IS WHY BASEBALL IS SUCH A GREAT GAME!!
With two outs in that 6th inning, Dimitri Young would single to left, followed by a slicing liner to left center by Brian Schneider, getting the home crowd up on its feet cheering for really the first time today. Then, just like that, this game's momentum quickly shifted. At exactly 2:45PM this afternoon, Our Washington Nationals Officially began the 2007 season, two days after their Home Opener. My Main Man!! Ryan Church unloaded on a Anibel Sanchez Fastball (his 89th pitch of the game) depositing it over the right centerfield wall, just to the right of the Nationals Clock at RFK Stadium, pulling Washington back into this game, 6 to 4. RFK STADIUM WENT NUTS!! Bang Zoom Went the Fireworks!!--The Nationals in a close one, for the first time this early in the season. The entire mood both on and off the field, changed DRAMATICALLY. Seriously, you could feel the great weight of sorrow being dropped off the shoulders of many at the park. THIS GAME WAS ON, and it was only going to get better!
For Manny Acta, the chess match began. Through the remaining course of the today's game, he would use every available bench player, expect for Josh Wilson and unload the bullpen, using everyone save "The Chief", Chad Cordero. Ryan Wagner cruised through two terrific innings of relief work and survived a huge scare in the 7th when Ryan Zimmerman was charged with his first error of the season on a Hanley Ramirez grounder to his left that glanced off his glove. Ramirez would stop at second on the play and advance to third on a line out to center by Dan Uggla. Miguel Cabrera, he of 2 homers, 6 RBI's and a
.700 batting average during this series was then intentionally walked, thankfully. With runners on 1st and 3rd with one out, the powerful Willingham stepped to the plate, in an attempt to put this game out of reach for the final time. Wagner threw his very best slider, his out pitch, inducing a gorgeous 6-4-3 inning ending double play. Felipe Lopez to Belliard to Young. The Crowd on its feet showing its approval. Wagner fist pumping his teammates and the crowd as he trotted to the home dugout.
Both teams would go quietly heading to the pivotal ninth, when the fun reached its ZENITH. Ray King was called on to keep the game close for Washington and almost threw it away, literally. The speedy Alejandro De Aza would drag bunt between first and the pitchers mound. King got to the ball quickly and proceeded to throw the ball--right down the right field line. De Aza motoring into second on the error. After Jason Wood sacrificed De Aza to third, Acta quickly trotted to the mound, calling on Big Jon Rauch to put out the fire. Facing two of Florida's most dangerous hitters, "The Wookie" struck out Ramirez looking and overpowered Uggla swinging to shut down any further damage. Rauch walked off the mound, a hero.
On came Julio for the bottom of the ninth and I ROARED MY APPROVAL!! "Come ON!! Its JORGE JULIO!! Section 320 joined in the fun. For each and every Nationals batter during this glorious half inning, I continued The Jorge Julio Cheer. Everyone getting a kick out it. And, my good luck charmed worked.
Nats Second Sacker, Ronnie Belliard (who had a terrific day both at the plate--three hits and in the field), looped a double down the left field line to open the inning. The Crowd now on its feet. Robert Fick (a double switch defensive replacement for Church in the 9th--Kearns to Center, Fick to Right) worked a full count on Julio, and laced a liner into left center. Belliard running all the way scored easily. Fick stopped at first. The excitement building at RFK STADIUM. With the score now 6-5 Marlins, Manny Acta was going for the tie run. FLop laid down a gorgeous bunt, allowing the slow footed Fick to move to second. Up stepped, Kory Casto, playing in his second game as a Major Leaguer with the game on the line. With the guile of a veteran, Casto was patient, got ahead in the count (2-1) and flat out hammered Jorge's 4th pitch of this at-bat up the middle off Hanley Ramirez the ball rolling into short centerfield. Fick not stopping no matter what, scored standing. Casto with the GAME TYING RBI!! (his first Major League Run Batted In) 6-6 now, and RFK Reaching Pandemonium Level.
The African Queen stating, "How do you think those folks that left early feel now?" As I have always stated: "You never leave a baseball game early-no matter what the score. You never know what you might miss." Was that ever true today.
Amazingly, Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez left Jorge Julio in the game. And my "Come ON!! Its Jorge Julio!!" call now reaching fever pitch. Ryan Zimmerman would make Gonzalez pay by dumping a blooper down the right field line. Casto moving to third. Julio, now feeling the pressure, walked Austin Kearns to load the bases on four straight pitches with one out. Not a sole sitting at RFK STADIUM now. No one warming up in Florida's Bullpen, either. This game was for Jorge Julio to lose--which he did, promptly.
Dimitri Young, batting lefthanded, took ball one in the dirt. The Crowd Roaring!! Then, on Jorge's 23 pitch of the inning and last pitch for this game--Young lofted his deep fly down the left field line. The only thing that mattered now was the ball staying fair. It did. At 3:47PM, 62 minutes after Ryan Church jump started the season, THIS GAME WAS OVER IN MIRACULOUS STYLE!! Curly "W" Number One, now in the 2007 Record Book.
The Party was on. As Our Washington Nationals jumped all over each other on the diamond. Fans were high fiving and jumping all over themselves in the stands. The Players pointing, saluting and fist pumping to the fans along the third base side. The Crowd returning the gestures. The Feeling of GREAT UNEXPECTED JOY--not to be forgotten for some time.
Yeah, I know, its just one game. In fact, just the third game of the 2007 season. But, if any team in Major League Baseball deserved such an uplifting performance, it was OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS TODAY. WHAT A WIN!!
As The African Queen and I entered RFK Stadium this afternoon, we were greeted by a Washington Nationals Official we have known for some time. Our Washington Nationals needed my help. They were one person short for The President's Race. Since I have experience participating last September, would I do them a favor and run the race today as an emergency fill-in. Without hesitation, I agreed. Today, George Washington, with me providing the footwork, finished third in the running. But as far as I was concerned, I won the race. My Best Friend--Screech!! happily greeted me at the finish line. I was honored to be the first fan yet to run the race in 2007. The "Rushmores" are now handled by Day Hired Nationals Employees.
Matt Chico struggled in his first Major League Appearance. With his entire family sitting in Section 320, Chico gave up 6 runs, 8 hits and 3 Homers over 4 shaky innings. Sohna and I were saddened. We like Matt Chico, alot. Hopefully he can turn it around in the near future.
Cody Ross' Titanic Blast reached the Upper Deck, Section 443 near the left field foul pole, row 5.
Miguel Cabrera hammered his into the Mezzanine, just under Section 447.
FLop looked much more comfortable at shortstop today, his regular position. Ronnie Belliard played like an All-Star. A pest at the plate all day long, Ronnie snared a beautiful backhand liner off the bat of Mike Jacobs with the infield drawn in during the 5th, saving two sure runs. And, played the keystone, turning over that beautiful double play, killing a Marlins rally in the 7th inning.
The Nationals Bullpen pitched 5 innings of 2 hit, 1 walk shutout ball. Levale Speigner allowed an inherited runner to score. But, Micah Bowie, Jesus Colome, Ray King, Ryan Wagner & Jon Rauch combined to shut down the Marlins the rest of the way. As nice of an effort as it was, Chico not going deep into the game, taxed an overused bullpen. Through just three games this season and 27 total possible innings, Our Starters have only pitched in 12.2 of those. Not good.
Finally, Section 320 was visited all day long by Joe Riley, from The Nationals Power blog. Joe experiencing the fun of Section 320. Joe telling us upon leaving: "I wish I had known you guys since last season." Joe had a great time!!