Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jason Bergmann Takes One For The Team

Our Washington Nationals were DRAINED. The New York Mets were playing out the string. The Fans, both Nationals & Mets appeared to be in recovery mode. After two physically demanding and emotionally riveting affairs, the rubber game of a three game set is USUALLY a GETAWAY DAY, most always A DAY GAME and, more times than not, an uneventful lackadaisical get together. No way, Our Washington Nationals and The New York Mets could possibly maintain the high level of competition seen this past Friday and Saturday at RFK Stadium. A rather somber crowd of 27,361 settled in, seemingly happy to take in the absolutely GREAT WEATHER. Not alot of noise, little jabbering, an almost serene day at the ballpark. With a New York team in town, THAT'S INCREDIBLE! Not alot of excitement today, but a decent, closely played baseball game, nonetheless.

A good old fashioned pitching duel broke out. The Mets Starter, John Maine, continued to prove--What In The World Were The Baltimore Orioles THINKING by trading him off before the beginning of the 2006 season. The tall lanky righthander CAN PITCH. And, apparently, SO CAN Our Washington Nationals Jason Bergmann. Number 57 proving with each successive outing, he may well be a decent end of the rotation starter in The Major Leagues. Not a single player, coach, manager, scout or fan could walk away from The Stadium on East Capitol Street not believing in the maturation process of Jason Bergmann.

If you had told Bergmann. on this Sunday Afternoon, to stand out on the pitchers mound, dominate a heavy hitting New York Mets Lineup, surrender just two hits, three walks and throw 50 of your 88 pitches for strikes through 7 strong innings, I would bet he would take those results each and every time Our Manager Manny Acta handed him the baseball. So would Our Washington Nationals. More times than not, you are going to win with a performance like that. Jason was fabulous today, but he wasn't perfect. And, it cost him, dearly.

One mistake pitch, a 0-1 fastball to Carlos Beltran decided this tight affair. Beltran, 5-8 lifetime against Jason, lofted the only toss Number 57 wanted to take back all afternoon. Rightfielder Austin Kearns drifting back to the warning track. Carlos depositing the ball off the Washington Hall Of Stars sign above the Nats Bullpen in rightfield for a 1-0 score in the top of the 6th. Still, you couldn't fault Jason, he gave his all. If he had received ANY OFFENSIVE HELP, at all, from his teammates, Bergmann would be flying to San Diego for The Nationals Two Week Road Trip tonight a much happier man. Any team, no matter who you are, needs to score ONE RUN, to win any game.

One Run, The New York Mets plated today. One Run, Our Washington Nationals could not. Even though, Our Washington Nationals had their chances. As I have stated before, EVERY TEAM, in EVERY GAME, has at least ONE CHANCE. Washington had two HUGE OPPORTUNITIES this sunny afternoon. And, they failed, miserably, with the game on the line. The failure continuing to hammer home the truth--Our Bench needs a serious realignment.

With Maine beginning to stumble, Kearns led off the bottom of the 7th ripping a clean double down the left field line. Austin's bat coming alive of late, eight of his last 11 hits have been for extra bases. Then, Ryan Church continues to show patience at the plate, receiving his 6th walk over the past two games. The Mets in trouble now, No Outs, runners on first and second. Jesus Flores was next. Flores, who may well turnout to be A TERRIFIC PLAYER (more on him in the game notes) has yet to breakout at the plate so far this season. Manny realizing this, and looking to tie the game up, signaled for Jesus to bunt the runners up. As has been the case throughout the brief HISTORY OF OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS, WE CAN NOT BUNT!!! Number 3, with The Mets expecting, bunted the ball right to Julio Franco charging in from first base. The Oldest Man in the Majors, scooped up the ball, and with 25 years of Major League Experience, wheeled, tossed the ball to David Wright at third to retire the hard sliding Kearns. Although Flores was safe at First Base, Our Washington Nationals had, one again, failed to move runners up, to put pressure on an opponent. The Collective GROANS from Nats Fans, palpable. How much longer will fans have to put up with poor bunting skills (Complaining about it so much, Its become MY PASSION to have it fixed. Bunting is a basic skill. Really, THERE IS NO EXCUSE, NONE).

Chris Snelling was next. My Favorite Aussie playing inconsistently lately, now seems lost at the plate. No longer the patient, confident hitter from earlier in April. Chris struck out swinging for Out Number 2. Still, we had a chance. Yet, with Bergmann the next scheduled hitter, Our Manager decided to send Robert Fick to the plate to pinch hit. Maybe, since Manny Acta knew it was Sunday, Today would be Redemption Day for Robert Fick. I apologize for harping on the point, but, to be honest, Fick has been struggling this season. Time and Time again, he has been ineffective--no key hits, an unproductive batter. Yet, the man wearing unlucky Number 13 would not be blessed today either, striking out badly, yet again, to kill the rally. Sorry, but, as much as I like Robert Fick personally (He was incredibly kind to The African Queen and I during Spring Training), he is not getting the job done. Our Washington Nationals need a finer choice.

Then, in the bottom of the 8th, a prime opportunity to steal the game, and the first series win arose. Mets Manager Willie Randolph decided Maine was done. Aaron Heilman was sent out by New York. Our Washington Nationals went right after him. Felipe Lopez continued to show he may be a decent leadoff hitter after all, greeting Heilman with a single to left. The EVER HOT HITTING Ronnie Belliard rapped out his third hit of the game (and second three hit game in consecutive days) by lining a single to left. FLop to second. First and Second, No Outs. With Ryan Zimmerman stepping to the plate, who at RFK did not believe Number 11 would lash his patented opposite field liner to the gap in right scoring both, a victory possibly in hand? Yet, Ryan continued his early season struggles, striking out on a slider in the dirt by Heilman. Zimmerman, flat out pissed at himself as he walk back to the Nats Third Base Dugout. When will "Z" break out of it? Nearly One Month into the 2007 Season, Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .236 with One Homer and 8 RBI. How badly does he miss Nick Johnson?

Dimitri Young, simply not a factor today, striking out in his first three at bats, then lofted a routine fly to right, FLop scurrying to third. With two out now, the hot hitting Austin Kearns was next. The Mets really wanted nothing to do with him. Austin walking to load the bases and My MAIN MAN!! Ryan Church next.

Fearing Church's Power Potential, Willie Randolph made the right move, calling for lefty Scott Schoeneweis. With the crowd now STANDING for the very first time all day, Ryan would take ball one, then lash Schoeneweis' very next pitch toward first base--RIGHT AT JULIO FRANCO. Franco running to first to retire the HARD CHARGING CHURCH. "Church on Sunday" was also not be today. A great disappointment in Section 320.

And, when Fireballer Billy Wagner came on to close this one out in the bottom of the 9th for The New York Mets, Our Washington Nationals had lost their second 1-0 game at RFK Stadium since the Inaugural Season. Would I have loved to see them win today? Yeah, you bet. But, I couldn't feel bad, really. Jason Bergmann pitched as well as he ever has in the Major Leagues. He was, sadly, the designated scapegoat. He deserved better. Frankly, we simply got beat, in a close game, that teetered to the opposing side. Our Nationals need some help, assistance that will hopefully come our way early next week. Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan are expected back. Kory Casto is being recalled from AAA Columbus. With a better bench, Washington has a GREATER CHANCE to win. Our Pitching is really not that bad, right now--as long as we can straighten out "The Chief".

Game Notes & Highlights:

FLop made two terrific defensive plays at shortstop. Leading off the 5th, Damion Easley ground sharply into the hole between Short and Third Base. Lopez backhanded the ball on the grass, taking the short hop, set himself, AND FLAT OUT HUMMED THE BALL ACROSS THE DIAMOND to retire Easley. Dimtri Young did not even stretch. Big League Throw, Big League Play, and The Defensive Play of the Game. Too Bad FLop couldn't get off the same strong throw last night in the 9th with two outs, against the same Easley. An Out would have resolved all the late night Histrionics and Angst in that brutal 12th inning loss.

Then, in the 9th, Moises Alou would sharply ground to the hole, once again. FLop sort of lost his balance, stumbled, but still backhanded the ball on the short hop, FIRING to Young at first. Dimitri scooped the ball out of the dirt to retire Alou. Felipe has one of the strongest INFIELD ARMS in the game. If only he could be more consistent. When he applies himself, Lopez is a decent talent.

Jesus Flores continues to impress behind the plate. Now getting familiar with opposing hitters, he's setting up the pitches better. And, when Jose Reyes stole second base in the top of the second inning, it was not due to a BAD THROW. From his knees, Jesus ROPED A LINER to second, just missing the speedy roadster Reyes. With more experience, there is NO DOUBT, Jesus Flores is a keeper. You gotta give Jim Bowden credit for snatching him last December in the Rule V Draft.

In the top of the second inning, Julio Franco popped a foul ball down the right field line. Dimitri Young, Ronnie Belliard and Austin Kearns all converged. As has been the case all season long, Kearns gave way to another fielder. In this case Young, who dropped the ball. Austin had the angle, the speed and agility to make the play, more so than the other two. Continually, he concerns me that he is UNWILLING to dive in, take charge, and more likely to avoid than be in a collision with another player. Afraid to be involved in an incident similar to that which Nick Johnson broke his left femur last September against these same Mets. That's troubling.

The only other 1-0 game in Washington Nationals History was May 18, 2005, when Jeffrey Hammonds rapped a two out, bottom of the ninth single to score the winning run against The Milwaukee Brewers.

In 22 games at RFK Stadium, The New York Mets have won 17 of them. Not Good for Our Washington Nationals.

Finally, late in today's game, Loyal Nats320 Reader Chris stopped by to introduce himself to The African Queen and I. We both appreciated his kind words and comments. What really peaked my interest, during his visit, was his DC Flag Patch, attached to his "Washington" Away Jersey. Chris mentioned he thought it was appropriate for Our Washington Nationals to wear this Logo on their Game Uniforms. Honestly, I thought it was a great idea. So, I am passing on the info to The Nationals for review. We shall see what they think.


mike edgar said...


Both Don Sutton, during the game, and Ray Knight on the post-game show said that they thought the homerun pitch by Bergmann was not a bad pitch. It was high and away, which they both stated is a reasonably safe pitch in most instances. So, it's probably more accurate to characterize that one pitch by Bergmann as unlucky than as bad.

John O'Connor said...

I agree with Mike Edgar. That gopher ball was above the letters and tailing away. More a case of a great piece of hitting by Beltran than a pitch Bergman should have wanted back.

jim king said...

On April 1 if anyone had predicted that on the Mets's first visit to RFK this season Nats starters would all pitch into the 6th inning and give up a total of 4 runs in three games, they would have been called crazy. As bad a taste as this series may leave in our mouths, it really is a big positive to see Chico, Williams and Bergmann pitch like big league starters. The maturation of the Nats starting rotation is a most pleasant surprise so far.

But, as you point out, this team has no bench, and no apparent desire to fix that this season. Robert Fick is doing his Wil Cordero imitation, and I don't think his average is even going to get to the Interstate. His ability to catch will keep him on the roster, but this should be his last year in DC. Restovich is not really a major league hitter, Cory Kasto is not yet a major league hitter, and I don't think Guzman will hit as well as Belliard. It will be nice to have someone on the bench who can hit and hit for some power, but if it takes a .260 hitting run producer out of the lineup for a .220 hitter who does not produce runs, what's the point? Both Guzman and Logan will have to get on base and drive in runs to make their returns mean more than better range up the middle.

But a team with a $36 million payroll isn't going to have much of a bench.

The Nationals have always had trouble scoring runs, and have found ways not to. We failed to score in innings where we loaded the bases with none out in two games over the span of three days (and those were the two games we won week before last). Maybe we'll gets some hitters to go along with the new ball park, although I think our pitching deserves it before then.

SenatorNat said...

In the 8th, at home, Z-man has to bunt for three reasons: 1. he can actually bunt for a single; 2. next two batters can tie game with a fly ball; win it with a hit; and 3. at home, have to play for a tie...

Soriano on this team would have cost $17 million more, generated 300-350,000 more fans, and sustained the team all the way around. Next year, the Nats will sign a player to a four year, $48 million deal, and he will not be a 40-40 man who can play two positions, certainly.

Trust in Kasten. All Good.

Christopher said...

sweet, i made the blog! hope they receive the patch idea well...