Saturday, April 14, 2007
Living Up To Your Potential
When Shawn Hill slowly walked off the mound at the conclusion of the 7th inning today at Shea Stadium, one of baseball's great moments occured. Our Washington Nationals had SHUT UP over 53,000 New York Fans. NOTHING IN SPORT IS FINER. On the heals of AN OUTSTANDING HILL Performance, backed by Three Home Runs, Our Nationals played their finest game of this young season. A 6-2 Win over The New York Mets. Washington played like a team today. And, Starting Pitching and Offense were not the only tools on display. Austin Kearns and Ryan Church would provide some serious game changing defensive work. In doing so show, Our Nationals REAL POTENTIAL. Its a GOOD DAY TO BE A WASHINGTON NATIONALS FAN!!
Of course, Our Bullpen made it more than interesting at the end. On the radio, Charlie Slowes calling Chad Cordero's work today "raising the palpitation level" of every fan and player. Certainly, Number 32 did just that. But, "The Chief" finished the game off, in his USUAL HAIR RAISING STYLE, by getting Endy Chavez to line out to Ryan Church in centerfield, with two runners on base, and The Nats Killer, Carlos Beltran, On Deck.
This Win has so much upside for Our Washington Nationals, and Fans alike. There is much to take and enjoy from today's affair in Flushing Meadows.
Shawn Hill continues to prove he is OUR BEST STARTER. Has been since the first days of Spring Training, and only injuries over the early portions of this 25 year old's Major League Career has held him back. Number 46 arrived today. Like a crafty veteran of 10 years experience, Hill bore down when in a jam, never giving in, fighting back, holding The Mets in check. He was impressive. None more so than his effort in the bottom of the 3rd, when Endy Chavez tripled to lead off. Facing the very dangerous heart of the New York Lineup, Shawn struckout Beltran, then proceeded to retire both Carlos Delgado and David Wright on weak grounders back to the box. That's Pitching Folks--Professionally, in the Big Leagues.
And, in the bottom of sixth, Shawn got in trouble after a Wright infield single, Felipe Lopez error and Shawn Green ground rule double put New York's second run of the day on the board. Shea Stadium was coming alive with only one out. Hill, though, was up to the task, retiring Ramon Castro on a grounder to second and Jose Valentin striking out swinging to kill the rally. Hill fist pumped leaving the mound, knowing his game was on. Today was Shawn Hill's Day.
But, it was also Ryan Church's Day. My MAIN MAN!! has been ON FIRE, swinging a solid stick at the plate, not only showing power, but hitting away. The signs of a player finally understanding the game. Number 19 would double to center past Beltran and score The Nationals first run in the second. Then, in the sixth, provided his much needed power by Slamming an Orlando Hernadez pitch to center. Mets Centerfielder Beltran had it tracked all the way, but this ball was not coming down inside the ballpark. Carlos could not get to this one. Church's 3rd Home Run of the young season, put Washington up 4-1. For Ryan Church, I could not be happier. He's been through alot of angst, well documented, during his first two seasons of baseball playing for The Nationals. Church has been left alone this spring. Our Manager, Manny Acta, ordered it, telling Ryan to " just do your thing." He's responding. And, when Ryan climbed that wall in centerfield to snare David Wright's potential three run homer off Jon Rauch in the bottom of the eighth, I could just hear him tell me, once again, my favorite line of Spring Training, when I said to MY MAIN MAN!! how many say Church can't hit a curve, or play a decent outfield. "That's Crap!!", he exclaimed. I laughed with him then. And, I was enjoying today's moments with him, now. Hopefully Ryan Church HAS ARRIVED!! We need him, badly.
Not surprisingly during the course of today's victory, this was also Chris Snelling's Day. "Yoda" would knock in Church for that first run on a grounder to the right side, giving himself up, scoring Ryan from third in the 2nd inning. Then, in the top of 4th used his brain, to confuse David Wright, giving Washington a gift run. With one out, Schneider had singled to left. Snelling walked. And, although it was not perfect, Shawn Hill (by far our best bunting pitcher) did execute a sacrifice bunt, advancing the runners to 2nd and 3rd. FLop stepped up with 2 outs, and proceeded to hit a grounder to third near the bag. With the runners moving, for some reason, Wright decided to not toss the ball to first, to end the inning. Instead, David hesitated, making the odd decision to attempt to tag out Chris charging from 2nd base. Snelling, knowing a force play was not in effect, just stopped and retreated. David Wright was in nowheres land. Too late now to throw out the speedy Lopez. Schneider scored easily from third, before Wright tagged out the elusive Aussie. Its called "stealing" a run. A Great Baseball Decision by Chris Snelling. Don Sutton, broadcasting the game on MASN, knew full well, Snelling's smart base running decision is the sign of growth in a young player. The Hall Of Fame Broadcaster could not say enough good things about that scored run.
And, Sutton had alot more good things to say about Number 8, when Snelling capped off a three RBI Day in the sixth after Church's Home Run. "El Duque" flustered on the mound, immediately, gave up a bloop single to left by Brian Schneider, and Our Favorite Aussie, "Yoda" himself, ripped a liner down the right field line into the Mets Bullpen for a two run homer, closing out the scoring for Our Washington Nationals today. After seven surgeries on his left knee, its always impressive to see a player like Chris Snelling continue to NEVER GIVE UP, giving his all each day. I have no idea what the future holds for "YODA", but I love watching him play. He brings effort to the park, without fail--DAILY, with a great quirky attitude. I just love the guy!
Through the first 11 games of 2007, Brian Schneider has struggled mightily at the plate, only getting 4 hits. As you may have figured out by now, this was also Brian Schneider's Day. Brian broke out his early season slump, banging out three singles, going the opposite way. No longer just looking to pull the ball. If Number 23 becomes even more comfortable at the plate, Our Nationals could use his offense. Brian Schneider is a decent offensive hitting catcher, when on his game.
Austin Kearns continues to show he's a PLUS OUTFIELDER. In the bottom of first, Shawn Hill in his first mini-jam of the afternoon. With two outs, Carlos Beltran had singled, moving to second on a Wild Pitch. Up stepped the hard hitting Carlos Delgado. Delgado would lace a liner into right field. Austin charging all the way, scooped up the ball and fired a beautiful strike to home, Schneider applying the tag. Home Plate Umpire Mike Winters EMPHATICALLY giving the OUT CALL!! This terrific defensive play was the harbinger of things to come today, all good, for Our Washington Nationals.
And, by the way, Dimitri Young's Second Inning Home Run was TATOOED!!
Jon Rauch is settling in nicely as Cordero's Set Up Man, although Ryan Church did save him on that drive to center by David Wright, reeling in a sure Home Run. The "WOOKIE" stomped out the fire set by Micah Bowie in that 8th, when Number 59 could not retire either of the two hitters he faced, after replacing Shawn Hill. Rauch is comfortable, and when on his game, very intimidating. His 6'11" Frame, a HUGE HELP!!
And, as always, "The Chief" was flat out scary. It took Chad 26 pitches today, and after giving up a one out Ground Rule Double to Jose Valentin, walking Pinch Hitter Damion Easley and going 3-0 on the very dangerous Jose Reyes, there was not a NEW YORK OR WASHINGTON FAN that did not believe this game was going to take a drastic turn. The TOP OF THE METS LINEUP WAS DUE UP. No way, Our Nationals shut them down all day long. Yet, like he always does, Chad Cordero fights back. When Number 32 worked two strikes on Reyes, then GOT HIM LOOKING AT A CALLED STRIKE THREE!!, The African Queen thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was cheering LOUDLY, fist pumping in great joy!! And, I am sure Dave Jageler was reaching under his broadcast table looking for Charlies Slowes Oxygen Tank. Charlie was reaching into the Stratosphere!! Slowes is quite the excitable baseball announcer. A joy to listen to on the radio.
Today was A SOLID WIN. A Confidence Building Game. Since Jason Bergmann went to the mound to give his career best performance in Washington's win over Atlanta this past Thursday, Our Washington Nationals have received three consecutive fine starts from their much maligned Starting Rotation. Bergmann to Patterson to Hill. Honestly, you could even give Matt Chico & Jerome Williams nods for their losing performances in Atlanta last week. Is this a rotation that is going to Win A Division some day. Very Unlikely. But, Our Washington Nationals are showing they are a far better team than displayed during the first 11 games of 2007. With 150 Games remaining in the season, Today, Our Washington Nationals finally looked like a Major League Team.
Now, if only we can break Ryan Zimmerman out of his batting slump.
Today's Game Photos: AP--Julie Jacobson