Friday, April 06, 2007
The Night Of The Fathers
Our Washington Nationals sent Jerome Williams out to the mound tonight in an effort to get a quality start for the first time in 2007. Our Manager, Manny Acta was hoping for the best. As his Bullpen is well taxed and overburdened through the first 4 games of this season. Jerome nearly made it happen, and Manny nearly got his wish. But, some bad luck, two fielding mistakes, a mind boggling no play and the desire to push Williams one inning to long to save the Washington Relief Corp, proved disasterous tonight. The Arizona Diamondbacks defeated Our Washington Nationals 7-1 on a cold night at RFK Stadium. Thankfully, the winds were not swirling around the old ballyard like last night. Tonight's brisk weather far more manageable, and comfortable.
Despite the loss, this was a VERY SPECIAL NIGHT for The African Queen and I. A totally chance meeting by Sohna lead to a wonderful conversation and eventual visit by The Father of one Our Nationals Most Favorite Sons. Then, when we thought the pleasure of meeting this Wonderful Man could not get better, we were approached by another Nationals Player's Family Member as we left Section 320 to head home after the game. More on those two later. First, tonight's game.
Jerome Williams came out strong in the first inning tonight. Throwing just 12 pitches, he retired Arizona in order in the first. And, left the mound, to a rousing ovation from the faithful at RFK Stadium. Nats Fans pleased to see the home squad heading to their first at bats of the evening, not behind on the scoreboard. Jerome's opponent on the mound tonight was tall righthander Micah Owings. Only three players in the history of Major League Baseball have carried the first name of Micah. Two were available to play tonight. Micah Bowie was sitting in The Nationals Bullpen.
For the first three innings of this affair, an old fashioned pitchers duel broke out. The game moving swiftly. Both starters holding their own. Williams perfect--9 Diamondbacks up, 9 Sent Down. Owings had hit tonight's starting Left Fielder, Chris Snelling in the first and Felipe Lopez singled in the 3rd, but neither advanced, both left stranded. Then, just as it appeared Jerome would cruise through a fourth solid inning of shutout ball, Our Washington Nationals feel apart on the field, in three most surprising ways. Just like I mentioned the other day, when The Nationals came back from deep down to defeat The Florida Marlins, you never know what you might see in any baseball game. Every game is different. Unfortunately tonight, those surprising moments in the 4th were not what Home Fans wanted to see, nor The Nationals.
With one down in the top of the 4th, Arizona Shortstop, Alberto Callapso would lace a liner down the left field line. Chris Snelling was on the ball quickly for Washington as the speedy Callapso had his sights set on a double. "Yoda" (Snelling) picked up the ball on the run with his glove hand, whirled and threw a beautiful left handed strike to Ronnie Belliard on the bag at second, beating Alberto by a good two feet. For whatever reason, Belliard never turned to make the tag. Even Callapso had to be surprised. He would have been out by a mile, but was credited with a double. The RFK Stadium Crowd Booed to no end. Ronnie didn't say a word. The play was the harbinger of mistakes to come in this awful half inning.
The very next hitter, Orlando Hudson would hit a sharply hit grounder to Belliard's right, near second base. Callapso was well off the bag. Easily, Ronnie could have attempted to get the lead runner. Instead he took the easy out, throwing out Hudson at first, for out number two. Callapso moving to third. It was at this point, tonight's game took a dramatic turn for the worse for Our Washington Nationals. Power hitting lefthander Chad Tracey stepped to the plate for The Diamondbacks and on a 2-2 count, hammered a deep drive to right, curling toward the corner near the fence and The Nationals Bullpen. Austin Kearns ran hard, drifting to his left and appeared to have the ball in sight. But, at the very last second, Number 25 jumped up, believing the ball was going to hit the wall. Austin not only miss-timed his leap, but also his distance from the wall, losing his balance freefalling to the ground, the ball neither hitting the fence nor his fielding hand. The ball landing cleanly on the warning track, Kearns lying right beside it. Callapso scoring the first run of the evening, Tracey stopping at third with an RBI Triple. Austin flat out pissed at himself, slamming his right hand into his glove hand. The crowd shaking their heads in amazement. Jerome Williams head dropping on the mound in disappointment.
And, then it only got worse.
On the very next pitch of the game, Connor Jackson would slap a routine grounder to Ryan Zimmerman at first. You may recall my interview with Zimmerman and Barry Larkin this spring about Ryan needing to work on his footwork in an attempt to end what they both called "The Silly Errors". Zimmerman cleanly fielded the ball, and instead of continuing to move forward toward first base, he opened up his hips, slinging the ball across the diamond. Immediately, you could see, this ball was in the dirt. Dimitri Young had no chance for the scoop, the ball landing in Arizona's Dugout. Ryan's "Silly Error" was costly. Tracey scored easily from third, for the second run of the night. Jerome Williams felt bad, Ryan Zimmerman a whole lot worse. On just two pitches, Our Washington Nationals were down 2-0, in depressing fashion, heading to the bottom of the 4th, where Washington went quietly.
Then came the top of the 5th, and the DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME. With one out, Arizona's Catcher, Miguel Montero, would single to center and advance to second on a sacrifice bunt by Micah Ownings. Eric Byrnes would walk bringing Callaspo to the plate with runners on 1st and 2nd, two outs. And, Jerome Williams, now 60 pitches into the game, running out of gas. Callaspo would take ball one, then smoke Jerome's next offering, lacing an opposite field liner to right, Kearns came in on the ball, moving also to his right. Montero was running all the way. Austin picked up the ball on the run, and FIRED A PERFECT ONE HOPPER to Brian Schneider at the plate. Montero attempted to slide around the perfectly blocked plate by Schneider, Home Plate Umpire, Jerry Meals, would have none of that, dramatically calling Miguel OUT AT THE PLATE!! to end the inning. Washington Nationals Team President Stan Kasten was watching the game from the tunnel just to the left of Section 320 & MickNats seat during this half innning. When Meals called Montero out at the plate, Mr. Kasten, into the moment, lunged forward fist pumping with a perfect out call, and "Yeah!!" As Section 320 savored the fine play, I pointed at Mr. Kasten, he replied "HOW ABOUT THAT!" smiling happily.
This Inspiring Defensive Gem, got The Nationals going, and in the bottom of the 5th, their opportunity to get back in the game arose. All without a single hit. Ryan Church would lead off the inning with a walk. And, after Belliard popped to right, Jerome Williams was surprisingly sent to the plate to hit. Attempting to bunt, he was hit by the pitch. Church to second, Williams to first. FLop would the fly to right, allowing Ryan Church to move to third. Williams remained at first base. Then Chris Snelling walked to load the bases. The crowd now on its feet. Up stepped Ryan Zimmerman. Who else in Washington's Lineup would you possibly want up in this situation? No one else. But, tonight would not be "Z's" night. After taking strike one and fouling off strike two--Micah Owings retired him swinging at a high fastball. You could see the frustration on Zimmerman's face. Ryan was very unhappy with himself. The crowd dejectingly plopping themselves back into their seats.
When Jerome Williams took the mound for the top of the 6th inning tonight, he represented the longest pitching stint by a Nationals starter this first week of the season. And, when he retired the first two hitters of the inning, you half expected him to trot out for the 7th inning as well. As it turned out, Jerome barely got out of the 6th, getting that final out was costly.
Connor Jackson would single to center. Scott Hairston would walk on a full count. Chris Young was next. The African Queen asked me whether Young was any good. I mentioned he had a 5-5 day last September 3rd here at RFK against The Nationals, and hit a home run. Was that ever bad luck. As I finished my sentence, Young flat out SMASHED a Jerome Williams Fastball off the Mezzanine in left for a, NO DOUBT, three run homer. 5-0 Diamondbacks now, and this game was officially over, just like that.
Jerome Williams would finish the inning, but left dejectedly. One bad pitch had ruined a rather nice outing. After 88 pitches, 51 for strikes, he went to showers having given up 4 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks. Jerome Williams pitched well, but in an effort to save a tired bullpen, Manny left him in, one inning too long. Too bad.
Later, Rule V Draftee Levale Speigner would be called on for mop up duty, to pitch the final two innings of this game and rest the remainder of the relief corp. Levale didn't have it, and Manny wasn't going to take him out. In two innings of work, Speigner gave up 2 runs on 3 hits, and three walks. He couldn't find the plate, tossing just 23 strikes on 44 total pitches. When Our Washington Nationals stepped up for their last at bats in the bottom of the 9th, they were now down 7-0 and only a smattering of folks remained in the stands from the original count of 19,234. Washington really didn't have much of a chance in the 9th, and with two outs everyone remaining, was packing for the trip home. But, MY MAIN MAN!! Ryan Church decided to give the home folks something positive for the journey. He teed off on a Juan Cruz fastball, depositing it over the right centerfield wall for only the second Nationals hit of the night, and only run. Belliard and Kory Casto would single after Church's (Church on Good Friday) homer, in an attempted mini-rally, but Josh Wilson struck out looking to end the game.
Game Notes & Highlights
In the bottom of the 6th, Austin Kearns was on first base with one out, when Brian Schneider hit a grounder near 3rd base. For some reason, Kearns ranged too far off the bag. Chad Tracey caught him in a rundown. Trying to do do much, Kearns made a bad mental mistake, and was tagged out. He nearly flung his helmet, upset with himself, then thought better of it, knowing Manny Acta would not put up with that stuff.
During the 5th inning when Stan Kasten was standing in the tunnel to the left of Section 320, Mr. Kasten noticed me sitting in my customary seat wearing my hooded sweatshirt, wool coat and gloves. Smiling, he yelled over: "Hey, I thought you were one of those tough fans. Why are you all covered up. I thought you would be out here barechested with your Red Curly W painted across your chest!!" Laughing, I replied, "No, that MickNats job!!" We laughed.
Our Washington Nationals may well have lost their 4th of their first 5 games, but no matter what the outcome would be tonight, this date would be special for some time to come. On days The Nationals play and I am at work, The African Queen and I meet at The Stadium Armory Metro Station Stop to head to RFK Stadium together. Tonight, I was running late, and did not get to the designated meet up spot until nearly 6:25pm. As I headed up the escalator to exit the station, I noticed Sohna talking to a gentleman wearing a Red Nationals Team Jacket. He looked familar, but I just couldn't figure him out. As it turned out, when The African Queen, wearing her Nationals Red Jacket, was tranferring from The Yellow Line to an Orange Line Train bound for RFK at L'Enfant Plaza, she happened to sit down in a seat next to this man. He asked her, "Do you go to many of the games?" She replied, "Yes, we are Season Ticket Holders. We come to all of them." The man so pleased, he stuck out his hand to shake Sohna's, saying: "Hi, I'm Chad Cordero's Father." The African Queen was excited to meet him. They struck up a far ranging conversation. And, upon arrival at The Stadium Armory Station, and me nowhere in site, Edward Cordero kindly waited with Sohna, as they discussed various things of interest between them for 15 minutes. Mr. Cordero enjoying the chat and not wanting to leave her waiting alone.
He was kind and considerate. After I arrived, Sohna said: "Look who I have with me." Mr. Cordero introduced himself to me and we all talked and chatted walking toward RFK Stadium. He surprised me by stating he enjoys reading The Nats320 Blog. He knew of my work. I am sure, I was beaming. Since the Nationals Players families sit just to our right, we continued conversing for sometime in Section 320. Mr. Cordero kind enough to take pictures with Sohna and myself. Later, during the bottom of the 8th, with the game well out of hand, Mr. Cordero, on his own doing, returned to Section 320 to visit with Sohna and I. He is alot fun, and extremely knowledgeable about pitching. We could not thank him enough for his kindness to us. Just a terrific man!!
After we said GoodBye to Mr. Cordero, a Big Gentleman came walking up to us saying: "Are you the guy that writes that Nats320 blog?" "Yes, sir." I replied. "You do a great job, your work down at Spring Training was terrific. I'm Jon Rauch's Father, I just wanted to say hello." Sohna replying, "Hi, great, this is the day of the fathers." We all shooked hands, chatted briefly. Mr. Rauch telling me "We love reading your work." Sohna and I thanked him. Mr. Rauch waved, saying goodnight.
The African Queen and I just looked at each other, stunned at the pleasure to meet these two nice men tonight. Spending some time with Edward Cordero and then Jon Rauch's father stopping by just to say hello, was very special.
Credits: All Game Photos From Tonight--Evan Vucci, AP