Thursday, April 12, 2007
Oh!! What A Feeling!!
HALLELUJAH!! At 9:32PM on April 12, 2007, Ronnie Belliard's opposite field single drove in Chris Snelling from third to give Our Washington Nationals their first lead before a game pitch was thrown for the VERY FIRST TIME THIS SEASON!! The African Queen and I cheered like we had just won The Championship!! Our Washington Nationals were leading 1-0. And, when Ryan Zimmerman followed with a blooper off John Smoltz to score Felipe Lopez making the score 2-Zip, it felt like a 10 ton weight had been lifted off our shoulders. Its Amazing What A Lead Can Do For Morale!! We were stoked! 10 Games into the 2007 baseball season, Our Washington Nationals had the lead!!! Oh, What A FEELING!!
And, when Big Jon Rauch trotted onto the field to pitch the bottom of the eight, I found myself counting the remaining outs in the game. Something I love to do, when the game is close and nearing its ending. Nats Baseball was fun again. A good game, against a good Atlanta Braves Team, facing a Sure Fire Hall of Famer in John Smoltz. When you least expect it, baseball always comes back to surprise. Baseball delivered tonight. Once again, one of the many reasons to love this great game!!
Rauch would throw a solid one-two-three eighth inning, setting up the Big Moment--"The Chief" Chad Cordero was going to trot out to attempt his first save. With a two run lead, the most Heart Thumping Closer in the game, was given a comfort zone. Cordero didn't disappoint. If you have any heart condition and are a Washington Fan, it had to be difficult to watch the final three outs of THIS THRILLER!! With his flat brimmed cap DEEP DOWN, just above his eye brows, Chad was ready for the opportunity. Facing Edgar Renteria, Chipper Jones and "Mr. Official" Andruw Jones, this bottom of the 9th was going to interesting.
Renteria led off and Hammered a liner to left, just to the left of Chris Snelling. "Yoda" drifted over to catch the ball for out number one. Two Outs To Go. Chipper Jones was next, and Number 32 went right after him, got two strikes on Chipper, only to see Jones take an outside pitch to left for a single. Up stepped, Andruw Jones, and not a sole at Turner Field didn't think HOME RUN. "The Chief" would go deep into the count on Andruw. But, not willing to give up the game tying homer, Cordero walked Jones on 6 pitches. Really, it was a smart move. First & Second, One Out, and Brian McCann now at the plate.
McCann may well be the finest young hitting catcher in the game today. Batting Lefthanded, you had to wonder whether Chad was going to work out of this jam. McCann would go seven pitches into the count, fouling off pitches 5 & 6 to stay alive. Both of those pitches were off speed. Yelling now at the TV, I said, "COME ON Chief!!, paint the outside corner!!" Chad must have heard me, as he fired his BEST PITCH OF THE NIGHT, a fastball right over the outside corner of the plate. McCann took it, surprised, looking at CALLED STRIKE THREE. I Nearly Jumped out of my seat and hit my head on the ceiling fan. "That's A TREMENDOUS PITCH!!" said Don Sutton on MASN 2. And, it was. The Braves now down to their last out, The Queen and I were really nervous now.
So was Our Manager, Manny Acta. Every cutaway shot in the bottom of the 9th showed Manny with a stiff upper lip, looking clam, but you know, he was DYING INSIDE!! If Our Nationals lost this one, their trip to New York tonight would be more like a funeral. And, when Cordero walked the Free Swinging Jeff Francouer on 5 pitches, not giving Francouer ANYTHING GOOD to hit, the Morticians must have been circling. The Bases were now loaded, 2 outs, 2 run lead, bottom of the 9th. Anything could happen. ANYTHING!!
Then came, The CLIMAX MOMENT. Rookie Braves First Baseman Scott Thorman slowly walked to the plate. Thorman's BIG CHANCE to make a name for himself in The Major Leagues. Cordero's Chance to get his first save. This game was coming down to the final at-bat. This game would be decided RIGHT NOW!!
Thorman would foul off strike one, then take two pitches in the dirt. Swing away at Chad's fourth offering, and MISS. 2 Balls, 2 Strikes. Manny, in the Dugout, must have been about to lose it. He stopped chewing his sunflower seeds. Acta wanted it badly. So, did The Nationals. So, did The African Queen and I. We were holding our breaths. But, Scott Thorman hung tuff, fouling off two straight pitches, before Cordero fired in a fastball--JUST INSIDE for what could have been a called strike three, yet called ball three by Chuck Meriweather behind Home Plate. With the bases loaded, two outs, and a full count, everyone was moving. Whatever happened on the next pitch may well decide the outcome. Finally, on "The Chief's" 33rd pitch of the inning and FINAL PITCH OF THIS GLORIOUS GAME, Thorman swung at a Cordero pitch in the dirt, Brian Schneider picked up the ball and stepped on the plate to retire Chipper Jones on a Strike Three in the Dirt Force Out, to WIN THE GAME FOR OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS!!
At 10:17PM, Our Washington Nationals had accomplished the unlikely, beating John Smoltz and The Atlanta Braves 2-0 to end a six game losing streak. Chad Cordero recorded his first save of 2007, in heart thumping style. At least for one night, Nationals Baseball was fun and exciting, to this very thrilling end. The African Queen and I enjoying the moment, immensely.
Just a FABULOUS WIN!!
Game Notes & Highlights:
How difficult is it to Bunt? Bunting is a basic skill of baseball. Tonight, John Smoltz temporarily lost control in the top of the 3rd inning. The Soon To Be Hall Of Famer walked Brian Schneider on four pitches and hit Chris Snelling. Runners on First and Second with NO OUTS. I was actually dreaming The Nationals would take a lead for the first time in 2007. Jason Bergmann steps to the plate, squaring to bunt, attempting to move up the runners with Felipe Lopez stepping to the plate next. Being the top flight pitcher that he is, Smoltz throws Jason a high fastball inside that Bergmann amazingly attempts to bunt. Having his bat no longer squared to the pitch, Jason pops the bunt up to Chipper Jones charging in from third base. There is NO DOUBT, Our Washington Nationals are the worst bunting team in The Majors. They have been since their arrival in 2005. Its shameful, really. Bunting is not a hard skill. All you need is competence.
What made this already terrible bunt worse, was Schneider, seeing the ball popped up, stops about ten feet off the second base bag, then flinches towards third. I am not sure why, everyone could see the play developing in front of him. Chipper Jones just wheeled and tosses the ball to Edgar Renteria at second to double Brian off base. Double play, Double Mistake, Two Players at fault. Poor Baseball.
Jason Bergmann pitched his finest game as a Major Leaguer. Bergmann went 6 strong innings, giving up just 1 hit, but four walks and striking out eight Braves' hitters. He was decent. Unfortunately, Our Nationals couldn't put anything on the board against Smoltz until after Jason left the game. After his 50 pitch opening inning last Thursday against Arizona, Jason threw 105 pitches through six innings tonight. 59 for strikes. On Our Washington Nationals, that qualifies for a third starting assignment next Tuesday Night, also against The Braves, also against John Smoltz.
Ronnie Belliard had the HUGE Hit, his liner to right scored Snelling in the 8th, giving Washington their first IN GAME lead all season. Belliard, also in the 8th, made an OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE PLAY ranging deep to his right, into short centerfield, to backhand a hard hit grounder off the bat of Kelly Johnson, then leap and one hop the toss to Dimitri Young at First. It was a highlight reel play. In the 6th, Belliard started a beautiful 4-6-3 Double Play off the bat of Chipper Jones to help kill an Atlanta Rally. Like I stated last week, journeyman players can raise the level of their games for a couple of games per week. Ronnie had one of his tonight. He was KEY TO THE GAME.
The 8th inning rally started on a Chris Snelling Hit By Pitch (The second time tonight Smoltz hit "Yoda") followed by a D'Angelo Jimenez sacrifice and FLop walk.
I love "The Chief"--He makes every game interesting and exciting. No matter what the score. Baseball is always fun when Chad Cordero enters the game.
When Jesus Colome (who got the win tonight) came in to pitch tonight for The Bottom of The 7th, The African Queen asked me who Number 43 was pitching for Our Washington Nationals. Answering her, I said: "Jesus Colome" Sohna responded: "You mean we have two Jesus' on this team?" Immediately, I commented: "Yes, he and Jesus Flores." The African Queen immediately states: "You telling me we have two Jesus' (as in Jesus Christ) and we still can't win a game. Maybe we need a Mohammad!!"
It was funny. We laughed. But, the thought was good though. Remember, The African Queen is a Muslim.
The African Queen also was looking for an answer to something I tend to ignore, but makes alot of sense. While watching The Nats/Braves Game tonight on MASN 2, she asked: "Why are there so many Orioles Advertisements on The Nationals Games?" Its a good question, its bad enough Mr. Angelos rams everything Baltimore down our throat, but even during an Nats TV Game just makes you dislike the MASN deal even more. It really is an awful setup that TV DEAL.