Sunday, May 13, 2007
Don't Ever Leave Early
What if they played a Major League Baseball Game and no one saw it?
Would it count?
And, Where were you at 1:42AM on Sunday Morning, May 13th, 2007?
If you were anywhere else but RFK Stadium in Washington, DC--you missed one of The Greatest Finishes in Washington Nationals History. And, has been the case in the past--Ryan Zimmerman provided the explosives and, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, My BOY!! Jorge Julio ignited the spark, once again. Two Rain Delays, An Inside The Park Homer and a Final Half Inning witnessed by 76 Fans. That's right, 76--I know, I counted. Really what else could you possibly say? All culminating in tonight's "Perfect Storm" a Walk Off, Two Out, Grand Slam by Number 11 to propel Our Washington Nationals to a 5 run 9th inning, come from behind Victory over The Florida Marlins. A 9th inning where the top and bottom half were played 90 minutes apart. 7 to 3 The Final Score. And you better believe it, Section 320, all 8 of us, stayed to the very end of this resounding win. Really, who cared what time it was. In Section 320, we've come to learn--in every single rain delay that goes deep into the night, something special happens. Something you don't want to pass up. No Way We are Going Home. No Way, any of us would be caught short missing this. Tonight was special. So very, very Special.
The Two Rain Delays lasted a total of 3 Hours, 38 Minutes. When the final half inning began, it was 1:20AM, and Our Washington Nationals where trailing 3-2. With Florida's hard throwing lefthander Taylor Tankersley on the mound, could we really expect a miracle? Tankersley has consistently been lights out against Our Nationals. This morning though, he was not.
Brian Schneider lead off, going deep into the count, drawing a seven pitch walk. Then, Our Manager, Manny Acta began to unload his bench. A Bench now filled with some veteran savvy. Savvy not available to him during the first month of this season. Nook Logan pinch ran for Schneider. Ronnie Belliard was then called on by Manny to pinch hit for Robert Fick. Belliard was patient, also going deep into the count-6 pitches total, before driving a liner to center. Unfortunately, a liner directly at Florida's Reggie Abercrombie for out number One. Collective Groans from those few die hards remaining.
Could a comeback still be possible?
As the rain, ONCE AGAIN, began to fall, Manny then called on Dimitri Young to pinch hit for Ryan Langerhans. Young, due to a sore achilles heel has be unavailable for the past four days. Big Number 21 stepped to the plate, batting righthanded and did not disappoint. Young swinging at Tankersley's first offering driving the ball to left field for a clean single--Logan swiftly moving to third. First & Third, one out--tying run 90 feet away. As amazing as it seemed, nearly 6 Hours & 30 Minutes after this game began, there was a distinct possibility, the ballgame would go extra innings. Those 76 fans didn't seem to mind though--This Ever Dwindling Crowd was whooping it up. Most of those remaining patrons ringing the seats between the dugouts, all standing in the First Row. Section 320, as always--SITTING IN OUR CUSTOMARY SEATS.
Manny continued to go to his bench. This time Jesus Flores was called on to bat for The Washington Pitcher of record at that point in the game--Jon Rauch. Although "THE Wookie" had not thrown a pitch for over 60 minutes. Tonight's final rain delay occurred as Jon forced a Double Play grounder by Joe Borchard to end the top of the 9th. The top of the 9th had ended at 12:25AM. Flores, coming around more and more as solid contributor was patient against the fast fading Tankersley. Taylor didn't have it, but Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez left him on the mound anyway--surprisingly. Bad move. Flores never got the bat off his shoulders, taking four pitches to load the bases with a walk. With still only one out--anyone left had to feel the tide turning. Our Manager realized that opportunity too, and pinch ran Jason Bergmann for the slow moving Dimitri Young, now at second base. Felipe Lopez was next--And FLop delivered, slicing a liner into right. Logan scoring the game tying run, Bergmann held at third. Bases Loaded, still one out. The Crowd ALIVE chanting "LETS GO NATS!!" Really how deep into the night could this game possibly go?
To the shear astonishment of just about everyone left at RFK, Tankersley STAYED IN THE GAME. And, with "THE GUZ" stepping to the plate-you had to wonder what Marlins Manager Gonzalez was thinking. He had Jorge Julio warming up. Obviously, there is NO ONE MORE, I would rather see. Maybe Gonzalez also felt the FEAR FACTOR of Julio. The last time Jorge Julio stepped to the mound in a pressure situation in game three of this season, also at RFK--He crumbled badly, allowing 4 runs to score in a Nats come from behind 7-6 victory in the bottom of the 9th.
Keeping Tankersley in the game seemed like a smart move though when Cristian Guzman struck out looking for out number 2. Still, with the bases loaded. We had a chance. A chance with RYAN ZIMMERMAN. Who else would Our Washington Nationals possibly wish to see at the plate, with the game on the line? "Z" with two DRAMATIC walk off Homers, off The Yankees and these same Marlins last season. Not a sole in the park did not realize the significance of Ryan Zimmerman at the plate, at this very moment.
So did the Marlins. On trotted Jorge Julio!! and I could not have been happier. "COME ON!!! Its Jorge Julio!!!" we screamed. You know under these circumstances, each and every player could hear each and every fan yell. The delight in being heard by the players--FABULOUS. Obviously, Julio was nervous--or just plain pissed off at us bellowing his name. As we continued to yell out "COME ON!! Its Jorge Julio!!" he unleashed a ROCKET TOSS--Right at ZIMMERMAN's HEAD!! Jorge was already out of control. Julio's Head already out of the game. This game was now already over. The time was 1:42AM.
You just knew, Jorge Julio would lose control and he would lose this game. Right on cue--Jorge UNLEASHED A FASTBALL, right down the middle of the plate-Ryan Zimmerman was not going to miss it--HAMMERING THE PITCH TO LEFT CENTERFIELD. THE MAJESTIC FLIGHT OF THE BALL, SAID IT ALL!!
A WALKOFF, GRAND SLAM!!! BANG!! ZOOM!! WENT THE FIREWORKS!! MY Boy!! Jorge Julio had done it again!!! Ryan Zimmerman--Our Hero, AGAIN!!. Both men not understanding pressure. Julio because, he can't handle it. Zimmerman because, he doesn't worry about it. What a contrast in styles. The Difference, in this FABULOUS WIN THIS MORNING!!
Just a reminder. No matter what the score. No matter how late. Don't Ever Leave Early. You have no idea the joy you missed this morning. The THRILL OF IT ALL--WELL WORTH THE WAIT!!
Game Notes & Highlights
When the game was first called for rain in the top of 5th inning--IT WAS POURING, as fans scrambled for shelter. Team President Stan Kasten was standing in the walkway getting soaked wearing a short sleeved Curly W Polo shirt--stating: "Where are all you going! Its only a little rain!!" The sight of him looking at fans bewildered by the rainstorm, absolutely hilarious.
As the rains began, The African Queen and I were being interviewed for a Special PBS Behind The Scenes look at Our Washington Nationals, scheduled to air sometime in July. Tonight, the camera crew was interviewing many of the Hard Core Season Tickets Holders that come to each and every game. As we were being interviewed, under the comforts of the overhang of Section 320, Mr. Kasten walked by saying to everyone: "I've been telling you for some time--Your seats should be far more expensive seats. Look everyone wants to sit here now." No one was sitting in the expensive seats. They were basically underwater.
Later, when the first rainstorm passed, I noticed all the Nationals Players were walking out of the Visitors Dugout to get to the Nationals 3rd Base Dugout. Mr. Kasten happened to be nearby. So, I asked him why? It seemed so strange. He told me, The Tunnel leading from the Nats Clubhouse to the Dugout was completely flooded out by the rains. So Our Washington Nationals had to walk under the stands to the Umpire Dressing Room, then down the short hallway leading to the visiting dugout and field to reach their own dugout. You gotta love RFK STADIUM!!
Then, when the game finally resumed after the first rainstorm. Principal Owner Mark Lerner and Mr. Kasten walked by Section 320 and were simply STUNNED that all of us were still sitting in Our USUAL SEATS. Everyone else at that point, was sitting within 4 rows of the field. "We are dedicated" stated Section 320. They laughed, shaking their heads, walking past.
In the bottom of the 6th, Austin Kearns drove a Renyal Pinto fastball deep to left center, near the wall. Marlins Centerfielder Reggie Abercrombie smashed into the wall, with his glove on the ball, very similar to Schneider hit to right last night. This time the ball scooted off the wall, and rolled toward left field, along the warning track. Florida's Josh Willingham was late getting the ball. Kearns ran hard all the way, and was waved home by Nats 3rd Base Coach Tim Tolman. Austin scoring easily for Our Washington Nationals, First EVER, Inside The Park Home Run!!! What a sight to see a player, not with gifted speed, hustle all the way around the bases. With the crowd on its feet ROARING with Approval--Kearns waved, shaking his head back and forth--looking beat, almost as if needing OXYGEN. Until Zimmerman's dramatic walkoff--it was The Play Of The Game.
As Iris, Biff, The African Queen and I were leaving--Iris said to us: "Have a nice nap!! See you in a few hours." "Yeah," I responded, "We'll have brunch." Game time less than 11 hours away.
Finally, as The African Queen and I were walking out of RFK Stadium this morning, we were stopped by a couple. The Gentlemen said to us: "I noticed you two and I just had to come and say hello. We just love reading your blog. Its alot of fun." So I asked who they might be? He responded: "I am Gary Church, Your MAIN MAN's!! Father. And, this is my wife, Karen." Sohna and I were just STUNNED and THRILLED at the same time. We went on to talk with them for a good while. Mr. Church telling me how he really loves the information, commentary and enjoyment The African Queen and I attempt to bring out in The Nats 320 Blog. They were just great folks. As Sohna and I drove home, we couldn't figure out what was better. Zimmerman's Game Ending Homer. Or, The Church's Game Ending Conversation. Both were thrilling, both quite satisfying.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
PS--Please give credit, its 5AM and I still writing this.