Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Nothing Like San Diego

If there is ONE OTHER CITY IN THIS GREAT COUNTRY The African Queen and I would live full time, its San Diego. This Wonderful California City is Our Home Away From Home. Yearly, we visit San Diego. In fact, 20 Straight Years now. Yeah, I realize, Sohna and I are becoming Old Fogies. But, we are LONG TIME MEMBERS of The San Diego Zoo. Honestly, Its a Beautiful Place. You Just Can't Beat The Weather. And really, there is nothing like Southern California. We Can't Get Enough Of IT. Maybe, ONE DAY, we shall retire there. The Most Perfect City In America!

Tonight, Our Washington Nationals began a long nine game road trip in San Diego. Despite the fact that I get up at 5AM EACH AND EVERY WEEKDAY, there was NO WAY I was going to miss MY TEAM playing in MY OTHER FAVORITE CITY. Sohna & I love Petco Park. The concourses are wide, the sightlines terrific. If ANY CITY IN AMERICA built a new ballpark that more TRANSFORMED their downtown, creating a renaissance, its San Diego. The Padres Ballpark is steps from The Gaslamp District (The Restaurants & Bars). Hotels, Condominiums and Fun have sprung up all around this fine facility, revitalising a once depressed area. Exactly what The New Nationals Ballpark is expected to produce. What a GREAT PLACE San Diego is to enjoy Major League Baseball!! Sohna and I can't say enough good things about the place. We know it SO WELL.

And What A Ballgame it was! A Thrilling close match.

Our John Patterson against one of the finest young studs in the game today, San Diego's Jake Peavy. Patterson looking to prove he is healthy and far better than shown in April, 2007. Jake Peavy continuing to be A Premier Starter in the game. Wouldn't you know it, JP got the better start, despite Peavy striking out 10 Nats hitters tonight. In fact, Patterson was terrific in his own rights. If there is one thing you could always complain about in JP's history, was his inability to adjust to his limitations on the mound. No matter what his physical condition, Patterson always has felt he could JUST BLOW AWAY the competition. Finally, he realized tonight, you can be savvy on the mound as well. His fastball never reaching 90 MPH, but was he ever effective. Mixing his pitches, keeping San Diego batters off balance. By the time John Patterson was lifted during the 7th inning, Number 22 had completed his FINEST EFFORT OF THE SEASON. Maybe not the lights out performer of 2005, but pretty darn good, nonetheless. Big John would go six strong innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 walks and just one earned run.

AND FINALLY, GET HIS FIRST WIN OF 2007. But, not before a very interesting ballgame played out.

Here's the Crib Notes Version:

Our Washington Nationals manufactured a run in the second. My Main Main!! Ryan Church crushed a Peavy fastball to centerfield for a lead off double, Kearns moved him to third of a fly ball and Dimitri Young scored him on a ground ball to second. 1-0 Nationals.

The Baseball Gods though got even in the 3rd. Really, who else, but Terrmel Sledge would knock a Home Run off John Patterson. In the trade for Alfonso Soriano, It always bothered me that Sledge was just a THROW IN. Terrmel, who cracked the First Homer in Nationals History was traded by Our General Manager JUST TO MAKE The Brad Wilkerson Deal. Sledge was coming off a horrific injury, a complete muscle tear in the leg from the bone. Not many expected him to fully recover. He had potential then, in 2005, and he got even tonight. Sledge must have felt sweet with that homer, tying the game at 1-1.

But Church continued to prove, if you let him alone, he produces. After being hit by The Padres Jake Peavy, Ryan took off running when Jake inexplicably went into a FULL WINDUP, not the stretch. Number 19's heads up play directly led to Washington's second run of the evening when Austin Kearns singled to right. The Nationals stealing a run because My Main Man!! was paying attention. An important run considering the outcome and what occurred later.

For once, the inability to place down a bunt, was a good result (by accident). In the top of the 7th, Austin Kearns led off with a single. Dimtri Young followed with a walk off Peavy. 1st and 2nd, no outs. The just called up Number 5 was next. With two strikes after Kory Casto failed to move the runners up bunting, Kory laced a Jake Peavy slider that hung in over the plate down the right field line to score Kearns, moving Dimitri Young to third. Casto standing on second with his first Major League Double. Was his second career RBI ever a BIG ONE!!! Our Washington Nationals up 3-1, still no outs. You would think it could only get better.

Yet, Our Manager Manny Acta must have been KICKING HIMSELF at the end of top half of the 7th. After Kory's RBI Double, Brian Schneider followed with a walk to load the bases with STILL NOBODY OUT. Manny decided to Pinch Hit for John Patterson, looking for The Game Ending Rally, putting the contest out of reach, despite Patterson pitching his finest game to date. And, wouldn't you know it, This Right Decision Backfired--Big Time. Robert Fick batted for Number 22, getting a 3-1 count on Peavy. Only to strike out, once again, horribly, watching a nasty slider. Then, FLop would follow, also striking out watching the exact same pitch from Jake. Ronnie Belliard, not willing to wait for that nasty slider, decided to swing at Peavy's first pitch, meekly flying out to center. Just bad hitting in the clutch. The signs of a struggling team, never scoring runners consistently with the game on the line. Nothing more can I possibly add.

And, as is ALWAYS THE CASE IN BASEBALL, San Diego came back strong in the bottom of the 7th, taking advantage of Washington's failure. When a starting pitcher, like Patterson, dominates your team all night long, you can't wait for a new look, a fresh reliever, someone to bounce all over the park. The Padres, enjoying Saul Rivera's entrance to this game. Mike Cameron greeted him with a blast to left center. The ball bouncing off the wall. Cameron easily at second with a lead off double. Rivera would get the struggling Kevin Kouzmanoff swinging at strike three for out number one. Fortunately, for Saul and Our Nationals, the game changing moment would happen next. Padres Oscar Robles followed, working deep into the count against Rivera. Saul tossed in a curve ball over the outside corner of the plate. Protecting his At-Bat, Robles made contact, dinking the ball down the left field line. Casto had no play in leftfield. Cameron standing on second, with the play in front of him, DID NOT RUN. He would have scored EASILY. Instead, Cameron stopping at third. A HUGE BREAK. Manny Acta had seen enough of Saul, calling for Ray King. His first appearance since coming off the Disabled List. And Ray was solid in the 7th, striking out pinch hitter Geoff Blum and getting Jose Cruz, Jr to bounce to Ronnie Belliard at second to end the threat. King was excellent in this inning. And, with the score still 3-1 Washington, you would think this game was well in hand.

But, it wasn't, as always.

Ray King was, surprisingly, sent out for the 8th and he got lucky, twice. After hitting Brian Giles in the rear end leading off the inning, Adrian Gonzalez HAMMERED a Ray fastball down the right field line. The Big Guy, Dimitri Young, was standing Right on the Bag at first. Gonzalez out, Giles doubled off. Sometimes you have to be more lucky than good. Honestly, No Way, Dimitri SHOULD BE STANDING THERE. With two outs now, Jon Rauch was already warming up, and King had pitched longer than he had all season long. Number 34 a situational reliever, why was he still in this game? Although coming off The Disabled List, Manny decided to press the issue, giving King the rare opportunity to finish off the 8th. What a mistake. Josh Bard hammered Ray's third pitch into the left field bleachers to bring the Padres back into the game, 3-2. Just when you think Our Nationals are destined to win, something happens to change the face of the game. Fortunately, Rauch would trot on and retire Nats Killer, Khalil Greene of a Deep Fly to Center. Greene has two GAME WINNING HOMERS against The Nationals in the past two seasons. Thank The BASEBALL GODS for Dimitri Hanging on to The Double Play Ball in the top half, and not being in the proper position in the first place.

Of course, with this game so close, The Most Thrilling Closer in the game was destined to get his chance at REDEMPTION. "The Chief Cardiologist" Chad Cordero was sent out to close this one out. And, "The Chief" fired nothing but strikes this night. Knowing his parents were in attendance, Chad was not going to let them, or us, down. Number 32 let The Padres Hit him, getting Mike Cameron and Kevin Kouzmanoff on fly outs to center. And, Oscar Robles to fly to deep right to end it for his career Save Number 95.

Win Number 9 for Our Washington Nationals. Save Number 4 for Chad Cordero in 2007.

Simply a Good WIN, in a City that Sohna and I love, against a team, The San Diego Padres that have KILLED The Nationals over the past two seasons.

Sorry for the short post. I have got to get some sleep. But, I am happy to have stayed up for this one.

Game Notes & Highlights:

In the sixth, Padres third basemen, Kevin Kouzmanoff made a nice OLE' scoop of the Ronnie Belliard grounder to his left, throwing out the runner at first. It was The Defensive Play of The Game.

San Diego's Jake Peavy is a Wonderful Talent. He just wasn't his best tonight. The Day Our Washington Nationals send such a great pitcher to the mound to start a game for us, will be a GREAT MOMENT. One to be cherished.

On MASN 2 Tonight, Don Sutton with the QUOTE OF THE EVENING: "Everytime Kahlil Greene (Padres Shortstop) comes to the plate, its reminds me of the movie 'Fast Times At Ridgemont High'. Greene fashions long blond hair. Exactly the look of Sean Penn, the then teenage punk star in that picture show. Penn and Greene clones. What a TERRIFIC LINE BY DON SUTTON. Having FULL KNOWLEDGE of "Fast Times", I couldn't stop laughing for a good five minutes. I love Don Sutton.

Only 19,769 cared to show up at Petco Park for this one.

Manny Acta moved Ryan Church to the Clean Up spot tonight, and claims Ryan will remain there for the foreseeable future. Good Move. Dimitri Young is not consistent enough in the four spot. We still need Nick Johnson though.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Lenny Ignelzi


Anonymous said...

on a positive note patterson was hitting the low 90's tonight, I saw a pitch clocked at 92 MPH, that's a good sign

Dave said...

On TV it looked to me like there were a whole lot fewer than 19K+ in that ballpark last night.

A beautiful new ballpark, a great pitcher, beautiful weather--wow, what's up with that attendance?

We should not feel bad when 18-19K show up at RFK on cool nights in mid-week. Bring on the summer!

Screech's Best Friend said...

Dave: Its ironic you mentioned the attendance also. Sohna and and I were wondering the same thing. San Diego usually averages near 30,000 per game. Stunningly low turnout

Anonymous said...

SBF: Any chance that Snelling would be putting up better numbers if Acta showed him the faith/patience that he gave to Chuch during Spring? It's hard to tell from Sydney, Australia, (no nationals games yet - only ESPN's sportcenter) but his adjusted numbers wouldn't be too disimilar to Kearns and Church so I'm interested to hear from those who have actually seen him play.

Screech's Best Friend said...

On Snelling: Its true that Chris Snelling has struggled off the bench. The Team has it in their mind that My Favorite Aussie Can Not Hit Lefties. Which, I don't really know, since HE NEVER PLAYS AGAINST LEFTIES. And, has not done well in his brief plate appearances against them. When Logan went down, Snelling really should have played everyday. He was doing OK early in the season. Really a pest at the plate and in the field. Don't really understand why Manny did not just hand him the job for the entire month of April so EVERYONE could get a good idea of what Chris Snelling Can or Can Not do. I really like him, alot.

SenatorNat said...

This game shows that the "breaks" even out over the course of the season, as the Nats got all the serendipity in this one.

Optimism for hopeful Nats fans and Stan Kasten's Plan is fueled now by five outstanding outings in succession by the entire starting rotation, and Jason Simontachhi on the way, to boot! Two of the starters have had multiple successive high-quality starts - "Top o'the" Hill and "Rutgers" (Jason Bergmann), and this fan gets the feeling that Chico is calming down and is about to go on a run of his own.

Patterson is one moody guy - he still acted last night that he wasn't getting the breaks, which is bull. He does not have the temperment to be the Ace, but, as anonymous says, his velocity and arm strength are returning, which will translate into quality pitching, and his curve ball was sure breaking downward and across the plate last night...

That was a huge double by Kory Castro - if he can calm down, we may have a decent complement of outfielders with Castro, Church, and Kearns starting, and Logan and Snelling reserves...

{How does one "adjust" Snelling's numbers incidentally? Is there some Australian-born and bred MLB batting average parity or exchange rate, which puts him over .300 with 5 HR's at this point? I kike him, and do not sense that Acta is anything but neutral about him...}

We are virtually certain that Zimmerman will raise his average and run production by All-Star break, but what about Schneider? He is woeful, again, like last year, which we attribute to the WBC. Can the team afford to rely on him for the future, or is it destined to start Jesus Flores and let him get the at-bats to adjust to MLP?

With Schneider and Z-Man hitting, and Lopez, Church, and Kearns continuing to play solid everyday ball, the team would only lack a first-baseman who is a nifty fielder, a team leader, with one of the best on-base percentages in MLB to make it competitive night in and night out, along with sustained young contagious confident pitching.

As to Petco Park, my observation is two-fold: the gimmicks like the Western Mining Supply Warehouse and the observation towers detract from its redeeming qualities; and the design of the playing field (outfield) looks like the model for the Nationals Park at the Navy Yard - which would be excellent for the make-up of the Nats roster, based on last night.

Less than 20k attendance for a 13-12 team is partly function of Monday night, and largely function of lackluster Nationals - who are not a draw around the league. Still, suprisely low turn-out for a well-supported team, since the new stadium opened.

You can have T Sledge, his sister, et al: notice Bud Black PH for him in the ninth?

And if Acta is still toying with the line-up, how about this one:

1. Casto LF
2. Lopez 2B
3. Zimmerman 3B
4. Church CF
5. Kearns RF
6. Young 1B
7. Belliard 2B
8. Flores C

Trust in Kasten. All Good.

jim king said...

Wonderful to see Patterson becoming a pitcher again. Once his curve started biting last week, you could tell that he began to realize that his fast ball didn't have to be over 90 to be effective. Earlier this season he was overconfident when he would pitch around batters, but with his curve working for him he was successful every time he pitched around a batter last night. Walking Gonzales to load the bases would have been suicide earlier this year (pitching to him probably would have been as well), but he did it to set up the match ups he wanted. Not a bad plan if you can execute it.

I was amazed at how empty Petco was as well. I don't think the Nats are a big draw on the west coast, and they probably aren't going to be a draw at all this year.

Great move to put Church in the clean up spot. Now pitchers have to at least pitch to him, and when he gets an extra base hit he has hitters behind him who know how to get him over or drive him in depending on the situation. Kearns came up big twice against Peavey to get him over in the 2nd and drive him in with a 2-out hit in the 4th.

The Nats have won all three games where they loaded the bases with none out and failed to score. Of the three, this is the only time that such an occurrence was not followed by a blown save and extra innings. Unfortunately, this curious statistic will probably even itself out as well.

Anonymous said...

You guys seen the game, unbelievable, padres is my best team in the MLB. I wish I could go to watch all their games but ticket prices this season are getting very pricy. Brokers made the game hard to attend. Well talking about Brokers. I found a new web site where you can compare san diego padres ticket brokers, the site is
http://www.ticketwood.com/mlb/SanDiego-Padres-Tickets/index.php . Well I hope this will be helpful for you guys. Go Go padres. Keep me updated Great blog!!!