Sunday, May 20, 2007
RALLY TIME!! was in full effect. MickNats had started it up in the bottom of the 8th inning. The African Queen and BangTheDrumNatly had continued it, providing the rhythm and percussion. The Entire 3rd Base Side of RFK Stadium now joining in. Our Washington Nationals had responded. One run was already in, but they were still down one run to The Baltimore Orioles. EVERYONE was on their feet. The Volume Level at RFK Stadium this afternoon reaching its Zenith. The Bases were loaded. Two were out. The Score 3-2 Baltimore. And, Nook Logan was the scheduled hitter for Washington. The hard throwing, but very erratic righthander--Danys Baez, was on the mound for The Orioles. Nook may be swift of foot. But, Logan not swift of handling the bat, lefthanded.
Yeah, everyone rooting for Our Nationals WANTED to see a run scoring base hit. But, deep down, no one really believed. This moment to come, is why--ONCE AGAIN--Baseball is The GREATEST GAME. You have NO IDEA what the outcome will be. You have NO IDEA WHO WILL BE THE HERO!! Nook Logan to get some hearts seriously pumping, during this THRILLING AT BAT!!
When Number 7 stepped to the plate, fans representing both Our Washington Nationals and The Baltimore Orioles were nervous. Everyone had been in this position beforehand. How many times had Washington failed in the clutch with the game winning runs on the line. How many times has The Orioles Bullpen imploded--giving away sure wins. Not a sole in the announced crowd of 29,281 DID NOT UNDERSTAND the ramifications. We had all seen it before. It all came down to who would flinch, first. Two struggling teams in a barn burner--The Ending, A CLASSIC.
Logan would take called strike one from Baez. Sensing Nook to be in trouble from the start, Baez kept throwing pitches over the outside corner. Logan fouling off each of the next two pitches. Down 0-2, it looked like, once again-Our Washington Nationals would fail in GRAND STYLE. But, when Danys threw a pitch in the dirt that Logan refused to swing at--THIS AT-BAT took a change. Nook Logan sensing opportunity. Baez sensing anguish, again . Danys Baez has given up some serious late inning hits, blowing many saves over his career in Major League Baseball. Only My Boy!! Jorge Julio, has been much worse over the past few seasons. Sure enough, Baez threw pitch number 5 of this AT BAT, SO FAR INSIDE-Nook had to raise his arms to avoid getting hit. "What ARE YOU THINKING OF?" Everyone in Section 320 yelled out. "Take a pitch for the team!! Tie this one up!!"--we all yelled. Not only were fans now on the edge of the their seats, things were getting serious. The Drama unfolding, as good as it gets.
Baez looked in to O's catcher Paul Bako, nodded his head in agreement on the next pitch, promptly firing in a fastball-Logan BARELY fouling off. "OOOH!" responded the standing audience. Not a sole sitting. Everyone jumpy--this was becoming a terrific At-Bat. And, when Logan fouled off Baez's 7th pitch of this At-Bat, you got the impression that Nook was going to get him. Many, many times over the course of thousands of baseball games watched--the more a batters sees a pitcher deep into a crucial At-Bat, the hitter, more times than not, wins--because the pitcher is not fooling anyone.
Of course, when Danys Baez threw ball three inside to Nook Logan--The Moment In Time had Finally Arrived. With two outs, bases loaded, all three Nationals runners would be running. Just a single puts Washington in the lead. The Rhythmic Clapping Loud--BangTheDrumNatly pounding his heart in an attempt to slow down his palpitations. The African Queen POUNDING AWAY on her noise bottles for this afternoon--provided by Miller Lite. Pitch Number 9 WAS THE FINAL ACT. This game to be decided momentarily.
Baez set to throw. Logan set to hit. THE CROWD ROARING!! Whether Danys or Nook--who would flinch first--was upon us. Here's the pitch--Nook swings, AND GROUNDS THE BALL THROUGH THE HOLE between first and second!! The CROWD NOW ROARING AT RFK STADIUM!! Austin Kearns' scores the game tying run. Nats 3rd base coach, Tim Tolman, waving Ronnie Belliard home--EVERYONE KNOWING THE GAME WINNING RUN was rounding third. The hustling Belliard giving his all. Nick Markakis scooped up the ball for The Orioles in right field--throwing home--NO WHERE NEAR IN TIME. Belliard crossing home plate with the go ahead score. Home Plate Umpire Larry Young giving the SAFE CALL. Our Washington Nationals had COME FROM BEHIND in ELECTRIFYING STYLE, now leading 4-3. An indescribable feeling of glee!
Not a SINGLE NATIONALS FAN NOT JUMPING FOR JOY!!! Not a single Orioles fans not crumbling back into their seats--DISTRESSED!! Nook Logan HAD DONE IT!! Danys Baez had Flinched--once again. Our Washington Nationals had fought back, with three runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to take a 4-3 lead. Pandemonium at RFK STADIUM!!--The Appreciative Faithful giddy with delight!!
What a GREAT MOMENT!! WHAT A TERRIFIC PLATE APPEARANCE!! Nook Logan with THE AT-BAT OF THIS SEASON. Understand, Nook Logan is not The Expected Savior for Our Washington Nationals. But Today, THIS SUNDAY--Was Nook Logan's Day. And, I must give him HUGE CREDIT. So very happy, I hugged and kissed The African Queen SO HARD, I thought I would crush her. BangTheDrumNatly HIGH FIVING SO HARD--I thought he tore my rotator cuff. Nationals fans were dancing in the aisles. A site not seen for some time. In as unexpected way as possible, what seemed like a heartbreaking three game sweep at the hands of The Angelos Orioles, had taken a sharp reverse turn--The feeling that came over me truly heartwarming. Just like that!! Gloom had turned to GLORY!!!
Yet, it was still not over.
"THE MOST THRILLING CLOSER IN THE GAME" was called on to get the save. And, did he ever make it exciting to the hair-raising end. Chad Cordero trotted on to face THE TOP of The Orioles lineup. Brian Roberts lead off with a clean single to right. If you are a Nats Fans, why worry--this is par for the course for Number 32. "The Chief Cardiologist" seems to thrive on pressure. A shouldered burden of his own doing. Markakis was next. Chad threw over to Roberts--letting him know he was being watched. No way--Brian Roberts gets to second base--scoring position in this inning. And, when Cordero threw his fastball over the outside corner of the plate, The Orioles Number 21 slammed the ball on the ground right to Felipe Lopez at second, who flipped to Cristian Guzman crossing the second base bag--"THE GUZ" took his time heaving a fine toss to first for a Double Play. Cheers & High Fives all around. Chad Cordero needed just one more out to end this one.
But, he walked the dangerous Miguel Tejada on a full count. Still not over--the worries began again in earnest for Nats Fans. Aubrey Huff was next. Just the type of free swinger that can take Chad DEEP with a game changing drive. Cordero knew this. Jesus Flores, his catcher, knew this. No time to fool around. Number 32 looked in--fired away--Huff, looking for a backbreaker smash, swung--grounding the ball to FLop at second. Lopez clean toss to Robert Fick at first!
Just like that--Our Washington Nationals had beaten The Baltimore Orioles in a memorable comeback. Bang! ZOOM!! went the Fireworks!!! Curly "W" number 16 to be fondly remembered for some time. As The African Queen and I walked to our car and eventually drove home--I could only repeat one phrase: "That was SIMPLY SATISFYING!!". A GREAT WIN, A Great Game. Despite Our Washington Nationals winning just the finale of the three games, this was a terrific baseball series. All three games, going down to the final pitch. For pure entertainment, you couldn't ask for anything more.
No one wants to end a series with a loss. No team wants to lose the last game of a homestand. And, Our Washington Nationals DID NOT want to head out on a week long road trip on a sour note. Finishing 7-3 on this just concluded Homestand--Our Manager Manny Acta's squad earned some hard earned respect. Our Starting Pitching may be down, due to injury, but not out. Their fill-ins providing stellar support. Just a few more clutch hits, or better baserunning decisions--and Our Washington Nationals would have won 9 of their last 10. Never as good as you think, but certainly not as bad as advertised--Our Washington Nationals are slowly becoming a really competitive team. What do think about that?
Game Notes and Highlights:
Nook Logan not only provided the game winning hit, but also scored Washington's very first run of the game in exciting style. After drag bunting safely to lead off the bottom of the 3rd inning--BangTheDrumNatly and I started joking about how fun it would be to see Micah Bowie bunt Logan to second for out number one. FLop bunt Nook to third for the second out. With "The Guz" drag bunting safely to score Number 7. "SMALL BALL" at its finest, we laughed, thinking how much we would enjoy seeing that, as risky as it was. Nook must have been listening, as he provided his OWN VERSION OF SMALL BALL.
After Bowie confirmed he is just another Nats Pitcher that CAN NOT BUNT, by striking out--Logan stole 2nd on the first pitch to FLop. Surprised EVERYONE by stealing third on the very next pitch by Erik Bedard to Lopez. With The Orioles infield now drawn in to cut off the run--Felipe slammed Bedard's next offering to center for a clean single. Nook Logan MANUFACTURING A RUN in a manner we are unaccustomed to seeing. Logan had finally used his speed, and smarts, to score. Run NUMBER ONE was all NOOK--It was THE HARBINGER OF THINGS TO COME TODAY FOR NUMBER 7. (And, I still can't believe Nook stroked the game winning hit batting lefthanded. Just amazing!!).
With Erik Bedard cruising through 7 complete innings, I was surprised Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo took him out of the game. To that point, Erik had given up just 3 hits, 3 walks over 98 pitches. But, he was IN COMMAND. Really, no one with Our Washington Nationals was finding a groove against him. Then, after underarm throwing Chad Bradford gave up a one out double to the right centerfield gap by Ryan Zimmerman--Perlozzo made the decisive decision of this game. Replacing the most always effective Bradford with the most always disappointing Baez. Thank you Sam Perlozzo.
So, to complete out the detail of the fabulous bottom of the 8th--Ryan Langerhans followed with a first pitch single to right, scoring Zimmerman with run number two for Washington. With two strikes, Baez lost control and hammered Austin Kearns on the left shoulder. "I'll Take THAT!"--I said to The African Queen. After Baltimore Pitching Coach Leo Mazzone visited Danys to calm him down--it didn't work--Ronnie Belliard followed with a blooper to right, loading up the bases.
Today's catcher--Jesus Flores was next and "JESUS SAVES!!" was dancing through my head as today's Post Subject Line. Unfortunately, Sunday was not for Jesus--he meekly grounded to Melvin Mora at third--Langerhans thrown out at home--setting up THIS GAME's BIGGEST MOMENT, at the hands of Nook Logan.
Since Our Washington Nationals are struggling for Starting Pitching--today's game featured a Bullpen by Committee Approach. Micah Bowie to Billy Traber to Ray King to Jesus Colome to Chad Cordero. Bowie and Traber pitched well enough to get by. Micah charged with two runs. Billy with one. All of Baltimore's runs scored on small ball, nothing large. All of which allowed Our Nats to get back into this exciting affair and win it. Throughout this entire weekend, the pitching for Our Washington Nationals was decent. Makeshift starters and an overburdened bullpen kept each and every game close. Under the circumstances, you have to respect the performance.
In the top of the first inning, Nick Markakis lined a hot shot to short--Cristian Guzman snared the ball at the last possible moment, moving to his left. "THE GUZ's" grab--The Defensive Play of This Game.
Also, with Jay Payton on third and Melvin Mora on second with one out in the top of the sixth--Paul Bako grounded to FLop at second. With Felipe playing semi-deep on the drawn in infield, Payton took off for home. FLop fired a strike to Jesus Flores at home. Flores chasing down Payton trying to return to third-tagging him out for out number two. A nice play, well executed, defensively.
In the bottom of the 4th, My Main Man!! Ryan Church took an inside pitch by Erik Bedard on his left wrist--going down in pain, immediately. Trainer Lee Kuntz and Our Manager Manny Acta came out and stayed with Ryan for some time. Eventually, Church stayed in the game, but was replaced later by Ryan Langerhans. XRays proved negative and the soreness from the impact of the Bedard pitch, leaving My Main Man!! listed as DAY-TO-DAY. If I hear ANYONE start questioning Ryan Church for not playing through pain again--I am going to be very pissed. He got hammered in a weak spot. Going down is not something to fault him for--as has been rumored previously-falsely.
During the XM Satellite Dance Off during the 6th inning--Screech invited this fan on top of The Nats Dugout who proceeded to put on THE FINEST JAM DANCE EVER SEEN AT RFK STADIUM. This guy was TERRIFIC!!. One hand, Hand Stands--flipping, sliding and whirling all over the dugout. The show so good, the guy received A STANDING OVATION--Not only from the fans along the third base side--but many Nationals Players peering over The Dugout. What A PERFORMANCE!! JUST GREAT ENTERTAINMENT!! This guy needs to be signed by Our Washington Nationals for InGame Entertainment. Wow!! Was he EVER GOOD!!
Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Manuel Balce Ceneta