Sunday, May 06, 2007
Without Your Best Stuff
Sometimes you have your Best Stuff and LOSE. Sometimes your best stuff fails you, AND YOU WIN. Today, Shawn Hill struggled mightily and became a better Major League Pitcher because of it. All on a day, a key double play saved Hill, Washington's Bench players contributed, really, for the very first time in 2007. And, Our Washington Nationals were moments away from a rousing Victory at Wrigley Field, until The Most Thrilling Closer in the Game entered, also, without His Best Stuff. Costly it was, Chad Cordero blowing his 4th save opportunity this young season, sending this game into extra innings. Where Old Friend Daryle Ward BEAT US in the 10th, when a leadoff double by Matt Murton off Ryan Wagner was followed by two cheap hits, but cheap enough to score the winning run. A Sweep at the hands of The Cubs. Our Washington Nationals losing a game, they rightfully SHOULD HAVE WON, but didn't, in demoralizing fashion. A loss like this one usually sends a team into a tailspin. As optimistic as I can be, there is no doubt this loss is a bad one. A failure that can start fingering pointing in the clubhouse.
Today, more than any game this young season, will decide What Our Washington Nationals are made of. Will they wilt? Or, will they turn it around? Really, that's what its all about right now.
Frankly, it was too bad we lost this one. Our Best Starter showed some moxie this afternoon. Hill's curveball was all over the place, as well as, his control. Yet, being flustered about his work is not a weak point. Shawn battled hard for 6 tough innings, giving up 6 hits, walking an uncustomary 3 batters and surprisingly hitting two more. You have to be not only good, but lucky, to survive a performance like that. And Number 41 was on the receiving end of that fortune in the bottom of the 5th. With the score tied at one, The Cubs were close to breaking this game open, sending Our Nats to their 5th consecutive loss. An Alfonso Soriano lead off single, Ryan Theriot force out, followed by two straight walks to their Thumpers--Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, loaded up the bases for Chicago with one out. Not a single Bleacher Bum in Chicago did not believe, The Cubbies were about to take over this affair.
And, so did Nats Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire. Moving quickly to the mound to talk things over with Shawn Hill, St.Claire realized Hill was laboring. Alot of good that conversation must have looked, when Shawn immediately hit the VERY NEXT BATTER Jacque Jones to force in the go ahead run. Personally, I could hear the groans of Nationals' Fans Watching at home. 2-1 Chicago, still one out.
Up stepped Chicago's Mark DeRosa--and the first of two game changing moments occured. With Hill still not finding the plate, DeRosa worked ahead to a 3-1 count, a hitters count, with the bases loaded, a pitcher definitely in trouble. Shawn well knew this was going to be his last batter. He might as well give this hitter whatever he had left in the tank. Number 41's final pitch of this game was a fastball over the outside corner of the plate, pulled by DeRosa on the ground to third. Ryan Zimmerman scooped up the ball, firing to Felipe Lopez at second. FLop, today's 2nd Baseman, rotated over tossing the ball IN THE DIRT to Kory Casto at First. Two Runs would definitely score on this errant chuck. But, OUT OF THE BLUE, Casto Short Hopped The Ball into his glove, staying on the bag--First Base Umpire Paul Emmel with the flamboyant OUT CALL at first to Save Hill.
Our Washington Nationals still in this game, luckily just down 2-1, when The Bench came on to give Our Nats the lead. A leadoff walk by Josh Wilson, in the top of the 7th, saw Cubs Manager Lou Pinella then slow this game down to a crawl. Sweet Lou using four pitchers over the next four hitters in an attempt to keep the slim lead. Pinella's maneuvers didn't matter though. After Ronnie Belliard walked, Dimitri Young, pinch hit with two outs, and slammed a single up the middle scoring both Wilson and Belliard to give Our Washington Nationals a meager 3-2 lead.
An edge that held up with Jon Rauch shutting down the heart of The Cubs lineup over the next two innings. The Big Guy was perfect, six up, six down, handing the ball over to "The Chief" to save this game in the bottom of the 9th. A lead "The Chief Cardiologist" put in harms way right off the first hitter,walking Cliff Floyd, on four straight pitches. Immediately in trouble, Chad Cordero went 8 Pitches into the count against former National Daryle Ward. Ward, unusually patient, finally got the best of Number 32, blooping a liner to the opposite field. Nats Leftfielder Kory Casto playing so far back, the ball fell in for a cheap single. Really, honestly, when has Daryle Ward shown ANY POWER to leftfield? He is The Ultimate Pull Hitter. Poor positioning, and it was ruinous. With no outs and runners on first and second, Alfonso Soriano stepped to the plate, and as always, was swinging at everything. Alfonso, thankfully, popping out to right for out number one. As scary as Chad Cordero can be, I really thought he was going to pull it out. But when light hitting Ryan Theriot batted next and continued to foul off four consecutive pitches, I turned to The African Queen and stated: "Theriot's going to get him, he's on him." Sure enough, Chad threw the 9th pitch of this At-Bat, in on the fist, Ryan fighting it off, blooping the ball into right field, into nowhere land, for a game tying single. 3-3 and was I ever pissed. The Queen saddened. She loves Chad Cordero so much.
How many times can your closer walk the first hitter in the bottom of the 9th with the game on the line, and win? As much as I enjoy "The Chief", there is something wrong right now. Sorry, but that is the truth.
Although Chad Cordero would retire The Cubs the rest of the way to send this one into extra innings, the bad taste in my mouth would not go away. And, when Ryan Church POWERED a Ryan Dempster Fastball Into The Wind to right center in the 10th, a sure homer, only to see the air knock the ball down into Matt Murton's Glove, you just knew, Our Washington Nationals were not going to pull this one out.
Was that ever true when Ryan Wagner allowed a leadoff double to left to Matt Murton, then retire Michael Barrett on a pop to right, again see ANOTHER WEAK HITTER, Henry Blanco, fist another blooper into right sending Murton to third, setting up Daryle Ward--yeah that Daryle Ward's game winning hit. With the defense playing in, hoping for an out, This Former National popped a routine drive behind Kory Casto in left for a game winning single, and sending Our Washington Nationals off to Milwaukee on a truly negative note. 4-2 Cubbies, just a loathsome loss.
Game Notes & Highlights:
Its hard to say anything bad about Shawn Hill. I am sure his post game press conference will be brutal. He is very tough on himself. The sign of real pro, Shawn Hill is a really fine Major League Pitcher.
Ryan Langerhans started today in centerfield, got two hits, including one double (off a left handed pitcher), scored one run before being lifted by Our Manager Manny Acta for Dimitri Young's, at that time, game changing hit.
In the bottom of the 10th, with Murton on 2nd base, Ryan Zimmerman was playing in on the grass. Chicago's Michael Barrett HAMMERED a hard hit grounder right at "Z". Only reaction makes a play on this hot shot, Zimmerman with the OLE' over his head catch, getting up to fire the ball across the diamond to retire Barrett. Ryan saved the game at that point, and most likely his head. The picture of him after the played ended, shaking his head in amazement was priceless. Ryan knew he was not only good, but lucky. It was The Defensive Play of This Game.
Today's game did show, once Nick Johnson, Cristian Guzman and even Nook Logan come back from the Disabled List, Our Bench is far better. Belliard and Young delivered veteran leadership today, producing in the clutch. Something Our Washington Nationals have seen NONE OF during the first five weeks of this season.
Kory Casto continues to struggle with the game on the line. Seven runners he left on base today, flying out , hitting into a double play and striking out all with runners in scoring position. Not good for this young man.
Chris Snelling, 4 for 11, three runs scored, playing for Oakland, starting and manning centerfield--batting leadoff. Twice, "Yoda" has started against lefthanders with three hits against them, for The Athletics, since his trade from Washington. Pitchers, Our Washington Nationals did not feel he could hit. Interesting. I still love that guy.
Finally, Sorry, but why in the world is Josh Wilson still playing for Our Washington Nationals? Josh may well have walked and scored in the crucial 7th inning today. But, in the bottom of the 4th, he allowed a high chopper by Mark DeRosa go right under his glove for a generously scored double by The Offical Scorer. Jacque Jones scoring The Cubs first run. Every run plated by a Nationals opponent comes back to haunt us. Today, Our Washington Nationals gave up three cheap game costing runs.
As a Nats 320 commenter mentioned yesterday: Josh Wilson must be a REALLY REALLY nice guy to still be with this team. He is lucky to be in The Major Leagues. Yeah, Really.
PS--While writing his post, I am watching Livan Hernandez battle The New York Mets from Phoenix on DirecTV. Livo is just so entertaining. If baseball is suppose to be fun to watch, Hernandez is the poster boy. What a joy Number 61 is to observe. And, I miss him greatly in a Washington Uniform.