Friday, June 22, 2007
The Old Fashioned Way
"That was just too simple," I said. RallyTimeRichard responded, "Yeah, we did it, The Old Fashioned Way--we just beat them."
Yeah, We Did.
After getting hammered all over RFK Stadium by The Detroit Tigers earlier this week, Our Washington Nationals tonight used that age-old adage called PITCHING. If Our General Manager Jim Bowden enjoys saying his phrase "Pitching, Pitching & Pitching"--this evening Washington not only used "Pitching, Pitching, Pitching & Pitching, but some more Pitching, a little more Pitching, even 'The Chief' to pitch"--and closed out The Cleveland Indians 4-1. Oh yeah, with a little help from Brandon Watson. "00" had his night to be proud, with two key hits propelling Our Washington Nationals to victory.
How unlikely was this victory? Both the just departed Detroit Tigers and freshly arrived Cleveland Indians can hammer the baseball. It sure seems like each and every starting player for these two teams are sluggers with double digit Home Runs and 30-50 RBI so far this season. Our Washington Nationals Have One such hitter (Ryan Zimmerman). Quite remarkable actually. And, it shows that The Cleveland Indians wrongly pretended RFK Stadium to be a typical American League--Band Box Park. A Stadium that allows your team to sit back and hit the three run homer--to get back into any ballgame. That's American League Baseball. No stolen bases, no bunts--no strategy. What a mistake. And, it cost The Indians tonight--in the most unusual National League Park as you can possibly play.
Micah Bowie understands Our Ballpark on East Capitol Street. Our Number 59 knows you can let opposing hitters take their whacks. More times than not--you get your outs. Micah saw each and every Cleveland Hitter step up to the plate tonight--seemingly salivating. Eager to not only attempt to take advantage of his not overly hard throwing lefthanded stuff, but to jack his pitches into the nether reaches of The Upper Deck at RFK Stadium. You just knew The Indians wanted to accomplish that feat. Micah Bowie let them try and even helped them out by issuing four walks. Yet, Cleveland Failed-continually.
And, when Our Manager Manny Acta decided that Bowie had seen enough of The Indians with one out in the 5th, he handed the ballgame over to his bullpen.
Once Again, Cleveland was ineffective against Luis Ayala (making his triumphant return after being on the Disabled List for 21 months). Unproductive against Saul Rivera, Ray King & Jesus Colome. Unsuccessful against Big Jon Rauch (although they tried hard against him getting the game tying run to the plate before "The Wookie" struck out Trot Nixon) and downright FUTILE against Chad Cordero. Possibly the most well executed TEAM PITCHING PERFORMANCE all season long. Every button that Our Manager Manny Acta pushed tonight--worked.
Even the placing of Brandon Watson in the starting lineup in centerfield spun GOLD on this gorgeous evening weather wise. The ultimate slap hitter--playing for his 3rd Major League Club in less than one year (Washington Twice)-Watson got Our Nats on the board in the bottom of the 4th inning with a two out poke to leftfield off Fausto Carmona, scoring Ryan Church with the game tying run at one apiece. Then, after Brian Schneider got Washington's second run home with a bases loaded, no outs--double play grounder in the 6th--Brandon followed with another poke, this time to right and ran hard all the way around first JUST beating the throw to second by Cleveland Right Fielder Franklin Gutierrez for an RBI Double. Austin Kearns scoring this game's crucial third run with Brandon Watson now standing on second base--All Smiles, Applauding Himself. The Cleveland Indians stunned. "OO" taking in the adulation of his success--not only from his clapping Teammates at the top of The Nats 3rd Base Dugout, but also, The Now Standing and Cheering Faithful at RFK, including, believe it or not--me.
Every one has their day. Even Nook Logan had his day on May 20th against The Orioles. So, for tonight--I will give Brandon Some HUGE CREDIT. With the game on the line--he delivered. His two hits a Significant Back Breaker to The Indians. No team wants to get beat. And, No Team wants to get beat by a journeyman player--just recalled from The Minor Leagues--even one that just completed a Minor League Record 43 game hitting streak.
On a night The Cleveland Indians attempted to Blast Their Way out of RFK Stadium--Our Washington Nationals threw 7 Pitchers at The Tribe--and shut down their potent offense. Cleveland never able to sustain any rally.
Then, while The Indians tried to slam the ball, Our Washington Nationals played small ball--dinging hits here, slapping pokes there. And even "The GUZ" got into the act in the bottom of the 7th--slapping what appeared to be a lacing liner down the right field line off Fernando Cabrera certain to bounce off the fence. With The Indians overplaying him to hit to left, for sure, Guzman would motor all the way to third for a triple. Yet, he didn't have to. To just about every one's surprise, somehow, the stroked ball JUST CLEARED the fence and slammed off The DC United MLS Champions Banner over The Nationals Bullpen. A shocking Home Run for Cristian Guzman like no other. As far as I can recall--I don't remember Our Number 15 EVER hitting a baseball out of RFK. RallyTimeRichard and I just stared at each other. Neither believing what we just witnessed. "THE GUZ", the so called "NEW GUZ" had powered out an all important insurance run. The African Queen and BangTheDrumNatly rejoicing in Guzman's Revival. During Cristian's Awful 2005 campaign--they may well have been Our Number 15's only two fans in existence.
Really, I still can't believe that baseball went out for a Home Run. The last of Guzman's three hits tonight--raising his average to .337--just Incredible.
Curly "W" number 31 was won The Old Fashioned Way.
Pitching, Timely Hitting, Solid Defense. Our Washington Nationals Simply Beat The Cleveland Indians Tonight 4-1.
Game Notes & Highlights:
At precisely 8:43PM, the gates to Our Washington Nationals Bullpen opened and an old friend emerged for the very first time since September 2005, wearing his customary Number 56. Luis Ayala was back playing Major League Baseball. His journey from reconstructive elbow surgery now complete. Was I ever happy. You better believe I gave him A STANDING OVATION. One of my Favorite Players from that magical Inaugural Season, Luis had destroyed his elbow pitching in The World Baseball Classic in March 2006--throwing far too soon after minor surgery on that same right elbow in the fall of 2005. Ayala has been lost for some time. Openly, he has mourned his inability to compete on the Big Stage--no doubt--feeling he had let down so many of his fellow teammates.
For his debut tonight, Manny Acta threw him right into the fire--relieving Micah Bowie in the 5th inning with Indian runners at first and second and one out. With No time to just get his feet wet, Luis Ayala had to deliver. The game was stilled tied at one at this point--a Cleveland rally sure to break open this affair. Luis' first two pitches to Jhonny Peralta were high breaking pitches no where near the location his catcher Brian Schneider wanted. Fortunately Peralta was anxious and swung at ball two. But, that didn't please Schneider--who immediately called time and stepped out to calm down the antsy Ayala. Eventually, Luis would fool Peralta--but Jhonny would get just enough of the fifth pitch of this At-Bat to loft the baseball into no where's land--between Guzman at short and Ryan Church in left. Everyone safe--bases loaded, one out. And, The Cleveland Indians sending The Very Dangerous Slugger--Travis Hafner to the plate to pinch hit--batting lefthanded.
Hafner was looking to do just one thing--Break Open The Door with a game changing Grand Slam. Luis Ayala was looking to slam shut that very same door. After falling behind 2-1 in the count to Hafner---Travis was looking for that pitch to drive. Instead, Ayala provided an outside pitch that Hafner pulled--on the ground--right at Felipe Lopez. FLop quickly turned and tossed to "The Guz" gliding across the second base bag for the first out--then Guzman--actually took his time--gathered himself and made a perfect toss to Dimitri Young at First Base for a RALLY KILLING, INNING ENDING, Double Play. Luis Ayala with THE TRIUMPHANT SWEEPING FIST PUMP OF JOY at the result. The Entire Crowd of Nationals Fans on their feet ROARING its Approval. Luis Ayala had returned in style--providing The Defensive and Game Changing Play of This Game.
How Sweet it must have felt to be Luis Ayala tonight. Our Number 56 returning in style--unfailing in his effort.
Ayala to Rivera to King to Colome to Rauch to Cordero pitched 4 and 2/3rds scoreless innings. The uncertainty and poor performances shown by Saul and Jesus just two days ago against Detroit--forgotten past memories. In fact, with the lead heading into the 9th inning this season--Our Washington Nationals are 27-2.
"The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game"--absolutely DOMINANT in his one inning of work. Chad Cordero earned his 12th save of the season. His ERA now down to a very respectable 2.57.
Our Washington Nationals have now won all 7 starts by Micah Bowie. Although Micah was far removed from this one when the final out was recorded. Stunning to read that he threw 104 pitches in just 4. 1 innings. Good Thing The Indians were swinging for the fences. Most other good hitting teams might have hammered him.
Saul Rivera was awarded the victory--evening his record at 2-2. FLop went 3-4 tonight. Felipe and "The Guz" combining for 6 of Washington's 12 hits at the top of the order.
Only in baseball can you regularly witness something you may have never seen before--even after watching thousands of games. Tonight, 25,534 saw The Indians Franklin Gutierrez strike a hard grounder right at Ryan Zimmerman. The ball hopped up at the last moment--Ryan thought the baseball had bounced off him and proceeded to turn to retrieve the baseball. Yet, it was no where to be found. Because--the baseball had lodged within his Uniform Jersey Top--and safely rested just above his belt buckle. Gutierrez was safe on first, awarded a single. While everyone else had a mighty fine laugh. Just another reason why Baseball never ceases to amaze me.
Finally, as The African Queen and I were leaving Section 320 tonight, a nice man came up to us to thank us for our efforts on The Nats320 blog. I asked him his name--and he told me he must show me his Driver's License first. What a treat this became. Without saying his last name, I can tell you his Given name is "LOU GEHRIG". Sohna and I got a real kick out of him. Only a baseball fan who became a baseball parent could ever give their child such a great name. Thank you for sharing--Lou.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Lawrence Jackson