Sunday, June 24, 2007
Ronnie, Jesus, Chad & SCREECH!!!
Ronnie Belliard is a good player. Jesus Flores is going to be a lot better. And, when "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" returned to form this afternoon--walking his tightrope--but surviving--you had to be One Very Happy Washington Baseball Fan. Except for a Three Run Explosion costing Our Washington Nationals a Sure Win last night--The Powerful Bats of The Cleveland Indians were shut down this weekend at RFK Stadium. A convincing 3-1 victory this Sunday Afternoon and Series Win over one of Baseball's Best Teams. I'll take it--even after last night's deadly depressing defeat. All on a weekend I unveiled something special for My Best Friend--SCREECH!!.
Our Two Best Bench Players--Belliard and Flores--led the way--getting their usual Sunday Starts. In fact, the more I see Belliard--the more impressive he becomes to my eye. From the get go this season--I have always been impressed by his ability to move his entire body right and left to get in front of ground balls and liners. No one uses his burly body better at grounders than Our Number 10. Of course, Ronnie is nowhere near the fine young talent he was earlier during his "Prime Time" with these same Cleveland Indians. But, when Our Manager Manny Acta throws him out on the field for a start--whether at second base or shortstop--he's provided valuable support. And, A WINNING ATTITUDE. Today--three hits, one run scored and a fine assist and defensive effort involving The Defensive Play of This Game. Ronnie Belliard HUSTLES EACH AND EVERYTIME HE COMES OUT ON THE FIELD. I can't tell you how much I appreciate his efforts. I realize Our Number 10 is not likely in the Future Plans of Our Washington Nationals. But, when that day comes, when Our Team, is A TOP TEAM--Players like Ronnie Belliard are to be cherished. He is just SO VALUABLE.
A Value that rose dramatically late this afternoon, when Our General Manager Jim Bowden placed Cristian Guzman on the 15 Day Disabled List immediately following today's game with a sprained left thumb ligament. How Highly I have come to praise him at times these days. Our Number 15 has actually been a good player for us in 2007. Solid at the plate--decent, but erratic in the field. As hard as it is for me to believe--since I questioned his ability mightily in 2005--Cristian Guzman will be missed. Hopefully, his thumb problem is not extraordinary. The BIG Question Now?--will FLop move back to shortstop? Or, will Belliard take "The Guz's" spot in the field. Although its expected that D'Angelo Jimenez will be recalled from AAA Columbus before tomorrow's game--I can't imagine Manny Acta starting Jimenez. Our Manager has a tough situation to deal with. Lopez has more range. Belliard the better glove instincts.
An aptitude that Jesus Flores continues to show each and every time he gets a start. Yeah, I understand Our Number 3 was in a 1-23 Slump and had not driven in a single run since May 13th--but he continues to grow, shows confidence, all the while becoming a Better Major League Player. This Man has come a long way since Single A Ball last season for The New York Mets. Jesus has that Cannon Arm--One of the most valuable commodities in the game--and today he displayed that golden rifle by throwing out the fast moving Josh Barfield in the third. All the while exhibiting his maturation at the plate--with a solid single up the middle with TWO Outs in the bottom of the second to score Dimitri Young with today's first run. And, this afternoon's MOST IMPORTANT 3rd insurance run with a one out grounder to Cleveland's Jhonny Peralta at shortstop--scoring his tag team partner this Sunday--Ronnie Belliard, from third base after Belliard had doubled to deep left center to lead off the bottom of the 7th--advancing to third on a Ryan Langerhans sacrifice bunt.
From there--this affair became ALL ABOUT "THE CHIEF". Our Manager Manny Acta stated after last night's devastating loss in the 9th, that if he held a two run lead heading into the 9th again today--he would take that oppportunity. And, he would throw Chad Cordero right back out there. Life always seems to give you want to you claim. Not only did Our Washington Nationals have a two run lead heading to the 9th--but the score was the exact same as last night. Oh yeah--and Victor Martinez (he of the 3 Run Game Winning Homer off Chad) was due up in the inning.
Baseball always has a way of evening everything out.
Our Number 32 trotted out to a fine ovation from what was left of 26,413 on this gorgeously sunny afternoon. Not a single Nationals Fan wanting to see a repeat of last night. "The Chief Cardiologist" went right after Cleveland Third Baseman Casey Blake and got that Most Important First Out on a swinging strikeout. Yet, as seems most always the case--Chad Cordero never seems truly comfortable until a runner gets on. Which happened when Victor Martinez was given nothing to hit and walked on 6 pitches. You could hear the rumblings in the crowd. The Worry was on. A Nervousness that became alot worse when Our Number 32 reached a Full Count on slugging lefthander Travis Hafner. Hafner just not the batter you want your struggling Closer to face as the game tying run. But, Chad did not give in and induced a hard hit grounder near the hole--between 2nd and 3rd. "The Guz" made a fine backhand glove play on the ball--firing the baseball to Belliard at second. Ronnie--who pivots the double play as well as any player in the game--threw off balance and high with the hard charging Martinez barreling him down. If on target--the final out of the game may well have been recorded. But, Ronnie's toss sailed high and over Tony Batista at first base--bouncing off the Indians Dugout Protective Netting.
Hafner on first with two outs--and Jhonny Peralta at the plate. Peralta is a fine hitter, but had struggled this weekend, hardly a factor in the batter's box. "The Chief" knew this. Jesus Flores knew this. Our Manager Manny Acta, also, knew this. So, Cordero went firing away--getting called strike one and then the CLASSIC outside corner fastball any hitter most always will swing at, when the game is at its end. Peralta swung and lined the baseball right into Austin Kearns Glove.
"Bang-Zoom!! Went The Fireworks!! Our Manager had shown his undying faith in Our Number 32. And, "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" had rewarded that trust with a turnabout performance. Save Number 13 was not a perfect effort--But, Chad Cordero had redeemed himself--happily FIST PUMPING with Jesus Flores and Ronnie Belliard--today's other Heroes as Our Washington Nationals Celebrated on the field at RFK STADIUM.
Curly "W" Number 32 was a well played game. And, a HUGE MENTAL UPLIFTER after last night's terrible loss.
Only in Baseball, is a depressing defeat forgotten, with a Mind Clearing Win less than 18 hours later.
I LOVE THIS GAME.
Game Notes & Highlights:
After The Detroit Tigers Rocked Our Washington Nationals all over RFK Stadium this week--The Cleveland Indians came to town, with one of the Top Offenses in the game--AND ONLY SCORED 6 Runs in three games. That's some mighty fine pitching. Excellent Hurling that Matt Chico showed last night after being HAMMERED BY Detroit last Monday. And, also tossed today by Jason Simontacchi after becoming the only person, in my lifetime, I have ever seen give up 10 Earned Runs in one single Major League Game--That 15-1 Laugher this past Tuesday Night at the hands of those same Tigers.
Jason was solid through 6 innings on Sunday. Only allowing a Franklin Gutierrez mistake pitch homer to left center for Cleveland's only tally of the day. This afternoon, Jason had control--only walked one--and really was never threatened. He deserved his 5th victory of the season. A win that must relieve a ton of doubt after that pasting he took at the hands of Detroit. I know, I would feel a whole lot better, and more confident.
A confidence shown by Big Jon Rauch all week long, that must not be understated. "The Wookie" is back, as a reliable Set Up Man. Again, completing a scoreless 1-2-3 8th, sending this game to "The Chief". Big Jon now having completed 10.1 scoreless innings. If only we could get Luis Ayala (now since Colome is on the DL) to Rauch to Cordero on the same page--each and every day. Our Washington Nationals would win a few more games.
In the top of the second inning--Jhonny Peralta laced a hard grounder up the middle--toward the shortstop side of the bag with Travis Hafner running from first. "The Guz" dove face forward toward centerfield with his back to ball, and past him--but still managed to glove the ball. Thinking he had little time to toss to Ronnie Belliard at second--Cristian backhanded his glove hand with the ball toward second base--but off the bag. With Hafner sliding hard into Ronnie--Our Number 10 stretched as far as he can possibly do--barehanding the baseball with, most likely, just his left big toe of his shoe still on the bag. 2nd Base Umpire Bill Welke with the Flamboyant OUT CALL!! "The Guz" and Ronnie Belliard combined for The Defensive Play of This Game.
In 10 straight starts--Ronnie Belliard has hit safely in each of those game. A combined .439 average during those contests. Like I said earier--the man can still play--productively.
Last night--During The Presidents Race--Thomas Jefferson not only lost his balance in front of The Indians Dugout during the 4th inning race--but stumbled and fell--with a serious face plant thud. Then, stumbling to recover--again fell flat on his face. Eventually TJ got up and finished the race--not without some serious "OOH's, AAH's and Laughs". Today, someone was thinking within Our Washington Nationals. Directly before today's race-the Video Board in right center replayed last night's hilarious falls by Thom. Whereupon Thomas Jefferson limped out for the Sunday's Race with Broken Nose Bandages covering his face and a sling over his right arm. Just a GREAT CONTINUATION of a very funny happenstance. Nice Job Nat Pack and Coordinators. Everyone that understood the stunt--enjoyed it.
Finally, this weekend was the Unveiling of MY SPECIAL JERSEY. For some time I have worked on this project. The Details were difficult to accomplish. MLB.com would not produce the jersey for me--too many letters and numbers. But, finally--"BILL" who runs the Nationals Gift Shop behind Home Plate on the Lower Level of RFK--behind Section 213 worked everything out--for an additional price.
My Washington Nationals "SCREECH's BEST FRIEND" Jersey. Number "320" What other number could it possibly be!!
My Best Friend--SCREECH!! I know was grinning all across his rather large beak with he first glanced at it. The Jersey a huge hit around RFK STADIUM.
Even The African Queen had to say she loved it!! You just KNOW that means I will be springing for "The African Queen" Jersey very, very soon!!! My Man "Bill" at the Nationals Gift Shop is going to get a repeat customer.
By the way--That Mesh Red, White & Blue Nats Cap given out last night and worn in all my pictures with SCREECH--By Far--the most comfortable cap ever given out at a Nationals Game. Just a terrific baseball cap for hot summer days. I just love it.
Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
Thomas Jefferson Photo--Mary Wolverton (Mrs. MickNats)