Friday, June 29, 2007
Saddened, But Not Sorrowful
Losing Late always hurts, especially after your "Learning On The Job Starter" carries a shutout through six complete innings and exits with the lead. This evening at Beautiful PNC Park in Pittsburgh, our bullpen let Our Number 47 down--resulting in a rough loss to The Pirates before a very enthusiastic crowd of 32,361. If Pittsburgh ever becomes a contender again, that ballpark will ROCK each and every night. Their long suffering fans are so very deserving.
Yet, I find it hard to feel overly sad. The Pirates have tormented their Fan Base for years, with mediocre teams. So much so, tomorrow night, during the 3rd inning of the Washington/Pittsburgh Game, there may well be a mass walkout by their faithful to signify their disgust over the direction of their team. Of course, since The African Queen and I are heading up to that game tomorrow morning--we are quite interested in the possible outcome of that protest.
Honestly, it all makes the struggle that is Our Washington Nationals a little more palatable. And, engenders my belief that better times are on the way in The Nation's Capital. Right now, are team is scuffling. Certainly, its difficult for Washington to score runs. And, as is always the case with a laboring team--when you score JUST ENOUGH RUNS to win, but can't close the game out--something else goes wrong--this time in the pitching department. And, you lose--in the bottom of the 9th, frustratingly so.
Matt Chico pitched well enough to win tonight. When you leave with a Shutout and up two runs--you have done well Young Man. I don't care if The Pirates are not The 1927 Yankees. Its tough to win in the Major Leagues--against anybody. Unfortunately, as happens so very often in this great game. Once a Pitcher is removed that has baffled an opponent, the reliever that follows--does not fool the upcoming batters, as well as, the thrower replaced. Leadoff walks KILL--and Our Number 52 gave up one to the pesky Jack Wilson in the 7th. Pinch Hitter Nate McLouth followed with a triple past Austin Kearns scoring Wilson with The Pirates first run. And, a simple sacrifice fly by Jose Bautista to Ryan Langerhans in Center tied this ballgame at two. Just like that--the momentum had shifted. The Delirious Home Crowd back into this Game.
You could visibly see the shoulders drop on Washington's players in the field. With two innings to go--Our Washington Nationals looked already out of it--sadly. And, when Big Jon Rauch was forced into a second full inning of relief in the 9th--instead of Chad Cordero--he, unfortunately, could not send this game into extra innings. After Ronnie Paulino led off the last inning of play with a clean single to left center, moving to second on a Wilson sacrifice bunt--this game got out of hand when "The Wookie" threw a pitch that Brian Schneider either didn't expect, or just plain fooled him. A scoop attempt in the dirt went right under Brian for a Wild Pitch, moving Paulino to third with just one out.
From that point it was just a matter of time. Pittsburgh showed patience. An Intentional walk to McLouth and an unintentional one loaded the bases. With THE ENTIRE PIRATES CROWD at PNC Park now on its feet rhythmic clapping--Jose Bautista hit a routine fly to left field, and with everyone playing in for the Double Play--Ryan Church had no choice but to fall back on the ball, heading away from home plate to catch it. The Pinch Runner for Paulino, Jose Castillo, scored easily to the great joy of The Pittsburgh Faithful. The Fireworks EXPLODED over The Clemente Bridge. Our Washington Nationals had lost a game that was very winnable, 3-2.
Disappointed I was--YES. But, not sorrowful. Our Opponents Fans, have felt much worse.
Hopefully tomorrow night--with Sohna, myself, Lewis, Colleen, Jeff and their Rally Monkey--Curly "W", all in attendance at PNC Park-- and all of us sitting near Our Nationals First Base Dugout--we can bring Our Team--Better Luck. Our Manager Manny Acta needs as much fortune as anyone can bring him right now.
As Our Washington Nationals are one scuffling team.
Game Notes & Highlights:
I don't know how he felt, and I know he had thrown 94 pitches to that point. But, considering how Matt Chico was consistently getting out of each jam and pushing his way through the game this evening--it would be interesting to see what Matt could have accomplished in the 7th inning. If 2007 is about teaching and learning--there has to come a time when a starting pitcher must be tested--when he's tiring. In the long run, the result could only help him. Tonight, Chico received a no decision for the 5th time after leaving with a lead this season.
With Rajai Davis on third with one out in the bottom of the first inning--Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez flied out to Austin Kearns in right. Davis tagged and Austin--continuing to be a solid outfielder, despite slumping at the plate, threw out Davis on a toss just up the third base line that Brian Schneider handled nicely, making the tag for the final out of the frame. Austin Kearns' 9-2 Double Play was The Defensive Play of This Game.
Batting Leadoff--Ryan Langerhans slammed a solo shot--his 4th homer of 2007 in the 3rd off Ian Snell. Although Ryan is not the perfect leadoff hitter--he does provide some power and seems to get on base far better than any of Manny's other choices. So, I was surprised when Langerhans was pinch hit for with Tony Batista in the 8th--eventually replaced by Nook Logan. With all due respect--Ryan Langerhans has produced over the past 3-4 weeks. Why not just let him play full time and see what he can do? How could he hurt us, anymore than any other choice?
Dimitri Young continues to wield that hot bat. Two more hits tonight raising his batting average up to .339. And, as Don Sutton mentioned on MASN tonight--it should not matter that other 1st basemen from other teams may well already be chosen. If MLB wants ALL STARS and one player from each and every team--then Young HAS BEEN our most exciting player, hands down. Number 21 is deserving. He's been a good citizen. And, most importantly--Dimitri Young has made strides to improve his personal life. That's being an ALL STAR in my book. So many other players would have BLOWN THIS OPPORTUNITY!! I'm giving him FULL credit for effort.
Curious I am, to see how FLop responds to being lowered to 7th in the batting order. Its a big fall for a former All Star Player that was expected to produce at the top of the lineup. No doubt, Felipe Lopez has not been the player of years past in 2007. Our Washington Nationals need him. Hopefully a gentle kick will help turn his game around. Number 2 is needed, badly--if Washington is going to be decent. How badly do you think he feels about, once again, moving back to shortstop? A position he probably was happy to leave to compete at a more comfortable level at second base.
At 7AM tomorrow morning--The African Queen and I will load up the car and head to Pittsburgh. We are planning to attend both Saturday Night's and Sunday Afternoon's ballgames before heading home to the friendly confines of Alexandria, Virginia. There was just no way we were going to miss Our Washington Nationals playing at PNC Park. AT&T Park in San Francisco, Camden Yards and The Pirates Home Field are MY FAVORITE PARKS. All three special for their intimacy and beautiful backdrops.
As great as The Game of Baseball Is---The BallParks many teams play in--make Our Enjoyment so much greater--and so very special.
Besides--Saturday Night is Bobblehead Night in Pittsburgh--Bob Walk Bobblehead Night. For those who may not know, Walk was a Pirates Pitcher, nothing special. But, has become a famous broadcaster for Pittsburgh. Well known throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Finally, I have always loved the "CLASSIC" Black & Gold of The Pittsburgh Pirates. Their uniforms are always beautiful, in a Respect to the Game's History sort of way. Like The New York Yankees--Perfect. But, those Red Vests they wear on Friday Night, they just don't look right to me. Realizing its all about money and merchandise sales to fans, I understand. Although, it doesn't mean I have to like them. Much the same feeling I have toward those Boston Red Sox Red Jerseys. Or, The Atlanta Braves Red Uniform Tops. They don't look right. Where as, Our Washington Nationals, just beginning their tradition--look OK to me in those Red "DC" Uniform tops. In fact, I love them. Odd, isn't it.
Tonight InGame Photos--(AP) Gene J. Puskar