Friday, July 13, 2007
Sometimes A Shootout Breaks Out. And, it appears the team that bats last--will win. The Florida Marlins were the scheduled last At-Bat this evening. So, with The Marlins rallying for the third time tonight, not many, either in attendance at Dolphin Stadium or watching at home on TV believed otherwise. But, fortunately, one At-Bat, in the top of the 7th was crucial. A Game Changer. And, finally--the decisive blow to eventually bury Florida. A Backbreaker that was more lucky than good.
These were two of the Biggest Runs of the Season. Our Washington Nationals had first blown an 8-1 lead. Then, blew an 11-5 lead. Now up just by two--Austin Kearns was at the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the 7th. 11-9 now the score, and Austin had two strikes against him. On a night Our Team was slugging the ball all over Dolphin Stadium, and Our Pitchers were allowing The Florida Marlins to return the favor in turn--a crushing loss, after such a huge lead, would be disastrous. No one wants to start the second half of 2007, so terribly.
Our Number 25 has struggled all season long at the plate. Considered by many, to be a Keystone to the Future of This Franchise. Austin Kearns has not been a solid hitter, agonizing at times. No doubt, he's frustrated. Inconsistent and unable to hit the long ball. Tonight, exactly one year since THE BIG TRADE with The Cincinnati Reds that brought him to DC--some are wondering whether that trade was as good as advertised--in Washington's favor.
This evening--with the game in the balance, Austin Kearns delivered with an "Excuse Me" check swing that just went over Marlins' First Baseman Jason Wood's glove for the decisive game winning runs. Kearns laughing at the luck of it all. The Marlins' Reynal Pinto disgusted on the mound at the fluke. Having rallied all night long, Florida was finally finished. The Marlins well knew, if Austin does not deliver, this game is most likely a loss for Washington. A devastating defeat. But now, a surprising 13-9 Washington lead, in the 7th, allowing Our Manager Manny Acta to start counting outs. Tallies, which Ray King, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero combined to close out tonight. A 14-10 Win. Curly "W" Number 37 was anything, but easy--despite an offensive outburst.
Many batters for Our Washington Nationals broke out to combine for 17 hits (the most in Nationals History), 14 runs and 8 walks. For the first time all season long, Washington batted around twice--In Consecutive Innings--scoring a total of eight runs, receiving a spark from many players originally counted on--to also be Future Cornerstones.
Felipe Lopez with two hits, two runs, two RBI and The Defensive Play of This Game. Nook Logan--yes, Nook Logan--had two hits (including a triple), two walks and four runs scored (a career high). My Main Man!! Ryan Church had a Ground Rule Double and an opposite field single, scoring two runs. Ryan Zimmerman and Brian Schneider each had Key RBI Singles. Schneider with a terrific toss out of Josh Willingham's attempted steal in the bottom of the 2nd inning.
Oh yeah--those crafty veterans--Dimitri Young and Ronnie Belliard--combined for four hits and six RBI's. That's leadership, when it counts.
Since the very first moment, thoughts toward the 2007 Season danced in Our Washington Nationals Heads, its been hammered home that this ENTIRE SEASON is about Finding Usable Parts for the Future and Building. Through the first half season of 2007, you had to wonder exactly what Parts are worth keeping for Our Future. Really, what do we have? Well thought of veterans--John Patterson & Nick Johnson--have been injured all season--lost. The One Time injured Cristian Guzman, fought back from the depths of despair--arguably Our Fans least favorite player--became a star in electrifying style again, only to get injured, yet again--due to a freak injury. Young Veterans--thought to be Keystones for years to come have struggled--Felipe Lopez & Austin Kearns come to mind. And, Our Young Stars--Ryan Zimmerman and Chad Cordero have been inconsistent. Only Our Two Seasoned Veterans--fighting for their Major League Careers--Young and Belliard--have been exceptional. And, in all likelihood, neither may don A Washington Nationals Jersey much longer. The Trading Deadline, just 18 days away.
Yet, despite all that potential misery--Keepers--players no one expected to contribute have excelled, when you least expected it.
Matt Chico, Jon Rauch and Shawn Hill have done well for themselves. Pitchers that have exceeded all expectations. Chico, a young man of 23 with great confidence and gaining respect from each opponent every single outing. "The Wookie" a reliable set up man and emergency closer. Finally, if Our Number 41 can remain injury free (and that's a big if)--Hill may be a TOP RANK Starter in The Major Leagues for years to come. He's that good.
Jason Bergmann is yet another pitcher that has reached far beyond his expectations. If not for Jason Simontacchi injuring his groin a few days before Opening Day, Our Number 57 would not be in the Major Leagues right now, at all. Bergmann would be toiling for Columbus--in AAA--and most likely--a lost sole--an afterthought. Yet, he took advantage of his "Gifted" opportunity and has been outstanding most all season long. Although tonight, he wobbled and stumbled badly. Given a HUGE LEAD, Jason could not get anyone out, when it counted. Twice giving up two, two out--three run homers. The first to the very light hitting Alfredo Amezega. The second to the very powerful Josh Willingham--moments after Manny Acta gave Bergmann one serious talking to on the mound. A delivered message, I am sure Manny Acta will not forget soon.
Lasting just 4 & 1/3rd innings--Our Number 57 couldn't throw strikes when it counted the most. Not a good night for Jason Bergmann. Nor Saul Rivera either. Everyday Rivera did not have his best also. Saul may have thrown 27 of his 37 pitches for strikes--but he also had little command. For tonight, the record will show that Rivera gave up just 1 run in 1.1 innings pitched--but he made Our Manager wonder, if he could possibly get this game to Rauch and Cordero with a lead. Rivera was in trouble the entire time he was on the mound. Only when Florida got two runners on with no outs in the 6th, did Our Number 52 finally get his act together--retiring the remainder of The Marlins in order. You can bet, the sweat rolling off Manny's brow this evening had nothing to do with Humid South Florida Weather. His pitchers sure had his blood boiling.
From that point on--this Ping Pong Game, called baseball, finally settled down. Austin Kearns providing the Big Blow--All 98 Feet of it--to score the runs that finally Broke The Marlins Back. A win that was far from pretty. But, nice enough to give hope that Our Washington Nationals have some meaningful parts.
Game Notes & Highlights:
This evening--Our Washington Nationals hammered perennial All Star Dontrelle Willis. Patient, taking pitches, drawing walks against him--Willis looked like anything but a stellar performer. There are not many games where Dontrelle Willis is going to allow 8 hits, 3 walks and 8 runs in just over 3 innings. I would take him on my team anytime. If baseball is entertainment, Dontrelle Willis is The Poster Boy for Fun. Tonight though, he simply didn't have it, to Our Washington Nationals great benefit.
In the bottom of the third inning--Reigning National League Rookie of The Year, Hanley Ramirez, grounded sharply to FLop's right in the hole. Felipe Lopez reached over to glove the ball--then fell down. With his butt, flat on the playing surface, Lopez threw strongly to first to retire the fast moving Ramirez. It just goes to show, FLop has some serious talent. He just needs to use it properly. And tonight, he used his God Given Abilities to make The Defensive Play of This Game.
An aptness which Don Sutton praised Felipe on during two of his run scoring at-bats tonight. Our Number 2 stroking opposite field singles to right field, scoring two runs. As Don Sutton mentioned on MASN 2--"Its amazing how successful you can be when you do the right thing at the plate. Don't over swing--get the runners on--get them over--then get them in. Felipe Lopez is doing just that tonight." Although batting 7th, he looked more and more like The Leadoff Hitter, Our Manager Manny Acta envisioned. Not over swinging--Flop stepped to the plate and simply produced. Tonight, Lopez looked like a ballplayer.
And, he wasn't the only one. My Main Man!! Ryan Church belted a Ground Rule Double and opposite field single. Brian Schneider knocked in tonight's first key run with a two out single stroke to right in the second. And, Ryan Zimmerman hit the baseball hard all night long, as was robbed of a Sure Home Run, when he hammered a pitch to the deepest part of Dolphin Stadium--a 420 foot clout--that went for an out. That ball is out of the park in nearly every stadium in America--including RFK. For a team struggling on offense--tonight was good sign. Hopefully a signal that some bats have come alive--with runners in scoring position.
How do The Marlins survive financially with only 11,438 Fans on a Friday Night, in Summertime, with school out? Yeah, they might be playing Our Washington Nationals, but still--are there really so few baseball fans in South Florida? Or, has Jeffrey Loria and every previous owner for The Florida Marlins lost their entire fan base due to Greed over a New Stadium. Its quite sad, actually.
A mourning that has grown on me all afternoon, since word reached me that Julio Franco had been Designated for Assignment by The New York Mets, and Ex-National Marlon Anderson added to their roster. I know, you may find that strange. But, Julio Franco was THE ONLY PLAYER LEFT IN BASEBALL, still playing--OLDER THAN ME!! That's significant when you are a Big Fan and played the game. By almost exactly one year, Franco was born before me. I've always praised him when he came to bat against Our Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium. When you get of that age, 48 for me next month--little things like this mean alot. I will miss Julio Franco. He may have been approaching "GEEZER" Age, but he was still a productive player. How many times has he killed Our Washington Nationals over the past three seasons? Good Luck, Old Friend.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Wilfredo Lee