Sunday, July 08, 2007
The Luck Of Iris
Last evening while The African Queen and I walked out of RFK Stadium chatting with Our Good Friends Iris & Biff--Iris mentioned that for the very last game before The All-Star Break, all she was wishing for was a rousing victory. "17-1 would do me just fine. A Never in Doubt Win," she stated. All four of us laughed enjoying the comment.
Then, upon arrival this afternoon for the 1:35PM start against The Milwaukee Brewers, we all were stunned at the Starting Lineup for Our Washington Nationals. Names like Jimenez & Batista were penciled in to start, along with Tim Redding getting the Starting Pitching Nod. Iris quipping: "Are we trying to Forfeit??" Again, we all laughed. Really, with the three day All-Star Break coming--should this not be one of those days where its "ALL HANDS ON DECK". Other than the very last game of the season. Or, any game that decides Playoff or Championship positioning (which we shall not enjoy for some time--in all probability). Iris, Sohna, Biff and I were stunned that Our Washington Nationals were sending out their Bench. Including sitting down Two Of Our Finest Players going right now--All Star Dimitri Young and Ronnie Belliard.
As usual--did Our Manager Manny Acta ever prove us wrong. Today, not only did Our Washington Nationals Beat The Milwaukee Brewers. They won handily. A Convincing 7-2 Win where Redding pitched his finest game in The Majors in quite some time. Ryan Zimmerman and Ronnie Belliard (off the bench) provided Key Blows. And, Brewers Manager Ned Yost added fuel to a FURIOUS six run Washington Rally, when he didn't realize his starter was well out of gas. Leaving Chris Capuano on the mound for four batters too long. All resulting in Iris's fonded wish for today--as She and Biff headed to the Beach for some well deserved down time. A six run 6th inning put this game well out of reach. Curly "W" Number 36 was a NO Doubt Win. And, "The Chief" pitched a 1-2-3 9th to close it out. Maybe Iris should wish her desires more often.
A Series Victory over The Central Division Leading Milwaukee Brewers. As AMAZING as it sounds--just Our Nationals 4th Series Victory in 15 Series so far, at The Old Ballyard in 2007. Yeah, 36 & 52 at the break, is not impressive in the least. Our Offense is the worst in Baseball. Our Starting Pitching Passable. Our Bench Terrible. Our Bullpen Stellar. But, at least we are interesting. Just when you think Our Washington Nationals are going to fall right off the fact of the earth and collapse--They pull off one fine win today against a very good Brewers Team.
Of course, when FLop provides the Early Fireworks with an Opposite Field Drive right down the right field line--JUST OVER THE FENCE, for his FIRST HOME RUN EVER at RFK Stadium (in 86 Games), in the bottom of the 2nd--you had to feel this WAS OUR DAY. Honestly, if Felipe Lopez EVER HIT a Home Run at Our Most Spacious Of Parks--that drive would have to be an drilled shot down either line--but definitely not OPPOSITE FIELD. Even Milwaukee's Starter Chris Capuano had to be SHOCKED by FLop's drive. Sohna and I couldn't believe it. MickNats so stunned, he could even get out of his seat. And, Section 320 Regular Jim just looked at me and Threw Up His Arms--"What Gives!!", he stated. Who knows, but maybe Iris' Magic was at work.
A Hocus-Pocus that Tim Redding used all afternoon, until he tired late. When you have been out of The Major Leagues for nearly three seasons--any opportunity to resurrect your career must be seized and taken advantage of. Our Number 17 was OUTSTANDING TODAY. Never have I followed his previous stints in The Big Leagues. But today, Tim Redding showed the stuff that Our General Manager Jim Bowden envisioned when he signed Tim off the Scrap Heap this past spring. An Innings Eating Starter that can control a game. How much better would our First Half have been if Tim Redding wasn't so awful during Spring Training. Today, This Sunday--Tim Redding may well have earned a Starter's Job for the remainder of 2007.
He went 6 strong innings--and was in total command of his pitches. Although, when Redding faltered in the 6th--and hit Ryan Braun with two outs--you had to wonder Why Our Manager left him in the game. This is one of those situations where I would love to ask Manny his thinking at that moment. The Very Dangerous Prince Fielder was next. The Brewers had runners on 1st & 3rd. Redding had pitched well and was leading 1-0 thanks to FLop. Has not been Our Manager's Mantra all season long--to not let a well pitched start go array? Don't let your Starter leave upset after a strong performance. Yet, Our Number 14 not only left Tim in the game, but neither lefthanded throwers--Bill Traber or Ray King were Warming Up.
And, Redding paid for it-Big Time--when Fielder (A Serious Candidate for MVP) hammered Tim's offering into the left centerfield gap for a bases clearing double. Just when you thought, Our Washington Nationals were going to survive-they were just as quickly behind. Now down 2-1, Tim Redding the loser of record--at this time.
Yet, as has been the case ALL SEASON LONG--Our Washington Nationals may be down--sometimes BIG--but never out.
D'Angelo Jimenez--yeah one of those bench players we feared starting today, walked to lead off the bottom of the 6th. And, although Brewers Manager Ned Yost came out to speak with Capuano--to test his remaining strength--Yost still kept his lefty in game. Ryan Zimmerman made Milwaukee PAY FOR THAT DECISION--by DRILLING--right down the left field line--a two run Home Run--JUST OVER THE LEFT FIELD WALL. 20,637 mostly quiet fans ERUPTED for the first time today. The "Z Man" had put Washington Back in Front, 3-2.
And this was only the beginning.
To everyone's amazement--Ned Yost still kept Capuano in the ballgame. By the time The Brewers Manager finally decided to do the right thing and remove his starter--this game was well out of hand.
Austin Kearns followed Zimmerman's Home Run with a walk. Yeah, that other Bench Player Tony Batista followed with a single. FLop walked to load the Bases, all still with ZERO OUTS. WHY IN THE WORLD IS CHRIS CAPUANO STILL IN THIS GAME? If Ned Yost expects to win--his division--and play in the post season--he better be little less passive and alot more pro-active. He was a poor manager today.
And, when My Main Man!! Ryan Church knocked a sacrifice fly to deep center scoring Kearns and Jesus Flores (today's starting catcher) hit an infield single to short, only then did Ned Yost FINALLY replace Chris Capuano with Matt Wise--a right handed reliever. Not only had The Brewers Manager taken his starter out too late--he relieved him with the worst possible choice. A Right Handed Fastball pitcher to face Our BEST BENCH PLAYER FOR TODAY--Ronnie Belliard.
"The Ball Player" as I have come to call him--took called strike one--then flat out HAMMERED Wise's next fastball--DEEP TO THE LEFT CENTERFIELD GAP!! RFK Stadium was shaking. Everyone on their feet in great applause. A BASES CLEARING THREE RUN DOUBLE for Our Number 10. A six run inning, putting Our Washington Nationals up 7-2. Not since August 20, 2006, against The Phillies in Philadelphia, had Our Team scored six runs and batted around. By the way--The African Queen and I were at that wonderful win last August at Citizens Bank Park.
Just like that. This GAME WAS OVER. Ray King, Luis Ayala and Chad Cordero combined to shut down The Brew Crew the rest of this afternoon. Iris had got her fondest wish. Our Washington Nationals had defeated A VERY GOOD Milwaukee Brewers Team. Nothing to be unhappy about today. A Two Game winning streak. The Possible Finding of a back of the rotation starter. And a new found ability, by Washington, to actually get their runners home from scoring position.
With Our Washington Nationals heading to Miami to play The Marlins right after The All Star Break, and some of their players heading to South Beach to relax--we can only hope that The TEAM PLAY witnessed by many over the past few days--can continue over the second half of 2007.
Iris proved The Prophet Today. But, how more fortunate will we be over the final three months of 2007? Our Washington Nationals have exceeded the expectations of so many, so far--even by being a last place team. And with the Trade Deadline Looming--how drastically will Our Team Change over next three weeks. The All Star Break Begins on A High Note. Yet, many of Our Best Players--All Star Young and "The Ball Player" Belliard,in particular, may not be around for much longer. Its funny how even on a last place team, you become fond of certain players and their efforts. Then, knowing their potential loss in trade may well enhance your future--you still suffer that empty feeling in your gut. That's how I will commiserate if Dimitri Young and Ronnie Belliard are traded, as expected. Professional they are, no where near Hall of Fame Quality--but Major League Ballplayers, through and through.
If you are following Our Washington Nationals closely--which I am sure you are since you read my writings--isn't it amazing how A Last Place Team can hold your attention? That's passion--and an appreciation--of having A HOME TEAM TO CALL OUR OWN!! If you enjoy the game, you make each outing what it is-- an adventure.
Baseball can be fun--even with a struggling team.
Game Notes & Highlights:
Tim Redding won his first Major League Game since September 26, 2004, ironically against Milwaukee. That win came in a relief appearance. Even more strangely, Redding's last win as a Starter came on July 24th, 2004--yeah, you guessed it--against these same Brewers. How Strange life can be.
In the top of the second inning--Craig Counsell worked a led off walk from Our Number 17. But, when Milwaukee's Chris Capuano popped an attempted sacrifice bunt in the air--right at Redding--Counsell rightly stopped and headed back to first. Tim Redding noticing Craig's decision--then also rightly decided to let the baseball drop to the ground. He then picked up the ball--threw to FLop at Second Base, who tossed over to Tony Batista for a very fine Double Play. Tim Redding had thought, did not panic, in a moment of decision--and made The Defensive Play Of This Game.
Many times players do not realize the situation facing them at hand. Tim Redding was aware of his surroundings. And, helped himself get out of a pressing situation. He deserves alot of credit for using his brain.
Luis Ayala, who struggled mightily his last time out--was LIGHTS OUT TODAY. Our Number 56 trotted out in the bottom of the 7th when Ray King allowed a two out walk to Counsell. He then proceeded to strike out Tony Graffanino to end the inning. Then, threw a solid 8th. Ayala, one of the friendliest players Sohna and I have ever met--finished out 1 & 1/3rd scoreless innings. He looked solid. And, regular Nats 320 reader and commenter--Paul--who had stopped by to meet The African Queen and I--noted that Ayala may even be sharper than he believed. Thanks to Paul for stopping by. Sohna and I appreciated the effort. And, Great Credit to Luis Ayala for maintaining his enthusiasm and willingness to fight back and deliver from one serious pitching injury (his elbow). If Luis Ayala can return to his 2005 form--our already top bullpen could be spectacular.
Chad Cordero let everyone just hit the ball-right at his fielders--and he retired The Brewers in order in the top of the 9th. "The Chief" will always be thrilling. But, despite his histrionics--he's actually quite the fine reliever. He wouldn't have made it this far--which such interest from other teams--if he was not a talented individual. That's a fact.
Many Thanks to "Abe Lincoln" for throwing The African Queen one of those "Pledge Your Allegiance" T-Shirts this afternoon. She Loves it!!
Finally--Best Wishes to My Best Friend SCREECH!! Screech headed off to San Francisco right after The 7th Inning Stretch. He had his suitcase packed and was excited to be heading out for the Big Affair--The 2007 All Star Game. He earned it. And, His Girlfriend--The African Queen, and I, only wish that he has a TERRIFIC TIME!!. I stopped Screech, suitcase in hand--as he was about to FLY AWAY to one of This Country's FINEST CITIES. Sohna and I only wish we could join him. What A CITY!! There is NOTHING LIKE SAN FRANCISCO. Safe Travels--Screech!!
Please enjoy The All Star Break. Let's hope Dimitri (& Screech) represent us PROUDLY!!
Despite that All Star Break, the Nats320 blog is not taking a vacation. There is no better time for the unveiling of one of my patented interviews. You better believe, I have reached out again, to Our Washington Nationals in an effort to chat with one of our most intriguing personalities. Yes, Hall Of Famer Don Sutton sat down for a lengthy interview with The African Queen and I. As wonderful as Mr. Sutton is on the air--he is a even better in person. "Chatting With A Hall of Famer"--a two parter will post up tomorrow night (Monday--July 9th). Sohna and I hope you enjoy. Don Sutton is one Wonderful Man.