Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Opportunity Lost, Again
One of the most talented but erratic pitchers in the game was on the ropes. The Chicago Cubs Carlos Zambrano had lost his control. The bases were now loaded, Our Washington Nationals were trailing 3-0. If there was ever a chance to get back into this game--the now playing bottom of the 5th was that opportunity.
Zambrano had walked leadoff hitter Brian Schneider, then hit Robert Fick with a pitch, putting runners on first and second base with no outs. And with the pitcher spot up next--Our Manager Manny Acta chose Tony Batista to come off the bench to hit for tonight's starter, Tim Redding. With Zambrano struggling and having only thrown 2 strikes among 8 pitches in the bottom of the 5th--what did Batista do? He swung at Carlos' very first offering and popped out meekly to short. Hello Tony? What were you thinking?
Obviously nothing like what Ryan Langerhans was contemplating. Following Batista's weak out, Langerhans worked the count against the boxed in Cubs starter. Being a professional hitter, Ryan was patient and it paid off when he walked to load the bases on six pitches. At this point in the 5th--Carlos Zambrano had now thrown only 5 strikes in 18 pitches. Not only had their Number 38 lost control, but his command. Everyone in attendance had to realize this fact. Our Washington Nationals should have also. Zambrano well known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve--always a BIG PROBLEM for this Hot Tempered Latino.
So, Ronnie Belliard was next. And what did he do? Ronnie Belliard swung at Zambrano's first two offerings, fouling both off for strikes. Just like that, Our Number 10 was in a serious hole--time to swing at EVERYTHING. Which Ronnie did--fortunately getting a piece of the baseball, lining it to center for a Sacrifice Fly scoring Schneider to make this game 3-1 Chicago.
What had started as a promising 1st & 2nd, no outs situation--Transformed to a Bases Loaded, 1 out situation. And, now had moved to 1st & 2nd with two outs and one run in. Once again--a Big Inning was being wasted by Our Washington Nationals. And, Ryan Zimmerman was next. Our Best Young Player has really suffered through some tough times in 2007. In fact, he hasn't driven in a run since June 17th. Swinging at virtually everything, not walking, barely contributing at the plate. Our Number 11 faced Carlos Zambrano looking to change this ballgame around.
To his credit--he took ball one in the dirt--but then swung at virtually everything else Zambrano threw his way. Two called strikes and two foul balls later--finally, Ryan weakly popped to second to kill Our Teams best chance this entire evening. Once again, The Heart of Our Lineup had failed. Those batters most responsible for driving in runs--could not do their job.
Opportunity Lost--Once Again. All because Our Washington Nationals are not showing enough patience at the plate. When you have a pitcher on the ropes, especially the good ones--you need to wait for YOUR PITCH, not HIS PITCH, or Just Any Pitch thrown. You are standing at that plate with the bat in your hands to do what YOU DO BEST--HIT. Not to make The Pitcher look like HIS BEST--because you just helped him out, by swinging at his junk.
Ever since that near Miraculous Comeback but eventual loss to The Detroit Tigers, 9-8, Washington's Offense has been atrocious. Never scoring more than four runs in any game. A Batting lineup that continually does not produce--with the game on the line. Combined with the less than stellar starting pitching of late--Our Washington Nationals have now dropped 13 of their last 17 games. There is so many examples to point out during this bad stretch. Last night, it was about the pitching. Tonight it was about hitting, in the clutch. Which Our Nats have none of.
No team is going to win, when their hitters can't be patient at the plate.
Our Washington Nationals lost a close game tonight, 3-1. But, just about anyone who watched it will tell you--this ballgame was truly never in doubt. Washington was shut down by The Chicago Cubs for the second straight evening. Opportunity Lost when Our Hitters could not get runners home from scoring position--when it counted the most--for what seemed like the thousandth time this year.
Game Notes & Highlights:
Emergency Starter Tim Redding's very first pitch to Chicago's Alfonso Soriano sailed well over Alfonso's head. Our Number 17 had no control right off the start of this game. And during the first three innings, you had to wonder whether he would last even through the very next batter. Somehow he did--righting himself, regaining command and eventually completing 5 full innings. He wasn't terrible, but he wasn't great also. Tim Redding survived his first start since July 15th 2005 for The New York Yankees at Fenway Park against The Red Sox. Soriano got Tim with a game starting leadoff single, stolen base and score on Ryan Theriot single to center. Then The Cubs put up their decisive runs in the 3rd frame when Cliff Floyd smashed a BROKEN BAT single up the middle scoring Zambrano and Soriano with the bases loaded.
With Our Washington Nationals unable to put virtually any rally against Zambrano tonight-those three early runs were the conclusive tallies. Many Cub Fans in the 4th largest crowd of this season--30,106, enjoyed The Cubs continued winning ways against Washington. Our Nats have now lost all five games played against these Chicago Cubs in 2007.
For the second straight evening, Our Washington Nationals staged a Mini-Rally of sorts in the bottom of the 9th. A one out bloop single to right by Robert Fick off Will Ohman immediately sent Cubs Manager Lou Pinella to the mound to lift Ohman for the very hard throwing Bobby Howry. And,Howry didn't waste much time. Striking out Austin Kearns on a VICIOUS 98 MPH HUMMER that Austin had no chance on, while swinging. The Strikeout pitch tying Kearns up so badly, he lost the grip of the bat from his hands. Then Howry finished off The SAVE with the exact same effort at Ryan Langerhans. A right down the middle fastball at 98 MPH that Ryan could not get his bat around fast enough on. A swinging strike to end this game. Never before have I paid much attention to Bobby Howry. Does he ever have my awareness now. That man can throw the baseball HARD!!
Kearns was a late inning substitution. Our Manager Manny Acta resting him tonight. Austin has shown little power and an inability to drive in runs in 2007. Our Number 25 not the same type player we saw last season at RFK Stadium. Like Felipe Lopez--both are having poor first full seasons in Washington. Both are far better players than shown.
Our Washington Nationals limping toward the All Star Break, now having lost their 50th game of 2007, against just 33 wins.
And ironically-Dimitri Young is hitless in seven At-Bats since being named to the National League All Star Team.
Although Langerhans struck out to end the game--he performed quite well as the leadoff hitter this evening. Two Walks and a double. He was an instigator. A provoker on the bases on a night his teammates could not get him home. Seven of Langerhans last nine hits have been for extra bases (4 doubles, 3 home runs). For my money, Our Number 4 is a far better choice than Nook Logan, right now--in centerfield.
Oh yeah--Our Bench, we don't have one right now. Batista, & D'angelo Jimenez are just taking up space, probably Nook Logan too. The Cristian Guzman injury is just killing Manny's late game moves.
On a nicer note--The Seats at New Nationals Park are being installed at this time. If you drive by the construction site--you can clearly see those dark blue seats now in place along the Upper Deck in Right Field. Next Wednesday, July 11th will be The Topping Off Ceremony for the final steel beam. From that point forward--its all about filling in the details.
Tonight's Zambrano In-Game Photo (AP) Susan Walsh
Stadium Seat Shots--(AP) Evan Vucci