Sunday, August 12, 2007
Back From The Dead--Twice
Just when you believe its time to bury them. Just when you are SURE Our Washington Nationals have, not only one foot, but half their body in the grave. Just when you believe, FINALLY, this is the time they will fall flat on their face. Just Like That, they come alive again. What a performance over the last two innings today in Phoenix!!
Yes, One Comeback was not enough. No, Washington needed TWO HUGE INNINGS to defeat The Arizona Diamondbacks this afternoon at Chase Field. And, one fine defensive play by Ryan Zimmerman in the 9th--to help out "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game."
Any Win is Fun!! But, this 7-6 Thriller was SWEET!! You think that flight back across the country tonight to Washington will be festive? Yeah, I know Our Nats are returning from just a 3-4 Road Trip--But, would you want to fly home after a depressing loss? A Collective Team Effort Winner this was, and that's always good for the heart. Not just My Heart, or Your Heart, but even The Players' Hearts. Satisfying it will always be, TO FIGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD--TO WIN.
And, significant because rarely is The Washington Hero the same guy. Each and every day, Our Washington Nationals step out on the field to play. Each and every day--someone different provides the theatrics. Yeah, Ryan Zimmerman is as a fine of an emerging talent in the game as there is. But, he is no SUPERSTAR--At least Not Yet. On this team--Our Number 11 may be the best of the bunch--but not the only one counted on in the clutch.
That Fact Played Out Again Today.
Down 5-1 in the top of the 8th, an innocent leadoff walk by Flop set the stage. A Free Pass that appeared to be getting Washington nowhere when Nook Logan followed by striking out badly on three straight pitches. A First Out that would be the last one recorded before this game was tied at 5 Runs Apiece.
Ryan Zimmerman had struggled throughout this Western Road Swing. And when he stepped up to the batters box to face Tony Pena in this 8th, Our Number 11 was 3-24 over his past seven games. This after batting over .500 during the previous six game home winning streak. Ryan Zimmerman is still young and may be down at times--but, never, EVER can you count him out. Does he ever deliver in the clutch. Not be be denied all weekend at Chase Field, Ryan HAMMERED Pena's third pitch that JUST MISSED going over the wall in Center. The Ball rattling around until The Diamondbacks Eric Byrnes recovered it. A Smash that found Zimmerman now standing on third base with an RBI Triple. And, life for Our Washington Nationals. Having knocked in Washington's Second Run, Ryan became the third when Austin Kearns followed with a sharp shot right back up the middle. Just like that--no longer being buried and counted out. Once Again--back in the game--thanks to three different batters.
A 5-3 Arizona Lead that was just as quickly extinguished--at the hands of a fourth hitter--MY MAIN MAN!! Ryan Church. The Diamondbacks Manager, Bob Melvin, had seen enough of Tony Pena with Washington threatening, and decided to bring on lefthanded reliever Doug Slaton. For some time, I have always believed that Ryan Church could hit southpaw pitching, as well as, righthanded throwers. Yet, for this entire 2007 season--Our Number 19 had not connected off any lefthander for a HOME RUN. At least until 5 pitches into this GAME CHANGING At-Bat. Slaton would fall behind 3-1 in the count, and then served up a down and in fastball that MY MAIN MAN!! UNLOADED ON!! A Clubbed Shot that EVERYONE KNEW HAD THE DISTANCE. The only question: whether it would stay fair? Which it DID!! The Sight of Ryan Church dropping his bat--to watch the flight of the baseball, interesting. Honestly, I don't think he reacted this way for effect. But, it Sure LOOKED GOOD! Charlie Slowes was GOING NUTS ON THE RADIO OVER THE HOMER!! And, you guys think I GET EXCITED!! Charlie's Got ME BEAT--Hands Down.
Ryan Church's 9th Homer of The Season--with the game on the line--set off a Wild Celebration in the Visiting Washington Dugout. No Longer left for Dead, Our Washington Nationals were right back in to this game. Chase Field in Phoenix so silent you could clearly hear the Yelling and Whooping by Washington. Just five outs aways from being swept--FOR THE SEASON--by Arizona, Our Nats were back in it. The African Queen telling me to calm down--so the neighbors don't hear me yell and scream (Honestly--they should be used to me by now--its been nearly three years of Nats Baseball).
An enjoyment that, just as quickly--came to a screeching halt--when Big Jon Rauch entered for the bottom of the 8th. Our Manager Manny Acta was going with strength. "The Wookie" to hold the lead. And hopefully "The Chief", to save this game after pushing across a run in the 9th. Steadiness that Big Jon did not have today. Back to Back Leadoff Singles by Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds put Diamondbacks on 1st and 3rd. And, a sacrifice fly by Stephen Drew gave Arizona the lead back at 6-5. That great feeling of Hope and of being alive again--now shattered. As quickly as Our Washington Nationals had fought back into this ballgame, they had just as quickly given it up.
A Depression that many Nats Fans may well have been feeling--a "State" Washington did not acknowledge. Because, Jesus Flores' must have ice in his veins. Left off the protective roster last winter by The New York Mets--Flores had to feel buried by The Mets also. Never given a proper chance, highly touted--yet still allowed to leave via The Rule V Draft. A pickup by Our Nationals that is only beginning to pay dividends. This afternoon--Flores ledoff the top of the 9th with the game tying homer off Jose Valverde. A looping liner that JUST CLEARED the fence in left to tie this game at 6!! A Home Run that was served up on an 0-2 Count!! What was Valverde THINKING!!?? Yeah, I was jumping out of my chair at home. Our Washington Nationals were jumping up and down in their dugout And, Flores himself finally showed showed some emotion of his own--making a jump step and raising his right fist in triumph as he rounded first base. That Sound in Our Dugout was Spectacular to hear!! Charlie Slowes NEARLY LOST IT--A SECOND TIME! His partner, Dave Jageler, I am sure was searching for the oxygen tank.
Again left for dead, Washington had miraculously fought back a second time. This time to take the lead--setting up the Game Winning Run which came on the heels of a Robert Fick Triple. Yes, Robert Fick TRIPLE!! (that is correct). Fick laced a Valverde pitch deep into the gap in left centerfield. A baseball that rattled around for awhile along the odd shaped fence. A bounding ball that allowed Fick to actually reach third base easily--then point, smilingly, at his teammates in the Washington Dugout. Our Number 13's 12th Career Triple was a Biggie. A Rap which quickly became the Game Deciding Blow, when Felipe Lopez slapped a fly ball deep enough to left to score Fick with Washington's 7th run.
Interim Batting Coach Lenny Harris yelling SO LOUD in joy over the Washington's Two Run 9th--you would think he was still a player. Our Number 9 was quite happy and pleased. His hitting students had not given up, when most everyone else had. A 7-6 Lead was now in hand. Only Chad Cordero was needed, to close it out.
Even "The Chief Cardiologist" had to realize this game had quickly become a barnburner. Time to put out THE FIRE!!
Of Course, Our Number 32 trotted on and immediately went FULL COUNT on his very first batter in the bottom of the 9th. The talented and speedy Chris Young was the hitter and "The Most Thrilling Closer in The Game" knew he could not walk him. So, Chad Cordero went after him on that full count. And, Chris Young SMASHED the baseball into the hole between 2nd and 3rd base. Ryan Zimmerman, with his cat-like reflexes dove to his left, scooped up the sharply hit baseball--then CALMLY got up and threw Young out at FIRST BASE. In a blink of an eye, Zimmerman had DONE IT AGAIN!! This time with his glove. Out Number One for this inning was huge. But, the trying to hide the Appreciation REACTION by "Z" said it all. Looking as Non Plussed as can be, Ryan Zimmerman can kick dirt and exhale calmly all he wants. Even Our Number 11 knew--he had just produced The Defensive Play of This Game. No one better going side to side to field a baseball at third base than Ryan. No One. What a Performer. What a Performance. And, he's only 22!!
A trouper which Chad Cordero was throughout the final inning of play. Yeah, "The Chief" made it interesting with a two out walk to Eric Byrnes. But, it did not matter. Cordero would record his 26th save of 2007 by retiring Pinch Hitter Chad Tracey on a fly ball to center to end this game. A Final Out that witnessed Our Washington Nationals stealing a victory--A TEAM WIN today in Phoenix. Many times they are down, sometimes to the point of failing--but never can you call them out.
Curly "W" Number 54 was a Back From The Dead--ROUSING WIN. Just Terrific--unexpected or not.
Game Notes & Highlights:
Big Jon Rauch got the "Vulture" Win Today. Called on to keep the game tied--Our Number 51 instead gave up the go ahead run to Arizona. A Deficit that was overtaken by Washington in their miraculous 9th. Baseball always evens things out. No doubt, Big Jon Rauch has been cheated out of more than one victory in the past. "The Wookie" with his 8th Win now--Team High.
Mike Bacsik did not look good today--from the get go. He was hammered hard, including two Home Runs. I don't fault him for being a part of history with Home Run Number 756, but like Manny Acta mentioned a couple of days ago--he needs to come down a little bit and enjoy less--for now. There will be plenty of time to reflect and CASH IN on the moment later. Now, is the time to be playing ball--and keeping your job. Ironically, Bacsik and Arizona Starter Micah Owings combined to go 21-0 last season for The Diamondbacks AAA Affiliate--Tucson.
One of Today's Heros--Jesus Flores had three hits and two RBI's. One of the others--My Main Man!! Ryan Church also had two hits.
Before the BIG COMEBACK-- the top of the 7th had ended in frustrating fashion for Washington. A Bases Loaded, One Out situation found Brian Schneider at the plate, pinch hitting for D'Angelo Jimenez (who was batting for Chris Schroder). The Diamondbacks had just taken their starter Micah Owings out of the game, in favor of hard throwing right hander Tony Pena. A Potential Game Changing Moment that saw Schneider swing at the very first pitch and ground into a rally killing 4-6-3 Double Play. Come On Guys--Bases Loaded, New Pitcher--chance to get something good. Be More Patient--Please.
How about that Washington Bullpen. After pitching so well for so long--then imploding this past Friday Night in that awful 11-4 loss that began this three game series--today Our Relievers redeemed themselves. 5 Innings of three hit ball. Only Rauch giving up a run. Chris Schroder continues to be lights out. Two more strikeouts this afternoon, leaving the game with a 1.30 ERA.
What's with the SUN AFFECTING LATE AFTERNOON PLAY at Chase Field? Its one thing to have a retractable roof and glass to make the atmosphere more inviting--but when THE SUNLIGHT IS DIRECTLY hitting players in their eyes--in spots around the field (places were it would normally otherwise not--there is something wrong). During the 9th--it appeared both Valverde and Cordero had the sun shining directly in their eyes. It would be easier to handle if not for all the shade that reflects down on the field from the roof. All Sun--Or No Sun--never should it be a little of both. The Glare affects the play. I would love to know what the players think about this situation.
Finally, Billy Traber is the odd man odd with Shawn Hill returning to pitch Tuesday Night at RFK Stadium against The Philadelphia Phillies. No, I am not surprised by the move--just figured he was already OUT OF OPTIONS. Sometimes, its hard to follow the fine details of roster maneuvering.
Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Paul Connors