Thursday, August 16, 2007
The Bat-Men Finally Cometh, The Runner Taketh Away
For seven full innings Our Washington Nationals could not push across a single run tonight against The Philadelphia Phillies. Much of that failure laid in the fine pitching arm of The Phillies Cole Hamels. One of Baseball's Top Young Pitchers was in PRIME FORM this hot and humid evening at RFK Stadium. A four run lead was in hand for Philadelphia--Our Offense shutdown and missing in action. At least until the very odd site of a bat--Yes, a REAL BAT, flying above and around Section 320 looking to pick off some of those pesky moths that have inundated The Old Ballyard this week. A Site none of us quite ever recall seeing during the first three seasons of Nationals Baseball. No mistake, this was a BAT--flying under the stadium lights.
"A BAT!! That's what we need right now, something fresh to zero in on a moving target!!"
And The Baseball Gods were watching.
With Hamels thankfully out of this game--Our Washington Nationals were finally into The Phillies Bullpen. The Less than Stellar Philadelphia relief corps. I can worry about "The Most Thrilling Closer in The Game" all I want. But, I would still take Chad Cordero and virtually each and every one of Our Guys--Over Their Guys. Washington's Bullpen Rocks. Philadelphia's is Rocky (and we are not talking about The Movie).
Mere Moments after The Bat started to circle and attack--Our Batsmen finally began to chew on The Phillies Pitching. Ronnie Belliard led off the bottom of the 8th--greeting Tom Gordon with a line drive SMASH--JUST OVER the left field bullpen. A solo home run that got Washington on the board and their fans rear ends, finally out of their seats, for something good to cheer about. Yeah, Our Nats still trailed 4-1, but at least, FINALLY, there was hope.
Optimism that got the 27,308 to JUMP UP AND ROAR when Dimitri Young followed two batters later by SEARING another Gordon pitch, on another line drive--JUST OVER the right centerfield wall!! Another Solo Home Run that had The Washington Faithful jubilantly looking for more. Philadelphia's Faithful--looking for closure. A momentum changer at the sign of resurgent Bats. Wood Smacking Ball The New Attack Now. While the Real Bat continued his strike on The Moths.
An unlikely sight had been the Good Luck Charm. A Blessing that continued when Austin Kearns followed Dimitri with a four pitch walk. You talk about a Crowd Rising to The Occasion. That time was upon us. My Main Man!! Ryan Church was next up. Everyone remembering his TITANIC BLAST last night into Section 467. A shot not lost on Philadelphia's Manager Charlie Manual's mind. With Our Number 19 stepping to the plate, Manual stepped out of his dugout and replaced Gordon with lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero. No Way Philadelphia allows Ryan to seize on a fastball from a righthander.
Now, it became The Power of Church against The JUNK of Romero. Twice already this evening--Ryan had struck out badly on slop, down and away. A weakness The Phillies were looking to harvest again. An attempt that failed, when My Main Man!! battened down the hatches, hung in there, and grounded a clean single through the hole to right field. A RallyTime!! continuing stroke that set up THE PLAY OF THIS GAME.
Our Rule V Draftee was tonight's Starting Catcher. With the lefthanded Hamels on the mound, Brian Schneider received a deserved night off. Jesus Flores' time was at hand. Could Our Number 3 continue his ever improving confidence and provide a GAME CHANGER? Everyone wanted to know. While The Bat was still devouring those moths. Flores' Bat was looking to consume a Romero Pitch. A Hitters Count he received, when J.C. could not find the plate--going up 3 balls, no strikes--in the count. An At-Bat that moved to 3-1 after a called first strike.
Phillie Fans have seen their Bullpen blow leads time after time all season long. And not a single one of them was sure Philadelphia would get out of this jam. Hope leaning Washington's way as the fifth and final pitch of this At-Bat reached its Zenith. Romero would deliver and Flores would HAMMER THE BASEBALL--on a line drive to right centerfield. A position manned by late inning defensive replacement Chris Roberson. Roberson charged in--moving to his right--and snared the baseball as it moved swiftly toward the ground. A fine running catch for Out Two--that became the catalyst for the final out of this inning when Austin Kearns, for reasons unknown--was heading directly to third base. A Huge Mental Mistake that found Our Number 25 reversing course and rushing back to second base. A Failed Effort that resulted in, not only a RALLY KILLING DOUBLE PLAY!! But, a frustrating end to a valiant come from behind effort. Phillies Fans HOWLED IN DELIGHT. Washington's Fans BELLOWED IN DISGUST!!
To make matters worse, Austin Kearns sled poorly back into the bag--jamming his right ankle and knee badly. At first, it appeared he had broken something. Limping so awkwardly, Our Manager Manny Acta took him out of the game. Another Baserunning Blunder had cost Our Washington Nationals THE BIG INNING.
At a time Our Bats HAD FINALLY Come Alive--One Runner Took It All Away.
And wouldn't you know it. Seconds after Flores' Bat led to the final out of the inning. That Real Bat left the premises of RFK STADIUM--for the evening as well. The 8th Inning Surprisingly Over. The Bat's Dinner now over. And Our Washington Nationals Comeback--OVER, AS WELL.
The Baseball Gods had Teased Us, but Didn't Please Us.
Final Score: Philadelphia Phillies 4, Our Washington Nationals 2
Game Notes & Highlights:
Joel Hanrahan made his 4th Major League Starting Appearance tonight. He struck out 8, but he walked four. And, his command was less than stellar. A Two Run Homer given up to The Phillies light hitting catcher--Carlos Ruiz in the second inning hurt him badly. Our 38 is talented and on a night his offense gave him NO SUPPORT--Joel Hanrahan learned how to pitch without your best stuff. Savvy and Knowledge can give a pitcher a win on those mediocre nights. A victory that was impossible this evening when Our Washington Nationals could not score any runs for him.
Tallys which Cole Hamels received from his Philadelphia Buddies to record his 14th win of the season. Personal Victories that only include one against Washington in three tries in 2007. Hamels is one fine looking talent. Lanky lefthander with power and junk. Good combination.
Washington's only other real scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the 7th against the tiring Hamels. Kearns roped a liner down the left field line for a double--remained there while Church and Flores struck out--but moved to third on a two out bunt down the third base line. A scoring opportunity that was there for the taking, when Tony Batista Pinch Hit for Mike Bascik against Antonio Alfonseca. A FABULOUS 10 Pitch At-Bat Ensued--a hole that Tony dug early--by getting behind 0-2. A veteran's patience he showed by fouling off unhitable strikes, eventually, drawing a Full Count Walk. A Free Pass that loaded the bases for FLop. An opportune moment that fell by the wayside, when Felipe Lopez struck out badly, batting lefthanded. A disappointment, not only for The Faithful, but FLop himself. His Frustration boiling over to the point of considering whipping his bat toward the Nationals Third Base Dugout. A thought stopped, upon seeing Manny Acta staring right at him. No Doubt, Our Manager would have pulled him--for such a stunt.
And Flores, In fact, left six runners on base this evening. Not a good night at the plate, for Jesus.
Surprised I was to see Our Manager send Saul Rivera out for the 8th inning. "EVERYDAY" Saul looked tired last evening. Tonight he looked even worse--giving up a run. Manny, please just set him down for a breather. His arm is going to fall off--soon.
"TEDDY" lost his 100th Consecutive Presidents Race Tonight. The Lovable Loser reached The Century Mark in defeats on a night George Washington ran an impressive race. How anyone on such a HUMID EVENING could run SO FAST as GW DID--then dance his way to the Finish Line--Spectacular Actually. What a performance. Maybe the most athletic stunt of the night. Wow!! The Guy in that Costume is FAST!!
Finally, how sad it was to hear the awful news that Nick Johnson is OFFICIALLY GONE FOR THE SEASON. A trip to The Mayo Clinic has resulted in further surgery. Hip Surgery to remove all the hardware originally placed in his right side after his broken femur.
Little did anyone expect a TOTALLY LOST SEASON from that tragic incident last September at Shea Stadium. Nick Johnson is a FINE PLAYER. A Leader. And Sohna and I only wish him the best. Hopefully, come 2007--Miracles will occur, a full healthy recovery. And the sight of Our Number 24 back on the field at New Nationals Park, manning First Base and batting Clean Up. A sight that will only bring Joy to Our Hearts.
Good Luck Nick. Many are rooting for you.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Nick Johnson--Getty Images