Wednesday, August 15, 2007

King For A Day

Sometimes baseball gives you an Headache. Sometimes you dig a hole so deep, you need a miracle to recover. Tonight, Our Washington Nationals provided such a scenario. An outcome that had every single Nationals Fans on their feet in TRIUMPH.

Our Manager Manny Acta had found himself in a precarious position. Leading 4-1 heading to the top of the 7th inning, he had decided to send his starter Tim Redding out, despite the fact that Our Number 17 was tiring noticeably in the 6th. A three run lead in hand, and a TAXED bullpen can give any manager a headache. A MIGRAINE that got decidedly worse when Redding couldn't retire the first two Philadelphia Phillies hitters he faced. A walk to the dangerous Aaron Rowand was followed by a sharp infield single by Wes Helms up the middle. Runners on first and second now--NOBODY OUT.

Manny was now in a bind. Among his relievers, Big Jon Rauch was basically unavailable. Far too much work for "The Wookie" has hurt his effectiveness of late. No way--Our Number 51 makes it into this game. A workload which sooner or later will be denied Saul Rivera. 64 Ballgames, he has been given the phone call. " Come On Down!! You're Next!!" the Everyday Call for Saul. Something Our Number 14 must have feared--but had no choice this evening--when he pointed for Our Number 52.

As he always does, Saul trotted out, took his warmups and fired away. But, this time, TOOK HIS LUMPS. Boy, did he ever not have it. No juice, no umph. Rivera couldn't find the plate. Honestly, that couldn't be unexpected. How many times can one single pitcher warm up, and appear in a baseball game. And to think--Rivera didn't even start this season on The Major League Roster. That's impressive.

A walk to Jayson Werth to load the bases. A visit from Randy St.Claire to calm Saul down. Then, a run producing slicing single to right field scored Rowand with Philadelphia's second run of the evening. The worry was on. Our Washington Nationals were in serious trouble. With the bases still loaded, nobody out--now just a two run lead--you had to wonder--just how bad Our Manager's Head Pains would become. Because in the stands--The African Queen was holding her head, also. She, along with many others had seen this stressful situation before. Many, many times--before.

Who would Manny Acta call on now? He needed an "Houdini", a magician, to make this rally disappear. He calmly walked to the mound and called on RAY KING!! to face last night's Phillies Hero--Russell Branyan. Acta had no other choice. A lefty thrower to face a lefty batter. Their Number 4 last seen hammering a Big Jon Rauch pitch into the Diamond Club in Right Field. The Game Winning Two Run Homer. Who in this crowd of 25,575 didn't believe Washington's Lead was not going to last much longer?

Ray rumbled to the mound and peered in at the "All Or Nothing" Branyan. A called strike one got this crucial At-Bat started. A waste pitch was then signaled ball one. And with the anticipation beginning to rise--Ray King threw a looping off speed pitch for strike two that fooled Russell Swinging Badly. A Great Cheer Erupted, that was immediately followed by a HUGE ROAR, when Big Ray threw the exact same pitch that crossed up Branyan AGAIN!! A Swinging Strikeout to retire a dangerous slugger. A fact not lost on the faithful that lustily shouted its approval. Out Number One was BIG--but everyone realized there were two more outs to go.

Philadelphia's Leadoff Hitter, the switch hitting Jimmy Rollins was next. And Our Manager decided to keep King on the mound. Better to have Rollins bat right handed. A Better Chance of getting an inning ending double play. Our Number 34 was in one serious mode. Did he EVER looked pumped. Not in some time--has Ray King been given the GAME BALL and told to bring his team home. Manny Acta had trusted him tonight, with game on the line. And Ray King was looking to deliver.

Bearing down on the pesky Rollins--Ray fired away his first offering. A pitch which Rollins fouled off. Then King fooled Rollins bady as he swung at strike two. An effort that now had the crowd on their feet. Ray was looking confident. The Phillies and their Fans were not. A fortitude that shined brightly when after wasting a pitch in the dirt--Ray King baffled Jimmy Rollins again--with the exact same off speed junk pitch that retired Russell Branyan. A BOISTEROUS BELLOW ensued. Ray King had struck out both hitters he had faced with the bases loaded--coming in with no outs. Who would have thought. Ray KING--THE SAVIOR.

A Fact not lost on Our Manager Manny Acta as he walked out to replace Ray with Luis Ayala. Manny wanted Ayala to face the right handed swinging Tad Iguchi to end the threat. But he also wished for King to receive the rightful response for his effort. A Thunderous APPLAUSE followed each and every step to the Washington Dugout by Our Number 34. A Deserved Ovation that reached a crescendo the moment he began fist pumping his teammates at the steps. RFK STADIUM WAS ROCKING, and remained that way for some time. At least until everyone realized, Washington needed one more out to finish off this furious Philadelphia rally.

But, when Ayala got Iguchi to ground to FLop at short--The PARTY WAS ON!! Mission Accomplished. Hanging on the precipice of disaster--Our Washington Nationals had survived a bases loaded no out situation--and were now heading to the bottom of the 7th--still with a lead. An advantage that proved mighty tonight.

After Luis got Washington through the 8th--"The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" was anything but. A routine 1-2-3 9th for Chad Cordero's 27th Official Save. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling Curly "W" Number 55--a well played game decided in the 7th inning. A frame where Ray recorded the Actual Save and was Crowned--"KING FOR A DAY". Our Number 34 , a Miracle Worker, this evening, with a fine assist from Luis Ayala. What a terrific half inning of baseball. If you enjoy edge of your seat excitement, and the Defensive Team coming out on top-The 7th inning was YOUR GAME this evening.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Our Washington Nationals got on the board with a two run double by, of all people, Tim Redding, on a sharp ground ball just inside the third base bag in the 2nd. The Games First Runs scored by Austin Kearns and Ryan Church. Tallies which would not have occurred if Kearns had not hustled out of the box on what appeared to be a routine 5-4-3 Double Play. First Base Umpire Marvin Hudson ruled Austin safe. Replays showed otherwise. But, the decision stood and Washington took advantage-thankfully.

Washington's final scores came in the 6th. Ryan Zimmerman stroked his second double of the night, a slicer to left center that Aaron Rowand could not reach--although attempted valiantly. Moved to third on a Dimitri Young Single. Then, Our Number 11 scored on a double play groundout by Kearns. My Main Man!! Ryan Church followed with ONE TOWERING BLAST into Section 467 Right Field Upper Deck. What a shot off The Phillies Kyle Kendrick!! That ball was HAMMERED!! Ryan's 10th Home Run of 2007. In his At-Bat previous to this one--Church has JUST MISSED another Home Run. A long fly ball, near the warning track--he had just got under. A split second difference and Ryan Church would have launched that baseball, also.

In the bottom of the third inning--Ryan Zimmerman was standing on second base after a double to right field. Dimitri Young, batting lefthanded, then followed with a BOOMING SHOT to the wall in left centerfield. The Phillies Aaron Rowand never gave up on the flight--tracked the ball to the wall--and caught it--all the while hammering himself face first into the padding!! It was a FEARLESS CATCH by a DARING PLAYER. Clearly--The Defensive Play of This Game. The only question was--why was Zimmerman caught between bases and not tagging. If Rowand does not catch the ball--Zimmerman scores easily. Rowand caught the ball--and Zimmerman did not advance to third. Ryan should have.

And, while we are on the subject. You can have all your Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter Free Agent Speculations you want. But, for my money, if Our Washington Nationals are going to sign a Free Agent Centerfielder this off-season--That PLAYER BETTER BE AARON ROWAND. Great Fielder, Good Hitter, and more importantly--A GAMER. If a player is going to run into a wall and break his nose--to make a catch (which he did last season)--and still attempt the same maneuver tonight--HE IS A WINNER IN MY BOOK!! I can't imagine any BETTER player patrolling centerfield at New Nationals Park in 2008. Mr Kasten, Jimbo--you got your EARS ON!!! How Good would he look in a Nationals Uniform??

Last night--Luis Ayala retired the heart of The Phillies lineup by striking out Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard and Rowand in order in the crucial 7th. Tonight, also in the seventh, he retired Tad Iguchi on a force out to shutdown Philadelphia's BIG RALLY. Then, proceeded to preserve the lead with a scoreless 8th. After 18 months away recovering from elbow surgery, Luis Ayala is back--and in form. Nearly PRIME FORM. His slider working, his change up even better. Our Number 56 is quickly rediscovering his mystic of 2004 and 2005--when he was THE FINEST SETUP MAN IN THE GAME. Invaluable he was then--needed badly now. What a pleasure to see him return. What a thrill to personally see his excitement on the mound when he defeats an opponent. His whirling fist pump for the final out of any inning, long missed. But, a pleasure to witness once again. One of my favorite players, and wonderful man--I am very happy for him.

Tim Redding has to be one of the shockers of the late season. How is it that a journeyman can struggle all season long--AT AAA COLUMBUS!! Yet, get promoted, by chance--and become the innings eating starter so cherish by Our Young Team? Really, his turnaround his remarkable. Tim Redding is not just surviving--he's giving quality innings, striking out hitters. Our Number 17 throwing with velocity, command and a confidence never quite seen in his career. Sometimes you get lucky once or twice. We are now into his 8th start--only one of which has been awful. Does he have a chance to be a mainstay over the next few years for Washington? Tim Redding is making people think-yeah, maybe.

Its my understanding that Dimitri Young is still not 100%, yet unless he's really that bad off--why again did Our Manager take Young out of the game--this time in the 6th inning, a 2-1 ballgame? If he's hurt fine. If not--I don't agree. Especially, after Austin Kearns swung at the very next pitch after replacing Dimitri with Robert Fick. That double play grounder that scored Zimmerman. Seems like a waste to me.

In the top of the 8th--Philadelphia's Pat Burrell laced a hard shot that hopped the railing down the leftfield line and went head hunting into the stands. Of course it hit an unexpected patron and broke her nose. Last Night, Pat Burrell's broken bat swung into the crowd and broke a patrons nose and mouth. What are the chances that on consecutive nights, the same player would be the instigator of similar instances? Everybody better be paying attention Thursday Night, whenever Burrell comes to the plate. The Cynical side of me would claim this is payback for John Lannan accidentally breaking Chase Utley's hand a few weeks ago. An incident that set off Philadelphia's Fans in Anger.

When Clay Condrey came on to pitch the bottom of the 8th for The Phillies, the P.A. System started to play "EYE OF THE TIGER". Now, THE LAST TIME I CHECKED--THAT SONG WAS A "ROCKY" SONG. Rocky is The Philadelphia Fight Song!! We have had this problem before at RFK STADIUM. Can we please not have ANY ROCKY SONGS when THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES COME TO TOWN! All it does is ramp up the Verbiage from Phillie Fans. PLEASE!! COME ON--THINK!!

Washington Nationals First Round Pick Ross Detweiler along with Shairon Martis and few more of his Potomac Nationals Teammates were guests of Section 320 tonight. Their Potomac Nationals played a day game this afternoon. A Detweiler start that did not go well for the young stud. But, he's still learning. He and his fellow teammates were in a good mood tonight watching the parent club.

Finally--as Iris, Biff, Sohna and I were walking out of RFK Stadium toward Lot 8 tonight--we all noticed this DC Fire and Rescue Vehicle with the lettering "BRUSH UNIT" on the side. Curious to know--we asked the two rescue guys what it meant. Of course they immediately replied they gave out tooth brushes, but then seriously told us "We Put Out Wildfires, and Stuff like that." Seeing the opening, I could only reply--"So you are stationed here in case "The Chief" starts a fire in the 9th?" They understood the joke. Everyone laughed.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais


Medley said...

Fun game - thanks as always for your write-ups.

Hey, did Ray King tip his hat? (Seriously curious.. not being snarky...)

Michael said...

They actually played TWO Rocky songs: "Eye of the Tiger" + "Living in America"

Jeffrey said...

Medley: No RAY KING DID NOT TIP HIS CAP. Sohna was very upset with him.

Ed said...

One reason for Manny doing the early defensive substitutions could be to protect the bullpen. An error or failure to get to a ball in the field can lead to a lot of extra pitches. The guys in the pen have been spectacular lately, don't want to risk wearing them out.

Steph2853 said...

Last night was a fun game huh? It was exciting to see Ray and Luis get us out of that jam. I just wanted to pass along that the Nats play "Eye of the Tiger" when Ayala comes into the game and thru his warm up. We aren't sure what the logic is behind it though. Nice write up!

An Briosca Mor said...

Maybe "Eye of the Tiger" is Ayala's song. Do relief pitchers get to choose their intro songs like the batters do?

Unfortunately, it seems like the go-to intro song for the first mid-inning entrance of an opposing reliever is "Sweet Caroline". This is something that really needs to stop when the Nats get into the new park, if not before. Not so much because it's a stupid song (although it is) but more because IT'S A RED SOX THING! A certain other stadium (you all know the one) has become Fenway Park South because Red Sox fans have many opportunities to see their team there every year and have gotten used to just waltzing in and treating it as if they are up in Boston, to the dismay of the home fans. Even though it won't happen very often, the Nats will at some point host the Red Sox in the new park for a series. We should not be creating a tradition now that will end up laying the Fenway welcome mat out for the many Sox fans who you know will be representing then. Alas, I fear this is already taking place, since there's the stadium usher guy who's already found his 15 minutes of fame by getting up on top of the Nats dugout to lead the crowd with his gestures.

Really, there is no reason the Nats should be using any stadium entertainment that has its main association with another team. It's stupid to be doing that. They did it the right way when they stole the sausage race idea from Milwaukee but tweaked it to make it something that uniquely says Washington. But every other time they just steal something directly from another team or teams, which is not a good idea. We should be establishing our own traditions, not copying other teams' traditions.

I wonder if anyone has ever articulated this concern to Stan Kasten. Is he even aware of it?

SenatorNat said...

an briosca mor is so right-on: the girlie song is so indicative of the pink-hatted nouveau Red Sox fans, and so not ours!

Interesting political footnote: after RFK was tragically assasinated, his widow actually dated Neil Diamond for short time, and she was pictured at the first row of one of his performances fawning over him. Thus, I do not think the stadium's namesake would even be too pleased.

Suggestions for OUR SONG in the new stadium?

SenatorNat said...

Substantive comment: Acta made one of his very few managerial mistakes, with runners on second and third, by not pinch hitting for Redding in bottom of 6th. It nearly cost us the game, and it is not a hindsight point, since 6 innings of great pitching is enough with Redding, and you need to take advantage of real scoring chances, since the Nats so seldom have them, relatively speaking. He got away with it, due to the King, on the eve of the anniversary of both Babe Ruth and Elvis's deaths - the real King.

Trust in Kasten. All Good.

dclifer said...

For the record: The people at Washington games are not fans. They are spectators.

paul said...

You're absolutely right about Aaron Rowand. He is a fabulous player. I noticed him in Yankee Stadium the year the Sox went all the way. He ran like a deer chasing down balls in deep left-center.

And regarding Ray King's performance, I was reminded of Shirley Povich's famous lede the day of Don Larsen's perfect game. "Hell froze over, the million-in-one shot came in," etc.