Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Losing The Battle--Winning The War

Every Baseball Game is a Battle. Someone always Wins. Someone Always Loses. But, Sometimes--the Loser Wins The War. That happened tonight at The Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street.

Our Washington Nationals held a 2-0 Lead with One Out in the Top of the 8th. Just Five Outs to go to preserve a win, when Big Jon Rauch got The Phillies Jayson Werth to meekly slap a broken bat grounder to Ryan Zimmerman. And wouldn't you know it, all HELL BROKE LOOSE!! A Game Changing Moment was at hand--a bad omen for things to come.

As well as Ryan can field third base--he has continually never set his feet properly on sure outs--easy pickups. A problem he has experienced all season long. Tonight, the same effect--and it was disastrous. With plenty of time to throw out Werth at first base, Zimmerman did not step forward, instead shuffled, thought too much, and THREW THE BALL AWAY--well over and behind Robert Fick. A Two Base Error that gave The Phillies a gift runner on second base.

Our Number 11's 18th Error of the season, a "Present" sent gift wrapped that proved costly. In any close game, the smallest incident can turn momentum--impetus Philadelphia took advantage of on this mistake. Whether "The Wookie" was shaken by the unexpected turn of events or not--he couldn't hold the lead. The Phillies Catcher Carlos Ruiz would follow with a slicing liner to right center scoring Werth. Then Russell Branyan--one of the biggest "All or Nothing" hitters of the past decade--pinch hit for Antonio Alfonseca--and FLAT OUT HAMMERED a Rauch pitch so hard and on such a line to right--that the ball LANDED INSIDE DIAMOND CLUB--the narrow band of seats visible just above the Budweiser Sign. What made it worse was that this At-Bat was Russell's very first in a Phillies Uniform. Philadelphia the third Major League Club he has worked for his 2007. Earlier this year, he appeared in the Tan & Blue of The San Diego Padres at RFK. Recently, he was a member of The Cleveland Indians--for about two weeks.

An Unexpected Go Ahead Two Run Homer that was the FINAL BLOW tonight. A one time 2 run lead, now a one run deficit. A Dramatic Go Ahead shot that, for the first time this evening--set off The Philadelphia Faithful at RFK Stadium. For nearly 8 innings, they had been mostly quiet and controllable. Branyan's Home Run returned them to their usual obnoxious state. Ranting and Raving--and putting their joy into every Fan's Face of Our Washington Nationals. The African Queen was very unhappy with this one Philadelphia guy sitting in front of us. Drunk and Loud--he wouldn't shut up. So much so, his lady friend (cheering for Washington) got up to leave--being so pissed at him.

Yes, The Battle was a final 3-2 Loss before 27,128. A game decided on one single pitch. And, One single swing of the bat.

But, there was a Huge Consolation Prize tonight in The War itself. A Good One. So fine--much of the sting of tonight's defeat will be forgotten--very soon.

Shawn Hill returned to the mound for Our Washington Nationals. Last seen at RFK Stadium on May 11, walking off the mound, throwing elbow injured--yet still in command of a No-Hitter. A situation he picked right up tonight where he last left off. Our Number 41 going six STRONG INNINGS--striking out seven--and leaving after 80 pitches with what should have been another No Hit Performance. Only a misplay by Nook Logan and Ryan Church on a blooping fly ball into the left centerfield gap, dropped for a single. A Sure Out that Logan Called for, then backed off at the final moment. A undeserving single for Aaron Rowand--and another case of Washington simply not TAKING COMMAND OF THE SITUATION ON A FLY BALL.

Very Frustrating This Ongoing Problem.

Flustered though--Shawn Hill was not. Because, when Rowand attempted to steal second base on the very next pitch to Werth--Brian Schneider gunned him down--with a perfect throw to the first base side of the bag. A toss that Ronnie Belliard snagged, as Rowand tumbled past him.

When Hill finally retired Tad Iguchi for the final out of his 6th innings of work--Schneider met him in front of Our Washington Nationals Third Base Dugout. They fist pumped, shook hands--Both Realizing--Our Number 41 was reclaiming his spot--as one of the finest sinker ball pitchers in The National League. He was throwing some WICKED STUFF. So much so, The Reigning MVP--Ryan Howard--was shutout tonight--never a factor. Shawn Hill was Our Best Pitcher out of Spring Training. Shawn Hill was Our Best Pitcher during the early six weeks of the 2007 Season. And, if he stays healthy--he WILL BE Our Best Pitcher over the last six weeks of this never uninteresting 2007 season. Make no mistake about--Shawn Hill is The Best of The Lot of all Our Starters--well ahead of the curve. That's a fact.

No one can doubt that now.

Yeah, Our Washington Nationals Loss the battle tonight. For the Future, though--They Won The War--courtesy of Shawn Hill.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Washington took the lead in the bottom of the 7th when Ryan Church and Nook Logan both hit looping singles JUST PAST Philadelphia Second Baseman Tad Iguchi. Chance strokes that found Tony Batista standing at the plate with one out--pinch hitting for Luis Ayala. Our Number 77 would get ahold of a Kyle Lohse pitch and launch it over The Phillies Pat Burrell in left field. Logan running so fast from first--he nearly ran past the My Main Man!! heading toward home. Fortunately--Nook realized he was going to pass him and slowed down. Both runners scoring easily. A two run lead that looked pretty solid at the time. An advantage that would not even last the next half inning of play. Never is anything in baseball automatic.

In the top of the 4th inning--Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins reached on another throwing error by FLop. A grounder that Felipe Lopez again didn't set his feet, whipped his toss--right into the first base dugout screen. A ruled error on Our Number Two that set up a defensive play. Iguchi was next and one hopped a Hill pitch right back to Shawn. Using Veteran Saavy, Our Number 41 turned to his right--looking right a the speedy Rollins--and knew he had him hung up between 2nd and 3rd base. Hill ran toward Jimmy, then threw to Lopez at second, who ran Rollins toward Zimmerman. Felipe tossed to Ryan who tagged out the sprawling Philadelphia leadoff man attempting to run back to 2nd base. A Perfect Rundown Play executed by Our Washington Nationals. An effort that was The Defensive Play of This Game.

And, to give credit where credit is due. Never could I say anything bad about Centerfielder Aaron Rowand of The Phillies. Always impressive, always hustling. This evening--Austin Kearns clubbed a liner to dead centerfield with two outs and Lopez and Zimmerman on 2nd and 3rd in the 5th. Rowand, one of best outfielders in the game--ran back to his left--and caught the baseball over his shoulder, while falling. Really, it was a very fine play. Nearly deserving of The Defensive Play of This Game.

Dimitri Young returned to the Starting Lineup tonight after missing each of the past four games with a slightly pulled hamstring. Looking a little rusty--Our 2007 All Star struck out twice and was not a factor.

A part he and Ryan Church could have been--if Our Manager Manny Acta had not taken both out of the game after Washington's two run 7th for defensive replacements. Many times I have stated this before--but the game is still too close to be taking out two of Our Best Bats for far weaker hitters. When Philadelphia had their three run 8th--Fick came up to hit right away the next half inning (he did single though). Ryan Langerhans struck out in the 9th. The game is just too close to remove your power. One Day, I would love to ask Manny about this--in detail.

And, also about our BUNTING. Do we ever stink. Brian Schneider popped up a bunt attempt--just before Logan singled off Iguchi's glove in the 7th and Batista hit his Two Run Double. Why is it, that SO MANY can't execute one of baseball's most common skills?

Section 320 was the recipient of a brief visit from Our Newly Signed Draft Pick--Josh Smoker. Moments before Tony Batista hit his key shot--Smoker was walking toward the tunnel, just to the left of Section 320. He stopped to thank everyone clapping for him--then proceeded to greet those few who came over to say hello and wish him luck. Yeah, you can bet, I went and said hello.

The top of the 8th not only ended in disasterous fashion for Our Washington Nationals--but also one of their fans. Big Jon Rauch literally sawed off the bat of Philadelphia's Pat Burrell on a grounder to FLop. The Bat swung so hard and broken so badly--the barrel end of the bat flew directly into the crowd on the 3rd base side--just to the right of Washington Dugout--directly behind their On Deck Circle. A Gentleman took the full hit of the swinging bat--RIGHT IN HIS MOUTH. It was AWFUL. EMT's arrived directly. This fan was taken away on a stretcher--mouth covered. He was in TERRIBLE PAIN. While leaving the lower bowl--this fan received a Standing Ovation. Wow--what a sight. And, one of the very reasons The African Queen and I do not wish to sit so close to the playing field. Within 10 rows of the field between The Dugouts--I have always called it "THE DANGER ZONE". Baseballs and Bats fly into the crowd there--full steam ahead. Nothing is going to stop it--except for your body. Not worth it--coming to each and every game.

Finally--As The African Queen was speaking to our friend Janet tonight--she heard a familiar voice say from behind: "Are you going to stand there and talk all night?" She turned to see Chad Cordero's Father, Ed--smiling. He gave her a HUGE HUG. Then, stayed at chatted for awhile. Some of you may recall their chance encounter on The Metro last spring. Mr. Cordero is the nicest man.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Gerald Herbert


An Briosca Mor said...

SBF, great game report as always. This game was not part of my 20-game plan, but since I was at Shawn Hill's last game on May 11th I wanted to see his return in person. So, since I'm normally up in 419 and had never sat in the lower bowl at RFK, I decided to treat myself last night and was able to pick up a single in 313 - almost directly below where I normally would have been sitting. You guys do get a bit of a different perspective down there, I'll say, but not necessarily better. I was right behind the screen myself, so no worries about flying bats and balls. I was also too far away to have actually seen what happened with that fan who got hit by the bat. Didn't pick up what all the commotion was about until they were carting him out on the stretcher. From my distance it almost looked like they had his eye covered up, so I'm glad to hear it was his mouth instead - although still quite gruesome.

One play you didn't mention that was right up there with Rowand's catch was the Phillie catcher managing to hold on to that bloop foul popup even after colliding with the third baseman and going down for several minutes.

I agree with you on the defensive substitution thing. It's the only aspect of Manny's managing that I don't like. But I think I'm beginning to understand some of the logic behind it, though. On the radio, Charlie Slowes was pointing out when talking about Tony Batista as a pinch hitter that Manny shows loyalty to his role players, sticking with them over time, entrusting them with a responsibility, and has often seen them grow into the role as a result. Batista has actually turned into a reliable pinch hitter because of this treatment by Manny. If you were able to ask Manny why he does the defensive substitutions as he does, I bet his answer would be something along those lines, that he is trusting in his role players to do their job. That's not necessarily a bad approach, and indeed Fick (who I maligned often earlier in the season) has begun to come up in the clutch a good bit lately. Last night's single, yes, but also how about Sunday's big triple? It's a shame though that the Nationals' current bench is so weak. It's like a car that burns so much oil you have to add a quart every time you stop. But Manny is learning to handle his bench now in such a way that when JimBo provides him with a better car he will know exactly what to do to keep it rolling along smoothly. That's my hope, anyway, and hopefully that's also part of The Plan.

Jim said...


Thanks for the gamer. OT: Family medical/life transition issues keep me from attending this week, excepting, perhaps, Saturday night. Sorry I won't be there to lend support among the hostiles. Say hey to the regulars and to the Queen.


Screech's Best Friend said...

an briosca mor: Yes, I love Manny and what he does do well is keep everyone involved so they feel a part of the team. Its just too bad the Our Bench really is not good. Reserves that would look alot better if Dimitri Young, Ronnie Belliard and Nook Logan were on that bench. Something that's impossible right now with Nick Johnson and "The Guz" out--No Centerfielder to speak of. In Time Though. Thanks.

PS--Stop by sometime and say hello.

SenatorNat said...

Great report, per usual, and terrific commentary by an briosca mor, too. I had front row seats in back of home plate last night and can give a couple of interesting footnotes:

1. the medical person who treated the guy hit by the bat piece which flew into the stands was a military guy, scheduled to ship out to Japan 9 AM today! Imagine if this guy has already done a tour in harm's way and comes back to have his nose broken (according to the EMS personnel) at RFK! Why couldn't it have happened to one of the drunken louts from Philly? (Just kidding on that - even they don't warrant physical injury.)

2. Sitting in the very first row to our left, close to the Nats on-deck circle were two "starlets" dressed like E-TV, and the brunnette certainly had a couple of lovely exchanges with Zimmerman before his at bat in the 8th (called third strike) and I surmise before...Sirens conceivably taking our boy's mind a little off the subject, perhaps...Hopefully not.

3. The really smart move by Lohse was to quickly grab the ball out of his striken catcher's mitt as he lay there virtually inert after the collision retrieving Schneider's pop foul bunt attempt. He whirled and kept our runner at first from advancing.

4. Logan needs to assert himself in these situations, as SBF is sure right - it is inexcusable, since Hill actually threw a no-hitter which combined with his last start is truly 11 consecutive hitless innings. Anyone out there, including B.Webb who can top that?

Church is tentative on fly balls in no-man's land and foul balls near the wall I have noticed. I think his collision with the fence saving a win in Pittsburgh in 2005 coupled with the Kearns-Johnson collision has made him a bit gun-shy.

5. Acta should start using Batista as the defensive replacement for Young, after he uses him as a pinch-hitter, since it gives him a hitter should the relievers blow the lead. Fick had a nice little opposite field single, contributing, but Langerhans and Fick generally are automatic outs. When the call-up happens, I say dump Langerhans for Watson for certain. Even before it. But, the brass still wants to believe they got an outfielder in the deal with Seattle somehow. They need to forget about it.

6. Does McGeary turn into a Stanford entering freshman pumpkin at Midnight tonight: or do the Lerners make him an offer he can't refuse? My guess is they give him an offer equal to Smokers and he signs!

7. Watch out for a possible Nats tailspin, based on the "Boswell jinx" - whenever he writes a glowing, feel-good column, the subject usually suffers. I love Boz, but his jinx is an empirical fact...

Trust in Kasten. All Good.

SenatorNat said...

To clarify, the medical person told me the victim was a military guy, shipping out to Japan today, not the medical guy himself.

Jarrett Carter said...

I don't think this will hinder the progress the Nats have made in the last few weeks, but Zimmerman does deserve to get hit in the face with a pie for that play.