Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Playing For Keeps
He just stood there--admiring the flight. A trance that grew ever larger as the entire crowd joined in on his moment. As the baseball flew deeper into the cool night, Ronnie Belliard watched his decisive BLOW RATTLE OFF the ChevyFirst.com sign over the left field wall. That ball was SMOKED. And, The New York Mets Pitcher, John Maine, dropped his head in disgust. RFK STADIUM was stirring in delight.
In a matter of minutes--Our Washington Nationals had erased a four run deficit with a 5 run Rally of their own. A Come from Behind 5th inning that dramatically changed the outcome of tonight's affair. Yes, Ronnie Belliard's Three Run Home Run completely turned this game around--shockingly so. Yet, Our Number 10 was not the only one to surprise. Just like last night--when Washington came from behind to win after trailing 4-0, they managed to recover from that exact same deficit tonight. A replay from last evening--a 4-0 deficit, had become 5-2, then 7-3. But now, dramatically, Our Team led 8-7!!
How in the world did Washington Pull THIS ONE OUT--once again? Are The Mets really this bad--all of a sudden? Naw, I can't believe that. Although, Our Washington Nationals Bats are coming alive.
But, it appears some players, wearing the Home Red, White & Gold, are looking to give management pause--something to mull--over the winter. A last ditch effort to impress and garner a contract for the 2008 Roster. How can you explain D'angelo Jimenez? Now OFFICIALLY HOT--when he also Homered this evening. A Pinch Hit RIGHT HANDED CLUBBING in the sixth. How can you explain--Nook Logan?--again--a catalyst on the bases--scoring two more runs. And, nearly hitting his VERY FIRST HOME RUN of 2007. A Deep Drive that landed JUST SHORT of the left field fence--immediately after Jimenez had shocked everyone with his drive. How can you explain--Justin Maxwell--JUST MISSING another Homer to left--a high fly that looked SURE to fly out of the park. A lofted ball that the wind knocked down and right in to the glove of The Mets Moises Alou. Yeah, they all want to win. But, they all also want to lace up those spikes on a Major League Field come next April--Opening Day.
Yes, there are quite of a few players for Our Washington Nationals looking to lay it out on the line--as this season nears its end. Austin Kearns attempting to end his mediocre season, at the plate, on a high note--by staying hot--late. His 14th Home Run, off Maine, in the second was a sharp liner--right over the left field wall. "Bluegrass" also with an RBI single during the 5th inning comeback. Robert Fick--Yes--Our Number 13--two more hits and a walk tonight--filling in for Dmitri Young still recovering from his sore neck. Belliard with three hits total this evening and two runs scored--to go along with his Three Run Homer. And, how can you explain My Main Man!! Ryan Church. Only 51 At-Bats since Wily Mo Pena was added to The Washington Active Roster. He did not play this evening--yet, Our Number 19 has 5 Homers and 14 RBI during that stretch--better power numbers than Kearns. Austin has nearly 100 more At-Bats. Ryan Church wants to show he still belongs, also. His tempting power and beautiful swing--hard to give up on. Even Our General Manager Jim Bowden realizes that fact.
I understand, The New York Mets are playing for the playoffs. Destiny--they have always believed was A GIVEN. That comfort level may be their downfall. Many of Our Washington Nationals are playing for A CONTRACT. A 2008 Salary--that for several--is not guaranteed. Big difference. So, who wants it more?
Ask Jesus Colome, Saul Rivera, Arnie Munoz, Chris Schroder and Big Jon Rauch--all of whom pitched scoreless relief tonight. None of whom have secured money for next season. The Mets are playing soft. New York looks like a team on cruise control. An attitude that appears to be turning their season around--in the wrong direction. Poor Willie Randolph--The New York Media must be all over him.
No one can ever say--The 2007 Version of Our Washington Nationals doesn't battle their opponet every single game. No one can ever say Our Manager Manny Acta's ball club is a quitter. No way. Never to even be considered. As always, "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" also didn't give up tonight. Chad Cordero recorded his 35th save of the season in typical fashion. A 1-2-3-4-5-6 Batter Inning. That's correct, Our Number 32 had the hearts pounding tonight. All with two outs--he allowed three consecutive Mets to reach. But, when he needed to reach back and find every last ounce of effort--he delivered--again. A 93 MPH Fastball that struck out Ruben Gotay swinging to end the game. A Final Out that saw Chad Cordero rifle pump his right forearm in glee, followed by a whirling fist pump, then knuckle bumps with his catcher--Brian Schneider. The entire time Ruben Gotay was SMASHING his bat to the ground in dismay. He had failed--when his team needed him the most.
With just 11 games remaining in this Third Season Of Nationals Baseball--Curly "W" Number 68 provided a glimpse of Major League Teammates--rookies and veterans alike--striving to make a name for themselves in The Nation's Capital. While The New York Mets, strain to find themselves. Make no mistake about it--The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling a Washington Team--playing for keeps--still very much in the competitive spirit. A once proud vigor--now lost by The New York Mets.
No, I just can't feel sorry for New York. Whether its The Mets or The Yankees--its always enjoyable to beat New York. Final Score--Our Washington Nationals 9, The New York Mets 8.
Game Notes & Highlights:
There was some good pitching tonight for Washington. And, there was some bad pitching tonight for Washington, as well. Joel Hanrahan got things started off on the wrong foot with a terrible three inning outing. Right off the bat--it appeared he might not make it out of the first inning. The Mets batted around. 2 walks, 2 doubles, 2 singles--scoring four New York Runs. Our Number 38 was bad. No control, no command. Later, in the 3rd--Hanrahan offered up a serious poke to dead center by Shawn Green. A Liner that cleared the 410 sign in right center for a Home Run. That baseball was smoked--also.
Winston Abreu also was touched up by New York. Two runs allowed on three hits in the 5th. And, of course--"The Chief Cardiologist" performed his finest surgery in the 9th by allowing 1 run on three hits. All the while getting the hearts of each and every Washington Fan still on hand at RFK Stadium--pumping.
On the good side--Chris Schroder was called on by Our Manager when Arnie Munoz got himself into a two out jam in the 7th. With runners on first and second--two outs--in a 9-7 game, New York sent former National (and Section 320 Favorite) Marlon Anderson to the plate to pinch hit for Ramon Castro (who was batting for Guillermo Mota). Schroder just threw the hard stuff, and struck out Anderson on a beautiful high and tight fastball. One of those pitches every hitter thinks he can swat. One of those pitches--no one can catch up to. Our Number 45 walked off the mound to a well deserved standing ovation.
Cheers which Big Jon Rauch also received in the 8th. "The Wookie", after allowing a one out walk to Luis Castillo--induced a grounder to second base by New York's Dangerous David Wright. Ronnie Belliard quickly moved to his left--gloved the baseball--threw to FLop at second. Felipe Lopez relayed to Robert Fick at first base--to kill another Mets Rally and preserve the, then, 9-7 lead. A Fine Double Play that saw BIG JON--give the whirling fist pump in the air in delight--immediately followed by happily clapping his pitching hand into his glove hand. He was excited--and thrilled to see his infielders complete the task at hand.
Interestingly, Winston Abreu was the pitcher of record when Washington rallied to take the lead on Belliard's homer in the 5th. Yet, The Official Scorer granted the win to Jesus Colome (his 5th) for pitching a scoreless 6th.
When Nook Logan rapped a slicer to right field, past The Mets Endy Chavez (another former National)--you just had to marvel at his speed running around the bases. A double for most hitters--was a clean triple for Nook. Its just too bad--he's not as consistent with his bat at the plate. He's played decently over the past two months. Since you don't hear Our Washington Nationals speaking highly of him anymore--you have to figure--Our Number 7 is not The Starter for years to come. As I have stated before--he could be a very valuable 4th or 5th outfielder though.
In the top of the third--New York's Paul LoDuca smashed hard grounder toward third base. Ryan Zimmerman, collected as always--shorthopped the baseball--rushing in on his backhand side--and threw out the rushing Mets Catcher at first base. Another fine play, and The Defensive Play of this Game for Our Number 11. In the 8th--Jose Reyes attempted to drag bunt his way on base to lead off the inning. An attempt that found Big Jon Rauch up to the challenge. A fine quick pickup and toss out at first base to retire one of baseball's fastest men. Really, "The Wookie" made a nice play on Reyes' bunt.
Its funny how baseball works sometimes. The New York Mets lost their very first two games they ever played at RFK Stadium in 2005. Then, they proceeded to win 20 of the next 24 until this past Monday Night. Now, New York is on the verge of being swept--not only out of their last appearance EVER at The Old Ballyard--but out of First Place as well. The Phillies are breathing down their necks. Our Washington Nationals are making The Mets mighty uncomfortable. Hopefully, Washington can provide the same hospitality for Philadelphia in the final games at RFK Stadium--this weekend.
Speaking of those final games--I have some information to share concerning some of the celebrations to take place on Sunday, September 23rd. Nine Former Washington Senators--including My Favorite Player of All TIME!! Frank Howard--will be on hand to commemorate the final game. These Former Players will be signing autographs. Not sure though--of the complete list of Senators to appear. After the final game concludes--there will be a special ceremony that will involve the removal of Home Plate from RFK Stadium--to be placed at New Nationals Park. Our Washington Nationals tell me--this part of the celebration will be "VERY UNIQUE". But, no definitive word on what that will entail.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais