Monday, September 03, 2007
The Right Stuff At The Right Time
A five run lead for Our Washington Nationals was shrinking fast. Just like that--a wave of good fortune had washed over The Florida Marlins. Two Runs already in for The Visitors from South Florida, bases were now loaded with two outs in the top of 8th. The Go Ahead Run now represented at the plate, by Cody Ross. And, Big Jon Rauch was listing mightily. "The Wookie" was not on top of his game. No command of his off speed pitches--no control over his fastball. A Shipwreck was in the works. Not a single fan among the 27,592 in attendance--DID NOT BELIEVE--Our Washington Nationals were going to sink. Really, things looked bad. Very, Very, Bad.
Especially after Our Number 51 reached a 3-0 count on Ross--that third pitch--a fastball so high over both Ross' and Brian Schneider's head that Schneider had to leap up to retrieve it from being a run scoring wild pitch. The Natives were restless. How in world could Our Washington Nationals lose a 6-1 lead in this Holiday Affair that was so well in hand? Moans and Groans all around RFK Stadium. The worry was on. And, Rightfully so.
Because--HONESTLY--how many times have we seen this before?
Brian Schneider walked to the mound to settle down Big Jon. EVERYONE KNEW--This Game was now on the line. If "The Wookie" had anything left in his tank--now was the time to use it. Looking all the way--Ross took Rauch's next pitch on the outside corner for strike one. A raising of Home Plate Umpire Mike DiMuro's right arm bringing an almost Mock Cheer from the crowd. Applause that got very serious, when Our Number 51 reared back and threw a 93 Mile Per Hour Fastball that Cody Ross could not catch up to for STRIKE TWO!! A Roar now heard as EVERYONE stood--waiting out the moment to come. Could Big Jon possibly come back all the way?? Not a sole on hand, did not wish to find out. Win or Lose--this was good stuff.
A Full Count--Bases Loaded, Two Out--EVERY RUNNER ON THE MOVE situation was at hand. Even a single by The Marlins' Centerfielder, may well tie up this ballgame. Big Jon looked in for the sign from Schneider, shook his head in agreement. The Anticipation Great. The Noise Level reaching fever pitch. Our Number 51, set himself and FIRED another 93 MPH HEATER--RIGHT OVER THE MIDDLE OF THE PLATE!! Cody Ross Swung--AND MISSED--MIGHTILY!! A decibel level not heard in some time--ERUPTED. You would have thought The Playoffs were on!! Big Jon Rauch had rose to the occaision. The RFK Faithful had rose to the occaision. Cody Ross--had not. What A RIDE!!
Yes, The Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street was not only Rocking, but Shaking as well. The sight of Big Jon Rauch giving himself a WHIRLING FIST PUMP of Jubilation--jumping up and down--worth every single penny today. The Stadium shaking so, you had to wonder whether "The Wookie" jumping up and down--had assisted in that tremor. Who could ever say that Major League Ballplayers--Teammates on a Last Place Team--DO NOT CARE!! Big Jon strutting off the mound with PRIDE. His Catcher--Schneider--congratulating him with a fist pump and pat on the back. Our Manager Manny Acta meeting him, with Honor, at The Dugout. Yes, HE HAD DONE IT!!--In Electrifying Style!!
Not expected to pitch today--Our Number 51 was called upon in a time of dire need by Our Manager. He didn't have his best stuff--but when it counted the most--Big Jon Rauch had the wherewithal to reach back, deep down inside--to find THE RIGHT STUFF!!--The Winning Stuff. The Ability to Succeed when most would not. That's experience, maturity, and in some respects--COURAGE. The fortitude to perform--knowing you don't have your best. A comeback achievement like no other.
Baseball--ONCE AGAIN PROVES--This is The Greatest Game.
Sure--this was only the 8th inning. And, "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" was called on in the 9th to retire The Florida Marlins and record his 30th Save. But, make no mistake about--Chad Cordero officially was rewarded, But,"The Wookie" SAVED THIS BALLGAME. A Victory that would have been lost, if not for, the Turnabout Performance by Big Jon Rauch. Every single player for Our Washington Nationals better be buying Big Jon the drinks tonight. He, once again--turned a baseball game around--grasping victory from the jaws of defeat.
Curly "W" Number 61 was an unexpected barnburner. A 6-3 final score that found The Bang!! Zoom!! of The Fireworks!! moving Our Washington Nationals out of last place into 4th in The National League East--past The Florida Marlins. Sweet, victory must be tonight for Our Home Team.
Game Notes & Highlights:
Really, Our Washington Nationals should have never been in this losing position. Jason Bergmann pitched his finest game since last May 14--his near No Hitter against The Atlanta Braves. Leaving after 7 extremely strong innings--command of his sinking fastball and sharp rotation on the off speed stuff throughout most of this win. 9 Strikeouts of Marlin Batters--just four hits allowed--one being Florida's only run off him--a solo Home Run to right by Mike Jacobs in the 2nd inning. An outstanding 108 pitch performance (70 Strikes) that actually began very shaky. 27 pitches to complete the very first inning. A leadoff double driven to centerfield by Hanley Ramirez to start the ball game. A two out walk to the always dangerous Miguel Cabrera. Our Number 57 originally looked like he had NOTHING on any of his pitches. Troy, sitting to Sohna's right mentioned--"It looks like soft toss" Really, it did--and had all of us worried. A bother that came to an end after Florida's powerful Josh Willingham took a called strike three to end the threat and settle, not only Jason down--but Our Fans as well. A Final Out that found Willingham disputing the call by Home Plate Umpire Mike DiMuro. A Decision that stood, despite a terrific 9 pitch at bat by Josh, that included three, two strike swinging fouls, to stay alive.
A relief for Jason Bergmann that allowed him to settle down and cruise through his afternoon on the mound. Following Jacob's Homer, Our Number 57 would retire 18 of the next 20 Florida Batters--including 12 in row at one point. When Bergmann walked off the mound after finishing off The Marlins in the 7th--he received a Well Deserved Standing Ovation. And, yes--as The African Queen pointed out--he did not tip his cap.
Unfortunately, Jason's removal from this game directly led to The Unexpected Fireworks during the top of the eighth by Florida. Manny Acta called on Jesus Colome. And, for the one of the few times in 2007--his slider was flat, his fastball non existent, his command--not to be found. The Result--lead off pinch hit single by Todd Linden, one out walk to Dan Uggla, a single to right by Jeremy Hermida to load the bases--followed by the key defensive miscue of the game. The Game Changing Miguel Cabrera was at the plate for Florida. Our Number 43 worked a 1-2 count in his favor--and got Cabrera to ground a slow bouncer to Ronnie Belliard at second base. An easy toss to 1st base would have retired Miguel, and put Marlins on 2nd and 3rd with two outs and just one run in for Florida. A taken scenario under most any circumstance.
But, for reasons unknown to me (and just about EVERYONE ELSE IN ATTENDANCE)--Belliard decided to throw to second in an attempt to force out the hard charging Hermida. A toss that sailed well over the surprised FLop's Head and down toward the left field line. An error that allowed a third run to score in Uggla and put Our Washington Nationals lead in serious jeopardy. A hazard that only got worse when Big Jon Rauch was called on to replace Colome and walked Josh Willingham on a terrific nine pitch At-Bat to load up the bases again. A plate appearance that was even more memorable and duplicated when Mike Jacobs also followed with another 9 pitch appearance of his own--including five straight fouled off two strike pitches. But, this time--"The Wookie" found The Right Stuff again--when it counted the most. An argued CALLED STRIKE Three by Jacobs, that set up The DECISIVE Cody Ross Plate Appearance.
Well before the Thrilling top of the 8th--this game looked like a laugher. Our Washington Nationals walking all over Rookie Marlins Pitcher Rich Vanden Hurk. The Lanky Righthander allowed a two out--two strike--double to Brian Schneider--knocked near the right centerfield wall in the 2nd. A Two Run Hit that scored both Dmitri Young and Austin Kearns. Both of whom had reached base on shoddy fielding by Florida rightfielder Jeremy Hermida. Young hitting a long deep fly to the wall in right--just in front of the Washington Bullpen. A sure out, if Hermida had jumped just the smallest amount. Instead, the slamming of his glove into the wall on contact with the baseball--dislodged it. Dmitri, thankfully on second. He had run it out. And, Kearns followed with a drive to right center that Hermida appeared to have in his grasp while diving to his right. Only to see the baseball glance off his glove. The Official Scorer gave Jeremy an error for both efforts. Although later--Austin's smack was ruled an single.
Then came the Dramatic 6th. Just like yesterday--Felipe Lopez smoked a drive into the gap in center past Cody Ross. The Speedy FLop easily on third with his 5th triple of the season (and yes--FLop was wearing those white shoes again--on Labor Day). Ryan Zimmerman followed and FLAT OUT HAMMERED a Vanden Hurk fastball to the deepest part of the ballyard. Again over Ross and into the wall near the 410 sign. An RBI Double for "Z" making the score 3-1. A tally raised to four when Austin Kearns smoked a liner to center scoring Our Number 11 with the 4th run of this game. Yet, not to be outdone and with a young pitcher in trouble--WILY MO PENA--swinging at everything as always--somehow received a two strike, in over the plate pitch from The Florida Starter--a toss that Our New Number 16 deposited over THE BUD LIGHT BANNER of the left centerfield wall for a two run homer. A NO DOUBTER that found Wily Mo dropping is bat--admiring the flight of his damage!!
A 6-1 lead that had RFK STADIUM sounding its merriment. Who didn't think this game was over. Wily Mo performing a new version of The High Five with Austin Kearns upon touching home plate. A miss over the top with the palms--a flyover and slap of each others rear right leg on the downswing. The Party was on!!--at least until Jesus Colome entered less than two innings later.
In the top of the first inning with Hanley Ramirez on third base via that double and a ground out--The Marlins' Jeremy Hermida slapped a deep enough fly ball to right to possibly score Ramirez. Austin Kearns set himself for the catch--and fired a PERFECT STRIKE to Brian Schneider at the plate. A sure out if Hanley had not turned back to third base. No further out was recorded on this play, but no run scored either--and Austin Kearns--Earned The Defensive Play of This Game.
FLop must also be reading the writing on the wall. The past two days--a spark plug--a player with energy. About time.
Zimmerman now at 81 RBI. Surprisingly--Kearns now at .266 and 56 RBI--showing signs of life. Chad Cordero's 30 saves for 2007, one more than all of 2006. Not bad, for a team with only 61 wins (Yeah, I know--he's blown 8 saves also--but that's not the point).
As this game began this afternoon--Our Washington Nationals recalled 5 players from their Minor League Clubs and Micah Bowie from The Disabled List. No surprise to see Ryan Langerhans also return. Although--unless Pitcher Ross Detwiler has a Major League Contract--is not Washington pushing his Arbitration Elgible Years up to an earlier date by recalling him so soon? 2007's First Round Pick that even Management admits, is not in their plans for early next season.
Strategy which exists in the call up of Justin Maxwell from A Potomac. The Former University of Maryland Prospect has come alive in 2007--25 Homers, 25 Steals and 25 Doubles. By moving Justin to The 40 Man Roster--Our Washington Nationals have protected him from The Rule V Draft this winter. Smart Move. And, I got to tell, since I have spoken with Maxwell a few times. Justin LOOKS LIKE A BALLPLAYER. Whether he can play like one on the Major League Level--many will find out soon.
Decisions that were also made on Left Handed Relief Specialist Arnie Munoz and Right Handed Reliever Jonathan Albaladejo. Expect both to see plenty of action. Munoz in The Ray King Role (lefthander against lefthander)--Albaladejo as the first man out of the pen. At 25 and 24 years old, respectively--Our Washington Nationals want to find out if they also have--The Right Stuff. Now--not later.
So Hey!! Where's Teddy & The Presidents? For the second consecutive Home Game--The "Rushmores" didn't post up in the tunnel to the left of Section 320. No "LET TEDDY WIN!!" Chant was heard. The Disappointment from a good many fans whom now anticipate this moment in the 7th inning was palpable. Teddy--Please Come BACK!! Just 12 More Games to Go!! We Love You Guys!! What A Nats Game Without "LET TEDDY WIN!!"
Finally--Section 320 Regular Richard mentioned this afternoon in the 9th inning how much fun the games of Our Washington Nationals are to attend--even with a last place team. Its true--the enjoyment comes from watching baseball--Major League Baseball. And, even when Our Team is not the best--there is a tremendous amount of pleasure from watching any particular affair. That's one of the main reasons Baseball Is The Great Game.
Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Susan Walsh