Saturday, September 15, 2007
Sizzle & Spice
The Entire Crowd was rising in unison. Everyone could see--Austin Kearns was being waved home by Washington Third Base Coach Tim Tolman. RFK STADIUM was buzzing. A decision to test THE FINE ARM of Atlanta Rightfielder Jeff Franceour. The chance to go up three runs. Our Number 25 motored around third--picking up speed. Their Number 7 scooped up the baseball and FIRED a clean shot to Home Plate. As Atlanta Catcher Corky Miller was about to catch the baseball, in an attempt to tag out Kearns--Austin BARRELLED right into Miller!! A CRASHING!! collision ensured. So violent--you might have thought The Washington Redskins were trying to drive home the winning score against The Atlanta Falcons. Yes, SMASH MOUTH BASEBALL on a cool comfortable--late summer night--that reminded everyone the fall season was upon us. You might have thought A FOOTBALL game had broken out.
Not a sole watching--did not yell out: "OOOHHH!" Both players now down in a heap, Miller on his back-slightly dazed. The baseball laying on the ground. Then, the sight of Kearns reaching over the fallen Atlanta Catcher--tagging the plate--bringing The Flamboyant Safe Call from Home Plate Umpire Tim Tschida!! THIS WAS GOOD STUFF. Yes, it was only the 7th run in this game, and not even the eventual WINNING RUN--But it was arguably ONE OF THE FINEST PLAYS OF THE ENTIRE 2007 Season at The Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street. An effort that had RFK STADIUM ROARING. An effort not soon to be forgotten by anyone in attendance.
A Bang--Bang Play that saw two warriors--Miller and Kearns--salute each other in admiration over its greatness. A moment that found both players caught up in the spectacle. As the crowd continued a prolonged standing ovation, Their Catcher and Our Rightfielder slowly righted themselves--and patted each other in regard on their legs. Even they realized--A Battle had busted out--a Unexpected Clash of Titans. A Smashing--no holds barred--collision at home plate. Both now beaten--but not broken--but admired for their efforts. Baseball does not get much better than this.
WHAT A PLAY!! An engagement that left THE OLD BALLYARD BUZZING!! Honestly, It took a good five minutes for everyone to settle down.
Or, at least until "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" trotted on to perform his best Houdini Act.
Maybe it was the Latino Music? Maybe it was the Festival Atmosphere. Maybe it was a Raucous Crowd. Or, just maybe, it was Two Baseball Teams that continually play games down to the final pitch? Because Tonight's Contest between Our Washington Nationals and The Atlanta Braves was A SIZZLER!! Hispanic Heritage Night at RFK was an evening not to be forgotten for some time. A ball game with spice, as Our Washington Nationals celebrated the many Hispanic countries represented by players for Our Washington Nationals. The sight alone of Luis Ayala PROUDLY standing behind and waving The Flag of his Native Mexico--memorable. Satisfaction shared by Our Manager Manny Acta and a host of Washington Players from The Dominican Republic, as well as, those from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama & Nicaragua.
When D'angelo Jimenez slams out a two run homer in the bottom of the first with Nook Logan on base, and when Robert Fick--Yes, Robert Fick--HAMMERS a Pinch Hit Three Run Shot to right in the 3rd--you know there is something special in the air. Jimenez's Home Run brought the odd look, the "OK--We'll take that" look from the faithful. But, Our Number 13's Home Run was watched in Disbelief!! A Total Shocker!!! The African Queen staring at me incredulous over the smacked drive. Even I had to laugh. At that point--you just knew--this game was going to be a good one.
And, it was--until the very last pitch of the evening.
Yes, Chad Cordero entered to close this out. Handed a three run lead--it didn't take long to realize that might not be enough--after Pinch Hitters Yunel Escobar and Brian McCann greeted Our Number 32 with singles. Runners on 1st and 2nd--NO OUTS. The Heart of The Atlanta Braves Lineup coming--Chad's NEMESIS. The look of worry throughout the park. Those Tomahawk Chopping Fans starting to rev it up again. And, it only got worse--when "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" walked Edgar Renteria to load the bases--after retiring Kelly Johnson on a fly to left.
Look who was next--Chipper Jones. Really, did it matter at this point, whom was sent to the plate for The Braves? If Chad Cordero was going to salvage this weekend series--he was going to have to fight through possible doubt. Because--for the first time, in some time--you could sense the crowd--doubting him. There were shouts for Cordero's removal from the game. The Natives were restless. Our Number 32 needed to reach back.
And, he delivered. With an anxious crowd waiting with one out--Chipper Jones hit a slow moving grounder to FLop at shortstop (Lopez a late inning defensive replacement). Felipe would pick up the ball and toss to Ronnie Belliard at 2nd base. Belliard--the finest pivoting second baseman in the game--turned the ball over quickly to Robert Fick at First Base. Just like that--This GAME WAS OVER!! Really, I don't think anyone believed it!! No one thought possible, Our Washington Nationals could turn two on that slow roller.
Chad Cordero JUMPING UP IN THE AIR in great exultation. The Entire Team for Our Washington Nationals running onto the field. The Home Faithful Joyful in Relief. The Tomahawk Chant FINALLY Silent!! The Bang!! Zoom!! of The Fireworks had that Latin SIZZLE Tonight. Curly "W" Number 66 providing some serious SPICE.
On a absolutely gorgeous late summer night--26,866 were treated to some serious Zest. Maybe Our Washington Nationals should celebrate Hispanic Heritage Night more often. Really, this one--was A GOOD ONE!!
Game Notes & Highlights:
Of course-- nothing beat tonight's PLAY OF THE GAME--Kearns and Miller colliding at Home Plate. It was set up when Ryan Zimmerman doubled to rightfield in the 8th and scored from second base on an Austin Kearns' roped double into the left centerfield gap--making the score 6-4 Washington. Atlanta's Ron Mahay walked Wily Mo Pena, and The Braves' Manager Bobby Cox went to his bullpen. Oddly, to replace the lefthanded throwing Mahay with LEFTHANDED throwing Royce Ring--to face Ronnie Belliard (odd really). Yet, no matter. Belliard would greet Ring with a looper into right field. The Key Base Hit setting up Our Number 25 rushing home.
Chipper Jones ripped a liner to right--JUST OVER THE FENCE for a Three Run Homer of his own in the top of the third. The Atlanta Catcher Miller--also CRUSHED a Jason Bergmann pitch over the left field wall in the 4th. Except for those two poorly placed Home Run Pitches--Bergmann performed well. His third straight earned victory evening his mark for 2007 at 5-5. Our Number 57 is undefeated since returning from his latest stint on the Disabled List. New situational lefty--Arnie Munoz, continued to make a good name for himself by completing Jason's 7th inning by retiring Chipper Jones on a force out. And, Big Jon Rauch settled in to complete a scoreless 8th--handing the game over to "The Chief". Cordero earning his 34th Save.
Jimenez had his best game in a Washington Nationals Uniform. Single, Double and Home Run. His double--one of the funniest plays of the year. In the bottom of the 3rd--D'angelo ripped a liner right off the first base bag. A hit that found the ball hopping into right field. Jeff Franceour was late getting to the ball. Jimenez, with the play developing in front of him--ran hard all the way to second base. Hurried and worried now--Franceour rushed his throw to second and the baseball skipped past Edgar Renteria, then past Chipper Jones near third base. A throwing error that finally found Our Number 6 standing on third base. An unlikely turn of events that had Washington Fans not only cheering, but laughing. How many times have Our Fans seen Our Team make a similar defensive blunder? Enough to appreciate the humor of the just completed play.
In the top of the second inning--Andruw Jones led off with a single to centerfield. Jason Bergmann responded by picking Andruw off first base--with a quick whirling throw to Dmitri Young at first base. As the embarrassed Jones dusted himself off after his failed attempt to dive back into the bag--Andruw realized--he was just caught, in The Defensive Play of This Game.
A scary moment in the top of the 3rd inning, when Mark Teixeira smashed a hard hit grounder at Dmitri Young. A bad hop diverted the baseball right into Young's head. Our 2007 All Star fell down right away--not moving. He was hurt. As Ronnie Belliard retrieved the errant baseball, RFK Stadium became SILENT. Washington Trainer Lee Kuntz immediately rushed onto the field along with Our Manager Manny Acta. Eventually, Dmitri would sit up, then stand up--and surprisingly return to play. All the while receiving a warm applause. Yet, as it turned out--Our Number 21 hurt his neck attempting to get out of the way of the errant hit. He was replaced by Robert Fick in the bottom of the third--a pinch hitting assignment that resulted in that surprising three run homer. Dmitri listed as Day To Day.
On Hispanic Heritage Night--the crowd was treated to bi-lingual Public Address Announcements throughout the game. Before play began--each representative player for Our Washington Nationals stood behind their countries flag and were introduced to the fans. Manny smiling broadly. Jesus Flores (from Venezuela) waving sheepishly. It was nice.
Finally--The African Queen participated in The Baseball 101 Clinic for Women this morning at RFK Stadium alongside her good friends Colleen & Iris. The Washington Coaching Staff were the Instructors. Sohna had a terrific time. This was HER DAY. And, she can't stop talking about it. A more complete story to come later.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass