Sunday, April 27, 2008
When John Lannan started the game this afternoon for Our Washington Nationals--he was not sharp-allowing three walks in the first three innings. Everyone watching must have believed--trouble was brewing.
When both Wil Nieves and John Lannan made MENTAL MISTAKES on fielding plays in the 5th inning--trouble again was brewing.
And when Wily Mo Pena badly misplayed a liner directly over his head in the sixth--who on hand DID NOT believe Our Washington Nationals were finally going to fall behind.
Worry, Concern, maybe even Torment formed the nature of the game this afternoon at New Nationals Park.
But, somehow, someway--Our Washington Nationals prevailed in one of the least likeliest shutouts you may ever witness. A 2-0 whitewash of The Chicago Cubs. A Ballgame that included some timely hitting, some clutch fielding, some precise pitching and a strong finish by Big Jon Rauch. Yes, 33,795 were on hand to see Our Washington Nationals overcome their very own issues to complete their second series victory of 2008--and first since the initial week of April.
Thanks to Nick Johnson, one of the most patient hitters in the game, who got the ball rolling. I swear--if you needed 10 balls to draw a walk--that man would still lead the league in free bases. His batting eye is remarkable sometimes. But in the bottom of the second inning, NJ connected for a first pitch dunker of a hit in front of The Cubs Fosuke Fukudome. A single that set up the first run of this game after Lastings Milledge advanced him to second on a base hit attempted bunt, that failed, and Wily Mo Pena sent Our Number 24 home for that first run with a grounder into the hole to left field. Another base hit that found the chugging Johnson rounding third--heading toward home--looking to beat the throw from Chicago's Leftfielder Mark DeRosa.
A toss that arrived just late--but not before Nick Johnson performed his patented--feet first slide to the outside back corner of the plate. Another effort that found him--once again--rolling over onto his side. First his toes crossed home plate, then his knees, eventually his stomach and finally his face. Yes it was VINTAGE Number 24--safe again--but not pretty. You gotta love it!! Nick Johnson is a sight to behold running the bases. And just think--the Free Tee-Shirt being given out this coming Tuesday Night before Our Washington Nationals take on The Atlanta Braves--will have Nick Johnson depicted sliding. Now--who doesn't want to have that fine piece of artwork?
Pena's RBI single lead directly to the eventual final run plated in the game, thanks to The Man HAVING THE CAREER WEEK. Wil Nieves followed with a clean single to center scoring Wily Mo to make this affair 2-0. A lead that held up all afternoon long--but not without some scary moments.
In the top of the fifth--Our Washington Nationals played some bad baseball, defensively. And it nearly cost them. With Our Number 31 still fighting on the mound--Ronny Cedeno and Henry Blanco lead off with back to back singles. Then, The Cubs Pitcher--Ted Lilly--attempted to sacrifice them up one base. A failure that now found Cedeno hung up between 2nd and 3rd. All Wil Nieves had to do was run directly at Cedeno--allow him to commit and throw the speedy second baseman out. Instead, Our Number 53 threw BEHIND THE RUNNER to second base?! A bad decision that allowed Ronny to easily slide into 3rd and Blanco to second. Without laying down a bunt--Our Washington Nationals had mistakenly let the runners advance. A precarious position that got only worse when, after Lilly struck out--Reed Johnson followed with a blistering groundball just to the left of Nick Johnson--playing in on the dirt. Nick deflected the baseball, and recovered, only to find John Lannan WATCHING THE PLAY--NOT RUNNING TO FIRST BASE to receive a toss from Our Number 24. Everyone safe--bases now loaded. Just like that--trouble was brewing.
Two Mental Mistakes had put Our Washington Nationals two run lead in jeopardy. A disadvantage miraculously solved when John Lannan boar down on Chicago's Ryan Theriot and got The Cubs' Shortstop to hit a two hop grounder to "The Guz" at short. An inning ending Double Play Ball--that found Cristian Guzman stepping on second base to retire Reed Johnson and fire on to Nick Johnson at first base for The Rally Killer. A Twin Killing that got The Washington Faithful on their feet in GREAT Cheer.
A possible game changing moment. A crisis averted, at least until The Top of The Sixth--when Fukodome stroked a liner directly at Wily Mo Pena in Left Field. Under the very overcast sky--this looping hit was playable. A sure out completely missed by Our Number 16. The Cubs Rightfielder now standing on second with a ruled double. Aramis Ramirez (who had walked) advancing to third with one out. Another precarious situation that now found Lannan AGAIN bearing down. Not only was trouble brewing again--but really--how long could John Lannan hang on?
Apparently, a while longer. You have to give John Lannan credit this afternoon. Throughout this entire baseball game--he had his moments of concern. Time when you had to believe he was short for this game. Again under fire in this 6th inning--he retired Mark DeRosa on a measly pop up to Nick Johnson at first and finally, Ronny Cedeno on a grounder to FLop at second.
Walking off the field to a THUNDEROUS applause--at that moment in time--you had to believe--Our Washington Nationals were destined to win. And John Lannan was slowly becoming a bonified professional. You don't always need to have your best stuff to win, but you need know how to get outs. Our Number 31 showed a lot of guts this afternoon. A mindset that turmoil does not bother him on the Big Stage.
John Lannan was effective and impressive--without being perfect. That's the sign of a Major League Pitcher. He was destined to win today--deservedly so.
Curly "W" Number 9 was a strangely beautiful game, filled with worry, concern and torment. And The Final Bang!! Zoom!! of The Fireworks signaling Our Washington Nationals can win--even when they are in trouble. Character Builders are what the good teams call these type of victories. Did Our Washington Nationals learn something, take it home tonight, and improve themselves from this Sunday Afternoon Onward?
Game Notes & Highlights
When he was all finished and done--John Lannan had completed 7 decent innings. While striking out just three hitters he allowed four hits and four walks over 107 pitches. Lowering his ERA to 2.64--Our Number 31 extended his scoreless streak to 19 innings. Hector Carrasco of the 2005 Inaugural Nationals holds the Washington Record for Scoreless Innings at 20.2 innings.
The Cubs Ted Lilly pitched very well himself. A total junk ball specialist, Lilly had Ryan Zimmerman's number all afternoon long. Our Number 11 looking awful at plate, striking out three times--consecutively. Ted also got Wily Mo Pena twice.
Despite "Z's" continued batting woes, he swiftly dove to his left in the top of the 4th inning for an opposite field grounder off the bat of Fukudome. A sharply stroked baseball that found Ryan's glove while sprawling. A reflex catch--vintage Zimmmerman. Whereupon Our Number 11 quickly recovered, got to his feet and easily threw to Nick Johnson at first base for out number two and The Defensive Play of This Game.
With Chad Cordero still being held out--Big Jon Rauch was called upon in the 9th to complete the save. A Strong 13 Pitch Effort finding "The Wookie" totally in control. Retiring The Cubs in order--Our Number 51 gave Chicago NO CHANCE for a late comeback. For two games in row--Big John Rauch has looked sharp. What will happen when "The Chief" comes back--Tuesday? Despite his lower velocity--you can't say Chad Cordero has not been effective. In fact, you can say he may be becoming a better pitcher. Please JIMBO--don't give up on him now--when Our Number 32 is becoming a better player.
On the DVR when we returned home. The WGN Radar Gun--5 MPH Greater than MASN and New Nationals Park. Somebody's got to do something about this nonsense. (That line--one of my favorite quotes always posted by someone over at The Ballpark Guys Forum--it's very funny.)
Our Washington Nationals now 2-0, Undefeated, wearing the RED "DC" Jersey and Cap. A Uniform which Sohna and I really like when worn with those white pants. Come on--let's wear them a little more often.
By the way--Sohna missed seeing her Former Love--Alfonso Soriano play this weekend. Our Former Number 12 on the Disabled List. Now in his second year away from Washington--that man single handedly made The African Queen a Fan of Our Washington Nationals. No one got her fanny planted in her customary seat more than Alfonso Soriano. I will always appreciate that man for making her a BASEBALL FAN.
Finally, in the 8th inning, The African Queen and I were visited by Team President Stan Kasten. He wanted to touch base on a series of fan related questions we had sent him, recently. One issue that he reported for publication is that beginning Tuesday Night--there will be a COMPLETE REVAMP OF THE HDTV SCOREBOARD. "I am not happy with information provided," Mr. Kasten stated. "Around the clock, the technicians are working to reset the board." Mr. Kasten went on to say that FULL LINEUPS will be shown--for both teams starting this week. Also--much of the game related info--including previous plate appearances--that so many have asked for--will be added to the HDTV Scoreboard. "We need to do a better job. I am confident this change will be far better."
Mr. Kasten went on to say that the Ribbon Scoreboards down the 1st and 3rd Base lines will remain the same. That is: Player, Position, AVG, HRs, RBI's, OPS. SLG. will continue to be shown. They do look good--already.
That provided information by Our Team President has got to make more than a few people happier--including me. You know--Sohna and I will always give him credit--because Mr. Kasten listens to everyone--and responds to the many questions. That's always a good thing.
Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Haraz N. Ghanbari