Friday, April 25, 2008
Expect The Unexpected
The Post Game Fireworks had yet to begin. But, the most important Friday Night Pyrotechnics had already concluded. The just finished Bang! Zoom!! of These Fireworks!!--far more invigorating--signaling an improbable win. A WALKOFF two run--bottom of the ninth--HOME RUN to the opposite field. A Game Winner that now found Our Washington Nationals dancing on the field. Our Fans romping in the aisles. And Our Manager hugging tonight's hero. If there was ONE PLAYER on the entire active Roster of Our Washington Nationals--you can bet--virtually NO ONE would have expected Wil Nieves to provide this winning blow.
As Charlie Slowes so aptly stated as This Journeyman Catcher crossed home plate to the awaiting arms of his jubilant teammates--"UNBELIEVABLE!!"
AND IT WAS!!
A Shocker of an ending. A 5-3 Victory over The Chicago Cubs where 35,154 were treated to a THRILLER on South Capitol Street.
Resetting the stage.
The game was tied, 3-3, heading to the bottom of the 9th--thanks to some terrific relief work from both Saul Rivera and Big Jon Rauch (more on them later). Austin Kearns was leading off--and as Our Friend Steve stated--sitting to Sohna's right this evening: "Your Bluegrass is going to score the winning run. I can just feel it." And when Our Number 25 slapped The Chicago Cubs Bobby Howry's very first pitch sharply to centerfield--Steve's premonition began to play out. A dream that slightly faded when Willie Harris followed and--not only did not lay down a bunt--but struck out badly on pitches mostly outside the strike zone. A first out that now found Wil Nieves at the plate. Nieves a mid game substitute for Johnny Estrada.
With both Cubbie and Nats Fans alike nervous--Our Number 53 took a called strike one. And after fouling off Howry's second offering for strike two--those Chicago Fans began to relax--sensing a quick ending to a potential rally. An unwinding that led to the final blow of this ball game. Down 0-2 in the count--Bobby Howry looked in to his catcher Geovony Soto and threw a high and outside pitch that Nieves swung at. A connection that drove the baseball to right field--DEEP. A drive that stayed up--until finally finding ground--deposited in Our Washington Nationals Bullpen!!
Just like that--This Game WAS OVER!! Curly "W" Number Eight and third win out of their last four games--proving once again--that in baseball--always expect the unexpected--even with Our Washington Nationals. How about those Fireworks!!--courtesy of Wil Nieves very first Major League Home Run.
Game Notes & Highlights:
Despite pitching mostly well throughout April--Odalis Perez has ZERO WINS for his efforts. Tonight a six inning stint giving up just two runs while giving up four walks and five hits. The Cubs could not get the big inning going--even though they had some good chances. Perez struck out seven Chicago Hitters and left the game with a New Nationals Park ERA of 2.70.
Nick Johnson's two run shot off Ryan Dempster in the bottom of the first landed in Section 237--just over Our Washington Nationals Bullpen. NJ's first home run at New Nationals Park--his third of 2008.
In the bottom of the 5th with two outs--Felipe Lopez drove a Ryan Dempster pitch to deep left centerfield. The Cubs Centerfielder Reed Johnson ran hard to his right toward the warning track and the wall. As this launched baseball curved its way toward the ground--Johnson dove--FACE FIRST--into the gravel--extended fully--and backhand caught the ball inches before it hit the ground. A TREMENDOUS EFFORT--A GREAT CATCH--AND FINEST DEFENSIVE PLAY OF ANY GAME SO FAR IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF NEW NATIONALS PARK. What a catch!! Rightfully--even fans of Our Washington Nationals had to stand and applaud that effort. Reed Johnson deserved his due credit. Wow!!
Of course tonight's hero--Nieves--also made an excellent defensive play of his own in the top of the 7th. With one out and Ryan Theriot on first base with a single--the explosive Derrick Lee was at the plate against Luis Ayala. Facing a full count in this at-bat, Lee swung at Our Number 56's slider to the outside corner--missing for out number two--while Theriot attempted to steal second base. Wil Nieves--caught strike three--then fired a PERFECT STRIKE to FLop at second base for out number three. A Strike-em Out, Throw-em Out, Double Play that found Our New Number 53 First Pumping In Jubilation, then hand slapping with Ayala. The Crowd roaring its approval. Yes, this evening was Wil Nieves' Night--like FLop enjoyed just 24 hours previously.
Saul Rivera saved Our Washington Nationals from a huge Chicago Rally. Our Number 52 shutting down a bases loaded--one out rally--in the top of the 8th. A situation where Luis Ayala started by allowing a leadoff single to Aramis Ramirez followed by another from Kosuke Fukudome and a sacrifice bunt to Mark DeRosa. With runners now on 1st & 2nd with one out and a slim one run lead (3-2)--Why Intentionally Walk The Cubs--Geovany Soto--who had struck out in all three of his previous At-Bats? Are not the odds in Our Favor at this point--with this particular hitter? I did not understand this decision by Our Manager Manny Acta. Even if you load the bases and the next hitter singles--your opponent is still going to score the same amount of runs. Setting up the double play just because it's what managers do by the book--does not always make it right.
As this moment played out--Our Number 14 called on last night's hero--Mike O'Connor--who promptly walked in Ramirez with the tying run on just five pitches to pinch hitter--Matt Murton. This situation could have been managed better. Thankfully--Saul Rivera came on to shut Chicago Down. And Big Jon Rauch followed with a solid 1-2-3 top of the ninth. "The Wookie" getting his second win of 2008--thanks to Nieves Heroics in the bottom of the 9th.
When both Mike O'Connor and Saul Rivera trotted to the mound to warm up in their respective innings--could someone please explain to me why The MPH Counter on the HDTV Scoreboard was showing the speed of their pitches? They are both warming up--to compete against the competition. Is it really necessary to give The Chicago Cubs a heads up on how fast they are throwing?
Speaking of the scoreboard--from the 4th through most of the 5th--the same scoreboard seemingly was on the fritz. Except for batter biography--ZERO other information. Once everything was working again--and wanting to see some statistics of note: Is it possible to see player stats AND what each hitter has done in their previous at-bats, at the same time? In fact--I would love to see WHO IS EXACTLY PLAYING IN THE GAME--both in the field and at the plate--while the game is going on. Stuff like that is helpful. Useful data that allows anyone to follow the game's path--is worth displaying.
Finally--The Food Choices Tonight--Pat's Brick Oven Pizza from The Stars & Stripes Club and Sushi--Yes, Sushi!!
Although expensive--$6.50 for a slice. The Specialty and Cheese Pizza Slices are of good quality. I enjoyed the "Garlic" spread added on the side--for dipping the pizza dough in. Later--some folks enjoying a Suite invited us inside for a visit. One of their Centerplate Items ordered was Sushi. A selection of various Maki and Shashimi. The African Queen and I loved it. So did our friends--Phil & Robert--visiting us this evening. Those suites are nice--some obviously better than others. But, they are certainly more for entertaining business with baseball as the backdrop--than watching baseball for the sport.
Tonight's InGame Photos-(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais.