Thursday, April 24, 2008
New Nationals Park was jumping--thanks to FLop!!? Felipe Lopez had just let fly the very first Grand Slam in the ballparks history. A Game Changing Four Run Turnaround. A Full Count poke off The New York Mets Aaron Heilman that sent Our Washington Nationals, Our Fans and Our New Ballpark into a tizzy. Even Our General Manager Jim Bowden was seen celebrating in his suite. And unless you were for The New Yorkers, who wouldn't enjoy this moment. The Home Crowd erupting. The African Queen laying one SMACKER of a kiss on my lips in Great JOY!! Believe Me!! The Party was ON!!--at the expense of The New York Mets.
Only over Philadelphia would the feeling be more pleasurable.
And the forlorn look of My Main Man!! watching this home run ball sail over--not only over his head--but the Right Field Out of Town Scoreboard Wall signifying--that Our Washington Nationals may not be dead after all.
Felipe Lopez's Grand Slam really meant so much this evening. More than--the then--7 to 3 tally on the scoreboard.
Because after that launched ball--eight rows deep into the seats--No longer did The New York Mets control Our Destiny.
No longer did Their Fans take over Our Ballpark.
No longer did Our Team succumb to another poor offensive night.
No longer did Our Washington Nationals beat themselves.
And--at least for this evening--April 24th, 2008--Our Washington Nationals dominated a Major League Baseball Game--Late--when it counted most.
No--you are not going to win every game, in some cases not even half--but at least at 9:18PM this evening--a sense of hope was finally realized--that Our Washington Nationals can come from behind--and win--going away.
That Moment In Time of Felipe Lopez's Grand Slam--erasing the memories of a one time three run deficit. The possible dread of another frustrating--lifeless--loss. Unexpectedly--Our Team that plays on South Capitol Street was now in control. And Our Fans were losing theirs. 29,750 sitting in on this action.
When your team has struggled all season long--there is nothing like a blowout. A come from behind BLOWOUT. For tonight--anyone watching and rooting for Our Washington Nationals could feel the full gamut of emotions--of being a fan. The Highs & Lows that make Baseball So Special.
Three consecutive Two Out, Two Strike--Run Scoring Singles given up by Shawn Hill in three consecutive innings put Washington Behind Early--setting the stage for another possible bad loss.
But--then--just as quickly-three Washington baserunners reached against The New York Mets Oliver Perez in the bottom of the 5th. Two walks and a single set the table for Our Number Two to begin his Personal Best Night. With Perez struggling and NO ONE warming up in New York's Bullpen--The Mets Manager Willie Randolph rolled the dice--trusting the fact that Our Washington Nationals and FLop--in particular--would not deliver in the clutch--like Our Hitters have mostly done all this young season.
Big Mistake Tonight. For when Felipe made Randolph pay with a blistering single up the middle--scoring two and setting up the game tying run--just two hitters later in that 5th frame--The Baseball Gods had finally turned their gaze toward Washington.
And FLop in particular. Eventually Six RBI Tonight--matching a career high--while stroking his 4th Career Grand Slam.
Who would have imaged--that Our Number Two--just one week ago--on the outside--some would say--no longer in Washington's plans. But tonight, the catalyst. Baseball can be a strange game--and those quirky ways played out in full view at New Nationals Park.
The Bang!! Zoom!! of Felipe Lopez's Grand Slam Fireworks signifying that no longer are Our Washington Nationals ready to be buried--at least not yet. And Curly "W" Number Seven of this still young 2008 Season telling Our Fans--that hopefully no longer--will they have to witness that bad baseball of April.
Tonight was a fun night. An enjoyable night.
For At Least One Game--It was No longer Frustrating to be a Fan of Our Washington Nationals.
And how about THAT NOISE WHEN FLop hit his Grand Slam--Just Terrific!! (But "Guz"--Buddy--would you please delay your upcoming at-bat next time--after such a key point in the game. Give The Fans & Felipe Lopez at least 30 seconds to embrace THE MOMENT. You instead went right to the batters box--dug in--and took ball one. We wanted to celebrate more--you took that time away--from all of us).
Game Notes & Highlights:
After a 1-2-3 top of the first inning--Shawn Hill struggled with his command and his control. He did not look sharp. And when Our Number 41 gave up three consecutive two out, two strike run scoring singles to Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Ryan Church in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings--the signs of a pitcher in trouble was mounting. His run scoring pitch to The Mets' Pitcher Perez finding Shawn slapping his glove in disgust. A command issue toss signaling Hill was going short in this affair. Fortunately, Felipe Lopez saved his night--later.
An evening that found--Mike O'Connor--returning to The Major Leagues--pitching in the game and GETTING THE WIN!!. Also--thanks to FLop. Who would have expected this George Washington University Graduate, and Ellicott City Native, to make his triumphant return in such an unexpected way? Fully recovered after two seasons of injures--Our New Number 54 (Formerly Number 48) was recalled in a bullpen shakeup by Jim Bowden. Ray King being sent down to AAA Columbus and giving O'Connor a deserved opportunity. Having fallen by the wayside of prospects as Our Washington Nationals rebuilt their Farm System--Mike was one of Washington's best pitchers this spring--in camp--and unquestionably for The Clippers. Sometimes perseverance is all it takes--because opportunity always develops. Mike O'Connor hung in there--when few believed in him. Now--his time has come--once again. He's a good story.
What was Willie Randolph thinking when Oliver Perez was struggling in the 5th--and then--not only sent him back out to the mound for the game changing 6th inning (Yeah that's right--again thanks to FLop)--but allowed his nearly exhausted pitcher to bat for himself--to bunt? At that point in the game--Perez had reached 90 pitches. He was not sharp. Yet, Willie Randolph did not have anyone up in the bullpen. New York's Pitching Coach--Rick Peterson--did not even make an appearance on the mound to speak with Oliver until the 6th--after he walked the first two Washington Hitters. Strange.
After FLop had ripped his two run single in the bottom of the 5th--he was standing on second with with two outs and Austin Kearns at the plate. The struggling "Bluegrass" hammered a Perez pitch to the hole between 3rd and short. The Mets David Wright--instinct only--dove to his left--snared the ball in his glove--got up and tossed out the hard charging Kearns at first base to end the rally. A Bang-Bang Play that ended with Our Number 25 stumbling over the bag--making contact with Carlos Delgado and leaving David Wright with--unquestionably--The Defensive Play Of This Game. It was a GREAT PLAY!!
Does Carlos Beltran seemingly hit a Home Run against Our Washington Nationals LIKE EVERY GAME? Tonight--on his Birthday no less--he did it again. This time against Saul Rivera--his second of the season.
The Mets did rally late--thanks to that Homer and one from Former National Marlon Anderson against Big Jon Rauch. Once again--"The Wookie" not at his best early on. Randy St.Claire having to visit Our Number 51 in the top of the 9th. But Marlon's dinger (and I don't mean The Gifford's Ice Cream Sandwich) made me wonder what he was thinking as he rounded the bases. You may recall--Marlon Anderson and Brian Schneider both participated in The Ground Breaking Ceremonies for New Nationals Park. A Ballpark they may never call their own.
My Main Man!! again with two hits, one RBI and one run scored and now the owner of a 10 Game Hitting Streak. Our Former Number 19 having a quality start to the 2008 Campaign. All on a night--Our Manager Manny Acta rested the man traded for him--Lastings Milledge--in favor of the light hitting Willie Harris. Harris did score three runs tonight.
13 Hits total for Our Washington Nationals--two each from FLop, "The Guz", "Z", Wily Mo, Aaron Boone and Wil Nieves. A Season High for the team.
Finally--the food choices tonight--Hard Times Cafe Chili Nachos and One Noah's Curly "W" Pretzel. Both good and both enjoyed by The African Queen and I while sitting at a Club Level Dining Table with padded chairs overlooking The Anacostia River and The Douglas Bridge. We enjoyed the private time--before the game began.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Felipe Lopez (Both Photos) AP--Chad J. McNeeley
Shawn Hill & Oliver Perez (AP) Haraz N. Ghanbari