Saturday, May 17, 2008
The Chance To Win
Three runs were already in. Our Washington Nationals were staging a rally--on the heels of some shoddy relief pitching by The Baltimore Orioles. A four run deficit was now just one. These two teams were playing the top of the 8th inning. The score 6-5 and not a sole still inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards was not tuned to the action on the field. Even the 20-something bozos drinking and partying just two rows in front of us all night long--had finally turned their attention to the baseball game. Club Level in Baltimore tonight--sitting just off home plate was a prime place to be this evening. From this vantage point--The African Queen and I could see the plays directly in front of us; look over to our left at Charlie & Dave, Don & Jim Palmer in the broadcast booths; and peer directly down into the dugout of Our Washington Nationals.
Being in Birdland--as they call it 40 miles to the north--Sohna and I were PERCHED and watching develop the most important moment of this evening. Lastings Milledge had just taken--FOR THE TEAM--a 96 Mile Per Hour FASTBALL right into his left side, under his armpit and probably in the ribs. A hit-by-pitch that had to HURT!! And this was an 0-2 pitch by Baltimore's Jim Johnson that scored Dmitri Young from third. You see, the bases had been loaded and now they were once again.
As Our Number 44 was being attended to by the Medical Staff and eventually sent on to first base--Austin Kearns was slowly, methodically, getting loose in the on deck circle. Benched last night in an effort to right his game--Kearns now found himself the chance to be a hero. And what player would not want to be in this position? A late lead potentially lost by The Orioles. A comeback on the road that now worried--a loud and vocal crowd--all between two teams that are slowly building a local history--playing each other in Inter-League Play.
Once it was determined that Lasting Milledge could continue in this inning--Home Plate Umpire Tim McClelland signaled: "Let's Play Ball!!" and Our Number 25 walked to the plate--steadying himself for this key At-Bat. Resetting the scene: There were Two Outs, The Bases were loaded. Our Washington Nationals were only down by one. And the crowd--WAS JUICED!! Yes, Oriole Park was ROCKING!! There was no New York Yankee or Boston Red Sox Type Takeover of Baltimore's Home Stadium by Washington Fans this evening. Yes, there may well have been a few thousand fans of Our Washington Nationals in attendance, but this Saturday Night found a very partisan Orioles following.
As you would expect upon any such dire circumstances--they had ERUPTED--wanting to see Washington's rally ended. On each and every subsequent pitch of Austin Kearns' At-Bat, these Baltimore Faithful became louder and Louder and LOUDER!! They wanted to see an out. We wanted to see at least one more run scored.
Austin would take ball one in the dirt and called strike one from Umpire McClelland. Then, Our Number 25 took ball two in the dirt--followed immediately by called strike two--a high fastball that Kearns did not agree with. Nevertheless--Austin was now down to his last strike. He knew it. Our Washington Nationals and The Baltimore Orioles knew it--as well as every single other person in the park. With The Orioles Faithful know all standing and rhythmically clapping--Baltimore's Jim Johnson sent in pitch number five of this nerve racking At-Bat. A toss Austin Kearns decided NOT TO SWING AT-- a pitch so close to the strike zone--you had figure he would be called out on strikes. Yet, McClelland ruled Ball Three--Full Count. A decision that brought incredulous boos and guffaws from the audience and a HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF from Sohna and I. We had thought he had struck out.
Given new life--Austin then fouled off the sixth pitch of this excruciatingly exciting appearance.
Remember: a single would most likely score two and give Our Washington Nationals a lead. A Home Run would, most likely, put this game out of reach--for Washington.
As The Orioles Number 43 leaned in for the sign from his catcher Ramon Hernandez, Austin Kearns leaned in over the plate--waiting for the pitch at hand.
And the ever growing crescendo in the stands found the crowd leaning forward in anticipation of what was to come. The clapping louder. The nervousness building. This particular At-Bat was now Theatre. The Actors were all set on stage. The Final Act was about to be delivered--right before everyone's eyes.
As Jim Johnson wound up to throw the baseball--all three runners for Our Washington Nationals took off. Any hit now would probably decide this game. Having little command of his off speed pitches--Johnson chose to throw his fastball--his 95 MPH Heater. A pitch that Austin Kearns was dead on correct in expecting.
Now--seeing the fastball heading his way, Austin swung on and this brought an INCREDULOUS REACTION from VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE AT ORIOLE PARK.
"YYYEEEEEEESS!! Orioles Fans screamed throughout Camden Yards. A loud and celebratory bellow that reverberated throughout the ballpark. Was it EVER LOUD!! The sounds telling the outcome. The final act had played out and Austin Kearns had--unfortunately--struck out--swinging right through the pitch.
Distraught over not producing in this key situation and realizing the magnitude--Our Number 25 then proceeded to fling his bat violently to the ground in disgust. Walking slowly with his hands on his hips along the third base line--Austin Kearns well knew-This Rally Was Over. This Inning Was Over. And This Game Was Now--Probably--Over Too.
The Chance To Win Had Been Lost.
Final Score from Oriole Park at Camden Yards--The Baltimore Orioles 6 and Our Washington Nationals 5.
Game Notes & Highlights
Wily Mo Pena had quite the adventures in left field tonight. He missed a liner over his head in the first off Melvin Mora. A resultant double that found Mora scoring The Orioles first run of the inning. Then--in the 3rd--he could not track down a high pop down the left field line from Brian Roberts. This, after he was shading Roberts slightly to center. Just one batter later--another bad double that became a run scoring opportunity for Baltimore when Pena again misplayed a liner directly at him by Mora--that scored Brian Roberts.
Odalis Perez had little in the tank tonight. He surrendered two, two run home runs. One crushed by Nick Markakis to dead center--a shot in the 3rd and the other by Jay Payton in the 5th.
Ryan Zimmerman slammed another Home Run tonight off Baltimore's Brian Burres in 4th--continuing his recent surge at the plate. And Aaron Boone continues to stroke a hot bat. Washington's comeback in the top of the 8th was fueled by two singles and three walks off the hands of three different Baltimore Pitchers. Trying to hold a 6-2 lead--Chad Bradford, Dennis Sarfate & Jim Johnson all struggled during their appearances. Thankfully for The Orioles--they eventually finished off Our Washington Nationals.
Baltimore Starter Brian Burres pitched into the 7th and once removed by The Orioles Manager Dave Trembley--the opportunity for Washington to get back into this game arose.
Jesus Flores was ejected by Home Plate Umpire Tim McClelland in the bottom of the sixth inning--apparently arguing over balls and strikes. The removal happening so quickly and quietly--not many people noticed until Wil Nieves starting running from Washington's Centerfield Bullpen to the dugout to report into the game.
This evening Sohna and I enjoyed Club Level at Camden Yards. Similar but different than The Stars & Stripes Club at New Nationals Park. Little alcoves for bars, concessions, lounge chairs and seating areas--separated in spots by lattice walls. The food choices were OK. The Orioles also provided for each and every Club Level Patron wanting--a complete set of game notes for each team, scorecard (with starting lineups aleady printed on) and thick photo copied pages of statistics covering each and every player in the game. This was nice and detailed--available at the Main Entry Reception Area.
Having tried the crab cake meal the previous night--The African Queen chose The BBQ Beef Platter with all the fixings for $9. A good deal for a very full plate--while I had the Crab Bisque and Brie Soup for $4. We enjoyed the meal while sitting at The Diamond Bar near our seats in Section 228. The looks on the faces of the many Orioles Fans surprised we sat down with them to chat and have fun--a real blast. They seemed shocked that we had no problem wearing Our Nats Gear into their alcove. FUNNY.
It also appeared to us that The Oriole Park Club Level had received a face lift since the last time we went there. Some of the lounge areas were very inviting. Of course--we appreciated some of their history displayed. The famous jerseys of former players, team photos and memorabilia. Really, it was nice--although Sohna and I found the seats smaller and a little cramped for leg room. Note to Mr. Kasten--we enjoyed the in-seat waiter service in Club Level at Camden Yards--something not available in The Stars & Stripes Club. Otherwise--we like New Nationals Park's two tier club far better.
Finally--that new Hilton Hotel overlooking left centerfield at Camden Yards completely blocks the view of Baltimore's famous Bromo Seltzer Tower from fans. Too bad--we always liked that clock tower as part of the backdrop while watching any game at Oriole Park.
PS--Sorry for the late post after such a dramatic game. Sometimes it's necessary to get some sleep after the drive home. We were exhausted.