Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The New York Minute
He's Young. He's talented. And he's needs some more seasoning. But more and more--Jesus Flores is becoming a legitimate Major League Catcher--and a dependable hitter in the clutch.
A feeling many watching probably did not have about Jesus--two pitches into his 7th inning At-Bat. Jesus Flores had looked overmatched. The New York Mets Aaron Heilman had Our Number 3 down 0-2 in the count. Elijah Dukes may well be standing on second base with the go ahead run with two outs in a tie ball game, but who could have figured what transpired next.
With the Shea Stadium Crowd now roaring--looking for the inning ending strikeout--Heilman looked in to his catcher Brian Schneider and threw a waste pitch. A 94 MPH Heater over the outside corner--taken by Flores--just off the plate for ball one. Then Aaron followed with a pitch in the dirt. A called ball two that started the worrying among The New York Mets Faithful. And gave Jesus Flores a little more confidence. The belief he could be the difference in this At-Bat. Especially, when Heilman threw ball three in the dirt for a full count. A toss that sent The Partisan Mets Crowd up in arms.
If you thought New York Fans were unforgiving, their reaction thus far was pale--compared to what transpired over the next few minutes.
Because as the locals continued to bellow--still looking for the final strike and final out of this key frame--Aaron Heilman delivered a fastball to Our Number 3. A low and on the outside corner pitch--but in the strike zone. Having no choice but to protect the plate, Jesus Flores swung--reaching out, hitting and PULLING the baseball toward the hole between shortstop and third. A hard grounder that just missed--the on the move Dukes--running on the pitch.
Jesus Flores had singled to left--scoring Dukes and giving Our Washington Nationals a surprising 2-1 lead. Just when you least expected it--A Two Out Run Scoring Rally by Washington sent great displeasure to those many New Yorkers at Shea.
And when Heilman continued his downward spiral on the mound--by walking Pinch Hitter Willie Harris to put runners on 1st and 2nd--opportunity was again at hand. The chance to extend this two out rally--extend the fresh lead and extend the booing at The Mets. An opening taken advantage of when FLop followed with a single to right. A drive that Ryan Church was quickly on--immediately throwing a fine toss to his catcher Brian Schneider at the plate. A pegged liner that would have NAILED Jesus Flores rounding third and heading for home--if not for ONE TERRIFIC SLIDE by Our Number 3. With the ball arriving a split second before Jesus reached the plate--Flores DOVE HEAD FIRST--AND LEFT HAND FIRST--toward the outside part of home--around Schneider's left foot blocking the plate and SCORED!! A Bang!! BANG!! play that found Home Plate Umpire Dana DaMuth signaling SAFE!! SAFE AT THE PLATE!!
A climactic moment that extended the lead to two while extending the displeasure echoing around Old Shea Stadium. A disgust by New Yorkers that became UNLEASHED when Cristian Guzman followed with a two out rally hit of his own. Singling to center and putting Washington up 5-1, The Mets Aaron Heilman was then unceremoniously booed off the mound. Slowly walking to the home Mets Dugout--this New York Reliever felt the pain of being beaten by a Young Washington Catcher, DC's Two Out Rally and the Unmerciful Venom of a New York Crowd.
Just like that--this game had turned, the crowd had turned on their Home Team and Our Washington Nationals had turned around a tight ball game with a feel good victory over The New York Mets.
All In A New York Minute.
Final Score from Shea Stadium--Our Washington Nationals 5 and The New York Mets 3. Curly "W" Number 17 of 2008.
Game Notes & Highlights
Until the key seventh inning two out rally--this was one fine pitchers duel. Both Tim Redding for Washington and Claudio Vargas for New York pitched six solid innings apiece. Each was tagged for a home run--Ryan Zimmerman for DC's Team and Brian Schneider for The Mets. Vargas made it into the 7th, but was replaced by Heilman after walking Dukes. The managerial move by The New York Mets Manager Willie Randolph which decided this affair. Redding would gain his team leading 5th victory of the season--leaving the game with a 3.55 ERA. Good Stuff.
Of course, Our Washington Nationals made it interesting at the end. Our Manager Manny Acta sent out Saul Rivera for the bottom of the 7th and he struggled. Giving up runs in both the 7th and 8th--Our Number 14 made a bold move--when he sent out Luis Ayala for a one batter situational assignment in the 8th. With Marlon Anderson and Ryan Church on first and second with one out--Our Number 56 trotted out to face just one hitter--the dangerous David Wright representing the go ahead run. Having struggled over the past 10 Days--Manny was showing confidence in Luis. A faith that proved correct when David Wright broke his bat swinging at Ayala's Change Up. A Rally Killing Moment that was extinguished when Big Jon Rauch then trotted out for the four out save. Mission Accomplished--for The Wookie's 8th save of 2008.
For the second consecutive night--Ryan Zimmerman homered. This one a Blast off the facade above the second tier of Shea Stadium's Upper Deck. Maybe the sign that Our Number 11 is coming around at the plate--worries he has not had in the field. As tonight--he snared a Carlos Beltran liner lunging to his right. A smash heading down the left field line in the bottom of the 4th. A caught ball that pulled "Z" off balance, but not enough for him to show some fine dexterity and hop off his wrong foot while turning toward second base--and lofting a football looking screen pass to Felipe Lopez--to double off the speedy Jose Reyes for The Defensive Play of This Game. It was a very nice play. A maneuver even Former Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs would be proud of.
Finally--how disturbing is it to hear that Nick Johnson's hurt wrist is bothering him more? So much so--he is already back in Washington and heading for an MRI tomorrow morning. A hard and gritty player who never gives up--you have to feel sorry for Nick Johnson, if this diagnosis is worse than expected. Our Number 24 deserves better and the chance to play a full season healthy. Will The Baseball Gods allow him to? Keep those fingers crossed. Our Washington Nationals need him in their lineup.
Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Frank Franklin II