Sunday, May 11, 2008

Opportunity Lost On Mother's Day--A Continuing Trend


Even Mother Nature Was Upset.

The damp dreary sprinkles falling throughout the afternoon had dramatically changed. A Rain Of Boos were now cascading down from above. Fans at New Nationals Park were not happy. Luis Ayala had trotted out to pitch the just completed 8th inning with Our Washington Nationals up 4-2. An advantage held due to some solid starting pitching from Shawn Hill and some timely hitting from Aaron Boone and Ronnie Belliard.

A two run lead washed away--almost instantly.

Our Number 56 needed just three pitches to tie the game and five batters to lose it. Luis Ayala has not been the same solid pitcher over the past week. Consistently leaving his patented slider up in the zone. And at times--late this afternoon on South Capitol Street--Ayala looked like he was throwing batting practice. No zip of any of his pitches.

Alfredo Amezaga led off the top of this pivotal 8th and slammed Luis' second pitch near Aaron Boone--today's first baseman. A hot potato that Boone deflected and picked up--only to see that Ayala had delayed his run to first base to cover the bag. A brain lock and resultant infield single that changed this game--for the worse. For on Our Number 56's very next pitch--a hanging slider in and over the middle the plate--The Florida Marlins' Jeremy Hermida CRUSHED this toss deep into the right field seats--over the Scoreboard Wall. A Tying Homer that immediately found the home crowd turning.

Upset over the lost lead.

Disappointed over another Bullpen Failure.

In a tizzy over Our Washington Nationals putting themselves in another position to lose--a winnable game.

A Victory Lost three batters later when Dan Uggla got ahold of an Ayala Fastball laid in over the middle of the plate. A drive that landed well over the right centerfield fence for the Go Ahead and Eventual Game Winning Run. Just like that, Our Washington Nationals were trailing, and the restless faithful were letting Our Team on the field know their feelings. This was not pretty. After last night's horrendous 11-0 loss, an affair where Washington was never in the game--a turnabout victory this Mother's Day Sunday would have done wonders to take the bitter taste out of such a bad loss and head on to The Big Apple to play The New York Mets.

Instead, an overwhelming feeling of sorrow developed late this afternoon--when Our Manager Manny Acta called on Luis Ayala to stretch this ballgame to the 9th--looking for a win. An untidy effort by Our Number 56--which washed away a deserved victory--just like the raining downpour that immediately followed the conclusion of this awful loss. Apparently, even Mother Nature crying and upset over today's turn of events--letting Our Washington Nationals know: It's OK to lose--but not so consistently--in such bad fashion.

Final Score--The Florida Marlins 5 and Our Washington Nationals 4. Washington, losers of five of their last six games. Yes, once again--opportunity lost this Mother's Day. A continuing trend where poor play and mental mistakes have taken their toll--limiting any chance to win--consistently.

Maybe, we can get Chicken Man to Sacrifice another Rubber Chicken as penance? That and some much better play by Our Washington Nationals needed. Like Now?!

Game Notes & Highlights

Shawn Hill pitched well enough to win. The Florida Marlins manufactured a run in the 2nd inning with a Hit by Pitch of Dan Uggla, single by Luis Gonzalez and sacrifice fly by Wes Helms. And plated their second run of this afternoon--when Uggla slugged his first home run and eventual third over two days--just over the left field wall. A blast that brought Florida within two, before the disruptive 8th inning. Our Number 41 not walking a single batter--giving up five hits. And when he completed his seven inning effort--not many watching did not believe his first victory of 2008 was in hand.
Aaron Boone continues to swing a hot bat. Over the past week, Our Number 8 has more resembled the fine player he was--before his knee injury. Hitting with power, stroking key hits. Today--a nice home run into the Red Porch Seats in left center. A triple over the head of the slipping Amezega in centerfield and a single. When Aaron Boone batted for the final time late in the game--not a sole rooting for Washington--did not wish to see him hit for the cycle. Needing a double, Boone flew out to right field.

Washington pulled ahead with what many felt were the game winning runs in the bottom of the third, when Ronnie Belliard laced a home run down the left field line--a two run shot--with Jesus Flores on second base. And Ryan Zimmerman was safe on an infield single and scored Our Washington Nationals 4th and final run of the afternoon on Boone's ruled triple.

Immediately after Boone's Home Run--Lastings Milledge laced a sharp grounder into the hole between shortstop and third. A hard hit ball which The Florida Marlins Hanley Ramirez dove to his right. Totally stretched out and face planting himself, Ramirez gloved the ball, got up, and threw out the fast moving Milledge for The Defensive Play of This Game.

Once again--no significant production from our Outfield. Wily Mo Pena, Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes (today's right fielder)--all hitless. Austin Kearns had the day off.

It's worth mentioning again--What is wrong with Luis Ayala? This one time dependable setup man appeared to be 100% back from his elbow surgery--over two years ago. Lately, Our Number 56 has not been the same. Is he hurt? Or just going through a bad streak? Either way--his work of late--poor.

Which also brings up questions concerning Our Bullpen. Starting Pitchers not going late into games, most all season long. Relievers putting in extended times on the mound in relief. Overworked players like Saul Rivera. Our Washington Nationals Bullpen has always been the Strongest Part of This Franchise. Today--it's becoming more of a question mark.

The Florida Marlins--now undefeated in six games at New Nationals Park. Our Washington Nationals the sole reason The Fish are in first place in The National League East.

Our Washington Nationals Celebrated Mother's Day by Honoring Breast Cancer Survivors, Celebrating Mothers and Raising Awareness of Breast Cancer Research. The first 20,000 Fans entering New Nationals Park were handed a white embroidered Pink Curly "W" and Pink Ribbon Cap. 200 Breast Cancer Survivors were honored at today's game. Nine of whom took the field to greet Our Washington Nationals Starting Nine at the beginning of the game.

As has been the case over the past three Mother's Days--Major League Baseball approved the use of special Pink Bats for those players wishing to participate in the special event on Game Day. Each and every base on the field and The Batting Lineups handed to The Home Plate Umpire contained The Pink Ribbon. Each Player (except pitchers), Coaches, and Umpires wore Pink Wristbands.

And, of course--The African Queen participated in her own way. She wore her Pink Nationals Jersey and Pink Curly "W" Cap. And was joined in celebration by, not only Iris, but Little Abby & The Expectant Becky.

We love those PINK BATS. So why DID NOT Our Washington Nationals sell them in The Team Store Today--as has been the case each of the past two seasons? We really wanted to buy one? And asked all over--to no avail--sadly.
Finally--Sohna and I have become addicted to the Curly "W" Popcorn. Very Salty and Buttering--all the bad things, but freshly air popped--it's very good. $4.75 at various concession stands around New Nationals Park.

But, we continue to be stumped by the EXTREMELY slow lines at the many Nats Dogs stands. Again this afternoon, a one minute walk to our closest Nats Dogs Stand behind Section 223--took AN ENTIRE INNING just to get to the front of the line, order and return to my seat. Yet, there were just THREE people in front of me. How is that conceivably possible? The first person ordered a pretzel and a beer. The second--two nachos and a two cokes. The third--three Nats Dogs. Why over 10 Minutes to complete the process? There seems to be ZERO effort to move fans through the line promptly. Concession Workers behind the counter constantly yelling at each other. No one in charge.

Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)

22 comments:

Let Teddy win the presidents race. said...

The recent failures of the bullpen are one of Manny's biggest tests yet as a young manager. He has relies heavily on those guys to take pressure off of a young and inexperienced starting rotation.

But now it's starting to backfire. I think a lot of fans would like to see him less trigger-happy with the hook, especially when a starter is taking a quality start and a lead into late innings.

In the past Manny's mantra has been that he's pulling the starter to make sure the youngster gets rewarded with the win. Not such a sure thing these days, is it?

Edward J. Cunningham said...

He's also going to need to run drills so that our pitchers know to run to first base to cover the bag. I didn't see the play, but this is the third time this year we've lost outs because our pitcher has failed to cover. Once is embarrassing. Three times is intolerable.

Old Nats Guy said...

I thought Frank Robinson was the all-time king when it came to burning out a bullpen, but Frank couldn't hold a candle to Manny. The current manager doesn't seem to have confidence in his starting pitchers being able to get out of trouble and making it into the eighth (or, perish the thought, NINTH) inning. As a result, the pen is overworked, and the result is what we saw yesterday. The only solution seems to be building up the stamina of the starting staff. Other teams' pitchers throw complete games. Why not Nats pitchers? The solution isn't bringing in a new pitcher from Columbus every ten days. Burn out someone else, then bring in a new guy? Even Jon Rauch needs rest.
Did anyone happen to notice Milledge's weak, off-line throw after the sacrifice fly in the second inning? Milledge slowly walked back to his position flexing and shaking his right arm. Is he hurt? Is this a result of his failed hot-dog attempt to throw out a runner at second base while on his stomach a few weeks ago? If he is hurt, it won't take long for the rest of the league to figure it out and start taking advantage. And why does he continue to be a spectator when running the bases? Is this young man coachable?
And regarding the rest of the outfield: When does "unlimited potential" become "unmet expectations?"

Screech's Best Friend said...

Old Nats Guy: Milledge does appear to have a weak arm. He also Hot Dogs too much. Late in yesterday's game when he walked--he put on a show by flipping his bat down in front of The Marlins Catcher and strutting to first base. Under the circumstances, it really wasn't necessary after the team has just lost a late lead.

Sam said...

SBF,

I think Dukes really let us down in a key spot, his .000 avg is a drag. All we needed was one little hit, just one from him in the ninth and we'd have been in business. I felt after Rauch came in and powered us out of the top of the ninth with no damage there was some momentum. Then after the Belliard walk, Mr. O-Fer pops up instead of raising that .000...argh. - Sam

Todd said...

I sit in the section next to you in 219. The Nats Dog concession and the ice cream stand just outside the club area are pathetic and have been since the building opened. Yesterday I waited for 1 dog with like you only 3 people in front of me. It took 20 minutes while the workers stood around, talked and just looked lost. I am getting tired of the terrible attitudes of the food service staff. This will factor into my decision to return as a season ticket holder next year after 4 years. There is no excuse for poor service.

Jeremy said...

You guys need to get out of the Stars and Stripes Club! The Nats Dogs stands that I have visited on the 100-level concourse and the 300-level concourse have moved very, very quickly and I've often had multiple workers trying to get me to come over to their station because I was the only person in line. The one big complaint is that the one time I ordered a Ben's chili half smoke, the chili on the dog was cold. But the beer stands are the same way... generally no more than a three-minute wait.

And I personally am not above seeing Milledge bounced down to Columbus to try to wake him up a little bit and bring Maxwell up. Of course, that's my bias as a Terp.

Anonymous said...

From MLB Trade Rumors--"Jim Bowden hinted that he may implement a full-fledged youth movement in the near future, noting that a number of top prospects are close to being ready. Specifically, he mentioned two outfielders which would likely mean that Bowden will seek to move Austin Kearns and/or Wily Mo Pena. Kearns is due $8MM next year and there is a $10MM option for 2010 ($1M buyout). Pena may be easier to move with only a $5MM team option for 2009." I have some news for Jimmy Bowden--Kearns and Pena don't have any trade value.

Maryland Orioles' Fan said...

Going to a few games at the new park, I don't want to be too negative, but the food service like many others have mentioned have not been up to par.

The lines have operated at a snail's pace, and looks like either the workers have not been trained well or it's overwhelming for some of them.

It's a little frustrating to miss half an inning or more waiting for food -- especially, when there's not many people in line.

Not to slam Centerplate, but perhaps more training might be needed with their staff?

I'll say, some stands have been much, much better than others. If I were a fan, I'd be very discouraged getting food during the game (especially with a large crowd on hand).

I've now resorted to purchasing when I first walk in, or I bring own my food.

6th and D said...

The answer to the concession woes? Hire from the local colleges. I got through the University of Maryland working a beer stand at the Capital Centre. What I see from the Nationals Park vendors is no stake or interest in a job well done.

SenatorNat said...

Are the Nats suffering the "Z-Jinx" spawned by his home run in the Opener in the bottom of the ninth - too good to be true, and now seemingly a mirage.

This team looks and plays like the one folks presumed we would be getting in the Spring, 2005 - not the one with realistic raised expectations, based on its play after the horrendous 9-25 start. Manny is frozen it would seem, like his pitchers who cannot cover first or throw to the right bag for a DP or hold runners. Last year, No. 23 received his fair share of credit for managing on the field of play and it is looking increasing like the team truly lost its lone leader on the field.

Pena is nice guy, and hopeless. No.44 is a hot dog and seemingly overrated. And, E.Dukes should borrow Gilbert's jersey (he wears it outside his pants anyway) until he gets a hit.

Church looks like he will make the All-Star team, which doesn't help fans' receptivity of the current no-hit, no hustle Nats.

Trust in the power of the Z-Man. All Good.

John R said...

I blame yesterday's loss on Acta. Every now and then, couldn't he manage from his gut? You know, get a feel for how well his starter is pitching and leave him in until he shows signs of weakening. Maybe I'm too old since I grew up in the 70s when you used relievers only when the starter had started to falter. But this 8th Inning Setup and 9th Inning Closer role is not mandatory in all situations, Manny! Manny also has a tendency to use the intentional walk to load the bases just before his pitcher walks in a key run!

If Manny Acta is a great manager, I have not seen it in his moves on the field. Granted, maybe it comes out in the clubhouse, or in ways that a fan cannot see. Hopefully, he can learn from his mistakes and become better.

I'm inclined to give Ayala a break on the hard hit ball to Boone that resulted in a single. It was the kind of play that Nick Johnson usually catches. It would have been a great catch, but Johnson is a great fielder. It wasn't the kind of play for which a pitcher would usually expect that he would need to cover first. Usually on a ball hit that hard the first baseman would be able to run to first before the batter, but the Marlins runner was very fast.

I also have to concur that the concession stands were fast in the 300 section yesterday. It was my first time in Infield Gallery and it is no wonder that the Full Season ticket holders gobbled up all those seats. They are a bargain! Great views of the game and the Capitol!

Screech's Best Friend said...

Jeremy: The Nats Dogs stand in question is OUTSIDE CLUB LEVEL.

JohnR: I couldn't agree with you more on Manny acted more on his gut than just going by the book. Just because everyone says you should go with your setup man and closer--does not mean you should. Hill was pitching a fine game. Give him a chance to go all the way. If he gets in trouble right away in the 8th yank him. Unfortunately yesterday, Hill was not given the chance.

An Briosca Mor said...

It was my first time in Infield Gallery and it is no wonder that the Full Season ticket holders gobbled up all those seats.

Well, they didn't gobble up all those seats. They were given the chance to, but they didn't, leaving seats available there now for single-game sale. Meanwhile, returning 20-game plan holders like myself were denied the opportunity to get seats there during the relocation process. That has left me a little bitter, but not enough to keep me from also getting single-game tickets in IG on occasion to augment my 20-game plan in the Upper IG (which isn't all that bad, really).

As for Manny's decision to pull Hill yesterday, I'd be with you guys except for the fact that Hill's spot was up the inning before, with one out and a man on second. With only a two run lead against the Fish, I can see Manny's logic in sending Nick up to hit for Hill and try to get that insurance run in. If Nick had done that, or if Ayala had covered first base, we'd be having a whole different conversation.

Anonymous said...

SBF,

We have seen a lot of Milledge this season and I am wondering what you see in him long term.

Manny vouched for him but that just makes me wonder about Manny. He has a weak arm, very bad jump on balls in CF. Seems to play for himself, no clue of what is going on in the game. His base running is atrocious.

I sensed you are seeing some of these things. Do you think Acta really wanted him or just providing cover for Jim Bowden?

Screech's Best Friend said...

I have said for some time that Milledge is not a good outfielder. He is a talented ATHLETE, but not a natural baseball player. He gets no jumps on baseball's hit his way, runs circles around the ball and seems far more cocky than someone of his limited time as a Major Leaguer. And is terrible running the bases. Manny has vouched for him--and did the same when both were with The Mets. But there is no doubt that Jim runs the show. Both Our Manager and General Manager must have some concern about Milledge--now. He does not look like the quality player promised.

Anonymous said...

SBF,

Thank you for your thoughts.

Do you think the approach the team took during Spring Training is playing a role in this underachievement of Milledge, Dukes and Pena. Specifically I am thinking giving them jobs before they earned them. I understand injuries for Pena and Dukes giving people jobs without regard to performance could be responsible for some of this mess.

You were at Spring Training, was it run differently. Did you get the sense that these young outfielders felt they we due playing time based on promises made?

Anonymous said...

There is a Centerplate employee that smokes in the woman's bathroom outside Diamond club every single game. It's getting to the point that the bathroom always smells of smoke. She even burned one of the seats Several complaints have been made to no avail. One person who complained was told to use another bathroom! These Centerplate people are awful.

Keith said...

SBC,
Love the blog. I added it to my page http://nationalspost.blogspot.com/. Will you add me to yours?

Thanks

Juan-John said...

SBF,

Next time you see Stan Kasten, could you ask him why there aren't any Homestead Grays replica jerseys for sale in the Nats team store?

Thx!

Juan-John :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm confused about Manny's coaching. In the post game interviews he talks a lot about "the W's,it's all about the W's". He gets good play from Harris, Mackowiak & Boone and then he doesn't play them again for a week. Meanwhile, Wily Mo, Zimmerman, Milledge and Kearns keep playing and not producing with RISP. He plays Dukes when it's obvious that he needs to go to Columbus to work on his timing and stance. Bowden & Manny have talked about power hitting for 8 weeks but nothing has materialized . Meanwhile, sacrifice flies and singles would have produced a few more "W's". Play the players who are "hot" regardless of the status.

Anonymous said...

Forget the "book" or Manny's gut feeling, face reality. Who would you rather have pitching in the
8th inning with a 4-2 lead? Shawn Hill or the 2008 version of Luis Ayala. I'll take a tiring Hill to hold onto the lead for one more inning for Rauch to close.