Thursday, May 15, 2008
The Very Last Swing Of The Bat
There may not have been a more exhilarating bottom of the 9th inning played in some time. If you had any rooting interest or just wanted to see excellence in the game—there was no better treat than the finish to this afternoon’s affair between Our Washington Nationals and The New York Mets. This one deserves to be REMEMBERED for some time.
A tight well-played and well-pitched game is always worth the memories. Because when the score is 1-0 and the slightest mistake or error could cost you the game---the mind becomes frazzled. The resultant worry leaves you on the edge of your seat. This was a thriller that played out in full form at Shea Stadium this afternoon.
Being at work, watching on television—the only thing missing were the calls from Charlie Slowes on the radio. Why do I have the feeling that Mr. Bang!! Zoom!! was well over the top. I just know Dave Jageler was looking to retrieve the oxygen tank for Charlie.
What a way to end a ballgame!!
But, before all that:
For seven innings The Mets Mike Pelfrey and Our Jason Bergmann matched up in a scoreless duel. Pelfrey throwing the No-No until Aaron Boone touched him for a single--the first hit of the game for Our Washington Nationals in the 7th. A rare base runner, this afternoon, which Our Number 57 was also unwilling to allow consistently. Having just been called up after three outstanding outings at AAA Columbus—Jason Bergmann was in a groove. A mindset that comes from again being confident and on a mental high—due to the birth of his first child—Alexandra—by his wife—Jarah.
This Rutgers Grad showing the stuff everyone knows he posseesses—shutting down The New York Mets on just three hits. An effort that allowed Our Washington Nationals to manufacture the only run in Queens scored on May 15th in the top of the 8th. A double by last night’s hero—Jesus Flores—who eventually scored on a routine Sacrifice Fly by Felipe Lopez.
That slim lead--setting the stage for one miraculous finish.
On came Big Jon Rauch to close out this tight affair--an appearance that found The Wookie giving up a leadoff single to Carlos Beltran. A perilous moment now at hand which became far worse—when Ryan Church followed and lofted a fly down the left field line. A fast dropping looper that late inning defensive replacement—Willie Harris—strode swiftly for---running toward the chalk mark and the stands before him. Using all his speed, his agility and ultimately—HIS ENTIRE BODY—Our Number One dove at the very final split second. Completely parallel to the ground and ultimately face planting himself—Willie stretched out his left hand—his glove hand--and CAUGHT THE BASEBALL—inches before it hit the ground—in fair territory.
A GREAT CATCH that then found this tiny man sliding a good 10 feet along the rough gritty terrain of the left field line warning track. A Tremendous Effort and FINEST DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THIS SEASON by Our Washington Nationals—hands down. A game changing out that if missed would have allowed Carlos Beltran to score the tying run and would have left Our Former Number 19 standing on second base with a double.
As Jon Rauch raised both his hands in salute—Willie Harris rose from the dust, threw the baseball back to Cristian Guzman at shortstop AND SMILED BROADLY. Showing his purely whites—Our Number One knew he had made a terrific catch—despite the fact—he may well have tore the skin off his chest—sliding after this recorded out. It was a great moment. A time to remember.
But unfortunately, this game was FAR from over—especially when Carlos Delgado stepped to the plate with now one out. A battle renewed when Beltran took off on the very first pitch by Big Jon Rauch. An easy steal that turned worse for Washington, when Jesus Flores jettisoned the baseball into centerfield—trying to throw the speedy Beltran out. Just seconds after a feel good moment—the concern and worry was now back on Our Washington Nationals and their fans. Carlos Beltran now stood on third base. And a Power Hitter was up against a Power Pitcher.
All Delgado had to do was loft any baseball to the outfield to tie this game. A well stroke ball might win it. Who was going to survive? Would The Wookie beat The Slugger? This was crunch time. This really was--A REALLY GOOD BALL GAME.
Ultimately, this six-pitch confrontation produced the climatic moment. A foul ball here, a ball there and three more subsequent balls batted foul by Delgado--leading everyone to the finish—an unexpected ending it was.
Looking to drive the baseball—Delgado was ready at the plate. Beltran was ready to score from third. And Big Jon Rauch was ready to end this nail biter. Finally, Our Number 51 delivered an off speed pitch. Delgado was NOT FOOLED. Carlos HAMMERED Rauch’s offering and drilled the baseball on a line. A SCREAMER—RIGHT AT AARON BOONE--near the first base bag. Our Number 8 catching the ball—just off his shoelaces—lunging to his left—then calmly setting himself and throwing to Ryan Zimmerman at third for the inning ending---GAME ENDING—Double Play!!
Carlos Beltran—believing his teammate Delgado had driven him home—was well off the bag and was easily retired for The FINAL OUT OF THIS GAME!!
Two GREAT DEFENSIVE PLAYS had won this ball game. Two Gems where if the hit baseballs had been inches more out of reach of Willie Harris and Aaron Boone—Our Washington Nationals and their Fans would not be celebrating tonight.
This was A GREAT GAME!! A 1-0 Toe Tingling Sensation. An affair that you have NO IDEA who is going to win until the VERY LAST SWING OF THE BAT!! You can play baseball all season long and you can have all the high scoring games you want. But, I will take this one as The Game Of The Year—Thus Far—until another proves itself worthy.
Today was baseball at its best. Curly "W" Number 18 is why I love The Great Game so much. Just not much better than a 1-0 thriller.
Game Notes & Highlights
Jason Bergmann was outstanding. This afternoon at Shea Stadium he showed the ability witnessed by many last season. No hit and dominating stuff. The Power Hitting New York Mets could not touch him this afternoon. A continuing steady performance by Our Number 57 would do wonders for our ever-developing Starting Rotation.
The Mets’ Pelfrey was equally as good and deserved better on most any other day he will ever pitch in The Major Leagues. He just got beat today—but just barely.
Until the memorable bottom of the 9th—Aaron Boone had produced The Defensive Play of This Game. With Luis Ayala replacing Bergmann in the 8th—Jose Reyes led off with a chopper in front of the plate. He slapped the baseball dead into no man’s land. An area in front of the plate where Ayala and Flores had no chance of throwing out the speedy Reyes. A resultant single that found The Mets looking to advance their shortstop to second base on a bunt. A subsequent sacrifice that Luis Castillo laid down—but not well. Ryan Zimmerman charged in—scooped up the baseball and fired to Boone covering first for the out.
But Reyes—using his speed, but maybe not his head—thought he could beat any relay throw and rounded second and jolted for third--a sure free base with Zimmerman already well in on the grass after his toss. What a mistake by Jose Reyes. Aaron Boone saw the entire play developing in front of him, and like a veteran Quarterback looking for his downfield receiver—double pumped while Cristian Guzman ran over and side-by-side with Reyes. Our Number 8 fired a rocket across the diamond and hit Our Number 15 in stride. Such a perfect throw that the baseball and Guzman and his glove ran directly into their Number 7’s side. Jose Reyes out on a very unusual 5-3-6 Double Play. A toss by Boone that if late might well have found Guzman interfering with Reyes—giving the umpire the option of sending Jose home—safe on interference.
It was a GREAT PLAY—A PERFECT DEFENSIVE PLAY—but ultimately not The Defensive Play of This Game. That moment would come one inning later.
Carlos Beltran also made a very nice sliding catch on a Cristian Guzman liner to centerfield in the top of the 1st inning.
Jason Bergmann recorded his first win of 2008. Big Jon Rauch his 9th save.
Today's InGame Photos--(Getty Images) Al Bello
Willie Harris Sliding--(MASN--OFF AIR)