Sunday, May 04, 2008
When Tim Redding threw a 95 mile per hour heater right past The Pittsburgh Pirates Brian Bixler in the top of the third inning--you just knew he was mentally into this game. Our Number 17 was showing the confidence to succeed. That psychological freedom of being in "The Zone."
There is a moment in most every one's sports career where you can do little wrong. Sometimes almost without effort--the game becomes easier. Every pitch thrown by any pitcher looks like it was shot from a gun--dipping, dropping or smoking right past each and every hitter. This afternoon at New Nationals Park, Tim Redding was virtually lights out--until he tired in the 7th. This one time top prospect with The Houston Astros, now veteran journeyman, looking to again find his spot in The Great Game. And when he blew away Bixler for strike three for today's 2nd out in the 3rd inning--Redding must have also turned some heads. He hasn't thrown that hard and this consistently in years. At The Major League Level--Tim is slowly becoming Our Washington Nationals most consistent starter. Unquestionably, success breeds confidence. Our Number 17 was in "The Zone" this afternoon.
A feeling Ryan Zimmerman has currently lost. Our Franchise Player mentally exhausted. And who can really blame him? For this 23 Year Old--Major League Baseball has become a day-to-day grind. Expectations placed on this young man--exorbitantly high. So much so, Our Number 11 looks tired--down right worn out. Everyone realizes, Zimmerman has succeeded beyond what many thought possible in his short two plus seasons in Washington. But now--he is many times getting himself out at the plate--swinging at his opposing pitchers best pitches. You see--Ryan is far now from "The Zone". And rightfully today--Our Number 11 asked to be taken out the lineup--after 205 consecutive appearances. With a scheduled off day on Monday, Our Manager Manny Acta granted Ryan Zimmerman his request. "Z" needs these two full days to relax, unwind and get back on track. Hopefully, find "The Zone"--again. You know he can.
That cerebral tranquility which Cristian Guzman continues to possess. Is anyone HOTTER on Our Washington Nationals than "The GUZ"!!? Nearly run out of town by The Faithful before the 2005 Inaugural Season even concluded--Our Number 15 has found a new following. How surreal to hear "GUZZIE" in his praise at New Nationals Park--than the many "Booz" which rained down on him from the vast expanses of RFK Stadium. At the Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street--I could count the number of Cristian Guzman fans sitting in and around Old Section 320 as two: The African Queen and BangTheDrumNatly. At New Nationals Park--seemingly the ENTIRE CROWD of 30,564 was CHEERING ON our starting shortstop this afternoon. Today--Cristian Guzman with two more hits and one run scored--continuing a breakthrough series of games. All because--unlike any other player on Our Team--"THE GUZ" is clearly STILL in "THE ZONE." Unstoppable at the plate and in the field. Without a doubt--Our Washington Nationals Most Valuable Player over this just completed 11 Game Homestand. How odd is it to actually call "THE GUZ"--Our MVP? I have to give him huge credit for his efforts.
Acknowledgement no one would have believed for Washington's Major League Team after the first three weeks of this new campaign. Struggling early--Our Washington Nationals are also playing in "The Zone" now. This Physic Development held collectively as a team. Mostly quality starting pitching, timely hitting and some fine defensive plays in the field. A one time 5-15 ball club, now sitting at 14-18 in the standings after concluding this afternoon's win. A very impressive 8-3 homestand.
"The Zone" directly responsible for Curly "W" Number 14 this GORGEOUS SUNDAY at New Nationals Park. The Bang!! Zoom!! of The Fireworks!! signaling that Our Washington Nationals are building on their success--finding the psychological freedom to joyfully walk on the field, not run in unbelieving merriment, after this afternoon's 5-2 victory over The Pittsburgh Pirates. Confident in the fact they are--on a daily basis--becoming a very competitive Major League Team.
On to Houston now--for three games at Gimmicky Minute Maid Park. Can Our Washington Nationals stay within "The Zone"? And edge their way--ever so closely toward .500?
Game Notes & Highlights
From the get-go, Tim Redding was on his game. Solid, in command, and sitting The Pittsburgh Pirates down in order. Looking to save his bullpen--Our Manager Manny Acta attempted to stretch Our Number 17 into the 7th inning. A decision that almost proved costly when Redding allowed back to back hits--a single by Xavier Nady and a BOMB by Adam LaRoche. A hammered pitch that just missed for his second home run of the day. A drive that banged high off the Out Of Town Scoreboard in right. A resultant double that moved Pittsburgh's baserunners to second and third with one out--and removed Tim Redding from this game.
A smart decision as "Everyday" Saul Rivera trotted on to retire the next two Pirate Batters in order--on comebackers to the mound. An impressive performance that, not only maintained a slim two run lead at that time--but assured Our Number 17 of the victory--his 4th of 2008. Not only was Tim Redding outstanding this afternoon--but Rivera and Luis Ayala again proved how invaluable they are out of the bullpen. Both--excellent in the 7th and 8th innings. No--you can't have your best stuff everyday--as our relief corp is continually called on--exceedingly so. But, Our Numbers 52 & 56 are quality pitchers. Relievers that most any team in the game would love to possess.
In the top of the 4th inning--Pittsburgh's Nate McLouth drove a Redding pitch into the right field corner. Having seen Austin Kearns have trouble with a similar drive yesterday afternoon--McLouth never stopped rounding first and headed for second base. BIG MISTAKE!! Our Number 25 is one of the finest rightfielders in the game. Not many take better tracks to the hit balls than Austin. As Nate rounded first--"Bluegrass" retrieved the baseball and threw a one hop STRIKE to "The Guz". A fabulous throw right on the money. If that baseball had arrived even the slightest bit off target, McLouth would have been safe. But it wasn't, The Pirates Centerfielder realizing yesterday's mistake was unusual. Today, was vintage Austin Kearns. Nate McLouth out at second base with The Defensive Play of This Game. A GREAT THROW!! The Standing Ovation to Our Number 25 was well deserved.
One of the men in "The Zone" got the scoring going for Our Washington Nationals today. Cristian Guzman slapped a single into the hole between short and third in the bottom of the first. Followed immediately by Lastings Milledge being hit on the helmet by a pitch from The Pirates Ian Snell. A glancing blow that put Washington runners on first and second with one out. An advantage taken care of--when Nick Johnson followed with a blooping single to left scoring "The Guz" and Austin Kearns followed with a clean single--also to left.
Aaron Boone--filling in for the resting Zimmerman--increased the Washington scoring to three with a drive--just over the fence in left center--for a home run in the fourth. A Red Porch Seat Shot--his First Homer of 2008.
Later in the 7th--Willie Harris drilled a Snell pitch into the right field corner. An easy double for the speedster that resulted in the fourth run of the afternoon--when FLop followed with a clean single to centerfield. Washington's final score of this game came in the bottom of the 8th, when Wily Mo Pena--pinch hitting for Luis Ayala--drove a John Grabow pitch deep to left center. A single that plated Austin Kearns--who had reached on a single earlier--and had advanced to second on a Paul LoDuca single.
In the bottom of the 4th--Rob Mackowiak was at the plate. Today's starter in left field for Our Washington Nationals--he received a nice round of applause from Pittsburgh Fans--appreciative of his five years playing for the home team at PNC PARK. Then, he blooped a looper down the left field line toward The Pirates' Jason Bay--AND DIDN'T RUN!! Figuring his former teammate Bay would easily make the catch--Our Number 12 loafed to first base. Bay missed the fly. Mackowiak missed out on a double. He was booed--rightfully so. If you don't want to run any batted ball out--don't play. Simple as that.
Did you know that Our Washington Nationals are undefeated in 2008 (3-0) wearing those gorgeous Red "DC" Uniforms. 32-15 overall since the Red Tops were first worn in 2006. As I have said before: Let's Wear Them More!! They look GREAT!!
Today was Scout Day. Group Discounts Available for Kids Run The Bases Day. Each member of a pre-registered Scout Group received a very nice Scout Day Washington Nationals Uniform Patch. There are three other opportunities later this season.
Also today--was My Best Friend's!! Birthday. Although Sohna and I recognize the birthday of Screech!! as April 17th--Our Washington Nationals did not play at home on that date. So, on May 3rd--Screech celebrated along with fellow Mascots--Talon from DC United and The Blue Hen from The University of Delaware. A birthday cake was presented to My Best Friend on top of The Nationals First Base Dugout by Clint and The NatPack. A present that promptly landed in a patrons face in Section 127--when Screech clumsily tripped and feel hopping off Our Washington Nationals Dugout.
By the way--"Peanut Butter and Jelly Time" (a song from the mid-90's) is quite the bizarre interlude between innings. Last week a Banana danced along with Screech and Our Presidents. Today--Screech, The Blue Hen, Talon, The Pittsburgh Pirogues, Our Racing Presidents and an inflatable Blue Hen all joined the fun. The moment so bizarre, it's going to take time to catch on. But, we like it. "Peanut Butter and Jelly Time" is different--worth keeping.
Finally, speaking of The Pirogues--for the second consecutive day--The Racing Pirogues from Pittsburgh competed at New Nationals Park. This afternoon a relay race that Abe won handily. A competition that was different and fun to watch. Of course--Teddy did not win again. Sohna and I like the fact that The Pittsburgh Mascots showed up for Our Washington Nationals Home Game. When Our Washington Nationals head to Pittsburgh in June for their visit to PNC Park--hopefully Our Racing Presidents will return the favor. Now--what about those sausages? Milwaukee visits New Nationals Park on Memorial Day Weekend. Bring on The Chorizo and his Gang!! This time for some REAL RACING. That would be FABULOUS!!
Today's InGame Photo--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais