Thursday, June 05, 2008
How Do You Like Me Now?!
Aaron Boone tightly held Elijah Dukes in Celebration. Truly happy for his teammate. Team President Stan Kasten was TRIUMPHANTLY thrusting his fist in the air. Our General Manager Jim Bowden and his Front Office Staff were High Fiving in his Private Suite. And while Our Players were dancing all over the field along with Our Fans in the stands--Our Manager Manny Acta stood clapping--like a Proud Father--watching his young reach far above and beyond--early expectations. Yes, on the very day Our Washington Nationals looked to the future with The 2008 Major League Baseball Entry Draft--a 23 Year Old--already on Our Team--displayed the promise so many believe he possesses.
How fitting the game winning song played at New Nationals Park is always "How Do You Like Me Now?!"
What a performance by Our Number 34 this evening. Talented, troubled, watched closely, criticized and looking to turn his life around--Elijah Dukes displayed tonight what every single baseball scout in America has drooled about. He can be The Difference Maker, The Game Changer. The Force On The Baseball Diamond. A Feared Big League Player.
And Did Our Washington Nationals EVER NEED HIM TONIGHT. Nearly singlehandedly, Elijah Dukes prevented this game, and this day from becoming an embarrassing doubleheader loss.
After losing Game One 4-1 in a listless affair.
A Seven Run Lead--Was Lost by Washington in Game Two.
A Two Run, Two Out--Top of the 9th Lead--Lost by Washington in Game Two.
A Sure Win--Seemingly Lost by Washington--in the top of the 10th in Game Two.
The St. Louis Cardinals now swooping in for A Season Series Sweep in Game Two.
A WILD ONE playing out at New Nationals Park. One of those games--where "He who bats last--wins."
For all his publicity, and all his past problems--no one can ever say Elijah Dukes does not give his all on the baseball field. That man hustles every single play. EVERY SINGLE ONE. Never does he appear to give up. I like that. A lot.
Already this evening--Our Number 34 had tripled, singled twice, knocked in two runs, scored two runs and made one seriously nice catch on a sinking liner to rightfield. Directly accountable for four of Washington's 8 runs heading to the bottom of the 10th--Dukes now found himself facing Ryan Franklin with nobody out and "The Guz" standing on first base. Down 9-8, Elijah was looking for a pitch to drive.
Not hitting the ball well early this season--Dukes has shown some patience at the plate over the past few weeks. Drawing key walks to continue rallies--Our Number 34 has shown an ever growing confidence to hit Major League Pitching. Now facing the journeyman in Franklin--Elijah did not give in to pressure. Nor did he get himself out. Taking a two strike fastball for ball two and fouling off an off speed pitch to stay alive--Dukes showed the savvy of a veteran--when he waited for Franklin to make a mistake.
The Game Deciding Moment which happened on the sixth and last pitch of this Amazing At-Bat. What was left of the 32,357 were mostly on their feet, arguably half of whom were St. Louis Fans cheering on their Cardinals to finish off a supposed come from behind victory. Their feel good moment quickly turning to disappointment--when Dukes HAMMERED Ryan Franklin's Fastball and CLUBBED IT DEEP OVER THE CENTERFIELD WALL. A drive smacked so hard--not a sole on the premises DID NOT REALIZE--THIS GAME WAS OVER!! LIKE NOW--setting off a frenzy on the field and in the stands.
Did Elijah Dukes EVER CRUSH THAT BALL!! What a Shot!!
As Washington's Fans and Team Personnel at New Nationals Park rejoiced under The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!!--Elijah Dukes knew he had decided the outcome and saved this game. And when he thumped his chest in delight--seconds after the baseball left his powerful bat--you had to wonder whether Our Number 34 was telling the Baseball World: How Do You Like Me Now?!"
Curly "W" Number 25 was a feel good moment for Our Fans, Our Team and a Young Man looking to right himself on the field of play and in life itself. Running into Our General Manger Jim Bowden immediately after the game--I said to him: "That's the Elijah Dukes I WANT TO SEE!!" JimBo--shaking hands and smiling broadly responded "You got that right!!"
You Better Believe It.
Game Notes & Highlights
Its a good thing Dukes played Superman this evening--for if not for Elijah--June 5th 2008 would have ended with a mighty sour taste in the mouth for Washington. Game One of this Day-Night Doubleheader was an uneventful loss to St. Louis. The third in a row and 5th straight to The Cardinals in 2008. Home Runs by Troy Glaus and Albert Pujols sent Our Washington Nationals down in a pedestrian 4-1 defeat. The sight of John Lannan picking off The Cardinals' Brian Barton at first base--then Washington allowing Barton to return safely to first in the pursuant rundown--set the tone for Game One. A loss never really in doubt.
A defeat that not many watching Game Two on Ryan Zimmerman Bobblehead Night felt was possible by Our Washington Nationals. On the backs of not only Dukes, but Cristian Guzman, Aaron Boone and Kory Casto (14 hits among them)--Washington built a seven run lead after three innings. The makings of a laughter. Only to see St. Louis laugh right back. Especially after Our Starter Tim Redding was mostly ineffective and eventually gave up a two out, three run homer to The Cardinals Pitcher--Mark Worrell. A clubbed shot into the leftfield bleachers for his FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE HIT--His First Major League Home Run--ON HIS VERY FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE AT-BAT!! Hall of Fame Material--Buddy Boy. Mark Worrell better retire right now--as a hitter. Not going to get much better than that. The HUGE CELEBRATION in the St.Louis Dugout had brought The Cardinals within two--the score now standing at 8-6 after six innings.
A victory still in the hands of Washington, especially after Big Jon Rauch struck out the dangerous Albert Pujols for out number two in the top of the 9th. Down to their last out, St. Louis got the best of "The Wookie" when Skip Schumaker tripled off the centerfield wall scoring Brendan Bryan and the pesky Aaron Miles slapped an infield single that "The Guz" really had no play on--scoring Schumaker with the game tying run and handing Our Number 51 a blown save--sending this game into extra innings. An affair that seemed all but lost after Brian Sanches allowed The Cardinals Joe Mather to take him deep and over the left field wall for a home run and 9-8 lead in the 10th. The game winning stroke, until Elijah Dukes turned this game around--for good.
"The Guz" continued his hot hitting ways. Six hits in the two games this day--raising his average to .310. Kory Casto looks nothing like the overmatched rookie of 2007. Our Number 5 playing a solid third base and provided key blows at the plate over his first few games. This evening, his first three hit game of his brief Major League Career. Like Dukes taking advantage of the opportunity to play in the wake of another's injury--Casto is getting his shot to find out whether he belongs in The Big Leagues or not--with Ryan Zimmerman now sidelined.
What a hot and humid day at the ballpark. For the first time all season--SUMMER ARRIVED. Was it ever muggy. The winds not moving and baseballs flying all over the park. Any baseball hit up in the air--had distance. Nothing cheap about any of the long balls this day.
Finally--before tonight's Game Two--Sohna attended The Ladies Night Pre-Game Festivites located under a special tent at 1st Street & Potomac Avenue, SE. Over 500 ladies participated in this promotion to get women more involved in the game.
Much more coming later on Nats320 on this well attended event. Here are a few pictures to sample the fun of the party. It's safe to say--many had a very good time. Dancing, wine tastings, food, massages, books signings and appearances by four players of Our Washington Nationals--among the many choices available for the ladies this Thursday night.
Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Nick Wass
All other photos--Nats320