Friday, June 20, 2008
The fact that Our Manager Manny Acta was rushing out to the field to celebrate with Elijah Dukes said it all. Their jubilant High Five Together the final thrust in wonder over another amazing evening of baseball played by Our Number 34. Once again, The Game Changer. The Man With The Game Winning Hit. All on the evening My Washington Senators of my youth returned to the city of their birth.
Not one single player for Our Washington Nationals hustles like Elijah Dukes. No one comes close. Whether in the field, running the bases or standing at the plate--waiting for the next pitch to be thrown--NO ONE shows more determination. No One shows more drive. No One has improved over such a short period of time as Our Number 34. If only he could get his off the field history out of the way. Just how good could Elijah Dukes be? Tonight at New Nationals Park, he set off a victory celebration not seen in Washington since his last walkoff hit--two weeks ago against The St. Louis Cardinals.
A first pitch fastball stroked by Dukes between 3rd base and shortstop off The Texas Rangers' Jamey Wright scoring Felipe Lopez with the game winning run in the BOTTOM OF THE 14th INNING. That's right--the bottom of the 14th inning. The culmination of a 5 for 6 night at the plate for this 23 year old. His batting average now standing at .270. Not long ago--his average was .112. This evening found Elijah scoring Washington's first run, banging out the game tying Home Run in the bottom of the 8th and finally finishing this marathon of a game off six innings later at 11:45 PM--4 Hours & 10 Minutes after it began.
Oh yeah--Dukes also made two very impressive defensive plays in the field. Really, he did it all tonight. Tantalizing is the only way to describe his talents.
Dukes game winning hit setting off a mob scene near first base which looked more like a rugby match breaking out. Everybody seemingly wanting a piece of Elijah Dukes. No one left cheering for Washington of the announced 30,359 crowd not standing and cheering with joy. If you were going to last deep into the night for this one--you better get something enjoyable out of it. Because just look at what everyone went through that went the distance:
14 long and enduring innings.
Two Tee Shirt Launches (The 5th & 10th)
Two 7th Inning Stretches--Seven Innings Apart.
Two Geico President Races (Surprise, Surprise--Teddy Lost Both Times 4th & 14th innings)
12 Consecutive Shutout Innings by Our Pitching Staff.
11 Scoreless innings thrown by Texas (not consecutive)
Three hits and two runs batted in by Jesus Flores.
The first appearance ever in Washington of "The Natural" Josh Hamilton (who went hitless tonight). Hamilton the greatest story in the game today.
But make no mistake about it--Curly "W" Number 30 was battled for and won--valiantly. And no one fought better than Elijah Dukes. With assists from Flores and Our Bullpen, Our Number 34 was The Difference Maker this evening at New Nationals Park. Fresh off a demoralizing sweep at the hands of The Minnesota Twins (The Original Washington Senators) in Minneapolis, The Texas Rangers (The Expansion Washington Senators) were returning to The Nation's Capital for their first ever contests since September 30, 1971. Unlike Our Washington Nationals--My Washington Senators were not given the "Welcome Home!!" After nearly 37 years, The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! high above New Nationals Park signaled not only a victory, but the fact that The Washington Senators, My Senators, are now long gone. DC is no longer their home.
And Our Washington Nationals are here to stay. No One is going to take this team away--again. No, not going to happen.
Game Notes & Highlights
Tim Redding pitch a decent six innings. But he nearly lost it all in the top of the second inning, when with The Rangers Gerald Laird on third base and two outs--Washington walked Ramon Vazquez to pitch to Texas Starter Kevin Millwood. A free pass that turned this game around quickly. Redding would walk Millwood--despite being ahead in the count. A costly mistake when Ian Kinsler followed with a DEEP DRIVE to the right centerfield wall. A bases clearing three run double and 3-0 Lead for The Rangers. Little did anyone realize at that time--Texas would never plate another runner the rest of the game. 12 consecutive scoreless innings tossed by Washington. Getting no decision--Tim Redding went 103 pitches into the game and was saved from a sure loss--thanks to Elijah Dukes.
Saul Rivera was unbelievable tonight. Three sharp and impressive innings. He shut down Texas in the 10th, 11th and 12th. Our Number 52 was on his game--allowing just a single. No way Rivera pitches for a good two days now. Charlie Manning, Luis Ayala, Big Jon Rauch, Rivera and Joel Hanrahan combining for 8 scoreless innings--shutout ball--that gave Washington every opportunity to get back into this affair.
There were a few fine defensive plays this evening. In the second inning, Gerald Laird unloaded on a deep drive to right field, off the Out Of Town Scoreboard. With The Rangers Marlon Byrd running hard from first--Dukes played the carom perfectly and threw a good toss to Dmitri Young. Surprised by the quick return of the baseball to the infield, Byrd rounded third base looking to score. Halfway home--Marlon knew he was going to be out. Dmitri made the exact right move. He ran right at the frozen Byrd--across the infield to tag him out. Laird moved to 3rd on the rundown--but a scoring play had been stopped.
Later in top of the 6th--Byrd would stroke a looping liner to short right field. Running hard, Dukes again charged in, slid in toward the infield and made a nice feet first catch on a difficult play. But none of those beat the defensive effort of Lastings Milledge in the top of the 4th inning. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia (that man with the fabulously long last name--the longest in MLB History) pinchrunning for the injured Laird (pulled hamstring), The Rangers Ramon Vazquez stroked a screaming liner to center. Our Number 44 rushed in for the ball. Looking unsure whether to dive or slide for the hit--Milledge eventually did a little of both and caught the baseball. Then immediately righted himself, and a tossed a two hopper to Dmitri Young at First for a sure inning ending Double Play. The Defensive Play of The Game, even though Our Number 21 DROPPED the bouncing ball. Saltalamacchia returning safely to the bag. Lastings made a nice play though and deserved credit.
There was an odd managerial decision by Washington in the bottom of the 11th. Facing The Rangers Josh Rupe, Dmitri Young and Jesus Flores both single to leadoff this extra frame. Our Number 14 decided to lay down a bunt with Kory Casto. Not only did Our Number 5 foul off two attempts badly--while eventually striking out--the reason for sacrificing at that moment--made little sense. FLop was next. If Casto had laid down a good bunt--runners would now be on second and third with one out. Texas Manager Ron Washington would definitely walk Felipe Lopez intentionally to bring the Pitcher's Position and force a pinch hitter. Lopez eventually grounded into an inning ending double play--but automatically attempting to give up an out under the circumstances with Casto--made no sense. Bunting in that moment only helped The Rangers.
Speaking of FLop--Our Number 2 nearly cost Our Washington Nationals in the top of the 11th--when he badly mishandled a routine inning ending ground ball off the bat of the very dangerous Josh Hamilton. Felipe Lopez came up on this grounder way too soon--rushing for no reason. The ball going directly under his glove and his legs for an error--moving Frank Catalonatto into scoring position at third base. Thankfully, Saul Rivera was able to retire Marlon Byrd on a ground out to Casto at third base to end the inning, although Kory made the play interesting--when for a few seconds--he actually considered tossing across his body to second base in an attempt to throw out Hamilton, until a sharper mind prevailed and he did the right thing and tossed across the diamond to Dmitri Young at first for the final out.
Cristian Guzman's 12 Game Hitting Streak ended this game. ("The Guz" went 0-7 tonight--OUCH!?)
And as usual, there was also the countless number of runners left in scoring position by Washington.
Having seen The Texas Rangers play many times over the past few decades--I didn't feel any great yearning for their team this evening. Odd to actually think that at one time--The Rangers, were The Senators. Now--with Baseball Back in DC and a team to call Our Very Own--I pretty content with it all. Unfortunately, MLB allowed The Senators to move. It hurt my childhood and early teen years. And for far too long, Washington was left without a team. But, we have one now and for that fact, I am very, very happy. Time to move on.
Before the game--Our Washington Nationals held The Grand Opening for The Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk. Located just behind the HDTV Scoreboard above right centerfield--This Tiki Bar gives another location for fans to hangout, watch the ballgame and be with friends. Over the course of this summer, a series of pre-game concerts will take place on The Scoreboard Walk. "Dr Fu" was the first band to be given the honor of performing this evening.
Of course, Sohna checked out the lounge chairs and later we ran into Lisa--a Nats320 regular reader. "Tiki Bar, low cover charge, baseball, what more do I need," stated Lisa--happy with The Scoreboard Walk.
Then moments after leaving The Scoreboard Walk--we ran into Marge Jageler--Dave's Mom from Our Radio Broadcast Team of Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler. All three of us had met last season--so we took some time to get reacquainted. If you have listened to Charlie & Dave for any period of time, you are probably aware of their ongoing conversations over the fact that Dave never puts milk in his cereal. Always, Dave eats his cereal dry--meaning as Charlie loves to state: "Dave has never had the pleasure of hearing the Snap, Crackle & Pop of Rice Krispies." This stuff is funny--especially when they have engaged Marge into the conversation.
Marge came prepared for this game. Knowing she and her husband Ernie were going to visit the broadcast booth--Mrs. Jageler brought a special gift. A Rice Krispies Mug for display by Our Broadcast Team. Sohna and I cracked up over the fun of it all. Marge couldn't wait to present the gift.
By the way--even Teddy hung out at The Scoreboard Walk for the Grand Opening. The only problem was that Teddy visited during the 4th inning Presidents Race. Our Lovable Loser again into the party atmosphere--not the race atmosphere.
When this game went late into the night--Little Abby attempted to go the distance. Sleep caught up to her. Joining us in Section 218, with her parents Becky & Mike in Tow--Abby gave in to dream world--in the 12th inning.
Finally--Our Washington Nationals gave a brief tribute to the late Tim Russert at the beginning of the 4th inning. A video display was shown on The HDTV Scoreboard. Many thousands stood and clapped. There were more than a few wet eyes.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)