Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Hope For The Future
Let it be known that at 9:14PM Eastern Standard Time, Our Washington Nationals scored a run. One run to be exact--on a ground out--breaking a string on scoreless goose eggs at 26 consecutive innings. Even the Home Crowd at New Nationals Park understood the significance. But unfortunately, that sole run--was not enough again. Too bad, because Our Starting Pitcher, and Our Relief Pitching was pretty solid tonight. The same fate bestowed upon our hurlers this past Sunday; as well as this past Friday, both in Los Angeles. And not to forget this past Thursday Afternoon in San Francisco.
For four out of the past five Consecutive Ball Games, Our Manager Manny Acta has set out his choice of pitcher to the mound and received quality starts. Yet, no wins. Tim Redding lead off this string of successes in The City By The Bay on July 24th--going the distance in a 1-0 loss to The Giants. John Lannan followed with 7 solid innings of work in Dodger Stadium last Friday. And after Odalis Perez blew up and got blown out on Saturday Night in LA--Jason Bergmann rectified the situation and pitched a tremendous game--only to see himself lose once again--on a gopher ball given up to The Dodgers' James Loney. No offense by Our Washington Nationals dooming any chance of gaining a Curly "W".
A repeat performance witnessed on South Capitol Street tonight by 34,039 (and who said no one would show up at New Nationals Park for the remainder of this season--more on the attendance later). Collin Balester pitched a solid six innings of baseball against The Philadelphia Phillies. His only mistake--the costly one. Perennial All-Star, and quite simply an excellent player, Chase Utley took Our Number 40 deep over the right field wall for a two run shot in the top of the third. Balester's ONLY REAL BLUNDER of the evening. During his time on the mound, Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard and Greg Dobbs would all take Collin to the walls--but none of them were able to torch him for another big blow.
You had to be proud of Our Young Starter this evening. Balester's performance is EXACTLY what Our Washington Nationals need to build on over the next couple of months of this 2008 Season. Providing Hope that this loss is not significant in the long term goals of Our Team--as hard as that statement is to write. More and more, Our Number 40 is learning how to pitch, and survive in The Major Leagues. Against The Phillies, one of the best hitting teams in the game---Collin was effective. He was LEARNING, schooling himself on tossing against some of THE VERY BEST. You can't fault him for his one error. That miscue as a 22 Year Old, will pay dividends for seasons to come. You can count on that.
Tonight's effort is HOW YOU LEARN. Any talented arm may well blow the baseball past every single Minor Leaguer they have ever faced. But in The Major Leagues--you better understand HOW TO PITCH. No one can doubt that John Lannan, Jason Bergmann and Collin Balester are attempting to comprehend on the job. While Tim Redding is re-developing his talent, that so many felt he always had--10 years ago.
Yes, Our Washington Nationals Lost to The Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 this evening. A defeat that placed Washington 30 Games Below .500. Everyone knows, Our Offense has been pretty putrid. While Our Starting Pitching has, mostly, been pretty Outstanding. Unfortunately, one just doesn't go hand in hand with each other. It's clear now, this 2008 Season has come down to getting experience--ONE STEP AT A TIME. Our Number 14 realizes he can send out his selected starter on most any day and KNOW he is going to get a quality start. What Manny Acta DOES NOT KNOW is whether Our Hitters will step to the plate and deliver any assistance.
Final Score from Hot, Humid and downright SWEATY, New Nationals Park. The Philadelphia Phillies 2 and Our Washington Nationals 1. The Seventh Consecutive Loss for Washington, dropping Our Team to a staggering 38-68 Mark. The wind really was not blowing tonight off The Anacostia River. For most of the evening, Sohna and I felt we were back at RFK Stadium--where the damp, clammy and uncomfortable summer weather always took its toll, both on the field and in the stands.
At least at this balmy game--some success was found in a young pitcher--providing Hope For Our Future.
Game Notes & Highlights
He Pitched Well. Collin Balester made a fine start tonight for Our Washington Nationals. No walks, Five Strikeouts in six solid innings. Our Offense simply could not score any runs off Brett Myers--who entered this game with a ERA of 5.82. Like just about every other pitcher in the game of late facing Washington--for one game--they all become All-Stars. Sadly. I can't wait for that feeling to end.
Washington scored their only run in the bottom of the 8th, thanks to a crucial error by Chase Utley for The Phillies. After Paul LoDuca singled to center off Myers to lead off the frame, FLop followed with a hard hit grounder to The Philadelphia Second Baseman. Utley completely misplayed the ball--the stroked hit seeping through for an error and resulting in a 1st and 2nd, No Outs, situation. At this point, the game got mighty interesting. With Philadelphia already leading 2-0 thanks to Utley's previous blast, the respective Managers began to play the maneuvering game. Ryan Langerhans was sent to the plate by Manny Acta. Charlie Manuel, The Phillies Manager, countered by sending himself to the mound to replace Myers with journeyman lefthander J.C. Romero.
Our Manager then counter moved on his own--sending "The Guz" out to pinch run for LoDuca standing on second base. The very moment Cristian Guzman trotted out of Our Washington Nationals Dugout--Paulie became VISIBLY UPSET. He turned his back on Our Nats Dugout--and slapped his hands together in disgust. Our Number 16 DID NOT WANT TO COME OUT OF THE GAME. He had let EVERYONE KNOW.
Thankfully, Our Number 14 made this decision a correct one--because after Langerhans laid down a terrific bunt--where Our Number 29 nearly beat the throw from Romero--advancing each runner up one base--Willie Harris followed with ground out to The Phillies 3rd Baseman Eric Bruntlett. A grounder that Our Number 15 broke for home on contact to score. A decision that if Paul LoDuca had made--probably would have resulted in an out. As has been the case most all season--with Felipe Lopez now standing on third base with two outs--Ronnie Belliard could not get the tying score home--when he grounded out to Utley at second base to kill the rally. Our Number 10 disgustedly throwing his helmet to the ground over his failure.
In the top of the 4th, Ryan Zimmerman positioned himself to make a gorgeous short hop stab of a Chris Coste grounder to his right. Using a Windmill Motion with his left Glove Hand, Our Number 11 scooped the baseball, then threw out The Phillies Catcher in One Motion for the final out of the inning. Vintage "Z". Jesus Flores threw a beautiful peg to FLop covering second base in the top of the 5th to nail Shane Victorino attempting to steal a base.
But, the best defensive effort came on a drive to the wall in left field--just to the left of The Exxon Mobil Sign on the Green Pads. Shane Victorino was again the victim when Willie Harris tracked his drive to the fence, off Charlie Manning, by leaping and making an excellent catch while slamming into the wall. The making of OUT NUMBER TWO, by Our Number One in the 8th inning, was clearly The Defensive Play Of This Game.
As much as I love Ryan Zimmerman, what was he thinking in the bottom of the 7th? With two outs and Our Number 11 on first via a walk--Lastings Milledge singles on a ground ball to third misplayed by Bruntlett. For whatever reason--"Z" rounded second base TOO FAR. Phillies Shortstop Jimmy Rollings realizing Zimmerman's error in judgement, picked up the loose baseball and fired it to Chase Utley at Second Base. Ryan dove back into the bag headfirst--but was easily called out by Second Base Umpire Fieldin Culbreth. What became more concerning was whether Zimmerman might have re-injured his left shoulder. The African Queen stating--"The last time we saw him dive head first in Baltimore--he tore his shoulder." That comment had us wondering--if Sohna's statement might have some truth. Ryan was rotating his left arm while jogging back to the dugout.
Our Bullpen has now pitched 10 consecutive scoreless innings. But of course--in the only game Our Washington Nationals have led in late, over the past week--Our Relief Corp, blew that advantage--against The San Francisco Giants--last Wednesday.
Teddy was knocked out of The President's Race in the oddest way tonight. While a Cat was standing on the field during the middle of the 4th inning event between GW, Tom, Abe & Teddy--My Best Friend Screech!! believed this Cat was going to trip Our Lovable Loser while leading. Instead, SCREECH TACKLED TEDDY!! Sorry, but that one made NO SENSE?? None whatsoever.
Don't forget, if your Season Ticket Plan includes a Free 2008 Yearbook, you can pick up the commemorative item on The Main Concourse--third base side--anytime up until the 7th inning during this homestand ending on August 3rd.
Finally--for a Tuesday Night--this was a pretty terrific crowd. When Sohna and I arrived about 6:30PM at New Nationals Park the line to purchase tickets at The Centerfield Gate was winding across N Street and Down Half Street. Quite remarkable, considering how poorly Our Washington Nationals have played of late. Yes, it was Tee-Shirt Tuesday, but that giveaway does not guarantee a large crowd. And I understand The Phillies are a nearby opponent. But this just goes to show--people want to enjoy a night out at the ballpark--during the summer--no matter who is playing. This evening proved that fact.
And the sight of this guy with a Blow Horn announcing to those waiting in line they could walk down South Capitol Street or Potomac Avenue to reach additional Open Ticket Booths--interesting to watch. I don't think we had witnessed this type of effort by Our Washington Nationals--beforehand.
34,039 attended. Even Presidents Club was mostly filled.
Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Chris Dharapak
All Other Photos--Nats320