Sunday, August 31, 2008
The "Twack!!" heard was immediately followed by "Crack!!", that sweet sound of Wood Bat meeting a Baseball. That time when a batter solidly strokes a pitcher's thrown ball. A noise so loud this afternoon at New Nationals Park that it awoke a slumbering crowd watching, at that time, a rather pedestrian ball game. South Capitol Street was silent until this very moment. Down 4-3 entering the bottom of the 8th inning this Sunday, Our Washington Nationals caught fire. A leadoff single to Ryan Zimmerman and walk allowed to Elijah Dukes by Journeyman Pitcher Elmer Dessens provided the first sparks. The kindling wood necessary for Aaron Boone to ignite those burning embers by smoking an Dessens' Fastball deep and over the left centerfield wall into The Atlanta Braves Bullpen. A Three Run Homer, so solidly crushed, it gave Washington their second lead of the game at 6-4.
And Sent Our Fans into that unexpected tizzy, once again, of witnessing their once sleep walking team, fight back, overcome, and eventually Flat Out Crush a now lesser opponent. You can say whatever you want about The Braves, but over the past week, Our Washington Nationals have played as a most Cohesive Unit. The One so many expected far earlier in this 2008 Campaign. A season lost early, but a team now looking to find some hope for the future.
No matter the circumstances, no matter the odds, Washington is finding ways TO WIN these days. Something not seen most all year. The Attitude Developing which goes a long way for establishing confidence in young players. No better effort than this afternoon at, arguably, one of the most Gorgeous Late Summer August Days you may ever experience in The Nation's Capital.
Having Atlanta down now 6-4, Our Washington Nationals DID NOT LET UP. For first time all year, A KILLER INSTINCT, SEEMINGLY, HAS SET IN. DC's Very Own realizing a decisive victory was at hand, if and only if, they finished off The Braves. Which they did, in CONVINCING STYLE, by sending Eight Additional Batters to the plate after Boone's Blast in the bottom of this game changing 8th frame. Although Washington would leave the bases loaded when Elijah Dukes looked at a full count strike three to end this rally, Our Washington Nationals would score two additional insurance runs beforehand, thanks to Emilio Bonifacio's double, a Wil Nieves run scoring single, a Willie Harris single and Cristian Guzman RBI single to left. Five Runs Total Scored that directly led to a unusual Sweep Of The Boys From Georgia.
This Firestorm so large--even after being called on for MOP UP Duty in the Top of The 9th--"The Human Rain Delay" could not even effect Our Washington Nationals spreading blaze. Jesus Colome retired The Atlanta Braves in the 9th and struck out Josh Anderson swinging at Strike Three to finish off Washington's sixth straight win of 2008. The largest streak this season and the best since a similar run from July 31st to August 5th, 2007--over one year ago.
Final Score from an EXCITED New Nationals Park--Our Washington Nationals 8 and The Atlanta Braves 4. Curly "W" Number 52 was a surprising victory won and at the hands of a Young Team finding it's way under the pressures of the Major League Game, while getting assistance from now Healthy Veterans, who understand, and have the experience to win. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! continuing a WEEK LONG CELEBRATION of Our Manager's young charges, maybe and finally, getting it. His message coming across,"Preaching and Teaching" has always been Manny Acta's belief. Hope he brings to the table each day. Hard learned lessons that may finally be paying off.
As the Dog Days of Summer slowly fade away--Our Washington Nationals are one of the Hottest Teams In The Game. A Firestorm is brewing, but can their new found confidence extend through another three game set, against The Philadelphia Phillies and their always obnoxious and annoying fans.
Baseball, the ever changing game is producing one of it's magic moments once again. Who would have thought that possible, just one week ago. Really, this latest effort is quite remarkable--And Thrilling To Watch. Just like Aaron Boone's Game Winning Home Run. The Crack of that bat slapping that baseball was marvelous to hear. Good thing New Nationals Park was quiet at that time, because the sound of Our Number 8's Homer was just as good as the sight of the ball landing over the fence. Yes, that was some Good Stuff.
Game Notes & Highlights
Collin Balester was quite the sight on the mound this afternoon. For the first few innings, Our Number 40 had ZERO COMMAND. He just couldn't find the plate. And as remarkable as Our Washington Nationals six game winning streak has become, Balester was uncanny in his ability to find his way in and out of trouble. Runners on base in 6 of his 7 innings pitched. A three run homer handed up to Yunell Escobar in the 4th, but not enough damage to negate Washington getting back into the game.
Honestly, in the first inning alone, it appeared as if Collin Balester could not feel the grip on any of his pitches. Everything off speed thrown well off the plate (many at the batter's head), every fastball right down the middle. Difficulty, which directly lead to his rough start. But being a Rookie, you had to be proud of the man. As I mentioned to The African Queen, more than once this afternoon: "It's quite amazing Balester is still in the game." At every turn, Our Number 40 was in trouble. Most all day he basically survived. Not involved in the final decision, Collin Balester went Seven Innings, his longest Major League Outing of 2008 and left the mound, knowing full well, he had done alright, without his best stuff.
The Makings Of A Major League Hurler. I have no idea what the future holds for Collin Balester, but he didn't give up or mail it in--even knowing he had no command for over half of this outing. He should have left the mound proud, knowing he had basically survived on the very day, he could have been torched.
Garrett Mock received his first Major League Victory of his career today. One of those wins which can only be described as a Vulture Win. Entering this game in the 8th and Washington down one, Our Number 50 was not overly sharp. He struggled just like Balester, his predecessor--for a while. Allowing a Double to Martin Prado, a wild pitch and eventual walk to Omar Infante. But Mock was able to get back into this frame by striking out Yunell Escobar and getting Jeff Francouer to pop out to Langerhans in left. No runs scored against him and when Washington strongly fought back to take over the affair during the bottom of the 8th, Garrett Mock's First Career Major League Victory was assured.
Congratulations Garrett--Take Any Win--Any Way You Can!
When Our Number 40 was in trouble right off the bat this afternoon in the 1st inning, Wil Nieves came to his rescue when he tossed out Omar Infante. The Atlanta Third Baseman attempting to stretch an RBI single to left past a diving Ryan Zimmerman. Today Starting Left Fielder Ryan Langerhans scooped up the hit ball and threw home, a little off line, in an ill-fated attempt to throw out The Braves Martin Prado. Realizing Prado would score easily, Nieves rushed forward, in front of the plate, caught Our Number 29's toss and FIRED A STRIKE to Emilio Bonifacio manning second base who forcefully slapped down the tag on Infante. A Defensive Play Of This Game Effort by Nieves that was rewarded, rightfully, when Second Base Umpire Lanny Vanover gave the Out Call. The Inning Ending Out Call.
The Braves Elmer Dessens entered this game in the bottom of the 8th to pitch for Atlanta and promptly allowed five earned runs, thanks to his three run homer allowed to Aaron Boone and some assistance from his Bullpen Mate. Wil Ohman allowed two additional hits and one walk in his wake. Dessens who entered this game with an ERA hovering around 10.00, left with an Earned Run Average of 31.50 and his first loss of 2008. He really wasn't good.
There were a few other fine defensive plays this afternoon.
Nieves would also toss out a stealing Gregor Blanco in the fifth at second base. And Willie Harris would make a fine sprinting grab to his left on a sinking liner to centerfield hit by Josh Anderson in the third frame. Finally, Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens with the reflex reaction grab off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman in the bottom of the 5th. If Jurrjens does not get his glove in front of his face--he would have been seriously hurt. Instead, the Atlanta Starter found the baseball in his glove and easily tossed out Our Number 11 running to first base.
Washington got on the board in the bottom of the first when Willie Harris led off the frame with a single off Jurrjens. "The Guz" followed with a drilled shot off the centerfield wall, added to by a Dukes infield ground out up the middle, scoring Harris, and a solid single to left by Today's Player Of The Game--Aaron Boone.
Our Number 8, getting a rare start of late, stroking the game deciding three run shot, his first inning RBI Single, knocking in four runs and scoring one himself on his Home Run. Boone answering to his name being called after his 8th inning Homer, moved to the top of the steps of Our Washington Nationals Dugout to, ever so briefly, wave to the crowd in appreciation.
Again, the top three hitters in Manny's Batting Order providing spark this day. Harris with three hits total. Cristian Guzman and The Z-Man with two apiece. In fact, the first five hitters in today's Washington Lineup--Harris, Guzman, Zimmerman, Dukes and Boone provided five runs scored, batted out 9 of Washington's 11 hits, and knocked in Seven of their 8 Runs. Mighty Impressive.
31,090 attended the final game of 2008 at New Nationals Park featuring The Atlanta Braves. Our Washington Nationals getting over the 2 Million Mark in their Inaugural Season on South Capitol Street. On pace to reach 2.4 Million Fans attending the 81 Home Games this year. An average of just under 30,000 per game.
Teddy was leading The Geico Presidents Race all the way until the final 20 yards during the regular 4th inning entertainment skit. Then, Our Lovable Loser lost steam, faded badly and never even crossed the finish line. Teddy needs to begin working out again. He pooped out, when he should have struted his way to victory.
This Sunday was Kids Run The Show Day. Children 12 Years Of Age and under whose parents had registered them, were randomly selected to throw out the first pitch, present the lineup card to the umpires, take the field with Our Washington Nationals at game start, announce the Starting Linups--even hang out with Clint and The NatPack, among other voluntary chores offered to be a part of a Game Featuring Our Washington Nationals.
Immediately after the conclusion of this game, Our Washington Nationals announced a series of call ups to The Major League Roster. On September 1st each year, every team in The Major Leagues can recall up to 15 additional players to their everyday rosters. This afternoon, Kory Casto, Alberto Gonzalez, Roger Bernadina and Levale Speigner received the call, along with two players who will be making their Big League Debuts--Pitchers Mike Hinkley and Shairon Martis.
Finally, as Josh Anderson struck out late this afternoon at approximately 4:23 PM, I could not help but notice the shadows creeping in over the left field stands. Monday's Labor Day Game Versus The Philadelphia Phillies is a 3:05PM start. For the first time all year, since so few games were scheduled so late in the afternoon--those shadows depicted in the above picture may well play a major role in the tomorrow's game. From probably the 4th or 5th inning on--Shadows will completely cover home plate--at least for a couple of innings. A pitcher's advantage that New Nationals Park has never played to since it's opening in March.
Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)