Thursday, August 21, 2008
Hey!! This Is Fun!!
As The Phillies Pat Burrell stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning tonight at Citizens Bank Park, Our Washington Nationals held a lead. A precarious one run lead and Philadelphia had runners on first and second with one out. This was crunch time. That period is every game of late, when Washington had somehow found a way to lose.
And Our Manager Manny Acta understood that. So, Our Number 14 had pulled out all the stops. He had his Closer--Joel Hanrahan--on the mound. Having lost 12 Games in a row--Manny was holding nothing back. If A Curly "W" was going into the books tonight--Hanrahan was going to attempt a Two Inning Save. Acta wasn't trusting anyone else. Who cared if Washington plays an afternoon game in Chicago tomorrow.
This game was tight and Citizens Bank Park was letting Joel know it. Nothing like Phillie Fans being all over you.
The Philadelphia Faithful were now on their feet, sensing a comeback. Our Number 38, standing on the mound, sensing the moment. For the first time, in some time, a competitive game was at hand. As Charlie Slowes happily announced on 3WT--"Hey, This Is Fun!!" And it was--because Our Washington Nationals were playing in an exciting game. One of those see-saw affairs that have you hanging on every pitch. The games you truly have NO IDEA which way the outcome my fall.
And the next few moments were crucial.
The Phillies Slugger would dig in, knowing Hanrahan was looking to dig himself out of a self made big hole. Throwing nothing but fastballs and sliders, Joel had quickly got himself in trouble by walking Jayson Werth to lead off the 8th and allowing a single by Chase Utley, before fighting back to strike out the always dangerous--Ryan Howard. A situation continuing now as Burrell quickly found himself down 0-2 in the count.
Phillie Fans are some of the loudest and roughest in the game, and as Burrell took ball one on the third pitch of this At-Bat, they cheered wlldly, looking for the game changing stroke. No doubt, they believed Philadelphia was playing Washington. The Last Place Nationals and there was no way Their Phillies were going to lose now.
Joel Hanrahan had other ideas.
Looking to extinguish a fire set by himself, Our Number 38 threw in the 4th and most important pitch of this At-Bat, and this Game, with an off speed slider that fooled Burrell. The Phillies Leftfielder swung and grounded to "The Guz" at shortstop. Cristian Guzman (starting his first game in over one week) swiftly scooped up the rolling ball, threw to his new Double Play Combination Partner, Anderson Hernandez, at second, who over pivoted and threw an IN THE DIRT TOSS to Ronnie Belliard at first base. A sure run scoring error for Anderson that Our Number 10 SAVED--by catching the bouncing baseball in his belly and holding on for the inning ending double play.
Just like that, unexpectedly, Joel Hanrahan, with the assist of his infield--had shouldered the storm and survived. The Philadelphia Fans immediately turning their rapt attention from Washington's to Philadelphia's and shouldering all their dismay down on their very own Phillies. Disgust that rained down on The Philadelphia Phillies for the remainder of the evening. Giving Our Washington Nationals a break from the cruelest fans in sport.
Joel Hanrahan would survive a lead off single by Shane Victorino in the bottom of the 9th; survive two full innings on the mound; survive the angst of The Phillie Fans, and when all was said and down--revive Our Washington Nationals from a potential 13th straight defeat. A Baker's Dozen. Our Number 38 literally survived tonight, for a well deserved two inning save--The First By A Washington Pitcher all Season. And in doing so--ended a miserable 12 Game Losing Streak.
What A RELIEF!!
Final Score from the always loud and partisan Citizens Bank Park--Our Washington Nationals 4 and The Philadelphia Phillies 3. Hey, Curly "W" Number 45 really WAS FUN and enjoyable to watch!! Charlie was right about that. Yeah, Washington made some silly errors and mental mistakes. What else is new. And The Phillies certainly didn't play their best. But at the end day--all that matters is that Washington ended their losing streak with a good victory against a rival--I lOVE TO SEE THEM BEAT.
Nothing like beating Philadelphia--even if we still are a distant last place team.
Game Notes & Highlights
By forcing an off balance throw attempting to throw out the speedy Victorino in the bottom of the 8th on an infield grounder, Ryan Zimmerman set off a series of plays that directly led to two Philadelphia Runs. A three base error that set Saul Rivera as the potential loser this evening--especially after Pinch Hitter Greg Dobbs knocked Victorino in on an infield groundout and Phillies Catcher Carlos Ruiz flat out hammered a Rivera Fastball over the left centerfield wall for a Philadelphia 3-2 lead.
At that point, all looked lost again, at least until Zimmerman made up for his mistake and led off with a single on the third base bag in the top of the 8th that directly led to the final rally of this closely played game. Lastings Milledge would follow with a broken bat looper down the right field line for a single. Ronnie Belliard sacrificed (yes, that is right--BUNTED SUCCESSFULLY) "Z" and Our Number 44 up one base apiece; and Jesus Flores followed again in the clutch with a seeing eye infield single up the middle that scored Zimmerman with the game tying run at three. Then Austin Kearns followed by ripping a Ryan Madson fastball right up the middle for the eventual game winning run--plated by Milledge.
Over the past few weeks, Ryan Zimmerman's play in the field concerns me a little. Where as before his shoulder injury--Our Number 11 would attack most every baseball hit at him. Of late--although not necessarily tonight-- "Z" seems to want to attempt the 'OLE" style snare of a hard hit baseball to either side. Defensive fielding off to the side, appearing to shy away from a hard smash. Just a thought after seeing him play the hot corner for nearly three years now. I don't recall Ryan Zimmerman NOT ATTACKING the ball, ever. But now, he appears less prone to go after hard hits ball as aggressively--as before.
I am not the only person who has noticed this.
Although Anderson Hernandez made a run scoring error last night on the very first defensive play he handled as a Washington National--Our New Number 6 looks pretty adept in the field. He made a nice backhand toss to Ronnie Belliard at first base in the 8th on Dobbs RBI Groundout. And more interestingly, every single time the cameras pick Anderson up on TV--I swear--if they put Hernandez and Odalis Perez side to side--they could pass for brothers--especially when they are wearing their batting helmets.
Hernandez had two more hits tonight, to add to his three last night. But, nothing was overly stroked hard. Our Number 6 doesn't have much power. "The Guz" returned to the starting lineup and scratched out two infield hits.
Rivera got the win. One of those victories he didn't deserve, but balance out over the course of any season. Hanrahan notched his 4th save and first since he garnered his last two, on the same day. The Doubleheader Sweep of The Rockies in Denver on August 7th. The very last time Our Washington Nationals won in the past 14 days.
How many players have worn Number 6 in the history of Our Washington Nationals? Like Number 7--Six seems to be a revolving number. Emilio Bonifacio wore it the first week he was with Our Team. Jose Guillen wore it for 2005 & 2006. I believe D'angelo Jimenez wore that number as well. Off the top of my head, I believe Brad Wilkerson, Wiki Gonzalez, FLop, Nook Logan and Roger Bernadina have all worn the number 7. Bonifacio is Number 7 now. Anybody else?
Finally, I was very disappointed to read that Major League Baseball has decided NOT to allow Our Washington Nationals to open The 2009 Major League Season at home. I don't understand Baseball not seeing this important tradition, first started in The Nation's Capital--years ago--when President Taft threw out The Presidential First Pitch. Sure, The President could throw out the first pitch at the first home game anyway. But, it would have more significance if Our Washington Nationals played at home on Opening Day--not one week later.
Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Tom Mihalek