Friday, August 01, 2008
A New Day Arrives
"Good riddance to July," Our Manager Manny Acta said. "It was a July to forget. August started good. It was only a day, but I already feel better than July...It feels like a huge load has been lifted off of all of us." This comment in the post game press conference.
What A Difference--ONE DAY MAKES.
Tonight, when Our Washington Nationals RAN, and I mean RAN onto the field to begin this affair--the contrast in feeling was stark. Fans at New Nationals Park witnessed an energetic starting nine. Three of whom were not even on The 25 Man Roster on July 31st--YESTERDAY.
Elijah Dukes had returned from his knee operation--quicker than anybody expected. And produced again--restarting just where he left his talents off--a few short weeks ago in Cincinnati. That man CAN PLAY!! One single, one double, two rbi and one run scored by Our Number 34.
Emilio Bonifacio, showing speed and wisdom at the Keystone Position, Our New Number 6 may well have Turned Over The FINEST DOUBLE PLAY RELAY OF THE SEASON for Washington--in his very first game in a Nationals Uniform. He was exciting to watch. Acrobatic in the field. At the plate, one single, one run scored, one RBI.
And as for Alberto Gonzalez--picked up late yesterday afternoon from The New York Yankees--to be Our New Shortstop and Utility Infielder--The Cincinnati Reds could not get him out all evening--at least until The Cincinnati Reds Jay Bruce made one FANTASTIC CATCH LATE. Apparently known for his defense--Alberto was an offensive spark plug in his first game in Washington. A double, two walks, one run scored and a sure RBI Single to right taken away by that Bruce fellow.
No--it's certainly not going to be this enjoyable every upcoming night for the remainder of this season--but did these three players ever re-ignite the fire within Washington's Team tonight. We played LIKE A TEAM, like a ballclub that knows it can compete. Did the 30,572 in attendance EVER APPRECIATE THE EFFORT. Standing Ovations throughout the night.
How refreshing. Watching Major League Baseball That Was Fun Again. As Sohna and I realized early on: We had a chance.
And The Second Inning Tonight said it all.
Gonzalez leadoff double down the right field line. Odalis Perez (A Washington Nationals Pitcher I remind you) actually laying down a good bunt to advance Our New Number 12 to third. Bonifacio ripping a single to center, scoring "AG". Emilio running on the perfectly timed 1-0 count to Willie Harris--stealing second. Harris eventually walking, putting runners on 1st and 2nd. And Dukes with the table set in front of him, RIPPING a drive down the left field line, off Homer Bailey--into no man's land, the corner--a sure bases clearing double putting Our Washington Nationals up 5-0 after just 12 hitters in this game.
Five Washington Batters had participated in this bottom of the second inning at this juncture. This quintet playing some quality baseball. In a space of 10 Minutes, Our Manager's Boys had provided exuberance not seen, neither at home, nor on the road for nearly two weeks. Our Washington Nationals were playing aggressive. They were looking forward, not behind themselves. Manny had been given THE GREEN LIGHT. He had put the youngsters out there to see what they can do--successfully so.
As of this moment in time--Our Team that plays of South Capitol Street now fields The Youngest Club In The Game--27 Years, 197 Days to be exact, according to The Elias Sports Bureau. That's pretty refreshing too.
Young Blood provided New Leadership--and others followed. Odalis Perez must have been JUICED--now with that defensive lineup behind him tonight--and was into this game. Did Our Number 45 pitch His Game Of The Year. Perez would hold serve into the 8th. He was throwing that cut fastball for strikes. He was in command. And even when Manny stepped out to replace him when Jolbert Cabrera tripled on a drive to the wall in left centerfield--Perez was PISSED to be removed from the game. Odalis wanted to go the distance. The Fire was burning in his belly again. He was competing, not complaining. How compelling.
Odalis had understood--times were a changing. Thankfully, as he walked off the field to A STANDING OVATION--Perez waved to the crowd in gratitude for their appreciation. The VERY FIRST TIME ALL SEASON--A STARTER FOR OUR WASHINGTON NATIONALS had shown respect to the home faithful. For all of his struggles this season--that one moment of recognition by Our Number 45--meant alot to The African Queen and I. Sohna always wants Our Starting Pitcher to give Our Crowd its due--for supporting their work. We enjoyed that wave from Odalis Perez to the assembled masses. We had waited all season long for Our Fans to be recognized by Our Team.
Saul Rivera (who amazingly was called on for the first time in five days and only the second time in nine) combined with Joel Hanrahan to finish out the victory.
Final Score from Rejuvenated New Nationals Park--Our Washington Nationals 5 and The Cincinnati Reds 2. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! extinguishing a Nine Game Losing Streak. The Fresh Faces added to Our Roster helping to relieve The Pall and Drudgery that has existed over Our Franchise this past month of July. Curly "W" Number 39 providing New Faces, New Attitudes, Players WANTING TO BE HERE. A new frame of mind which was the difference tonight at New Nationals Park. Our Washington Nationals played like a team--HUNGRY for victory. Starving for the chance to prove that they are INDEED Major League Baseball Players. When you are 38-70 heading into this game, everyone knows they got alot to account for.
Manny was correct in his post game comments. One Day into August, 2008--A Fresh Outlook appeared on the horizon for Our Washington Nationals. Sure, they have a long way to go, but at least for one night--Our Nats showed they can compete. They can hustle. They can MAKE THE EFFORT to ensure that this 2008 Season IS NOT A TOTAL WASTE.
Finally, a light was seen, shining brightly, from the end of that long dark tunnel this evening. A New Day Had Finally Arrived. The Question: Can Our Washington Nationals reach the brightness by September 28 and head into the offseason with New Found Respect--And Hope?
Major League Baseball in Washington was fun again tonight. Can we keep the enjoyment going over the next 60 Days?
Game Notes & Highlights
If Odalis Perez pitched like he did tonight, myself and others would not be calling for his release. He was pretty outstanding, allowing just six baserunners and striking out five. Easily, Odalis Perez pitched his finest game of this season. So has JimBo passed him through waivers yet? Setting up a trade?
After Harris and Dukes singled in the bottom of the 1st inning off Homer Bailey, Jesus Flores continued his hot hand with a rope single to left field. The Reds Adam Dunn made a poor throw off line to home plate. A toss that probably didn't matter as Our Number 1 trotted home from third and Our Number 34 ran hard--all the way from second base (where he had advanced previously on a wild pitch) to plate Washington's first two runs of the evening. Our Number 3 with his Team Leading 46 & 47th Runs Batted In.
The Flash of Leather began in the top of the 7th inning. With Adam Dunn on first base after a walk, Cincinnati's Edwin Encarnacion would RIP a grounder down the third base line. Willie Harris, manning the bag in place of the injured Ryan Zimmerman, produced a Vintage "Z" Move. Diving to his right, Our Number 1 snagged the baseball, recovered and threw out the lumbering Dunn at second base. Encarnacion safe at first on the fielders choice. This terrific effort by Harris was immediately followed by Reds First Baseman Andy Phillip grounding into the hole at short. Alberto Gonzalez ranged over, scooped up the baseball and overhand fired to Emilio Bonifacio covering at second. Our Number 12's toss was on the money and in time to retire Encarnacion. But what happened next was MIND BOGGLING. With Phillip's charging hard to first base, Our New Number 6 pivoted over top of the sliding Cincinnati Runner and FLAT OUT FIRED A STRIKE to Kory Casto at 1st for a FABULOUS 6-4-3 Double Play. The Pivot was great, the throw accurate--HIS RELEASE WAS UNCANNY. Maybe the quickest draw ever seen in a Major League Game since Baseball's Return to Washington. That, and I mean, That Release & Throw was UNBELIEVABLE.
And incredibly it still was not The Defensive Play Of This Game. That honor goes to The Reds Jay Bruce who ROBBED Gonzalez of his perfect night at the plate when he dove to his right, face forward, left glove hand extended on a sinking liner stroked by Alberto in the bottom of the 8th. A Excellent Defensive Play from a Stellar Young Talent. Jay Bruce had taken away a sure hit by Our Number 12 and killed any chance for a 6th run of the evening for Washington. Lastings Milledge was standing on third base, waiting to score--if Jay had not caught the baseball. Of course Bruce not only produced the Defensive Play of This Game, but was rewarded in kind by The Baseball Gods. By catching the last out in miraculous style--he led off the the top of the ninth and hammered a Joel Hanrahan 0-2 offering deep into the right centerfield bleachers for his 8th Home Run this year.
A reminder--for both Saturday and Sunday--The First Ladies of Our Washington Nationals will be on hand at The Center Field Gate to receive all your donations for their 2nd Annual Back To School Drive. All new school supplies for children are welcome. Donations will be accepted beginning two and one half hours before each game and up until the end of the 4th inning. Additionally, The United States Marines Toys For Tots Literacy Program will at New Nationals Park to collect any New Book Donations for the kids in Washington, DC. UPS Stores in DC are also sponsoring this event. More on this effort coming in a later post, but this afternoon, Ryan Langerhans, his wife Shari, The US Marines and The DC UPS Stores staged a promotion for the event at The UPS Store on MacArthur Boulevard in Northwest, Washington. The participants on hand to let everyone know that 33% of all fourth graders in the United States are illiterate. The kids need your help. Their efforts a good cause in assisting the end to this blight in society. As a reminder, all donations ARE DISSEMINATED in Washington, DC. Your gifts are never sent outside the area.
Finally, just in case we don't see him before his summer vacation in Washington, DC ends this coming Monday, The African Queen and I took pictures with Our Good Friend, Young Jim, avid fan of Our Washington Nationals. Since school has been out for the summer, this young man has vacationed here in the Washington, DC Area with his family. Sohna and I have enjoyed getting to know him. Jim is quite the character and we wanted to wish him the best in his coming school year. Come Monday, Jim must head back home--to Tampa.
Tonight's InGame Photos (AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais
All Other Photos, Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)