Sunday, August 31, 2008
Retro Saturday Night
The Disco Age of The 1970's is long past, ancient history to most every member of Our Washington Nationals that took the field tonight at New Nationals Park. Long Hair, Big Afro's, Bell Bottoms, High Heeled Men's Platform Shoes, Go-Go Boots and Wide Collar Polyester Shirts--Vintage Clothing on display this Saturday evening along with the Songs of The Decade of My Youth--The Dance Music and The Free Spirt of the High Flying 70's. Fond Memories refreshed at The New Ballyard on South Capitol Street as Our Washington Nationals celebrated "70's Night" against The Atlanta Braves--In Style.
Parliament-Funkadelic is probably not exactly the type of tunes Elijah Dukes grew up listening to on the radio as a youth. But George Clinton's Infamous Band that spanned the entire Decade of my teen years would have appreciated The Funky Moves put on by Our Number 34 this evening in the bottom of the 10th. The only element missing was a strobe light shining down brightly.
Our Ballclub now learning to fight back, becoming competitors--not rolling over--not giving in.
Youth now understanding--even when the worst seems at hand, there should never be a time you give up.
Our Washington Nationals are learning to dance to a beat of their very own.
Like Tonight In The Game Deciding 10th Frame.
Young Anderson Hernandez lead off by walking with the score tied at 8 runs apiece. "The Guz" followed by ripping a liner off the glove of Atlanta First Baseman Martin Prado. A single that sent Our Number 6 to second and got Our Fans up and out of their seats--wanting to see the electric moves of Ryan Zimmerman--once again. Excitement delayed when The Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox intentionally walked Our Number 11 to load the bases with nobody out. A right strategic decision that found the Home Faithful still booing the move and sending the youthful exhuberance of Lastings Milledge to the plate.
Our Number 44 has slowly changed his game for the better over the course of the 2008 season. No longer a flash in the pan, since returning from The Disabled List, Milledge has been one of Washington's most exciting players. He's been patient, working ahead in the count. But on this occasion, the thrill of the moment got to him and The Braves Pitcher Vladamir Nunez struck him out swinging on four pitches. A first out that frustrated a roaring crowd even more when Ronnie Belliard followed and RIPPED a liner to dead center. A possible game winning hit that found Atlanta's Centerfielder deftly moving in to catch the sinking baseball as Hernandez danced off third base attempting to score--looking to make an Electric Slide of his own.
The Anticipation High.
But as Josh Anderson recorded the out, Hernandez took off from third, only to be held at the last possible moment by Our Third Base Coach Tim Tolman. A Flash Dance of Tolman's own that had the crowd Roaring in disbelief. Our Number 10 JUMPING UP AND DOWN along the first baseline in a Saturday Night Fever of his own, not understanding why his teammate had been held off the dance floor. Ronnie Belliard, like the fans watching in the stands--didn't want Hernandez to be a Wall Flower. This spur of the moment decision by Tolman found Anderson's throw dead on to the plate, and cut off by Atlanta First Baseman Martin Prado. Yes, Hindsight is 20/20, and if Hernandez had taken off for home, it would have been a close play. He might have been safe. But he may also have been called out. And Tolman well knew that the stimulating moves of Elijah Dukes was scheduled next on the dance floor.
Why not give Our Number 34 the stage for everyone to witness his ever improving talent?
Dukes has all five tools. He can hit, hit with power, run, field and throw. But the skill he showed everyone in the announced crowd of 30,326 on this Saturday Night was his ability TO TAKE A PITCH. Elijah Dukes is learning to be patient, understanding that as big and powerful as he is, Our Number 34 can be just as dangerous by waiting--displaying composure well beyond his years and the temperment some believe his does not possess.
Flashing his powerful bat, Dukes moved ahead in the count, up 3-1. An advantage that now found THE ENTIRE REMAINING CROWD on their feet cheering on a possible joyous ending. "Happy Days" were possibly here again, everyone knowing full well Our Washington Nationals many times have failed to execute in the clutch--especially when Our Number 34 fouled off the next two pitches.
But not this time around.
As it turned out This Retro Party was just getting started. The Bases were full. The count now loaded. And New Nationals Park ready to explode. On the very night flashy style and jiggle were on prominent display, Elijah Dukes simply WATCHED Vladamir Nunez's fastball offering sail outside and off the plate for Ball Four.
A Game Winning Walk Off--Walk Off. A new slide developing which featured Dukes twirling his bat off to his right side, pirouetting into the air and then doing the boogie all way into arms of his teammates rushing onto the field in celebration at first base--scoring Anderson Hernandez with the game winning run--in arguably one of the best games played in The Inaugural Season of New Nationals Park to date--during maybe the best stretch of play by Our Washington Nationals all season long. How different Our Lineup looks when healthy and motivated players take the field each and every day.
Not many would have believed possible just a short time ago that Washington could dance their way back into any competition down by 4 runs in the bottom of the fifth and garner Curly "W" Number 51. When Washington was reeling through their recent dozen losses in a row--every opportunity to strike back, when down, was wasted. Advantages now capitalized on as Our Washington Nationals winning streak has reached 5 straight games--tying the longest stretch this season.
And by the time this Retro Saturday Night Affair had ended on South Capitol Street, The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! displayed Our Washington Nationals stepping out to a new jig. A competitive nature reborn from lessons learned from a now experienced past. The majority of Our Players suiting up tonight in their Modern, Technologically Advanced, Dri-Fit Uniforms had never witnessed the whacky years of the 1970's, but at least for one night, they understood how to tango to a different beat. The Disco Moves Of 30 Years Past were back this evening and Our Washington Nationals found a fighting spirit to revel in it's comfort.
Final Score From High Flying, Polyester Filled and Colorful New Nationals Park--Our Washington Nationals 9 and The Atlanta Braves 8.
"70's Night" was one of the most compelling evenings all year. And Our Fans, The Nat Pack, Clint, and even My Best Friend Screech!! suited up in Retro Style making the night that much more enjoyable. This was a great evening at New Nationals Park-both on and off the field of play.
Game Notes & Highlights
Jason Bergmann displays some serious Jekyl & Hyde Moments. One day, Our Number 57 can be virtually untouchable, not many batters he faces are going to to hit him well. Then, take an evening like tonight, when Jason gets torched by allowing 4 doubles, three of them back to back to back while giving up 4 Runs in the top of the 3rd inning. And later allowing two homes runs--one a liner to right just over Washington's Bullpen to Brian McCann and a drilled opposite field shot to right center by Martin Prado. Six earned runs allowed in less than five innings. Not only did Jason walk three Atlanta Hitters, he didn't strike out a single Brave. Not One, very unusual for a man that commands some good stuff. Control which Our Number 57 had little of tonight. One of those evenings when Jason deserved a loss, but was bailed out by his teammates.
Saul Rivera was handed his 3rd blown save of the year in the top of the 8th by allowing a single to Greg Norton, a single to Josh Anderson and a double to right by Gregor Blanco. A game tying 8th run scored by Norton that could have resulted in the game winning 9th run scored by Josh Anderson--if not for The Defensive Play of This Game.
As Norton scored easily, Elijah Dukes was picking up the baseball and firing it to Anderson Hernandez standing in short right field taking the relay. When Atlanta Third Base Coach Brian Snitker sent his speedy Runner Anderson around third and on to home, Our Second Baseman Hernandez reeled off a one hopper to Jesus Flores at the plate. As The Braves Centerfielder attempted to slide around the now close play at home, Our Number 3 displayed the savvy of a veteran. Realizing the baseball might just reach home plate, in time on the bounce, Jesus pulled his glove back toward the the body of the sliding Anderson--allowing the baseball to land in his mitt at the exact same time The Braves Centerfielder was moving past and behind him. A smart play that allowed the baseball to travel it's maximum speed and gave Home Plate Umpire Tim McClelland the time to witness and signal the out call!! The Defensive Play Of This Ball Game and possibly game saving run because, if Jesus Flores had attempted to catch the baseball in front of home plate and then move the caught baseball in his mitt toward Anderson, precious seconds would have been lost. Instead, Our Number 3 let the ball come to Anderson, whereupon Jesus simply recorded the out.
This WAS A GREAT PLAY!! And Savvy Too.
Of course, Jesus Flores found himself right in the middle of the mix earlier in the game. Our Number 3 has sambaed his way through his own beat all season. Not expected to play a significant role all of 2008, Flores now finds himself developing as a clutch hitter--Dependable, with the game on the line. None more so than when Jesus UNLOADED on a Buddy Caryle fastball over the middle of the plate in the bottom of the 5th and sent a drive to DEEP LEFT CENTER, a bases clearing double that not only gave Flores his team leading 56th, 57th & 58th RBI's but sent this, one time, out of reach game back to even at six apiece. A short lived tie that turned in Washington's Favor when Anderson Hernandez blooped a looping ball between The Atlanta Infield to center for an RBI Single.
A 7-6 lead that advanced one more run to 8, when Ronnie Belliard stroked a seeing-eye single up the middle just off the out-stretched glove of The Braves Shortstop Omar Infante. An RBI Hit scoring Lastings Milledge who had singled with one out in the bottom of the 6th off Jeff Bennett, stole second and scored when Our Number 10's baseball found a way through The Atlanta Infield. A now two run advantage lost when Chipper Jones FLAT OUT HAMMERED a Charlie Manning pitch to deep right center for his 20th Home Run of 2008 in the 7th and Saul Rivera gave up that run scoring single to Gregor Blanco in the 8th. The game tying hit that might have resulted in becoming the Game Winning Hit, if not for that GREAT DEFENSIVE EFFORT on the play by Elijah Dukes to Anderson Hernandez to Jesus Flores for The Defensive Play of This Game.
But like all the victories of late, this one was a Team Win.
Washington's starting batting order tonight rapped out 16 hits. Anderson, "The Guz" and Ryan Zimmerman with three apiece. Lastings Milledge, Ronnie Belliard and Elijah Dukes with two hits each. And Ryan Langerhans walked three times tonight. Of course Jesus Flores with his one Clutch Hit, his Three RBI Double in the bottom of the 5th that turned this game around.
More and more, Our Washington Nationals are looking like a competitive team, fielding a lineup that is slowly becoming a force. They might not be able to pound the baseball out of the park to win each night, but they are learning to play within their means. A single here, a stolen base there, an advancement of a runner into scoring position. Small ball that pays off when the opponent realizes Our Batters are no longer getting themselves out with runners in scoring position. And it doesn't hurt when Our Team, in the field, plays flawlessly.
And how about those Atlanta Braves? Yes, missing John Smoltz, Tommy Glavine and Tim Hudson has hurt them tremendously on the mound. But in the field, would you really rather have many of the players Bobby Cox is forced to throw out on the diamond most every night right now? Chipper Jones and Brian McCann aside, Atlanta looks like its on it's very own slipping slide. They do not look good--as a team.
Elijah Dukes is one athletic specimen. He's also the most talented baseball player on Our Washington Nationals Roster. That man can play and as this 23 Year Old gets more experience, Our Number 34 could develop into one of the best players to wear a Washington Uniform for seasons to come. Really, Elijah Dukes is wonderful to watch. If only he can solve his off the field problems. For the most part, Dukes has been a good citizen in the public eye. We can only hope, Elijah can leave his personal demons behind. For if he does, Elijah Dukes is capable of being an All-Star, a top performer in the game. Our Number 34 is that good. He really is. And he should be playing Centerfield, where is arm could make a difference.
Speaking of Dukes, when Elijah was batting in the game deciding 10th inning, why in the world was Jesus Flores even warming up in the On Deck Circle? The bases were loaded. The game was tied. There were two outs. Our Number 34 was either going to win the game or extend it with a recorded out. Our Number 3 was NOT GOING TO BAT--no matter what. It makes no difference in the whole scheme of things, but it just didn't make any sense. Jesus Flores, or any other player for Our Washington Nationals was not going to bat during the remainder of that inning. Not going to happen. I found that strange.
Finally, 70's Night was quite the extravaganza at New Nationals Park this evening. The HDTV Scoreboard featured Dot Matrix electronics, subdued Color Graphics in each teams logos and some terrific 1970's Mod Style Photos of Our Washington Nationals.
The Nat Pack LOOKED TERRIFIC, as did Clint, some Nats Staffers and Fans. Really, this stuff was fun. Sohna and I enjoyed the festivities all night long. Even My Best Friend!! Screech!! posted up in a Tie-Dye Pink Nationals Jersey and Bandana. Our Washington Nationals need to do this promo again and really push the idea to Our Fans. But next time, Our Team needs to wear those Sand-Knit Polyester super tight uniforms from the 70's. The ones with the colorful elastic waist bands instead of belts. Great Stuff though. This was a really cool promotion.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)
More Pix from the night--click on any picture and it will blow up to large size.