Tuesday, September 02, 2008


At 7:46PM The Silence Began. The Air had been completely sucked out of New Nationals Park. Enthusiasm for Our Washington Nationals--so high when this game started--now gone. A pallor so heavy, Sohna and I really didn't know what to do. Our only concern was for One of Our Best Young Players--laying in agony at Home Plate. We didn't care about the score anymore. Jesus Flores lay crumbled to the ground, having been run over in a violent collision by The Philadelphia Phillies Chase Utley. An attempted steal of home by The Phillies All-Star Second Baseman when Our Starting Pitcher, John Lannan, threw to first base in an attempt to pickoff Jayson Werth.

When Our Number 31 threw over to Ronnie Belliard, Utley, on 3rd base, took off directly towards home. He was not stopping for anything or anyone. And when Our Number 10's toss home was slightly up the 3rd base line--directly in the path of the hard charging Utley--Jesus Flores was exposed. DID HE EVER GET CRUSHED!! Chase Utley ran through, over and past Our Number 3. He Hammered Jesus Flores!! Our Catcher literally and figuratively took it on the chin. Set, as best he could to protect himself from the blow, Flores found his left ankle twisted and caught beneath the impact.

Amazingly, Our Young Starting Catcher HELD ON TO THE BALL!! And Home Plate Umpire Scott Barry signaled OUT!! Out at the Plate!! at the exact same moment Jesus Flores crumbled over and SCREAMED IN PAIN. This was not a pretty sight. His left ankle had been severely hurt, possibly broken. The cheering for Our Number 3 for Out Number 3 for the end of the top half of Inning Number 3--immediately died. And with it, all hopes for Our Washington Nationals this evening. All eyes now aimed directly on the painful sight of Jesus Flores writhing in agony over home plate.

This Did Not Look Good.

When Head Trainer Lee Kuntz rushed out to home plate, all Jesus Flores could do was continue to scream in pain. Our Manager Manny Acta leaning over and looking down at this Venezuelan Native hurt and possibly seriously injured. Not a sole on sight at New Nationals Park, DID NOT BELIEVE, Jesus Flores had just broken his left ankle.

A belief that seemed certainly possible when The Medical Staff applied a special compression brace to Jesus' ankle for support and pain relief and The DC Fire Department EMT's sent out their special Medical Wagon to drive Our Number 3 off the field for X-Rays. Jesus Flores had to be lifted on the stretcher. He could not move himself. At that point in time, it really didn't matter to Sohna and I that Our Washington Nationals were down 2-0 to The Philadelphia Phillies. It did not matter that Washington was obviously affected by the loss. And it didn't matter that Our Nats could not mount a comeback all evening long to overcome what soon became a four run deficit.

No, The African Queen and I could only think about Jesus Flores and his health. That's all we cared about. Sohna and I never want to see anybody hurt. And we don't care what team a player plays on. We don't EVER want to see ANY PLAYER seriously hurt. Not even if they play for The Phillies, The New York Mets or even The Baltimore Orioles. No, that's not our thing. Yes, injuries happen, but no one should ever be happy over any player being injured. We don't care what side you cheer for.

For the remainder of this very down evening--New Nationals Park was not the same. Most in the announced crowd of 23,150 had no idea Our Washington Nationals had informed the media at 8:46PM that X-Rays on Jesus Flores were negative, but an MRI will be conducted on Wednesday Morning. Official Diagnosis--Left Ankle Sprain. Throughout the remainder of this rather pedestrian ball game, Sohna and I only worried for Jesus Flores. His injury really took away from the ball game.

Yes, Our Washington Nationals mounted one serious rally, in the 8th, when they put runners on 1st and 2nd with one out, but Willie Harris Struck Out and Ryan Zimmerman grounded out in a force play to second--to end whatever last breath Washington had tonight--which wasn't much.

What started at 7:10PM with Our Washington Nationals on a 7 Game Winning Streak (second longest in team history), whimpered to an end at 9:53PM when, ironically, Wil Nieves--Jesus' replacement--grounded out to of all people--Chase Utley--to end this game. And no--you can't blame Chase Utley for just playing a good game of Hard Ball. He was trying to score, in an important game for his team. The Phillies Second Baseman did nothing wrong. This accident just happened in serious competition.

Final Score from a very deflated New Nationals Park--The Philadelphia Phillies 4 and Our Washington Nationals Zero. The 20th time in 2008 Washington has been shutout. Immediately after the conclusion of the game, Our Washington Nationals announced the recall of Catcher Luke Montz from Triple-A Columbus. The 25 Year Old Backstop split time between AA Harrisburg and The AAA Clippers this year.

Game Notes & Highlights

John Lannan pitched fairly well in his six innings on the mound. He only allowed two runs on five hits, but with his offense providing no support this evening--Our Number 31 was only credited, officially, with his 13th loss of 2008, to go with his 8 wins.

Levale Speigner made his 2008 debut with Washington and pitched a forgettable 1/3rd of an inning. Charged eventually with two runs--Our New and Former Number 37 looked mighty uncomfortable. A feeling Michael Hinckley did not share. Making his Major League Debut--Our New Number 58 pitched quite effectively. Yes, he allowed on inherited runner to score during an inning ending double play rundown in the top of the 7th, but Hinckley pitched with confidence of a left hander that knows what he can do out there. Very interesting performance from a One Time Top Prospect in Our Organization that had fallen well off the radar screen with poor play. Being a southpaw, Michael Hinckley will be given every chance to succeed.

Success which Cole Hamels already consistently brings to the mound for each and every one of his starts. The Phillie Left Hander is fun to watch. He mixes his pitches well. Not overpowering, Hamels just knows how to pitch and into the 8th inning tonight he held Our Washington Nationals under wraps and was granted his 12th win of 2008. Hard to believe Cole Hamels is only 12-8 this year. Philadelphia must not score many runs for him, since he carries a 3.01 ERA right now.

Just Six Hits for Washington tonight. Ryan Zimmerman and Elijah Dukes with doubles. Lastings Milledge should have had a double in the bottom of the 9th, when he led off and drilled a shot into the right centerfield gap. With Washington down four runs at the time, for whatever reason, Our Number 44 decided to chance the double into a triple. Yeah, Lastings Milledge arrived safely at third base. But, Lastings, Buddy. We were down by FOUR RUNS. Four Runs!! There was ZERO REASON to risk attempting to get a triple on your personal record. Our Washington Nationals needed base runners at that time. If you had foolishly been thrown out--Our Manager Manny Acta better have sat you down for tomorrow night's series finale. Your In-Game Decision, under the circumstances--was very, very poor. What were you thinking of at that exact moment? Why did you run to third base? You were nearly thrown out--unnecessarily.

During each of the past two Spring Trainings, Sohna and I have witnessed Ryan Zimmerman taking hard groundballs from his knees hit by Special Assistant Barry Larkin. Zimmerman and Larkin have both told me this instructional drill is performed to get Our Number 11 to keep his hands in front of the ball-effectively--without using his feet. That exact same drilled played out live tonight in the top of the 7th when Cole Hamels squared around to bunt. Ryan Zimmerman charged in. Hamel SWUNG AWAY. "Z" down on his knees, in a protective stance, being so close to the plate, dove on his knees to his left and snared a hard grounder by The Phillies Pitcher. Then, had the wherewithal to right himself and throw out Hamels at first base for The Defensive Play of This Game. Immediately, I turned to Sohna and mentioned how we witnessed Zimmerman doing this exact same drill. Upon getting home, I looked up the pictures we had taken of the practice session in Viera, Florida.

Tonight was Tee-Shirt Tuesday Night. This Evening's Curly "W" White Tee featured The Racing Presidents. Of course, the usual suspects were handing out the shirts to patrons entering through The Center Field Gate (That's a Joke and they know who they are). There are two more Tee-Shirt Tuesdays for 2008, on September 16th and 23rd.

Before the game, Sohna and I enjoyed Sushi. Sushi which we picked up on the way to the ballpark and enjoyed the meal in The Stars & Stripes Club. At one point, Sushi was suppose to be offered by Centerplate on a special cart on The Main Concourse. It never materialized after the Original Executive Chef at New Nationals Park left for personal reasons. Although, The Suites still do have Sushi on their Order Menus.

Teddy lost the 4th Inning Presidents Race when he was sandwiched by Tom and Abe and fell down near the right field corner. Able won the race--his 43rd Victory of 2008.

Finally, during the 5th inning I headed over the Sections 136 and 137 to take a look and take pictures of The New Stand Up Tables behind the last section of seats. These metal stands allow anyone to hang, eat and drink while still watching the ball game. Team President Stan Kasten had mentioned to Sohna and I last week that some had been put in. More are coming for next season throughout the ballpark. Sections 136 & 137 are located down the right field foul line on the Main Concourse--if you want to check them out yourself.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)


Anonymous said...

I was at the game and saw the injury. I think catchers, as a group, probably have an extremely high tolerance for pain, so I'm always concerned when a catcher is slow to get up after a hit. I'll say a prayer for Jesus and light a candle when I go to church tomorrow.

I happened to hear part of Charlie Manuel's comments on the WTOP sports report, where he commented on Utley's slide. I didn't try to transcribe it, but he said something like "some people say that's old school, I say it's good school. If we didn't do something like that, we may as well put on lipstick and [mocking tone of voice] say "excuse me, I'm going to steal a base". There was laughter in the background.

I was not amused.

Anonymous said...

Your sushi looked great --- the game didn't!

Many games you can point to ONE play that turns a game around and even before the Flores injury, that play was when Dukes was doubled off of 2nd base in the 2nd inning.

In the 2nd inning, we should have had men on 2nd and 3rd with one out after a Flores out to Victorino instead of "man" on 3rd and 2 outs.

The Nationals best chance to score was in that 2nd inning and it was that 1 play that sucked the air out at that point and time and any remaining air was sucked out after the Flores injury.

As SBF pointed out with Milledge in the 9th and his questionable baserunning judgement, what was Dukes thinking in the 2nd inning with no outs?

"Dukes knows he did wrong. There is no outs and you have a runner in front of you," Acta said. "You have to make sure that the ball drops down. Still, if it's a clean single, most of the time, the third-base coach will not send you home with no outs. Hopefully, it will not happen again."

Throw in the Flores injury and this looked like the Nats 3 months ago with dumb baserunning, some spotty relief pitching, and a big injury and NO run support for John Lannan. OK, defense was great and
#58 Mike Hinckley looked good, and we got down a Sac by a pitcher so not exactly like 3 months ago!

We can't roll back time to see how it would have played out in the 2nd inning if Elijah Dukes would have stayed closer to 2nd base, and you have to tip your cap to the job Hamels did, but I would have liked our chances in that 2nd inning if we played smart baseball.

Also, we had the unlucky bounces as you can find in Nationals losses. Another ground-rule double that if it doesn't go over the fence scores Belliard from 1st base and we get on the board that way.

Oh well, lets start a new winning streak tonight!!!

Chris Needham said...

I dunno about the injury sucking the life out of the crowd. It seems like late in the game, the crowd was as into it as any that I've been to in months. They really cheered and cheered Hinckley. And when the Nats had the rally in the 8th, the crowd actually (my god!) cheered without something having already happened, or without being prompted by the godawful scoreboard!

Anonymous said...

Have you looked at the standings lately?

The Braves pulled it out last night in a slugfest vs. the Marlins displaying horrific pitching by both bullpens, but what is interesting after our sweep of Atlanta this past week is that we head tomorrow into Atlanta and if we can win tonight and sweep Atlanta again, we could possibly be only THREE games behind the Braves in the NL East cellar!!!

Its truly amazing to me that when you look around at other teams in the Majors you have some teams playing bad including our friends to the North the Orioles with 63 wins, San Diego is tied with us in the Win column at 53 and Seattle 1 better with 54 wins. In all there are 15 teams below .500 with the Marlins on the edge of .500 right now at 70-69.

When you are so far out of the playoff picture, it doesn't help to watch the standings so I was surprised how things look the morning of Sept 3rd especially considering the Tampa Bay Rays are in 1st place along with the Cubs and the Brewers right behind them!