Thursday, September 04, 2008
Even though there were two more lead changes to come--the tone for this game was set in the bottom of the 5th inning. Our Washington Nationals had the bases loaded with one out in a tie ball game. 3 to 3 the score against The Philadelphia Phillies. Elijah Dukes at the plate. Looking to be the game changer, Our Number 34 instead attempted to pull an outside pitch from the hand of The Phillies Ryan Madsen--sharply grounding the baseball to Philadelphia's Third Baseman Pedro Feliz. Seeing the Double Play developing, most of the home crowd among the 23,122 gathered began to moan--everyone realizing this latest of rallies was quickly coming to an end.
At least until Lastings Milledge had other ideas. Running from first base to second on the play, Our Number 44 saw Pedro Feliz toss the baseball to Chase Utley covering second base. The Phillies All-Star Second Baseman--the center of attention in last night's play at the plate where Jesus Flores sprained his ankle--caught the ball, retired Milledge, and as Utley began to pivot and throw the ball to Ryan Howard at first base to end the inning--Chase Utley found himself flipping over and nearly on top of his head.
He had been taken out--In Grand Style. "YEEEEEES!!" came the eruption from the partisan home crowd.
Lastings Milledge had produced the Perfect Take Out Slide. A tumble that found Utley eating the baseball, making no throw. "The Guz" scoring from third with Washington's first go ahead run of the evening, and sending The Loudest Cheer yet heard at New Nationals Park all season--FOR AN OUT!! Yes, for the recording of a simple out. Solid, tough and downright edgy baseball had just played out on the diamond. A witnessed event that now found The Fans of Our Washington Nationals giving Milledge a standing ovation as he happily trotted off the field twirling his batting helmet in his hands. Lastings Milledge well deserved the accolades for his hustle. And in doing so, he had saved the inning. Not only by giving Washington the lead--but letting Philadelphia know--they were in Our House and nothing is going to be easy. No not anymore.
Our Washington Nationals had sent out the Official Word. They were not going to roll over.
Not even after Marco Estrada entered this affair in the very next half inning for Washington and within 2 minutes had given up the lead by allowing a single by Jayson Werth and another Home Run to Ryan Howard--his second of the game and 39th of 2008. When Ryan Howard connects his swing is just beautiful. Tremendous power and he doesn't even appear to be swinging hard.
Not even after Our Washington Nationals went quietly in the bottom of the 6th inning.
Not even when history has shown Our Washington Nationals many times earlier this season would go quietly into that dark night when behind.
No, Our Washington Nationals were not folding up the tent as the season reaches it's final four weeks.
No--This is the New Look Version of Our Washington Nationals. They weren't done yet--not by a long shot.
And What A LONG SHOT IT BECAME in the 7th.
Yet, as always, The Phillie Faithful were on hand putting on their lovely show (including in Section 218--where they were less than classy--what a surprise). But Philadelphia's Fans soon would be wallowing in their very own chutzpah when Our Washington Nationals fought back again now down 5-4 in 7th. First, when Philadelphia placed Chad Durbin on the mound and he was greeted with a MAMMOTH HOME RUN off the bat of the very hot Ryan Zimmerman in the bottom of the 7th to tie the score at 5. The "Z-Man" drilling another NO DOUBT Shot to Dead Centerfield and over the wall, nearly hitting the very EMT Wagon that carted Jesus Flores off the field last night. Sending yet another message that Washington was not going to stand pat any longer.
The Philadelphia Phillies were going to have to PROVE THEY CAN BEAT US because Our Washington Nationals are becoming Spoilers. Confidence Building among the youngest team in The Majors growing stronger and stronger by the days. Yes, they have a long, long way to go, but Washington's more a competitive team experiencing success right now--fielding a roster few envisioned at the beginning of 2008.
What a difference a few weeks make.
On the came the bottom of the 8th where Washington put this game away--convincingly.
You know things are going good when after Kory Casto singles to right off Philadelphia's Chad Durbin and Wil Nieves follows and POPS UP an attempted sacrifice bunt. One of those "I can't believe it again moments" about Our Washington Nationals. How much poorly can a team bunt than Washington? But, in this case--they were unfazed. Roger Bernadina was next. And Our New Number 2 (Previously Number 7 in his earlier time with Our Team) produced a mighty fine At-Bat. A Seven Pitch Wonder for this youngster with two strikes that found Bernadina getting a hold of a Durbin off speed pitch and lacing it to left field. Pinch Runner Pete Orr scampering to third.
Reminder, there was still only one out. The Game Was Tied. And Chad Durbin was fooling no one. So, why did The Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel not replace his pitcher with another--especially when Our Manager Manny Acta sent "The Ballplayer" to the plate to pinch hit for Saul Rivera? Ronnie Belliard has been pretty clutch all year. You had to figure Our Number 10 had the advantage. And as soon as The African Queen bellowed out "Come On!! Lucky Number 10!!" as she has called him since his INFAMOUS last At-Bat Home Run against The Baltimore Orioles earlier this year--Ronnie Belliard wasted ZERO TIME. Sitting on First Pitch Fastball--"The Ballplayer" drilled a liner to left--scoring Orr with the 6th and go ahead run for Washington. Sending Washington's Fans flying out of their seats and finding Philadelphia's jamming themselves back into theirs.
An Advantage that grew ever larger when J.C. Romero replaced Chad Durbin and, QUITE INCREDIBLY, served up a another FASTBALL right over the heart of the plate to THE HOTTEST HITTER IN THE GAME!! What in world was Romero thinking? "The Guz" flat out HAMMERING J.C's pitch deep and into the gap in left center. Scoring all three runners with a bases loaded double, bringing the noise level on South Capitol Street to its highest peak all evening. Yes, New Nationals Park WAS ROCKING!! What a sight to experience. Yes, fans were literally dancing in the aisles.
The Philadelphia Phillies were now being trounced and the sight of thousands of Phillie Phanatics immediately getting up to leave enjoyable to watch. None better than the four young, immature, obnoxious and down right rude ones sitting directly to the right of Sohna and I all evening long. Most all night, they did everything possible to make the ball game unenjoyable for EVERY SINGLE PERSON AROUND THEM--especially us. But, Cristian Guzman had given us The FINAL LAUGH and as these very four Poor Sports filed past us to leave New Nationals Park--Sohna and I gave each other A High Five in their Honor. Pleased, they were leaving with their tails tucked between their legs. No one should have to put up with crap like that. And these four bozos were now on the receiving end of another demoralizing Phillies loss--thanks to Our Washington Nationals.
The African Queen and I could never thank Our Washington Nationals enough for coming to our rescue in Section 218 this evening. This victory warmed our hearts, in more ways than Our Team could possibly imagine.
Final Score from New Nationals Park where putting your best show on in September is Better Late Than Never--Our Washington Nationals 9 and The Philadelphia Phillies 7. Curly "W" Number 54 completed a nine game homestand where Washington won 8 of them. A Fresh Team Setting The Tone and The New Agenda. Who would have believed that in Mid-August? No longer the worst team in baseball, as Our Team heads to Atlanta tonight for a three game series with The Floundering Braves. Believe it or not, there is even an outside chance Washington may not even finish in Last Place in The National League East--if they sweep at Turner Field.
The Bang!! Zoom!! of The Fireworks!! sending The OFFICIAL NOTICE to the rest of Baseball that as the last 22 games are played out during this 2008 Championship Campaign, Our Washington Nationals may well play a significant role after all. That of The Spoiler. The Hot Team NO ONE WANTS TO PLAY as the race for The Playoffs Heats Up and Washington Bares down on their National League East Opponents over these final few weeks. Just remind The New York Mets what Our Washington Nationals did to them last September in 2007. The Philadelphia Phillies learned that hard, cold lesson, tonight.
It's been a long time coming this year, but honestly, these just completed games in The Nation's Capital have been a lot of fun. Winning always helps, but so does watching hustling, caring and WANTING TO BE THERE PLAYERS. Nothing like it and Our Manager Manny Acta deserves a ton of credit for always staying positive in what has truly been a difficult year--for everyone surrounding Our Team.
Better yet, nothing more fun than beating The Phillies. These two teams have consistently played some of the best games since Baseball Returned to Washington. Enjoyable, challenging and entertaining affairs--like that Midnight Start Game at RFK in Late September 2006. One of the greatest Nights/Mornings we have ever enjoyed at Any Ballpark.
Game Notes & Highlights
Odalis Perez did the expected when he plunked Chase Utley with his first offering to The Phillies Second Baseman. Somewhat of a retaliation for his collision with Jesus Flores last night. OK, that's fine--But Odalis--you can't follow that Message Pitch by allowing one of your own. Ryan Howard CRUSHED YOU for his first of two home runs just two batters later--with two outs. If you are going to give up a free baserunner to make a point--you can't allow any home runs. No--you just can't. Eventually, Our Number 45 left after 5 innings with the lead. He walked no one and gave up five hits. it was a typical Odalis Perez Outing. Nothing overly terrible, but nothing really special.
Marco Estrada lasted just three batters and gave up Howard's second home run--a two run shot and another single. Fortunately, Our Manager Manny Acta realized Our Number 55 had nothing and replaced him with "The Human Rain Delay". Jesus Colome shut down The Phillies for the remainder of the 6th inning. Manny went heavy into this bullpen tonight, playing this affair like a playoff game. Michael Hinckley, Steven Shell, Saul Rivera (who got the win) and Joel Hanrahan finished this game out. Although, in a non save situation, Our Number 38 was not exactly too sharp. Hanrahan gave up two runs in the top of the 9th before finally striking out Jayson Werth with Ryan Howard On Deck representing the game tying run--to a great relief of many Nats Fans.
When Hanrahan was struggling in his appearance, Chase Utley drove a ball deep and over Elijah Dukes' head in right field. Our Number 34 ran back, then back pedaled, then JUMPED BACKWARDS toward the Green Padded Wall and caught the baseball for Out Number Two of this final frame. Yes, The Phillies scored their second run off Our Number 38 with a recorded sacrifice fly, but Elijah had made a wonderful catch, helping to stunt a rally and in doing so performed The Defensive Play of This Game. It was a very, very fine play. If Dukes misplays or could not handle that baseball--this game would have been far from over. In fact, changed dramatically. Fortunately, this out settled Joel Hanrahan down and he finished off Werth--the very next hitter.
Again, the top of batting lineup explosive for Washington. Emilio Bonifacio one hit, two walks, two runs scored. Guzman three hits, three RBI, two runs. Zimmerman, two hits (HR, Double--hitting for power), two runs and two RBI. Milledge one hit, one RBI and One TERRIFIC TAKEOUT of Utley to score a run. Dukes one hit, one run. Even Kory Casto playing first base tonight--two hits, one RBI. When you are hot, you are hot.
Cristian Guzman recorded his 8th straight Multi-Hit Game. The first time any player wearing ANY Washington Jersey since 1933 has done the honors. That player is Hall Of Famer and Former Washington Senator (And One Time President Of The American League) Joe Cronin.
Except for Ryan Howard and Lastings Milledge, The Phillies would have been shutout. Ryan's Two Homers to virtually the exact same spot in right center scored four Philadelphia Runs. Our Number 44 allowed another when he very poorly played a drive over his head by Chase Utley in the top of the 3rd. Milledge turned twice on the ball and still could not find it. He had no idea how fast the ball was traveling. Eventually the ball glanced off his glove. Jimmy Rollins scored from first for The Phillies third run of the evening and Utley landed on third base with what was GENEROUSLY ruled a triple. Lastings Milledge should have been charged an error. Fortunately, Lastings made up for his mistake with that great take out of Utley a few frames later.
Both Managers used their benches in what was a close game throughout. Strategy was being played. The Cat & Mouse Game of using Pinch Hitters, Relievers and Double Switches. 13 different pitchers threw from the mound. 40 players total. Fun at times to watch, but in this case, this game had a very American League Feel by going long into the night. Time to play this one: 3 hours and 23 minutes. Only against The Phillies do so many contests seem to never end. Never End.
In the 4th Inning Presidents Race--Surprise, Surprise--Abe won for the 44th Time this season. Safe to say--Teddy had Zero Chance.
My Best Friend!! Screech!! surprised Sohna and I in the bottom of the second inning when he tip toed down the steps in Club Level and stunned me by launching himself in my face. Being in Section 218, it's more difficult for Screech!! to visit us there. As it turned out this evening--I was wearing my Screech's Best Friend Nationals Jersey--in his honor for this game.
In the Stars & Stripes Club a very nice new item has been hung near The Homestead Grays Bar behind Section 218. A Framed United States Flag that was flown over The United States Capitol Building. Sohna and I noticed it for the first time last night, and this evening took a picture to share.
The US FLAG one of the many changes that are occurring throughout New Nationals Park without fanfare. Like the circle ribbon electronic board above The Red Loft Bar. So many have asked that Pertinent Game Information be placed there. Well, here you have it, Our Washington Nationals had done just that. Throughout tonight's game, Batter, Pitcher Information, Upcoming Batters in the Next Inning. When Sohna and I ran into Team President Stan Kasten after the game, we mentioned our noticing of the Red Loft Ribbon Board Upgrades. He commented "It's not where I want it to be yet, but it shows we are making improvements. We are just not announcing anything." He was impressed we had noticed.
Speaking of noticing-- Presidents Club WAS JAMMED PACKED. Only A Few seats Available. It appeared there were two large groups occupying the majority of the seats.
Finally, tonight Our Washington Nationals Celebrated Roberto Clemente Day. Festivities honoring one of Baseball's Greatest Players who committed himself to excellence both on and off the field of play. Joel Hanrahan was officially named Washington Team Recipient of the 2008 Award for his baseball and community service before tonight's game began. Throughout the evening, videos depicting Roberto Clemente's Life and Career were shown on The HDTV Scoreboard. Mr. Clemente's son--Luis Clemente. was on hand for the ceremonies. He threw The Honorary First Pitch to Joel Hanrahan.
After the game, Sohna and I had the great privilege to speak with Luis Clemente about his Father's Life and Charitable Work. He was very gracious with his time. To say the least, we were HONORED TO MEET Mr. Luis Clemente.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Luis M. Alverez
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)