Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Youth On Parade
This March began just three batters into the bottom of the 1st Inning when Ryan Zimmerman hammered out his 14th Home Run of 2008. A Two Run Shot off Scott Olsen that appeared to land a good 12 rows deep into the left field stands. The Accompanying Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! as The "Z-Man" circled the bases signaling A Parade Was Beginning. One centered around Youth.
For some time now, Our Washington Nationals have stressed they are building from the bottom--from the ground floor to the eventual reaches of those yet to found Grand Heights. No question, inexperience and youth, combined with talent looking to find their way in The Great Game has led to a struggling Version 4.0 Team which calls New Nationals Park its new home this season. But tonight, a shining light was seen bearing down on South Capitol Street. Not only had three of Our So Called "Core Players" Zimmerman, Lastings Milledge, and Elijah Dukes delivered, but so had other youngsters, some NOT EVEN WITHIN OUR ORGANIZATION as July turned to August.
Few in Washington had heard of Alberto Gonzalez before Our General Manager Jim Bowden acquired him from The New York Yankees last month. The same holds true for Anderson Hernandez--acquired from the other New York Franchise--The Mets. Both considered long on glove and short on stick--Our New Numbers 12 & 6 have been nothing short of exciting to watch in the field of play. Everyone has come to realize Gonzalez may play one of the finest fielding and throwing games in The Major Leagues. With that glove and arm--he is mighty impressive. Hernandez also, well known for his defensive work as well. Their respective problem--both being unable to consistently hit Major League Pitching.
Whatever their pasts, whatever their backgrounds--since donning a jersey representing Our Washington Nationals, both Alberto Gonzalez and Anderson Hernandez have produced at the plate. Probably none better than their performances tonight. Facing a Florida Marlins Team, still in the playoff hunt--Gonzalez produced his FINEST NIGHT IN THE MAJORS--Four Hits, Three Runs, Two RBI batting second and his usual STELLAR work in the field. Yeah, I know, its only a small sample of his work thus far in Washington--but how can you NOT BE IMPRESSED with Our Number 12? Gonzalez has been TERRIFIC since coming over from The Yankees. A Quality Player so far.
And just like The Mets gave up on Anderson Hernandez, Washington gave up on Luis Ayala, as well. A change of scenery for two likable talents in which each needed a new place to grow. Blocked in Queens by Jose Reyes and Argenis Reyes, Hernandez was not going to get an opportunity at Shea Stadium this season, or Citi Field come 2009. Playing for a team building with youth--Ayala's value had seen it's better days in The Nation's Capital. And there are no problems with that. As sadly as it was to see Our Now Former Number 56 leave and take his place in the bullpen of The Mets (and I will always wish him THE VERY BEST--Luis is quite the character), Anderson Hernandez has been equally as impressive playing second base for Our Washington Nationals since coming over. This evening--two hits, two runs, two rbi from the leadoff spot in Our Lineup.
Not only had youth started a parade at New Nationals Park--but the review which followed was quite the spectacle.
A 25 Year Old Second Baseman now becoming the table setter (Hernandez)
A 25 Year Old Shortstop becoming a producer (Gonzalez).
A 23 Year Old Third Baseman reclaiming his role as Franchise Player (Zimmerman).
A 23 Year Old Right Fielder troubling opposing pitchers just enough to get those batting around him something better to hit (Dukes).
A 23 Year Old Centerfielder continuing to knock in more runs at the plate--becoming a more relied upon RBI Threat. Tonight Lastings Milledge with three hits and three RBI--a now team leading 60.
Except for Ryan Zimmerman--not a single one of those top five hitters in Our Lineup Tonight were in Washington Last Season. None had ever marched their way onto the diamond and produced in a DC Uniform until 2008.
How times have changed--from even those dog days of this past June and July--when Our Washington Nationals were in a tailspin, losing consistently and without much of a fight. Now, Our Manager Manny Acta sending out a lineup that, although still learning and inconsistent, exhibits some flaunt, some flash and a quality of play not seen here in some time. 13 Hits, 5 Walks, consistently getting hitters on base all night long. And then parading those runners around to score 9 runs.
A Washington Nationals March that that was pretty refreshing and that feeling had nothing to do with the cool, comfortable weather in and around New Nationals Park this evening.
Especially after watching tonight's pitching for Washington. Shairon Martis, Steven Shell & Michael Hinckley were not even considered as viable candidates for The Major League Roster in 2007. Martis was in Single A Ball, Shell with The Los Angeles Angels AAA Team, Hinckley lost and forgotten--buried deep down within Washington's Minor League System. Joel Hanrahan was a Rule V STARTER. Our Number 38--the only one of those 4 pitchers above 26 years of age.
Now look at all of them--collectively. The 21 Year Old Martis would battle through 5 innings with The Fish this evening, throwing a ton of pitches (103) but not getting himself in too much serious trouble. Shell would get Martis out of a problem in the sixth and Hinckley would continue to slam the door shut on each and every opponent he has ever faced in his brief Major League Career. Reaching 10 appearances from the beginning of your Major League Career without allowing a run to score may well have to do with a little more luck than skill and the very fact NO ONE HAS SEEN YOU YET AT THE PLATE. But, after tonight, Our Number 58 completed two additional shutout innings in his 12th appearance and left the mound with the confidence and a new found strut of a One Time Top Prospect now FINALLY understanding--He Can Pitch In The Major Leagues. Yes he can, and effectively so.
What a feeling and revelation that must be for this southpaw that may well have believed his career in 2007 was possibly over. Michael Hinckley should be proud of himself--he never gave up--when many others had already done so. Fast becoming one of the best stories of the final month of The 2008 Championship Season.
12 Hits, 6 Runs and 9 RBI on display tonight from Our Youthful Lineup.
9 Innings Pitched with 8 strikeouts from Our Youthful Pitching Staff.
The Result, a convincing win that was never really in doubt.
Final Score from a wonderful fall day at New Nationals Park--Our Washington Nationals 9 and The Florida Marlins 4. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling a glimpse of Our Future. One that is not as awful as some have written of late. Our Record may not be good but no one can rightfully say we don't have some Major League Quality Players that should help Washington take that next big step--from also ran to respectability--in the very near future.
Curly "W" Number 59 featured a Youth Parade on South Capitol Street which marched all over The Fish tonight and sent out word to those among the 20,657 in the crowd that Our Washington Nationals are not done for the season, even though The Marlins are now finished in the run for the playoffs. Shairon Martis had garnered his First Major League Win, and in doing so ELIMINATED Florida from the post season. Once again, for the second straight season--Our Washington Nationals continue to play a spoiler role as this 2008 Season is quickly heading to a close.
At least there is some consolation in that. Finishing The Fish while attempting to finish Our Season with promise.
Game Notes & Highlights.
Alberto Gonzalez had a career night, with four hits including three singles and a double. He was a catalyst all night long, starting and extending rallies. He really was impressive.
The same for Ryan Zimmerman after blasting out his home run. Our Number 11 looking healthy and swinging his bat with control, something not seen earlier this season before his shoulder injury. Ryan standing tall at the plate giving a performance over this last month of September very reminescent of his strong efforts from his Rookie Season of 2006. Zimmerman looks really good right now.
And Lastings Milledge is beginning to just drive in runners from scoring position. Tonight a sacrifice fly and two singles knocking in key runs. Sometimes Our Number 44 swings at too many first pitch off speed pitches thrown off the outside corner, but this evening he was more patient and let some of those tosses go and was rewarded with a fine night at the plate. One in which his effort was less about power, but the power to just get on base.
After Roger Bernadina walked pinch hitting for Michael Hinckley in the 8th--the sight of Our Number 2 scampering around the bases from 2nd to home on a short fly to left center by Anderson Hernandez quite remarkable to witness. With the speedy Willie Harris scoring in front of him, Bernadina NEARLY CAUGHT HARRIS at the plate. Long Strides, covering a tremendous amount of ground--Roger Bernadina can run like an antelope. His stride reminding Sohna and I of the last person we remember wearing a Washington Jersey that could run so effortlessly--Alfonso Soriano--although Bernadina has a long, long way to go before he can match the overall talent of Our Former Left Fielder.
And with speed now being a factor when it comes to Our Washington Nationals, those two runs plated in the 8th were set up by a beautiful double steal by Harris and Bernadina just before Hernandez slapped them home.
Attempting to close in on 50 Wins in The Presidents Race, Abe was blocked tonight by Teddy, GW & Tom as The Rushmores ran across the right field warning track, but once The Presidents hit the corner, near Washington's Bullpen, Honest Abe Cheated and just like a Roller Derby Match--pushed all his cohorts into the wall--rushing past them for an easy victory--his 49th of 2008.
Tonight was the final T-Shirt Tuesday of the season and players for Our Washington Nationals were at the Entry Gates to New Nationals Park for about 20 minutes around 6PM. Sohna and I came across Lastings Milledge, Aaron Boone and Austin Kearns at The Center Field Gate. And then found Willie Harris at The Left Field Gate. Although we did not see them, Saul Rivera, Jesus Colome and Jason Bergmann were scheduled at other entrances.
Finally, all New Nationals Park Merchandise and all Player Numbered Jerseys and Tee-Shirts are all now 50% off at The Team Stores throughout New Nationals Park. From now until tomorrow night's closing game of the season on South Capitol Street, the sale will run. There are Opening Night Tees, Long Sleeve Inaugural Season of Nationals Park Tees, many other items. Some good stuff was still available. Of course, we picked up some loot--as always. You might want to check it out--as well.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Manuel Balce Ceneta
All Other Photos--Nats320 All Rights Reserved