Sunday, April 12, 2009
That melancholy feeling had already set in when Austin Kearns lost a routine fly in the sun during the bottom of the 8th Inning at Turner Field against The Atlanta Braves this afternoon. A subsequent errorless triple lofted by Jeff Francouer that was the final nail in the coffin of this winless opening week of baseball for Our Washington Nationals.
Nothing seemed to stop this Easter Sunday's Sixth Consecutive Loss to begin the season. The See-Saw swinging up and down in their play on the field wouldn't allow for a turnaround--no matter how hard they tried.
While Washington's pitching again kept our team down early, our hitters fought to get them back in the game.
And when our pitchers finally settled down, our batters couldn't stroke the decisive blow.
Then, this week's theme started all over again.
Even when both were in sync, a fielding mishap proved costly.
Back and forth, up and down, that pendulum swing of uncertainty that has played out for Washington since Rickey Nolasco threw the very first pitch of 2009 to Lastings Milledge on April 6th at Dolphin Stadium for The Florida Marlins.
That Tetter Tottering which has kept Our Washington Nationals off balance, unsteady and unable to garner even one victory. Today's sweep by The Atlanta Braves was no less uncomfortable to watch. Totally out of sync Our Washington Nationals were. One hand not jibing with the other. Any rhythm lost--because on the field of play--all is not in concert.
Although not all from their own faults.
The Atlanta Braves are a pretty good club. And when they needed that clutch hit or defensive stop, Atlanta stepped up their game. The Brav-os may well appear ugly in those hideous red Sunday Alternate Jerseys, but they sure looked sweet with the game on the line all weekend long. I believe they were a combined 7 for 7 with runners in scoring position today--Perfect.
Unlike Our Washington Nationals.
Even Elijah Dukes' tremendous batting eye got taken by Atlanta's Defense this afternoon. Our Number 34 looks for pitches to slam. But when the see-saw for Washington was swinging to the downward side--he got flat out robbed of a mighty blow with a fine defensive play on the behalf Jordan Schafer. The Braves centerfielder making a tremendous running catch on Dukes, swooping in from center taking a liner to his backhand side (Schafer's lefthanded) with DC runners on 1st and 2nd in the top of 8th. We were only down three at the time. A game changing moment for the taking--missed. Of course, as fate would have it this week--the opposition--in this case The Braves today were in control--riding high on the tetter-totter. Unsurprisingly, Schaefer made that catch and again did so one inning later--in the 9th-- with a fabulous run to wall in dead center to take away a sure extra base hit off the bat of Josh Willingham.
Every time Our Washington Nationals mounted a comeback today, they were thwarted. The same result occurring over the previous five games as well.
Yes, today was a Melancholy Day to be a fan of Our Washington Nationals. Saddened to find them limping home with an 0-6 Mark to begin the 2009 Championship Campaign. A talented roster that hasn't found a way to work together during this young season.
Final Score from Turner Field, where The Atlanta Braves put it to DC's team for a third consecutive day, The Brav-os 8 and Our Washington Nationals 5. The Home Opener tomorrow a possibility for a fresh start. Maybe going up against The Defending Champion Philadelphia Phillies and Their Awful Fans will ignite just the spark to finally get our team back on the right track again. I am sure Washington's Fans will be ready for action, both on and off the field of play.
Will Our Washington Nationals be up for the fight as well?
At 3:05PM Eastern, Easter Monday--we will begin to find out.
Game Notes & Highlights
Scott Olsen looked like a completely different pitcher for the first few innings compared to his start at Florida for Game Two. In control, throwing strikes, then just like that he lost it in the 4th-- all with two outs. A walk to Brian McCann, double by Matt Diaz, triple by Jeff Francouer and a single allowed to Martin Prado plated three Atlanta runs. And then with Omar Infante on first via a walk and two outs in the 5th--Olsen again lost command and gave up consecutive singles to Chipper Jones (Jones advancing to second on the throw home) and McCann to give Atlanta two more runs. Throwing in the low 90's early, Scott effectively used his slider and changeup. But lost that advantage, beginning in the 4th when every one of his pitches appeared to look the same. Gone after five innings allowing 6 hits, 3 walks and five earned runs.
In his second inning of relief work, Steven Shell also got hit hard allowing one run on back to back doubles by Infante and Yunel Escobar (he's a really good young player--I really like Escobar). Then Our Manager Manny Acta going to his bullpen for Saul Rivera. Our Number 52 allowing the inherited runner Escobar to score on Chipper's second RBI of the day. Will Ledezma would be the victim of Kearn's lost in the sunlight loft off the bat of Francouer in the 8th. The subsequent triple, and when Washington played the infield-in only down two runs at the time, The Braves Casey Kotchman took advantage and poked a sharp grounder past Cristian Guzman at short for Atlanta's 8th and final run of the game.
If Elijah Dukes hasn't somehow earned the right to start for his play over the past few days, then something is wrong? He had two more hits and three RBI this afternoon. Every swing--hard. Our Number 34 has been the game changer. No one else has so consistently stepped up to the plate and put fear in the opponent, so far, like Dukes. And to Adam Dunn's great credit--he doesn't get himself out too often--knowing pitchers fear his powerful bat. He's patient at the plate and willing to take walks. Our Number 44 did go down swinging in the top of the 8th with two runners on after Schafer had made that fine running catch on Elijah and Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI Single. But you can't fault Dunn for that effort. Atlanta's Pitcher Buddy Carlyle challenged him with a fastball duel. And heaved a tremendous rising fastball at 90 MPH to send Dunn down on strikes swinging. More times than not, I am betting Dunn wins that match up. That strikeout was the only time today The Braves retired Dunn. He had two hits and two walks in five at-bats.
"The Guz" continues his hot early bat. Leading off, Cristian Guzman singled twice, now batting .429 in the early season. The Tale of two Joshs'. Bard and Willingham both getting starts today, combining to go 1-9 and a walk with a bat in their hands. Willingham retired during all five of his plate appearances. Bard was charged with two passed balls catching today.
Willie Harris strained an oblique muscle swinging at the plate today. He just might go on The Disabled List. Anderson Hernandez is already there with an injury. Ronnie Belliard is day-to-day as well.
No continuity in our bullpen yet. Early season deficits have given Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan little work. They are so rusty, both have been hit in their latest infrequent appearances during this weekend series.
And it's very necessary to give credit to Nick Johnson for his fine defensive efforts last night during Washington's 5-3 loss to Atlanta. A diving stop on a Brian McCann slashed grounder. Then, an equally impressive leap, stab and foot retrieval to the first base bag on a high throw by Guzman. A subsequent foot collision with Matt Diaz that Johnson was able to hang on, record the out--AND NOT GET INJURED. Who didn't think watching that play that Nick might be sent to the DL again? (Sohna and I were out last night and could only catch glimpses of that ball game).
Finally, Our Washington Nationals have put out a press release asking all fans to show up EARLY for Monday's Home Opener against those Phillies. Gates will open at 12:30PM at Nationals Park. Despite The White House Officially saying and The Washington Post also reporting, The President Of The United States will not be attending tomorrow--Team President Stan Kasten told the beat writers in Atlanta today that nothing is set in stone. Interesting.
Today's InGame Photos--John Amis (AP)