Monday, April 06, 2009
Our one time 2nd Baseman Of The Future and Leadoff Batter in the Starting Lineup for Our Washington Nationals had a career day today. In fact, he was nothing short of MESMERIZING. Sadly, that effort was wasted because Emilio Bonifacio scampered around the bases for The Florida Marlins on Opening Day--manning 3rd base--in a manner not seen in some time from our opponent on Opening Day. Was he ever a pest this afternoon in South Florida.
Bonifacio though wasn't the whole story, but he was pretty tantalizing.
What made these matters even worse--was first the very fact that Washington's New Leadoff Hitter for 2009 was directly responsible for Bonifacio's First EVER CAREER HOME RUN. One of those rare Inside-The-Park varieties, when Emilio launched a rather routine liner over the head of the playing in-close centerfielder Lastings Milledge. A catchable ball by Lastings that simply wasn't. A dive by Ocho-Cinco that resulted in Emilio Bonifacio--jogging out of the box believing his stroked ball would be caught--instead now finding himself ever so quickly turning on his after-burners and screaming around the basepaths in that exhilarating manner so many fans of Our Washington Nationals came to appreciate in late 2008.
Emilio was impressive. The relay throw from Ronnie Belliard on his two run homer wasn't even close at the plate. Bonifacio can fly. He would finish today with four hits, four runs scored, three stolen bases and two runs batted in.
Now, one great game does not make a career--it's a small sample size--but Emilio Bonifacio certainly turned some heads today as an impact player so many scouts have long raved about.
That game changing effect important to winning that Washington struggled this day to harness. Thanks not only to Bonifacio's Career Day, but also some seriously poor pitching out of the block by DC's Team. Washington's Starter, John Lannan, couldn't throw strikes, was always behind in the count and he paid dearly for his control when The Florida Marlins just sat back on their heels and slammed pitch after pitch all over the park at Dolphin Stadium. A bad three inning, six runs allowed performance that had Washington down early and nearly out-- until our revamped batting lineup launched two nice come backs--mostly on the back of Adam Dunn.
The Big Burly Leftfielder cost Lannan his first run allowed of the season when he misplayed a slicing liner off the bat of Florida's John Baker in the bottom of first--scoring Bonifacio, but Adam came back strong with an opposite field double off the leftfield wall to score "The Guz" with Washington's first run of 2009 in the 4th, and eventually seriously back into this game down 8-5 in the 6th when Adam Dunn absolutely HAMMERED a Ricky Nolasco fastball DEEP AND LONG GONE down the right field line at Dolphin Stadium. A three run homer that now found Washington down only three. Our New Power Offense that can mount comebacks and stay close in any game--even late.
That is--if your pitching holds together--which certainly didn't happen today.
Each time Our Washington Nationals fought gallently back into this Opening Day Matchup--their pitching failed. Scoring two in the top of 4th and Julian Tavarez gives them right back in the bottom half of the 4th. Dunn slams his three run homer in the top of the 6th--and Wil Ledezma and Steven Shell (thanks to an error and assist from Ryan Zimmerman) give back four in the bottom half. Shell coming in with the bases loaded and nobody out and allowing a full count Grand Slam, on a hanging slider, to Hanley Ramirez. That Nat's Killer again launching the game deciding blow to the upper reaches of the left field pavilion in South Florida. Ramirez never ceases to amaze me with his talent. That young man is MVP Material.
A once precarious three run lead for The Fish, now advanced to seven, and the final blow to Our Washington Nationals hopes on this Opening Day--2009. When RallyTime!! began off the powerful bat of Adam Dunn, it certainly appeared as if Washington might just make that remarkable and memorable of comebacks. Unfortunately, our pitching let us down. Lannan, Tavarez, Ledezma and Shell--all hurlers given jobs on Washington's staff thanks to their Spring Training efforts--did not live up to Real GameDay Performances.
That needed positive achievement which Emilio Bonifacio and the always dangerous Hanley Ramirez capitilized on this very day. Yes, one game does not make the season or even anyone's career, but it certainly leaves a sour taste in your mouth when one of your former highly touted players--jacks you all over the ballpark and makes you wonder whether, even if for the slightest of moments, trading Bonifacio in the first place was a smart move after all. The African Queen has been asking me all night long--"Why did we trade him away in the first place?"
Emilio Bonifacio was pretty mesmerizing.
Final score from South Florida--where no matter how good The Florida Marlins are they can never draw a decent crowd--34,323 on Opening Day--The Fish 12 and Our Washington Nationals 6. An afternoon were Washington showed they may never be quite out of any game as long as Adam Dunn is penciled into the lineup. But nobody can win if your pitching can't consistently throw strikes and keep the opposing batters off the bases. Even the fasted human alive can't score--if you simply get him out--more times than not. 18 Fish reaching base isn't getting the job done.
Game Notes & Highlights
I actually believe the Bonifacio for Josh Willingham/Scott Olsen trade was a good one at the time. As I explained to The African Queen this evening, JimBo picked up a starting pitcher and starting leftfielder for a switch hitting leadoff hitter. A positive move that has been hindered by the eventual signing of Adam Dunn. Willingham is a pretty good player now without a position. And hopefully Our Washington Nationals can find a positive role for him--or trade him to get that leadoff hitter Washington most definitely needs.
Because Lastings Milledge really bothered me when he swung at the very first pitch of 2009 offered today by Rickey Nolasco. Show some patience Lastings--this isn't a sprint--it's a marathon. And if Our Washington Nationals are going to be as effective as possible--you need to be a baserunner--not a free swinger trying to launch every pitch out of the park.
How interesting that John Lannan, Julian Tavarez, Wil Ledezma and Steven Shell all allowed their first batters faced to reach base? Did you also notice that Tavarez has taken over Garrett Mock's Number 50 and Ledezma as taken over Shawn Hill's former Number 41? Mike Hinkley the only Washington pitcher, of five today, to not give up a run.
Washington pitching allowing four gopher balls today. Besides Bonifacio's Inside The Parker and Ramirez, Jorge Cantu and Jeremy Hermida launched baseballs out of Dolphin Stadium.
Former Marlin Josh Willingham didn't get into this game. His teammate and also former Florida Starter, Scott Olsen, gets the ball tomorrow in Game Two.
Dunn wasn't the only positive note in this first game--"The Guz" rapped out two hits, scored two runs and played some nice shortstop--including two nice picks into the hole--backhanding both grounders and throwing the runners out at first. Cristian Guzman picking up where he left off in 2008.
It was also nice to see Austin Kearns rip an inside pitch down the leftfield line for a double in the top of 4th. Our Number 25 also making two very nice catches at the wall in right. Austin Kearns has always been deft at fielding hit baseballs.
Great ability which Ryan Zimmerman always has defensively--but once again lost concentration on during a routine ground ball hit by Brett Carroll of The Fish in the 6th. One of those TOO MUCH TIME throwing errors by Our Number 11 that was the harbinger of the things to come when Carroll was ruled safe on Zimmerman's bad throw. Bonifacio followed with a bunt base hit right under Ryan's Glove. A now no out--two runners on situation where Wil Ledezma lost control on the mound and promptly walked the very next hitter--The Marlins John Baker--to load things up. Only to witness Our Manager Manny Acta relieve Ledezma for Shell and who immediately was greeted by Hanley Ramirez with his full count Grand Slam--the deciding moment of today's game.
Having been used to seeing Our Washington Nationals play in their Gray Block "WASHINGTON" road jerseys for the past four years, it was odd watching Washington play in their new Script "Washington" Away Uniforms. They are OK, but it seems strange that the uniform trim is red with some gold and the hat is Navy Blue. I know The St.Louis Cardinals wear a similar combination--but it doesn't seem just right. Sort of odd to me--for some reason. Could not the Road Jersey have Navy Blue Trim also if the Navy Blue Cap is a keeper?
And how about Lasting Milledge wearing the double earflap batting helmet? I don't recall seeing that particular protective gear being worn in any Major League Game in recent times.
Early in the game, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler were in mid-season form on WFED--1500 AM. When Charlie and Dave were talking about an upcoming T-Shirt Tuesday at Nationals Park. Charlie reeled off: "Those free tee-shirts are good. When was the last time Jack Hicks paid for any shirt?" The Jack Of All Things is Charlie & Dave's Radio Engineer on site.
Finally--watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play The San Diego Padres at Petco Park on DirecTV's MLB Extra Innings, The Padres are commemorating their 40th Season as a Major League Franchise. For all of 2009, San Diego will wear a special patch on the right sleeve of their uniform. Interestingly, Our Washington Nationals entered The Major Leagues at the same time as The Padres, but as The Montreal Expos in 1969--along with American League Expansion Teams: The Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots (now Milwaukee Brewers). The Royals are also celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2009. The Brewers are waiting until 2010. 1970 was Milwaukees's first year in The Major Leagues after The Pilots went bankrupt.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Alan Diaz--Associated Press
Milledge, Dunn & Zimmerman Batting photos--taken off MASN's Broadcast.