Thursday, April 23, 2009

Renewable Resources

The Zero's started to mount from the very first pitch of this game. For seven consecutive innings a pitching match up not seen at Nationals Park was in the works. Two young and talented starters throwing shutout ball. One, the lefty from Long Island, New York, more the command and control pitcher. His opponent, from Willemstad, Netherlands Antilles, the righthanded possessor of challenging speed and hard breaking stuff. Preferred Weapons of a 24-Year Old American and a 23-Year Old Dutchman. This evening on South Capitol Street, both doing it their way and each receiving the same result--until their replacements decided this game.

Inning after inning passed this Earth Day and John Lannan and Jair Jurrjens planted zero after zero up on the scoreboard. Locked up in a pitchers duel, these saavy young hurlers displayed a renewable resource of their very own--their talented throwing arms. Quickly, this shaped up to be one of those well thrown affairs that baseball purists can appreciate--old fashion hardball. Step to the plate, take your cuts, and mostly, then sit down. Throughout this cold and chilly night, the batters for both Our Washington Nationals and The Atlanta Braves had their shots to score. But every time a runner made their way into scoring position, either Lannan or Jurrjens found the right seed and harvested another out in the record books.

Recharging their energy each frame, John and Jair threw like 10-Year Veterans. Neither looked green tonight. Yet each is coming off their 2008 Rookie Campaigns. This was good stuff and enjoyable to watch. At a time that so many hurlers in the game feel throwing five innings and giving up three runs--acceptable, Lannan and Jurrjens certainly did not tonight. Proudly, each fought their way through this scoreless affair. And only the very fact that Our Manager Manny Acta sent Austin Kearns to the plate to bat for Lannan in the bottom of the 7th with Josh Willingham standing on third base--the only reason Our Number 31 was taken out of this game so soon. 95 Pitches into his night, John was still in control and The Brav-Os weren't hitting a lick off Lannan. But Washington needed a run--desperately. John was pinch hit for and, of course, Washington failed for score.

Because unfortunately for DC's Team, Jurrjens was even more so impressive and nearly made it through the 8th inning--leaving with his shutout in hand after Power Lefty Mike Gonzalez replaced him, Fresh replenishment giving Gonzalez the duty to retire The Powerful Bat of Adam Dunn back to the bench. With Ryan Zimmerman standing on first base, Gonzalez fanned Dunn looking to end Washington's last, and ultimately, final threat in this affair.

On and on they played, fine defense, great pitching and no scoring. At least until Garrett Mock began to lose control in his second inning of his relief stint. A predicament set up when Mock snared a hard grounder right back to the box in the top of the 9th off the bat of Casey Kotchman. A sure inning ending double play with Matt Diaz running to second base. Garrett turned and threw to Our Shortstop for this evening, Alex Cintron. With Diaz barreling down on him at the bag, Cintron took the toss from Mock while cutting across the base--recording the out--then proceeded to throw his relay well off the bag. Kotchman would have been out by 10 feet. But Cintron winged the ball, fearing Diaz was going to hit him and the Atlanta First Baseman was safe at the bag on a fielder's choice.

The turning point of this game had finally arrived.

After 8 innings of solid baseball, a simple errant throw would change everything. Pounding the strike zone for 1.2 innings, Garrett Mock all of sudden got soft with a runner on first with two outs and didn't challenge The Braves' Centerfielder Jordan Schafer. A resultant frustrating full count walk putting Kotchman in scoring position. A problem made worse when Our Manager Manny Acta made the right decision to send Mike Hinckley to the mound to force Atlanta's Manager Bobby Cox to waste lefthanded pinch hitter Greg Norton for the righthanded swinging Martin Prado. A move that backfired--badly.

As crisp and well played the pitching had been from both starters this evening, Mike Hinckley would perform just the opposite. Even while warming up on the mound once summoned, Hinckley tossed three wild pitches past his batterymate Jesus Flores while Home Plate Umpire Brian O'Nora stared in almost disbelief. The harbinger of things to come when Our Number 58 looked downright uncomfortable and afraid to throw his best stuff when the game restarted. Unable to find the plate, Hinckley got no help from the home plate umpire. And when he repeatedly threw pitch after pitch off the plate or in the dirt, The Atlanta Braves were GIFTED the eventual winning run--Free Of Charge. Martin Prado walking on seven pitches to load the bases. Kelly Johnson on five to win this game.

On Earth Day, The Atlanta Braves Omar Infante (running for Kotchman) expended no energy to score the only run of this game.

After watching a sparkling performance of command and control by Our Starter John Lannan, those remaining among the announced crowd of 15,567 witnessed a total lack of composure by Mike Hinckley. Called on to record ONE FINAL OUT. He could not do so. He could not throw strikes. He could not plant that last seed across the plate. His renewable resource, his talented arm had failed him. On "Get Your Green On" Night, Mike Hinckley looked pretty green himself.

And Our Washington Nationals would not win this game.

The always tough Rafael Soriano using the natural heat from his high powered right throwing arm to close this one out for The Atlanta Braves.

Final score from Nationals Park were you can't win if you don't score any runs--The Atlanta Braves 1 and Our Washington Nationals Zero. Loss Number 11 of 2009 given away when Our Bullpen couldn't throw a baseball over the plate, when the game counted the most. Sadly, a defeat that took away from an excellent performance from the southpaw throwing arm of John Lannan. Pitching with poise and confidence, Our Number 31 battled his way through a terrific match up. Only to see his counterpart throw equally as well. Jair Jurrjens--He's pretty good too.

If Earth Day is suppose to make one reflect on what's important about the natural environment we all live in daily, then John Lannan proved tonight he's one renewable energy source Our Washington Nationals should cherish for years to come.

Game Notes & Highlights

Seven innings of shutout ball thrown by Lannan. While giving up five hits and two walks, he lowered his ERA down to 4.43. Jurrjens allowing 6 hits and 2 walks during his 7.2 innings of work. Neither strikeout pitchers, a combined six between them. Lannan and Jurrjens fully dependent on their fielders behind them.

Defensive work which there was plenty to recall tonight. In the top of the 8th, Atlanta's Yunel Escobar sharply grounded a one hopper directly to the left of Ryan Zimmerman. Reacting only to the play developing in front of him, Our Number 11 quickly moved in, slightly to his left, only to see the baseball rapidly rise just to the side of his left ear. With his usual catlike reflexes, Ryan moved his fielding glove to the side of his face, while still charging in and easily threw out Escobar at first base. A defensive gem that received a nice ovation from the crowd, but was bettered thanks to Elijah Dukes.

With Two Outs in the top of the 7th, Atlanta Leadoff Hitter Kelly Johnson lofted a soft dropping looper into short centerfield. Running hard from the crack of the bat, Dukes charged in quickly. And realizing the baseball still was farther from his reach, slid at the last second, feet first, but still had the wherewithal to reach with his left hand, his glove hand, across his body, turn his glove's pocket sky upward and JUST SNARE the baseball a good few inches before it hit the ground. This was a tremendous defensive effort. Athletic ability, baseball skill and excellent timing allowed Elijah Dukes to make The Defensive Play Of This Game. A sweet one that resulted in a standing ovation from the home faithful. Really nice play.

Zimmerman and Josh Willingham both doubled tonight. Nick Johnson had two singles among Washington's six hits. Continuing a trend, Washington had Zimmerman on second base with a double and no outs in the 4th--didn't score. Runners on first and second, one out--didn't score--when Alex Cintron hit into a double play in the 5th. Willingham on second with his double in the 7th, no outs. No score. Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens made the right pitch every single time he was in trouble.

This was the very first game all season that Adam Dunn had not reached base. Heading into the game with a .502 On Base Percentage, Our Number 44 neither stroked a hit or walked against Atlanta's pitching.

When Kearns pinch hit for Lannan with Willingham on third base in the bottom of the 7th, Austin showed no patience and swung at Jurrjens very first offering. A changeup he believed was a fastball. A resultant popup to end the short lived rally.

Cintron, filling in for the slumping Alberto Gonzalez, who was filling in for the injured Cristian Guzman--did not help tonight. A weak hitter, it was surprising to see Alex batting leadoff. But then again, Manny really didn't have anyone else available for the role. Willie Harris also still on the DL. Everybody else in our lineup slowfooted, except for maybe Dukes and Zimmerman. Cintron's days numbered once everyone comes back healthy. Harris played in a rehab game yesterday for Syracuse. Anderson Hernandez was given the night off.

Ronnie Belliard and John Lannan both executed nice bunts. Mentioned only because that is a skill Our Washington Nationals have routinely been poor at since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. Adding the fact that Jordan Zimmermann executed a nice bunt himself during his first game on Monday night and things are looking up in the sacrifice department for Washington.

Funny moment in tonight's game. Julian Tavarez fired a pitch to Yunel Escobar in the top of the 9th. The hard swinging Atlanta Shortstop fouled the ball off directly in front of Jesus Flores and Home Plate Umpire O'Nora. On the backswing, Escobar perfectly lined the bouncing ball into Washington's home dugout on the fly. For a good 30 seconds, Umpire O'Nora kept looking around trying to find the ball. I don't think Flores even realized what had happened. Like two men lost, they finally were told what happened by someone in Washington's Dugout. Funny.

Teddy came barreling out of the centerfield gate during tonight's 4th inning Presidents Race. Leading all the way to the turn at the rightfield corner, Teddy then stopped to throw what appeared to be Green Curly "W" Baseball Caps to the crowd. Distracted once again, Abe took advantage, passed Teddy and George to take the checkered flag.

The Green Curly "W" Caps were apart of tonight's Earth Day 2009 Promotion at Nationals Park. These Green Caps the same ones given out last September during the "Halfway to St. Patricks Day" Promotion. Services members honored after the third inning of each home game were donning the caps during their salute. Throughout the evening, Get Your Green On messages were displayed on the HDTV Scoreboard concerning recycling and renewable resources.

As it turned out, honoring Earth Day, The African Queen and I wore the same Green Curly "W" Caps to the ballpark for tonight's game.

PS--In one of those freak incidents that occur in baseball. Josh Willingham was nailed while standing in the on deck circle waiting to hit--by a baseball fouled off the bat of Elijah Dukes in the 9th inning. A hard hit liner that struck him in the left leg. That had to hurt. Williingam's going to have a nice bruise. He did eventually bat and flied out to left, but you had to wonder whether he was more seriously hurt.

Tonight's InGame Photos--Alex Brandon (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)


John R. said...

Charlie and Dave talked about you on their radio broadcast last night. A foul ball was hit near your seats and they speculated that it had landed just three seats away from "Our Friend, Nats320". Then they realized that they couldn't be sure you guys were in your seats and maybe you were sitting elsewhere. They finally concluded that they really have no way of knowing if you're in your seats because the broadcast booth is too high up to be able to tell! They also said that you are the King of the Bloggers!

Sam R said...

John R.

Charlie and Dave always seem to work in a dig about the height of the pressbox each home game....They should get over it and be happy for the jobs they have albeit from a lofty perch.

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!


Screech's Best Friend said...

Sam: Charlie & Dave's jab at the height of the press box is funny, running humor that adds to the delight of their broadcast. It's one of the very reason's Sohna and I enjoy them so much. They are clearly two of the best radio broadcasters in the game and WE FANS ARE THE LUCKY ONES to have them calling each and every game for The Washington Nationals. There is no question about that.

Medley said...

Totally agree! Charlie and Dave are superb! Spouse and I heard them mention Nats320 last night. Too funny. And I love their season-long (or longer) running jokes about stuff.

Andrew Lang said...

Even while warming up on the mound once summoned, Hinckley tossed three wild pitches past his batterymate Jesus Flores while Home Plate Umpire Brian O'Nora stared in almost disbelief. The harbinger of things to come when Our Number 58 looked downright uncomfortableTotally agree and being there to watch the warmups live (vs. at home where most likely the TV was probably on commmercials) we were all scratching our heads saying Hinckley doesn't have it. One person with us said that Hinckley looked nervous and another agreed that he is not a 9th inning "game on the line" guy.

With Thursday being an off-day and "The Saint" observing, I would've suggested to Manny to have pulled Hinckley never throwing a pitch and bring in Tavares.

Each game right now is so important in getting closer to a
.500 record instead of sinking further. Another quality start that didn't produce a Curly W.

Highlights: Belliard bunt was huge (and should have set up a run getting the runner to 3rd base). Hustle was great. Lannan looked great! Dukes had an amazing catch! Lannan had a hit!!!

Anonymous said...

SBF -- has anyone within the organization shown concerns about the attendance? From the looks of it, right now the park seems emptier than ever.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Andrew Lang: Once Manny called Hinckley into the game, he must face one batter. This is a rule so that managers don't continually swap out pitchers to get rid of opposing pinch hitters off the bench. Unless Mike was injured, he had to face Prado. Then Manny could have replaced him.

Anonymous: As for attendance, the team has not said anything publicly as far as we know.

Sam R said...


Well you won't find me without a radio during the games. It is very important to me. I remember complaining to the radio station during the 2005 season that the broadcast was being delayed and how infuriating it was for folks at the game listening not to hear it in real time. I always listen to Charlie and Dave during the game, I love them too. I hate being at the game without their commentary and remote references that we children of the sixties and seventies get. I like those baseball announcers that can bring humor to their broadcast. Guys like Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, Jon Miller, and Charlie and Dave are right in there. And I especially appreciate the radio guys who can make you feel like you're at the game even when you aren't. But I do think Charlie and Dave aren't happy about the height of the Pressbox. They should lobby to do a remote on the Club level!

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!


An Briosca Mor said...

"Anonymous: As for attendance, the team has not said anything publicly as far as we know."

Well, other than Stan going on the radio and inviting the Phillie fans down, that is.

Andrew Lang said...

SBF - Good point, but I believe if it is an injury, then you can call in the umpire to make a change and you have to convince the umpire there is an issue.

There was definitely something wrong with him as you could see in his warmup pitches. Then he took those bizarre walks around the mound. I thought I was watching some Mark Fidrych type of thing going on. That picture in the Washington Post with his head down was bizarre.

Frankly, I am not OK with this guy carrying a game if his head isn't in it.

In any event, after he walked the 1st batter he faced, they shouldn't have waited for him to walk his 2nd guy with bases loaded and made a change after the 1st batter.

Disappointing however you look at it. All the blame isn't on Hinckley as Manny pointed out the missed opportunities with men on 3rd, timely hitting, and Cintron's throw in the 9th on the attempted double-play.

SenatorNat said...

Nats sorely missed Joe Beimel last night - and they will continue to miss him over next 10 games or so - may cost us 2-3 games. Mock did not look at all confident or comfortable either, and I have a bad feeling that the bullpen outside of Beimel is going to continue to be major problem. Cintron was horrible with O's last year and is not a guy I want to see on the ML roster even if we are short-handed. Keep Gonzalez on the roster - he, as Manny says, will straighten out fielding wise, and he actually gets a hit occasionally.

Tough loss - sweep of Braves would have been very helpful. Lots of small encouraging signs, not the least of which is 7 decent starts in a row - this is crucial for the team to finish anywhere near respectablility.

Lerners are down 12% in value to $406 million, most on paper percentage decline in baseball, so I guess they will not be erecting a Capitol dome replica on that empty platform over the Red Loft anytime soon!

Trust in the power of three armed men. And breakfast at IHOP - served way up in the sky...

Edward J. Cunningham said...

I wanted desperately to come to last night's game, but I was too exhausted. When I got home, I hit the sack after checking my e-mail. But (with apologies to Archbishop Wuerhl) I look forward to seeing the Nats beat the Cardinals next week...

DND said...

Any chance an FM station will pick up the games?

Screech's Best Friend said...

DND--Not anytime soon. This is the last year of the Bonneville contract with The Nationals. The team understands the shortcomings of the AM only signal. The issue right now is that there are no FM stations available in the DC area which Bonneville owns and is willing to put them on that signal. And Bonneville is not going to let The Nationals go out and buy time on a local FM signal to compete against their own products.

By 2010, WJFK-FM will be a sports only station with a strong signal throughout the DC/Metro Area--excepts for parts of Montgomery County, MD. You have to figure they might take a run for The Nationals Broadcasts. But what this all comes down to is money and reach. The team needs a strong FM signal. This is a legitimate concern that is not going to be solved in 2009--unfortunately.

An Briosca Mor said...

The Capitals are also on 1500 AM, which I guess means that's Bonneville. So how is it that WJFK, a CBS Radio station, is able to broadcast Caps playoff games? Could they possibly pick up some Nats games as well without the Nats going afoul of Bonneville?

John R. said...

Chalk this up to being "old school," I suppose, but I am happy with the 1500 AM signal. The signal was good enough to dominate the market when WTOP News was on it, so why should it not be good enough now? What -- people don't have an AM band any more?

After being on 1050AM and 104.1 FM the first few years, I am thrilled to have the games on 1500AM. The 106.7 frequency doesn't work so well out here near College Park. I do agree that it would be nice if Bonneville would put the Nats back on 107.7 FM so that our Virginia fans can get better reception. Doesn't 107.7 just duplicate the 103.5 news station?

Sam R said...


Where are you getting the info on JFK being all sports by 2010?

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!


Screech's Best Friend said...

Sam R: The WJFK information has been in the works with the local communications industry for some time. It's been written about a few times at this link:

A website that everyone in the news, TV, radio and P.R. community look at constantly.

paul said...

Regarding attendance, I'm guessing subscriptions are down 40%. Anytime you draw 12 and change paying customers, you are really hurting.

An Briosca Mor said...

Don't believe everything you read at Just saying.