Saturday, April 18, 2009

This Loss Really Hurts

The very moment the baseball JUST cleared the tall wall in right centerfield, the boos began to cascade down from all portions of Nationals Park. "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game"--officially now given the added moniker "The Next Generation" had just given up a game tying home run in the top of the ninth for the second consecutive day. With two outs, one strike and The Curly "W" about to be put In The Books, Joel Hanrahan had served up a two run homer to Jeremy Hermida. Just like that--a once three run lead at the beginning of the 9th, now deadlocked at six.

Except for Nook Logan's incredible base running gaffe game against The Cleveland Indians at RFK Stadium in 2007 which cost Washington a win dearly, I don't recall The African Queen and I ever having left any baseball game involving Our Team so universally depressed along with just about everyone else attending among the 19,864 in the announced crowd. Any loss hurts, but losing in such a bad manner--is downright embarrassing. This loss should have never reached this pinnacle moment.

Called to close out this game, all Our Number 38 really did was open up a fresh wound. Doubling the unpleasantness of last night's top of the 9th homer allowed by Hanrahan to Cody Ross--a game breaker that eventually led to The Marlins winning in 10 innings 3-2. This two run shot by Hermida, which at first looked like it would bounce off the green wall for an rbi double, set the faithful watching--off in their own rights--in a rather distressing way. The Home Crowd Was Mighty Upset and they should be. Knowing your team has struggled through most of it's first 10 games, and then seeing them play a good, hard fought 8 innings and then throw it all away in the 9th--hard to take--for two days in a row.

As The African Queen said upon watching The Marlins celebrate their game tying homer in the 9th: "It's Joel Hanrahan's time now--no one can blame The Chief anymore." And that's very true. But despite all his theatrics, Chad Cordero understood his role. He didn't worry about last night's failure. Our Former Number 32 was always concerned with the present game at hand. Taking nothing away from Joel Hanrahan personally--he is a wonderfully nice young man--but from our vantage point today in Section 218 he looked mighty uncomfortable on the mound from the get go. Unsure, wavering, not wanting to make the same mistake again--as last night. And when that Marlins Pest, better known as Alfredo Amezaga, slapped a one out single off Joel in the top of the 9th--you could see the worry spread across Hanrahan's body movements. He was unsure, not confident and in being in such a frame of mind, destined for failure.

Cheering our hearts out that Joel Hanrahan would find a way to dig down deep and pull through his latest travail--solemn is the only description to best visualize Sohna and my looks once Hermida's game tying homer reached the seats. Later, a friend of ours called to tell us he witnessed both of us at the ballpark leaning forward on the glass partition in front of us. Me, with my hat off, Sohna by my side--her head leaning on my right shoulder, both looking dejected. Yeah, it was that bad.

Because that was what this afternoon became--a miserable finish to what just a few moments earlier was going to be a heart raising and enjoyable Curly "W" Number 2. After Hermida tied this game up unexpectedly, and understanding how poorly Washington has played this season, it seemingly was only a matter of time before The Florida Marlins would come all the way back to finish off Our Washington Nationals. Which did come, not surprisingly off the bat of Hermida again. This time an absolute blast of a three run homer to DEEP RIGHT CENTER off the southpaw relief effort of Wil Ledezma in 11th. The final game breaker that led to The Marlins winning once again at Nationals Park and taking 21 of the last 24 games played between these two National League East Rivals.

A heartbreaking loss that wasted a solid 7 inning starting effort by Scott Olsen. A defeat that soiled Austin Kearns' Grand Slam in the bottom of the very 1st inning. A collapse that spoiled one of the most beautiful and nicest days you would EVER want to spend at a ballpark. The weather was absolutely delightful. An unexpected beating that was made even worse when Roger Bernadina hustled back to the deepest reaches of centerfield at Nationals Park to make a spectacular catch and throw on a drive hit by Florida's Dan Uggla. The Defensive Play Of This Game and resultant subsequent hard fall when his foot got caught between the dirt and wall--resulting in a broken ankle. A major injury that will find Bernadina missing at least four months to rehab.

Yeah, talk about adding to the pain all you want--but Roger going down playing the game THE RIGHT WAY--far worse than losing two straight games in such a depressing manner.

Final score from Nationals Park, where Our Washington Nationals need to pick themselves up and right this listing ship--The Florida Marlins 9 and Our Washington Nationals 6 in 11 stunning innings. No team can be successful if they continually beat themselves. Hanrahan & Ledezma played key roles in today's defeat, but so did some sloppy fielding and the inability to put away The Marlins early, when Washington's batters had the chance. Too many strikeouts, too much free swinging, with runners in scoring position.

No Doubt About It. This Loss Really Hurts.

Game Notes & Highlights

Staked to an early 5 run led thanks to Austin Kearns' Grand Slam and a Ryan Zimmerman RBI Single, Scott Olsen wasn't sharp and quickly gave back two runs by allowing a Two Run Homer to The Marlins' Catcher Ronny Paulino that was hammered to dead center. One of those here we go again shots that actually found Olsen regrouping, settling down, and eventually pitching with confidence. Knowing he was ahead, Our Number 19 began to challenge the Florida hitters. Rarely hitting 90MPH on his pitches, Olsen effectively mixed up his fastball, change up and slider. And even helped his own cause when he walked to lead off the bottom of the second, advanced to second on Anderson Hernandez's grounder to first base and scored a few pitches later on a Nick Johnson single to left. A hit that found Florida's shortstop Hanley Ramirez inexplicably moving toward the second base bag on the pitch by Josh Johnson. Believing a pick off move might be on--Ramirez saw Nick Johnson's stroked hit go through the location he had just moved from.

Scott Olsen struck out five and gave up six hits in seven innings. And was the recipient of an unearned run in the top of the 5th when Nick Johnson lost a blooper in the sun off the bat of Jorge Cantu. An error which led to today's Florida Hero, Jeremy Hermida, scoring The Marlins third run.

Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan each pitched for the third consecutive day. Beimel not as sharp as well. When Washington was up three in the 9th and knowing both these guys had gone over the past few games--would it be more advisable NOT to bring Hanrahan into the game at this point? Instead have someone like Steven Shell begin the inning and only bring in your closer if Shell or that reliever got into trouble. Frank Robinson used to pitch Chad Cordero in such a manner when "The Chief" had pitched each of the previous two days. For whatever reason, Our Manager Manny Acta did not, or does not. But it makes more sense under the circumstances--especially when your bullpen is being taxed.

Washington had Florida's hard throwing right handed starter Josh Johnson on the ropes early--striking for six quick runs. But after the second inning--they could do no further damage as Johnson regained some of his lost form. The Marlins Bullpen combining with Josh Johnson to throw nine complete scoreless innings in this 11 frame affair. Washington couldn't finish Johnson or The Marlins off. What Washington did do was keep Emilio Bonifacio off the bases. Since his first week red hot start, The Dominican Speedster has fallen back to earth--striking out a lot and not getting on base. Once again, the scouts have found his weaknesses and contained his effectiveness.

After praising Alberto Gonzalez for his fine play not only yesterday, but also since Washington acquired him last summer, Our Number 12 must have wanted to prove me wrong this Saturday. Two throwing errors by Gonzalez during this game. The second in the decisive 11th inning when Alberto air mailed a routine throw to first base on a grounder by Wes Helms. Not the speediest of runners, Gonzalez had all afternoon to throw out Helms. Instead he rushed and sidearmed the ball--nearly out of play. Only a fine leap by Nick Johnson prevented that from happening.

Being the fiery competitor he has always been, when Gonzalez made that crucial 11th inning throwing error--the pitcher then of record was Julian Tavarez. Our Number 50 stared down Alberto Gonzalez something awful. Wes Helms was a good 30 feet from the 1st base bag when Alberto threw the ball away. Tavarez knew there was no excuse for that mental and physical mistake. Gonzalez knew Tavarez was pissed. Of course, was Tavarez also pissed at himself for allowing the lead off walk and wild pitch right before that error?

Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson continue to see the ball well at the plate--both with two more hits apiece this afternoon. Adam Dunn didn't get a hit, but he walked twice, showing patience again at the plate. Austin Kearns' Grand Slam in the bottom of the first off Josh Johnson was absolutely CRUSHED into Section 106 down the left field line. For a moment there were thoughts that homer would reach the Centerfield Plaza walkway--it fell six rows short of that destination. Can't wait for the first one that does--and it better be A Washington National.

The Florida Marlins are a pretty good team. They have excellent pitching, good sluggers and decent fielders. What they don't have is a nice uniform. Those Black Jersey Tops they always wear might be the most uninspiring uniforms in the game. As Sohna always says: "Being from South Florida, could they be a little more colorful?" It's true--even if they go back to their original teal being placed more prominently in the get ups.

As for Washington, they wore their new Red Curly "W" alternates today for the first time. Not a crimson or cardinal red as the former "DC" Version, more cherry red. I still like the old "DC" Alternate Reds Better.

Roger Bernadina was a late addition to The Starting Lineup. Elijah Dukes was scratched after showing up late for work today. Come on guys--be professional--no matter how difficult the final scores may be. It's safe to say Roger would not be in the hospital tonight with a broken ankle if Dukes had been on time. A sad break of the game. Justin Maxwell now called up to replace Bernadina on the 25-Man Roster. You have to figure Roger will be moved to The 60-Day Disabled List, allowing Washington to call up Jordan Zimmermann for Monday's start--and not lose a player off The 40-Man Roster.

It was such a beautiful day at the ballpark, that I spent a few innings walking around and taking pictures. Nothing more stunning than the view from Gallery Level Section 313/314. Standing behind the last row of seats, you can not only see The Capitol, The Ballpark and everything North & East of Nationals Park, but you can clearly hear Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler on the Radio Broadcast played on the Gallery Level Concourse. Two fans nearby telling me that's one of the best things about their seats: "Those guys are funny and we can hear them while watching the game. What more can you ask for?" (Except for maybe a win?)

And while up on Gallery Level, I purchased a soda and popcorn from a NatsDog Stand. 10 People in line, three registers open--virtually no waiting. In and out in two minutes. An All Time Record for any multiple item purchase on South Capitol Street. When I passed that along to Sohna she smiled and we high fived.

This afternoon was the first of the monthly Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Auctions. At their Centerfield Plaza location, fans could bid on an Autographed Nick Johnson Jersey, Opening Day Base signed by Anderson Hernandez, Bats signed by Adam Dunn, Elijah Dukes and Ronnie Belliard--as well as--Daniel Cabrera, Scott Olsen and Collin Balester Baseballs. Total amount raised this Saturday for The Dream Foundation and their initiatives--$1590.

Abe won the 4th Inning Presidents Race. Teddy came out and was distracted by a "Clown" undressing in centerfield. Go figure.

Sunday is Family Fun Day--included will be the continuing pre-game autograph sessions with a handful of Washington's Players at approximately 12:15 or 12:30PM (No exact times were given today). Last season, 4 to 5 players were stationed on the field at the bottom of the lower bowl. Fans could line up in the corresponding aisle to receive one autograph per person--no pictures.

Finally, while coming back from The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Booth to Club Level, I ran across a good friend of mine in television news. Steve and I worked alongside each other for nearly 9 years here in Washington, DC. We caught up for old times sake while watching the game from the open balcony just outside Club Level between Sections 221 & 223.

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


VCUAlum Kyle said...

My first game of the season and my roommates first ever Nats game. It was a perfect day to be at the ballpark. We sat in sec 407 and had shade cover the whole time. No waits for food, in fact I was slowing the food line down by trying to put my cash back in my wallet. Everybody at Nats Dogstand was extremely nice and friendly.

After Bernadina made that spectacular catch, I was like ok we are going to win this game. Once Hermida hit that BOMB, you could hear a pin drop at the ballpark, I never heard a Nats game so quiet in my life.

Is it just me or is Tavarez extremely slow getting the ball to the plate, he was putting us to sleep.

I find it so ironic that you guys liked the teal Marlins stuff back in the early 1990's. Just the other day I purchased a New Era TEAL Marlins home hat from the 1993-1995 era on Ebay. It was one of my favorite hats as a kid.

We definely have the offense, we just play sloppy defense and we DONT have any pitching.

Final thought, bring up Bergmann!!! I think he has the personality to be the NEW CLOSER.

paul said...

It was a stunning loss, but a lot of guys played well. I particularly like the way Zimmerman played his position, and several of the Nats are seeing the ball well at the plate. It was encouraging to see the third good start in a row by a Nats' starter.

I don't think Jason Bergmann has the closer's mentality. I also think Julian Tavarez's behavior was inexcusable, much more so than Elijah Dukes's being a few minutes late to the ballpark. The more I think about it, the way the season is shaping up, Tavarez should have no role on this team.

NJ says Maxwell will come up, since we are now short of OFers, so we are still on course to lose a catcher in favor of Zimmermann.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect SBF, as far as Roger's ankle injury is concerned how can you blame that on Dukes? Seriously? If you look at footage from a few games ago Lasting did the exact fielding manuever. Both outfielders failed to judge their distance from the wall. In other words they both leaped too early. I agree on the professionalism, but lets all be fair here. We're all upset at our losses, but not to the point of blaming someone for another's mistake. Roger is going to be a good one in time.

There's a cloud over this organization, and until these problems are addressed, things will continue as is. We've worked too hard since 05' to start resorting to this type of play. And if we're not careful this team will be lost. Sure they'll go through the motions, but hearts will not be involved. Simply put, we need a change.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Anonyomous at 12Midnight: No one is blaming Dukes for Bernadina getting hurt, it's reporting the very fact that fate played out when Elijah was pulled from the starting lineup for showing up late yesterday. That can not be denied. Bernadina made a very nice run and catch to the wall--Milledge would have made the same play.

Anonymous said...

SBF - Just nitpicking a little but did you see the Dream foundation's bid sheets? I like how they spelled "Daneil" Cabrera and had to hand write "Bat" on Elijah Dukes sheet. GO NATINALS!

Jeremy said...

Is the extraordinarily low attendance for a beautiful Saturday afternoon game as distressing to you as it is to me? Lots of people came dressed as blue seats.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Jeremy: Yeah, there was no one there. Club Level was fairly vacant. Not a good sign for such a beautiful day. Interestingly, at The Scoreboard Walk, some of the monitors at the bar were on the Caps/Rangers Hockey Game as I walked by. Many of those at the bar, where watching that playoff hockey game and not the baseball game.

NatsGuy said...


The poor attendance is not all about the NATS poor performance. An awful lot of people are unemployed and can't afford to go to the games. Attendance is down all through baseball. The Nats aren't as bad as their record indicates nor as good as we hope. Things will get better on the record. The economy I'm not so sure about.

Anonymous said...

The Nats poor attendance IS related to their poor play since the 2005 all-star break, as well as the economy.

No one in Washington knows what's it's like to have a hometown baseball team do well and create excitement all summer long that culminates with a play-off berth.

It is ridiculous to expect any city to turn out in droves to watch a losing team.

If the Nats ever become a team that wins 85+ games year in and year out, the fans will turn out at the rate of 2.5 to 3.0M evey year. If they keep losing, they won't. Simple as that.

phil dunn said...

The fans are rapidly disappearing too, as I predicted they would before the season started. It was a perfect day for baseball and only 19,000 showed up at the ball park. Even the Pirates outdrew the Nats yesterday. That speaks volumes. The Lerners and Kasten should be very concerned.

Jeremy said...

Yeah, I suppose I say this because we decided to buy walkup tickets in our favorite section, the Infield Gallery (totally agree with what you say about 313/314 - my season ticket group sat there last year before we disbanded). I thought we'd be in line with hundreds of others on such an incredible afternoon for a ballgame. There were a handful of people in front of us. The Caps game couldn't have pulled THAT many people away from the Nats game.

NatsGuy said...

I don't think you guys realize how bad attendance has been all through baseball. People cannot afford to go to games. They still love the sport. I would be happy to go to a Nats game win or lose because I waited 33 years for it. But I cannot afford to do it. Unfortunately its not all about loyalty, its about money.

An Briosca Mor said...

"Even the Pirates outdrew the Nats yesterday."

Were the Pirates playing directly up against a playoff hockey game only a few Metro stops away from their stadium yesterday?

DCNats said...

Let we forget people that one of the biggest reasons for such a paltry crowd yesterday was due to the Capitals playing at home in the playoffs. People in DC care about the Capitals more than the Nats, and they are in the playoffs. The Nats are not even close to sniffing the playoffs (at least two seasons away if you ask me, but that's what we said two seasons ago. Sigh.) But i'm glad i went, it was a gorgeous day for baseball.

That being said this being DC, once this franchise regains it's respectability and starts to win, the fans will come. The only sure thing in this town is the Redskins and there were alot of empty seats last year at FedEx.

DCNats said...

Oh, also, kudos to the Nationals Park staff. I know they sometimes take alot of heat, but everybody i encountered yesterday was very friendly and accomodating-from the box office guy to the Nats Dog concessions staff. It was definitely noticed by me.

Anonymous said...

Good attendance will come only with winning.

I have lived all over the country, and lived in Indiana in the mid 1990's when the Indiana Pacers were one of the best teams in the NBA year in and year out. It was the hottest ticket in town, they sold out every game.

After a bunch of PR mistakes and a decline in talent, they now rank in the bottom of the NBA in attendance and for awhile it looked like they were going to move cities. What was once what anyone would call a "basketball city" now can't even sell out one game a year.

If the team wins, the fans will come.

Keith said...

Hey my friend,

Yes, Dukes was 5 minutes late for work, and there should be consequences for that, but Dukes was at a little league event, representing the Nationals. That should be stated. It's not as though he were coming in slow because he was celebrating his birthday or some such silliness.

6th and D said...

I look at the crushing defeat, the abysmal attendance, and the overall situation of the franchise and get really down. In 2004 I didn't have this heartache. I'm glad I do now. DC Fans are fickle (Note: Caps and Bullets). Even Monday night Redskin games are empty or sold to out of towners. A winning ball club will fill the joint. But Boz was 100% correct. We needed to buy a couple of proven pitchers just to show our youngsters how to win.

Tom said...

So one day later do you write the same post?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Keith: I couldn't agree with you more. But that info on Dukes did not come out until well after the original post. It's legit to question Milledge not being benched for attending his own birthday party instead of a team meeting--as compared to talking and signing for Little League Kids--as Dukes was doing. No question about it.

Chris Needham said...

I guess all the fans not at Sunday's game were watching the Caps practice?

Anonymous said...

"I guess all the fans not at Sunday's game were watching the Caps practice?"

No, we were at church, praying for the Caps.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Anonymous at 8:58:
"No, we were at church, praying for the Caps."

Flat Out Funny!!