Saturday, May 23, 2009
When Jordan Zimmermann struck out Baltimore's Matt Albers in the top of the 7th inning, he was pitching as well as he had performed all night. In fact, as the twilight loomed over Nationals Park, JZ got better and better. The Orioles touched him up early with a solo shot homer off the bat of Nolan Remold in the 2nd inning. And "Perennial" All-Star Brian Roberts got to Our Number 27 in the third with a double followed by a sharp single off the bat of "Soon To Be Perennial All-Star" Adam Jones--scoring Baltimore's second run of the night. There could not be many more exciting young players in the game today than The Orioles Centerfielder Jones. That young man is a player--worthy of all his accolades and now developing into a really fine ballplayer. Unfortunately for Washington Rooters, later this evening, Adam would be the deciding factor tonight.
But well before this 12 inning affair ended thanks to a two out, two run double by Jones in a very quick 3 Hours & 6 Minutes--Jordan Zimmermann again showed the stuff that gets Baseball Management Folks excited. Still learning The Big League Game, J-Zimm controlled the early self-inflicted damage, remained in control while not throwing his best through the first few innings of this start and was picked up thanks to a key Two Run Homer off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman in the 4th. Then with this game now tied at two apiece--settled into a very nice rhythm.
What has been especially pleasing to watch over the past 10 days is Our Young & Fresh Rotation working quickly, not overthinking, throwing strikes. And if they get beat on a pitch--so be it--All five come right back to battle the very next hitter. Poise they have, maybe a little youthful exuberance also. Too inexperienced to know any better. But it sure is nice to see Zimmermann---as well as Craig Stammen, Shairon Martis, John Lannan and Ross Detwiler all work swiftly between pitches. Look in for the sign, shake your head in agreement and Fire Away!! A few times tonight, the Baltimore Batter had barely settled into the box and JZ was firing the next pitch--not letting the opposing hitter get comfortable.
Not reflected in the Win Column yet, each of our baby starters have found success in their own way. For a building team looking to make significant steps to solidify a starting rotation--it really doesn't get much more fun than to watch these guys learn on the job. No, JZ and his young comrades are not going to be perfect. They are certainly going to make their mistakes and lose some ballgames--frustratingly so at times. BUT THEY ARE ALL MAKING STRIDES. Tell me, which of these five hasn't shown the promise of being everything any one scout originally expected of them--if not more--these past two weeks.
No--Our Washington Nationals aren't winning many baseball games. Only one Curly "W" being put in the books during this now 9 of 11 Game Homestand. Apart from that fact, help is clearly on the way. Forward progress is standing right there on the mound for all to see. Building from within is what Washington's Baseball Management has always said will come first. Well here are the first results--growing pains and all.
And it's pretty exciting to watch.
Currently, Our Washington Nationals maintain a starting rotation built from within. A better than average offense--among the league leaders--filled with veteran leadership and one very fine young Franchise Player in Ryan Zimmerman. A roster that if not for all our bullpen woes--would certainly be .500 or better and a real contender in the struggling National League East.
Advancing ahead whether it's reflected in the current standings or not.
Final Score from Nationals Park in Game One of this weekend's Battle Of The Beltways at Nationals Park--The Baltimore Orioles 4 and Our Washington Nationals 2 in 12 mostly quiet innings. Yeah, Washington lost their 29th game of 2009 compared to 12 Curly "W's" but in doing so they provided the promise that all is not lost. When any team becomes successful, that achievement usually comes on the heels of solid starting pitching. For the first time since Baseball Returned to Washington DC--Our Starting Rotation has serious potential.
That's Forward Progress In Anyone's League.
Game Notes & Highlights
As it turned out Our Manager Manny Acta took Jordan Zimmermann out tonight after seven innings. And J-Zimm's replacements were equally as sharp until the top of the 12th when Kip Wells allowed two, two out scores. Ron Villone, Jason Bergmann and Joe Beimel were all effective. Only Wells faltered after allowing Baltimore's Pitcher Danny Baez to reach on an infield chopper that was simply unplayable for Kip and Ryan Zimmerman. A game changer as it turned out when Roberts followed with a looping double down the left field line that bounced into the stands for a ground rule double and Adam Jones immediately followed with a ripped double down the same line into the corner for what turned out to be the game winning scores.
Zimmermann--seven innings pitched, six hits and one walk allowed. He struck out 7. Villone, Bergmann and Beimel--three combined innings pitched, two hits, two walks and zero runs allowed. It was interesting to watch Baltimore Starter Rich Hill pitch. Looking to get extra UMPH!! on the ball on certain pitches--the lefthander would kick is left leg forward after he made his stride to the plate after releasing the ball. So in essence, his hind leg used to push himself off the pitching plate--would leave the mound and fly toward home too--along with his right leg. It was odd, but seems to work for him. Watch a replay of Zimmerman's home run off Hill and you will see what I mean.
The Z-Man slugged his 11th round tripper of 2009 in the bottom of the fourth. An opposite field two run homer following a Nick Johnson single to tie this game up at two apiece. Other than that blast, quiet bats tonight for Washington, just four hits and not really many opportunities to create much on the bases. Twice this evening, double plays killed potential rallies. Justin Maxwell walked in the bottom of the 9th and Austin Kearns stepped to the plate to pinch hit. Sohna and I were expecting him to attempt to steal--considering Austin's pension for hitting into DP's. J-Max didn't go and sure enough Kearns grounded into a double play.
Just before Baez slapped his game changing dribbler in the 12th--The Orioles Cesar Izturis stroked a hard hit grounder up the middle. "The Guz" ranged all the way over to his left and scooped the baseball when it was actually past him almost in short centerfield. Cristian Guzman than twirled from right to left--first putting his back to first base--and finally fired a perfect strike to Nick Johnson at first base to retire the speedy Izturis for The Defensive Play Of This Game. A very nice play--probably not remembered after what was to come with the next three Baltimore hitters that decided the outcome of this game.
Tom and George ran side by side all the way to the finish in tonight's 4th Inning Presidents Race. George winning by a nose--and we mean that literally. GW tilted his head to get his rather large nose across the finish line to beat TJ.
Sohna and I wore our "Corre!!, Teddy, Corre!! Tee Shirts tonight in Teddy's Honor. Our Lovable Loser was thrilled to see them.
The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation is now selling Eco-Friendly Totes at their Kiosk in Centerfield Plaza. $5 each, all proceeds going to The Dream Foundation's many charitable efforts throughout Washington, DC.
And finally--as it turns out--all three statues of Walter Johnson, Frank Howard and Josh Gibson have cracks in their pedestals. The weight of the statues is too great for their stands. All three pedestals will be replaced over time.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Manuel Balce Ceneta (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved