Monday, May 04, 2009
The Prevailing Winds
You can take all the beautiful, comfortable and perfect weather days you want for baseball because when it comes to strange, unexpected and downright fun nights at ANY ballpark--it's always these games. The one's were few show up to watch. The weather turning people away in droves. The Friends & Family Outings where you can hear EVERYONE yell and scream their hearts out. Count on it--something special happens in this type of atmosphere. The Setting enhances the story. The Tale Becoming Memorable--not to be forgotten soon.
And this setup--the May 4, 2009 match up between Our Washington Nationals and The Houston Astros was not disappointing.
The 48 hours of rain that descended on The Nation's Capital this past Saturday Evening was still looming large over Washington, DC. A storm not going away--playing havoc with Major League Baseball--postponing the final scheduled game between Our Washington Nationals and The St.Louis Cardinals on Sunday. And now--The Rainmakers making every effort to delay the start of tonight's faceoff with The Houston Astros.
With a chartered flight scheduled to Los Angeles, California Tuesday Night already on the docket for DC's Team, Our Nats needed to put this affair in the books. And simply amazingly, this rainy and foggy game actually got started on time--putting a damper on the crowd turnout--but lifting the spirits of those bravely willing to sit in on what was to become another enjoyable outing at Nationals Park.
Two In A Row--In Fact!!
For four and 1/2 innings the misty rain continued to fall, the low hanging fog providing a dreary setting. A murkiness that became worse when The Astros pulled ahead against struggling Washington Starter John Lannan. Four runs on the board for Houston by the end of the top half of the 5th. Lannan wasn't fooling many of the opposing hitters. And with The South Capitol Street Ballpark seemingly wrapped in a wet blanket. Both Our Washington Nationals and those few fans on hands--were seemingly disconsolate, quiet--almost in the mood for just getting it over with.
A windy chill sent throughout the ballpark that soon was remarkably warmed by a shift in the prevailing winds. And the lifting of the fog.
Who would have guessed that on the heels of the atmospheric moisture dissipating at Nationals Park, a new storm was brewing. A squall to contend with. That new potent offense of Our Washington Nationals. Just as quickly as the clouds moved off, Washington began to hit the baseball, not out of the park, but all over South Capitol Street. A two run rally in the bottom of the 5th set up by Ryan Zimmerman's double off the left field wall which began Washington's comeback. A two-out rally off Houston Starter Brian Moehler that found Adam Dunn walking, Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns both singling in back to back to back plate appearances. A second wind that got Washington within two. The initial signs of the gale force to come.
Our Washington Nationals were about to participate in a cloudburst of their very own. A raining on The Houston Astros' Parade in the bottom of the 6th. An 11 batter romp around the bases. A game plot twister that left two Houston Pitcher's--Wesley Wright and Felipe Paulino--wondering what had hit them. Four walks allowed, three singles and one Hit-By-Pitch opened up the new floodgates--this time in Washington's Favor. The go ahead score provided off the bat of Adam Dunn--scoring Cristian Guzman and Nick Johnson on a clean single to right. A five run inning that put Washington ahead for the very first time. And found the home faithful, having lasted it out, ever more appreciative of the rally. Standing, cheering and rocking The South Capitol Street Ballpark as best they could do.
A now three-run lead expanded to five when Our Washington Nationals continued their offensive display in the bottom of the 7th when "The Guz" led off and singled to center off The Astros' Jeff Fulchino. And then took off on a hit and run while Ryan Zimmerman ripped a drive down the right field line--scoring Cristian Guzman easily with the Washington's 8th run. Upped to 9 when Elijah Dukes singled Zimmerman home, after Adam Dunn intentionally walked to complete the scoring.
The ultimate tally that sent those remaining, watching live and in person, into a series of cheers. Applause and jubilation over the very fact that making the effort to attend was worth all the rain, fog and cold winds. Final Score from Nationals Park where if there were actually 1000 people on hand at the start of this game--we would be very surprised--Our Washington Nationals 9 and The Houston Astros 4 in nine wet and fun loving innings. No, there is nothing like watching a ballgame that few seemed to care about. And being rewarded for sticking it out.
Curly "W" Number 7 of 2009 proving once again that Our Washington Nationals can score runs, in bunches, and fight back from most any deficit. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling a starting lineup coming into its own. A nice mix of patience at the plate, power to hurt and some speed to be a nuisance. Game changers that come back from four runs down and shifting the prevailing winds in their own direction. Resting assured, that any opposition can no longer wash Our Washington Nationals Away--no matter what the weatherman says.
This was a mighty enjoyable comeback. Just ask any of the 1000 or so that lasted until the very end. Well worth our time. Memorable for others as well.
Game Notes & Highlights
John Lannan pitched six complete innings, allowed four runs, three earned--while allowing nine hits and two walks. He received his first victory of 2009, only thanks to the offensive support he received in the bottom of the sixth. The very inning Ronnie Belliard batted for him twice in the same frame--when Washington batted around.
Joel Hanrahan threw a very solid 7th inning. Again just throwing strikes, looking more confident and recording a very fine 1-2-3 inning of relief. Being the setup man for Garrett Mock who finished this game out with two good innings of his own--allowing just one walk and facing just five batters. No shakiness out of the bullpen tonight--just some good pitching at an important juncture in the game. Hanrahan and Mock holding the lead without any fear. Now that's a good sign.
What can you say about Ryan Zimmerman? He is just on fire since signing his new contract extension. Tonight, extending his hitting streak to 22 Games, going 4 for 4 (and first since September 10th, 2006 at Colorado), 3 runs scored, 2 rbi and one walk. Folks, Zimmy has a base hit in all but the second game played in 2009--in Miami. Since then, he's reached base safely every single game. And when Our Number 11 powered a pitch from Houston's Brian Moehler off the left field padded green wall in the bottom of the 5th--there were not many folks watching that did not believe that stroked ball WAS NOT going out of the park. The heavy and damp air kept the ball down. And the sight of The Z-Man standing on second base fretting over the baseball not getting over the fence--funny. He knew that ball was torched and goes out of the park on most every other day. Sullen, maybe for a moment, but content in the fact that even Ryan Zimmerman knows--He's Hot. Now batting .333 with 5 Home Runs and 18 RBI. Interestingly, on his perfect night at the plate, Our Face Of The Franchise was also The Face of The Season Ticket for this particular game.
Zimmy's now Nationals Record 22 Game Hitting Streak is also the best in the Major Leagues this season.
Just like most of our batting lineup tonight. Nick Johnson the only starting everyday player not to get a base hit--although he walked twice and scored one run. Elijah Dukes with three hits. Cristian Guzman, Austin Kearns and Anderson Hernandez with two apiece. Adam Dunn has reached base safely in 22 of 24 games played so far. Washington was patient at the plate and received 8 bases on balls. No question, this ever improving lineup is getting better and better each day. DC's team can smash with the best of them. Hitting a baseball is not a problem for this team.
A season high 15-Hit, 8 Walk Offensive barrage as Our Washington Nationals came from way back to defeat The Houston Astros tonight. Even more interesting--14 Runners Left On Base by Washington. Furthermore, including tonight's 15 hits by Washington, The Astros have given up 246 base hits so far in 2009--A Major League High (10.6 per game).
How odd was it to witness Ronnie Belliard recording two outs in the same inning--when Washington batted around in the bottom of the 6th off Houston's Pitchers? Pinch Hitting for John Lannan, Our Number 10 drove a Wesley Wright pitch to the warning track in left for the first out of the frame. And then skied to center off Jeff Fulchino to end Washington's 5 run go ahead rally. Two Outs, Off Two Different Pitchers, In The Same Inning--doesn't happen often.
There were two defensive plays tonight that weren't spectacular, but show just how good each fielder can be. In the top of the 2nd inning, Miguel Tejada hits a very hard grounder into the hole between 2nd and 3rd bases. "The Guz" ranges all the way over to his right to backhand the baseball. While Tejada charges down the line to first base, Cristian Guzman unloads a strike across the diamond to Nick Johnson at first base. A perfect toss that was Big League in every respect. Pretty much the same with a sharp grounder in the top of the 6th hit by Houston's Jeff Keppinger. Swinging away, Keppinger whipped a shot just to the left of Ryan Zimmerman, playing slightly in. The catlike reflexes of Our Number 11 allowed him to quickly move over and dive for the hard struck ball. The only problem, the wet turf had slowed the baseball down just the smallest amount--leaving Ryan on the ground with the baseball JUST NOT THERE YET. That split-second that can mean the difference between catching and missing the hit. Despite landing not in sync with the moving ball--Zimmerman was able to keep his glove on the ground--steady enough to catch the baseball and eventually throw Keppinger out at first base. Both very nice plays, skills of experience that are sometimes taken for granted.
But not the The Defensive Play of This Game--that honor went to Anderson Hernandez. When Houston rallied for three runs off Lannan in the top of the 5th, The Astros Michael Bourn plated that final run when he doubled to right centerfield. Attempting to dash all the way to third base for an rbi triple, the Houston Centerfielder found out the hard way--that was not a smart move. Elijah Dukes ran down the bouncing baseball and immediately unloaded a strike to Anderson standing in short centerfield. Without delay, Hernandez turned and threw THE MOST PERFECT OVER HAND TOSS YOU WILL EVER SEE. A strike on the fly that landed in Ryan Zimmeran's glove--Right On The Bag--to retire Bourn with the second out of the frame. A rally killer that became even more important when Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee both followed with singles. The Astros would have scored their 5th run and maybe more--if not for Anderson Hernandez's TERRIFIC RELAY. That was one GREAT THROW!!
In the middle of the 4th inning Presidents Race, Teddy was leading most of the way. A moment that had the announced crowd of 14,115 on their feet cheering. But as The Rushmores turned the corner from right field to the first base warning track, Our Lovable Loser was pushed aside and Abe began to sprint--pulling away from the pack to win going away.
During the 6th inning game breaking rally--My Best Friend!! Screech!! was in Section 218--PRAYING FOR BASE HITS & RUNS SCORED BY WASHINGTON. Question: Have you ever noticed that Screech stands on top of the Nats Fans #10 platform above The Scoreboard Walk after each victory? Yeah, I know there have only been 5 home victories this season, but while waving a Red Curly "W" Flag, Screech stays there as Our Washington Nationals celebrate on the field and our fans in the stands.
For the first time all season, we ran into Todd, The Peanut Juggling Vendor that has worked at Nationals Park and RFK Stadium since the very first days of Baseball Returning to DC. Always fun, last season Todd would toss up peanuts from the lower bowl to Sohna and I in Section 218. On a sparsely attended night, Todd was looking everywhere for sales--even club level.
We had a little celebrity tonight in Section 218. The Nationals.com Season Ticket Holder Of The Month came visiting The African Queen and I. Mary usually sits three sections to our right in 221. But with a very low turnout and festival style seating, she came over with her friend, Angie to sit with us--about 7 rows back--just under the overhang--out of the rain. Actually, it was enjoyable to have a group of fans cheering alongside us doing some of the many cheers we used to perform at RFK Stadium from 2005 to 2007. Which made us all wonder--what ever happened to the Zim-Mer-Man!! Zim-Mer-Man!! beat that was always played for the first three years Ryan has played in DC? We sort of miss that. That was a cheer in which everyone seemed to get into to--at both RFK and Nationals Park.
And finally--you may recall The Red Porch Experience post of a few days ago. Well Bill, Karen, Laurie & Ed (left to right) who also sit in Section 218 mentioned to us tonight that, upon our review of The Red Porch, they checked it out tonight first hand, and found the experience and service just as good as Sohna and I reported. We were very happy they shared that with us.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Luis M. Alvarez (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved