Saturday, May 23, 2009
What if Willie Harris had covered second base on a run scoring infield hit by Nick Markakis in the top of the 3rd inning?
What if Josh Bard and Austin Kearns had not hit into key rally ending double plays for the second consecutive night?
What if Our Offense had not found itself in a rut after flying high all these weeks.
And What if Our Washington Nationals could put it all together to string together even a modest winning streak?
Even when Washington gets good starting pitching over the last week that so many fans have only dreamed about--they mostly still can't win a baseball game.
Again tonight--a near instant replay of Friday Night's Opener of the 2009 Battle Of The Beltways. In his second Big League Start, Ross Detwiler was outstanding. For six innings, he only allowed one hit and only got in trouble in the 3rd thanks to his own problems--the issuing of three straight walks. A now bases loaded situation with one out that found Our Number 48 battling back against Baltimore's two best hitters. When you strike out Adam Jones and get Nick Markakis to hit a slow dribbler between 3rd and shortstop you have done your job well. Fought back from adversity--which Detwiler did--deserving of praise. Only that when Markakis smacked that slow roller--Ryan Zimmerman picked it up WANTING to fire the baseball to second base for the easy inning ending out--not throw across the diamond. Instead, The Z-Man had to eat the baseball. For some reason Willie Harris, playing 2nd base tonight, ran to 1st base to back up Nick Johnson. A confusing decision that cost Detwiler an earned run and in this close game--loomed large over the course of nine innings.
What was Harris thinking? Zimmy and "The Guz" were both trying to pick up Markakis' slow roller. Brian Roberts was running hard from first base for Baltimore. Nick Johnson was already on 1st covering the bag. No One was on 2nd. It was Willie's job to be there. He wasn't and it cost Our Washington Nationals dearly tonight.
Because every run counted this evening. Every mistake loomed large. And when Our Manager Manny Acta replaced Righthander Julian Tavarez with Lefthander Ron Villone to face Baltimore's Pinch Hitter, Lefty Slugger Aubrey Huff, in the top of the 7th--it was the right move--executed badly--when Villone allowed a drilled shot to centerfield that bounced off the top of the green wall near The Red Porch Seats and came back into play. A resultant triple for Huff that scored The Orioles 2nd Run of the night--the eventual game winner.
So what if Justin Maxwell had caught that Aubrey Huff drive in dramatic fashion--much like the one he stole from Adam Jones in the first?
What if Adam Dunn wasn't in such a prolific slump during this current homestand? He's striking out much more than earlier this season--and not providing much power. He had two hits tonight, but he's not driving the ball well.
And what if "The Guz" hadn't cooled off over the past two games. Have you noticed that when Cristian Guzman doesn't get on base, Washington's Offense grinds to a screeching halt? Our Number 15 homered tonight for Washington's only run--his 400th career rbi, but he was hitless the rest of the way. Guzzie might not walk much--just once this year--but when he reaches, things happen and Our Washington Nationals Offense comes to bat with a cleaner mind.
The not worrying or pressing--which seems to be the case over the past few games when it comes to Our Hitters. Take Ryan Zimmerman, who remains hot at the plate--but has consistently also driven well stroked hits--RIGHT AT A DEFENDER FOR OUTS. It happened again tonight--when Our Number 11 drilled a shot right to Baltimore's Shortstop Cesar Izturis. A recorded out that saw Zimmy flinging his batting helmet in disgust. That's the third such smacked ball stroked by him over the past few games that only resulted in an out.
What if Our Washington Nationals received just a little more luck? A bit more help from The Baseball Gods--who seem to be looking over them with downcast eyes?
It's not like Washington has played terrible of late. Our starting pitching has been outstanding. Our defense more solid. And even our bullpen over the past few games--mostly dependable. Carrying the load, much like the precision at which Our Batting Lineup was performing at over the first seven weeks of 2009.
What if Our Washington Nationals could find a way to put a complete effort out on the field for a series of games?
What if they could just find that way to win the close games?
After watching Our Bullpen blow game after game after game in April & May--Washington can't buy a run when finally Our Pitching has settled down. Much like The Wheel Of Fortune Television Game Show--even buying a vowel--letting Baltimore's Fans yell out "O" during The National Anthem, hasn't solved their latest riddle.
Just another loss in NatsTown tonight.
Final Score from Nationals Park were 31,833 showed up to watch the local rivalry. An attendance number that is the second highest crowd total this season, but sure seems low if you were on hand tonight. That Ballpark WAS Packed!!--especially in the Upper Deck. The Baltimore Orioles 2 and Our Washington Nationals 1 in a well pitched game where Washington could not come out on top thanks to too many What If Moments.
Now what if Our Washington Nationals played more complete games? Those in which our hitting, pitching and fielding were all on the same plane. And somehow salvaged a struggling year and current season record. 42 Games into 2009, just 12 Curly "W's" and 30 Defeats.
What if Washington had started this season with their current bumper crop of youthful starting pitchers in their rotation? Would Our Washington Nationals Record be any better?
Game Notes & Highlights
Has Ross Detwiler figured it out? Seemingly out of nowhere he's rebounded from a year of struggles, including Spring Training 2009, to show a commanding presence on the mound. Now throwing his fastball in the mid-90's, topping out at 95 MPH this evening. Except for his brief loss of control in the 3rd when he walked three Oriole Batters, he was again exceptional and now deserving of a third start in a ever re-blossoming young career. No doubt, it's fun to watch these young hurlers representing DC pitching well, showing promise and bringing hope that fate might actually be turning around for Our Washington Nationals.
Just seven total hits for Washington tonight and except for Guzzie's homer, the only other extra base hit was a mistake/fielding error by Baltimore. Neither Adam Jones in centerfield or Cesar Izturis at shortstop called for Nick Johnson's blooper to short centerfield in the 5th. But The Orioles didn't pay for the miscue--when Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn struck out swinging against Brian Bass. Starting in centerfield for Washington, Justin Maxwell struggled at the plate--striking out three times. He certainly has problems with the off-speed pitches.
Although defensively, J-Max may well be one of the most gifted fielders in the game. Now, if you know Justin Maxwell and have seen him play baseball--you know his skill level, defensively, is off the charts. Gazelle like speed, terrific arm and the aptitude to track down any baseball hit near him. Tonight, less than five minutes after this game began at 7:05PM, Our Number 30 made The GREATEST CATCH IN THE SHORT HISTORY OF NATIONALS PARK. Baltimore's Adam Jones lashed a liner directly over Maxwell's head in dead centerfield. Justin, without hesitation, took off for the warning track, THEN THE WALL, eventually he SKIED THE GREEN PADDED BARRIER and gently placed his fielding glove OVER THE WALL--where Justin Maxwell made The Defensive Play of The Game, possibly the year--with an AMAZING CATCH. He didn't hesitate. He didn't stop. J-Max simply went for the ball and caught it in dramatic fashion. Even Baltimore's Fans were appreciating that play. A WEB GEM never before seen at Nationals Park. Wow!!
The Oriole Bird again messed up a Presidents Race tonight--now for two years in a row. Maybe looking to revenge his loss to Teddy last year in their well publicized grudge match--The Baltimore Bird Mascot ran out from the right field stands and tackled Teddy as Our Lovable Loser was sprinting toward the finish line well ahead of the pack. A series of boos coming from the crowd as GW then kicked The Oriole Bird to the ground while Abe and Tom completed the race. Tom winning by a hair.
Of course we got a kick out of The Oriole Bird stopping upon passing The African Queen and I before the game near The Exxon Kids Zone. Some fine banter followed including Sohna saying "Don't mess with Screech and Screech's Best Friend!!" The Bird whistling while posing for the customary photo. But we could tell, he had an idea about our relationship with My Best Friend!!
MASN was set up in nearly the same location we saw The Oriole Bird. Two tents providing the setting for live auditions for Part Two of The Mid-Atlantic Sports Networks "Defining Moments" Television Ads. Those who passed the first round were invited to head up to The Conference Rooms on Club Level to continue with their tryouts.
Exxon Mobil provided Navy Blue Washed Denim Curly "W" Caps to the first 20,000 who walked into Nationals Park this evening. It's funny how when these two teams play each other, the giveaways are directly targeted to interest fans of each opposing team. Sunday will find 10,000 Kids receiving Ryan Zimmerman Replica Nationals Jerseys. You have to figure many Baltimore children will also receive one. When Washington plays in Baltimore next month--The Orioles will provide O's Cap and Nick Markakis Batting Practice Jerseys to fans attending two games at Camden Yards. Reverse soliciting--go for the other team's fans. Gotta love it.
Arriving at Nationals Park around 6:10PM, Sohna and I headed over to The Red Porch for a bite to eat. The place was packed, but we were seated in less than 10 minutes. The African Queen ordered Spicy Buffalo Wings ($9), me The Sizzling Ancho-Chicken Salad ($11) Both good sized portions--each arrived within five minutes of ordering. Still having a good 30 minutes to take our time and enjoy the meal--we made it to our seats in Section 218 by the time Our Washington Nationals ran out onto the field for the start this game. Red Porch continues to be a good value in our book.
In the 5th inning I went upstairs to Gallery Level to take some pictures. Just like in Club Level, the concession lines were packed deep with patrons wanting to order. Seeing the lines so long and not wanting to miss much of the game, I actually passed on a soda I was going to order. But while standing behind Section 313, Clint began to speak with Antwaan Randle El and Mike Sellers from The Washington Redskins on the HDTV Scoreboard. I am telling you--it was impossible to hear that conversation--as if watching with the television sound muted. The only speaker sounds anyone was hearing were the commercials playing over the WFED Radio Broadcast of tonight's game on The Upper Concourse. No one up there behind home plate could possibly hear Clint and the two Redskins Players speak.
Finally, we hadn't noticed this before, and maybe it's a direct result of Washington Nationals Photographer Mitchell Layton breaking the fingers on his right hand earlier this week on a foul ball in the dugout photographers well--but MASN's cameraman stationed in those home plate side positions--now sport regulation batting helmets while manning their TV Cameras. Smart Move by MASN. It's not exactly safe there.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved