Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Only when Anderson Hernandez pivoted across second base--taking a relay toss from "The Guz" in the bottom of the 9th--could we even begin to relax. In the Bronx tonight, Our Washington Nationals played their finest game of the year, and made sure everyone watching rode the edge of their seat until this perfect ending.
Having won 21 more games than Washington heading into this evening's affair.
Having won 21 games at New Yankee Stadium.
And having won as many games on the road in 2009, as Our Washington Nationals have won ALL SEASON (16), you had to figure The New York Yankees were the favorites to claim victory again tonight. And you would be wrong--because one young man, a Long Island Native, stood in their way and for 8 1/3rd innings was truly outstanding--with a big assist from Our New Closer.
John Lannan came to pitch tonight before the home folk--his family and friends. Did he ever bring it strong!!
Spotting his fastball, working his curve, occasionally serving up a changeup, Our Number 31 was forcing ground ball out after ground ball out (15 total). A no-hitter through 4 frames--only one run allowed through 8. Adam Dunn with his 18th Home Run and Nick Johnson with a key two-run triple providing just enough distance to give John wiggle room. And when Our Manager Manny Acta came out to relieve him in the bottom of the 9th with one out, up 3-2, we can imagine many Washingtonians standing and cheering for Lannan while watching at home of television. Just like The African Queen and I did in our family room.
Right there for all to see--one of Our Young Talents had flourished on The Game's Biggest Stage--Yankee Stadium. Taking the pat on the shoulder from Manny, John slowly walked off the field to be received in the welcoming arms of his teammates in the visiting dugout. Knowing your team has struggled all year. Knowing no lead is ever safe. Knowing no game is ever won until that final out was recorded. And Knowing this game was still far from over--John Lannan had lifted the spirits of our struggling team and let everyone know out there in The Baseball World--Our Washington Nationals weren't going down without a fight--even against The Bronx Bombers.
DC's team was earning some respect back. But now they needed to close this one out.
Mike MacDougal relieved Our Number 31--being handed his first save opportunity since being called up from AAA Syracuse. A one-time All-Star Closer with The Kansas City Royals, MacDougal now looking to re-invigorate his now struggling career. The possessor of some SERIOUS HEAT, Mike can reach the high 90's.
This evening he threw nothing but fastballs. And immediately got into trouble.
Mark Teixeira had singled to end John Lannan's night. Now, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi had pinch run for TEX with speedster Brett Gardner on first base. It took just two pitches by MacDougal to Alex Rodriguez before Gardner had stolen second base--ON A PITCH OUT. And then he stole 3rd on the very next pitch. Tying run on 3rd, one out. Those left in the announced crowd of 46,052 sensed a New York Comeback.
Just like that trouble was brewing, mere moments after John Lannan had left the field, his chances now for gaining the victory looking mighty slim. Especially when A-Rod walked to put runners on 1st and 3rd with Robinson Cano stepping to the plate.
The catalyst last night with four hits against Washington in a Yankees 5-3 victory and a solo home run today--The Yankees' Second Baseman was looking to do even more damage while sending Our Washington Nationals down to another demoralizing defeat.
Who wasn't believing that's exactly what might happen?
And when Cano fouled off pitch after pitch after pitch after pitch (four in all)--after reaching 2-2 in the count against Our Closer--you had to figure Robinson had the advantage over Mike MacDougal. Our Number 54 probably wasn't going to throw his slider. He didn't want to risk a wild pitch. But MacDougal had to also realize Cano wasn't getting around on his 97 MPH heater.
The Final Result was soon to come.
Mike MacDougal knew what he had to throw. And Robinson Cano knew what was coming. In fact, everybody knew what was coming.
A fastball over the outside of the plate. The Question: Could The New York Second Baseman get around on it? Could a Curly "W" be recorded in the books?
As those left on hand in The Bronx stood awaiting for this moment. Sohna and I stood in front of our television set--anxiously awaiting the outcome. Just like on the previous four pitches, we leaned in for the pitch--nervous. And noticed The New York Fans at Yankee Stadium were doing the same.
30 Games down in the loss column didn't matter at this moment in time. Baseball has a way of being the great equalizer.
One Out, Runners on 1st and 3rd,the bottom of the ninth--a slim one run lead hanging in the balance.
MacDougal looked in--took the sign from Josh Bard--rared back and hummed in a 96 MPH Fastball over the outside corner of the plate. Just like everyone expected. And this time--Robinson Cano got around on it--just well enough to slap a hard grounder to Cristian Guzman at shortstop!!
A routine double play grounder that "The Guz" fielded cleanly and tossed over to Anderson Hernandez crossing the bag at second to retire Alex Rodriguez for the second out of the inning. And as Brett Gardner ran hard toward home in all hopes of scoring the game tying run on a Washington fielding miscue--Our Number 6 calmly, smoothly caught the baseball from Our Number 15 and, almost smiling, knew he had just enough time to throw out Robinson Cano at first base for the final out. Nick Johnson corralling the baseball TO END THIS THRILLER!!
Good thing Sohna grabbed me from jumping up and down before putting my hands through the revolving ceiling fan above--for we were on Cloud Nine!! Our Washington Nationals had done it!! They had defeated The New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium and in doing so had help remedy a whole lot of hurt and dismay brought on over the past week both on and off the field of play.
The Perfect Pitch and The Perfect Outcome had saved a nearly perfectly pitched ball game by Young John Lannan.
Final Score from The Bronx--where DC's team PROUDLY walked off the field in victory--Our Washington Nationals 3 and The New York Yankees 2. Curly "W" Number 17 an exercise in exactly what can be accomplished when you play a clean and error-free game. And a reminder that all is not lost in NatsTown. John Lannan continues to be The Real Thing. A talented southpaw pitcher with the ability to command any opposing lineup out there. He was ON tonight, and so deserving of his fourth personal win of 2009.
A feel good win in fact. A little rejuvenation. Perfect.
Game Notes & Highlights
Lannan allowed just four hits--two solo home runs--one to Cano and one to Johnny Damon leading off the 9th. He walked just one Yankee hitter--striking out four. While recording 25 outs this evening, Lannan only allowed six Yankee Batters to fly out. In a hitters park, the newest home run haven stadium in the game--Our Number 31 did very well. He didn't try to over do it and let The New York batters beat themselves.
MacDougal really throws hard!! He seems to have some control issues, but if he could ever harness that stuff he threw in Kansas City a few years back--Our Number 54 would be just as good again. He was rewarded with his first save as a Washington National.
Although Corey Patterson isn't much of a hitter, Washington probably fielded one of their better defensive lineups tonight. Patterson in center, Willie Harris in left and Elijah Dukes in right. Thanks to Lannan, they didn't get much work, but you had to feel confident that Our Outfielders were going to make the plays this evening.
"The Guz" with three hits (one an infield single on a close call at first base). Nick Johnson with his two run triple in the top of the 5th when New York Centerfielder Melky Cabrera decided to dive on a slicing liner away from him in left center. A resultant baseball going all the way to the wall allowing both Cristian Guzman and Willie Harris (running in front of him) to score easily on the play. Adam Dunn unloaded on a Chen-Ming Wang fastball in the top of the 4th and deposited it into the rightfield bleachers at Yankee Stadium.
Finally, New Yankee Stadium looks really nice. I don't know if it will ever carry the mystique of The Original, but it's very impressive looking. And at $1.5 Billion--it better be!!
Tonight's InGame Photos--Bill Kostroun (AP)