Thursday, June 25, 2009
The Signature Moment
Those Boston Red Sox Fans on hand, once again, for the largest crowd to attend any game at Nationals Park's short history for the third consecutive night--were finally up and cheering. For over five innings on South Capitol Street tonight, Jordan Zimmermann had SHUTDOWN one of the best hitting teams in baseball. In fact, a serious World Series Contender. But now--Red Sox Nation sensed a comeback--maybe--even the kill. Our Washington Nationals were up Five-Zip, but that margin didn't seem near enough runs.
With only one recorded out so far in this game deciding 6th frame, Boston had placed runners on 1st and 3rd. J.D Drew had softly slapped a broken bat single to left. And Jason Bay had followed with a first pitch single to the exact same spot. Just the kind of situation in which Our Washington Nationals tend to let things get out of hand--make things worse--do something that causes pain. Of course, with Big Papi stepping to the plate, who among that largest crowd of 41,985 didn't believe The Red Sox were going to inflict some serious damage? Last night, David Ortiz slugged out a three run game breaking homer off Washington Rookie Craig Stammen. A full-count situation in which Our Number 35 didn't trust his instincts--which was to throw his fastball.
Resetting the stage:
For over the first five innings, this third game of the most anticipated series of 2009 in The Nation's Capital had been all Washington. John Smoltz was making his very first start EVER for The BoSox--facing a DC Team in which he had mixed results while spending his entire career with The Atlanta Braves. Recovering from shoulder surgery, this sure-fire Hall Of Famer, has only recently recovered. And during the very first inning he's pitched all season on The Big League Level this year--Our Washington Nationals jumped all over him. Four runs scored before Smoltz retired his counterpart Zimmermann to end the largest 1st inning at home since that April 18th five run rally against The Marlins. A big advantage that was pushed to five in the 3rd on a Josh Willingham double following by a Josh Bard Single--again off Smoltz (Both Willingham and Bard major players in tonight's game--but more on them later).
An early lead for The Home Side that Our Number 27 protected by hammering the strike zone. No one from Boston's Potent Lineup was standing in his way. Jordan Zimmermann was earning respect. Not even a terrible decision by Anderson Hernandez and Cristian Guzman to NOT call for a routine infield popup that dropped for a single off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury--kept JZ down. He was on top of his game. But now--as the top of the 6th unfolded--Zimmermann needed to settle down.
Beloved in Boston--probably forever--David Ortiz may be on the downside of his illustrious career--but he's still a dangerous slugger. One that's not going to miss a rookie mistake. Stammen didn't trust his fastball on Wednesday Night and instead threw his weaker pitch--the change up. Big Papi deposited that pitch over the centerfield wall for a 3-1 Boston Advantage. A shot that sent Red Sox Nation into a tizzy at Nationals Park. Tonight, Jordan found himself in a similar situation. Pitching well, with the lead, and the opportunity for failure knocking on fortune's doorstep. If Boston's Fabled Number 34 takes him out of the park--The Red Sox are back into this game down by just two.
New Ball Game--a completely different outcome in the works.
But from the very first day Jordan Zimmermann stepped on the Major League Mound at Nationals Park back on April 20th--he hasn't been afraid. Even challenging Albert Pujols on May 1st on South Capitol Street when he simply didn't want to give up a walk to The St. Louis Cardinals Slugger. Instead, JZ gave up a titanic home run to the best slugger in the game. A learning experience taken to heart--now to be used against David Ortiz.
As The BoSox Faithful roared with delight--anticipating the big drive--Our Number 27 just kept pounding the strike zone. What Jordan came to understand was that the soon to be 34-Year Old Dominican Slugger couldn't get his bat around on J-Zimm's 94 Mile Per Hour Heater. Don't give Ortiz something off-speed. Don't give David the chance to play Goliath. And on the 4th pitch of this pivotal At-Bat, Jordan Zimmermann WON THIS GAME--by allowing a sacrifice fly.
Yes--by letting a run to score.
Big Papi weakly flying to Josh Willingham in left field--just deep enough to score Boston's first run of the evening while quieting The Red Sox Fans and settling down a nervous Washington Fan Base anticipating the worse. And when Mike Lowell followed with a wicked liner just above Ryan Zimmerman's head that Our Number 11 snared for the inning ending out by seemingly climbing that extra few inches needed to catch the baseball--after already leaving the ground (really it was amazing how Our Number 11 was able to STRETCH HIMSELF at a split seconds notice)--that other "Z"--the real star of the evening--Jordan Zimmerman--had over come a top hitting lineup. He had quieted two fearsome batters. He had shut up Red Sox Nation. And turned some heads and earned respect from those sitting in the Boston Red Sox Dugout. A nod of appreciation for a job well done.
The Signature Moment for a rookie looking for validation on The Big Stage.
Jordan Zimmmermann would complete 7 strong innings this night at Nationals Park. He dominated at times, and didn't give in to anybody. The Heart Of A Lion this young man possesses. And when JZ slowly walked off the mound to the home dugout at end of his valiant seven innings, Our Fans gave their hearts over to him. A Rousing Standing Ovation in appreciation of a job well done. A respect earning outing that even had Red Sox Nation--educated baseball fans as they are--respectfully joining into the appreciation.
Final Score from Nationals Park where Our Fans were treated to a coming out party by Jordan Zimmermann--Our Washington Nationals 9 and The Boston Red Sox 3. Certainly, Our Offense gave Our Number 27 his lead. Our Defense protected it. But JZ was the story tonight. And The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaled that a young pitcher from a small school in Wisconsin (Stevens Point)--can compete against the finest in the game. And Curly "W" Number 21 solidified the very fact that Our Washington Nationals have some good, young and very talented Starting Pitching.
Remember, no matter the score, there is a moment in every game in which everything hangs in the balance. And tonight's signature rested on the bat of David Ortiz in the top of the 6th. Unafraid, his greatest attribute, Jordan Zimmermann went right after Big Papi to retire him.
The Defining Moment In This Game.
Game Notes & Highlights
Jordan Zimmermann would leave after seven complete allowing just one run. He struck out six, walked JUST ONE, and allowed seven hits. Over his last four starts he's posted a 1.90 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched--striking out 22 batters. He really is so impressive to watch on the mound and tonight earned his 3rd career Major League Victory.
Tyler Clippard was less so. Making his first Major League appearance of 2009, Our New Number 36 looked rather shaky. Given work in a blow out--Tyler allowed a double to Mark Kotsay in the 8th and a two run homer to Rocco Baldelli in the 9th. Apparently, The Boston Red Sox ran out of position players and were forced to bat Pitcher Ramon Ramirez with two outs in the final frame. A big advantage that Clippard used to strike out the Boston Pitcher on a high fastball to end this game. But Tyler wasn't strong--in his first on the job training for Washington. Although to his credit, Clippard wins serious points from us for The Cool Shades Worn and The Very Awkward (almost ostrich like) Pitching Delivery.
Washington had early game batting practice against John Smoltz. After Smoltz hit Nick Johnson with one out in the 1st inning (a pitch that eventually forced NJ from the game with what's been called a "shin contusion"), Ryan Zimmerman followed with a drilled double down the leftfield line. Adam Dunn walked to load the bases. Josh Willingham singled to left scoring Johnson. Josh Bard then followed with another single to right scoring Zimmerman. And after Willie Harris lined out to J.D. Drew in right--Anderson Hernandez came up clutch with a two strike bleeder to left field scoring both Dunn and Willingham to give Washington a 4 run early lead. An inning that found John Smoltz's ERA balloon to 54.00 at the completion.
Josh Bard and Josh Willingham big contributors at the plate this evening. Bard--three hits, two rbi and one run scored. Willingham with two hits, one rbi and two runs scored. 11 total hits off Red Sox Pitching tonight for Washington. That sparkplug--also known as Willie Harris--powered out a two run homer off Takashi Saito on the very night he matched his season high of three hits in one game. A game distancing home run into the second deck in right that put Washington up 9-1 in the bottom of the 7th.
Ryan Zimmerman made a series of fine plays at third base this evening. That nice catch on a rising liner off the bat of Mike Lowell in the The Signature Moment 6th inning. The fielding of a high chopper over the bag hit in the 3rd by Jason Bay that Our Number 11 stopped, then quickly turned and jump tossed to Anderson Hernandez at second base to retire J.D. Drew. But his best effort came in the top of the 2nd when Lowell SMASHED a grounder to Ryan's left. The Z-Man dove and when the baseball took a last second hop up and above his sprawling body--he swiftly reacted and caught the baseball. Then got to his feet and threw across his body to retire The Red Sox 3rd Baseman easily at first base for The Defensive Play Of This Game.
This was first time since Our Washington Nationals came into existence--they have beaten The Boston Red Sox in six games played. Boston took all three games at Fenway Park in 2006 and two of the three played this week at Nationals Park.
A relay race was on the agenda for Our Racing Presidents Tonight in the middle of the 4th inning. Abe & George took off on Segways from the left field foul line. Then, Teddy and Tom raced from The Centerfield Gate to right field. Whereupon each needed to hop into a Pedi-Cab and head back to centerfield. While Tom let the Pedi-Cab Driver take him for a ride. Teddy took his driver for a ride. And of course--lost at the last second. Teddy just can't win despite himself.
Despite the latest largest crowd ever of 41,985, tonight's attendance was composed of a significant amount of Washington Faithful. An early lead kept Red Sox Nation quiet, but even when the "Let's Go Red Sox!!" chant began to brew along the first base line at Nationals Park--Washington's fans were able to drown them out with "Let's Go Nats!!" But we got to say, Boston's Fans were really well behaved. They came to cheer on their team, and from what we witnessed, were not jerks making an effort to dismiss and make fun of Washington's Faithful. One of these days when Our Washington Nationals are really good and they are the main draw--that will be a great moment. But for this three game set, The African Queen and I appreciated the energy and excitement Boston's Fan brought to Nationals Park. Our New Ballpark looks TERRIFIC when packed. We can't wait to see that on a more consistent basis.
Of course Sohna was joining into those "Let Go Nats!! chants while still displaying her NatsTown Towel on the glass railing in front of our seats in the front row of Section 218.
And finally--there was this guy sitting in The PNC Diamond Club apparently having his Bachelor's Party. Wearing a Red Boston Jersey--he had pinned to his back the following sign: "Getting Hitched On Saturday!!" We laughed and laughed and laughed. He appeared to be having a good time--whether his Boston Red Sox won or not.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Manuel Balce Ceneta--(AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved