Thursday, June 25, 2009
Just a few seconds after taking the above photo of this beautiful sunset over Nationals park, The Boston Red Sox Jason Varitek powered out a two run homer off Washington's Craig Stammen--pretty much setting the sun on Our Washington Nationals play this evening as well.
The resultant 6-1 BoSox lead gave another record crowd the opportunity to chant "Let's Go Red Sox!!"--once again. And put the stamp on the differences between these two teams. The Boston Red Sox are a veteran and experienced lineup. They play fundamentally sound baseball. They jump on opportunity. Pressure is something they handle each and every day on the field of play.
Washington on the other hand doesn't play crisp baseball at times. DC's Team doesn't have the complimentary players that fill out a championship roster. Rookie Stammen was throwing in just his 7th Big League start last night with another revamped outfield lined up defensively behind him. And when opportunity came DC's way most of this night to pull ahead--they didn't convert.
Varitek's home run came on a first pitch fastball right over the middle plate in the top of the 6th. Interestingly, Stammen had been beaten just two innings earlier by David Ortiz on a full count change up by Big Papi served out and over the deepest reaches of the centerfield wall at Nationals Park. Young Stammen, although talented, was also confused. Our Number 35 didn't really know what to throw. He hasn't learned to handle a quality hard hitting lineup just yet. And he didn't trust his pitches.
Later, Washington had two good scoring chances late to possibly tie or pull ahead. Boston's veteran bullpen didn't give in. They didn't falter. And their defense helped out--Jacoby Ellsbury making a nice running catch to the wall in left center to take in a drive off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman in the 7th. Then their left handed reliever, Hideki Okajima, sort or/kind of pitched around pinch hitter Adam Dunn in the 8th in order to face another pinch hitter in Ronnie Belliard. Eventually, striking out Our Number 10 after a very nice at bat. The Boston Red Sox know how to play the game.
You can learn a lot from watching the actions of those players in the visiting dugout during this three game series. The Boston Red Sox come to play quality baseball every inning of every game. Our Washington Nationals need to match that intensity. And until they do, that Sunset over South Capitol Street will be a stark reminder of just how far Washington needs to improve.
Final Score from Nationals Park where despite another record crowd of 41,530 there seemed to be in attendance far more Nats Fans than Tuesday Night--The Boston Red Sox 6 and Our Washington Nationals 4. Loss number 49 was sort of funny because this lady sitting just to our left in Section 218--all night long--kept apologizing to us for cheering for Boston. Why? Because she was wearing a customary Navy Blue with "B" logo Red Sox Cap, but told us she's a Nationals Season Ticket Holder. Honestly, The African Queen and I didn't really mind who she was cheering for. But this lady was really conscious about it, torn, not really knowing what to do. And upon completion of the game, you could see this huge level of relief come over her face. "I am glad that's over. Now I can go back to being myself." She was really uneasy cheering against Our Washington Nationals.
Game Notes & Highlights
Craig Stammen would pitch into the 6th inning, but his two home runs allowed to Ortiz and Varitek ruined his night. 5 runs allowed on those two swings of the bat finished him off. Seven hits, one walk, five strikeouts and six earned runs the totals. With Scott Olsen shortly returning from his injury/rehab assignment, Stammen might be the odd man out right now amongst our young starters and be optioned back to AAA Syracuse.
Ron Villone, Julian Tavarez, Joe Beimel and Mike MacDougal combined to pitch a very solid 3.2 innings of relief work--keeping this game close and helped to give Washington their late inning chances to tie or pull ahead.
"The Guz" with is 7th consecutive multi-hit game of 2009 and 28th overall in just 53 starts. Among those two hits, Cristian Guzman with an RBI triple in the 7th scoring Josh Bard. Josh Willingham knocked in two Washington runs on a slicing single down the right field line in the 6th scoring Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson. Anderson Hernandez sent Elijah Dukes home with DC's first run of the night--and only lead--when he cracked a broken bat single to left field--on the heels of Dukes' broken bat hit which nearly injured Boston's Nick Green.
In the top of the 9th, Boston's Ellsbury rips a grounder down the first base line. Nick Johnson was playing more off the bag and darted over to his left in an attempt to stop the baseball from getting past him. In true NJ form, Our Number 24 dove, got his glove on the ball, rolled over the chalk mark. landed with his face in the dirt--then just touched his glove and ball on first base for The Defensive Play Of The Game. Just gotta love that guy, not the swiftest of athletes, but Nick Johnson always give his all.
Also it's pretty clear Our Washington Nationals miss Jesus Flores. Josh Bard is hitting the ball well of late, but is not a great catcher. Wil Nieves is a solid backup, but not an everyday player. Flores was a strong presence in Washington's Lineup, both in the batting order and behind the plate. His possible injury loss for the season--sort of forgotten of late.
In the top of the 4th, Boston Hitting Coach Dave Magaden was ejected for arguing a called strike by Home Plate Umpire Bob Davidson on Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis didn't like the call and Magaden kept hammering away on Davidson. Not for long, as the umpire quickly turned to the visiting dugout and threw Magaden out of the game. Just as swiftly getting both The Boston Batting Coach and Manager Terry Francona out of the dugout and into the face of Bob Davidson for a few minutes of heated exchange.
Teddy decided to have his own Boston Tea Party tonight on the HDTV Screen. From some undisclosed location, Teddy kicked crates of tea all over the place while his running mates watched from the warning track in right centerfield. Then, Abe took off alone while Tom & George kept watching The Tea Party and won his 18th race of 2009 uncontested.
Finally--DC Resident Mark Strattner was honored tonight as the 10 Millionth Fan to attend a Washington Nationals Baseball Game in The District of Columbia--since baseball returned to Washington. A very impressive prize package was awarded including an actually engraved seat from Nationals Park, a Ryan Zimmerman Autographed Jersey, 4 Presidents Club Seats to an upcoming game, 4 Passes to watch Batting Practice on the field and two tickets to the July 11th Concert at Nationals Park with Elton John and Billy Joel. Good Stuff. Congratulations.