Saturday, July 04, 2009
4th Of July Party
The scene could not have been set any better.
Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. The very player for Our Washington Nationals that has been clutch on Holidays.
Peter Moylan on the mound. The very pitcher for The Atlanta Braves that served the now INFAMOUS Opening Night Home Run on South Capitol Street on March 30th, 2008.
Washington down by two. The Game On The Line!!
America's Birthday In The Nation's Capital.
Really, What More Fireworks Could You Possibly Want!!??
If you love baseball, enjoy Our Washington Nationals and support them no matter what--this was YOUR GAME!!
And let me tell you, if anybody EVER says to you that DC's Team has No Fans, supportive ones that post up on South Capitol Street in appreciation of what we DO HAVE--this was the defining moment of 2009. What was to play out over the next few minutes may well have been THE FINEST MOMENTS ALL SEASON AT NATIONALS PARK. And Our Fans had a lot to do with it. 23,708 were on their feet, stomping, roaring, waving their Mini American Flags given away upon entering the park--cheering Our Washington Nationals on--hopefully--to victory. The Atmosphere was decidedly in DC's Favor.
Red, White & Blue was ruling the day.
A character moment for Our Franchise Player was also weighing in the balance. Many realizing, The Z-Man most always delivers when it counts the most.
Resetting The Scene:
Our Washington Nationals were down 3-1 entering the bottom of the 8th inning. Washington's Starter John Lannan had been good--but not good enough. Because except for allowing Adam Dunn's 300th Career Home Run--A TITANIC BLAST into the upper reaches of Section 238--five rows from The Scoreboard Walk--The Atlanta Braves Rookie Pitcher, Phenom Tommy Hanson, had been terrific. Spotting his fastball, locating his pitches, this tall and lanky Atlanta Hurler was displaying all the hype so many have claimed.
Was he EVER GOOD!!
But to Our Team's advantage, Hanson had tired after seven complete and The Braves' Manager Bobby Cox brought his lefty Mike Gonzalez in from the bullpen, in an attempt to continue shutting down Washington's Bats. As happens so many times in The Great Game, the team being shutdown welcomes the relief and Our Washington Nationals took advantage from their very first pinch hitter.
Game On!! RallyTime!! In Full Force!! A 4th Of July Party was about to begin.
Ronnie Belliard singled to left. Another Pinch Hitter, Josh Bard, being patient today thankfully--walked. Nyjer Morgan advancing both to 2nd and 3rd respectively on a perfect sacrifice bunt--putting both Our Number 10 and Our Number 7 in scoring positions. Needing two scores to tie, the ever patient Nick Johnson was next and Our Number 24 waited and waited and waited--as only The Most Professional Hitters Will Do--against one of the most effective southpaw hurlers in the game. Waiting for something good to hit that never came, NJ happily took ball four on six tosses to load up the bases with one out. The VALUE OF NICK JOHNSON ON DISPLAY RIGHT HERE. He never gives in.
Johnson providing the final piece to the set up of one glorious come from behind victory.
Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox knew his Atlanta Braves were in trouble. He understood Ryan Zimmerman was a huge threat. But he also knew Ryan has been struggling of late, getting himself out, swinging at everything. Whether Cox trusted Moylan in that spot or not--The Braves' Manager felt he had the advantage.
Concentration is one of Ryan Zimmerman's most sacred gifts. Never one to allow recent struggles to completely affect his play--Zimmy did what he always does when challenged--proved Cox wrong when he slammed Moylan's second pitch--and first over the plate in this key At-Bat--right up the middle scoring both Belliard and Bard with the game tying runs. A two run single highlighted by Bard slapping down his left palm TRIUMPHANTLY on home plate with the 3rd Washington score of the game. Including, the very sight of Our Number 11 nodding his head up and down while removing his batting gloves--satisfied with a job well done. And absolute roar from Our Fans standing and clapping and clapping and clapping. Since the very moment Bard had touched home, Washington's Faithful stood.
They did not sit down.
Not through Bobby Cox slowly walking to the mound to remove Moylan. Not while his replacement--Eric O'Flaherty jogged to the mound. Not while this new Atlanta Pitcher warmed up. Not even as Adam Dunn stepped to the plate. With this Snare Drum sounding music playing throughout Nationals Park--a 4th Of July Celebration had begun. The Fireworks waiting to be launched.
Really, this was impressive. No one sat down. And when Our Number 44 stroked Eric O'Flaherty's first pitch right up the middle scoring Nick Johnson with the eventual game winning run--you truly could have believed Our Washington Nationals had just won a very important encounter. America's 233rd Birthday was now officially being celebrated in The Nation's Capital. A 4th of July Party was on--Washingtontonians were living in the moment.
The Joy felt throughout Nationals Park quite chilling. The African Queen and I have not seen so many happy fans in some time cheering on the home side. And when Josh Willingham added his party favors to the revelry with his own RBI single to left scoring The Z-Man with DC's 4th run of this wonderful half-inning and 5th for this game--This Birthday Bash was in full force.
All anyone needed now was The Birthday Cake to cut and share in the enjoyment.
Yeah, Mike MacDougal came on in the top of the 9th to act out his best Chad Cordero--Most Thrilling Closer In The Game--re-enactment. But Our Number 54 did close this out and in doing so completed a most thrilling of comebacks--only the 5th all season when Washington trailed into the 8th frame.
Final Score from Nationals Park where good pitching, clutch hitting, a little patience, and the very best support all season from Our Fans led to Victory--Our Washington Nationals 5 and The Atlanta Braves 3. Curly "W" Number 23 of 2009 was a Team Win backed by The Cornerstone Of DC Baseball--Our Fans. Those that haven't given up and easily have formed the bedrock that is Major League Baseball in The Nation's Capital. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling Thank You!! In true American Fashion.
The Red, White & Blue was proudly on display on South Capitol Street this afternoon. The Curly "W" Flag of Victory Flew High. A 4th Of July Birthday Celebration taken to heart by Our Washington Nationals and most all of the 23,708 loyalist of fans in attendance. The African Queen and I have not left the ballpark all season happier than today. A thrilling game until the very end.
Happy Birthday America!! This was a July 4th celebration worth remembering.
And as far as we are concerned--there is no better place to watch Major League Baseball than in Our Hometown--Washington, DC. What a great afternoon at Nationals Park. Truly, this scene could not have been much better.
Game Notes & Highlights.
John Lannan got dinged here and hit there, but he really never faltered. When Our Offense was being shutdown by Atlanta's Tommy Hanson, Our Number 31 kept Our Washington Nationals in this game. Throwing 8 fairly strong innings against a potent lineup, Lannan scattered nine hits with one walk. And when he needed a ground ball the most--John got exactly what he wanted. Washington's Defense behind him turning four double plays. Deserved for hanging in there while pitching from behind mostly the entire time he was on the mound--John Lannan received his 6th victory of 2009, against 5 losses. And now finds himself with a winning personal record starting for a team that is 32 games below .500. That's pretty impressive, along with Lannan's 3.45 ERA.
Mike MacDougal really reminded Sohna and I of "The Chief" this afternoon when he retired the very first Atlanta Hitter he faced in the top of the 9th, then proceeded to walk the next two. Hearing some boos from the crowd, getting a staunch visit from Pitching Coach Steve McCatty and eventually getting Pinch Hitter Brian McCann to rip a liner to right--right at Austin Kearns (a last inning defensive replacement)--settled Our Number 54 down. So much so, he easily finished out Brooks Conrad on a routine grounder to Anderson Hernandez at second base to register his 4th save as A Washington National.
How often has anyone witnessed just two pitchers used by Our Washington Nationals in any game. Not many, but today showed that Steve McCatty is willing to let John Lannan work himself out of trouble. Rights earned for not yielding to pressure. Our Number 31 is acting beyond his near 25 years--while providing a veteran influence for our very young staff.
To our great humor--Sohna and I run into Interim GM Mike Rizzo after the game. When I mention how MacDougal out on the mound reminded us of Chad Cordero--to his great credit--Rizzo laughed while shaking his head up and down (like: "I've seen enough of that already!!) It was funny.
Tommy Hanson--very impressive. A Number One Starter if he pitches for Our Washington Nationals this very day. Until Adam Dunn uncorked his tremendous blast just below The Scoreboard Walk in the bottom of the 7th--Hanson had pitched 26 consecutive scoreless innings to that point. Without the flowing long hair from early in his career--Tommy Hanson has the same build, looks and mannerisms as Jeff Weaver--tall, lanky, and throws hard. Having never seen him before, this Braves Rookie really was everything as advertised. Sometimes, it's guys like Hanson that increase interest in the game. There is nothing like seeing young studs early in their careers. And ponder how great they can possibly be after a few years of experience. One of the very reasons why Sohna and I always want to see every home game in person. We just can't miss out on seeing someone--anyone--special coming along in baseball.
As for that Adam Dunn 300th Home Run. Our Number 44 closely watched the majestic flight into the stands. He then rounded the bases with his head down--not celebrating in any way--but knowing the entire stadium was up and cheering his every move. Only after Adam Dunn was greeted by his teammates in the home dugout. Only after Tommy Hanson stood on the mound listening to a standing ovation not going away. Only after Home Plate Umpire Jerry Layne stood staring at Dunn then gesturing with his hands for Adam to come out and take a bow so this game can continue--did Adam vault himself out and back into public view. A warm reception continuing for a 29 Year Old breaking a milestone the great majority of players that have ever or will play the game--will ever reach.
Dunn plating Washington's first run of the game with that homer, then knocking home the winning run in the bottom of the 8th. Zimmerman breaking out of an extended slump with the key two run rbi single in that same 8th frame. Ronnie Belliard with the key pinch hit that got that 8th inning rally started. And Josh Bard extended RallyTime!! with his pinch hit walk. Both crucial and important to today's win. Nyjer Morgan has yet to reach safely on a base hit in two games in a Nationals Uniform--but he followed both Belliard and Bard with the sacrifice hit that set up Johnson, Zimmerman and Dunn being heroes.
Mike Rizzo also telling Sohna and I after the game today that Morgan covers more ground than any outfielder currently on Washington's Roster. And that his play will solidify the weaknesses that have cost DC's team defensively so often during this first half of 2009.
That fine glove work needed everyday on display all this afternoon by Our Washington Nationals, including four double plays turned while playing errorless baseball. But The Defensive Play Of This Game came in the top of the 5th when "The Guz" ranged over to his left on a hard drive up the middle by Pitcher Hanson. Knowing he had time, Cristian Guzman leaned over and knocked down the baseball. Then, showed experience, when he picked the ball up while twirling--his back to Nick Johnson--and threw a perfect strike to first base to retire Hanson. Much maligned of late by some for being slow moving to his left--Our Number 15 showed off some good range to finish off the top half of that 5th inning.
We understand that Major League Baseball wants to bring awareness for the "Welcome Back Veterans Foundation" cause, but instead of every team wearing Red Caps with The Stars & Stripes in the respective logos--would it not be nicer to let each team wear their typical cap with the only change in color being The Logo? It doesn't look right with The Orioles, Mariners, Padres, etc.--any team without red in their uniform style wearing that cap. "NY", "O" "SD" would all look fine with Stars & Bars inside those designs. Sorry, but this particular movement doesn't look stylish. Just like Our Washington Nationals wearing their "Patriotic DC" emblazoned jerseys today, but NOT wearing the "DC" accompanying cap? That also makes no sense. We live and work in The Nation's Capital. Our Washington Nationals have designed the perfect uniform for THIS VERY DAY--why waste it?
It all just makes no sense to us--other than to sell something else for profit.
Before today's game, in recognition of the 70th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech--Former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen re-read the famous "I am the luckiest man alive" address. In partnership with ALS, Major League Baseball is helping to get awareness out about this still cureless disease.
In the 4th Inning Presidents Race today, Tom, George, Abe & Teddy raced from the centerfield gate while NO ONE was manning the finish line. For whatever reasons, only Screech & The Geico Gecko were on the field--none of whom were carrying the Finish Flag, The Geico Flag or The Finish Tape. As The Rushmores turned the rightfield corner--The NatPack finally got on the field and JUST got the ribbon stretched before Tom took the victory--his 14th of the season. The African Queen and I wondering exactly how this race would have ended if NO ONE WAS HOME?
Saturday's Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Auction included a signed Adam Dunn Opening Day Jersey (Fitting considering Adam hit his 300th Career Home Run)--it sold for I believe--$1100. Also included were Nick Johnson and Scott Olsen Baseballs and a Willie Harris signed bat. All proceeds going directly to Dream Foundation Projects.
Did you know that Stephen Strasburg was watching today's game in person from The Miller Lite BeerPen at The Scoreboard Walk? Well, at least someone wearing his "Nationals" Tee-Shirt. Not yet in Japan apparently--Baseball's Number One Pick is probably just waiting to see if Our Washington Nationals and his Agent--Scott Boras--come to some sort of reasonable deal. Personally, we can't imagine him NOT signing on the dotted line. We feel, this contract will get done.
And finally, The African Queen wore her special July 4th Dress to today's game. Designed by her Mom and first seen at RFK Stadium in 2007, she's received quite the compliments from many at both RFK Stadium and Nationals Park over the past few years--today being no exception. Uncle Sam stopped to say hello. As well as Lee & his son--Nat. Our Usher in Section 218--Glenn--running over to our little portion of NatsTown to compliment Sohna on her dress. The nice words coming all afternoon.
Mike Rizzo's quote: "That's a beautiful patriotic dress!!"
And it is. Sohna very proud to wear it.
Today's InGame Photos--Nick Wass (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved