Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The standing and clapping by the fans in stands had been going on for some time--in fact--most of the 9th inning. The New York Mets were down to their last out tonight. From the 7:05PM First Pitch at Nationals Park to the very last one to come this evening at what was now 9:14PM--one person stood out above all others. John Lannan was pitching one of the finest games of his young Major League Career. And the home faithful were soaking it in.
They were watching an Ace.
Never in trouble tonight, given a safe lead of four runs--Our Number 31 protected it and was cruising through a depleted Mets Lineup. Not even a silly miss-catch of a routine foul fly down the right field line by Alberto Gonzalez just moments earlier in this top of the 9th--which should have been the final out--was going to spoil Lannan's evening.
What was left of 23,414 wanted not only victory, they wanted to see a shutout. They also wanted to see a complete game. A rarity since Baseball Returned To The Nation's Capital for Our Washington Nationals since 2005. The last one coming in 2006--thrown by Pedro Astacio on August 15th that season at RFK Stadium against The Atlanta Braves.
Our Fans wanted to see this now. History being put in the books. A complete game shutout. Anything less would have been mighty disappointing at this point.
When you have witnessed so many games, so many losses--the bad plays, the poor situational & clutch hitting, the less than stellar bullpen work--The Firing Of Our Manager--an unexpected developing storyline like this one needs to be cherished. Savored, remembered for all that has come before in this very long season.
For nine innings tonight-Our Long Island Native was in cruise control. Keeping his pitches down, letting The New York Batters swing away-allowing the defense set up behind him to simply do their job. John Lannan was never in trouble. Only two Mets reached base on him after the 4th inning. Only one New Yorker reached 2nd Base all night. And as this game moved deeper and deeper into that rather short night of work--John Lannan looked stronger and stronger.
Not once did Pitching Coach Steve McCatty emerge from Washington's Dugout to make a mound visit, neither did Interim Manager Jim Riggleman. And when Our Washington Nationals pushed across their first two runs against New York's Oliver Perez in the bottom of the 4th, they did so by showing patience at the plate. The same discipline on display all evening on the mound by John Lannan--while taking advantage of a little luck when one baseball's surest outfielders simply muffed a catch.
An Adam Dunn seeing eye single through The Mets overshift to right was sandwiched between a leadoff walk by Ryan Zimmerman and second free pass given to Austin Kearns. The precursor to the game changing moment, when Alberto Gonzalez slammed a liner right into Francouer's glove in right field--only to witness Jeff's sure hands fail him. The baseball skimming off his glove, allowing Zimmerman to score before Kearns was cutdown at 2nd--after returning to 1st base believing The Mets' Rightfielder would rightly catch that ball. Luck had turned to advantage and Wil Nieves doubled the pleasure by following with a clean single to right scoring Dunn with Washington's 2nd Run.
The only cushion John Lannan really needed this evening at Nationals Park. Sure, Washington would score two more additional runs in the bottom of the 5th--again taking advantage of The Mets Starter Oliver Perez's generosity--when Nyjer Morgan was hit by pitch and Zimmerman walked a second time. More free passes which directly led to two more runs--the final scores plated all evening--DC's Team up 4-0.
Which bring us now back full circle to 9:14PM, Tuesday night on South Capitol Street. Given a reprieve by Gonzalez's being unable to record the final out--Our Number 31 looked unfazed. Still focusing, still bearing down on New York's Fernando Tatis, time was the only factor left before that all important Curly "W" would be put in the books. After watching Chicago Cub Fans this past weekend and New York Met Fans last night cheer, stomp and rejoice at Our Washington Nationals being routinely beaten, what a pleasure to watch a great majority still remaining in the ballpark this evening--cheering on Our Washington Nationals.
No, "Let's Go Mets!!" was not in the vocabulary tonight. "Let's Go Nats!!" ruled this day.
The Rhythmic clapping continued as John Lannan looked in for the sign. Tatis was down to his last strike. The New York Mets were down to their last out. With the crowd sensing the inevitable, Our Number 31 threw his 106th and last pitch of this game--a fastball over the outside corner of the plate that The Mets' Leftfielder meekly tapped to Alberto Gonzalez at second base. Fittingly, before Our Number 12 even fielded the baseball--the home side fanatics ROARED WITH DELIGHT!! And John Lannan pumped his right fist in appreciation. Our players prepared to run onto the field. A celebration was about to begin.
And the very moment Nick Johnson caught Alberto's toss to end this game--The Bang!! Zoom Of The Fireworks!! immediately heard help relieve so much pain over the past weeks of play involving Our Washington Nationals. John Lannan had once again proven to be a stopper--the ender of the latest six game losing streak. The first victory of the "Riggleman Era". As Our Number 31 stood around the mound accepting the congratulations of his teammates--no one still on hand could not have understood--Lannan has become an ACE. A special keeper in the rotation for Our Washington Nationals Future.
Final Score from Nationals Park where a young southpaw again proved he knows how to pitch to Big League Hitters, Our Washington Nationals 4 and The New York Mets ZERO in nine wonderfully played innings. DC's Team only scratched out four hits off New York's Pitchers, but they took advantage of four Oliver Perez walks and one Hit-By-Pitch to put this game away.
And Curly "W" Number 27 warmed the hearts of the faithful that still show up on South Capitol Street every single night. If you had walked into Nationals Park for the very first time this evening and had NO CLUE the Won/Loss Records of the two teams on the field--you would have never realized Washington came into this game 40 Games below .500. Smiling faces, handshakes and pats on the back all around among fans leaving the ballpark after it's completion.
A rewarding feeling taken home by everyone rooting for Washington thanks to Our Newly Named "ACE". If people had never heard of John Lannan before this evening-Our Number 31 now finds himself more of a household name. Just a terrifically pitched ball game.
Game Notes & Highlights
What more can be said about John Lannan this evening. He was simply terrific, evening his personal record at 7-7 and lowering his ERA to a very healthy 3.38. Tonight was John's first career shutout.
Adam Dunn with two hits, one RBI and one run scored. Nyjer Morgan with no hits, but one walk, one stolen base (in two tries--he also got picked off) and one run scored. Ryan Zimmerman showing some serious patience at the plate with two walks, one single and two runs scored. In fact, he was absolutely flying home from third in the bottom of the 5th when he scored Washington's final tally on a sacrifice fly sent to deep center by Josh Willingham.
Wil Nieves made a beautiful defensive play on an attempted bunt by Oliver Perez in the top of the 5th. When Perez nudged the baseball slightly down the 3rd base line and took off--Lannan and Zimmerman both converged on the slow roller. Nieves called them all off, picked up the baseball with his back to 1st base--wheeled around to his left--and threw a PERFECT STRIKE to Adam Dunn at first base to retire Perez.
Later in the top of the 6th, Mets 2nd Baseball Luis Castillo bounced a hard seeing eye grounder JUST past Zimmerman's left at 3rd base. But "The Guz" overplayed to his right at shortstop--leaned down--backhanded the ball and somehow got a perfect almost jump toss to Adam Dunn at 1st Base to retire the speedy Castillo. Cristian Guzman had made another fine defensive play, but neither Our Number 15 or 23's web gems compared to Nyjer Morgan's this evening.
David Wright absolutely DRILLED a Lannan fastball to the deepest reaches of Nationals Park, left centerfield, near The Red Porch and the "NatsTown" "Get Your Red On" signs on the green padded walls. With this young Mets Fan SCREAMING behind our heads in Section 218 that "It's a HOME RUNN!! It's Gone Baby!!!" Nyjer Morgan used all his speed, athletic and baseball skills to RUN DOWN THIS BALL--leaping onto the padding over the "ON" portion of the signage--his back to the wall--to haul in Wright's drive for the final out of the top of the 3rd. As Sohna and I joined the thousands giving Nyjer Morgan a standing ovation for The Defensive Play Of This Game, the screaming Mets Fan just sagged back down into his seat--never to heard from again this night. Another moment of joy bringing huge smiles to the faces of The African Queen and I.
Now, back to that Alberto Gonzalez non catch in the 9th. With two outs and the game all but over, Fernando Tatis pops a routine foul fly down the right field line. Austin Kearns, Nick Johnson and Gonzalez all converge. It's Alberto's play to make. Yet, after he calls for the ball--he Hot Dogged it and try to make the easy catch--fancy--and DROPPED THE BALL!!. If Tatis had followed with a run scoring hit--there might have been a near riot at Nationals Park. Fans were pissed. Our Number 12's play was just uncalled for. Just make the play, get the out, end the game!! Please don't make the game harder than what it already is.
Tonight was a Tee-Shirt Tuesday. And we liked the variation of this giveaway. Personal Uniform Jersey Tees of Adam Dunn. It's a good idea that should be continued. Names, Numbers and Uniform Logos are recognized Universally by sport and non-sport fans. Not everybody is going to catch the meaning of a simple white tee with Red Curly "W" on the front and wording written on the back. The Cinco De Mayo "Corre, Teddy, "Corre" tee from earlier this year was sharp, so was "Los Nacionales". But Sohna and I would enjoy seeing Zimmerman, Zimmeramann & Lannan giveaway shirts--the core players that every one knows is going be wearing Our Uniform not only for the rest of this season--but many more in the future. Most every other team in The Majors gives out uniform tees on special nights--Our Washington Nationals should continue this new tradition.
Arriving at the ballpark before 5:30PM, we headed over to The Red Porch for an early dinner--sitting ringside--watching The New York Mets take batting practice. The number of baseballs Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding threw into the stands for fans wearing both Washington & New York colors--quite funny. Livo and Tim remembering how well they were treated here by fans while playing for Washington. Mile High Nachos--the biggest load we've ever seen in our lives. To say the least--we didn't finish it off. The New Philadelphia Cheese Steak--large, but a little on the greasy side.
Tom came running out of the centerfield gate during the 4th Inning Presidents Race, but was eventually over taken by George who pulled away at the finish to record his 15th win of 2009. Teddy, did not finish, what a surprise.
Having been mostly removed earlier this homestand due to the rope attaching them to the pole ripping off--The Four White Pennants that fly above the HDTV Scoreboard--three of which represent The Washington Senators Two American League Championships and One World Series Victory--have returned to their rightful places-repaired and flying high again.
And finally--The 2009 Washington Nationals Yearbook has been released and is for sale ($10). And does include a section on Our Former Manager Manny Acta. No word yet on when Season Ticket Holders will receive their free copy--if it's included in your benefit package.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved
Now Some Bonus Coverage: Charlie Slowes & Dave Jageler dancing in their broadcast booth to Wil Nieves' Batting Music. A now Nationals Park Tradition. Shot from Our Powershot A95 Camera we take most all our pictures you see here on Nats320.