Sunday, July 05, 2009
When Our Manager Manny Acta slowly walked to the mound in the TOP OF THE 8TH INNING, not many in the announced crowd of 22,677 believed that Scott Olsen would remain in this game. For over seven innings, Our Number 19 had shut down a professional hitting lineup representing The Atlanta Braves. Our Washington Nationals were up 4-1 and thanks to timely hitting, excellent defensive work and ONE EXTREMELY QUALITY START--you had to figure Olsen would soon depart.
The Braves had runners on 1st and 2nd--both via walks. A veteran and experienced batter in Garret Anderson was stepping to the plate for Atlanta. Most everyone watching was already on their feet--clapping. Scott Olsen had pitched a powerful ball game. Not one person expected Our Number 14 to keep Today's Starting Pitcher in the game. Not even The Tomahawk Choppers wishing for a Brav-OS comeback.
But over this Holiday Weekend Series, Our Washington Nationals have shown a different side. Newly acquired centerfielder Nyjer Morgan has chased down every single ball hit his way--showing a depth of field not seen in The Nation's Capital in some time--consistently. Our lineup has transformed--speed at the top--power in the middle--experience at the bottom.
And now Manny Acta was taking this NEW LOOK even farther.
Dignity Was Being Earned With Starting Pitching.
After having witnessed late leads blown by his bullpen all season. Having seen Our Starters personal wins lost, due to poor relief work. And wanting see if Our Youngster's--in this case Olsen--can reap what they had sewn--Our Manager, the very man that calls ALL THE SHOTS on the field of play--left Scott Olsen in the game this day.
There may not have been a more heartwarming cheer all season long at Nationals Park.
Our Fans wanted to see Our Number 19 finish. They wished to witness youthful exuberance become--experience learned for later.
Washington's Backers wanted to see progress.
This very moment--which received A DESERVED STANDING OVATION--one of the most important developments this very frustrating season. In a short time now passed, Our Washington Nationals have become a different team. Confidence earned, given by management, willing to chance failure to succeed. Scott Olsen DID NOT FAIL THIS SUNDAY.
Nor did Our Washington Nationals.
Rocking the boat, swapping one prospect or veteran for another, willing to look at ALL-COMERS in an attempt to right a listing ship--Interim GM Mike Rizzo seems to have finally brought calm to an horizon that once only featured a bleak outlook. 32 Games Under .500 did not matter today. Nor did being a last place team.
Thankfully, Scott Olsen--warmed at being given confidence by his Manager to finish what he started--struck out Garret Anderson on four excellent pitches. And Nationals Park ERUPTED in cheer because Manny Acta may not have made a more bold or important NON-MOVE all season. Acta had banked on his starter. He believed Our Number 19 could get the job done. Manny wanted to affirm all that everyone wanted to see. Could Scott Olsen be trusted when in trouble?
Let Our Starter go the distance.
This is exactly how you frame a team, finding the cohesive parts, while building for the success in the near future. Our Washington Nationals of April, May & June are no longer. The July Version worth watching. This team as it now stands is far different than the one that began the 2009 campaign.
No Scott Olsen didn't make it to the 27th Out recorded by The Atlanta Braves this afternoon--only to the 26th. No, Mike MacDougal did not close this game out sharply. In fact, Our Number 54 looked more and more like "The Chief Cardiologist" that wore Washington Jersey Number 32 from 2005 through 2008. In fact, MacDougal was nothing short of frightening. But despite Nate McLouth slamming out a two out, two run homer off Our Number 19 in the bottom of the 9th. Despite MacDougal then coming on and allowing a single to the ever hot Martin Prado and walk to the always dangerous Chipper Jones--sending the home crowd into disbelief--DC's Team prevailed because Mike found his inner self to not panic--just like Scott Olsen in the 8th Frame. Settling the faithful, when Brian McCann grounded out meekly to Nick Johnson at first base to end this thriller.
This Win that simply could not become a loss. When you perform so outstandingly for eight plus frames, a defeat can not become fact. And it didn't this Sunday Afternoon on South Capitol Street. Progress was made.
Our Washington Nationals displayed a different side this July 5th. The usually impressive Derek Lowe didn't intimidate Our Hitters from the mound for Atlanta. The common experience in 2009 of leaving our runners in scoring position--did not take place. Clutch Hitting was officially recorded in the books. How Novel!! Trouble, that any drive to the outfield by The Braves would result in a misplay by Our Defensive Lineup--was disavowed.
A transformed DC Team played Professional Major League Baseball this beautiful afternoon at Nationals Park. Good Pitching wasn't wasted. Clutch Hitting was not lost. Fine defensive plays were not efforted for naught. Much more coming in the Game Notes & Highlights, but Our Washington Nationals performed like a team today. Not perfect, but good enough to defeat an Atlanta Braves Team moving ever so closer to The National League East Lead.
Final Score from Nationals Park where allowing each and every one of our players to find their own confidence to succeed--far outweighed the winning outcome--Our Washington Nationals 5 and The Atlanta Braves 3 in nine definitive innings. Curly "W" Number 24, and second in a row, highlighted an ever changing team that is finally finding itself--one week before The Mid-Summer Classic All-Star Break. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! (as presumptuous as they were when they fired off while Chipper Jones had fouled off strike three in the bottom of the 9th before actually walking) signaled 2009 is not yet over. No, not just yet. DC's Team has value. Talent on the field that is far better than performed so far.
What will now become of it?
No question, Our Washington Nationals will be fortunate to lift themselves from last place. But they have given the warning--we will not be put down much longer. A young and talented starting staff can possibly carry our team. An ever improving defensive lineup can catch many of the hits stroked their way. And Our Batting Order is getting more impressive by the day. If Nyjer Morgan doesn't look and appear like Juan Pierre in his prime--then you are missing something special here. Our Newly Acquired Number 1 was also a difference maker today. Morgan has transformed our batting order--giving pause to opposing pitchers. Fueling concern that Washington is now a threat--on the basepaths.
Yeah, this was a good series win at Nationals Park against The Atlanta Braves. DC's Team earned some respect, not only for today, but for the future--which is exactly what Our Washington Nationals are all about in 2009. And you can bet The Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros will not be taking Our Team lightly this coming week. Regard, garnered this July 4th Weekend.
Dignity Earned For Not Giving Up.
Game Notes & Highlights
Scott Olsen did it all today. 8 Plus Strong innings effectively pitched. He even stroked two hits at the plate and recorded a nice sacrifice while knocking in Washington's third run of the game on a weak fly to short left scoring Ronnie Belliard in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Our Number 19 was throwing a plus fastball now in low 90's. His changeup a good 8 to 10 MPH slower in speed. Having Atlanta's hitters off balance, this was the Scott Olsen not seen by Washington Fans in April & May on 2009. This was a young southpaw witnessed by The Florida Marlins from 2006 through 2007 having success. When a pitcher ends this very good outing still maintaining a 6.04 ERA, you can understand how far Our Number 19 has come in his first two starts back from the DL. Olsen was terrible during those first two months of the season. And just when you figured Our Washington Nationals may not consider him in their long range plans--Scott has turned heads and may well have a future in Washington, DC. One out away from a complete game, Scott Olsen allowed a two run homer off the bat of The Braves' Nate McLouth--which sullied--but did not ruin his progress made.
As for Mike MacDougal, he can throw as hard as anyone in the game. But if Our New Closer wants to continue in that role--he better find his control. There was NO WAY Our Washington Nationals could lose this game this afternoon at Nationals Park. After all the heartbreaking defeats this season--this one--if lost--would have been the harshest of them all. Washington had controlled the game from the very start. The Braves had been mostly silenced. Simply, we could not lose today. Thankfully, MacDougal found just enough to quell Atlanta's Final Rally.
Sending The Home Crowd Home Happy--and Content.
This was not the Derek Lowe everyone has come to expect. The Atlanta Sinkerball Specialist was off today. 10 Hits, One Walk allowed--Lowe only struck out one. Invited to sit with Our Friend Pat in his Presidents Club Seats this Sunday--Pat (a true follower of the game) was stunned by Derek's outing. "He has no command," he stated. "I have never seen him this lost." Derek Lowe left after 5.1 struggling innings--allowing four Washington runs.
Today showed how a revamped lineup can be dangerous for Washington. From the top of the order, Nyjer Morgan was a catalyst. He singled twice, doubled and plated himself on a manufactured run. Leading off the bottom of the 1st inning, Our Number 1 singled to left, stole his 20th base and 2nd as National this season, then scored Washington's 1st Run on a routine single to right by Ryan Zimmerman. Come on--that is a scenario not seen often involving DC's Team. Morgan is a pest and if he continually gets on base regularly --Nyjer will be worth this lastest trade--as his defensive prowess is beyond reproach (more in a moment on those efforts).
Two hits, three runs scored and one RBI from Ronnie Belliard batting 8th today. "The Ballplayer" as he is well known here on Nats320 showed all of his worth when while stroking a double to the right centerfield wall off Atlanta's Derek Lowe in the bottom of the 2nd scoring Cristian Guzman from first base--Our Number 10 watched the play develop in front of him and when The Braves' second baseman Martin Prado took the relay from his teammate McLouth, Ronnie hustled all the way to 3rd Base on the throw home--setting Olsen's RBI single during the very next At-Bat. It's worth noting--experience won out on that play. Belliard understood what was going on.
Olsen with that RBI single to follow Ronnie along with another hit and sacrifice bunt. "The Guz" (now looking for your vote to be a 2009 All-Star) with two more hits, one score. Our Number 15 settling in well batting in the 6th spot--perfect for a guy that doesn't walk much--but free swings as well as anyone in the game. Nick Johnson and Mr. Officially Named To His First All-Star Game, Ryan Zimmerman, both getting RBI Singles. 14 hits today and every single batter in Our Starting Nine receiving at least one.
Now how about that Nyjer Morgan? In the top of the 6th inning, Chipper Jones drilled a Scott Olsen changeup to dead centerfield--well over Our Number 1's head. Nyjer sprinted back, turned his back to the ball once and easily still settled under the baseball for the out. As nice as that defensive effort was, it did not compete with The Defensive Play Of This Game. Atlanta's Martin Prado slapped a hard hit liner to left centerfield. With all his might--Nyjer Morgan scampered to his left--and dove for the fast sinking baseball. Missing by a few inches--he did not give up on the play. Prado (4 for 4 today at the plate) hustled around first base looking for a double. Not the strongest of arms--Our Number 1 retrieved the baseball and threw a one hopper to Ronnie Belliard standing on 2nd base--deeking as if the throw would be late. Upon taking in Nyjer's throw, Our Number 10 slapped down the tag on a surprised Prado. 2nd Base Umpire Mike Winters with the emphatic out call!!--followed immediately by A Standing Ovation--Appreciation by Our Fans For Hustle. Morgan and Belliard didn't give up on the play.
In a race to the finish--George ran hard all the way to beat his Rushmore Compatriots going away in the middle of the 4th inning Presidents Race.
Today was day in which The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation teamed with The Jonas Brothers to raise funds for the Pediatric Diabetes Clinic to be built at The Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Fans could bid on four tickets to The Jonas Brothers July 13th Concert at Verizon Center--which included a special "Meet & Greet" with The Jonas Brothers backstage. Fans were encouraged to donate $5 to Nats @ 90999 for the cause. A number in which is still valid and can be used this very moment for your gift. And diabetic Nick Jonas was featured throughout the game telling his story and asking for support.
Finally--chatting with Die Hard Fans Melissa and Matt over the past few days--we've planned something special for later this week while Our Washington Nationals are out of town--that if turns out as good as planned--will be a great post here on Nats320. So, stayed tuned.
PS--Pat pointed out today that at one point in 2009 Our Washington Nationals were more games behind in the NL East Standings than actual games won. But thankfully--due to a transformed lineup--Washington has now exceeded that embarrassing result. 24 Wins, 18 Games back of the lead as of tonight.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Luis M. Alvarez (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved