Friday, July 03, 2009
Those left among the 33,982 at Nationals Park were mostly all on their feet, now cheering. Tonight's Highwire Act was coming down to the very last batter of the evening--Josh Bard. No less could be expected. For nearly nine full innings, Our Washington Nationals and The Atlanta Braves had contested one of those He Who Bats Last--Should Win Games. Five lead changes had taken place already. A sixth was hanging in the balance.
"The Guz" had just plated two runs with a scorching double down the rightfield line scoring both Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman. There were two outs and Washington now trailed by only one. All evening, poor pitching had sustained rallies for both sides. Ross Detwiler, Jesus Colome, Ron Villone and Julian Tavarez all ineffective for Washington. Kenshin Kawakami, Peter Moylan and now Rafael Soriano failing for Atlanta.
The stage was again set for a comeback.
The hard throwing Soriano was having trouble locating his pitches this final frame. Johnson and Zimmerman had walked to lead off the bottom of the 9th. And although both Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham followed them and failed--recording outs--Cristian Guzman had again ignited the crowd wanting to see a Washington win. This very large and loud faithful following was now on their feet roaring. As most anyone knows that has followed DC Baseball in '09, plate discipline has plagued Washington's Team in the clutch all season. Knocking runners in from scoring position a problem yet to be consistently solved. That issue again looming large tonight.
While Our Number 15 had extended this final rally, this revival had not yet been completed. We needed at least one more score to tie. As Atlanta Catcher Brian McCann stepped to the mound to calm down his anxious closer, Josh Bard stepped to the plate for Washington hoping to close this one run deficit. And Our Fans stepped up their noise as well. Nationals Park was getting loud. This was the moment everyone was waiting for. The time for a hitter to be patient. The opportunity to be clutch with the game on the line.
And what did Our Number 7 do--he swung at the very first offering thrown by Rafael Soriano. A 94 MPH fastball in on Bard's fists--which Josh meekly grounded to Atlanta 1st Baseman Casey Kotchman to end this game. Just like that, Our Washington Nationals had lost yet again. Near silence from the home crowd.
"Josh Bard should have seen at least three pitches in that At-Bat!!," stated Hall Of Fame Pitcher Don Sutton to The African Queen and I after the game. "Rafael Soriano couldn't find the plate!! Bard had no reason to swing at that first pitch."
The Highwire Act had played out and Washington had tripped up again. He who had batted last--had not won. What was Bard thinking? Instead of waiting for something better to get his bat around on, Josh had shown no plate discipline whatsover.
"Rafael Soriano is standing out on the mound saying--'Thank You Very Much!'", concluded Don. The now Atlanta Braves Broadcaster knowing Our Washington Nationals had given away another ball game too soon.
Final Score from Nationals Park where a July 4th Weekend Friday Night Crowd was very festive--The Atlanta Braves 9 and Our Washington Nationals 8 in nine frustrating innings. Defeat Number 55 in 77 games played this season will be recalled for bad starting pitching, worse relief work but defined for Washington still having the chance to win or tie this affair--down to their last At-Bat--but failing again by their hitters not having a plan at the plate.
Sure--Ross Detwiler got lit up and Jesus Colome gave up a game breaking three run homer to Atlanta Pinch Hitter Brooks Conrad after walking a second batter with two outs in the top of the 7th. But tonight proved the difference between two teams in the standings. When Washington's Hurlers were struggling, The Braves' Batters WAITED & WAITED for something to drive. When Atlanta's Pitchers were struggling--DC's Hitters were mostly just swinging away.
The had no plate discipline.
Game Notes & Highlights
Ross Detwiler started for Washington and couldn't keep his fastball down if his life depended on it this evening--barely lasting into the 4th frame allowing five runs--four earned. He looked lost while allowing 10 hits and 2 walks. At times, it really looked like he was throwing Batting Practice to The Atlanta Braves.
Bling!! Bling!! certainly wasn't much better, giving up the crucial three run homer to Atlanta's Brooks Conrad on a 97 MPH Heater in the top of the 7th. Jesus Colome walking the leadoff hitter, Yunel Escobar, and then allowing a two out walk to Casey Kotchman before Pinch Hitter Conrad belted his first Major League Home Run into Washington's Bullpen in rightfield for an 8-5 Braves lead. And Ron Villone and Julian Tavarez combining to give up one run to The Braves in the top of the 8th--when "Mr. Enthusiasm" walked in Atlanta's 9th and final run of the game--which turned out to be the game winner.
The Braves starter--Kenshin Kawakami--was equally as bad as Detwiler--throwing his pitches in the dirt, sometimes around the back of our hitters. And when Kawakami did find the plate--DC's hitters unloaded on him for five runs. Adam Dunn absolutely crushing a Kenshin pitch in the bottom of the 3rd into the upper deck of seats in rightfield, just below the Scoreboard Walk. A Towering Home Run even more impressive when you watched the replay and witnessed that Dunn didn't even complete his swing. After connecting his bat to ball--Adam STOPS his follow through while watching the trajectory of the baseball. His 21st Home Run and 299th of his career was very impressive.
"The Guz" with two hits and three rbi tonight. Ross Detwiler with his first Major League Hit, an RBI single off the glove of Atlanta Second Baseman Martin Prado scoring Willie Harris in the second. Nick Johnson following with an rbi single of his own scoring Detwiler.
Nyjer Morgan played his first game for Our Washington Nationals tonight. And showed the difference maker he can be in the very first inning. Chipper Jones ripped a liner to right centerfield. Nyjer got a quick jump on the stroked baseball and easily tracked the baseball down for the final out of the inning. Then, after working a leadoff walk from Kawakami, Morgan proceeded to steal his 19th base of the season and 1st as a National--setting up his first run scored as a Washington player, when Josh Willingham singled him home.
Having a speedster on the bases helps Our Washington Nationals. Nyjer Morgan changes the dynamic of the game. You can bet, if he is on first base--an opposing pitcher is going to be worrying about him. In the past, Washington has always been a station-to-station team, nobody steals, which means any pitcher can basically throw what he wants to each and every one of our hitters. Now--with Nyjer on first, that all changes. DC's hitters are going to see more fastballs, because of the worry that Nyjer Morgan is going to steal. It's a big difference in Our Lineup.
In fact, tonight's lineup put forth by Our Manager Manny Acta was pretty interesting too. Morgan at the top, Guzman batting 6th, Harris 8th (and playing 2nd base). Three guys that get on base reguarly that can re-invigorate the lineup before it even turns over one time. With Johnson, Zimmerman, Dunn & Willingham batting 2-3-4-5, this might have been Manny's most inspiring lineup card all season. Whenever Jesus Flores returns, then this lineup is even more impressive--clout with speed.
Chipper Jones dove on a drive to his left making a terrific stop on a smash by Josh Willingham in the bottom of the 7th that resulted in a force out of Adam Dunn at second base. A fine defensive play which probably saved Atlanta from a hugh Washington Rally as there were no outs at that time and Ryan Zimmerman was standing on 2nd base. But The Defensive Play of this game came in the top of the 9th when Atlanta's Martin Prado DRILLED a Joe Beimel pitch into the gap in left centerfield. Playing slightly shaded to right, Morgan took off to his left and EASILY caught up to the baseball for the 2nd out of the inning. Effort that did not go unnoticed by most everyone still watching. That type of speed, agility and defensive prowess has only been seen in Washington in 2009 from Justin Maxwell (in the minors now) or Roger Bernadina (broken ankle). It was a really fine play and telling of possible expectations to come with Nyjer Morgan in the outfield.
Based on pre-sales, Club Officials were only expecting a crowd tonight in the 20,000 to 25,000 range. But with great weather, arguably the most comfortable and cool summer night you might ever spend at a ballpark, the walk up ticket sales may have been the best all season and possibly in Nationals Park's short history. 33,982 was nothing to be ashamed of. From our seats in Section 218 Sohna and I could see fans still streaming into the park during the 3rd inning. The Entire Terrace Level looked packed.
Michael Jackson music was played throughout the night in remembrance of the late King Of Pop. And during the 4th Inning Presidents Race Teddy, Abe & George stopped to dance to his beat. Tom winning going away then receiving a standing ovation from the crowd for "MOONWALKING" in tribute to Michael. It was well done and appreciated by many watching.
July 4th is the 70th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig's Famous Farewell Speech at Yankee Stadium. This Saturday, that speech will be re-read before the holiday game at Nationals Park by former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen. The ALS Society is on hand all weekend on South Capitol Street bringing awareness to a disease that has no cure. Also, Becky's Fund in support of those victims of domestic violence was also on hand handing out literature and getting the word out on their cause.
This was a Bang!! Zoom!! Fireworks Friday at Nationals Park.
And finally--President Barack Obama has yet to make an appearance at Nationals Park, but POTUS 44 was in attendance last night. Sitting in Section 129 behind Our Washington Nationals Dugout--POTUS (President Of The United States) 44 (The Number that Mr. Obama represents as President in Our Country's History) cracked us up with a terrific jersey. This guy was very popular last night.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Nick Wass (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved