Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Real Baseball Was The News
On the very night The 44th President Of The United States conducted a live evening Press Conference from The White House in NW Washington DC, the freshest news of the night might well have come from SE--at Nationals Park--involving Our Washington Nationals. For two consecutive evenings on South Capitol Street, Our Washington Nationals put together near perfect--mirror image games. Quality starts from their hurlers, good defensive work--all standing behind excellent pitching for a DC Team scoring just enough runs to win.
Newsworthy--considering the poor first half start for DC's Team and the zero for five continuation which began under Interim Manager Jim Riggleman.
Having just finished Nats Xtra on MASN, Ray Knight is leaving the Nationals Park Broadcast Booth in Center Field Plaza. Running into The African Queen and I--and into the spirit of the evening we ask the proper question: "Ray, what do you call that which we have witnessed these past two nights?"
"I call that real baseball baby!!, replied Knight. "Real baseball, it's about time!!"--Ray Knight smiling broadly, almost giddy.
A perfect summation. A headlining quote. Real Baseball Was The News.
Following in the footsteps of John Lannan yesterday, "Mr. Cutie"--as Section 218 Compatriot Laurie calls Craig Stammen--threw hitless baseball into the 5th inning against The New York Mets tonight. And incredibly into the 6th frame--Our Number 35 had only tossed a total of 60 pitches in what was at this point a shutout effort. At least until The Mets light hitting Angel Pagan slapped a two out slicer over the drawn in Nyjer Morgan in centerfield which resulted in a triple and basically an Inside-The-Park Home Run--on a error--when "The Guz", inexplicably, threw a relay toss well past Ryan Zimmerman at third base and into The Mets Dugout to tie this game up at one apiece.
Most 25-Year Olds in their rookie season on the mound, might have wilted under such unexpected bad luck. Maybe even have ducked the assembled media in the post game by heading to the training room--off limits to scribes. But even after Stammen allowed Fernando Tatis to double down the left field line. And even after Daniel Murphy followed with a two out walk. Craig survived and pushed forward this evening--becoming a major part of the story--when he received some good luck of his own-as the always dangerous David Wright sliced one wicked sinking liner to right--that Josh Willingham made an excellent running in, backhand stab, to retire The Mets and save Craig Stammen from any further damage.
Not wanting to be left out of the storyline, Willingham would play his finest game in a Nationals Jersey--going four for four at the plate and personally knocking in two runs with his 13th Homer of 2009--which incidently was his first non-solo home run of his entire season (an amazingly odd statistic). Ronnie Belliard would punch home Washington's first run of the evening by doing what he does best at the plate--first ball, fast ball hitting with runners in scoring position.
And Craig Stammen would punctuate this chronicle by lasting into the 8th frame, where upon finally drama unfolded into effectiveness--as Interim Manager Jim Riggleman managed the final two innings like a playoff game. Jason Bergmann and Joe Beimel called on to retire New York in the 8th. And Mike MacDougal to close out The Mets in the 9th.
A report now written that states, when you are going good--things always fall your way. And tonight at Nationals Park, except for that one defensive mistake in the 6th, Our Washington Nationals played some real fine baseball. Textbook Baseball, in fact. The kind that might have looked like fantasy before The All-Star Break, now flashing the signs of fiction left behind. Washington made the routine plays and even the difficult ones tonight. And when their opportunity knocked to score--Washington plated the three runs they most needed to distance themselves from The New York Mets.
Truly, this was another well played affair for the second consecutive night in Washington, DC. Narrative for those "Getting Their Red On!!" Faithful in the 23,583 on hand standing at the end--appreciating the REAL BASEBALL witnessed over the past 48 Hours in Our Nation's Capital.
Final Score from Nationals Park where a renewed work ethic has been witnessed these past few days--Our Washington Nationals 3 and The New York Mets 1. Curly "W" Number 28 of 2009 anecdotal because not long after this affair ended, The African Queen and I run into former National and now Met--Tim Redding--leaving the ballpark. When we ask him how he's doing--Our Former Number 17 responds: "We are losing, it's not a lot of fun!!" (and not too friendly was he either) Sohna looks at me and says: "What would he have said if he still played for us?"
Good Question, because the feature of The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! this evening signaled a rejuvenated Washington Club--taking advantage of a depleted Mets Lineup without All-Stars Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado (all injured)--while not letting DC's past history with The Mets in The Nation's Capital affect a rare series win. This only the 3rd Home Series Victory EVER against The New Yorkers since baseball returned to Washington in 2005. The Chronicle of any victory against The Mets, under any circumstances, Sohna and I will rejoice about--at any time.
In The News Tonight, Real Baseball was played again on the diamond by Our Washington Nationals. Combined with Tuesday Night's complete game shutout by John Lannan this new work ethic resembling a new feature distancing themselves from lost fable. Yeah, it's been tough at times to watch DC Baseball this season, but over this just completed series win--Our Washington Nationals can only be described as a completely different baseball club.
Game Notes & Highlights
Craig Stammen keeps the ball down. From his appearance yesterday at The ESPN Zone, he certainly has confidence. What he needs is experience. Not sure if Our Number 35 is yet a keeper, but you have to like what he brings to the mound. Stammen keeps the ball down. He throws a lot of strikes and he's very competitive. Traits of a young man not afraid to challenge and succeed. We like that. 7.1 innings tonight, just four hits allowed, two walks and that one earned run. Craig Stammen's third victory in eight decisions lowered his ERA to 4.14.
And Our Number 35 should thank his third career victory to Jason Bergmann and Joe Beimel who both came on to retire Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy, respectively, to end New York's only real threat with two runners on base in the 8th with the game on the line. Mike MacDougal closed this one with his 6th save as a National in as many attempts in the 9th.
The Mets Starting Pitcher, Mike Pelfrey, kept on throwing first pitch strike after first pitch strike. And when Washington found Nick Johnson on 3rd and Josh Willingham on 2nd after a walk and double in the bottom of the 4th inning--"The Ballplayer" followed with a first pitch, fastball slicing liner to right. Ronnie Belliard getting his team on the board first with that RBI Single.
Josh Willingham slammed out his two run and eventual game deciding home run in the bottom of the 6th when--after Jeff Francouer in right field lost an Adam Dunn routine liner directly at him in the lights of Nationals Park. Our Number 16 then followed with a tremendous blast off Pelfrey into the first row of bleachers seats above The Visiting Bullpen. Willingham should have most likely driven in a third score this evening during the bottom of the 8th--when he drilled another double to the left-centefield wall. And even with the slow moving Nick Johnson giving his all running from 1st and rounding 3rd, 3rd Base Coach Pat Listach inexplicably halted NJ at third with the relay throw still not in Geronomo Berroa's glove. There were two outs, time to challenge The Mets fielders--Listach should have sent Our Number 24 home. Besides, who didn't want to witness Nick Johnson sliding into home? He may be the worst sliding player in the game. But Johnson would have tumbled, dove and probably hand slapped the plate--and made it one of the most memorable moments of this game. Too bad--no one got to witness it.
Josh Willingham, by the way, falling a triple short of hitting for the cycle tonight.
In the top of the very first inning--The Mets Corey Sullivan scorched a liner into deep right centerfield. Earlier this season, that form of frozen rope would have been a problem for Washington's Defense. Not any longer with Nyjer Morgan patrolling the vast reaches of Nationals Park. Our Number 1 EASILY chased down that fly while gently jumping into the padded wall. Another standing ovation for a fine play, but Ryan Zimmerman would exceed Morgan's defensive excellency tonight.
David Wright was on 1st Base in the top of the 5th when New York's Jeff Francouer ripped a grounder to The Z-Man diving to his left at third base. Not only did Our Number 11 backhand snare the hot shot--but he had the presence to right himself, twirling from left to right--his back to second base--and then UNDERARM/SIDEARM sling the baseball--while falling away from the toss--to Ronnie Belliard at second base for the force out on Wright. The Defensive Play Of This Game. Catlike Reflexes, Amazing Instincts, again shown by the finest fielding 3rd Baseman in the game--IN THE GAME!!
Second Base Umpire Hunter Wendlestedt tossed Mets 2nd Baseman Luis Castillo from the game after Castillo had to say something really vulgar to be ejected so quickly after Luis fumbled and juggled a throw to him attempting to get Nick Johnson at 2nd base in the bottom of the 2nd inning. It didn't take Wendlestedt 10 seconds to give Castillo the thumb. A quick toss that makes you wonder whether they have a previous history of contention.
Very saddened to learn that Jordan Zimmermann was placed on The Disabled List immediately following this game. Elbow soreness the official diagnosis and the second time this season J-Zimm has been shutdown for a similar instance. Worrisome, the best description. Collin Balester recalled to make his start tomorrow night against The St.Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park.
Abe teased Teddy during The 4th Inning Presidents Race by letting Our Lovable Loser believe he was going to Let Teddy Win!! Instead, while President Number 26 wobbled toward the finish line--President Number 16 danced backwards--and eventually crossed over to win his 22nd race this season.
Finally, The African Queen and I had quite the post-game experience. Heading downstairs from The Stars & Stripes Club to meet with a colleague over some business--we run into The New York Mets GM Omar Minaya in the elevator. And proceed to have this wonderful five minute conversation comparing New York's Injury Plagued Season to Washington's in 2008. Then, Omar tells us he likes Citi Field in Queens and we need to come visit. "But it's very expensive." he states. Then goes on with: "I really like Nationals Park, there is real nice feel here. Just a great place to watch any game." And he meant it--no BS. Omar Minaya was very engaging. He wanted to chat with us as much as we enjoyed meeting him.
Then of course--we run into Tim Redding (mentioned earlier)--followed by an hilarious run in with someone else unexpectedly. Our colleague we needed to speak with was finishing off another conversation. Not paying much attention to those surrounding us--this one guy in a very sharp Leather & Metal Insignia Cap looks at The African Queen and states: "HEY!! Are you going to say hello or what?" To our total surprise Jesus Flores is standing directly in front of us. Yes that's right, Our Starting Catcher, now rehabbing on The Disabled List. Flores looked in great shape (he really did), trimmer and more powerful. Jesus telling us he will have an MRI sometime over the next three weeks, but he's only coming back if he's 100% ready to give his body the workout in 2009. He's not in baseball shape, and it's killing him to not be playing. But what a pleasant surprise to see him. Most impressive of all--Our Number 3 has worked hard on English as his second language. Good for him for making the effort to learn. And even better knowing--Jesus Flores was very excited to see Sohna and give her a couple of huge hugs. Now--that is a good post-game. Sohna telling Jesus we miss him in our lineup.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Nick Wass (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved