Thursday, July 16, 2009
Nyjer Morgan had been caught daydreaming. The Chicago Cubs Reliever, Carlos Marmol, had wheeled quickly and caught Our Number 1 far enough off first base to pick him off--killing a potential rally with Nick Johnson at the plate--with Our Washington Nationals down just two in the bottom of the 8th.
"It's almost like Washington is sleepwalking", said this one fan sitting two seats to our left. And you know what? That guy had nailed the exact feeling tonight at Nationals Park.
Coming on the heels of the firing of Manny Acta. Coming after a less than stellar six game road trip and completion of a suspended game. Coming on the very night Jim Riggleman managed his first game for Washington on an interim basis. And coming on the very night one of baseball's most popular teams--The Cubbies--came to South Capitol Street. The play on the field by Our Team this evening was almost dormant. Like as if a few more "Z's" were needed (and we are not talking about Ryan or Jordan here--although that could possibly help us) to take in all that has encompassed Our Washington Nationals over the past eight days.
No, it's not fun to be on a losing streak. It's not enjoyable to see Our Manager fired. It's not pleasant to be in last place.
But at some point, all of it just needs to take its toll. This evening certainly looked like everything had finally caught up with Our Washington Nationals. Hopefully, the breaking point to get back over the hump and start playing winning baseball again. Ryan Zimmerman is better than another poor throw executed on a routine grounder stroked by Koyie Hill in the top of the third that resulted in his 13th error and subsequent first unearned run of the night against Washington Starter John Lannan.
Our Team should be more consistent at getting runners home in scoring position such as when Alberto Gonzalez was left stranded on 3rd after a terrifically stroked shot down the right field line off Chicago's very tough Rich Harden in the bottom of that 3rd with one out.
Washington should have better protected another fine effort on the mound by young starter John Lannan--who pitched well tonight--but was beaten thanks to the shock factor that seems to have finally settled in. And finished off when "Mr. Enthusiasm" continued to struggle on the mound in the 9th. Julian Tavarez couldn't retire any of the three batters he faced (scoring one Cub Run) and Sean Burnett fumbled a comebacker to the box that resulted in Chicago's 5th run. Tyler Clippard allowing The Cubs 6th and final score on a sacrifice fly.
Wanting to re-energize a lackluster season. Wanting to get things started on the second half of 2009 in a positive direction. Wanting to put an All Important Curly "W" in the books--Our Washington Nationals found themselves waking to the reality: They Must Pull Themselves Together. This is their job because this is not all a dream. They are more capable. And they must realize it's going to take every bit of their own strengths to turn things around.
John Lannan pitched well. Alberto Gonzalez played a fabulous game. Nyjer Morgan personally manufactured a run. Ryan Zimmerman stroked his 15th home run of the season. But the little things continued to haunt Washington. The errors and mental miscues that cost any team--any ball game.
The Shock Factor played a significant role tonight at Nationals Park. It's hard to win--as Jim Riggleman stated yesterday in his Introductory Press Conference. But it's even harder to overcome all that has happened so far in 2009. "Sleepwalking" as that one fan said tonight at Nationals Park was not out of line. Burdens that have rested on the shoulders of so many of Our Washington Nationals Players & Staff need to be pushed aside. It's time to relax--do what you are capable--and forgot about all that was the first 88 Games Now Of This Championship Season.
Final Score from Nationals Park where during the 7th Inning Stretch the "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" song found so many SCREAMING OUT "Cubbies" instead of "Nationals" that it was actually sort of funny. The Late Great Harry Caray OWNED the 7th inning Stretch and it was sort of nice to remember such a wonderful broadcaster in DC this way, this day. The Chicago Cubs 6 and Our Washington Nationals 2 in nine drowsy innings.
Being down, being out, being disappointed, doesn't mean all is lost. Lethargy needs to be shaken off. DC's Team needs to get some good rest this overnight--clear their heads. And return Friday evening, ready, willing and able to make things better. The little things that have hampered Washington all season now need to be overcome--because the mental aspect certainly took its toll tonight.
Sleepwalking through this game--after all else--certainly not a surprise.
Game Notes & Highlights
John Lannan was good tonight. He allowed three Chicago runs (two earned) on seven hits and just one walk in 6.2 innings. The Cubs' Derek Lee took him deep to right for a home run in the 6th and thankfully John, DID NOT, get his pitching hand hit on a hot shot back to him in the 7th by Reed Johnson that scored Jeff Baker with The Cubbies 3rd Run. But Rich Harden was simply better for Chicago. Talented, but struggling this season--Harden was reaching 98 MPH on his fastball-which set up his changeup beautifully. Striking out seven, allowing just three hits, no walks and one unearned run--Rich Harden was pretty spectacular this evening.
Unlike Julian Tavarez. I don't know the exact numbers--but it sure seems like he's walked the leadoff hitter in most all of his last three or four games. He has not performed well at all--and looked little like the talented pitcher of just a few years back while playing for The St.Louis Cardinals.
On the good side of things--Nyjer Morgan walked, stole second base--advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by Chicago Catcher Koyie Hill in the bottom of the 6th and scored on a ground out by Nick Johnson. Manufacturing a run--without a hit--something not normally seen with Our Washington Nationals. A development well worth watching and appreciating more often in the near future.
Also, Ryan Zimmerman got ahold of a Kevin Gregg fastball in the bottom of the 9th and drilled it down the rightfield line into the corner and over the wall into Washington's Bullpen for a home run. Never do we recall Our Number 11 hitting a home run in that exact direction in all his four years in Washington, DC. He hammered that baseball-tremendous power to do just that feat.
Alberto Gonzalez recorded his 11th Multi-Hit game this evening and his hitting a robust .394 (26-66) since his recall from Syracuse on May 30th. Alberto making Baseball Operations wonder whether he deserves more of a full time spot in the lineup. Competition (with Anderson Hernandez) is always good.
In the top of the 7th, Chicago Cub Pinch Hitter Micah Hoffpauir--drilled a hard shot on the ground right at Nick Johnson at 1st base. NJ swiftly readied for the baseball, and even when it took a wicked bounce and flew over his head--he still had enough presence to get his fielding glove up and snare the baseball for The Defensive Play Of This Game. Reactionary move only--to protect his head--Our Number 24 found the ball in the webbing of his glove and easily trotted to the bag to record the out.
26,980 witnessed a very bizarre Presidents Race. While George, Tom & Abe ran from the usual centerfield gate in the middle of the 4th inning--Teddy came out from the rightfield stands--along with that strange cat that reappears from time to time. Together, Teddy & The Cat knocked down first George, then Tom, then Abe. Before George eventually recovered, and won for the 13th time this year.
Speaking of bizarre--what about this guy? What bet did he lose to have to wear a Halo, Angel Wings and what looked to be a Cow Dress tonight in Presidents Club? I would have loved to find out the real story there. Everyone was staring at this guy this evening.
The African Queen's Former Love--Alfonso Soriano--played his first game ever at Nationals Park this Thursday. Injured and on the Disabled List when The Cubs visited The Nation's Capital in 2008--Sohna got a kick out of the very player whom in 2006 got her fanny in her customary seat in Section 320 (Row 4, Seat 14) at RFK Stadium for every single game. Alfonso Soriano--more than any other player that has EVER donned a Nationals Uniform--responsible for The African Queen's Fandom of Our Team. For that, I will always be grateful. That, and the Alfonso!! SORIANO!! cheer from Section 320 which Our Former Number 12 acknowledged during his final week that wonderful season--appreciative of the undying support of Section 320. We just LOVED THAT CHANT!! So did many, many others!! There was nothing like it. Good Memories.
In the bottom of the 9th with one out--Josh Willingham fouled off a Kevin Gregg pitch that caromed off a seat two to the right of The African Queen and bounced right into my hand. Sohna proudly displaying tonight's trophy. Our second baseball of the season retrieved. The other off the bat of Wil Nieves.
Finally--The 3rd Base Coach tonight for The Chicago Cubs--Mike Quade--was the starting 3rd Baseman for The 1982 Alexandria Dukes (Virginia). The only time The Carolina League Team won the title--two years before the then Pittsburgh operated franchise moved to Prince William County--becoming The Cannons--and had Barry Bonds on their team--before eventually becoming The Potomac Nationals. Just a few short years before I ever met Sohna, I was a Full Season Ticket Holder for The Alexandria Dukes--who played their home games at Cora Kelly Elementary School near what is now Potomac Yards Shopping Center. Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Bobby Bonilla, Sid Fernandez, Juan Samuel, Ozzie Virgil, Jr., Joe Orsulak, Tim Burke--some of the players that I recall off the top of my head that played at Four Mile Run Park for or against The Alexandria Dukes.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved