Sunday, August 23, 2009
All That Was--This Past Week
On the heels of the euphoria in The Nation's Capital resulting from Our Washington Nationals signing The Number One Overall Pick in The 2009 Entry Draft and permanently naming Mike Rizzo as Senior VP-President & General Manager--was a tailspin on the field of play. Less than quality performances hidden by Stephen Strasburg coming on board. Mr. Rizzo now leading the way.
When Craig Stammen pitched five good innings this past Tuesday Night--Our Offense was silent.
On Wednesday, despite Saul Rivera saving Washington from a blowout in the wake of Collin Balester's poorest start--another loss occurred.
When Garrett Mock showed some serious moxie and guts in, supposedly, getting himself out of a jam on Thursday Night, an umpire not directly involved in the game changing play--overruled a third and final out. A turnaround that shook Our Number 49 and stirred Our Washington Nationals to yet a third straight loss.
Friday, more of the same. Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman--the heart of Our Lineup--blast out home runs. But it's not enough when J.D. Martin gives up key home runs in a then close game.
And not even a Grand Slam by Ronnie Belliard and a wonderful comeback from seven down to The Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night--could save DC's Team from John Lannan's worst start of his Major League Career. Fighting back to tie the score at eight apiece--Our Bullpen let the game get away--when Our Offense was mighty potent.
All themes of This Year--2009--for Our Washington Nationals. Just when the connecting dots are all lined up-- a link suddenly becomes lost.
Consistent play evaporates.
The juggling act to coordinate dexterity disappears. The ability to smoothly play any baseball game on the field, somehow, goes away.
Because for quite some time since Interim Manager Jim Riggleman took over--Washington has played some pretty smooth baseball. Many times, no longer the silly errors, the nonsensical poor play. The finding a sloppy way of losing any ball game. For one month, DC's Team was one of The Hottest In The Land. But over the past week, since that San Diego State University Prospect was signed, somehow that focus was lost.
With so many redirected toward the future--the present went astray. Obscured, over what Our Washington Nationals may become--not what they currently truly are--a franchise still looking to find itself.
Holes were exposed this week. Player personnel needed to advance to the next level highlighted. Direction not resting solely on the shoulders of one single top pitching prospect--Stephen Strasburg.
Both Team President Stan Kasten & General Manager Mike Rizzo stated the very need for a veteran presence in Our Starting Rotation just the other day. And a 2nd Baseman with range and the ability to contribute consistently at the plate. While not forgetting Our Bullpen has been overhauled at least four times this season--with a fifth one probably coming soon--if not over the upcoming winter.
That's the nature of Our Washington Nationals current state.
Influx--looking for stability. If there was ever a ball team that IS WHAT IT IS--then that is Version 5.0 of the current 25-Man Roster representing Our Nation's Capital.
When they don't work together, play as a team, DC's Team usually ends up on the short side of winning.
The elusive Curly "W" which was NEVER IN DOUBT this Sunday Afternoon because everything fell into place.
Recall--Craig Stammen pitched well last Tuesday night against The Colorado Rockies and still lost--thanks to little offensive support.
Recall--Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman slammed out tape measure shots this past Friday night against The Milwaukee Brewers and THAT WASN"T ENOUGH.
Recall--"The Ballplayer" hit that wonderful grand slam last night on the very first pitch after The Z-Man had struck out on a controversial check swing and Riggleman was ejected for arguing the call (and good for him to going out to protect his man). Yet, that only eventually led to a tie game--not a winning game.
Getting over the hump which came this beautiful Summer Sunday Afternoon as the changeover of a fresh new week started for Major League play.
Washington did little wrong this afternoon.
The top of Our Lineup POUNDED Milwaukee's Manny Parra. Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman both CRUSHED HOME RUNS. "The Guz" his 6th of the season too. That spark plug known as Nyjer Morgan scored the game's first run and delivered Washington's first suicide squeeze of the entire year when he bunted Mike Morse home in the bottom of the 2nd.
But what all came together was the complete package--missing all the past week. The offense backed up by another Quality Start--this time again by Stammen. A bullpen that shut down the Brew Crew for 2.2 shutout innings--never allowing Milwaukee to get back into this affair. Complete with flawless defense from an ever improving fielding lineup that seems to be hitting its stride as August is about to turn to September. The time of year when the kids go back to school.
The educational process that is a daily reminder that Our Washington Nationals are still an ever maturing team. One that can flat out impress on some nights--while stirring emotions of doubt on others. Yet through it all--and 2009 has been quite the year--a core group is starting to take shape. A range of players that are not only here for the short term to stabilize Our Franchise--but are positioning themselves to become the leaders of the first truly competitive team representing The Nation's Capital since baseball returned to Washington in 2005.
Final Score from Nationals Park where virtually everything went in DC's favor this wonderful afternoon: Our Washington Nationals 8 and The Milwaukee Brewers 3. Curly "W" Number 44 of 2009 visibly showed the potency of Our Lineup, while giving respect to a young pitching staff still on the learning curve. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! capsuling all that was this past week. A five game losing streak on the back end of two of the most stabilizing moves in Franchise History. Simply put, the reminders that DC Baseball is still in its infancy and much more homework needs to be accomplished before Our Washington Nationals garner those Curly "W's" on a very consistent basis.
Yet no one in their right mind could be unhappy these days. In a season of many downs, the uplifting spirit that existed all this past week made Baseball In Washington, D.C. even more fun than it's been for The African Queen and I in months. "Hope Is On The Way"--Jesse Jackson so prominently bellowed at one time in his career. A positive slogan that also played out on center stage during All That Was--This Past Week--at Nationals Park.
Come On!! We were 1-5 in the record book and it was still a GREAT WEEK!!
Go Figure. Only In Baseball.
Game Notes & Highlights
Given a big early lead, Craig Stammen just rode the wave and let his defense help him out. He didn't let a hard hitting Brewers lineup get to him. He wasn't bothered by the light hitting Alcides Escobar slamming out his first Major League Home Run in the top of the 5th. And he was pissed when Interim Manager Jim Riggleman relieved him with one out in the top of the 7th when he got into trouble after his 97th pitch of this game. Competitiveness, which will serve him well in the many starts to come. Our Number 35 might not be the hardest throwing starter out there, but he does find the strike zone and he battles every step of the way. A good sign for a young man that gained his 4th Big League Win in 10 decisions this Sunday.
Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard--both always interesting to watch pitch. When they are hot--each is a quality reliever--like the work displayed this Sunday afternoon. No doubt keepers despite their occasional lapses. No two members of Our Bullpen seem to fight every single At-Bat faced like these two. Mike MacDougal throws hard, but can be wild. Burnett & Clippard--on the other hand--never give in to anyone. They challenge batters and are willing to take the risk of failure. I like that. I really do. Clippard didn't qualify for a save, but he certainly once again earned the respect of his teammates with two fine innings of work--closing this one out.
Ryan Zimmerman is absolutely ON FIRE--a complete tear. Today, RBI Single in the 1st, POWERHOUSE opposite field two run homer to right center off Manny Parra in the bottom of the 4th. Don't turn your back now, because despite Adam Dunn hammering out his 33rd Home Run of 2009, The Z-Man is just four rbi's behind Our Number 44's 89 for the team lead. Adam can whack them out with the best, but Our Number 11 is The Best Player On Our Team--No Question About It.
No Question. What a joy it has been for Sohna and I to see him grow up both on and off the field since late 2005. He is special. It is hard to believe some doubted him. What were they looking at?
He may be far from the finest fielder in the game but Josh Willingham flashed the leather again this afternoon when on the very first play of this game he retrieved a FLop fly ball running like a wide receiver to the left field wall and corralling the baseball over his shoulder. Looking over his head on Felipe Lopez's deep fly, Our Number 16 made The Defensive Play Of This Game when there were 26 more outs still to be recorded for the victory.
The Brewers' finest player, Ryan Braun, also made a nice running stab of a frozen rope off the powerful bat of Josh Willingham in the bottom of the 4th. But Braun also got himself ejected in the top of the 6th when he hard slapped a grounder to the hole at shortstop. where Cristian Guzman backhanded and one hoped to Adam Dunn at first base. The out call by 1st Base Umpire Mike Muchlinski perfectly displayed the feeling on a Brewers Team, once Wild Card Serious Contenders, now turning to afterthoughts, when Ryan EXPLODED over the out call, threw his helmet right at the arbiters feet and was summarily ejected by Umpire Muchlinski.
The frustration that comes from expected outcomes gone sour. Not like any of us have experienced anything similar? Right?
Did you know that Jackie Kennedy Onassis was on hand at Nationals Park this afternoon? Well, at least a virtually perfect wax model. In the ever continuing series of Washington's Madam Tussuad's Museum displays in The Stars & Stripes Club, Jackie O looked pretty darn real. As Sohna said--"That's scary how accurate the wax model truly is." Anybody that saw that today had to take a double take. Wow!!
The Not Real Sausages made a third straight appearance at Nationals Park this afternoon. Looking for revenge after Teddy spoiled their work on Saturday Night, The Fake Milwaukee Sausages tried to stop Our Racing Presidents in the 4th Inning Race today. Teddy played wedge buster and fell down when collared while opening the needed hole to allow Tom, Abe & George to rush through. The Big Hole that allowed a real race to play out--won by Abe--but just barely--over Tom.
Today was the Blogger Day at Nationals Park--Version 2.0. About a dozen blogs that cover Our Washington Nationals were invited to South Capitol Street for a series of interviews and each given the opportunity to sit in the auxiliary press box during the game. Much more detail, including transcripts coming later, but this day began with 15 Minutes with Interim Manager Jim Riggleman and continued with a briefing by Game Operations Staff--followed by player interviews with Collin Balester, Garrett Mock and Josh Willingham--a Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Briefing by Chair Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, Minor League Report by Assistant Director of Player Development--Mark Scialabba and concluded with 25 minutes with Team President Stan Kasten and GM Mike Rizzo. A flurry of information coming in complete detail soon on Nats320.
And finally, since this post was All That Was--This Past Week--pictures Of Charlie Slowes & Dave Jageler interviewing and chatting with Stephen Strasburg on Friday evening--August 21st--a few short hours after being introduced to the media and fans at Nationals Park.
Today's InGame Photos--Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved