Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The Battleship "DC Nationals"
The crowd now standing and cheering for the final out to be recorded could sense a transformation at Nationals Park. Our Washington Nationals were on the verge of modest heights not reached all season. Not only the possible winners of four straight overall, but four straight victories at home. Not to be forgotten, DC's Team was even on the precipice of taking three straight homes series. Numbers unfathomable most all of 2009 for a team having trouble winning even two in a row.
But a continual roster overhaul managed by the deft hands of Interim GM Mike Rizzo has finally seemed to stabilize our once listing ship. Battleship "DC Nationals" no longer just treading water, but actually gaining ground--moving ahead--not falling behind.
An about face due to Admiral Rizzo tweaking here and trading a few guys there, plus handling a complete changover of nearly Our Entire Pitching Staff since this ship set sail on Opening Day this past April from Washington's Navy Yard. A dozen Seamen on the active 25-Man Roster that contains just one guy--ONE LIEUTENANT--that has lasted from Day One. Now, as those boisterous fans still left among the 18,312 looked on in anticipation--one of those new staff faces, Fire Marshal Mike MacDougal, was standing on the mound on South Capitol Street, looking in for the sign from his catcher--Wil Nieves (Gunnery Sargent). Fittingly, this tall and lanky string bean of a closer was looking to save (Gunnery Mate) John Lannan's 8th personal victory this season. Many knowing, Our Number 31 is the only Washington pitcher that has lasted the entire distance in a Nationals Uniform in 2009--all 108 games--including tonight's thriller--fought in dress whites.
A battle in which Our Washington Nationals led from start to this finishing point, but had never torpedoed The Florida Marlins away. A competition where solid baseball was played, neither team dominating the other, but DC's Ship had never given in to the potent lineup of The Fish. First Officers Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn had combined to power out back to back home runs in the bottom of the very first inning--before most of those still cheering for MacDougal in this 9th frame had even settled into their seats.
A night that witnessed Midshipman "The Guz" tearing it up like no other. When Cristian Guzman is hot--he is nearly unstoppable. This evening ripping a double down the right field line in the bottom of the 3rd scoring Quarter Master Nyjer Morgan from 1st Base for Washington's third run. And again--after Petty Officer Ronnie Belliard flat out RIPPED a "Manny Ramirez, Jr" style solo homer to the left field visitor's bullpen off The Marlins' Rick VandenHurk in the 4th (and no one poses after hitting a knowing shot like Our Number 10--except for the Real Manny Ramirez)--Our Number 15 sliced another lacing liner down to the corner in right--with Morgan on base again--setting The MERRY-GO-ROUND in circular motion. And let me tell you, there is nothing like watching Nyjer leading the pack rounding the bases while the hardest running baserunner in the game--"The Guz" plays tailback.
What a sight!! As Florida's Cody Ross chased the baseball slapped near Washington's Bullpen on the warning track, Our Number 1 ran so hard--HE NEARLY FELL OVER while attempting to knock off his batting helmet to give him more speed nearing 3rd base. Incredibly, Guzman was already rounding 2nd Base and heading toward 3rd when Nyjer stumbled--before regaining his balance and cruising home with DC's 5th run of the evening.
A then 5-1 lead that John Lannan nursed and defended without having his best stuff. No question about it, Our Number 31 pitched some professional baseball this evening at Nationals Park. The Fish were getting to him. Dan Uggla (another Marlin that always seems to kill us) with a solo homer in the top of the 2nd. Chris Coghlan and Nick Johnson with back to back singles leading off the top of the 5th and Florida scoring their second run off Lannan when John induced a key double play grounder hit by the always dangerous Hanley Ramirez.
But when Our SouthPaw Starter, now known OFFICIALLY as ACE here on Nats320, was able to wiggle out of a 2nd and 3rd and one out situation in the top of the 6th by striking out Emilio Bonifacio and Ross Gload--A Next Generation Of Our Washington Nationals began to come to life. The previous generation would have found a way to lose this game, especially when shipmates Sean Burnett and Jorge Sosa were not sharp after relieving Lannan in the 7th. But Our New Look Nats did not falter. "DC Nationals" did not sink as Sosa was finally able to strike out Cody Ross after Uggla had again done some damage by singling in two more Florida runs.
A 5-4 Score and still Washington advantage--which now brings us back, full circle, to where this story began--in the top of the 9th--with two out--and yes--Hanley Ramirez standing at the plate for Florida. Arguably, one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. An "OFFICIAL" Nats Killer, The Marlins' shortstop has continually beaten Our Washington Nationals--numerous times since 2006.
Could this At-Bat add to his legacy?
Fire Marshal MacDougal didn't want to see it. Neither did the good ship "DC Nationals". And certainly not The Sea Sick Faithful looking for fresh air and new beginnings in the stands. With the Curly "W" all but recorded--no one rooting for DC wished to see Our Number 54 falter. Unfortunately, this match up featured hard throwing righthander--against hard hitting right handed swinging talent at the plate. With potency up against strength--something had to give. But for five pitches in the ultimate At-Bat, that balance of force was even. Mike would throw three balls. Hanley would swing at two strikes.
So here we were at 9:58PM--most everyone back on their feet--most everyone rooting for Our Washington Nationals. In a sense this consequence was so much like many of those edge of your seat moments witnessed at RFK Stadium with "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" on the mound. Chad Cordero was always scary--"The Chief Cardiologist" as The African Queen always called him. But Mike MacDougal--still short a good nickname--can be equally as befuddling. He throws 98 MPH Fastballs. He just sometimes doesn't know where those pitches are heading?
And Hanley Ramirez knew that as MacDougal set himself for this game deciding power pitch. With anchors away and no holds barred, and with the crowd holding in their breath in great anticipation--Mike MacDougal unloaded a 97 MPH Fastball just off the outside corner of the plate that Ramirez could only WAVE HIS BAT AT IN DISGUST!!
Hanley had missed the baseball--and badly. He wasn't even close. The 2006 Rookie Of The Year had been defeated--just like his Florida Marlins. And just like Old Times on East Capitol Street--Nationals Park was ROCKING. South Capitol Street was feeling energy of The Battleship "DC Nationals" Victory.
Final Score from Nationals Park where the battleship's crew came together again providing clutch hitting and quality pitching to beat The Fish for the second day in a row--Our Washington Nationals 5 and The Florida Marlins 4. Curly "W" Number 36 satisfying because Washington had not only earned it--they had beaten The Marlins playing some good old fashioned hardball. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling a no longer listing DC Ship, but one that has defeated it's opponents in 8 of it's last 12 battles and 10 of their last 16. Since Captain Jim Riggleman took over the helm and day-to-day helm duties, Our Washington Nationals have played near .500 ball--10 Wins & 11 Losses.
No, nowhere near a juggernaut, but The Battleship "DC Nationals" is steaming ahead and looking for new Fish to conquer. NatsTown on their way to, hopefully, building a Battleship Destroyer.
Maybe now we can sign that Strasburg Guy? Our Washington Nationals are no longer as bad as some think.
Game Notes & Highlights
John Lannan has been our most consistent and best starter all season long. Yet tonight he took a big step in maturity. Our Number 31 was not his best. He gave up 8 hits and 2 walks over six innings. The Marlins were hitting him. Lannan wasn't overly sharp. But when less experienced pitchers would have faltered--John held himself together and was able to put out most of Florida's rallies against him. None better than his magic getting out of that 2nd & 3rd with only one out situation in the top of the 6th. John Lannan deserved his 8th Victory of 2009 because he succeeded without his best location, his solid stuff. Really, "ACE" was a Major League Pitcher tonight--a very important step in his development.
Sean Burnett was shaky allowing his only two batters faced to reach base in the top of the 7th. Jorge Sosa allowed both of them to score, but Sosa did record the final outs in the 7th to maintain the slim one run lead. Eventually saved by MacDougal with his 10th of 2009 in a Nationals Jersey.
"The Guz" single, double, triple and only a homer short of hitting for the cycle. Cristian Guzman with three hits and two rbi's. Our Number 15 now with a 12 game hitting streak and batting a very solid .314. Zimmerman's and Dunn's back to back blasts to rightfield in the bottom of the 5th was Washington's 5th such jacks in consecutive plate appearances this season. The Z-Man batting .400 with 7 Home Runs, 15 RBI, 17 Runs scored and 7 walks over his past 12 games. That's playing some good ball. We guess his shoulder is fine.
Much like his defensive wizardry in the top of the 3rd inning. The Marlins had loaded up the bases AFTER two were out on John Lannan when Cody Ross scorched a grounder right at Ryan Zimmerman in a little bit on the dirt/grass at 3rd Base. Our Number 11 used his body to block the hard hit baseball, but the ball rolled away from him, back toward home plate. As Ross hustled to 1st Base, Zimmy rushed in and picked up the baseball and in one swooping motion--set sail himself--as his right arm sidearm hurled the ball across the diamond. As Ryan face planted himself in the infield grass just off the pitcher's mound, he looked up knowing he had produced The Defensive Play Of This Game when Adam Dunn caught his wild toss at 1st base for the final out of the inning. I don't think Ryan Zimmerman even believed he recovered enough to make that fine play. It was an excellent effort for a great fielder--in the clutch--with the bases loaded. The standing ovation given by the gathering in the stands--warm.
Nyjer Morgan has 34 stolen bases this season. Two more tonight and he has safely swiped 16 bases in 21 attempts since joining Our Washington Nationals on July 1st. That man continuing to be a difference maker on the field of play. Speaking of Nyjer, funny moment tonight. In the bottom of the 7th, Our Number 1 had walked and when "The Guz" ripped his third base hit of the evening--to left center--Nyjer wanted to score all the way. As he hightailed his way around second and then toward third--3rd Base Coach Pat Listach had not made the immediate decision yet to hold Morgan or send him. Nyjer took a wide turn around the base and motored toward home--RIGHT AS LISTACH PUT UP THE STOP SIGN--right in his path. Nyjer halted while skidding on the grass as Pat Listach jumped into the baseline to get out of the way. Morgan eventually didn't score--so maybe Listach should have let him run--but the site of the two guys getting out of each other's way was quite hilarious. If they had collided--the highlight reels would have shown that all day and night. For Washington's sake, good thing it didn't happen.
Tonight's win over The Florida Marlins clinches the first series victory over The Fish since a three game sweep from September 3-5, 2007 at RFK Stadium--like AGES AGO!!
Four Ex-Nationals appeared in this game tonight for Florida: Nick Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Brian Sanches and Luis Ayala. Like NJ, Ayala will always be a Nats320 Favorite. He enjoyed talking baseball, just chatting, and I will always remember him for showing me card tricks at Spring Training in Viera in 2007. And his remark after completing them: "Fools 'The Chief' every time!!" Hilarious Stuff--never to be forgotten.
When Luis Ayala pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 6th for Florida, he faced Jorge Padilla making his Major League Debut after 12 Minor League Seasons. Wearing uniform number 8, Jorge Padilla flied out to right field in his first and only At-Bat this evening. But for the life of us, The African Queen and I couldn't remember who else wore Number 8 for Our Washington Nationals. So a trip to The Media Guide refocused us to find out that Marlon Anderson, Chris Snelling and Aaron Boone all have previously worn Jersey Number 8 for DC.
In the 4th inning Presidents Race, Teddy again came out of the centerfield gate with a huge lead--but Abe--running from WAY BACK and dead last--sprinted past everyone to claim another victory. Tom limped home after falling badly in Tuesday Night's race.
Finally--Sohna and I got a big kick out of NBC News & "Meet The Press" Moderator David Gregory wearing his very own personalized jersey in Section 127 at Nationals Park Tonight. A huge Nationals Fan, Gregory was sporting the gray away script "Washington" uniform with "Gregory" and Number "5" on the back. He is a season ticket holder and he comes to a lot of games--many times with his family. Sort of cool for him to do that. " Pledging His Allegiance".
Tonight's InGame Photos--Haraz N. Ghanbari (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved