Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Dog Days Of Summer

A starting pitcher that couldn't retire a single batter until four Colorado Rockies had been walked and another had doubled in the very first inning didn't get this game off to a very rousing start if you are a Washington Fan. And then watching Collin Balester lasting just 1 more full inning longer didn't add to the joy.

Neither was the fact that Our Number 40 faced just 12 batters, eight of whom reached base while three Colorado Rockies actually scored on him.

In fact, pitching wasn't a highlight this evening on South Capitol Street for D.C's Team. Not when five Washington Pitchers allow 10 Rox free passes to first base. And two more solo home runs given up to Clint Barmes and Carlos Gonzalez--for the second consecutive night.

Our Washington Nationals trailed all evening, never took the lead, and despite keeping this game surprisingly close, could not plate the tying or go ahead runs. There was this lull to tonight's game that just didn't seem to wake itself. A malaise set in--sort of like watching a game play out in slow motion. No doubt, the Heat & Humidity of a Washington August certainly has some effect because these Dog Days Of Summer reflected a feeling at Nationals Park tonight that Washington would never make a final comeback successful.

Like they never had the chance to win.

Not that they didn't try.

Saul Rivera certainly did his job in the emergency long man role out of Our Bullpen keeping Washington in the game for 3.2 innings after Balester's very short outing.

The Z-Man continued to swing a hot bat--smoking a run scoring triple in the 1st and another rbi double in the 5th. Ryan Zimmerman continuing to produce both in the field and at the plate.

Nyjer Morgan slapped two hits including a thrilling triple off the rightfield scoreboard wall in the 5th moments before Our Number 11's double. Morgan stealing his 40th base of the season and scoring two runs too.

And Adam Dunn singling twice and walking once while Josh Bard hit a late home run in the bottom of the 9th to get Washington back to within one run--for the third time in the nine innings played.

But whatever Our Washington Nationals attempted tonight--it simply wasn't enough. Lethargic play seemingly the best description of the action on the field tonight on South Capitol Street. When Collin Balester got this game off to a poor start, the officially announced crowd of 16,187 never really seemed to settle in to watch. And even a few fine defensive plays by Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman didn't stir the necessary emotions needed to get everyone's distracted attention back and fully watching the action on the field.

Strangely familiar to last night's one run loss to The Rox at Nationals Park, Washington pitching again gave up a late solo home run to give Colorado the two run lead. Just enough cushion to give The Rockies Closer--Huston Street--some breathing room to make some more last minute mistakes.

Really there is not much to say about this game. An affair important to the playoff hopes of Colorado, but just Game 120 of The 2009 Schedule for Washington.

Final Score from Nationals Park where really the best news of the day came after this rather mundane affair ended: The Colorado Rockies 5 and Our Washington Nationals 4. Loss number 77 against 43 Wins did not dismiss or hinder the accomplishments of Interim GM Mike Rizzo since he took over full day to day handling of baseball operations this past March in the wake of Jim Bowden's Resignation. Multiple media outlets reporting late this evening that Mike Rizzo will be named the Permanent General Manager of Our Washington Nationals as early as Thursday, August 20th.

Not replaced by an outsider as so erroneously reported late last night and speculated on, ad nausum, all this day by many that had no idea really what the truth held.

A well deserved promotion for a 49 Year Old experienced baseball man that has--in just six short months--changed the culture of Major League Baseball in The Nation's Capital. And given Washington a more respected presence both on the field and in the eyes of every other team in the game.

Yeah, The Dog Days Of Summer may well have caught up with Our Washington Nationals tonight, but most everyone watching closely these past few months has realized The Freshness, Vitality & No Nonsense, Mike Rizzo has brought to Our Front Office and Baseball Operations from the very first day he sat behind the big chair.

A willingness to change the culture and not stand for mental debility, unprofessional acts, and the languor that sometimes exists when a professional team has been buried in last place--for so long.

The Dog Days Of Summer may well have been pushed off the calendar for the remainder of 2009 by this simple one move spreading this late night--the naming of a General Manager. The permanence of a fresh beginning now officially upon us. Direction now coursed with Our Washington Nationals finally, publicly, moving in concert--together.

That's makes for a good day, even after a rather uneventful defeat.

Game Notes & Highlights

What more can you say about Collin Balester? He wasn't good tonight and didn't help his cause in attempting to establish himself as a potential starter in Our Washington Nationals 2010 rotation. He couldn't find the plate, issuing five walks and was pounded for three hits--none of which were cheap ones by Colorado.

Until Clint Barmes took him deep for a solo shot with two out in the top of the 5th inning, Saul Rivera had to that point threw 3.1 innings of shutout ball. Filling the distance role between a poor start and a potential rally, Our Number 52 almost single handedly kept Our Washington Nationals into this game when it appeared a blowout was on the horizon. He hasn't pitched much since his return from AAA Syracuse--especially in important roles--but this evening at Nationals Park, Saul Rivera showed that steady, workman's like effort seen day after day after day at RFK Stadium in 2006 & 2007 and at Nationals Park in 2008. He did a good job this evening--despite the home run allowed.

Work which Jorge Sosa continues to be confounding to judge. "Jesus Colome, Jr" allowing another solo home run (the eventual game winner as it turned out) to Carlos Gonzalez in the 8th frame. In 13 innings thrown now for DC's Team--Jorge has saved two games, but he's also given up four gopher balls. All late runs allowed which have hurt Our Washington Nationals on the scoreboard.

We liked how Colorado Manager, Jim Tracy, let his starter Jason Marquis get out of a few jams on his own. The 2009 All-Star has cooled off a little bit after such a torrid season start--but Marquis battled his way through six full innings, allowing nine Washington hits and one walk--while working his way out of trouble. That competitive fire of a veteran that battles every step of the way. And off the top of my head, I would bet Jason Marquis has most always pitched outstanding baseball as a visitor to Washington, DC since 2005. As a St.Louis Cardinal he shutout Washington at RFK Stadium in 2005 and was on the losing end of Ramon Ortiz' near no-hitter against St.Louis on East Capitol Street in 2006.

Ryan Zimmerman's double and triple and one walk in three official plate appearances, raised his batting average to .304. His two rbi's raised that total to 80 for the season. The Z-Man still on pace to slam out 30 homers and drive in over 100 runs in this breakout campaign.

Our Number 11 again made a tremendous play look simple tonight when Colorado's Chris Iannetta hit another dribbler that rolled slowly between home plate and mound angled toward Ryan Zimmerman. Without hesitation, Zimmy ran in, scooped the baseball and, again, all in one motion--slung the baseball perfectly to Adam Dunn awaiting the toss at first base. Worth repeating, NO ONE DOES IT BETTER, or with such grace.

Fielding skill which Josh Willingham has always been considered competent but not outstanding. Yet, this evening, Our Number 16 made The Circus Catch when he hustled on a deep foul fly, with plenty of hang time, stroked by Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez down the leftfield line. With the baseball loosing gravity fast and heading STRAIGHT DOWN from the sky--Willingham dove, and slid toward the leftfield line stands and BACKHAND scooped his left wrist--which also contained his fielding glove--and somehow caught the baseball as it skimmed the heeling of his glove and rolled directly into the leather pocket. I doubt Josh Willingham even realized he had caught it--as the back of his head was facing the ball. But no doubt about it--Josh Willingham had performed The Defensive Play Of This Game. That was one sweet effort.

Teddy was again well ahead during the 4th inning Presidents Race, but lost when he decided to Twitter, Facebook or participate in the online community that keeps followers aware of what you are presently doing in your life--every minute of the day. Not really of interest to us, but enough so that Teddy was beaten by Abe and his fellow compatriots easily as he texted away in the new social media tools.

The New Edition of Inside Pitch Magazine--available for free every home game--contains new updated baseball cards of some of Our Washington Nationals. So far, The African Queen and I have spotted WTOP Baseball Cards for Josh Willingham, Sean Burnett, Wil Nieves, Mike MacDougal, Nyjer Morgan, Josh Bard and Tyler Clippard. Not sure yet of the complete set total that will be issued by the end of this season.

And finally--during the top of the 6th inning with Ron Villone on the mound and Dexter Fowler at the plate for Colorado--The Rockies Outfielder fouled off a hard high fly directly at me--but slightly behind our first row seats in Section 218. Munching on some pistachios at the time, I quickly dropped the baggy while Sohna exclaimed "Here it comes!!" And as I realized the baseball was going over my head--I reached up with both hands pocketed together and caught the baseball in my gloveless hands. The reaction to the catch from the crowd watching was actually quite loud--and appreciated. The folks sitting in Section 218 & 217 giving a standing ovation. We've caught many baseballs this season at Nationals Park. Club Level is prime foul ball territory--but tonight's catch was just the second one we've actually snared on the fly this year. And yeah, my hands sort of stung for a short while after making the grab.

Tonight's InGame Photos--Haraz N. Ghanbari (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Edward J. Cunningham said...

Looks like the news about Rizzo getting the job is about to become official. I don't know if all those news reports were spectacularly wrong, or the Lerners quickly realized that letting Rizzo go would be a terrible PR move.

I'm less sold on Riggleman as manager, but so far I think he deserves a shot at being manager in 2010. However, don't give him a long-term contract just yet, and keep Bobby Valentine's number on speed dial...

John R. said...

Weather-wise, it was actually a very pleasant August evening last night. But I do agree that the phrase "dog days of summer" is an accurate one to describe the atmosphere of the game. Yet, despite that, the Nationals gave us some exciting play, in the field, at bat, and on the base-paths. Balester's performance was the only downside of the night and we got away easy in giving up only three runs in his two innings.

I saw that foul ball being caught in 218 and I thought you had caught it but I was too far away to be sure it was you. The applause was nice, as it was great to see that your loyalty to this team is appreciated by so many Nationals fans.

Bryan Scrafford said...

I was sitting in section 208 and have to admit that when I saw the foul ball go your way I turned to the friend I was at the game with and exclaimed "Screech's Best Friend can catch."

Anonymous said...

By Edward J. Cunningham on Riggleman being "less sold".

It is so subjective sometimes evaluating Managers in mid-market teams and small market teams by W/L records solely and his .447 career W/L %. My feelings going back to Jim's record was good given what he had to work with (subjective opinion). Keep in mind Manny Acta had a .385 winning % in his Nationals tenure.

Riggleman's 1998 playoff year with the Cubs and what he did with a young Kerry Wood has to be a career highlight. 2009 has to be a career highlight although the book still needs to be fully written and that ultimately should determine his fate with the team not just 30+ games.

Top players rave about Jim like Mark Grace. His current players go out of their way to say good things about Jim.

Jim has essentially the same team that Acta had on July 1st and Acta went a horrific 3-8 in that period leading to the All Star Break. Jim is 6-5 in his last 11 games.

6-5 is important because that is a .545 winning percentage and translates to almost 89 wins in a 162 schedule.

Jim's career percentage projects a 73 win season which would have been right on all estimates for the 2009 pre-season of where the Nats should have been.

With this exact lineup and bullpen and an improved rotation, can this team be a .500+ team with Riggleman?

ABSOLUTELY! You have some objective proof based on what he has already done!

Sam R said...


From 216 Lexi and I watched you make the grap, great catch. Who were you pointing to down in the lower level? We wondered if your hands were smarting :-)

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!


Screech's Best Friend said...

Sam R: Quite a few of our friends that sit or work in the seats below us at Nationals Park all saw the catch and were yelling up from below. Thanks.