Saturday, September 19, 2009
The Humor Of It All
The laughs and chuckles being shared amongst Mike MacDougal, Josh Bard and Adam Dunn were fitting. Another near collapse in the bottom of the 9th, this time against The New York Mets, was thwarted thanks to MacDougal JUST getting his glove on the ball on a hard shot back to the mound stroked by Jeff Francouer in the bottom of the 9th. The sight of Our Number 54's glove coming off his hand had made this moment ever more theatrical--as the game tying run was then rushing home in the name of Carlos Beltran.
But MacDougal composed himself, rushed over toward the now slow rolling baseball in front of the mound--and proceeded to throw a lollipop toss to Dunn at 1st Base. One of those eephus pitches that has you leaning toward the TV exclaiming: "OH NO!!" Then once Adam reeled the baseball in and 1st Base Umpire Mark Wegner signaled the final out: "Yeah, we had them all the way!!"
The humor of it all.
Fortunately, there was just enough oomph on that baseball to beat Francouer running down the line.
Delivered just in the nick of time to record the final out of the game.
And just before whomever was left watching at Citi Field in Queens was about to go bonkers over a four run rally by The New Yorkers in a game Our Washington Nationals had virtually controlled from the start.
DC's Team never makes it easy to record just about any Curly "W" and they made every effort this evening at Citi Field to prove that point once again. Which is too bad, because before Mike MacDougal allowed a leadoff walk, two singles and three runs to score in that hectic 9th; Before Ian Desmond made a wonderful diving stop on a hard hit baseball by Daniel Murphy lined to his right at shortstop that Our Number 6 heaved it OVER Adam Dunn for what should have been the final out of this game. And before Jeff Francouer nearly took Our Closer's hand off for what WAS the final play of this game--Washington had pretty much dominated this affair.
Ryan Zimmerman with a two run homer. Josh Bard with a two run homer of his own--and a sacrifice fly. Josh Willingham with what turned out to be an important insurance run with a solo shot in the top of the 9th. Three blasts providing some distance and two fine defensive plays in left by Our Number 16 protecting yet another decent, but unspectacular, effort from J.D. Martin starting for Our Washington Nationals.
Really, until that scary bottom of the 9th came about, there was nothing but good things to say about this 147th Scheduled Game of 2009. Washington was in control, because--Like DC's Team, The Mets have struggled as well this season. Injuries crippling their team. Many of their top stars vacant from their lineup all season. Fielding a lineup more reminiscent of a Spring Training Game, New York was there for the taking. 22 games under .500 will bring a tremendous amount of wrath in The Big Apple. And for the 1st eight innings, The Mets played much like a team having given up long ago.
But you have to play with whoever you got--something Washington Fans have come to understand.
J.D. Martin gave up seven hits, two walks, two runs but pitched well enough to win, thanks to a few fine defensive plays by Josh Willingham. The first on a leaping catch in left on a drive by David Wright in the bottom of the 3rd. Near the wall and with the go-ahead run at that time on the bases represented by Angel Pagan, if Josh doesn't get his glove on the ball, Pagan scores and this would have been a completely different ball game. The same which can be said for The Defensive Play Of This Game which Willingham also provided the highlight.
With the bases loaded and just one out in the bottom of the 6th, Ron Villone was now on the mound for Washington. Mets Shortstop Wilson Valdez ripped a liner to left field--the ball sinking fast. Our Number 16 rushed in and picked off the ball before it reached the ground, then as Carlos Beltran rushed off for home, Willingham pegged a perfect one hop throw to Josh Bard at the plate. As Bard corralled the ball and Beltran attempted to get his hand around and under Josh's tag, Home Plate Umpire Tim Timmons took a good look then raised his right fist signaling out at the plate. The Defensive Play Of This Game that ended New York's potential big rally and inning. Just a terrific catch and toss by Josh.
Thankfully, Zimmerman got Washington on the board first in the top of the 1st with a liner of a home run to right, just over the low wall for a two run homer. His career high 30th for the season which actually brought a nice smile from Our Number 11 in the dugout upon being met by his teammates and congratulated. A good start added to in the top of the 5th when Josh Bard lofted out of Citi Field his 5th home run of the season with Ian Desmond aboard for a 4-2 lead. An advantage Bard increased again in the 7th with a sacrifice fly plating Elijah Dukes. Josh Willingham topping off Washington's scoring for the evening when he greeted Mets Reliever Brian Stokes and stroked out the very first pitch thrown to him in the 9th for his 23rd homer of 2009.
Honestly, this seemed like such a pedestrian win. A sort of laugher until the humor of it all was nearly taken away with a disastrous bottom of the 9th.
Final score from Citi Field where the 9th inning Melodrama nearly took away all the good of the first eight innings: Our Washington Nationals 6 and The New York Mets 5. Curly "W" Number 51 looked to be just as much in jeopardy as last Thursday night's 9th Inning Nightmare against The Phillies at Nationals Park. But just like in that heart throbber--a defensive play--this time a baseball stopped by a glove knocked off a pitcher's hand--was just enough to retire Jeff Francouer at first base before the tying run scored.
And just enough for MacDougal, Bard and Dunn to see the humor of it all.
Rarely do Our Washington Nationals makes things easy.
PS--It was nice to see Ryan Zimmerman break out of his slump a little bit--at least for this game. His home run got the night started off well. He later singled and also drilled a liner to left--but right at Mets Leftfielder Angel Pagan. The African Queen and I want to see The Z-Man get 30 home runs and 100 rbi's for the season. And his blast tonight got Zimmy to one of those two goals. A .300 Batting Average would be nice too.
Hopefully, Adam Dunn can get on a hot streak and end up with 40 Home Runs and 110 RBI. Late in the season, we pull for some individual goals to be reached by Our Players. Like 25 Home Runs for Willingham, a .270 average for Elijah Dukes, 10 wins for John Lannan and Livan Hernandez this season. Mike MacDougal reaching 20 saves would be nice as well.
And finally, Ian Desmond showed some tremendous athletic ability in the bottom of the 9th on his resultant throwing error which kept this game alive for The Mets. Daniel Murphy torched a ground ball to Ian's right at shortstop. Desmond dove, completely stretched out, to snare the baseball while it was already past him. Then, quickly got to his feet and rushed the throw. He had enough time, a rookie mistake, and overthrew the baseball to Adam Dunn at 1st Base. He was charged with an error that prolonged this game one more batter, but if he had completed the throw on target--EVERYONE would have been talking about that play--not just Washington, but The Mets too. The guy's got ability. Its just needed to be honed.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Henry Ray Abrams (AP)