Thursday, April 22, 2010

Optimal Performance

Ubaldo Jimenez and Livan Hernandez are two completely different pitchers. Yet at the same time, they are very similar. Each has a free and easy windup motion. Each knows how to get opposing hitters out. And both expend very little energy while pitching from the mound.

That's why The Colorado Rockies' rising star can throw 122 pitches of shutout ball--five days after throwing a no-hitter.

And that's why Our Washington Nationals Big Cuban can toss a baseball as if he has a string attached before pulling it away from a batter's wood bat.

One throws a fastball nearly 100 MPH. The other barely 85. But each knows how to pitch.

How perfect that these two hooked up for the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Earth Day at Nationals Park late this afternoon. If reducing energy costs while maintaining optimal performance is a goal in sustainable resources--then Ubaldo Jimenez's and Livan Hernandez's Carbon Footprints displayed on South Capitol Street perfectly summed this important day.

For nearly eight innings, Jimenez mowed right threw Washington's Lineup. His 97 MPH fastball sinks like few in the game. And Our Manager's Lineup today could muster few hits and virtually no rallies against that flowing electricity. And with an injured Ryan Zimmerman not available, Jim Riggleman sent out a lineup of slap hitters in hopes of finding a new sustainable design. A force not reckoned with before. New energy found from Riggleman's own available renewable resources. That fresh power which Ubaldo Jimenez ultimately shutdown all day long.

As for Livo, he really was his typical self. Renewal energy is really what he's all about. If not for the fact Our Manager had to pinch hit for Livan in the bottom of the 8th inning, Ole Number 61 would have gone the distance again. Getting His Green On, Livan Hernandez was exerting himself in his usual way--like with no strain at all. Once again, going deep into a ball game--saving any excess depletion from Washington's Strained Bullpen.

Energy Management is what Ubaldo Jimenez and Livan Hernandez are all about. And for over two hours this afternoon at America's First Certified Green Ballpark they hooked up for an Earth Day extravaganza worthy of the celebration. Yeah, Livo gave up the two solo home runs that proved costly, but this marquee matchup provided for an atmosphere filled with potential. Strength and endurance was shown by both pitchers--toughness and tact under pressure as well.

Lessening their impact on the environment, you might go all year long and not see a better pitched baseball game from two competing sides. And as baseball fans that needs to be appreciated--despite the final outcome for the home side. In many respects, this get together was so reminiscent of one of the finest thrown ball games since baseball returned to Washington. The 56th game ever played by Our Washington Nationals which took place on June 3, 2005 at RFK Stadium. 29,439 witnessed the greatest pitcher's duel of past six seasons. Nothing comes close to that particular night.

Until today.

And Livan Hernandez was one of the stars then as well.

Facing The Florida Marlins, Ole Number 61 threw 150 pitches that hot and humid night. Yes, that's right, 150 pitches toward The Florida Marlins that stepped to the plate!! Even intentionally walking Paul LoDuca to load the bases with the score tied at 2-2 in the top of the 8th--just to pitch to Damian Easley and record the final out. There was never a greater cheer for gamesmanship at any Nationals game than that evening after Easley popped out to Nick Johnson to end the rally.

If you there, you well know--that moment was SPECIAL. Especially, when Livan Hernandez pitched into the 10th inning.

The Fish countered with Josh Beckett that June 3rd, 2005 evening. And for 8 strong innings, Beckett threw non-stop heat. 106 of hardest thrown pitches you might ever see.

Washington eventually won in 11 innings, 4-3, and neither Hernandez nor Beckett were involved in the final decision. But each had pitched optimal performances on the same night, in the same game. Effort not really seen again in these parts until today's Jimenez/Livo duel at Nationals Park.

You can have all the 11-8 or 9-7 games you want, we'll take the well pitched, well defended game each time.

Nearly six years ago in 2005, a tremendous Major League Baseball Game was pitched by both sides at The Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street. One of the highlight games for anyone that respects good competition. Another worthy successor took place on South Capitol Street this cool spring late Thursday afternoon between The Rox and Nats. Yeah, Washington lost, but The African Queen and I didn't leave without a smile on our faces. When this one was said and done--It didn't matter the teams--because that was just a really well pitched ball game.

Final Score from Nationals Park where both Ubaldo Jimenez and Livan Hernandez were able to recycle their rather impressive talents again--fittingly on the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day: The Colorado Rockies 2 and Our Washington Nationals Zero. The former coming off the first thrown no-hitter of the 2010 season. The latter having thrown just the 4th complete game in D.C.'s short history. Each pitched well in their own unique ways. And in doing so provided an educational resource for fans wishing to learn about the sustainable design of pitching.

What Jimenez and Hernandez displayed today was not how hard or soft you throw the baseball. It's really all about renewing your energy to provide for optimal performance.

Game Notes & Highlights

Miguel Olivo took Livan Hernandez over the wall in the top of the 2nd inning for his solo home run. The first run allowed by Livo all season--one out away from recording 18 straight scoreless innings to start the season. Ian Stewart added his homer in the 7th off Hernandez. A no doubter into the bleachers above the right field scoreboard wall. The only other run scored today. Livan Hernandez still only gave up four hits in 8 innings. And left the game for a pinch hitter in the 8th with a stellar ERA of 0.75. He pitched well enough to win.

Only that Ubaldo Jimenez was better. There could be few pitchers in the game that can throw so hard whose windup is so slow and deliberate. Really, it looks like Jimenez is going to soft toss the baseball. Then--WHAM!!--it's delivered to the plate. A fastball consistently clocked at 97 MPH. In recording 22 outs this afternoon, only one--ONE--Washington Batter hit a fly ball out. 15 ground ball outs, five strikeouts. That's IMPRESSIVE!! Most Impressive.

Ubaldo Jimenez was so on top of his game that when Colorado Manager Jim Tracy came to the mound to replace him with one out in the bottom of the 7th and 122 pitches thrown--you had to stand and cheer--that The Rox were taking him out of the game. Hopefully, Washington would do better against their bullpen. But as it turned out, Joe Beimel and Franklin Morales were just as effective.

Willie Harris did have a game changing opportunity present itself in the bottom of the 7th when Alberto Gonzalez stood on 3rd and Cristian Guzman on 1st with two outs--down by two runs. Harris was looking for a fastball from Beimel to drive--which he got--but Willie didn't hit the ball squarely. The stroked baseball went high and deep to right--but short of the wall where Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez grabbed it for the final out.

In a well pitched game, there are always a few good defensive plays. Washington turned two beauties. With The Rox Dexter Fowler on 1st base and one out in the top of the 6th, Colorado's Todd Helton hits a one hopper back to the mound. Livan Hernandez, being the professional he is--immediately turns toward second base after picking the ball--and without hesitating throws a perfect strike to Ian Desmond cutting across the bag. Only thing was, the speedy Fowler was already on top of him sliding into the base. Off-balance and almost sideways--Desmond leaps into the air--leaning right, with his left leg kicking sideways--even higher left. Almost prone to the ground but airborne--Ian throws a one-hopper across to 1st Base where Adam Dunn makes a very nice reaching scoop to record the inning ending double play.

The Defensive Play Of This Game on most nights until Adam Kennedy--playing second base--ran blind--with his back to a pop up by Olivo in the top of the 7th--lofted between the infield and right field where "The Guz" was playing. Guzman either couldn't find the ball, or didn't think he would get there. Kennedy ran full bore--looking over his head--looking over his head--looking over his head--until it appeared he had NO CHANCE of catching the baseball. The Rockies Ryan Spilborghs on 1st base felt Kennedy had no chance as well and kept running to 3rd Base. With no one expecting Our Number 20 to retrieve the baseball in the air--Adam reached out, basket style--and made one of prettiest over the shoulder, over the head catches ever seen at Nationals Park!! That Defensive Play Of The Game was a GEM!! Worthy of the eventual inning ending double play on Spilborghs and the standing ovation given by just about every single person in the park. Kennedy also made a nice back stab stop of a grounder hit up the middle to his right and threw out Carlos Gonzalez in the 3rd. Adam Kennedy is not fancy in many respects--but he's a pretty competent professional that knows how to position himself and play the game.

For Earth Day, fans were encouraged to bring recyclable containers to Nationals Park and receive discount ticket vouchers to Monday through Thursday Games in May & June. Special announcements were made between innings promoting ways to Get Your Green On. The African Queen and I wore our Green Curly "W" Caps given out in 2008 at Nationals Park in support of the effort.

Teddy also participated in Earth Day by planting a tree during the 4th inning Presidents Race--not racing in it. Of course, his friends ran the tree over rushing past and George took the checkered flag for his 3rd victory of 2010.

And finally, we've always appreciated the end of the 3rd inning "Welcome Home" Salute that Our Washington Nationals hold for rehabbing military members and their families at Nationals Park. And it's always nice to see the visiting teams participate by clapping and engaging themselves in the tribute. Colorado's 1st Base Coach Glen Allen Hill stopped each of the past four days behind home plate, bowed and took off his batting helmet in respect. But what has become VERY SPECIAL is Washington's Pudge Rodriguez turning around after warming up each and every pitcher this season during the salute and applaud and applaud and applaud. Then point at the soldiers with their families. Ivan Rodriguez is one classy man and continues to show that each and every day he dons a uniform for Our Washington Nationals. Watching Pudge today partake in the ritual was bone chilling good.

Today's In-Game Photos--Nick Wass (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Jenn Jenson said...

I have a soft spot for catchers in general (even when they're not future HOFers or hitting .449), so I'm not surprised to be falling for Pudge. And yet, he's proving to be more endearing than expected.

Sounds like I picked the wrong game to skip. Even with the loss, that sounds like a lot more fun than a full day at the office.

Charles McCool said...

Pudge has had a Hall of Fame career and is a Hall of Fame dude. Thanks for the coverage of one classy guy.

Jameson on the rocks said...

Ok, can we start the conversation about getting rid of Adam Dunn while the season is still young and getting some sort of a starting pitcher for him? He had another wonderful 0-4 performance at the plate with 3 strikeouts bringing his average to a whopping .176. Our "cleanup" hitter is batting .176 with 3 doubles, 1 stinking HR and 4 (count that again - 4!) RBI's. At this point if you were to count his K's rather than hits, he would be batting .275. I kept with him all season thus far, but Tuesday night's pathetic performance was the last straw for me. He had two chances to come through and try and help the team claw back against the Rox and he failed both times, striking out both times and ending the innings.

We need to really consider shipping him to an American League team in need of a DH and maybe get a 4th or 5th starter for him (if we're lucky). Then move Willingham over to First (or acquire Mike Jacobs who has just been designated for assignment).


Screech's Best Friend said...

I think that Adam Dunn needs to start playing ball. Mike Rizzo is not going be just dumping a key card that might be swapped in July--if he decides Dunn is not in the long term plans for the team. He's off to a very poor start. Add in his September, 2009 performance issue-it should be a concern. At some point Rizzo will make the decide of should he stay or should he go--either way Dunn has to start producing to be of value to the team and himself.


Jameson on the rocks said...

Well hopefully I spoke too soon.... lol