Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Did you see that blind catch by Marlon Byrd today?
It came one inning after Adam Dunn socked out Washington's second home run of the day, their last run and hit as well, against The Chicago Cubs in the 4th inning.
Former National Byrd lost Luis Atilano's high fly into the sunny skies above Wrigley Field in the top of the 5th inning and was only protecting himself from getting hit by the lost baseball.
The Defensive Play Of This Game (and maybe the best thus far this year anywhere) came one inning before the rookie, Atilano, left today's game having pitched another six solid innings of two run ball.
Did I mention that phenomenal catch by The Chicago Cubs' centerfielder?
Marlon Byrd, not only lost sight of the baseball, he turned his head away from the fast dropping baseball--and went down to his knees--only hoping not to get hurt. Attempting to deflect the expected pain--which would eventually come Chicago's way a few innings later after Our Washington Nationals sent The Cubbies down to defeat for the second straight day in a row.
Marlon Byrd, completely having no idea where Atilano's baseball was falling, somehow turned his fielding glove behind his twisted body--palm upward--completely blinded by the sun and looking away toward the centerfield ivy--still amazingly found the baseball dropping into the webbing of his mitt.
A visionless journey rewarded to Marlon Byrd for undying effort. Achievement that just makes you say--Wow!! The same expression which came to mind after Our Washington Nationals continued their early season success with another well played baseball game at Wrigley Field. And while surprise, and maybe a little bit of luck, best describes Marlon Byrds' defensive gem--no one can be anything less than astonished when looking at the National League East Standings this evening--featuring Washington in second place--one game out of 1st in late April. 12 wins after 22 games is not luck. It's the result of the undying efforts put forth by a D.C. Team sneaking up on everybody.
Yeah, it still early, but it's also safe to say--Our Washington Nationals are no longer on a visionless journey of their own. Their continued success in April has opened up some once undiscerning eyes throughout baseball. Considered by some as sightless in team building just over one year ago, Our Nats have seemingly embarked on a new journey. One not blinded by luck, but the vision of a general manager (Mike Rizzo) whose day-to-day personnel decisions these past 15 months has transformed our team off the field--while the discipline and determination instilled by Jim Riggleman on the field--has brought the best qualities out of everyone under his management.
They are not perfect, and Washington must get better--but the unforeseen has brought the excitement back. This unanticipated competitive start has jumpstarted a new life for baseball in the Nation's Capital.
More game details coming in the Game Notes & Highlights but for now: Final Score from Wrigley Field where quality baseball was again played for a second straight day by the visitors: Our Washington Nationals 3 and The Chicago Cubs 2. Curly "W" Number 12 put D.C.'s Team two games above .500 and sent a warning across Major League Baseball that Jim Riggleman's team comes at you every single day.
But the mental image to take from today's series clinching victory over The Cubbies is that baseball in the Nation's Capital is once again a whole new ballgame. Our Washington Nationals are visionless no longer. That light at the end of the long lost proverbial tunnel is beginning to shine brightly. And anyone that doesn't see that is as blinded as Marlon Byrd was--attempting to catch that baseball today through the brightly shining sun in the top of the 5th inning, in centerfield, at the corner of Waveland & Sheffield Avenues.
Game Notes & Highlights
Luis Atilano didn't seem to pitch as well as he did last Friday night against The Los Angeles Dodgers, but when he was replaced after six innings today by Jim Riggleman, the statistical results were pretty much the same: six innings, two runs, six hits and three walks allowed. Never overpowering, his sinker didn't appear to have the bite of his first Major League Game, but he pitched well enough in a notoriously small ballpark to gain his second personal victory of 2010. Nobody was expecting this early success story. In fact, most everybody had never really heard the name Luis Atilano--until one week ago.
Tyler Clippard again pitched the 8th setting up for Matt Capps. In the 9th, Capps recorded his 10th consecutive save to begin the season--still the Major League best. And together, Clippard/Capps quickly becoming one of the hottest set-up man/closer combinations in the game.
Adam Kennedy socked out a first inning home run off Ryan Dempster. Adam Dunn took him deep to left-center in the 4th. And Washington plated their second run in 2nd inning on a Roger Bernadina single, advancement to second on a ground out and scoring on a Wil Nieves rbi single to right. After the 4th, Washington got no further hits, and only one base runner--a walk allowed by Dempster to Nyjer Morgan in the 8th. Dempster finished 8 complete and also pitched well enough to win. But he didn't.
With little offensive production, Washington is winning with mostly pitching and defense. The sign of a good team. One that can only get better when their offense lights up--and fresh pitching arrives over the next few months from the minor leagues.
And finally--a sunny but cold day this afternoon in Chicago. 51 Degrees at game start--an affair that took just 2:21 to play.
Next up--some fish to fry in South Florida. The Florida Marlins on the menu beginning Friday night.
Today's In Game Photo--Charles Rex Arobogast (AP)