Sunday, May 23, 2010
Willing Themselves To Victory
When Nyjer Morgan threw his glove down in disgust over believing the high flying baseball he just missed had caromed off his glove and over the wall for a home run in the top of the 4th inning today--the resultant boos that cascaded down from the highest points of Nationals Park had never been so loud for a member of Our Washington Nationals--like EVER--after the stroked hit by The Baltimore Orioles' Adam Jones simply landed on the grass in center field--in play--just waiting for someone to pick it up.
Nyjer Morgan lost some serious focus this Saturday afternoon. A season's worth of frustration he let loose--allowing The O's Jones to swiftly run around the bases with his teammate, Luke Scott, in front of him. Both eventually scoring the go ahead runs on this Inside-The-Park Home Run (the second such inside the parker allowed by Washington this week). And you might have thought a riot was going to develop on South Capitol Street after this most incredulous of plays. Fans were pissed that D.C.'s team was unexpectedly down 4-2 thanks to such a mental mistake. In fact, they were so riled up that when Our Number 1 walked to the plate moments later to hit in the bottom of the 4th frame--those jeers became ever louder.
The African Queen and I have never heard such venom for any player wearing The Curly "W" in the short history of Our Washington Nationals. Nyjer Morgan was getting the business from Our Fans.
And I don't think we will ever forget the moment--much less the eventual outcome of this game--because just when you believed this defining moment could only make things worse for Washington--it somehow catapulted Our Washington Nationals back into this game, rejuvenated their tired spirit, and reversed those loud jeers to cheers as everyone rooting for D.C.'s team in the announced crowd of 30,290 witnessed a remarkable comeback.
Unusual because for the second straight day it appeared The Orioles were going to walk all over the home side. The worst team record wise, in The American League, was dominating in this annual Battle of The Beltway Series. Craig Stammen again did not pitch well from the start for Washington. Baltimore built what appeared to be a commanding 6-3 lead after Ty Wigginton slammed out his 13th home run (a two-run shot) off Our Number 35 in the top of the 6th. And Jim Riggleman's offense appeared to be taking the day off again. Our Manager's lineup also weakened when Pudge Rodriguez was pulled early after experiencing lower back pain--taking a swing at the plate.
Bad Karma filled the air at Nationals Park. A series of negative effects were keeping Our Washington Nationals down. But then, when all looked lost, a rain storm began on South Capitol Street--continued throughout the remainder of this game--and seemingly--washed all those bad vibrations away.
Apparently sparked, not spooked, by Morgan's mistake, Washington's lineup began to breathe life again. The downpours changing the mood of this game. And with it--any chance of Baltimore winning for a second straight day. The Orioles' Starter, Brad Bergeson had kept his team in this game for nearly six innings. But as the clouds opened up over Nationals Park, Our Washington Nationals opened up their offense and knocked Bergeson right out of this game. Adam Kennedy singling to lead off the game winning rally in the bottom of the 6th. Roger Bernadina following with a run scoring triple down the right field line. An energy builder that found Our Number 2 waving his right arm frantically as he motored around second base encouraging the slower moving Kennedy to race for home. Excitement building which now found the home crowd on their feet waving as well--encouraged over Washington's change in play. No longer booing as was the case just two short innings previously.
Rally Time!! knocked Brad Bergeson from the game when Alberto Gonzalez pinch hit and singled up the middle--scoring Roger Bernadina with Washington's fifth run of the afternoon. Nyjer Morgan greeted Bergeson's replacement, Mark Hendrickson, by sacrificing "The Attorney General" to second base. And after Baltimore's tall and lanky reliever hit Cristian Guzman with a pitch, Ryan Zimmerman singled to center loading up the bases and Adam Dunn followed with the key blow of this game--a slicing single to center that scored Gonzalez with the game tying run and "The Guz" with the go ahead run. A now 7-6 advantage that reversed all those negative vibes felt during the first four innings of this game. The venom heard earlier--long gone--replaced by loud claps and cheers. How quickly the feeling had changed over Nationals Park.
Washington's bullpen then went to work in the rain and washed away any further chance of a Baltimore comeback. Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps pitching three scoreless innings of relief to put this game away for good.
The result--maybe one of the better feel good victories of the season.
Final Score from Nationals Park where turmoil was turned to triumph: Our Washington Nationals 7 and The Baltimore Orioles 6. Close to losing their eighth game out of their last nine played--D.C.'s Team pulled themselves together late this afternoon and accomplished what the good teams do--they simply found a way to win. It wasn't pretty and Curly "W" Number 22 in 44 games will be remembered for Nyjer Morgan's reaction to a defensive misplay in the field. But it should also be recalled for the home side--under the pressure of losing against their closest natural rival--using adversity to find strength and the will power to move forward when many others would buckle. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! should be celebrated this evening for a Washington team that could have easily given up, embarrassed, over Adam Jones' Inside-The-Park Home Run. But instead used that perturbing moment to find new purpose, new resolve, and a thrilling new way to add another Curly "W" into the books.
This was as satisfying of a win as you may see all year because Our Washington Nationals didn't back down to dismay. They didn't allow a huge mental hiccup on the part of a teammate to take them down for the count. They instead reinforced their resolve and found a way to win. Washington grew up as a team today--by willing themselves to victory--against most odds.
Game Notes & Highlights
Craig Stammen is not taking advantage of opportunity given. Having won a starting rotation spot out of spring training, Our Number 35 has done little of late to solidify his position. Possessing maybe the best pitching arsenal on the staff, his strikeouts are down, he's getting hit hard and he doesn't seem to be adjusting to Major League hitters whom have seen him before. Stammen's made little progress of late and he needs to find a way to keep his team in the game more. Craig didn't walk anybody today, but he allowed nine hits, six runs (four earned) and was lucky his teammates picked him up after he was removed from the game--avoiding a personal loss.
Tyler Walker got his first win as a National by being in the right place at the right time. Mopping up where Stammen left off, Tyler became the pitcher of record when Washington rallied for the game winning runs in the bottom of the 6th. Sean Burnett was again terrific in a 1-2-3 7th. "No Nonsense" Tyler Clippard returned to pitch a perfect 8th. And Matt Capps recorded his 16th save in as many opportunities--when he finished off The Orioles in the top of the 9th.
Josh Willingham got Washington on the board in the bottom of the 3rd, and briefly tied up this game, when he flat out hammered a Brad Bergeson pitch over the left field wall for a two run homer. Ryan Zimmerman scored in front of him. Craig Stammen started a two-out rally in the bottom of the 4th when he doubled off Bergeson to the wall in left. Nyjer Morgan followed with a single. And Cristian Guzman slapped Stammen home with D.C.'s 3rd run of the afternoon when Morgan took off for second base--and when Baltimore's shortstop Cesar Izturas moved to cover the bag--"The Guz" singled right through the spot Itzturas had just left. A well developed play all around.
After Morgan made is miscue in centerfield on Adam Jones' Inside-The-Park-Home Run, he got visibly angry with himself for the remainder of this game. When he singled moving Stammen up in the bottom of the 4th--he yelled as he ran down the baseline. When he later bunted Alberto Gonzalez to second in the key bottom of the 6th--he didn't respond in any way. And finally, when Our Number 1 hit into an inning ending double play in the bottom of the 7th on a chopper back to the mound--Morgan heaved his helmet as he crossed first base all the way to the rain tarp positioned slightly down the right field line. Emotions are good sometimes in the game and his teammates picked him up today, but Nyjer Morgan's bad vibes shown need to be checked at the door. In the long run--those type of actions are not going to help anyone--including Our Washington Nationals. And they really didn't help Nyjer Morgan today.
Ryan Zimmerman continues to make the hard play look easy. In the top of the 5th, Baltimore's Nick Markakis slapped a hard hit ball just to the right of The Z-Man. But the ball took a wicked hop off the dirt and bounced right up into Ryan's chest. Getting his body in the front of the baseball, Our Number 11 knocked the baseball down, picked it up with his back to the 1st base, twirled and threw a rocket to Adam Dunn that JUST beat Markakis for the inning ending out. The Defensive Play Of This Game that again proves Ryan Zimmerman has cat-like reflexes.
First Base Coach Dan Radison was tossed from the game in the bottom of the 4th for arguing vehemently with 1st Base Umpire Mike Winters. Upset over what he thought was a balk move by Baltimore's Bergeson--Radison was hot and didn't back down even after Jim Riggleman came out to calm things down. Interestingly, Quality Control Coach, Tim Foli, replaced Radison in the coaching box wearing uniform Number 10. We had no idea Foli was even with the team and in uniform.
The rains started in the 5th inning and continued throughout the remainder of this game. It rained so hard that the number of grounds crew people tending to the field--attempting to dry the muddy dirt--was remarkable to watch. At one point there were more grounds people than players standing on the field. I guess that's a good thing. But we don't recall ever seeing so many guys with rakes and drying compound working at the same time. Impressive especially since the game was never stopped by The Umpires.
Exxon Mobil sponsored Red/White Curly "W" summer wear caps today handed out to the first 20,000 fans in attendance. Like every single cap given out so far this season--this one was a quality effort too--nicely styled with good material.
The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation held their usual Saturday Auction at their kiosk in Center Field Plaza. Items up for bidding included Drew Storen & Ian Desmond autographed jerseys; plus Josh Willingham and Cristian Guzman autographed bats. There had to be a mistake though in the scoreboard announcing the bid winners later in the game as the P.A. stated the auction raised $500 for The Dream Foundation's Charities. Standing and personally looking at the bid sheets before the game began--the totals for just those four items mentioned above were at approximately $1300. The final numbers had to be greater than that total.
Teddy fell down near Our Washington Nationals bullpen in the 4th inning Presidents Race. Tom did too after a push/shove from Abe. Honest Abe then beating George to the finish line to take his eight checkered flag of 2010.
Three guys showed up today at Nationals Park with their versions of Silver Elvis Wigs. These were the inflatable kind and drew a lot of attention around the ballpark.
Sunday's final game of the Battle of The Beltways Series in D.C. will also be a Kids Giveaway Day. Children 12 years of age and under will be handed a White with Red trim Washington Nationals Tee Shirt.
Sunday is also Richard Miller's Birthday. One of the finest ushers at Nationals Park. Knowing Richard's taking the day off to celebrate, Sohna and I stopped by to wish him a Happy Birthday before the game. It just so happened MASN's Debbi Taylor had the same idea. Everyone knows, Richard Miller is one nice man.
Finally--Laurie & Ed are big fans of Our Washington Nationals. They sit directly behind us in Section 218 at Nationals Park. Their son, Scott, is a big supporter too--unless apparently The Orioles come to town. Attending this afternoon's game with his parents and girlfriend--Ashley--Scott wore his Cal Ripken, Jr. Jersey of his youth. And since it was a Cal jersey--we let him slide for the day--this once. (Just kidding) Scott promised to be in his Nationals Jersey next time he's at Nationals Park.
Today's In-Game Photos--Nick Wass (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved