Monday, June 21, 2010

The Firefighter

What was left of the small but very vocal crowd of 13,592 was now on it's feet looking for the final out.

They had already witnessed Livan Hernandez pitch seven strong innings of his patented woop-di-doop slop.

Pudge Rodriguez proving again way he's a Hall Of Famer In Waiting by throwing out three base runners.

Marveled at Michael Morse absolutely jacking a baseball so deep over the left field wall at Nationals Park off Bruce Chen--it might have been the closest baseball to ever nearly reach the Center Field Plaza Walkway.

And jumped for joy when Cristian Guzman hammered out his first home run of the season over the left field wall in the bottom of the sixth inning--also off Chen--to give Our Washington Nationals a 2-1 lead over The Kansas City Royals.

Problem was--the top of the 9th inning had yet to come.

The had yet to see the firefighter.

Called on to protect the slim lead, "Cardiac" Capps instead started a blaze of his own. Former National, Jose Guillen, singled to lead off the bottom of the 9th--Willie Bloomquist ran for him. K.C.'s Mike Aviles followed one out later with his own single to right--moving Bloomquist to 3rd. The game tying run now just 90 feet away. A fire line, if crossed, putting D.C.'s lead in jeopardy. Another precarious situation for Washington's Closer--who has been anything but automatic over the past three weeks.

Having lost six in a row and eight of nine games, losing late to The Kansas City Royals after having played one of their better games of the season--would be devastating for Our Washington Nationals and their fans in attendance. Everyone knew that on South Capitol Street and that's why everyone was now standing and roaring after Capps battled back to record out number two on a called third strike by Home Plate Umpire Jerry Layne on The Royals Shortstop--Yuniesky Betancourt.

Sensing the victory but still nervous about the outcome--D.C.'s Fans were hollering their lungs out in support of Our Number 55 to close this game out. They cheered when Kansas City's last chance--Pinch Hitter Mitch Maier--swung at Capps first offering and fouled it down the left field line. They "woooo'd" when Matt's second pitch--a 96 mph heater was called ball one. And began the rhythmic clapping after Maier fouled off Capps 95 mph fastball for strike two.

Feeling the heat of the moment, Washington's fans were in a fervent state now. Baking in the atmosphere surrounding Nationals Park, the sweating palms and perspiration running down many backs having nothing to do with the 88 degree game time temperature, or the high humidity rate sticking everyone's clothes to their bodies--some to their seats. This sultry moment had everything to do with wanting to see Our Washington Nationals suffocate The Royals attempt to tie or win this game--not witness Washington's Closer get scorched himself by a badly placed pitched baseball.

The mercury rising so high--The Fire Chief himself--Our Manager Jim Riggleman-stepped to the mound to discuss how to snuff out the burning embers. The escape plan that now found Matt Capps looking in for the sign from Rodriguez--knowing he had to throw his best stuff. Not his curve, not his slider--but his blazing fastball. The good old fashioned hard stuff that "Cardiac" Capps set himself for, kicked his front leg slightly back--AND FIRED RIGHT OFF THE OUTSIDE CORNER OF THE PLATE!!

The perfect pitch that froze Mitch Maier on this hottest of nights, but didn't fool Jerry Layne. The Home Plate Umpire who emphatically signaled CALLED STRIKE THREE!!---ending this game. Having started this final inning blaze, Matt Capps had extinguished the self-inflicted flames with some well placed heat of his own. A white-hot fastball that found those still remaining on South Capitol Street shouting out in unison: YEEEEEEES!! while watching Capps slap Pudge's right hand so hard in joy over the successful conclusion--you might have thought Rodriguez's arm might fall off.

Capps was mighty jacked himself, hot as a pepper having danced his way out of trouble.

Final Score from Nationals Park where on one of the most oppressively hot nights for any game this season, Matt Capps found the strength and fortitude to not suffer a meltdown: Our Washington Nationals 2 and The Kansas City Royals 1. Curly "W" Number 32 should be remembered for solid starting pitching, three great assists by a catcher and two well launched home runs. But what everyone will probably recall was how Matt Capps started a three alarm fire in the top of the 9th--so very reminiscent of "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game". And The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling--just like Chad Cordero, Our Number 55 has nerves of steel when in trouble. The ice in his veins needed to overcome the combustible nature of nearly blowing a lead.

Stoppers need to be cool under pressure. The heat of the moment can't get them down. Matt Capps put on display this evening at Nationals Park a firefighter's skills worthy of some of the best. With the temperature rising on the field, Matt Capps cooled the flames down, simmered the boil--by using the tool he knows best--his dazzling fastball.

Called Strike Three To End This Game!!

The Firefighter had completed his appointed duty--successfully.

Having to be up early tomorrow morning for an assignment, there will be no Game Notes & Highlights.

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

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