Thursday, June 10, 2010
There is not a single player in Major League Baseball that doesn't want to be considered an everyday player. Each wants their name written on their manager's lineup card, nightly. That's a singular goal of everyone that steps on the field. And there is one particular person in uniform for Our Washington Nationals in 2010 aiming for just such a goal.
Whether or not he's the final solution to the situation, at least Roger Bernadina is pushing Our Washington Nationals to seriously consider him as their regular starting rightfielder. No one else this season has taken advantage of the opportunity opened up in spring training when Elijah Dukes was released. Willie Harris, Justin Maxwell, Willy Taveras and even Cristian Guzman have all been given opportunities, none have exceeded. Bernadina, on the other hand, after some struggles, is finally showing some promise.
The Netherlands Antillies native has always been an above average fielder. He's got excellent speed and a nice throwing arm. What Roger's never been able to do consistently is hit in the Major Leagues. And power is not his game--probably never will. But what Our Number 2 can excel at is getting his bat on the ball and driving it into the gaps or down the lines. That's where Bernadina becomes extremely valuable.
And that's exactly what Roger's been doing since June, 2010, began. He's stroking the baseball well, not grounding most every pitch into the dirt--hoping to use his god-given speed to beat the infield throw to first base. Bernadina's making himself a threat in Washington's lineup by just being more consistent at the plate. Despite slumping in Mid-May, Jim Riggleman has still put Roger's name down on his lineup card most every single day. Our Manager deciding to give his speedy outfielder an extended look in rightfield. In the short term, that trust appears to be paying off.
Last night at Nationals Park, Roger Bernadina played his second best all around game in the Big Leagues--only exceeded by his two-home run performance at Citi Field on May 12th. Our Number 2 was a catalyst with two doubles, three total hits, one stolen base, one run scored and two really nice running catches. One in the top of the 2nd when he rushed in on The Pittsburgh Pirates Jose Tabata's lazy fly down the rightfield line. A bleeder in foul territory that either the rightfielder better catch coming in swiftly or the second baseman rushing over. The same type play that Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns collided on back in 2006. And we know what happened on that fateful day.
But on this occaision, Cristian Guzman gave way to Roger, and while "The Guz" slid under him, Bernadina glided over him to make a beautiful running basket catch for The Defensive Play Of This Game. Although fortunate not to crash, speed and athletic ability made that play. The exact type of skills Washington needs manning that position each and every game. We can't have "The Guz" out there late--a move that was so unfortunately exposed on June 2nd in Houston.
Since Roger Bernadina is playing well enough defensively and providing a comfortable level of offensive support, Manager Jim doesn't have to consider removing his starting rightfielder late in close games--in a double switch--to bolster his offense if Our Washington Nationals need some late runs. That's a big difference for a National League Team carrying 13 field players. Bernadina raising his game these past two weeks to a more consistent level--in the field and at the plate--has given Riggleman more options juggling his lineup card. And made Our Washington Nationals a better overall team.
Roger Bernadina seems to have found his stroke. The question remains whether he can continue moving forward. Harris, Maxwell, Taveras & Guzzie have all been removed from the equation now. Rightfield is Bernadina's job if he wants it. Only the July 31st trading deadline stands in his way of keeping the position for the remainder of 2010. While his rookie teammate, Ian Desmond, has received far greater publicity for his athletic skills at shortstop and clutch hitting at the plate, Roger Bernadina has quietly built up his resume too--in an attempt to be called an everyday player as well.
Game Notes & Highlights
When The Pittsburgh Pirates scored the game tying run on a single deflected off the leg of John Lannan in the top of the 5th, and Washington scored the go ahead run on a deflected drive off Buc's Pitcher D.J. Carrasco in the bottom of the 7th by Ryan Zimmerman--you know you are in for a strange game. Last night at Nationals Park, an overcast, damp and wet evening set the mood for less than stellar play. Not a pretty game. John Lannan pitched poorly--showing little command of his pitches. He's much better than that, which makes you wonder whether something is wrong with him physically. D.C.'s Team committed two more errors. Yet thanks to a two run homer off the bat of Adam Dunn, Roger Bernadina's play and an ever emerging end of game bullpen--Our Washington Nationals were able to overcome all their fallacies to defeat The Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5. Drew Storen picked up his second Big League Win. The Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps 8th & 9th inning combo appears back on track. Our Number 55 receiving his league leading 20th save of the season.
Washington did what they were suppose to do last night on South Capitol Street. Despite not being sharp, they still beat a bad team. That's an improvement coming on the heels of their recently completed road trip at Houston. Curly "W" Number 29 was not as electrifying as the previous night's debut of Stephen Strasburg, but the final outcome was just as important in the standings. It counts just as much.
Of course, the attendance was nowhere near the sellout level of Tuesday Night. Only 18,876 the official tally. Where Section 218 was packed for Strasburg, virtually no one sat behind us last night.
Everyone was again in on The Presidents Race--Presidents, Pirogues & Unracing Sausages--even that Cat this time with a big assist from Washington's Grounds Crew. As the Sausages turned the right field corner toward the finish line, the entire Grounds Crew jumped the railing and assisted the Cat by tackling the Sausages. Tom was able to free himself from the mess to win the race. The Pirogues came along for the ride.
Late in the game, Pittsburgh sent Brendan Donnelly to the mound. The very pitcher involved in one of the most infamous moments in Nationals History. Donnelly was on the mound in Anaheim in 2005 when Jose Guillen told then Manager Frank Robinson that Brendan used pine tar in his glove. The resultant ejection of Donnelly led to a verbal bout between Robinson and Los Angeles Angels Manager Mike Scioscia that will always be remembered in the annals of history of Our Washington Nationals. Big Frank didn't back down and Jose Guillen followed that up with "The Most Beautiful Swing."
And finally--loved D.J. Carrasco's socks worn on the mound for Pittsburgh--very 1970's style. Stirrups showing, a lot of white sock too--even the Pittsburgh "P". That was old school. Major League Players beginning in the late 60's wore their stirrups high because as Frank Robinson always said--"It makes you look and feel faster." I'll never forget that quote. And he was right. Of course Frank Robby stretched his socks so high only the thin part of the stirrup actually showed. A trend that basically led to players just wearing their pant legs long and not showing any sock at all.
Last Night's In-Game Photos, Manuel Balce Ceneta (AP)
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