Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Show Must Go On

The feeling was similar to heading out to a sold out Broadway play. The sure to be Tony Award winner with the hot lead actor everyone wants to see. But when the curtain rises for the start of Act One--the understudy is standing on stage. The back up bit player that doesn't have the pizazz of the star. The entertainer everyone came to see that evening had called in ill.

But as everyone knows--the show must go on.

That's exactly what happened tonight when Miguel Batista's name was announced as the starting pitcher for Our Washington Nationals. Shocked looks, many stunned faces, and boos were heard throughout Nationals Park before the very first out was recorded against The Atlanta Braves. But after the fill-in's performance results were near equal to the star--a standing ovation was seen after the 27th and final out was recorded.

Miguel Batista receiving the curtain call as The Player Of The Game.

Rushed into service as an emergency replacement for Stephen Strasburg moments before the beginning of tonight's affair, Batista pitched his finest game of the season in a Nats Uniform. The man wearing Number 43 mesmerized The Braves for five strong innings. He struck out six, walked one, allowed just three hits and gave up--most importantly--not a single run.

Zero. Zip. Nada.

So did the three Washington relievers that followed him. Sean Burnett, Drew Storen and Matt Capps shutting out The Tomahawk Choppers through four strong innings to finish this game off. But tonight's play started and really ended with Miguel Batista. Every single one of Miguel's 83 pitches thrown from the stretch this evening. Not once did Batista throw from the full windup. He pitched a Strasburg like dominating game without the 100 MPH heater, when not one single person among the announced crowd of 40,043 really expected it.

The PlayBill said Strasburg. The Scorecard though read Batista.

In Baseball, like on Broadway, never expect the obvious, always believe in the unpredictable. And more times than not, something wonderful will happen--accidentally. That's baseball in a nutshell, acted out on the big stage in The Nation's Capital this evening.

Certainly, those fans booing the late scratch of Stephen Strasburg may well have been upset over not seeing Washington's Phenom pitch. They might also have been worried the weren't going to get their money's worth? But even if Our Number 37 had toed the rubber tonight against The Atlanta Braves, the outcome could not have been much better. Batista, with help from his bullpen shutdown the potent offense of the N.L. East leaders completely, while Nyjer Morgan sparked the top of Our Manager Jim Riggleman's lineup and Ian Desmond kindled the bottom.

In between, solid defense all around.

When Adam Dunn gets into the defensive act with a run scoring save on a Desmond wild throw to first base--scooped up while still keeping his leaning big body's foot on the bag in the top of the 5th on a ground ball hit by Martin Prado--you know something special is in the works. If that toss was missed, Melky Cabrera would have scored from second base easily and this drama could have changed drastically.

Instead, a command performance was underway. The understudy getting the job done on the mound while the regular cast members stood behind him providing their full support. The back up actor's role is to seamlessly fit himself into his spot without missing a beat when the star goes down. Miguel Batista did just that this evening at Nationals Park. He gave his Washington teammates exactly what many expect of Stephen Strasburg every single time Our Number 37 trots to the mound--shutout ball and the optimum chance at victory.

Final Score from Nationals Park where when Stephen Strasburg did not make his expected start only the worst thoughts came to mind: Our Washington Nationals 3 and The Atlanta Braves Zero. Curly "W" number 43 was won by Our Number 43 and backed up by his supporting cast, but not before Mike Rizzo removed the star attraction from his appointed duty this evening as a precautionary move. Upon hearing that Stephen Strasburg was having trouble warming up, Our General Manager made the right decision, even if unpopular among the masses in attendance on South Capitol Street, by not taking any chances with Washington's expected star hurler for years to come. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! muted a little upon hearing the news that Stephen Strasburg's MRI showed inflammation in his right throwing shoulder. A medical result that now has Our Number 37 listed as day-to-day.

But as on Broadway, the show must go on and Miguel Batista stepped into the starring role and acted as if he was born for the job. Although jeered upon hearing his name called out on the P.A. as tonight's starter, Batista eventually won over the hearts of those very same fans as he exited to the clubhouse for the final time this evening. The stand-in had filled-in and proved to be a worthy successor. Miguel Batista wasn't overpowering. He wasn't throwing nearly 100 MPH and he doesn't possess a 90 MPH changeup, but he pitched as well as he's thrown all season. With the headliner down, Batista pinch hit and nary a sole missed a beat--incredibly. Miguel's probably not going to win a Tony Award or a Cy Young either, but on this evening at Nationals Park, he did a wonderful Stephen Strasburg imitation.

And the near sellout crowd? They loved it!! The earlier jeers now turned into cheers.

Game Notes & Highlights

On the very night Miguel Batista figured he would never start a Major League game, he instead garners his first personal victory of 2010. Yes, Burnett, Storen and Capps finished this game off, but Batista set the table. A high standard needed to overcome the unexpected loss of Stephen Strasburg before the very first official pitch was even thrown this evening.

Matt Capps recorded his 25th save in 1-2-3 style in the bottom of the 9th.

As for Strasburg, an MRI showed that he's developed shoulder inflammation, soreness that forced Mike Rizzo to shut him down this evening for precautionary measures. A wise decision that makes you wonder whether Stephen Strasburg might have thrown his final pitch of 2010? Considering all the pressure he's been under and how well he's handled it all this season--protecting Stephen Strasburg for tomorrow by giving up today, and the next two months of 2010 is a decision worth backing. The cautious route is OK by us.

Atlanta's young stud pitcher, Tommy Hanson, pitched six solid innings. His defense let him down with two errors behind him and he left having allowed three runs, only one of which was earned. Hanson's personal record dropped to 8-7 for the season.

In the bottom of the 1st inning, Nyjer Morgan manufactured a run all by himself. Leading off, he singled to center off Atlanta's Tommy Hanson, then stole second base with Cristian Guzman batting. While "Guz" was still in the batter's box, Morgan took off for third. Not expecting the attempt, Atlanta's Catcher, Brian McCann, tossed the baseball past Chipper Jones into left field. Nyjer scoring easily for Washington's first run of this game on the error.

Washington's second and third runs also resulted from a Braves error. Pudge Rodriguez slapped a hard grounder to Chipper Jones at 3rd base in the bottom of the second. A possible double play ball with Roger Bernadina running to second from first. But Jones rushed his throw after making the swirling backhanded stab and tossed the ball into rightfield. Bernadina rushing to third and Pudge scampering to 2nd, where they both scored easily on Ian Desmond's laced liner to center moments later. The final runs scored all evening by either team.

Not much offense on display tonight just good pitching. Six hits for Washington, the only extra base hit a double by Ryan Zimmerman moments after Morgan scored D.C.'s first run in the bottom of the 1st. Only five hits by Atlanta including a double by Eric Hinske.

In the top of the 6th with Chipper Jones on 1st base via a single off Sean Burnett, McCann lined what looked like was going to be a sure single to center. But with Washington's defense overshifting to the right for the pull hitter that Atlanta's left handed hitting catcher can be--the baseball went right to Ian Desmond who fielded the ball behind and on the 2nd base side of the infield. With Cristian Guzman too far away from the bag, Desmond showed great athletic ability by rushing to 2nd base to just beat Jones for out number one--then fired a rocket to Adam Dunn manning first to beat McCann for a double play and The Defensive Play Of This Game.

It was a fine play nearly outdone by Martin Prado in the bottom of the 6th. Josh Willingham absolutely hammered a sharply hit ground ball to the right of Atlanta's 2nd Baseman. The 2010 N.L. All-Star ranged over to backhand scoop the ball. But as he brought his glove up to take the baseball out his mitt, the ball popped out and into the air--straight up. Still moving away from 1st base and more towards centerfield--Martin Prado leaped into the air to retrieve the lost baseball and grabbed it barehand and heaved it to first base in one motion--just missing Willingham. Martin Prado had shown quickness, skill and athletic ability. The only thing he didn't get for his effort--was the out. But that was one nice defensive play too.

Interestingly, on the night Stephen Strasburg was pulled from his start, Our Washington Nationals announced on the HDTV Scoreboard that Strasburg's June 8th Debut Game Video from MASN will be handed out to the first 15,000 fans on August 12 when The Florida Marlins visit Nationals Park.

Before tonight's game, NASA's Space Shuttle Crew from STS-132 was honored, as was Matt Capps for his 2010 All-Star Game appearance and personal win received while pitching for the National League squad in Anaheim, California.

Ryan Zimmerman also was awarded this evening the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's Heart & Hustle Award for Our Washington Nationals. Former Washington Senator, Jim Hannan, presented Ryan with the award given to one player on each of the 30 Big League Teams. The overall individual winner will be announced later this year at ceremonies in New York City.

And finally, the outfield grass at Nationals Park was in terrible shape tonight. The stage and seats placed in the outfield last weekend for The Dave Matthews Band Concert did not go well with temperatures rising to 100 degrees. Burn spots were clearly seen all over the field. Not sure if it affected play, but the field looked awful.

Tonight's In-Game Photos--Drew Angerer (AP) and Greg Fiume (Getty Images)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Laurie said...

The threads under the National's Fan site and the Nat's Journal site are so annoying! People wanting their money back if he does not pitch...and the other various stupid stuff. These folks are not real, are they? I mean, come on..do they actually watch baseball or are they just being pains on purpose?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Laurie: Clearly, they are not baseball fans.