Thursday, July 29, 2010
Takahasi Saito just kept staring. He couldn't keep his eyes off the spot where the baseball he had just thrown moments ago had landed. Adam Dunn had just put the exclamation point down on Our Washington Nationals latest Curly "W". An opposite field jacked shot into the Red Porch seats in left center. A solo home run in the bottom of the 8th that landed in the waiter service section of Nationals Park's Stadium Restaurant.
Saito look absolutely stunned, just like his Atlanta Braves teammates must have felt after the conclusion of this three game series on South Capitol Street. The First Place In The National League East Tomahawk Choppers had avoided facing Stephen Strasburg. They had beaten Livan Hernandez but lost to both Miguel Batista and Scott Olsen. Go figure?
Returning to Major League service this afternoon after missing the past two months due to shoulder inflammation in the pitching arm (sound familar?), Scott Olsen re-enforced his desire to become a constant part of Our Washington Nationals starting rotation, not an unstable part. Atlanta's Matt Diaz took him deep for a two run homer in the top of the 4th. The one truly bad pitch offered up that didn't alter the effect, or the excitement, of this still young southpaw trying to resurrect the same promise shown a few years back while a Florida Marlin.
This afternoon D.C.'s team put on display it's capability when their youth plays smart baseball and their veterans supply the always needed support. Perhaps no one gave their all more than Ian Desmond. Washington's rookie shortstop recorded his 24th error on the season, but not before he provided much of the fire power before Dunn's shot. Desmond with one wicked solo home run stroked to right center off Derek Lowe that easily cleared the Out-Of-Town Scoreboard. And followed that blast up with a double and second run scored of the day when Wil Nieves--Yes, Wil Nieves--singled to right center in the bottom of the 4th plating Michael Morse as well. Nieves two RBI's putting Scott Olsen back into the lead, an advantage he never relinquished during Our Number 19's six complete innings on the mound.
Ian Desmond played some sharp defense this afternoon at Nationals Park. He got handcuffed in the top of the 6th on a backhand attempted rocket shot one hopper to his right. But before and after that miscue, Desmond cleanly worked his way through a series of fine defensive efforts. Nothing that makes the highlight reel, but the stuff that makes a manager's head nod in appreciation. Ian Desmond put on a show today. The very athletic and skillful abilities that has any team wondering just how good he can be?
Just like Washington's Bullpen. Again this afternoon, three scoreless innings pitched from Sean Burnett, Drew Storen and Matt Capps. All three performing needed duty after a 1:32 rain delay that forced both Olsen and Derek Lowe from this game. A strong point most all season, Our Manager Jim Riggleman seems to have finally found a winning combination out of his pen. One that is flexible and capable of pitching in just about any inning--whether the need comes in the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th. Burnett, Storen, Tyler Clippard, Joel Peralta and Doug Slaten are interchangeable parts--Miguel Batista the wild card. Only Capps the constant--remaining in his closer role. A job he's relished all year wearing The Curly "W". Today, Our Number 55 recording his 26th save of 2010.
And remember, Adam Dunn will always be known for the long ball. His 24th home run of 2010 off Saito visually proved how powerful the left handed slugger truly can be. Atlanta's Japanese Import threw a 90 MPH fastball over the outside corner of the plate. Not thrown necessarily low, Our Number 44 didn't golf the baseball either. Instead, Adam Dunn muscled that pitch out of the park. That's why Takahasi Saito was stunned. And that's why his Atlanta Braves Teammates are taking a flight to Cincinnati this evening bewildered.
D.C.'s team engaged The Braves this week. They contested Atlanta with some smart baseball every step of the way. Their youth stepped up and their veterans didn't back down. The result? A last place team beating a first place team two times over the past three days.
Final Score from Nationals Park where not even a hard rain and subsequent long delay could damper the spirits of an all-around good ball game: Our Washington Nationals 5 and The Atlanta Braves 3. Curly "W" number 44 of 2010 dumbfounded The Tomahawk Choppers. With one of the best offenses in the National League in the park wearing visiting uniforms, Atlanta couldn't figure Scott Olsen and Washington's Bullpen out. Much the same experience witnessed two nights ago when Miguel Batista made his emergency start. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! proving exactly what Batista mentioned to Nats320 yesterday. If you play smart baseball, it's not going to take much more to win.
The Atlanta Braves were stunned by Our Washington Nationals this afternoon, as well as, this past Tuesday night, because Our Manager Jim Riggleman's constant re-emphasis to each and every one of his players on his roster to play the game astutely--seems to have finally taken hold. There was some good baseball played by both sides during this just completed series with the final results stunning to some.
The better prepared team had won.
And that was Our Washington Nationals.
How nice is that?
As for that stunned look on Takahasi Saito's face? It will not be forgotten anytime soon.
Game Notes & Highlights
Scott Olsen's Numbers--six complete innings pitched, five hits and two walks allowed, just one strike out and three runs--two of which were earned. I don't think any of his pitches reached above 92 mph, but Olsen used his fastball to set up his changeup. And that became his out pitch most of the time he was on the mound. Better than anyone probably expected, Scott Olsen received his third personal win of 2010 against two losses. And at least for one day, helped stabilize a listing Washington rotation in need of quality starts.
Washington's bullpen again lights out. At a time when Strasburg has gone down and placed on the Disabled List, Livo has his shortest stint of the season and Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen continue to struggle--Jim Riggleman's bullpen again has been game worthy--keeping things close, holding leads and giving Our Washington Nationals something to play for, late, in most every game. Washington's bullpen throwing 11.2 shutout innings over the last three games.
In his past 12 games played, Michael Morse at the plate is 14-for-29 (.483) with 2 doubles, one triple, 3 home runs, and 12 RBI. Today, he finished this game 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored. Morse has yet to find a true position on this team, but he continues to sock the cover off the baseball. Desmond's homer was his 7th of the season and his 43rd RBI.
For the earliest home start of the season--12:30PM--30,262 the attendance for this Businessman's Special. Not bad.
And finally, late this afternoon, Our Washington Nationals announced that Miss Katherine Connors--Miss Iowa--will throw out the first pitch Friday Night at Nationals Park when The Philadelphia Phillies come to town. Miguel Batista will catch that ceremonial toss and continue to give Miss Iowa more free nationwide publicity than she could EVER have expected. This all coming in response to Batista's now famous comment to the media after his emergency starting appearance for Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday night comparing coming to see Miss Universe and being left watching Miss Iowa.
Today's In-Game Photos--Drew Angerer (AP) and Greg Fiume (Getty Images)