Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The 10-Minute Game

Only in baseball can a team be completely outplayed for 8 and 1/2 innings, get its token chance to recover in the bottom of the 8th (like most teams do every game), and with nary a single person remaining at Nationals Park watching truly expecting the miracle comeback--nearly see the impossible.

The MegaMillions drawing this Tuesday night was scheduled for 10:59PM. The 175,000,000 to One Chance of taking home the Grand Prize. For the briefest of moments, Our Washington Nationals almost pulled off the insurmountable beginning at 9:33PM--86 minutes earlier than the ping pong balls were dropped. This Millions To One Shot would have been remembered for some time. Down four runs in what truly was a rather boring game for the first 2 hours and 30 minutes--D.C.'s Team turned what appeared to be a certain loss into a barnburner over the final 10.

The 10-Minute Game that left everyone still in attendance in the announced crowd of 18,250 wondering: What could have been?

As remarkable as Livan Hernandez's 121 pitches in 4.1 innings was last night for all the wrong reasons, this last moment rally was for all the right reasons. And if Washington had been able to pull it off, The Chicago Cubs might well have gone down as the victims in the greatest comeback for the home side since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005.

It was that close. And that unbelievable.

And that exciting.

And that frustrating at the end.

One of those games that upon conclusion leaves you wondering: How did we lose that one?


Confused yet?

Well, you should be, because this was a Tale Of Two Games.

The Chicago Cubs were leading 5-1 as the bottom of the 9th began. Alfonso SORIANO!! had rapped out a three run homer off John Lannan in the top of the 2nd inning. The Cubbies rookie sensation, Tyler Colvin, had added to the Chicago lead with a two run shot of his own, also off Lannan, to right field in the top of the 4th. Carlos Zambrano had basically shut Washington down from the mound. Only Ryan Zimmerman's two out single in the bottom of the 3rd--scoring Alberto Gonzalez--had narrowed the distance.

For the most part, the South Capitol Street Ballpark had been dead most all night, there really was not much to cheer about. Only what was to come in this unexpected final half frame erupted Nationals Park in a manner not seen since Ryan Zimmerman raked out his bottom of the 9th home run off The Philadelphia Phillies on July 31st. Fittingly, The Z-Man was now stepping to the plate again in the bottom of the 9th with the tying run on 2nd base--represented by Adam Kennedy--and the winning run in the hands of that very trusty Number 11 in home Red, White & Gold.

Could anyone have scripted this finish much better?

Remember, Zimmy has seven walk off home runs in his still young career. For Our Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman is the one man that has consistently stepped to the plate and delivered with the game on the line. Clutch like few others, Washington's reigning Gold Glove Third Baseman and Sliver Slugger stood at home plate facing the hard throwing, but inconsistent Chicago closer, Carlos Marmol.

But The 10-Minute game had only reached this climatic moment thanks to Michael Morse drawing a one-out walk in the bottom of the 9th, followed by single to left by Alberto Gonzalez and a full-count walk taken by Willie Harris. The bases loading free pass that stopped most everyone leaving the park for their cars or Metro--right in their paths. People were standing in the aisles, in the walkways, no one wishing to miss the surprising developments.

An uprising in which no one could believe what they were seeing, especially after Nyjer stepped to the plate and struck out badly on three straight Marmol pitches for out number two. Seemingly out of luck and out of this game for the final time, fortune incredibly reversed again for Washington when Adam Kennedy faced Marmol in the batters box and lofted the very first pitch he saw from The Cubbies fireballer down the right field line--past Kosuke Fukudome and into the corner. A bases clearing double that found Nationals 3rd Base Coach Pat Listach waving his left arm frantically instructing Morse, Gonzalez and Harris all home with Washington's 2nd, 3rd and 4th runs and sending Nationals Park into a frenzy.

People were going nuts!!

Mind-blowing best describes the feeling, maybe less than 10,000 folks were left in the ballpark for this wondrous finish, but no matter how many were actually still on hand--every single one was absolutely amazed. Stunned so much by the turnaround, they cheered so loudly, you would have believed the house was full with 40,000--if your eyes were closed.

It was that loud. It was that captivating. And unlike the first 150 minutes of play, these final 10 were that much fun.

In fact, pretty precious. The type of turnaround you remember for years to come.

Special, if D.C.'s Team actually tied this game?

History making, if Our Washington Nationals could actually win this game?

Carlos Marmol had put his Chicago Cub teammates in jeopardy of losing this game with his erratic performance trying to close out the 9th. Adam Kennedy had played Double Jeopardy on the Cubbies Closer. Now with Ryan Zimmerman standing at the plate--Final Jeopardy was at hand.

With most everyone now standing and watching, the chant "Let's Go Zimmerman!!" was heard throughout Nationals Park. The riveting atmosphere building with each successive pitch thrown by Marmol. The crowd moaning when a strike was called by Home Plate Umpire Tim Tschida and roaring for each called ball. As the count stood at 2-2 after Ryan Zimmerman fouled off the 5th pitch of this game's final at-bat, Marmol looked in for the sign from his catcher Geovany Soto. The final answer to this game the only unknown question.

Who really was in Jeopardy of losing?

Carlos had thrown nothing but sliders so far in his five pitches thrown to Zimmy. Believing he had Ryan set up, Marmol reared back and threw a fastball. A 93 MPH heater Our Number 11 was expecting. The exact type of pitch Washington's Franchise Player can JACK!!

As the final ping pong ball was released from the cage--Ryan Zimmerman saw nothing but JACKPOT!! written all over it. The game winning drive, the walk-off hit. The lucky draw so few will ever experience.

The swing of Zimmy's bat brought a huge roar from the crowd. A fly ball down the rightfield line. A shot off the bat of Zimmerman that at first glance looked to be over Fukudome's head--sure to at least tie up this game. But as Kosuke ran toward the corner, toward the fence, he realized as did the crowd watching, the baseball had no lift. It was dying and with it went Our Washington Nationals hopes. The last lottery ball released did not have Our Number 11 written all over it. It was Marmol's Number 49. Kosuke Fukudome settling under the baseball to record the final out.

Winning the lottery for Washington had proven again, as in real life, to be millions of times more fantasy than fact.

Final Score from Nationals Park where D.C.'s Team lined up all the winning numbers but couldn't play Powerball at the end: The Chicago Cubs 5 and Our Washington Nationals 4. Loss Number 73 was heartbreaking because Washington had come back from nowhere to nearly win this game. They had no right to be in it at the end as The Cubbies were cruising to another victory.

But baseball proved again this evening why it is unlike any other sport. There is no time limit. The clock doesn't run out. The game doesn't end until that final 27th out is recorded. It didn't matter that for nearly two and one half hours Our Washington Nationals had been outplayed. What mattered was the 10-minute game that played out to the finish line.

And that ending was as exciting as it gets--even if Washington didn't get lucky enough to win this ball game.

Game Note & Highlights

After three consecutive solid starts since returning from AA Harrisburg, John Lannan struggled tonight in five innings pitched. Subjected to the gopher ball, Soriano and Colvin ruined his evening on the mound. He didn't walk anyone, but those two blows solidified his sixth loss of 2010 in 11 personal decisions.

Miguel Batista, Collin Balester and Craig Stammen pitched one hit, no walk, scoreless ball, over the final four innings tonight for Washington.

Crazy Man!!--Carlos Zambrano--recorded his fifth personal win in 11 decisions in 2011. Always volatile, Zambrano kept his cool at Nationals Park this evening and he was rewarded after Carlos Marmol BARELY finished off his 23rd save of the season for The Cubbies. Interestingly, Zambrano is undefeated at Nationals Park, 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA in 19.1 innings pitched.

Speaking of Marmol--never seen anything quite like it. Carlos doesn't have the greatest control, he's liable to throw the ball anywhere--that's why opposing batters don't dig in at the plate facing him. But you have to love the whip that comes from his body on every single pitch. Where have you EVER seen a pitcher get down so low and then release the baseball after hiding it behind his right knee? That's hard to do. A chiropractors dream!! Win or lose, Carlos Marmol was fascinating to watch tonight at Nationals Park. How does he throw like that without hurting himself? Really?

Zimmerman's rbi single in the bottom of the 3rd his 71st RBI. Kennedy's three run double lifting his rbi total for the season to 27.

Tyler Colvin's 19th home run over the "Out Of Town Scoreboard" in the top of the 4th was significant in that on this very day, former Cub Sammy Sosa blistered the Chicago franchise for allowing Colvin and current National Jason Marquis (two years ago) to wear his former uniform number 21 for The Cubbies. Clearly, The Cubs have a issue with Sosa's past and haven't decided whether his long career on The North Side with rumors of steroid usage should be thanked or not.

And finally, Abe won the 4th inning Presidents Race again, beating Tom to the finish line.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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