Sunday, August 29, 2010
An offensive explosion, a large crowd against a good opponent, controversial calls, the furor of it all. Last night's game between Our Washington Nationals and The St. Louis Cardinals was only missing the announcement afterwards of a much anticipated scheduled shouting rematch between Umpire Joe West and Nationals First Base Coach Dan Radison.
Have you ever seen the usually mild-mannered Radison so pissed?
"Shorty" (Sohna's nickname for Dan) was incensed off over a terrible interference call ruled against Ian Desmond in the bottom of the 3rd inning. With Livan Hernandez on second base and Adam Kennedy standing on first base with no outs, Desmond laid down a nice bunt between the pitchers mound and 3rd base. As Our Number 6 raced to 1st, Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse picked up the rolling baseball, turned and threw an awful throw toward Albert Pujols standing on the bag. Lohse's throw was off line, in front of Pujols and behind Desmond's back. The swift moving Ian was running JUST inside the white baseline as the ball neared the base.
Albert Pujols realized if he extended his glove out into the baseline--he might get his left hand broken. So he pulled back in safety and the baseball flew past him and down the right field line--scoring Livo easily and sending Kennedy to 3rd base. But out of nowhere, replacement AAA Umpire Dan Bellino (again inserting himself into controversy surrounding a Nationals game this year), ruled Desmond had interfered with Pujols' catch by running INSIDE the baseline. A terrible decision that credited Lohse for a TERRIBLE THROW.
The ruling was silly because it excused Kyle Lohse's poor defensive play. Ian Desmond hadn't interfered with the play and that set Dan Radison into a fit as he went ballistic on First Base Umpire Rob Drake--who tossed him. Now if Radison was going to get ejected, he was also going to get in his two cents worth and proceeded to continue with a near knockdown, drag out, shouting match with Joe West--the Crew Chief. Dan was nose to nose giving it to West. And West was giving it right back. Only Our Manager Jim Riggleman forcing himself between the two combatants simmered the feud.
That was some good stuff.
Bellino's ruling had set off a furor. The volatility of the moment actually igniting the announced crowd of 30,688 on South Capitol Street and lighting a fuse under Our Washington Nationals. Believe it or not, this one controversial play set the tone for the remainder of the evening. An interference call that completely changed around the momentum of this game. Down 3-1 to St. Louis at the time, those fighing words from Dan Radison sparked a huge rally by the home side and with it one of the largest offensive breakthroughs since Baseball Returned In 2005.
16 hits were accumulated by Our Washington Nationals. 14 runs scored--the highest total in any game played in D.C. in six seasons. And saved Livan Hernandez from being forced out early when The Cardinals were smacking him all over Nationals Park. Of course a smackdown like this would not have been complete without another controversy. And that came after this affair got well out of hand. Former Nationals Closer, Mike MacDougal, was being put through the ringer by Manager Jim's batting order. Six earned runs spotted against his already balloning ERA of 8.74 in the bottom of the 8th. But what everyone watching will remember is the 7th run that supposedly scored, but was called an out by 3rd Base Umpire Angel Hernandez.
At the time, MacDougal wasn't helping himself on the mound. It's just too bad Pudge Rodriguez physically helped Nyjer Morgan touch the plate while trying to score. Otherwise D.C.'s Team would have plated 15 runs this evening. The furor over this last dispute of the night almost as good as the first one that got everything started.
The explanation: One run was already in for Washington in the bottom of the 8th (the score 9-5 Washington), when Nyjer Morgan laid down a simple sacrifice bunt attempting to move Pudge Rodriguez and Michael Morse to 2nd and 3rd. MacDougal cleanly fielded the baseball and threw a lollipop throw to Pujols at 1st Base. So softly, the ball flew OVER Albert's head. An incredibly silly error that loaded up the bases with nobody out. Willie Harris pinch hit next for reliever Sean Burnett and laced a double down the right field line--sure to score all three runners. With Pudge and Morse already across the plate and the crowd all on their feet roaring, Nyjer came hustling around third base--racing for home. Defensively, The Cardinals had no play on him and never even attempted to throw him out.
But that didn't stop another controversy from brewing.
With St. Louis catcher Bryan Anderson standing nearly on top of the plate looking at the ball being thrown into the infield, Morgan for some reason, ran into Anderson. He really didn't have to. Our Number 1 could have slid or just touched the outside corner of home. When Nyjer tripped past The Cardinals Catcher--Home Plate Umpire Dan Bellino didn't say anything. As Morgan ran into Rodriguez standing just beyond the batters circle on the grass to the right of home plate--Pudge physically pushed him back toward home to touch the plate. Nyjer Morgan slid back, face first for the apparent score.
Dan Bellino did not dispute the play in any way. But 3rd Base Umpire Angel Hernandez did. As Hernandez called Morgan out, Nationals Park erupted in another fury rarely heard. Fans were upset, pissed again over what they assumed was another bad umpiring decision. Jim Riggleman rushed out to argue. Morgan so mad, he ripped whatever he was chewing in his mouth out and tossed it violently against the backstop in front of The Presidents Club Seats.
As the ruckus continued and fans booed and booed and booed, Riggleman went back to Washington's dugout where Joe West then proceeded to continue the debate with Our Manager. Eventually the ruling stood, and as it turned, this decision was the proper one. No player, or coach, is allowed to physically assist or touch any baserunner--in any way. That's interference. And that's another automatic out.
But no announcement was ever mentioned to the crowd. The ruling was never explained. And that alone continued the volatile atmosphere and venom against the Men In Blue. The furor incensing the fan base and recharging Our Washington Nationals in a manner not seen in some time. Maybe D.C.'s Team needs to be infuriated in such a way more often--three more runs were scored in the bottom of the 8th after the ball was put back in play giving them a total of 14 for the night.
The result? Two interference calls, two odd outs, that went against the home side--but in long run had physically changed this game for the better.
How often can you say that?
Final Score from Nationals Park where commotion ruled the night: Our Washington Nationals 14 and The St. Louis Cardinals 5. Curly "W" Number 55 will be remembered for Adam Dunn breaking out of his August slump with a huge night at the plate (a two run double and three run homer to center). It will be recalled for "Mikey Mo" ripping the cover off the baseball by going 4-4. (Does anybody swing the bat harder than Michael Morse?). And for Roger Bernadina slugging out his 2nd home run of the week, and 10th of the season, on South Capitol Street. But The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! celebrated a necessary rage needed in D.C. Baseball. With so many, so down, over the loss of Stephen Strasburg for the next 12-18 months, last evening's triumph over The St. Louis Cardinals and The Umpires injected a team and their fan base in need of a pick-me up.
Sometimes when things are tough and little appears to be going right--a moment, an instant, a juncture comes that gives hope. The Furor on display last night on South Capitol Street was tantalizing. If you left Nationals Park not excited over what you just witnessed--you never will. Controversy led to fury, hullabaloo led to rage, and agitation led to sheer madness.
Just ask" Shorty"?
Dan Radison's argument with Joe West meant everything this evening. His furor was the scene setter that altered the mood at the ballpark and helped bond Our Washington Nationals and their Fans back together again after a tough week. This was a good game, thrilling for all the right reasons.
And thankful for having two controversial umpiring calls.
Game Notes & Highlights
Livan Hernandez recorded his 9th win of the season--tying Tyler Clippard for a team high. It didn't appear Ole Number 61 would make it out of the 3rd inning. He wasn't sharp early. But after Washington's rally, Livo settled down and lasted into the 7th. Favorite Livan moment of the night. Down 3-1 and in the on-deck circle as the 2nd inning ended--Hernandez is swinging his bat and chatting with folks sitting in the 1st few rows of Presidents Club. That man's hilarious, nothing bothers him.
Adam Kennedy, Roger Bernadina, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Pudge Rodriguez had two hits apiece last night. Dunn knocked in five runs--Pudge and Bernadina each two.
Last night's victory was Washington's 100th in the history of Nationals Park.
George won the 4th inning Presidents Race.
And finally, after Willie Harris scored Washington's 12th run of the evening--moments after the Nyjer Morgan controversy at the plate in the bottom of the 8th--Willie couldn't help himself. He had slid across and was already declared safe. But he got up, turned around and re-touched home plate with his right hand. In fact, he slapped his palm down to drive the point home. Home Plate Umpire Dan Bellino was not impressed and stared at Harris as Willie trotted to The Nationals Dugout.
Last Night's InGame Photos--Susan Walsh (AP)
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