Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Immaculate Reception

At times comes a moment in a ballgame that exceeds the overall final decision and final score.

Better than Our Washington Nationals saving Stephen Strasburg today at Nationals Park.

Better than Josh Willingham's two run blast over the left field wall--his first homer since July 2nd--a 33 game stretch.

Better than Ian Desmond's eventual go-ahead rbi single.

Better than Ryan Zimmerman crushing an Esmerling Vasquez fastball to the Red Porch Seats in Left Center in the 8th.

Better than four shutout innings of relief work from Washington's bullpen.

Better than The Arizona Diamondbacks being defeated this Sunday afternoon on South Capitol Street.

And better than the fizzled Arizona Immigration Law Protest on the field during the 5th inning.

For The African Queen and I, the best moment today in the rubber match between The Snakes and Our Nats was Ryan Zimmerman performing The Defensive Play Of This Game. Not only did The Z-Man rush like no 3rd Baseman in the game today far and long down the left field line--in foul territory--for a high fly ball to haul in an exquisite over the shoulder--watch this if you can catch while Ian Desmond nearly under cut him. But Our Number 11 made The Immaculate Reception against his former teammate, former roommate, and good friend--Ryan Church.

Yes, My Main Man!! now plays for The Arizona Diamondbacks. Traded in late July by The Pittsburgh Pirates to The Snakes, Churchie was making his second series appearance of the season at Nationals Park against his former team. He was last here when The Buccos came to Washington, D.C. in early June. Called on to pinch hit in the top of the 7th frame by his new Manager Kirk Gibson, "Church On Sunday!!" as The African Queen and I could not hold back from saying, stepped into the batters box for Arizona Pitcher D.J. Carrasco. Facing Washington's Tyler Clippard, Ryan lofted a high fly ball down the left field line--in foul territory--sort of into no man's land. Zimmerman was rushing as fast as his large frame would take him. Ian Desmond played cutoff and angled toward the ball. No one seemed to take control as it appeared Zimmy and Ian would collide.

As impact became more imminent, D.C.'s rookie shortstop cut from the chase at the very last moment. Not sure if Our Number 11 called for the ball emphatically, but Ian wanted no part of running into Ryan Zimmerman. And Washington's reigning Gold Glove 3rd Base Recipient made one marvelous catch--over his shoulder--looking over his head--back to the plate. In fact, Zimmy never stopped running after the play was made until he almost came in touch with the ball girl--trying to get out of his way too. That defensive gem had everything--athleticism, skill and danger.

This Immaculate Reception brought most everyone in the announced crowd of 21,695 to their feet. And found, Ryan Church, looking over his right shoulder, over his right shoulder again and eventually turning around--as he trotted off the field--looking at the HDTV Scoreboard replay to see what exactly his good friend had done.

Churchie knew he had been beat. And he had been called out by one of the best in the game. As My Main Man!! trotted toward the 3rd base dugout to call it a day--Ryan casually looked over at the other Ryan--the one he used to call his teammate and nodded in appreciation. The Z-Man simply nodding his head downward, eyes targeting the ground, while he scraped some infield dirt with his cleats--almost embarrassed.

You can't beat moments like that.

Friend Versus Friend, each knowing the game being played--at that very moment--is more important than life off the field. The team comes before any friendships and Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Church understood that this afternoon. Yes, there was a whole lot more to this game than that one moment--just one particular out. But for Sohna and I, Ryan Versus Ryan signified the day. The friendships and camaraderie maintained off the field, simply don't come into play during any game. The object of the game on "Any Given Sunday" (or any other day for that matter) is to win. Ryan Zimmerman had only one choice--make The Defensive Play Of This Game. The fact that his former teammate, good friend and all around nice guy in Ryan Church, was the batter, didn't matter.

That was the game for us. A seminal moment My Main Man!! acknowledged when we met with him after the conclusion of this game.

Final Score from Nationals Park where The Immaculate Reception ruled our day: Our Washington Nationals 5 and The Arizona Diamondbacks 3. Curly "W" Number 51 will be remembered by most for Stephen Strasburg throwing a routine grounder hit back to him--down the right field line for a run scoring error and, subsequently, two unearned runs scored against him. It will also be recalled for Josh Willingham breaking out of a six week power slump with a two-run game tying homer to left in the bottom of the 4th inning. And it will be looked back on for Ian Desmond's go-ahead single in the 7th; the Z-Man's pulverizing shot to left center off Vasquez in the bottom of the 8th; and Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen closing the door on The Snakes.

But The Defensive Play Of This Game represented everything for Sohna and I: gamesmanship, sportsmanship and the unwillingness to give in to another. Ryan Zimmerman's Immaculate Reception was a thing of beauty. Worthy of the highlight reels, distinctive for it's effort and powerful for what it represented--two friends playing a competitive game--neither wanting to give into the other, but each respecting their professional skills.

The game within the game--WAS THE GAME. And if you are paying attention, it doesn't get much better than that.

Game Notes & Highlights

Difficult to judge Stephen Strasburg today. He was responsible for his own undoing. Not effectively controlling is curveball, Strasburg got beat on a 97MPH fastball that Adam LaRoche socked over the right centerfield wall for a solo home run in the top of the 2nd inning. Then, Stephen beat himself when, after Mark Reynolds singled with one out, Stephen Drew laid down an simple infield grounder right back to Our Number 37. Whether the wet ground affected the eventual throw--we do not know--but Strasburg picked up the baseball and routinely threw to first base. The Only problem was the baseball slipped out of his right throwing hand and flew well over Adam Dunn's head and down the right field line. Reynolds scoring easily when Adam Kennedy and Michael Morse could not pick up the ball quickly. An unearned run, doubled to two moments later, when Arizona's Gerardo Parra sacrificed home Drew with The Diamondbacks' third run of the day.

Stephen Strasburg lasted only five innings. He struck out seven, allowed five hits and, offically, just one earned run. But he was responsible for the other two scored upon him--whether the record book wants to show it or not. The fact that Our Number 37 lowered his head in disgust after tossing the first error of his Major League career said it all. He was more unhappy with himself than the crowd watching in their seats.

Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Drew Storen closed this game out. The trio maintaining a slim margin and giving Our Washington Nationals every chance to gain a Curly "W". Two hits, no walks, five strikeouts combined over four innings pitched. Clippard receiving an N.L. high 9th relief win. Drew Storen notching his 2nd career save.

After a few days off, Josh Willingham returned to his early season form with a two run shot off Arizona's Barry Enright in the bottom of the 4th--his 16th. Josh had two hits today and scored two runs--but he seemed to be still hobbling over the recent knee ligament strain that has hampered him over the past few weeks.

Ryan Zimmerman flat out crushed an Esmerling Vasquez fastball leading off the bottom of the 8th inning for his 24th home run. Not only did Zimmy get it all, but he posed at the plate for a moment--watching the ball's flight. He then flipped his bat to accentuate the point. A fan sitting behind us in Section 218 mentioning: "It's a good thing they don't play The Diamondbacks again, because the next baseball he (Zimmerman) sees at the plate, it might be right at his head. That's how baseball polices itself."


D.J. Carrasco also returned to Nationals Park today. The man wearing the great ole fashioned baseball stirrups pitched on the mound for The Arizona Diamondbacks. Seen earlier this year as a Pittsburgh Pirate, Carrasco was involved in the same trade that brought Ryan Church to the desert in late July. Just love a guy that goes old school with the uniform.

Abe won the 4th inning Presidents Race, just beating Tom for his 21st victory of 2010.

And finally, there was a major disruption to this game today. In the bottom of the 5th inning, two folks ran onto the field and stopped play. It turned out be a decoy to allow two other people to run out from the right field foul line with a banner protesting the Arizona Immigration Law. But before those two could get their banner unfurled, a CSC Security Guard grabbed it and received a standing ovation. Then, moments later, another group of protesters attempted to unfurl a second banner over the "Out Of Town" Scoreboard, but an alert usher grabbed that one after the protesters hung the sign upside down. The ruckus lasted for nearly 10 minutes and Our Manager Jim Riggleman stated after the game that the delay was instrumental in Stephen Strasburg being removed from this game.

Wonderful sight--seeing Washington's players in the dugout giving the CSC Security Guards a standing ovation and offering them water for their efforts after everything was finally over. Livan Hernandez leading the cheers.

In Game Photos--Ann Eisnefelt (AP)
Immaculate Reception--Off MASN TV
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


paul said...

When I first saw your headline, I thought it was a reference to the overweight security guard making a leg tackle on one of the protesters. Seriously, I thought he was going to have a heart attack.

I think a fan broke up the RCF banner unfurling. As with the runners on the field, the demonstrators in the stands were not physically imposing. I was looking through the binocs, and I think the yellow shirts came in after the fact.

I swear most fans had no idea what the protesters were there for. Both signs were only visible upside down or backwards. I also didn't see the protesters outside, although I'm not very observant. I don't think the protesters furthered their cause.

Now back to baseball: How exciting is it that the Nats are signing so many blue chippers???

Screech's Best Friend said...

Paul: I was close to adding Immaculate Reception to the security guards snaring of the banner, but I held back.

It's true, most folks had no idea what was going on or why.

As far as the blue chippers are concerned--The Nationals are getting the job done with their draft picks and that's a good thing.

Frank said...

Great recap for a great game. I was happy to see Strasburg back to himself. Now let's home they sign Harper tonight.

By the way, where is the recap for Thursday night's game? I don't see it anywhere.