Sunday, August 01, 2010
Officially, it was Major League baseball between two teams from Philadelphia & Washington on a Saturday evening in the Nation's Capital. Unofficially, it may well have been the beginning of one terrific rivalry. Since baseball returned to Washington, D.C. in 2005, no team playing Our Washington Nationals has created quite the stir in D.C. like The Philadelphia Phillies. Each and every time these two teams meet, a battle ensues.
The play on the field as passionate as the attacks and assaults that frequently occur in the stands. These two teams don't seem to like each other. And everyone knows, neither do their fans. Last night was no different. For nine full innings, the energy created by these diverse forces, combining together, resulted in a fireworks show worthy of America's annual July 4th Birthday Celebration. But what Washington's fans in the announced sellout crowd of 38,049 might never forget was witnessing the emergence of a tidal change. For far too long, The Phillies have beaten up on Our Washington Nationals and Our Fans too. Philadelphia's most always been the better team and the lead aggressor.
That wasn't the case on Friday night at Nationals Park and that certainly wasn't the situation on Saturday evening as well.
D.C.'s team put on a display of enthusiastic baseball last night. There was a fervor in their play backed by a spirited force in the stands. A never say die attitude that continued throughout the night. No one rooting for Washington was backing down to Philadelphia either. The resulting atmosphere, maybe, the most inspiring ever seen at Nationals Park. If you weren't moved by last night's extravaganza, you may never be, especially after the concluding moments.
With Our Washington Nationals down by one, 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th inning, Ryan Zimmerman stepped to the plate with one out. Michael Morse stood on 2nd base, Adam Kennedy at 1st. The capacity crowd standing as well. Everyone understanding, the climatic moment was at hand. As the Z-Man stepped into the batters box to face Brad Lidge, the noise level at Nationals Park rose exponentially. Phillies Fans attempting to shout out "Let's Go Phillies!!", while Nationals Fans tried to drown them out with their own cheers and shouts of encouragement. That ballpark was going wild!!
But that was nothing compared to what everyone was to witness.
During his stint on the mound in this game changing bottom of the 9th, Philly's Closer was having trouble with his slider. Brad Lidge had walked Kennedy after allowing a lead off single from Morse. For the past two years, Lidge has not trusted his fastball. He can't throw it at the 100 mph velocity he once enjoyed during his younger years. Now 33 years old, Brad's heater is significantly slower and Ryan Zimmerman knew that.
Zimmy also understood, he only had to be patient. That is, if he could keep his head. You see, Brad Lidge's third pitch of this At-Bat was a 91 MPH Fastball thrown so high and inside--it JUST MISSED Ryan Zimmerman's face. A near hurtful blow resulting in Our Number 11 visibly sighing in relief and nearly instigating a riot in the stands. Boos and catcalls from D.C.'s Fans, cheers of joy from Philadelphia's. That pitch was extremely close and so was the outcome of this game. What no knew at the time was just one more pitch was to be thrown as Zimmerman collected himself.
Having not fooled the Z-Man yet and with the capacity crowd still on their feet roaring, Brad Lidge looked in for the sign from his catcher Carlos Ruiz. He didn't believe in his slider anymore. He didn't trust his fastball either. But having few choices, Lidge threw it anyway. And Ryan Zimmerman was waiting. There is this special crack to the bat sound when any baseball is hit well. A "WHACK" that can audibly be heard. A telling sound that a stroked baseball has been smoked. As Brad Lidge let go of his 92MPH heater, Zimmy slowly cocked his left leg in anticipation, realized the pitch was right down the middle of the plate and drilled the ball to deep center field.
That "Crack" of the bat said all. So did the bellow of the crowd. Momentarily, Ryan Zimmerman stood at home plate to admire his work. He then looked over to Washington's Dugout and flipped his bat. Yeah, he "pimped it". He knew this game was over. So did our fans. Nationals Park exploded and it had little to do with the Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! Washington's Fans were rejoicing. Philly's Fans were not. We could just imagine hearing play-by-play broadcaster Charlie Slowes screaming on the radio: "The Z-Man Has Done It Again!! A walkoff three run homer in the bottom of the 9th inning to defeat The Philadelphia Phillies 7-5!! Unbelievable!!"
And it was, just like this entire evening on South Capitol Street. Our Washington Nationals had battled back from a late deficit to defeat The Philadelphia Phillies. Philly's large contingent of fans had not take over our ballpark. And both The Phillies Team and their rowdy fan base had to leave Nationals Park with a new found respect for D.C. Baseball because no one backed down to them. No one gave in. And Ryan Zimmerman smashed out the game winning homer in the bottom of the 9th that may well have started a new and heated rivalry.
And that is what this game is all about.
Final Score from Nationals Park where the atmosphere was as good as it's ever been: Our Washington Nationals 7 and The Philadelphia Phillies 5. Curly "W" Number 46 of 2010 was an extraordinary affair. A nip and tuck battle only concluded in miraculous fashion as Ryan Zimmerman banged out his 7th game winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning of his still young career. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling the beginning of something special. Remember, Phillie Fans hate The New York Mets (just like Willie Harris). The Mets Fans hate The Phillies.
On July 31st, 2010, Philadelphia's Fans were given someone else to dislike--Our Washington Nationals. Rivalries are built as history is recorded following close passionate games over a long period of time. That's where alliances are formed and that's where the frenzy of the fan base is ignited. This latest clash between these two N.L. East teams sure to be an instigator of further things to come. Two Major League Baseball Team cities, 135 miles apart, playing a game that will soon not be forgotten. The type of compassionate affair that is remembered, talked about, and carried on for years. A game that brings fans back clamoring for more.
That's how rivalries are constructed. Can you imagine what any game between Philadelphia & Washington would be like when both teams are contending for The National League Pennant? That will be must see baseball, just like what 38,049 experienced last night at Nationals Park.
Really, an unbelievable experience.
Game Notes & Highlights
Ross Detwiler did OK in his start last night. He lasted into the 6th inning and gave up just one run. But he walked three and was followed by a bullpen without Matt Capps that showed some signs of fatigue. Joel Peralta & Tyler Clippard both allowing home runs. Drew Storen the go ahead run for Philadelphia in the top of the 9th. Ryan Zimmerman saved Peralta. He saved Clippard. He saved Drew Storen and in the bottom of the 9th inning, Ryan Zimmerman saved Our Washington Nationals with a walk off home run from certain defeat. That's why this game is special. Washington was on the cusp of losing in their very park before a divided crowd and managed to pull it out.
There was also a standing ovation when Adam Dunn stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 1st to bat for Our Washington Nationals. Fans and his Washington teammates in unison over not seeing The Big Texan traded by Our General Manager by the July 31st trading deadline yesterday. Needed in the middle of Our Manager Jim Riggleman's lineup to protect Zimmerman and give Josh Willingham comfort--Washington has the best 3-4-5 hitters in The National League. Time to find out whether D.C.'s team can build a winner around them.
But they need to find more talent, which was put on display last evening when Yuniesky Maya was officially signed and introduced at the ballpark as the newest member of Our Washington Nationals. The biggest international free agent signing in D.C.'s short history back in the game, the Cuban Defector and topped ranked starting pitcher will be toeing the rubber at Nationals Park by the time the month of August moves to September. Maya was introduced to the media at 5:45PM and Washington's Fans between innings of the game last night. He also received a standing ovation.
There could be fewer players in baseball that can raise their game to the elite level like Ryan Zimmerman. Not only was last night his 7th game winning, bottom of the 9th home run, but also his 12th game winning walk off hit. There is no one quite like The Z-Man, and here's hoping Our Washington Nationals can build that winning team around him so he will play his entire career in The Nation's Capital. No doubt keeping Dunn, will go a long way toward keeping him happy.
Last night was Nyjer Morgan Bobblehead Night. It's a nice giveaway. But why give out the figure on a weekend night when everyone knows the ballpark is going to be filled with thousands of Phillie Fans? What's the use in sending the items up I-95? If the promotion is to attract Nationals Fans, last night's Bobblehead Giveaway lost the point of it all. It really did. And we weren't the only fans talking about this issue at Nationals Park last evening.
Speaking of Nyjer, he was the guest of honor at the Saturday Inside Pitch Live Session at The PNC Diamond Club. MASN's Rob Dibble hosted the Q & A with fans before last night's game against The Phillies.
The African Queen and I also had the opportunity to catch up with "Schneiderman" after the game. A player that fondly recalls his time calling Washington, D.C.--his home as an original member of Our Washington Nationals. Sohna and I spoke for some time with Brian Schneider after last night's game. Schneider told us that he and his wife, Jordan (a big Nats320 Fan), are expecting their 3rd child soon. Schneider seemed very relaxed and is hoping Philadelphia will provide him with the one goal he's yet to reach in his Major League Baseball Career--claim a World Series Championship and get a ring.
And finally, we hadn't seen them all season. Darlene & Dave from Manassas were at last night's game. Our Spring Training Buddies over the past two years in Viera, Florida. Dave has been ill and hasn't been able to get out to the ballpark. They both came yesterday. Sohna and I can't tell you how pleased we were to see them at Nationals Park. Hopefully, we shall see them many more times again over the next two months.
Last Night's In-Game Photos, Nick Wass (AP)
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