Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Killer Instinct

Pudge Rodriguez's two-strike, two out, two run home run with Our Washington Nationals down two runs in the bottom of the 8th inning last night against The Houston Astros at Nationals Park set off an epic series of plate appearances for the home side not seen often in the Nation's Capital since baseball returned in 2005.

Seven more Washington batter's reached base after Pudge's dramatic blast off Felipe Paulino--leading not only to victory from what seemed like certain jaws of defeat, but also gave D.C. fans a glimpse of what the good teams in baseball always do, something Our Washington Nationals have never consistently accomplished--finding their killer instinct.

Whether it's The New York Yankees, The Boston Red Sox, The Tampa Bay Rays, The Philadelphia Phillies or any very good team for that matter in the game, what the players on all those teams have in common is the ability to feed off each other. When opportunity comes, they recognize the vulnerability of the competition. They feast on weakness. And they pound the other team into submission. That's a outcome seen by Washington fans from the losing side too many times over the past three years. But last evening, D.C.'s Team played the aggressor.

Pudge's deep blast off the leftfield foul pole only got things started. Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell kept The Ultimate Two-Out Rally going with a single and a walk. Adam Kennedy then pinch hit for Tyler Clippard and lofted one of his patented bloopers down the right field line scoring "Bernie" with the go ahead run. And after Danny Espinosa walked, Ian Desmond, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman greeted Houston's latest reliever on the night, the ever hard throwing Matt Lindstrom, with back-to-back-to-back singles that put this game away for good.

So well, not even another shaky performance by Drew Storen out of the bullpen could makes this latest Curly "W" any less savory. Whatever the score, no matter how late in the game, the good teams can find a way to rebound. They keep themselves in every affair--looking for what sometimes is the only chance to pull even and then ahead. That's why The Yanks, The Red Sox, The Rays and The Phillies do so well. They have the talent to understand what they are capable of doing together in any situation--as a team. They never give up and take advantage of opportunity like few others in the game.

Our Washington Nationals haven't reached that point yet, but last night on South Capitol Street, D.C.'s Team gave their fans one terrific bottom of the 8th inning to remember. A completely unexpected come from behind victory that had what was left of the 11,893 standing and applauding this ultimate two out rally.

Final Score from Nationals Park where baseball proved again why any fan should always expect the unexpected: Our Washington Nationals 8 and The Houston Astros 4. Curly "W" Number 63 ended a four game losing steak and a 10 out of 12 game skid. It also meant that D.C.'s Team will not lose 100 games for the third consecutive season. But The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! provided in the bottom of the 8th dramatically put on display what's been missing all season long for Washington--The Killer Instinct.

Good teams can find a way to rally. The great teams do it often. No question, talent has a lot to do with it, but so is the belief that each and every single person in the lineup is capable of contributing in the clutch. Washington did so last night after Pudge Rodriguez seized an unexpected opportunity and his teammates followed in suit. The result: Our Washington Nationals, for one night at least, played like the good teams do. They had found their own Killer Instinct.

Game Notes & Highlights

After allowing a three-run homer to Jason Michaels five batters into this game and a double to Chris Johnson--Houston's very next batter--you had to figure John Lannan was not long for this game. Then, as badly as his latest start began, Our Number 31 completely changed direction and finished seven strong innings on the mound. At the end of his performance, he retired 14 of the last 15 Astros he faced, including 12 in a row at one point. Lannan wasn't involved in the decision, but he continued to resurrect his Major League career after been demoted to AA Harrisburg earlier this season. Once again, John Lannan is looking like a keeper.

Tyler Clippard recorded his 100th strike out as a reliever last night. The first to do so in a Nationals Uniform. Clippard also recorded his 10th personal win of the season--tying Livan Hernandez for the team high.

After blowing a save in Philadelphia in dramatic fashion this past Sunday, Drew Storen trotted to the mound in the top of the 9th to finish off this game. Our Manager Jim Riggleman didn't allow him to do so after Storen visibly looked flustered after allowing a solo home run to The Red Porch Seats to Chris Johnson and a two-out walk to his former Stanford teammate, Jason Castro. Washington's rookie closer has been shaky of late. And that comes with the territory. We've stated it before and it's worth repeating here again--there is a learning curve to the Big Leagues. Some guys understand it earlier than others. Drew Storen is still in class. His education just beginning.

In the top of the 2nd inning, Houston centerfielder Jason Bourgeois attempted to steal 3rd base off John Lannan with two outs. Pudge Rodriguez would have nothing to do with that. Pouncing from the crouch on the delivered pitch, The Future Hall Of Famer threw a perfect strike to Ryan Zimmerman covering 3rd base for the inning ending out and The Defensive Play Of This Game. Pudge thrust his right fist in the air in celebration while Lannan looked over, while walking off the field, and gave Rodriguez a congratulatory and thankful nod of approval.

And finally, when Our Washington Nationals rallied in the bottom of the 8th inning last night, the supportive crowd was extremely loud. There might have only been a few thousand still on hand watching, but our fans were letting their team know they appreciated the effort. As I mentioned to Sohna earlier in the evening, the weather could not have been nicer. A crisp, not too cool, late September evening that made just watching baseball enjoyable in it's own rights.

Last Night's In-Game Photos, Evan Vucci (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

paul said...

Had the Nats ever had 8 baserunners in a row reach base before? And Morse made two outs in the inning, another first?