Sunday, September 26, 2010
The Atlanta Braves were still in the playoff hunt as the penultimate Sunday of the 2010 Baseball Season commenced today. Tied for The National League Wild Card Lead, the Tomahawk Choppers need to play with poise and patience the rest of the way in order to maximize their opportunity to participate in baseball's greatest showcase, the post-season and The World Series.
As far as Our Washington Nationals are concerned--now just playing out the schedule--early fall is the time of the year to impress, show the baseball bosses why you deserve to play again in a D.C. Uniform in 2011. Or if not, pique the interest of some other team--let someone else know you are still capable of playing Major League Baseball next year--maybe even for a few more seasons to come.
Whatever side any player currently resides on under such late season circumstances--composure, perseverance and fortitude are the definitions that define everyone's approach. No question, you may well be out there on the field for a team goal, but continuing your baseball career--and playing a significant role in the game--is many times what September's are all about.
The showing of grit is important. The understanding that one can be depended on when it counts the most.
And that's why this afternoon's bottom of the 7th inning at Nationals Park stood out so glaringly.
Every one of these late season affairs is important for The Atlanta Braves, not as much so for Our Washington Nationals. But look what happened in a tie ballgame after two were out and the home side apparently down for the count? D.C.'s Team displayed a capacity to endure. The resolve which agitated The Brav-OS and their Manager Bobby Cox to another frustrating loss--leaving Atlanta wondering whether they truly belong in this upcoming post-season?
The score was 2-2. Pudge Rodriguez and Alberto Gonzalez both had already made harmless outs against The Braves Journeyman Reliever--Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth had begun 2010 as a Kansas City Royal. In fact, Kyle came to Nationals Park earlier this year with The Royals (although he didn't play in the series). Since being traded to Atlanta to bolster a bullpen in need of a veteran presence for the stretch run--Farnsworth has been anything but impressive. The holder of a 5.79 ERA, one loss and one blown save in 20 games since coming over to The National League.
This afternoon on South Capitol Street--Kyle Farnsworth fell apart when his Braves teammates needed him the most. He had no poise. And when his bullpen mate, the young Johnny Venters, entered in an attempt to stave off another late season loss for Atlanta--Our Washington Nationals played like a playoff team willing to endure, not a ball club just playing out the string of games.
After Willie Harris walked on five Farnsworth pitches, Danny Espinosa stepped to the plate and had his best at-bat of his young career. Down 0-2 in the count, Danny gutted it out through six pitches from The Braves tall righthander before also walking on a pitch so low and out of the strike zone, Espinosa had to leap out of the way. The final toss thrown by Farnsworth before Venters entered.
The established team, in need of a veteran reliever, was now in need of a rookie reliever. With their playoff push on his mind, Atlanta's Closer-In-Waiting (as Billy Wagner is about to retire) yielded as well. Venters wasn't capable of finding his edge, either. Nyjer Morgan greeted Johnny and walked on four straight pitches to load up the bases. And Ian Desmond followed with a single up the middle scoring both Harris and Espinosa with the go-ahead and all-important insurance runs needed by Washington that eventually won this game.
All season long--Desmond has shown the backbone to hit with the game on the line. The legs to stand on that The Atlanta Braves failed to get out of their bullpen this afternoon at Nationals Park when they needed it the most. Fine spirit shown by Our Washington Nationals on the very day the tenacity needed by Atlanta for their continuing playoff hunt was lost.
The team needing victory the most had not won because the heart and composure of Willie Harris, Danny Espinosa Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond far exceeded the endurance and staying power of Kyle Farnsworth and Johnny Venters. The virtue of patience doesn't always rest on the side of the team with the better record. It is practiced by everyone. It also comes down to who wants it more. That's the True Grit displayed by Our Washington Nationals this afternoon in the bottom of the 7th with the game on the line that The Atlanta Braves were powerless to resolve.
Final Score from Nationals Park where remaining calm and cool under pressure was shown by the home side: Our Washington Nationals 4 and The Atlanta Braves 2. Curly "W" Number 67 was important in that D.C.'s Team has now won the season series from Atlanta (10-8, only the second time since baseball returned in 2005--2008 was the other season). And significant for showing Washington Fans their team has not given up. This late in a lost season, many teams don't play like one anymore.
But as The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! were heard over The South Capitol Street Ballpark late this afternoon, individuals in Nationals uniforms had shown they may be wishing to impress for a 2011 job, but they are also willing to fight it out for their team. Back-To-Back-To-Back walks with two outs showed determination. And Ian Desmond's game winning single up the middle--true grit. Washington's Rookie Shortstop proved today he can be depended on for not just now--but later, while spoiling Johnny Venters and his Atlanta Braves Teammates chances of advancing to the 2010 post-season for not just now--but later as well.
Game Notes & Highlights
Livan Hernandez pitched into the 7th inning, eventually giving up two earned runs including a solo home run clubbed to centerfield by Atlanta Outfielder Rick Ankiel. Livo was his usual self. He pitched well enough to win but wasn't involved in the final decision. By hurling two strong shutout innings, Sean Burnett gained his first personal win of 2010 against seven losses. Drew Storen picked up his 5th save by finishing off The Braves in the 9th.
Nyjer Morgan and Michael Morse both had rbi singles today. And Danny Espinosa had two singles and a walk. Desmond now has 64 RBI on the season.
In his final appearance at Nationals Park in an Atlanta Braves uniform--Our Washington Nationals honored Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox in a pre-game ceremony. 4th All-Time on the win list with 2500 victories, Cox has managed for 28 seasons in Atlanta and Toronto. After a video of his career accomplishments was played on the HDTV Scoreboard, Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner, Team President Stan Kasten, GM Mike Rizzo, and Our Manager Jim Riggleman joined Braves Chairman Emeritus Bill Bartholomay in presenting Bobby Cox a special U.S. Flag flown over The U.S. Capitol in September, 2010. The United States Navy Band then performed on the field to finish off a very touching ceremony.
With Teddy fast approaching the finish line apparently to win the 4th inning Presidents Race--The Grinch That Stole Christmas stole Teddy's chance at glory by knocking him down to the ground. Tom ran past to take the victory.
And finally, today was "Shirts Of Their Backs" Day at Nationals Park. Fans could buy $5 raffle tickets in hopes of winning a game worn jersey from a Nationals player or Coach. Those present were rewarded on the field during a post-game ceremony.
Today's In=Game Photos, Ann Heisenfelt (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved