Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thank YOU!! Armando Benitez!

Its now becoming old hat for the 2006 Washington Nationals. Winning in their last at bat. This time a 4-3 thriller over the Giants before a raucous crowd of over 30,000 on a very steamy night.

Pedro Astacio and Noah Lowry were locked up in a low scoring affair. The Nats would score first when, with one out in the bottom of the second, Alfonso Soriano would slice a liner into left center, Steve Finley had trouble picking up the ball and Alfonso motored all the way to second, just beating the throw for a double. Soriano would then be picked off second by Lowry, but in the ensuing rundown, Ray Durham would throw the ball in to Alfonso's back, and Soriano was safe at 3rd. Lopez would strike out swinging on a full count on a terrible pitch in the dirt for out number 2, But Ryan Zimmerman would come to the plate and drive a Lowry fastball right over Barry Bonds left shoulder for a clean double to score Alfonso. 1-0 Nats. After a Nick Johnson walk, Austin Kearns, tonight's BIG HERO, would then bloop a liner in to right field, the Giants, Randy Winn, realizing he had no chance to get Z at the plate threw behind Nick Johnson rounding second and he was dead out, but Nick realized that Z had not crossed home, so as Omar Vizquel was about to tag Johnson out sliding back into second base, Nick stopped dead in his track, giving Zimmerman just the few seconds he needed to score run number 2 before Vizquel tagged him out to end the inning. Smart baseball by Johnson.

The Giants would get one run back in the 4th on a Shea Hillenbrand single, Bonds walk and Durham double down the right field line. Kearns played the ball well in the corner, and with Bonds running on bad knees, Barry stopped at 3rd. Astacio was able to retire Pedro Feliz on a grounder to Zimmerman to end the threat. Bonds was NEVER A FACTOR IN TONIGHT"S GAME. In fact, he looked down right terrible playing leftfield. His gimpy knees give him no mobiity. He made 2 running catches, but only because the balls hung up in the air. Anything hard hit, Bonds has no chance, unless its right at him.

Neither team would threaten again until the 7th, when Astacio began to tire. having thrown near 100 pitches, Frank Robinson still had Pedro in the game. With one out, Giants Catcher, Todd Greene, would scorch a liner right at Marlon Anderson at second. Marlon could not handle it. Greene safe on the error. Todd Linden would pinch hit for Lowry and drill the very first pitch from Astacio right down the right field line, moving Greene to 3rd. Frank would take out Astacio and bring in Mike Stanton. Stanton gets behind in the count to Randy Winn, 2-0 and Winn bloops the 3rd pitch just over Marlon Anderson and in front of Austin Kearns down the right field line for a 3-2 Giants Lead.

The Nats would load up the bases in the bottom of the 7th on a Daryle Ward PH single, Soriano single and a 2 out intentional walk to Nick Johnson. But, Austin Kearns would pop weakly to Durham at 2nd to end the threat, and most in attendence, thought that would be it.

But, then the bottom of the 9th came around and the GIANTS brought in Amando Benitez, their closer.

In 1997, The Baltimore Orioles were DESTINY's Team. They were the best team in Major League Baseball that year. Were in first place from start to finish and appeared to be a lock to play in the World Series. That is, until the League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians. Then 24 year old Flame Throwing Right Hander, Armando Benitez, would blow Game 2 by giving up 2 colossal home runs to Manny Ramirez and Marquis Grissom and then, in the decisive Game 6, Benitez would come into a 0-0 game in the 11th inning and promptly give up a game winning homer to light hitting Tony Fernandez. It cost the Orioles their chance to get to the World Series. And, I have disliked Benitez ever since. Benitez would go on to play for 5 additional teams over the next 10 years, saving alot of games, but always blowing the ones that really counted.

And, when Giants Manager Felipe Alou brought in Armando in the 9th tonight, I knew the Nats had a chance. Robert Fick would lead off and walk on 4 straight pitches. Bringing Soriano to the plate. The anticipation at RFK was palpable. Everyone was standing, waiting for the walk off home run. Soriano would quickly get to 3-0 in the count. But Benitez fought back, getting 2 strikes. Soriano would swing at ball four, but foul it off. On the 7th pitch of the at bat, WITH THE CROWD SCREAMING!!, Soriano would wave at strike 3, and look up straight to the sky while clutching his bat. Pissed off that he had failed.

One out with Felipe Lopez at the plate. Lopez quickly gets 2 strikes, but takes the third pitch for a ball. Benitez would throw a change up and Lopez would hit it sharply, but right at Ray Durham at second. Game ending DOUBLE PLAY BALL. Durham would see the ball roll up his glove, his left arm and go behind him!! Everyone is safe. Amazingly the offical scorer gave Lopez a single. Its was an error all the way. The RFK Stadium Faithful let out a collective sigh of relief!!

Zimmerman would come to the plate. He had failed, with runners of 2nd and 3rd with 1 out in the 7th. And, as Z has shown all year, you can beat him once, but he will bounce back and beat you the next time. He did so again, by slapping a Benitez off speed pitch directly in the hole between 3rd and short, Fick rounded 3rd hard and scored easily to tie the game at 3-3. Lopez to second. And, the STADIUM was ROCKING!! No one at this point had sat down since Fick had his leadoff walk. Benitez kept on walking off the mound, taking off his cap and rubbing off the persperation. He was sweating it out, and it wasn't just the DC humidity!!

Armando would then walk the ever patient Nick Johnson on a full count to load the bases with one out. Up steps BLUEGRASS, Austin Kearns, with a chance to win the game for his new team for the first time. All the Giants were playing in, looking for a double play. And the crowd was SCREAMING!! Kearns would take ball one, swing badly at an off speed pitch for strike one. Benitez would come back with the very same pitch again, but Kearns would swing and MOONSHOT the ball high to medium deep leftfield. With the Giant's Mark Sweeney playing in, there was no way that Sweeney could make a throw on Felipe Lopez, who scored easily to give the Nats a dramatic 4-3 victory. Bang Zoom went the Fireworks!! And, just like that, the Nationals had won their 5th consecutive game!!! All thanks to ARMANDO BENITEZ and an assist from Ray Durham. Nats win their second consecutive series, and now need to win just one more game in July to have their first winning month since the GLORIOUS, JUNE 2005. And, that would be a big achieivement for the Nationals!!


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