Sunday, August 13, 2006

How To Make A 1-0 Win--A 3-1 Loss

Our Beloved Washington Nationals showed to everyone of the 37,732 at RFK Stadium, why they are a LAST PLACE TEAM to the great consternation of all Nats Fans. On a beautiful, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, 81 Degree day in our Nation's Capital, the Washington Nationals, Fans in attendance, including the Section 320 Faithful just played out the string. Unlike the intense excitement just over 16 hours ago in the very same stadium, RFK felt more like a morgue today, with virtually no action on the field and little excitement in the crowd. It was PRETTY DULL! Except for a few brief moments. Even the New York fans were pretty quiet.

Maybe it had to do with all the kids in attendance for the Screech Bobblebelly Giveaway to those 12 and under in age. Maybe it had to do with both teams playing a day game, after a tense, raucous night game, before a HUGE CROWD, just a few hours previously. And, definitely, it had to do with the partying that took place before, during and AFTER last nights event for RallyTimeRichards Birthday Party.

Section 320 had limited regulars in attendance, as Myself, The African Queen, MickNats and Mary were the only ones capable of posting for the 1PM start. And, as the Nationals have clearly shown that you just can't produce with a Minor League Pitching Staff from their New Orleans Affiliate, Section 320 could not sustain its momentum or excitement with all the called on last second fill-ins. Despite Sohna and I's best efforts, we could only get Lisa and Jeff, who sit to our left, directly behind MickNats to get into the spirit of the festivities. And, Screech, fully occupied with his guest Mascots (Mr. Met, Ace from Toronto and The Bird from Baltimore) for his End of Summer Party, must have sensed the
hangover effect behind the Nats 3rd Base Dugout, as Screech didn't make an appearance today in 320. That's OK Screech, you didn't miss much!!

Tony Armas would complete 7 very effective innings. Probably his BEST EFFORT of the season, throwing 98 pitches, 60 for strikes, allowing just 2 hits and one walk, but leaving game when the Nationals JUST KILLED HIS GOOD EFFORT TODAY, IN BRUTAL FASHION.

The game itself was a pitchers duel between mediocre talents. Tony Armas for the Nationals and Steve Trachsel for the Mets. Each pitcher got through the first 3 innings perfectly. But, former National, Endy Chavez, would lace a liner to right in the 4th for the games first baserunner, but he would be left stranded.

In the Bottom of the 4th, Alfonso Soriano would, not only take away Trachsel's perfect game, but no hitter and shutout ON ONE PITCH. Slamming a 2-2 fastball DEEP over the left field fence, near the GEICO Sign for his 38th Home Run of the Season, second in as many days. And the FANS WOKEUP AT RFK!! For the first time today. 1-0 Nats after 4.

And, that's how it would remain through 6. A single here, a double there, but no offense was sustained by any team. All runners left stranded.

Then, the Nationals decided to GIVE AWAY THE GAME!!!! Carlos Beltran lead off the 7th and got a 2-0 count from Armas. Getting a pitch to hit, Beltran launched a deep drive to left centerfield, Soriano got a late jump, but was still able to keep the fast Beltran from racing for 3rd, Carlos stopped at 2nd. But Armas would settle down, getting the Dangerous Carlos Delgado to fly meekly to Soriano. Then, David Wright grounds to short, but slow enough, so Lopez can only make a force out at second on Delgado. Wright beating the relay throw to first. But 2 are out. Nats are still in a good position. Unfortunately, the next 2 plays were the game changing moments that ended any chance of a Washington Victory today.

With Wright still at first, and Jose Valentin at the plate with a 2-2 count, Wright took off in an attempt to steal second. Valentin took the outside pitch and Brian Schneider, off balance, from the outside toss from Armas, HEAVED THE BALL toward second, well over the head of Felipe Lopez covering, David Wright quickly stood up and sprinted to 3rd as Ryan Church retrieved the ball. Still 2 were out and all Armas had to do was retire Valentin.

And HE DID!! Only Marlon Anderson decided to CHOKE on the play. Valentin hit a routine, full count, grounder to Anderson, directly where Marlon was standing. All he had to do was field the ball cleanly, throw it to first, inning over and the Nats maintain the lead. Instead, Anderson thought about it too long, didn't charge the ball, the ball played him, he booted it, scurried to pick it up, still had time to retire the slow Valentin--AND THREW IT OFF THE BAG TO NICK JOHNSON"S LEFT, IN THE DIRT. Valentin SAFE, Wright SCORES. 1-1 and the NEW YORK FANS WERE, Suddenly, back into it.!!

Two, BACK TO BACK, errors by experienced veterans, players you expect to have their acts together. TERRIBLE BASEBALL, JUST TERRIBLE!! Armas would complete his day by getting Ricky Ledee to ground to Johnson at first, but the damage was done. The momentum was lost, and the Nats WALKED OFF THE FIELD, not jogging, looking like the defeated team they would be in a very short while. And, a fabulous start from the very inconsistent Tony Armas, Jr. WAS WASTED!!

The Nats would attempt to rally in the bottom of the 7th with a 2 out rally. Anderson, attempting to rectify his horrific error, would slap a single to left. Brian Schneider, deciding he needed to step up after last innings bad throw, got ahead in the count, 3-1 and grounded a pitch into right field, Anderson swiftly moving to 3rd. 1st and 3rd--2 outs.

Frank Robinson then sent ACE PINCH HITTER, Daryle Ward, to the plate for Armas. Mets Manager, Willie Randolph, countered by removing Trachsel and bringing on lefthander Royce Rings. Ring would walk Ward on 4 straight pitches, bringing the RFK Stadium Faithful to life for ALFONSO SORIANO WITH THE BASES LOADED!! The anticipation was GREAT!!

Randolph would replace Ring with righthander, Chad Bradford, he of the fabulous underarm sidearm motion. Bradford, at times, throws so low to the ground, his knuckles scrape the dirt. It also means that his pitches RISE, and if off target, can fly DIRECTLY into a POWER HITTERS WHEELHOUSE!!

The crowd stood and roared for the entire at-bat. This was the Nationals chance. Soriano would take strike one looking. Take the next two pitches outside the strike zone. Ahead 2-1 in the count, Bradford came in with a whipping up shoot at the letters, Alfonso swung mightily--AND MISSED!! 2-2 the count. Bradford looked in for the sign, never paying attention to any of the baserunners. His only concern, and rightfully so, was Soriano. Chad laid in a pitch on the outside corner of the plate, Alfonso swung slapping the ball up the middle, but to the right of second base. Valentin was able to cleanly pick up the ball and throw Soriano out at first--The Washington crowd sighed in defeat. Mets fans rose in celebration. Soriano stopped and just looked up at the sky. He wanted to be the Hero. But IT WAS NOT TO BE TODAY!!

Jon Rauch would come on in the 8th for Armas, and, as effective as Jon has been all season, he gives up WAY TOO MANY FIRST PITCH AND 1-0 PITCH HOME RUNS. Sorry to report, he gave up Home Run number 9 today, this one on a first pitch, one out fastball, to, OF ALL PEOPLE!!, the very washed UP MICHAEL TUCKER!! Tucker was a decent player in his prime for many teams. He's a Virginia Native, from Farmville, Virginia and Longwood College, but when the Nationals cut him, in favor of Daryle Ward during spring training, I thought it would be the last time anyone ever saw him playing in the Major Leagues. Tucker has been toiling at Norfolk for New York and only got the call up when Cliff Floyd went on the Disabled List for UPTEENTH MILLIONTH TIME in his career.

This home run, and, if the Nationals had any gas left in the tank after the disastrous 7th, put them on empty. The crowd began to leave in droves. Frustrated at the abrupt turnaround.

That Empty Tank reached critical in the bottom of the 8th, when Ryan Zimmerman slammed a one out single to left off Bradford, and Willie Randolph came to the mound to replace Bradford with Lefthander Darren Oliver. Now remember, ONE OUT is important to remember. The Patient One, Nick Johnson was at the plate, and has he has struggled hitting of late, he has not been going deep into the count. On Oliver's very first pitch, Zimmerman took off, and Johnson swung at the pitch, driving it high, but not deep enough to center to get out of the park. Beltran raced under the fly, caught it, AND WAS AMAZED TO SEE ZIMMERMAN CONTINUING TO RUN AROUND THE BASES TOWARD 3RD, AS IF 2 WERE OUT!! Tony Beasley, the Nats 3rd base coach, was SCREAMING at Z to turn around. Zimmerman, realizing his lapse in judgement just stopped, and was easily doubled off first to end the inning in CHORUS OF BOOS!!

Zimmerman has been pretty terrific all season long, better than anyone expected. I will give him the mulligan of that one--as discouraging as it was for everyone watching and Frank Robinson ( who I am sure was just STEAMING!! in the dugout).

The Nationals would continue to unravel in the 9th, when Saul Rivera would give up a lead off walk to Beltran, and with one out, David Wright would single hard to left, moving Beltran to second. Valentin would step to the plate and Rivera would throw a WILD PITCH, moving up the runners. Valentin would loft a fly, just deep enough to Austin Kearns in right to score Beltran, but Kearns would throw the relay past Felipe Lopez and Ryan Zimmerman into the Nats Dugout, fortunately, the errant toss hit the protective screen in front of the dugout and bounced back, keeping David Wright at third, where he would be left stranded.

Mets FLAMETHROWING Lefthander, (and Charlottesville, Virginia resident), Billy Wagner, would come on attempting to close it out. Billy made short order of Kearns and Church, but with 2 outs and 2 strikes, and Mets fans on their feets rhythmically clapping for the final out, Marlon Anderson was able to poke a Wagner toss into center for a single. Alex Escobar, the electric one, with a powerful stick, would pinch hit for Schneider and work a 5 pitch walk--runners and 1st and 2nd--2 still out--But the Nats have a chance. Frank would send backup catcher, Brandon Harper, to pinch hit in the clutch in his second Major League Game Ever.

As nervous as the guy must have been, Frank decides to really put the pressure on him, by sending the runners on a 1-0 pitch, Harper swings at a high outside fastball, pops it foul toward the first base dugout, where Delgado makes a nice sliding catch at the dugout steps to end the game. Wagner gets his 28th save and the Nats lose out on a very decent opportunity to win the 3 game series.

Our Nationals are a last place team. A last place team for many different reasons.

Bad Pitching
Poor Fundamentals
Just can't bunt
Can't hit in the Clutch
And, today proved that, even veteran players, are just not thinking out there on the field. I find that really disturbing.

Marlon Anderson's error was INEXCUSABLE!! Even if he booted it, he should be experienced enough to recover nicely.



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