Thursday, May 31, 2007

The World Was Right Again

Not five mintues after Ryan Zimmerman hit his two run homer in the bottom of the first inning-Colleen was standing directly in front of Section 320, on the walkway--pointing at us--saying: "You just can't let this happen again. Now we know the truth!!" Then, when Our Washington Nationals pulled ahead 3-1 on a Austin Kearns sacrifice fly scoring "Z"--MickNats turned in his seat toward us claiming--"Yeah, there may be something to this talk!! It was you!" And, when the floodgates opened in the fifth on the EVER HOT SWINGING BAT of Dimitri Young and a key two run scoring single by Brian Schneider building a 6-1 lead--Iris & Biff said, "You see, what's happening right now--there is no doubt." Finally, Gloria--Our Favorite CSC Supervisor stopped by our seats in Section 320 telling me: "Sit down, I am not here to congratulate you, I need to thank your wife. No way she misses anymore games. Sohna is the Good Luck Charm!!" All these friends, along with about 15 others all believed the world was not whole for the first two games of this Home Stand against The Los Angeles Dodgers.

This past Tuesday and Wednesday Night, The African Queen had missed those games. And, did Our Washington Nationals lose bad. Shutout twice, never close to winning either game. Not a single person we have come to know at RFK STADIUM, friends, other fans and Stadium Employees alike were not SHOCKED to Not See Sohna sitting in her customary seat. Missing one game, sure, but two in row? No Way. Bad Karma had been spread all over the old ball yard. Many believing, with business calling her away, Sohna's vacant seat the source of some serious black magic. Even Screech was relieved to see His "Girlfriend" back in the fold.

But, with The African Queen, fortunately, back in attendance tonight--The World Was Right Again. And, Our Washington Nationals walked all over The Los Angeles Dodgers, regaining some lost respect, putting an end to the jinx. A game in which they never trailed. A game they continually put some pressure on Dodgers Pitching. A game they ran away with in the bottom of the 8th with a decisive 5 run rally sending Los Angeles out of The Nation's Capital on the heels of an 11-4 pasting by Our Washington Nationals.

Did Curly "W" Number 22 ever feel good!!! Even the Celebratory Fireworks when "The Chief" Chad Cordero recorded the final out on a grounder to Robert Fick--seemed more special than before. The Hex had been lifted. Our Heads had been cleared. The African Queen supplying the rejuvenating power. All on a night Washington was rattling the ball all over RFK STADIUM. 14 hits in total. Dimitri Young continued to wield a SCORCHING BAT, raising his batting average above .300 with a 4 for 4 night. Ryan Zimmerman, having blasted Mark Hendrickson's 0-1 pitch in the bottom of the 1st with "The Guz" on board with a double for his two run homer--also scored that third run after walking--and Number 11 put the game out of reach in the bottom of the 8th with a 2 run Ryan "patented" drive to right center for a two run scoring double. Which was immediately followed by an Austin Kearns RBI Single and My Main Man!! Ryan Church CLUBBING a LINER over the right centerfield wall for the 10th and 11th runs of the ballgame for Our Nats.

Yeah, this game had its tense moments, our bullpen struggled during the middle portion of the game. Saul Rivera and Jesus Colome (EVERYDAY PITCHERS LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE) were not sharp. Rivera allowing two inherited runners to score that were charged to tonight's starter Micah Bowie. And, Colome (arguably our Best Pitcher all season long) struggled after getting Rivera out of his 6th inning jam. Jesus was not sharp--but managed to hold the lead while allowing one run to score in the 7th on a Wilson Betemit Double, Andre Eithier Single and Tony Abreu Sacrifice Fly. With score now 6-4 heading to the bottom of the 7th, you had to fear a possible collapse. Our Nationals had held the lead since early in this one, but their bullpen was overused during the first two blowouts of this three game set. With two more At-Bats scheduled for Los Angeles, this one was far from over. Fortunately, Our Nationals Fabulous 8th inning put this one away. Every Nats fan in the announced crowd of 20,982 could relax and, as far as everyone in Section 320 and Our Many Friends around RFK Stadium were concerned--The African Queen was back, The Whammy Quashed. Our Washington Nationals were back on the right track.

The World Was Right Again!! Let's Hope Sohna can keep those bats hot over this coming weekend against The San Diego Padres.

Game Notes & Highlights:

What more can you say about Dimtri Young's Hitting. Since returning from his Achilles Heel injury, he has been on fire. Batting .237 before the injury--"The Big Dog" has raised his average to .309, has 24 RBI and, as Andy said tonight in Section 320--"He's making a great statement to get himself traded!!!" Of course, we also joked ( and its all in fun) that Dimitri's Batting Average rivals his fielding percentage. That comment received quite a few chuckles this evening.

Ryan Zimmerman's Two Run Homer and Two Run Double were vintage Ryan (If a second year player can be considered vintage). His socked homer was turned on in the first inning and bounced off the green wall above The Dodgers Bullpen. His double was stroked the other way--opposite field power for Zimmerman his strong point. Both hits tonight, exactly the quality strokes we all witnessed from him in 2006. Hopefully, we are welcoming back an old friend into a groove. And, it helped that Nats batters in front of him, were getting on base. Something Zimmerman has seen far less of in 2007.

"The Guz"--Cristian Guzman had a fabulous game at the plate--three hits, including a nice double down the left field line off Hendrickson in the first, setting up "Z's" Homer. Number 15 scored three runs tonight, the last hustling all the way from first base on Zimmerman's two run double to the gap in right. Was Guzman EVER FLYING. That man can cut corners and run the bases better than ANY WASHINGTON NATIONALS PLAYER we have EVER SEEN. Although he scored easily on one of his usual slides to the right side of home plate--slapping the the plate with his left hand-trying to avoid the late throw--Home Plate Umpire Jerry Crawford NEVER GAVE THE SAFE CALL. It appeared to me that Guzman MISSED THE PLATE--his hand bouncing over it. Crawford looked directly at "THE GUZ" never taking his eyes off of him as he trotted back to the Nats Dugout--with the crowd on its feet roaring its approval. Fortunately, The Dodgers did not dispute the call.

After Zimmerman's game breaking double in the 8th, followed by an Austin Kearns RBI single, I said to Sohna--"Watch, My Main Man!! is the Designated Meaningless Home Run Hitter of the evening--you watch--he's going to get a groove pitch." Sure enough--not 5 seconds later, Ryan Church JACKED Rudy Seanez's third pitch over the right field wall!! The African Queen just stared at me in disbelief!! Was I ever happy---not only for My Main Man!!, but for my Called Shot!! That was fun!!

Ryan Church had OFFICIALLY ENDED THIS GAME!! Number 19 has some decent power numbers--6 Homers, 17 Doubles, 27 RBI's at the 1/3 mark of the season. Projected out to 18 Homers, 51 Doubles and 81 RBI in 2007-- for a streaky hitter getting the very first opportunity of his Major League Career to prove himself--not bad. Not bad at all. In fact, Zimmerman, Young and Church are all on pace to knock in 80 runs--this after that terrible early April by just about everyone in our lineup. Kearns could reach that mark--if he heats up. Brian Schneider may well knock in 70 runs this season-which would be a career high.

How in the world does Micah Bowie get through 5.1 innings against a good hitting team like The Dodgers. I write that line in respect to the fact that, FOR YEARS, Micah Bowie was an afterthought to just about each and every organization he had ever played for. Talented, sure--and a lefthanded thrower, which always helps. But, what is it at the age of 32 that has brought it all together for him? Micah Bowie was called up last summer due to injury of other pitchers for Our Washington Nationals. Now, less than one year later--he's a mainstay-and someone Our Manager Manny Acta can depend on. Just another reason to claim that Our Pitching Coach--Randy St.Claire must be pretty darn good.

Bowie doesn't throw hard, but he has enough speed change in his pitches to keep hitters off balance. Sure, he gave up a TOWERING BLAST to The Dodgers Russell Martin in the top of the 2nd to DEAD CENTERFIELD. A shot that bounced off the Green Wall just to the right of a security camera. But, that homer didn't seem to phase him. Bowie just kept on laboring away. Once our starters on the Disabled List return, Micah will return to his valuable role as a situational lefty in the bullpen. Number 59 is a really good story. A tale of a journeyman baseball player that doesn't give up--living for the dream--always positive-hoping for the best. You have to appreciate someone like Micah Bowie. Being postive, never getting down on yourself, sounds like something Our Manager Manny Acta has preached from the beginning of Spring Training. Obviously, Micah Bowie believes in Our Manager's teachings.

It was nice to see Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero back out on the mound---firing away. Rauch gave up a two out double to Luis Gonzalez in the 8th and "The Chief" walked Brady Clark to open the 9th--neither scored--but it was pleasing to see our set up man and closer shut the door as a tandem--even in a blowout. They not only needed some work--both are still looking to regain some confidence.

In the top of the 4th with two outs--The Dodgers Jeff Kent tapped a bouncing slow chopper in the infield toward third base--Ryan Zimmerman charged in hard--scooped up the ball in his glove and in ONE MOTION--exchanged the ball from his glove hand to his throwing hand, while still running forward, almost toward home plate-- then underarming a GORGEOUS, off balance toss to Dimitri Young at first to retire Kent. Completing, unquestionably, The Defensive Play of This Game.

NO ONE IN THE GAME DOES THIS PLAY BETTER THAN RYAN ZIMMERMAN!! For two seasons I have watched Ryan make this play, time and time again. I NEVER GET TIRED OF SEEING HIS EXECUTION OF THIS DIFFICULT PLAY. His artistry a great joy to watch. Cal Ripken, Jr, Mike Schmidt & Brooks Robinson--the only other players of my lifetime that could consistently make the same play. All three--Hall of Famers. I LOVE WATCHING RYAN ZIMMERMAN MAKE THAT MOVE.

There were two very funny moments in Section 320 tonight.

The FlyBoys from Andrews had given their seats to a couple young guys in their early 20's. Both were obvious HUGE NATIONALS fans. One guy small--the other Large--One BIG DUDE!! For room, they both decided to sit in the front row of Section 320--instead of just to the left of The African Queen and I. The Big Guy was Bellowing Cheers ALL NIGHT LONG. Even with the game out of reach --this guy was reacting to each and every play as if the game was still on the line. You had to appreciate it. We all enjoyed his company tremendously. During the 7th inning stretch--his fandom reached new heights when he SHOUTED OUT "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" so loud it drowned out the crowd along the third base side. We all looked in AMAZEMENT. This guy was UNBELIEVABLE!! This fan's enthusiasm so great--it had all of us chuckling throughout the evening. Regular Section 320 Member Richard turned to me after the 7th inning stretch to say: "We better not hook him up with RallyTimeRichard (who was not in attendance tonight) or we may all be in some serious trouble!!" All of us laughing. It was true. Having personally seen what RallyTime had done to The African Queen to make her one of the loudest members of Section 320--the thought of this Big Guy with RallyTimeRichard--just frightening (RallyTime, you have NO IDEA what you missed!).

Finally--in the top of the 8th inning, I was standing in the tunnel just to the left of Section 320 chatting with Charles--The Usher Supervisor in our area. My Best Friend Screech!!! was walking up from the 3rd base Dugout. Some NatPack Members were also standing in the tunnel. As Screech stopped at the walkway of the lower bowl--The NatPack Guys all shouted out SCREEEEECH!!!--as we always do whenever Screech is near Section 320. One by One each of the three NatPacker's gave Screech a Strong High Five! When My Best Friend saw me--he turned to give me a Hard High Five. I raised my hand, stroked forward and DELIBERATELY MISSED!!! EVERYONE JUST HOWLING IN LAUGHTER. Screech, looking stunned, dismayed and downright pissed at me--turned away with his arms crossed while the chuckles continued. So, I apologized to Screech and stuck out my right hand for him to shake. Which he promptly did also--then, at the very last moment, pulled his hand back--and wiped the back of this hair. Turnabout was FAIR PLAY!! Everyone enjoying the fun. Screech and I then embraced to call a truce. Supervisor Charles said this moment was By FAR, the highlight of the evening.

The Highlight, at least until Screech joined with MickNats--both demonstrating their prowess at The Bobblebelly Dance. Downright Hilarious. MickNats performing a wonderful rendition of Screech Dancing from his seat. It was so good--Screech has invited MickNats down to the perform for everyone on top the Nats 3rd Base Dugout. It was FLATOUT FUNNY!! Everyone loved it!!

Tonight's InGame Photo--(Getty Images) Greg Fiume

Our Manager At THE ESPN ZONE

Although I was hoping to get five minutes to speak with him on the side yesterday--it didn't work out. Our Manager Manny Acta only had less than one hour to spend with fans at The ESPN ZONE in downtown DC--and I didn't wish to impose on others and their chance to meet Manny and get an autograph--although he promised we can get together soon. But, during the Question and Answer Segment hosted by Nationals Radio Broadcaster, Charlie Slowes--Manny did have a couple nice comments that I wanted to share.

In answering a question concerning "Who Influenced you the most as a Coach?", Manny first talked about Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox, St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa and longtime Montreal Expos and recently San Francisco Giants Manager,Felipe Alou. But, what was revealing was his off the cuff remark about growing up in The Dominican Republic. "A dear friend of mine, whom I have known all my life--he went into the Priesthood, becoming a Father. I guess that sort of counts me out now since I am a Major League Manager (He and everyone in attendance was chuckling). But, this dear friend has been a great influence on me--guiding me, giving me insight--knowledge I did not have and cherish today."

You can tell that Our Manager is a very loyal person, who sticks with those that help him and vice verse. Manny also went on to thank current Nats Third Base Coach Tim Tolman and Bullpen Coach Rick Aponte--both of whom guided Number 14 during his early years in The Houston Astros Chain.

Manny Acta then became passionate when someone asked him about the influence and success of Randy St.Claire in working with a cobbled together pitching staff?

"HE CARES!!", Manny nearly shouted. "He is the hardest working guy. The first man in the clubhouse each and everyday--many times the last one to leave. I would bet right now he's over at the stadium looking at video--whether with Simontacchi from last night. Or, Bacsik for tonight. He's always looking for something. A great attitude like that rubs off and affects alot of people. Its noticed. Why do you think he was hired, before I was named manager? He's good and I am very glad he's on our staff."

Our Manager continued on the subject of Randy St.Claire for a few moments longer--saying there is "NO ONE ELSE I WOULD RATHER HAVE!!" by his side working with his pitchers.

A questioner asked Manny whether he worries about John Patterson, Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, Mike O'Connor and even Brandon Claussen being on the Disabled List? Our Manager responded in his typical straightforward positive way.

"I will worry about them when they are ready, right now--I have our current staff to worry about. That's my focus--each and every day. But, I am always positive. Each and every day I go out there trying to win. Slowly some of the players are coming around getting on board and seeing the light, understanding what we are trying to do. Others, some of the more veteran players are still thinking about it, deciding whether this is for them. Maybe they will come around, maybe not. But, I am always encouraging them. You are never successful, in my book, unless you remain positive. People appreciate your efforts more."

Eventually--a fan asked Our Manager what his favorite and least favorite ballparks were in The Major Leagues. By far, his favorite is PNC PARK. "That Park is BEAUTIFUL, well appointed, great field, just a fabulous place to play," Manny said. " I love going to PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It's beautiful. I think our new park is going to be the best, because it's going to have a little of everything that those new ones have. I also like AT&T Park in San Francisco and Coors Field in Colorado."

On his least favorite park--he was reluctant to state--but Manny finally came around and said "WRIGLEY FIELD". "I know some are going to come back at me on this--but its a difficult place to work. The Dugout is small, when you sit on the bench, you can not see the field of play. So, you must stand all the time. I understand that many love the place and its a great place to watch a game. But, when it comes to a working environment--its not the best."

Finally, my favorite moment of the entire Lunchtime Session--was the sight of Our Manager Manny Acta walking into the restaurant with his assistant. Manny carrying the Box of SWAG to be given out. In this case--Red Curly "W" Caps. You gotta love a guy--The Manager of Our Washington Nationals who is just so down to earth. With me chuckling right away over seeing him carry the load--Manny came over and shook hands with me. "You the man, you'll do anything, I love that," I said to him. Manny smiling back, "You gotta do what you gotta do (laughing)." We chatted briefly, and he asked about The African Queen--by name--which made me very happy. Later, Manny would sign a special Red Curly "W" cap, personalizing it, just for Sohna.

Really, I just love the guy!!

PS--The Next Lunchtime Chat is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20th with Charlie Slowes and a Nationals player to be determined later.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Call Of The Wild

As the sun set this evening, the sky overhead slowly turned from daylight to dusk. A bright orange glow reflected off the western sky. And, once that Sun finally eclipsed the horizon, the ever growing darker night soon followed--alongside an ever rising Gorgeous and Bright Full Moon over RFK Stadium's right field wall. Then, once that Moon reached its Zenith, the creepiness of the night ensued. The sounds that followed represented the Howling of Wolves Singing to that Pale Disk In the Sky. Yet, This "Call Of The Wild", this evening, was the noise of Our Washington Nationals singing the praises of The Los Angeles Dodgers Derek Lowe.

Throughout his 7 innings on the mound tonight, Lowe faced just 26 Washington Batters, all but five of them would go directly back to the home dugout. 3 would get hits, and two would walk. Derek was at his sinkerball/fastball throwing best--not a single Washington Nationals player reached second base tonight. At no time was RALLYTIME!! in effect--although MickNats and I attempted to get it started-TWICE. Never did Our Washington Nationals have a chance. No, this "CALL OF THE WILD" was the lamenting of Nats Batters, unable to get anything going.

As the Full Moon shined brightly in the night--Our Washington Nationals HOWLED IN DISGUST.

Were they ever beaten tonight. And, Derek Lowe not only did it to them on the mound, but at the plate as well. He walked twice, singled with two strikes, kept two--run scoring rallies going--and scored the final run of the evening for The Dodgers. If its possible to outshine a Full Moon--Derek Lowe did just that tonight against Our Washington Nationals.

A 5-0 beating. A game we were NEVER in. A game decided WELL before the ending.

This GAME was all about Pitching--Los Angeles Dodgers Pitching. It did not matter whether the game took place at RFK STADIUM or one of those Band Box Fields in Cincinnati or St.Louis--you have to get hits & walks in some sort of sequence to score runs. No way, Our Washington Nationals manufacture anything this May 30th, 2007. Even after Lowe left after his 7 Marvelous Innings--Washington could do nothing against his replacements. Two Journeymen Pitchers, Joe Beimel and Rudy Seanez (not many pitchers are more Journeyman than Seanez--10 MLB Teams over a 18 years career) combined to shut Our Nats the rest of the way.

Two Games against The Dodgers now--facing Brad Penny & Derek Lowe--Just 9 total hits, One Double--ZERO RUNS SCORED. Back to Back Shutouts. Their Best Pitching, rebuffing the Best we can throw at them. Wanna Bet The Dodgers are Howling tonight to that Full Moon? Its pretty hard to shutout an opponent two nights in a row--in the visiting ballpark. Maybe, The Los Angeles Dodgers are Wolves after all. Maybe those sounds heard the past two nights at RFK Stadium are the pitched cadence of The Hunter taking down its Prey. Did we EVER SUFFER A LOSS TONIGHT!!

"THE CALL OF THE WILD"--killing Our Washington Nationals.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Nats Starter Mike Bacsik pitched a decent ball game. He surrendered 4 of the Dodger Runs, but only two were earned. He was hurt badly by a routine ground ball error by "THE GUZ" in the 6th on Jeff Kent. Dodgers Catcher Russell Martin (one of the finest young catchers in this great game) followed with a Two Out, NO DOUBT, blast over the left centerfield wall--to make this game 4-0. The Dodgers had scored their only two earned runs, off Mike, in the previous 5th inning when Luis Gonzalez doubled on a liner to right, moved to third on a Martin grounder to FLop and scored on a well stroked double to right by Andre Ethier. Then, with two out--Bacsik would make the ultimate mistake--walking Lowe--which he paid for promptly--Rafael Furcol cashing in on opportunity with a sharp grounder to right that Felipe Lopez dove for but could not reach.

Bacsik would go 6 complete innings--gave up 6 hits, one walk over 74 pitches--48 for strikes. Mike didn't bowl anybody over--but he was competent. Since, Our Washington Nationals didn't score ANY RUNS for him--Number 37 had No Chance--ANYWAY.

In the top of the second with Luis Gonzalez on first with a single and one out--Russell Martin grounded sharply back to Bacsik on the mound--he twirled and threw to Guzman over second base--Cristian made a nice pivot and throw to first for an inning ending double play. It was The Defensive Play of This Game. Although, there was the sight of Dimitri Young LUNGING to his left--in foul territory on a Gonzalez grounder in the 8th, snaring the baseball--ruled JUST FOUL!! by First Base Umpire Jerry Crawford. The sight of seeing "THE BIG DOG" sprawled out along the turf--worth the price of admission. And, considering his fielding problems covering his position so far this season--maybe Umpire Crawford should have shown some heart. Sometimes, close is good enough. The score was 5-0 at the time-anyway. What a sight though!! In Section 320--We gave Dimitri a "10" for artistry and performance.

Tonight's Nemesis--Derek Lowe would go 7 innings, 3 hits, 2 walks over 113 pitches. But, showing how baffling he was tonight against Washington Hitters, only 64 of those pitches were for strikes. Nary a single hitter for Our Washington Nationals had any idea what Lowe was throwing to them.

Saul Rivera was FABULOUS in 1.1 innings of relief work tonight--striking out three. When he struck out Russell Martin, you could clearly see Martin asking Home Plate Umpire Chris Guccione what Saul had just thrown him. Our Catcher Brian Schneider just shook his head back and forth. Even under his mask--you knew Brian was laughing. Rivera had his finest going tonight. Too bad, it was wasted on a sure loss.

The Announced Crowd was 22,360--Yeah, Right. If there were 12,000 in attendance, I would be amazed. Yet, those that purchased tickets and didn't show up didn't miss much. Although, I am surprised at the low turnout. The Los Angeles Dodgers should have a good following--even on the East Coast.

Finally, this afternoon, I attended Our Manager Manny Acta's "Q & A" Session at ESPN Zone in Washington, DC. Although I will have more on this tomorrow--what turned ironic was Nats320 reader Oliver coming up to me and introducing himself at ESPN Zone. Recognizing his name, I thought he was Simon Oliver Lockwood--a regular commenter on the sight. This Oliver said no, but told me how much he enjoyed reading the various posts. We sat and talked during Manny's chat. Then, lo and behold, tonight--at RFK STADIUM, I was approached in Section 320 by the real SIMON OLIVER LOCKWOOD!! He came by to introduce himself to me--also. Really, what are the chances? We chatted for some time over the last few innings of the ballgame. As I told S.O.L. it was really ironic. In less than 9 hours--two Olivers, the first of whom I thought WAS Simon Oliver lockwood, mistakingly so. Yet, the second one was real. Just Odd. (Many Thanks to Miss Chatter for being kind enough to take the Photo of Manny & I)

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Space Time Continuum

Can the Space Time Continuum be disrupted during a Major League Baseball Game? That "TECHNOBABBLE" Term well known to aficionados of Star Trek had me pondering the possibilities tonight at RFK STADIUM. From the very first batter of the game between Our Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers, nothing seemed in its proper place. Juan Pierre led off and popped a routine fly down the right field. A ball with some serious "hang time"--but with Washington's Outfield Defense overplaying Pierre to hit toward left--rightfielder Austin Kearns could not reach the ball--a baseball now bouncing around in the corner, the swift moving Juan ending up on third base with a lead off triple.

This entire sequence played out in slow motion--right before my eyes. It was odd, almost imaginary, yet it was only the beginning of the strangeness witnessed on this Tuesday Night.

Throughout this 10-0 drubbing by The Dodgers over Our Nats, there was a total disconnect between Los Angeles Offense and Washington Defense. With a FULL MOON overlooking RFK, every single development appeared off-kilter. Not trying to pick on him, but Cristian Guzman was the focal point of so much of this disjointed evening in the field. Consistently, Dodgers batters would slap, strike, ground (never anything overly hard or stroked) or flair the baseball over, under, past, or in one case, right through "THE GUZ" (for an error). The ball JUST MISSING HIS GLOVE so many times, I lost count. Enough so, that when Guzman picked up a Russell Martin grounder and threw him out at first base for the final out in the top of the 9th inning--there was a Mock Standing Ovation given by those fans still remaining from announced crowd of 18,483. You had to wonder whether the Spatial Anomaly was directly hanging over Number 15?

But, "The Guz" was not the only one affected by the shift in Natural Ways of The Universe. After Pierre blooped his triple in the first, he roped a liner to right center his next time up in the 3rd that Kearns slipped and fell, resulting in a two base hit. Later, with the game well in hand in the top of the 8th--Rafael Furcol lofted a pitch JUST over Kearns' head--a ball that fell lazily near the warning track for another double. You had to wonder, are these two teams playing in the same game--the timing for everything was off.

Then, My Main Man!! Ryan Church felt the odd powers at work--surprised when Dodgers Pitcher Brad Penny stroked a Jason Simontacchi pitch over his head--AGAIN JUST OVER HIS HEAD--Penney chugging into second base with a ground rule double, setting up the game changing 6 run 7th inning for Los Angeles. A Breakaway Inning decided when, after Simontacchi was replaced with Winston Abreu--The Dodgers now had the bases loaded, one out--only up 3 to Zero, when Nomar Garciaparra chopped a ball to Ryan Zimmerman's left on the infield grass. Ryan picked up the ball, whirled and keeping pace with the whimsical ways on display tonight defensively, attempted to throw out Penny at the plate--instead Zimmerman tossed the ball against the backstop (so far off target, Brian Schneider had NO CHANCE, yet they were less than 40 feet from each other) allowing not only Penny but Pierre to score the Dodgers 4th & 5th runs. This game was basically over. And, officially, just two hitters later, when Jeff Kent singled in Furcol and Luis Gonzalez LACED A LINER over the right field wall for a three run homer and 9-0 lead. The Space Time Continuum parting such a distance between The Dodgers & Our Washington Nationals this May 29th, most of the fans in attendance decided to part way with both teams, early. Not much left to enjoy in this one.

Really, this entire game felt like The Dodgers were playing on one dimensional plane, Our Nationals another. Each and Every Time Los Angeles hit the baseball--it appeared Washington was delayed in moving to make the defensive play. Almost like you are watching the game on television--but listening to the radio announcers. Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler are describing the action actually occurring, but your eyes are telling you something completely different.

A Two Second Delay--that lasted all night long--until this dreadful loss was thankfully over.

Honestly, it was one of the oddest games I have ever seen. Mystical and Nightmarish at the same time. Not a good combination. Maybe, I can get in touch with "THE MIRACLE WORKER"--Star Trek Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, "Scotty", to solve the Space Time Continuum problem before tomorrow night's game two of this three game series.

Fortunately, tomorrow is a new day, a new game, The Spatial Anomaly GONE!!! Tonight, should just be forgotten.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Whether The Dodgers scored 10 runs or not--Our Washington Nationals couldn't score even one. Los Angeles starter Brad Penny was terrific. Number 31 went 6 2/3rds innings giving up 4 hits and one walk. Not a single Nationals hitter was finding a decent stroke against him except for Ronnie Belliard (who had two of those 4 hits). Never was Penny in trouble, and when he handed the baseball over to his bullpen--their relief corps continued to shutdown the Washington Bats.

Jason Simontacchi also pitched into the 7th inning--he certainly wasn't sharp though. Number 50 gave up 11 hits, one walk, but left after throwing just 87 pitches. He had little command, giving up 5 two strike hits. He was only down 3-0 when Winston Abreu relieved him. But, Winston not only let all three inherited runners to score (with an assist from Ryan Zimmerman's backstop toss) but four more earned runs of his own--including the Gonzalez Home Run. Abreu's ERA ballooning tonight to 4.72. It was below 2.00 just two days ago.

In the top of the 3rd, after Juan Pierre had doubled in the Dodgers 2nd run of the evening--he straddled a little too far off second base. Cristian Guzman sneaked in behind on a timing play--Jason Simontacchi spun--Pierre froze--Jason's perfect throw to "The Guz" picked off Juan easily. It was The Defensive Play of This Game.

MickNats & I couldn't stop laughing about The Dodgers Numbers and Names on their jersey backs--especially Kent and Penny. The Numerals are very thin, The Letters SMALL. "It almost looks like a replica jersey they are wearing," MickNats stated. To me, they looked like Little League Printing--and both their jerseys seemed TWO SIZES, TOO SMALL. It was funny. But, at least better than the past two seasons of Dodger Baseball. Since the McCourt Family took control of The Dodgers, they had refused to put ANY PLAYER NAMES on Jersey Backs. After wearing names on Los Angeles Uniforms for a couple of decades--it didn't look right. MickNats & I were both glad to at least see the name return-just not in the Font Style chosen.

During the top of the 7th inning of each home game--The Racing Presidents tend to hang out in the tunnel to the left of Section 320. Tonight, Teddy and George were making an appearance-taking pictures with fans--Teddy taking in the love of our "LET TEDDY WIN!!" chant while GW gave the usual thumbs down. When, all of sudden, this one beer vendor came walking by--yelling at TEDDY--"You're a LOSER, because you are a DRUNKARD!" Everything sort of stopped for moment. The Vendor repeated the phrase, then moved on. Like everything this evening, it was odd--strange. No one knew really what to do, say or react.

Finally--leading off the bottom of the 2nd--Austin Kearns fouled out three consecutive ROCKET SHOTS over the first base dugout--each successive one harder hit. The third stroked ball scorched its way toward the walkway in the lower bowl--right at MY BEST FRIEND SCREECH!!!! Screech was over in that part of the stadium delivering Papa Johns Pizzas to a lucky section. The fast moving baseball JUST MISSED HIS HEAD!! bouncing along the walkway while a dozen folks attempted to track down the now souvenir. Screech's reaction was terrific--immediately checking to see it he still had all his parts in place. Later, when he came past Section 320, he wiped his brow in relief--knowing we were worried for him. Happy, Section 320 was, to see MY BEST FRIEND still with us--ALIVE!! What would we do without SCREEEEEEECH!!! Close CALL SCREECH!!! VERY, Very Close!!

Just a fitting ending to one ODD EVENING OF NATIONALS BASEBALL.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Haraz N. Ghanbari

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Odds & Ends

On this Memorial Day, with Our Washington Nationals granted a scheduled off day--I find it sort of strange, they are not playing today. Memorial Day and Baseball seem locked in tradition. But, that's OK--This Day is really about those that have fallen in hopes of making all our lives betters. The African Queen and I visited my Dad's Brother, Stewart (My Uncle whom I never met), who died on "D" Day in June 1944, and is now buried at Arlington Cemetery. And, of course, Stewart's Brother, My Dad (The Infamous "BUDDY"), laid to rest in Falls Church--alongside my Mom. Sohna and I only wish all of you a fine day--and hopes that you remember in your own way.

So, with Our Nationals sitting this day out, I thought I would catch up on a few Odds & Ends--items of interest dealing with Our Washington Nationals that I wanted to pass along.

In case you hadn't heard, The DC Zoning Commission approved Temporary Permits last week for 3,775 surface parking spaces within walking distance of The New Nationals Park located off South Capitol Street. You can read up on all the details at this link. In fact, the author of the JDLand Site does a MARVELOUS JOB of updating each and every single detail surrounding, not only Nationals Park, but all the development and issues of her neighborhood. I couldn't say enough nice things about her work. In fact, Principal Owner Mark Lerner and I talked about her website recently. Both of us, impressed. You can always directly link her site from The Nats320 sidebar.

And, apparently, many have noticed her fine work. The Washington Post has now linked her JDLand Site and she shall be writing a weekly column for the "District Extra" section of The Post--well deserved.

With the approval of the 3,775 surface spaces--that brings the the total available parking for Nationals Park to exactly 5,000 spots (Thanks to Mike Edgar for pointing out my GREAT MATH EDUCATION). 1,225 of those are already in place from the two Parking Garages to be added near the outfield of the new stadium. And, a smaller lot near Potomac Ave, SE & South Capitol Street Entrance to the ballpark for Team Executives and Players.

The Nationals and The DC Sports & Entertainment Commission have both estimated that for weekday games--total parking needed will be 3,850 spots. The Demand for Weekend/Holiday Game--4,900. RFK STADIUM has parking for 10,000 cars. So, if their estimates are close--the current temporary approval by The DC Sports & Entertainment Commission has turned the corner, but not solved the entire situation.

Reaching out again to Our Washington Nationals, Team President Stan Kasten was kind enough to respond to my email asking whether the much feared parking situation for fans at New Nationals Park was better under control-- and far more manageable now?

He said in the reply email: "Its an important step, but I'm afraid its just one of many that will be needed between now and Opening Day. Plenty of work remains, but real progress is being made."

I also had asked whether this result was directly from the daily work Team Owner Ted Lerner and others were handling. Mr. Kasten had told me the Parking Problem was issue Number 1 for Mr. Lerner. "And, the entire Lerner family has been involved with the numerous parties involved in the process, including the District, the Federal Govt, as well as private parties," Mr. Kasten stated.

Finally, I asked Our Team President who would be controlling these new temporary surface lots--The Nationals, DCSEC or Private Firms? " I can't answer yet, how all of it will operate. But, we'll know far in advance of Opening Day and will publicize it then," he concluded.

Speaking of the New Nationals Park, The Clark/Smoot Construction Firm building the stadium have begun placing the Faux Limestone Facade (Pre-Formed Concrete colored to match the Limestone Monument Feel of Washington, DC). So, I went over to the Ballpark site this morning and took some new pictures of the construction. You can clearly see the look of the stadium finally coming more into focus. But, with so much still to be completed, it was hard for me to get a real vibe toward the "LIMESTONE" surfaces currently completed. Once more is in place and all the promised glass is added, I believe, only then will we get a real honest impression of what we can expect of Nationals Park beginning in 2008. It was nice though to see everything moving along. Alot has been added since my visit and tour during the last week of March, 2007.

Finally, like many other Season Ticket Holders, I received the promised Season Ticket Benefit Package from Our Washington Nationals. The packet spelled out the details of being a Season Ticket Holder, including game dates available for trade-in, for past games unused tickets. Also, complete details of how to exchange tickets to upcoming games for future dates--if you know you can not attend a certain game. And, the ever increasing "Ticket Replay" Program that allows folks to either sell upcoming games through the Nationals, or transfer tickets electronically (for a $2 fee) to anyone, for any reason. This especially comes in handy if you and someone else is running late to a game. Last month, I wrote about this program at length.

Not only did the Season Ticket Benefits Package claim that ALL FULL SEASON TICKET Holders will receive a Complementary 2007 Nationals Yearbook, but All Season Tickets (from all plans) received a voucher for 4 Free Tickets to any Future Nationals Home Game during the 2007 season. Either send the voucher by mail to the RFK Stadium Box Office, or stop by the Season Ticket Special Box Office Near The Main Gate before any game for redemption. The Complimentary Seats are for either Lower View MVP (those seats between 1st & 3rd below the walkway in the Upper Deck)--Or, for Terrace Box seats (also between 1st & 3rd on the lower deck--but the back rows). In Section 320, we sit in what's called Terrace Box MVP--which amounts to the first 10 rows. So, I imagine those Terrace Box Seats are the rows behind us and other MVP Ticket Holders.

Just few things I wanted to pass along on this Memorial Day. The African Queen and I hope you and yours are enjoying a nice holiday.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Singing In The Rain

Maybe Our Washington Nationals should play through more rain storms. Last night, down HUGE in the top of the ninth at Busch Stadium, they mounted a comeback, scoring twice with two outs, had runners on first and second and the go ahead run at the plate during an absolute deluge--then came a rain delay. Once The Umpires stopped play, picking it up 1 hour and 43 minutes later--Jesus Flores popped out in foul territory to end the game, 8-6 Cardinals last Saturday Night.

Turn the calendar to Sunday--And Today, in the top of the 5th in a zero-zero game--Felipe Lopez stroked a first pitch single to left off Adam Wainwright with two outs, as rain began to fall again. As the downpours continued, Ronnie Belliard stepped up and JACKED OUT Wainwrights second offering to left center for a 2-0 Nationals Lead. Just a few moments later, The Umpires called a rain delay.

Then, once the game resumed under very threatening clouds and mist--Our Washington Nationals exploded again, this time in the top of the 8th. Belliard singled and Ryan Zimmerman walked off Russ Springer. And, when Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa called for lefthander Randy Flores--all HELL BROKE LOOSE! Flores would walk My Main Man!! to load the bases. Nook Logan was next, still NO OUTS. Batting righthanded--his stronger side--Logan would strike out, but the baseball got past St. Louis Catcher Yadier Molina. Reading the play instantly, Ronnie Belliard rushed home to score the third run of the game for Washington. After Robert Fick grounded out to second for out number two, the runners holding--the other Flores in this game, Our Jesus, would walk to load the base again.


Ryan Langerhans was next. Number 4 only in this game because Dimitri Young left with a back injury. With Austin Kearns given an day off, Ryan was put in there. And, as happens so often in baseball, when you least expect it--something great happens to a player entering for another due to injury. A lefthanded hitter, facing a lefthanded pitcher now.

Under the circumstances. any Nats Fans could only wish for a run scoring single. Never would you expect anything more. Langerhans worked a 2-2 count, then, inexplicably--Randy Flores threw the next pitch RIGHT OVER THE PLATE--Ryan Langerhans CRUSHED IT--to deep centerfield. Maybe one of HARDEST HIT BASEBALLS of his lifetime (I am just guessing here, but he SMOKED IT!!) The baseball landing over the centerfield fence on the sloped lawn of Busch Stadium. A GRAND SLAM--GAME DECIDING HOMER from someone you would least expect. Just a Fine Moment-for Langerhans, Our Washington Nationals and ANY FAN watching on television! Just like that, a close game was now near a blowout. At 7-1, it was time to start counting the outs. Just six more to return home to Washington, DC on the heels of a terrific 5-2 Roadtrip to Cincinnati and St.Louis--towns Our Washington Nationals had not done well in over the course of the previous two seasons.

Curly "W" number 21 featured some fine pitching by Our Hometown Team. Matt Chico pitched 4 innings of shutout ball before the rain started. There were some Clutch Hits, good At-Bats, in that rain--and a feeling that Our Washington Nationals are discovering themselves, in a good way. Finding out, just what they are capable of doing. You ask ANYBODY whether they believed Our Nats would win 5 games on this, just completed, terrific roadtrip--and not a sole would have said "YES!". Today's 7-2 win was a joy to watch. I actually had a confident feeling, even before Langerhan's Grand Slam, they were going to pull it out. For the very first time this season, Our Washington Nationals are earning respect.

As I type this, its beginning to rain here in Alexandria. The Thunder Boomers Loud in the Gray Sky. Bookending-- A Perfect Ending to a victorious Series Win in RAINY St.Louis this weekend. I can't wait for The Dodgers this coming Tuesday Night at RFK STADIUM.

Maybe, we shall get lucky again--and it will rain some more.

Because, Our Washington Nationals have left me "SINGING IN THE RAIN".

Game Notes & Highlights:

In his 4 shutout innings, Matt Chico gave up just three hits, no walks--and was never really threatened. 42 of his 68 pitches were thrown for strikes. Randy St.Claire must really be a decent pitching coach, to continue to get SO MUCH out his guys on the mound. Chico is becoming far more reliable--dependable.

I have to give Adam Wainwright of St. Louis a ton of credit for returning to the mound after the long rain delay this afternoon. In this day of coddling pitchers and rarely letting anyone go more than 7 innings, it was refreshing to see this good young talented kid take the ball, warm up and head back out there, when the game restarted. Its a little off subject, but I recall fondly growing up in the 1960's when pitchers like Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Gaylord Perry, and especially Bob Gibson wanted to go the distance each and every game. They were downright STEAMED to be taken out of any game. And, Marichal would pitch batting practice the very next day after a start. Even My Washington Senators pitchers of that time--Dick Bosman and Casey Cox--nearly always went deep in a game. Managers allowed their starters to work themselves out of jams. They learned and knew how to pitch during that time. Something that's not allowed to happen today. I miss those days. It just seemed like players wanted it more then--especially when it comes to starting pitching (Yeah, I know, some of you might be saying to yourself, just another old fogey story--but you know--its true).

Our Washington Nationals have hit 4 Grand Slams so far this 2007 season. Ryan's have three of them. Langerhans, Zimmerman and Church. FLop has the fourth. What's the chances of Ryan Wagner hitting one? By the way, Austin Kearns' middle name is--you guessed it--RYAN!!

Dimitri Young had to me rolling over laughing at his misplay at first base in the bottom of the fourth. The Cardinals Scott Rolen grounded a hard bouncer down the third baseline. Ryan Zimmerman made a nice over his head, backhand grab of the ball in foul territory but behind the bag. Ryan set himself and tossed a good, but not great throw a little off the bag toward right field. Dimitri Young STRETCHED, not only with the wrong foot, his left instead of right, but toward RIGHT FIELD, away from the ball--not toward the ball coming across the infield. His bad footwork allowed Rolen to just beat the throw, and ended with a collision between Dimitri & Scott. Rolen flipping right over Young after running into his rear end. Rolen was not hurt. Although, Dimitri Young did not return after the rain delay, apparently injuring his back on this play. For his pain, I am sorry--never do I want to see any player get injured. For the defensive move he made--I can only laugh. It was flat out funny.

After Young's mistake--Please Nick Johnson, get well soon!! I don't know how much longer I can take our defensive play at first base.

Ray Knight handling the color commentary on MASN 2 this afternoon impressed me by going right after Nationals Players who he felt were not playing to the best of their abilities. In the bottom of the second, Yadier Molina would pop a foul ball down the right field line. FLop had the angle and if he continued to run hard, could have made the play. Instead Felipe gave way to Dimitri Young running hard, looking up over his head--the ball glancing off his glove--no play, no out recorded-although there should have been. Knight did not back down--claiming that was FLop's play all the way--no way Lopez should have stopped running. Ray Knight was correct. I was glad he stated that fact.

Then, when Dimitri made his poor footwork decision on the collision at first with Scott Rolen--Ray Knight walked all over him. "You just don't stretch away from the ball, on the wrong foot," Knight exclaimed. "Those few extra feet gave Scott Rolen the base. He should know better than that!!" It was so true. I was happy Ray Knight said that statement, too. I can appreciate announcers that don't cover up the truth. Hopefully, both FLop and Young will get the message.

Ronnie Belliard had a fine game--knocking four hits, including his two run homer--raising his average to .276. Even as a fill-in for Cristian Guzman--he played shortstop again well. And, although they did not turn any double plays today, that was not the fault of Belliard. Twice, he handled throws from FLop pivoting beautifully, but just missing the runners at first. He pivots really well. Its the most impressive skill about his game, to me.

Saul Rivera got the win today for pitching two innings of one run ball after the game resumed in the 5th inning. Too bad that Chico did not get the win. He was deserving, but official rules will not allow it.

Chad Cordero pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning today. Believe it or not--his ERA is now down to 3.09. "The Chief" is hopefully coming around. His help is needed, for Washington to continue their winning ways.

I love seeing that "SEA OF RED" at each and every Cardinals Game in St.Louis. They must have MORE FANS than most any team in Baseball wearing The Home Team's Merchandise, in this case "CARDINALS". Its quite impressive. St. Louis is just a terrific baseball town. Hopefully, one day--many will say and think the same nice things about Our Washington Nationals and The Nation's Capital. By the way, if there is a more beautiful Home Uniform for style and grace--its The Cardinals' Home Whites. Just a terrific jersey. Although, I prefer their Red "STL" Caps than their Sunday Blue/Red Brim Cap with Bat & Cardinal on the front. Classic and stylish in every way that jersey. Just a GREAT, GREAT HOME UNIFORM. A Keeper for ALL TIME!!

During the Rain Delay, I continued to switch back and forth among all the other games this afternoon on my DirecTV MLB Extra Innings Package. I enjoy being able to watch virtually any game going on every day. For 10 years I have purchased this package. Its well worth it--for the baseball nut I am. And, today, it allowed me to listen in on Cincinnati Reds TV Announcer George Grande get into the Grievance Situation with Gary Majewski and Our Washington Nationals. In a high scoring affair--"TEX" was called on to settle down The Pittsburgh Pirates in the 8th inning. He didn't do well--giving up three hits and two runs (his ERA now 10.80)--allowing The Pirates to increase their lead in an eventual 14-10 win. Majewski was BOOED LOUDLY upon being taken out.

During the course of his bad inning, George Grande went into great detail concerning Red's General Manager Wayne Krivsky's complaint. The gist of it came down to the fact of George stating that WAYNE BELIEVES Our Washington Nationals DID NOT TELL The Reds that Gary Majewski had just recently taken a cortisone shot, before the trade. THAT'S IT--Their ENTIRE CASE. Grande went on to say that Cincinnati's claim was a longshot and that only monetary compensation would probably be awarded, if anything. "I don't know of any other such claim that had merit, has been redone by Major League Baseball." Obviously, even Grande thinks Krivsky is dreaming.

I seem to recall, others can, I am sure clarify--that EVERYONE IN DC KNEW GARY MAJEWSKI received a cortisone shot before the trade. The Reds Team Doctor, then, a consultant with Washington, knew of this. Just more proof that Wayne Krivsky is trying to hide from a bad trade that soured on him and his relationship with The Cincinnati Fan Base.

By the way--for those who may not know. George Grande is THE VERY FIRST PERSON EVER to be seen on ESPN. When that now Worldwide Sports Network went on the air in 1980, George Grande hosted THE VERY FIRST SHOW--CALLED SPORTCENTER. SportCenter a show with a life all its own now--known throughout the USA, and many countries throughout this world. I have always liked George Grande.

Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Tom Gannam

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Quick Review

Having to take The African Queen to a Black Tie Affair tonight in Washington, DC, I had no opportunity to watch tonight's 8-6 loss to The St. Louis Cardinals. Tivo gave me the replay--but for the most part it was fairly forgettable. Some very poor starting pitching, an inability to have the big inning with the bases loaded by Our Washington Nationals and a mind boggling mental mistake in the 4th--an error that directly led to the game changing BIG INNING OF THIS GAME. Although, the 9th inning comeback by Washington before the rain began to come down in buckets was quite interesting. The momentum had changed. The Rain Killed the Rally.

So, I just have some comments about two moments during this ballgame.

In the bottom of the 4th with the bases loaded for The Cardinals, Scott Spezio hit a ONE HOPPER right at Dimitri Young. With every single runner believing Young had caught the ball--all Dimitri had to do was tag Albert Pujols standing directly in front of him ( Albert believing he had to get back to first base), then jog over to first to step on the bag and retire Spezio for a inning ending, rally killing, double play. Instead, Young made a terrible decision. No decision at all. Instead of following through and getting at least one out, Number 21 froze, bitched momentarily at First Base Umpire Tom Hallion, while all the St. Louis runners took off again. David Eckstein ran hard all the way home--and Young FINALLY threw the ball to Brian Schneider way too late. Dimitri Did Not attempt to tag Pujols. He DID NOT STEP ON FIRST. Not a single Cardinals Runner was retired. St. Louis went on the score 4 more runs---building a commanding 8-1 Lead. Just an awful choice by Dimitri Young. I understand he's not much of a fielder, but to totally freeze on a ball he surely knew HE DID NOT CATCH, just ludicrous!! The Result of this play basically decided the outcome early. Wow, Dimitri--I would love to ask you what you were thinking on that one?

When Jim Edmonds scorched an opposite field grounder RIGHT AT, AND PAST RYAN ZIMMERMAN this evening, it brought back memories of something I noticed about Ryan's game in 2006. Number 11 is, without a doubt, one of the finest fielders I have ever seen going to his left and right, charging in on the chopper or bunt-while throwing to first. And, the BEST I have EVER SEEN at chasing foul balls down the right field line. On all those plays, Ryan Zimmerman is a Gold Glover. But, what he continues to have problems with are smashes RIGHT AT HIM. Granted, they are scary shots, downright smokers giving Ryan split second reaction time. They don't call it the "HOT CORNER" for nothing. I am not here to criticize him-he's just too fine of a young player. If at all possible though, I would love to see him improve his play on balls hit DIRECTLY AT HIM. Earlier this week, another "AT-HIM" Ball ate him up. Edmonds' tonight the same, both hits resulting in run scoring plays. Just something I have noticed after watching Ryan Zimmerman so closely over the past year and one half at RFK STADIUM.

Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Tom Gannam

Friday, May 25, 2007


Really. You have to laugh. Laugh at so called "EXPERTS" like Buster Olney at ESPN that claimed that Our Washington Nationals were "HISTORICALLY" Bad. So called polished practitioners of the sport, who professed there was "NO DOUBT" Washington would make a run at THE WORST TEAM IN THE HISTORY OF THIS GREAT GAME. Exactly, how does someone like Buster Olney keep his job?? And, so many others. Yet many believe, their opinions are always correct.

How is it, that so many other "Journalists" proclaimed that same notion. Do they really understand baseball? Why are they considered knowledgeable? How is it that many others blistered Our General Manager Jim Bowden for rifling through the SCRAP HEAP attempting to piece together a rotation, this past off season? A cobbled together pitching corp that is holding its own. How is it that SO MANY said Our Washington Nationals would be a LAUGHINGSTOCK?

Well, I am laughing at all of them, right now. I am laughing at all their silly "expertise". I am laughing at their, so called, understanding and intelligence of the game. I am laughing at how Our Washington Nationals are making all of them eat their words-- Both in Print and Broadcast. Really--You Have To Laugh.

I am. Our Washington Nationals are. And, you should too.

WE ARE FAR BETTER THAN ADVERTISED. Season Three of Major League Baseball in Washington, DC is getting really interesting. And, tonight Our Nationals continued to resurrect their season.

Are they the best team in baseball? No. Are they going to compete for a Division Title this year. Not a chance.

But, Our Washington Nationals are competitive. Their games of late are extremely interesting. They are NOT BEING BLOWN OUT. Our Hometown team is FUN TO WATCH. Yeah, I understand they may well fall on their face and collapse. But, I am not expecting it, nor believing my fear. Right now, I am having a ton of fun watching Washington play baseball. Each and every game of late has been THRILLING, INTERESTING and downright EXCITING. What more can you ask?

Tonight, was just one of those ALLURING ball games. If you started to watch this one, there was NO WAY YOU ARE GOING TO TURN YOUR BACK ON IT. Down to the last pitch, never a dull moment. This game with The St. Louis Cardinals enraptured me. And of course, "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" was called on to close this one out.

"The Chief Cardiologist" WAS FABULOUS--with a nice assist from Felipe Lopez in the 9th. But, well before Chad Cordero closed out an excellent 5-4 win, this baseball game was a TEAM EFFORT this friday evening in St.Louis. Micah Bowie pitched just well enough to leave after five innings with a 3-2 lead. Brian Schneider unloaded on the talented, but struggling, Anthony Reyes for a Two Run Homer to right in the top of the 2nd inning. Nook Logan continued to surprise with TWO LEFTHANDED STROKED DOUBLES. His first one, directly following Schneiderman's Homer, resulted in Washington's third run of this evening on a sacrifice fly by Cristian Guzman. His second two bagger, in the 6th-The KEY RUN SCORING HIT OF THIS GAME, when he gaped a Reyes pitch to right center that bounced over the wall scoring both Austin Kearns and Dimitri Young with the eventual game winning runs. Is Nook Logan finally beginning to get a understanding of what he CAN DO from the left side of the plate? Has the light bulb finally turned on? That answer to decide Logan's long term Major League aspirations. And, his career with Our Washington Nationals.

With score at 5-1 at that moment, it was time to strap on the seat belt. Our Bullpen and Defense combined for one wild ride over the last four innings. Never were The Cardinals out of it. Never did St. Louis think Our Defense would win this game. Probably not even after the last out was recorded. But, our Defense continued to keep Washington in the game, and out of some serious trouble. FLop actually made two terrific efforts tonight in the field. During the 5th, David Eckstein lined a sure single to right. Lopez extended all the way to his left--catching the ball a split second before the baseball hit the turf--saving a game tying run from scoring.

In the bottom of the 6th with two runners on first and second and just one out for The Cardinals--Jim Edmonds roped a deep liner to right field, near the wall. Austin Kearns DID NOT GIVE UP ON IT. Seeing he had to dive, Austin lunged headlong on The Warning Track, toward the wall. And, at the VERY LAST POSSIBLE MOMENT, he gloved the ball while sliding into the fence. Still aware of the situation in front of him, Kearns quickly got up to his feet, and threw out Scott Rolen trying to get back to first. This Rally Ending, Inning Ending, Double Play was THE FINEST DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE YEAR--So Far. If Austin Kearns does not make the catch--two runs easily score, giving Washington just a slim 5-4 lead. And, the possibility that Edmonds might circle the bases for a game tying Inside The Park Home Run. After colliding with Nick Johnson last September and nearly running into Nook Logan in centerfield twice this past week in Cincinnati--it was a good sign that Our Number 25 has not lost his aggressiveness. What a Play!! What A CATCH!! Just a CAPTIVATING TURN OF EVENTS TO WATCH DEVELOP!! I was screaming so hard with delight The African Queen thought I had FINALLY GONE LOONY. No doubt, our long time neighbor already believes that about me, when it comes to Our Washington Nationals.

In the bottom of the 7th, Saul Rivera got in trouble. With runners on 1st and 3rd with one out--Saul got Eckstein to ground right back to the box. Rivera turned to throw to second. Guzman took the toss, then proceeded to throw the ball in the dirt. Dimitri Young could not handle it. A sure inning ending double play had given The Cardinals a cheap run. The score now 5-3. And, it would have been worse, if when Our Manager Manny Acta called on Ray King to face the lefthanded swinging Chris Duncan--Duncan had not HAMMERED Ray's very first pitch--RIGHT AT DIMITRI YOUNG!! What Luck. What Fortune. If you thought I was laughing before. I was busting out right now. No way, we really should have still been ahead in this one.

Yet, I chuckled some more in the bottom of the 8th. Big Jon Rauch simply had NOTHING. You have to figure his early season overuse has decimated his ability right now. "The Wookie" does not look good. After surrendering three straight hits to St. Louis without recording an out, Manny replaced him with Jesus Colome. Was Number 43 EVER THE LIFESAVER TONIGHT.

Jesus, he of the staff leading four wins--came on with the bases loaded, no outs--THE GAME ON THE LINE. And, proceeded to strikeout Jim Edmonds on 5 pitches. Then, forced Yadier Molina to ground sharply to Ryan Zimmerman at third who stepped on the bag--set himself, and threw to Robert Fick at first for the rally killing double play. Again, The African Queen staring at me in disbelief. You can imagine, I was yelling "YES!!!", pumping my right fist, something awful. And, LAUGHING SOMETHING AWFUL, too. Luck and Skill had got Washington through to the 9th. Jesus Colome may well be Our Most Valuable Player during the early portion of what is becoming a compelling season of Nationals Baseball.

Finally, Chad Cordero came on and WAS FABULOUS--thanks to FLop. Aaron Miles SMOKED "The Chief's" fifth pitch to the right of Felipe toward centerfield. Lopez dove to his right, gloved the ball, stood up and threw out the fast moving Miles at first for out number one. FLop may well be a mediocre shortstop. But, at second base--he is quite the talent. Decent glove. Doesn't have to throw from the hole anymore--can use his range to better advantage playing the the right side of the infield. If he hit more, he would look alot more like the All Star Player he was crowned in 2005.

After retiring Miles, Chad got Scott Spezio to fly to Logan in Center and Eckstein to fly to Kearns in right to end it. Curly "W" number 20 was an excellent ball game. Just the type of game that real baseball fans can appreciate. Some good plays. Some key hits and some very exciting developments--at least for fans of Our Washington Nationals. 11 Wins out of their past 15 games. Our Washington Nationals now have as many wins as the Defending Champion Cardinals.

Who's laughing now!!!

I am. For as long as it lasts. This is fun!!

Nothing like being the underdog-- and succeeding, WHEN NOT A SOLE EXPECTED IT!!!

I am positive our players feel the same way.

Game Notes & Highlights:

In the top of the 6th, My Main Man!! Ryan Church ROPED a liner down the right field line. Cardinals, All World First Baseman, Albert Pujols knocked it down--the ball rolling in front of him across first base. Pujols dove for the ball in an attempt to glove the ball, but keep his foot on the bag. Church running hard would have stepped RIGHT ON Albert's right ankle, breaking it, if he kept stride. Number 19 short stepped the bag, running over it, missing it completely. First Base Umpire Charlie Reliford immediately signaled--safe. St. Louis Manager Tony LaRussa complained, along with Pujols wanting the out call. But, Albert never controlled the ball while lunging off the bag. And quite frankly, The Cardinals should consider themselves lucky. Take the misplay, or lose their BEST PLAYER with a broken ankle for the rest of the this season. Sometimes, you just have to let it go.

Speaking of Pujols, he may be struggling early this season, but he is such a wonderful talent. Always plays hard, a real team player and he can flat out JACK THE BALL. Which he did tonight, crushing a Micah Bowie pitch for a homer in the bottom of the 4th. If The Cardinals EVER get tired of him, I will take him in a heartbeat. What a game changer--On the same page with Ryan Howard of The Phillies. Maybe Our 18 Year old talent, Chris Marrero, now tearing it up in The South Atlantic League for Hagerstown will develop like these two top sluggers.

Our Washington Nationals continued to hit the ball, stroking ten base hits. They showed enough patience to walk five times off Reyes. Its a stunning development that The Cardinals Anthony Reyes is 0-8. Just two years ago, not a single team in Major League Baseball would have not wanted him and proclaimed him their Number 1 Starter. Just amazing. Really.

Chad Cordero received his 7th save tonight. After 49 games in 2006, Washington's Record was 20-29. After 49 games in 2007, their record is 20-29. Which of these two do you believe is the more important achievement? Yeah, I know, I am always more optimistic. You never know how things will develop in baseball. That's why being positive is important to me.

Finally: "If Rolen can't get to it, no one can!!"--That comment made by Bob Carpenter on TV20 tonight when Nook Logan flipped an outside pitch down the third base line in the top of the 4th inning--just foul. This comment came, not one inning after Ray Knight, filling in for Don Sutton tonight, glowed about Ryan Zimmerman, saying that in his ENTIRE LIFETIME of playing and watching baseball, only ONE PLAYER fielded third base better than "Z"--and that was Hall of Famer, Mike Schmidt. So, Bob--where are you coming from with that comment? Knight played the game. You, DID NOT. End of discussion. I understand that you broadcast Cardinals Games for many years. But, the last time I checked, you worked courtesy of Our Washington Nationals, and their broadcasting partner. Its OK to praise talent--Good Talent. I understand appreciating excellent play and greater players. Not though, at the expense of Our TALENT!! Our First Rate Quality Talent. Ryan Zimmerman just about the only one we have. Please UNDERSTAND THAT.

For the rest of this weekend, while Don Sutton is away, the TV sound goes down--Charlies Slowes and Dave Jageler's radio commentary goes up.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Jeff Roberson

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nurturing His Best

Yeah, "The Guz" hit his first home run since 2005. Dimitri Young and Felipe Lopez continue to wield Hot Bats. "The Chief" closed out a tight 4-3 win. And, Our Washington Nationals are no longer the holder of the WORST RECORD IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE. Yet, none of those points were the lead story tonight.

This evening featured a Pitching and Catching Tandem working together as a team--mowing down The Cincinnati Lineup through 7 and 2/3rds innings. Mike Bacsik got that starting call and was terrific. But, he couldn't have done it without the knowledge of Brian Schneider. Sure, Bacsik is basically an unknown quantity, so he has the element of surprise, early. No way though he gets through The Reds Batting Order 3 or more times, without his catcher's understanding of each and every hitter faced. Number 23 nurtured Mike Bacsik's best stuff throughout this game. Most every Cincinnati Hitter was left off balance and fooled. Only a mistake pitch home run to Adam Dunn in the 5th and a terrible high fastball that Alex Gonzalez just hammered to dead center for a two run homer in the 8th, ruined Bacsik's night.

Really, I can't say enough about the effort by Brian Schneider tonight. There is NO WAY Bacsik goes so deep into this game without Brian's help. Mike has not faced any of Cincinnati's hitters many times. Sure, he ran across some in Spring Training and Minor League Games, but he certainly does not know their tendencies. Our Catcher does. Brian Schneider's knowledge is in many respects, far greater than the sum of his hitting stroke. Pitchers love to throw to him, because Number 23's done his homework-allowing Washington's Pitchers to just concentrate on their game--not anyone else's. Its an important factor, and should not be overlooked.

Fortunately for Mike Bacsik, those two home runs allowed, still left him with the lead. A lead held up by Billy Traber retiring the ALWAYS DANGEROUS Ken Griffey, Jr to end the bottom of the 8th. A lead 'THE MOST THRILLING CLOSER IN THE GAME" came on to finish off, despite a lead off walk in the bottom of the 9th. Chad Cordero hung in there, as always. And, when Jeff Conine popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt to Robert Fick for out number one--all Number 32 had to do was to find two more outs--right through the heart of the Reds Lineup. And, THE POWER HITTING DUNN. Which, he promptly did. With the overshift on for the extreme pull hitting Adam--Chad got Dunn to ground to FLop, who AMAZINGLY decided to backhand, underarm toss (really, I couldn't believe this throw, with me jumping out of my chair yelling NO!!!, fearing an error) to Ryan Zimmerman, crossing the 2nd base bag for Out Number 2. Ryan, who turns the double play at second base, as well as any shortstop we have ever seen in Washington-- fielded the shallow throw and glided across the bag, avoiding the sliding Phillips. Then, tossed to Robert Fick to end the game. Chad Cordero's 6th save of this season.

All on a night, a veteran, savvy catcher--nurtured a journeyman pitcher to his best performance in The Major Leagues in over three seasons. Only in baseball does stuff like this always happen.

Just like that!! Three out of 4 at Cincinnati. The first Road Series Win of the Season for Our Washington Nationals. Curly "W" number 19 moved us ahead of The Reds in the standings. Since returning from their disastrous 1-8 road trip through San Diego, Chicago & Milwaukee--Washington has won 10 or 14. Now, its on to St.Louis to play an equally struggling team in The Cardinals.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Cristian Guzman continues to step up his game. In the top of the first, he slapped a Matt Belisle pitch over the right field wall for a home run. Later, in the 4th, with Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman on first & second with singles-- "THE GUZ" scored from second when Austin Kearns bounced a seeing eye grounder to left field, just outside the reaches of both Reds Infielders. 3rd Base Coach Tim Tolman was sending Cristian all the way--Adam Dunn got off a nice throw to the plate. Our Number 15 with a GORGEOUS slide to the outside rear corner of Home Plate, slapping his left hand down on home to score, mere splits seconds before the tag by Cincinnati Catcher David Ross.

And, when Dimitri Young singled sharply to center during the very next At-Bat, scoring Ryan Zimmerman--this game was now 3-0 Washington. A lead that would increase to 4-1 (after Dunn's homer in the 5th) when Young again lofted a short fly to medium left field. Adam Dunn for some reason tried to dive for the ball. BIG MISTAKE. Dunn misplayed the ball badly, the baseball rolling behind him toward the warning track. Austin Kearns, on first base with a single--ran hard, all the way home for The FINAL RUN of the evening. Dimitri Young's average, all of a sudden, up to .286. It was .237 just last week.

FLop continues to be more a the leadoff hitter everyone wants to see. Two more slap hits tonight. His batting average now at .250 With Austin Kearns now hitting .249, the six top hitters in Our Lineup now are above that mark, for the very first time this season. No longer are most Washington Nationals hitting .238 or so. As the weather has heated up, so have the bats. 11 more hits tonight in that Stadium known at The Great American Ball Park. A Ballpark I will NOT MISS Our Washington Nationals playing in again this season. That park is scary!! Far too hitter friendly.

At a time Our Washington Nationals needed a starting pitcher to go deep, give their much overused bullpen a rest--Mike Bacsik CAME UP HUGE. Getting into the 8th inning and leaving with the lead CAN NOT BE UNDERSTATED. Washington needed just such a performance tonight. It could not have come at a better time. Mike Bacsik pitched a terrific, and unexpected ballgame.

When do two errors, one mental, SAVE THE NIGHT? Well tonight, Felipe Lopez was involved in one of the oddest plays you will ever see. In the bottom of the 8th with nobody out--David Ross was on first after scorching a grounder past Ryan Zimmerman. Norris Hopper was next and placed a gorgeous bunt between the mound and first base. Robert Fick came in on the ball, picked it up, turned to toss to first, but FLop was late. Not there. Fick's underhand toss didn't get there in time. Neither did Lopez. On MASN, Bob Carpenter made the excuse that FLop had a long way to run. I am not buying that. Please just give the facts Bob, don't cover for the players. Our Manager Manny Acta does not even do that. So, why should you?

Now, with First & Second, No Outs--Ryan Freel lined a hot shot to FLop at second. Felipe caught the ball, then underarmed, backhanded the ball to "The Guz" at second--throwing the ball into short leftfield, behind the shortstop's set position (Now you may understand better why I was SCREAMING at FLops similar game ending double play toss). Zimmerman rushed out from third base to retrieve the baseball. Ross saw opportunity, and ran to an apparently unguarded base. Mike Bacsik charged over to beat Ross as "Z" threw a perfect off balance toss to Bacsik at third for a very odd 4-5-1 Double Play. It was The Defensive Play of This Game. And, GAME SAVING PLAY--Especially, when Cincinnati's next hitter, Alex Gonzalez, knocked out a two run homer to make this game a one run ball game, in favor of Washington.

Finally, when Gary Majewski trotted out to pitch in the 9th inning tonight for The Reds, I had mixed feelings. In 2005, he was one of my favorite Nats Players. I adored how "TEX" ran hard from the then left field bullpen at RFK Stadium, ALWAYS JUMPED OVER the baseline. Long Hair Flopping in the Wind. Whenever he got out of jam on the mound, Gary always pumped his fist and jogged excitedly to the home dugout. And, on that FINAL DAY of the 2005 season, when he walked off the mound for the last time during the Inaugural Season--he stopped, pointed, and pounded his heart to THE FANS of Our Washington Nationals, thanking them for their GREAT SUPPORT. Gary Majewski received a STANDING OVATION that day. Over the coming winter months, he personally told me how much HE LOVED PLAYING IN WASHINGTON, DC. "The Most Magical Year of My Life!!" he said. I never forgot those words. And, when he was included in last July 13th trade to Cincinnati, I was saddened. Gary Majewski will always be close to my heart.