Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Memorable Ball Game

If Our Washington Nationals had not come from behind tonight--everyone would have been talking about one bonehead decision on the base paths.

If Our Washington Nationals had not pulled ahead tonight--EVERYONE would most likely have not have seen, not only, The Defensive Play of This Game. But, Arguably--The Entire Season--Every Single Major League Team's Season. It was a DOOZIE!!

And, If Our Washington Nationals DID NOT show patience at the plate--they would NEVER have fought back to defeat The Cincinnati Reds at RFK Stadium before a delighted crowd of 20,165.

A Victory that SOMEHOW gave Matt Chico a most improbable win. A victory that once again proves, This Great Game, never ceases to amaze me.

Its funny how Baseball can INFURIATE you one moment. DELIGHT YOU with ABSOLUTE JOY the next. And, Thrill you when Your Team--Our Team--fights back with a furious rally. Then, puts the icing on the cake, with a key insurance run and solid bullpen help down the stretch.

Yeah, just another mid-season match up against two teams going nowhere in the standings. And, it provided a huge amount of entertainment tonight. This Ballgame was A MEMORABLE BALLGAME. One that anyone that witnessed it, will not soon forget.

Let's begin with that BONEHEAD DECISION!!

With two out and Brian Schneider on first base via a walk--Nook Logan laced a Bobby Livingston pitch down the right field line, deep into the corner. Schneider was running has hard as possible. Logan was RACING AROUND THE BASES, actually near taking over Our Number 23. Ken Griffey, Jr loped into the right field corner--AND CONCEDED THE RUN SCORING. Not a sole at RFK STADIUM did not believe that Brian would score EASILY!! At least, everyone except Our 3rd Base Coach--Tim Tolman. With Schneider rounding third and Logan heading toward third base. TOLMAN--for WHATEVER REASON--decided to hold Brian at third. On a play, Ken Griffey, Jr just lobbed the baseball back INTO SECOND BASE--just off the bag. On a play, that Our Starting Pitcher--Matt Chico--was the next scheduled batter.

Ah Tim? What in WORLD WHERE YOU THINKING?? Really, not even well trained baseball minds want to know your answer. Even The African Queen, still learning the game--was mad at you. SenatorNat I thought was going to run down onto the field and personally ask for your response. If not, your resignation. Was he ever pissed. Along with just about every single person at RFK, not cheering for The Reds. Boy, would I have loved to hear what Our Manager Manny Acta said to you about this poor baserunning decision.

A few weeks ago--I applauded you for being aggressive at times on the bases. Especially when Our Washington Nationals have difficulty scoring runs. But, lately--you seem far too conservative. And, this call was a NO BRAINER. Brian Schneider should have scored this game's first run. The Fact he did not, set off OUR FANS into a Feeding FRENZY. Did you notice the VENOM being spewed around the lower bowl of The Old Ballyard? Honestly, I don't think one single play in the short history of Our Washington Nationals received such deserved BOOS--than you received when Matt Chico made the final out of the 2nd inning, stranding both runners. A Five Year Old Child, sitting directly behind us, asked his Father why all the booing. His Father, mad as could possibly be, responded--"Son, The Bad Guys Just Scored."

Anger Mr. Tolman, I have no doubt--carried over into Washington's Dugout. The Pitcher was the next scheduled batter. Sometimes you have to be aware of the ENTIRE SITUATION. Brian Schneider should have been sent home--just about--NO MATTER WHAT.

Fortunately, at least for this night--you were saved. Salvation at the hands of patient hitters standing at the plate in the bottom of the 5th inning. A frame that started so poorly when Chico--after getting in and out of jams each and every single trip to the mound--finally faltered. Cincinnati scoring two runs with two outs on singles by Edwin Encarnacion and Jeff Conine. A 2-0 deficit for Washington that did not last the completion of the 5th.

How often have Our Washington Nationals stepped to the plate, with the game in the balance--swinging at the very first pitch. The Pitcher's Out Pitch, not their pitch to hit. Well, this evening--did everyone in attendance get treated to a scene not enjoyed on a regular basis. It all began when Nook Logan (who reached base in all four of his plate appearances tonight) laced a single to left. D'Angelo Jimenez followed with a Pinch Hit Walk for Chico. A Full Count Free Pass that actually set the table for this big inning. As bad as Jimenez was most all this season--I have to give him credit of late. Off the bench, he has actually produced.

With Washington Runners now on first and second with no outs--FLop decided to join the action--with a first pitch clean single to center, loading the bases. That one time outrage of the crowd--now turning to cheer. Opportunity was at the plate in the name of Ronnie Belliard. "The BallPlayer" had his game on tonight. And, he got it started when he also laced a Bobby Livingston pitch into center, scoring Logan with Washington's First Run of the evening--bringing Ryan Zimmerman to the plate. How many times have Nationals Fans witnessed the rising stardom in Our Number 11. "Zimmy" has produced time and time again. And, with a stirring crowd focused directly on his appearance--"Z" produced the game changing moment.

The lefthanded throwing Livingston was losing it. And, after throwing ball one, well off the plate--served up a patented Ryan Zimmerman clout. An outside pitch in over the plate that "Z" powered into the right centerfield gap. This was a BASE CLEARER. Even Our Third Base Coach realized this. While Griffey, Jr moved as fast as his aging legs can carry him--THE MERRY GO ROUND was in motion on the basepaths. First Jimenez, then Felipe Lopez and finally, Ronnie Belliard--chugging around the bases--holding his batting helmet so it would not fall off. The Home Faithful Roaring in Delight. Ryan Zimmerman now standing on second with a bases clearing double. Just like that--Our Washington Nationals were ahead 4-2. A lead that grew by one additional run when My Main Man!! Ryan Church laced a liner to right with two outs off Cincinnati Reliever Todd Coffey. A five run inning that when completed featured Washington batting around in their order and some serious patience at the plate with an opposing pitcher in trouble. For what seems like forever--instead of letting a struggling pitcher get them--Our Washington Nationals hammered a struggling pitcher. What a pleasure to see.

A three run lead that looked in serious trouble just one batter into the top of the 6th. Our Manager Manny Acta sent "EVERYDAY" Saul Rivera out to replace the departed Matt Chico. And, Ryan Freel greeted him with an single to Ronnie Belliard that glanced off Dimitri Young's glove. A play that merely was the WARM UP ACT for The Defensive Play of This Game. Jeff Keppinger was next for The Reds. On the second pitch of his At-Bat--he lined a shot up the middle off Rivera's right foot. "The BallPlayer" moving to cover second base on the stroke--was caught off guard as the baseball caromed back behind him toward the hole between first and second. A total instinct, not thinking play developed. Belliard whirling back to his left, face forward toward home plate--snagged the baseball in his glove--AND CONTINUED TO WHIRL A FULL 360 Degrees--PASSING THE BASEBALL DIRECTLY OUT OF HIS GLOVE TO FLOP AT SECOND BASE--to retire the sliding Freel. Lopez scooping the WILD TOSS for this inning's first out. A retirement of a runner that was immediately received with ooh's and aah's from the RFK Stadium Crowd. Even Ronnie Belliard could not believe what he had just done. Without thinking, Our Number 10 may well have produced The Play Of The Year. Laughing uncontrollably at Second Base to his teammates--Ronnie's terrific effort will be remembered for some time. No way he had ANY IDEA what he was doing. Just Reacting. What A Defensive Play!!! Really, it was terrific to see play out LIVE!!

Of course just about any lead by Our Team is never safe, even after The Defensive Play of This Game, or possibly Any Game. Victory rarely at hand until that final out is recorded. A margin that was cut to two when Rivera gave up a run scoring single to Brandon Phillips just two hitters later. But, on this night--even My Main Man!! understood that "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" was still, THANKFULLY, a Washington National. And, with two outs in the bottom of the 7th with Robert Fick pinch running for Dimitri Young (Young had walked), Church hammered a Jon Coutlangus pitch deep into the left centerfield gap for tonight's key insurance run. A well stroked hit that left Our Number 19 standing on second base with his 32nd 2-Base Hit of the Season and 43rd RBI. The sight of Fick running all the way around the bases to score--something not enjoyed too often in Section 320. Robert Fick, scoring from first base. Who would have thought?

From there--it was like watching old friends. Buddies from the 2005 Season. Luis Ayala trotted on for a perfect 8th. And, Chad Cordero was summoned to toss a perfect 9th for his 22nd Save to close out a solid 6-3 win. The Tag Team Duo of that wonderful Inaugural Season had returned. Curly "W" Number 46 was Memorable. Remembered for One Bad Base Running Decision, Some Clutch Hitting--and One TERRIFIC DEFENSIVE PLAY!!

Bang!! Zoom!! Go The Fireworks. Game Number 106 was a GOODIE.

Game Notes & Highlights:

"Our Starter In Training" just survived. 9 hits and three walks over 5 complete innings will do that to you. Was he ever in trouble all night. But, until he faltered in the 5th--Matt Chico was able to make the big out pitches to keep Cincinnati scoreless. Our Number 47 didn't throw well this evening. Yet, he got lucky--and a win, his 5th--when his teammates fought back in that crucial fifth inning. The frame that saw Jimenez pinch hit for Chico. Baseball is a strange game. Many times you lose or get a no decision on days you deserve better. Tonight, the pendulum evened out. Matt Chico did not deserve a win. Yet, he got one. A lucky one. The Great Game again showing its powers.

FLop was an enigma tonight. In the bottom of the first--he hammered a Livingston Pitch to dead center. The Reds Ryan Freel misjudged the liner in the late afternoon sun. The baseball sailing over his head and to the wall in dead centerfield. Felipe Lopez trotted slowly out of the box--and only turned on his jets when he was halfway to second base. By that time, Freel had recovered and was tossing the errant ball back to the infield. A stroked double, that should have been a triple, in my book. Our Number 2 had the speed to make that play happen. He didn't seem to realize the situation developing in front of him.

A position FLop found himself in again in the bottom of the 8th. Having singled and moved to second on a passed ball with two outs--Ronnie Belliard laced a liner to center that Ryan Freel caught easily to retire the side. But, Felipe Lopez completely FORGOT HOW MANY OUTS WERE ALREADY RECORDED and scampered back to second base to tag. FLop!! There were two outs. You should have been running. Yeah, I understand that you would not have scored anyway, because the third out was recorded. But, where was your head on that play? Inexcusable. Twice in one game.

And, the sight of Tim Tolman talking to Lopez seriously about the baserunning gaffe in the infield as the teams switched sides, almost laughable. Really, after Tolman's earlier mistake--do you think FLop was listening?? Just an odd moment, considering the circumstances that played out tonight.

Honestly, I was happy that Our Washington Nationals stood pat at the trading deadline. And, here's why. Despite what some may think--Chad Cordero and Big Jon Rauch are components needed to win a championship. Why in the world would you give them away for "HOPE" that you are getting something better in return? A payback that is not necessary if NO OTHER TEAM IS OFFERING ANYTHING GOOD. I find it funny that so many so called "sources" claim Our Washington Nationals are asking for a "Kings Ransom" for their better players. Why shouldn't they? Cordero and Rauch are under club control for, at least, two seasons more apiece. And, I laugh at those same "sources" who scoff at Our General Manager Jim Bowden wanting to receive Wily Mo Pena for little in return. Well, why shouldn't he? I really don't want Pena on Our Team. But, the shoes now on the other foot and those same "sources" want it both ways. If Chad Cordero is only going to be a setup man for another contender--Pena is going to be a 4th outfielder for most others, also. You can't have it both ways. To me, it shows the silliness of trade experts. Folks of authority that claim the "INNER CIRCLE", but really know NOTHING.

Besides--Sohna and I talked to a handful of Washington Nationals Players' family members and friends tonight. Each and every one of them were excited to still be in Our Nation's Capital, after riding out the Trade Deadline. Each believing this town, is THE TOWN, to be playing Major League Baseball. We realized tonight--that Washington, DC is becoming a SPECIAL PLACE TO PLAY. And, in a very short time, Our Washington Nationals may well be a team many others, now on the outside--will wish to compete for. That's a good sign folks.

Oh yeah. Although The San Diego Padres picked him up for nothing, I still would have traded for Morgan Ensberg. He could have helped us now, and in the future.

The African Queen and I picked up The 2007 Washington Nationals Yearbook on the concourse near Section 301 tonight. Given Free to Season Ticket Holders (at least Full Season Ticket Holders--not sure about partial plans), the cover depicts a Smiling Manny Acta in Full Uniform and Our General Manager Jim Bowden in Suit & TIe. I haven't had the chance to honestly look through it. But, it appears to be nicely done.

Finally, how about that HORRIBLE TRAFFIC on the SW/SE Freeeway to get to RFK STADIUM due to the closing of The Douglas Bridge off South Capitol Street? Since no one can crossover to Suitland and points Southeast of the District for two months while the necessary bridge work takes place--NOTHING MOVES on the Freeway from Pentagon City, coming in on I-395 all the way to I-295 South--during Rush Hour. This evening, nearly 1 Full Hour to get from Pentagon City to Lot 8 at RFK Stadium. Boy, did that EVER SUCK. Usual time--25 Minutes from Our House IN SPRINGFIELD. Yeah, its only temporary, but it still hurts. Wow. Metro may be the only answer for the next two months--on game days we don't work.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais


Edward J. Cunningham said...

Two things...there's an article about Walter Johnson in the Washington Post. Buried in the article, they mention that there are plans for not only a statue of Walter Johnson at the new ballpark, but also one for Josh Gibson and Frank Howard. Howard suprised me, but it's appropriate. Hondo may not be a Hall of Famer (although it's possible the Veteran's Committee may induct him later...he has borderline stats), but his importance to the fans who saw the expansion Senators at DC/RFK Stadium is far more important than whether he was one of the all-time greats. This is one paper you are going to have to read!


Anonymous said...

We all see Lopez sleep walk through the season....Nobody calls him on it? Can you ask Acta please when he keeps sending him out there? I understand Acta has limited choices but he does have options. I understand that Acta may be taking actions we do not see but I KNOW these actions are NOT WORKING with Lopez. Watching Lopez makes me really wonder what Kasten and Acta think playing hard and playing the right way means to them.

Anonymous said...

I believe I recall some posts back in Spring Training where there was questioning Tolman and Acta's decision to let him learn on the job at the critical 3rd Base Coach Job.......Time to revisit this? Why not bring in someone who knows what he is doing and proven it? I recall your response at the time was that he was Manny's guy but the cost seems high and I for one never liked the spoils system of giving out jobs.

An Briosca Mor said...

Yet another example of FLop not having his head in the game: In the bottom of the eighth, he was on first and pitcher Jared Burton attempted to pick him off. Before the stadium sound effects guy could punch up Volare (and what the hell is up with that bit anyway? I don't get it at all) the pick-off throw got away from the first baseman, allowing FLop to take second. But boy did he lollygag his way down the basepath to do it. He never came close to hitting full speed. As it turned out, he was in no danger of not making it safely, but he wouldn't have known that at the time because his back was to the play. There's no excuse for him not hustling down the path to second in that situation! As SBF would say, NO EXCUSE!!!!

I believe this was the play that put FLop on second to set up the baserunning blunder on Belliard's fly ball that SBF mentioned. So perhaps Tolman was reading him the riot act on not hustling down to second in addition to not taking off from second on the two-out fly. If not, he should have been.

Tolman I think is gun-shy after having sent several runners home lately when he clearly shouldn't have, kind of like Kearns was gun-shy after the collision with Nick. Tolman also may have been fearing the prospect of Nook Logan being anywhere near third base, remembering Logan's abysmal baserunning performance at third to end the Cleveland game.

Logan, despite his getting on base four times, continues to leave me with a bad impression. He looked clueless and out of it as usual when he got picked off first in the eighth, prior to FLop's single. Without Logan's and FLop's screw-ups, there was another insurance run we could possibly have gotten in the eighth. Fortunately we didn't need it as it turned out.

And oh, SBF, it's apparently only the full season ticket holders who get the yearbook. I'm not getting one with my 20-game plan.

kristen23 said...

Great work. I love the interviews and your interview on the PBS-Weta special was great.

Screech's Best Friend said...

On Tolman: Yes, I wrote back in the spring that it was interesting that Manny hired two of his friends. Guys that mentored him growing up in the Astros System. Folks that may not have the right stuff. Usually during the first year of a Manager's reign--management allows their new field leader to pick their own guys. Then, that is reviewed after the full season. Rick Aponte has obviously been a godsend to Manny. They are close and is his confidant as Bullpen Coach. When it comes to Tim Tolman, I would think the 3rd base coaching position would most likely be looked at.

Anonymous said...

Great recap on the game.

Wanted to comment about the non-trades and your comments. I agree wholeheartedly about not trading them unless we were getting studs in return. If we received 2 marginal A/AA placeholders in return for Rauch, we'd be ripping Bowden a new you-know-what. Good no trades if the offers weren't top flight.

Now, if we can just sign Santana in a couple years...

Anonymous said...

I'm curious what our esteemed bench coach is telling Acta about his friend Tolman...