Monday, April 07, 2008

Beating Yourself

You can bang out all the hits you want--but if you can't get your runners home--you are just beating yourself.

You are also beating yourself when your Centerfielder, Lastings Milledge, muffs a routine fly ball in the very first inning and allows the speedy Hanley Ramirez to score all the way from second base.

Ditto when "The Guz", comes charging in on a grounder with a runner on first in the third inning and rightly decides to throw the baseball to first base-- but in the dirt--for an error.

A blunder that proved extremely costly when your Starting Pitcher, Tim Redding, follows that gaffe and beats himself by giving up a two strike, two out looping double down the right field line to set off a five run Florida rally. A mistake pitch to the light hitting Alfredo Amezega that defined tonight's ballgame.

A set up because just two batters later, when Our Number 17 should have been out of this inning scoreless--Hanley Ramirez made Tim pay for his previous poor pitch execution by walloping a Redding offering well over the left field wall. The First Home Run into the leftfield bleachers on South Capitol Street. A decisive three run shot that placed a five spot on the board in the top half of the third inning for Florida.

A 7-3 lead that found Our Washington Nationals playing from behind most all night long. A deficit they never fully recovered from--losing to The Florida Marlins 10-7 at chilling, and quiet New Nationals Park. Official Game Number Two in the new ballpark's history will go down as a forgettable affair. Just 20,487 the Official Attendance Tally--probably even a few thousand less.

At times there was some ugly baseball this evening.

Washington beat themselves because they could not score in the clutch despite knocking 11 hits and receiving 7 walks. Even a prime chance in the 8th was wasted when Washington loaded up the bases with one out--and couldn't score even one run. 11 runners left on base by Washington in this game.

And Our Washington Nationals beat themselves tonight because every defensive error was costly. You just can't give up extra outs and expect to win. Over the first week of the 2008 campaign--these are signs worth worrying over. Those concerns along with a once excellent bullpen struggling, as Our Manager Manny Acta juggles his relievers in different roles with Chad Cordero on the Disabled List.

A fifth consecutive loss, all frustrating defeats, because deep down--each and every one of those setbacks was winnable. Yet, Our Washington Nationals couldn't pull them out--knowing they are continuing to beat themselves.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Its hard to believe that Tim Redding left tonight's game with just one earned run against him. At times--The Marlins were hitting him all over the yard. 7 Hits and 2 Walks over four innings was not an impressive sight, yet--if Washington's Defense had held up, it was conceivable Our Number 17 could have lasted longer into the night. Incredible actually.

The highly touted Florida Pitcher Andrew Miller got rocked tonight also. The Former University of North Carolina top prospect didn't look anything like the pitcher the talent scouts are raving about. Tall, lanky and lefthanded--Our Washington Nationals didn't let up on him. He wasn't fooling anybody--8 hits, 1 walk and 6 runs scored off him in less than four innings work. Considering how well The Marlin's Bullpen performed (5 2/3rd innings of 1 run ball) after their Manager Freddi Gonzalez pulled Miller--you had to wonder why The Florida Manager left Andrew on the mound for such a extended period--knowing Miller didn't have anything.

During the first eight games of the season--Cristian Guzman appears to want to make sure Nick Johnson really is healthy and can stretch every which way possible for his throws. Because Our Number 15 is making him scoop, dive and jab, seemingly, for every single throw from his shortstop position. Some of "The Guz's" throws have been so weak--you have to wonder whether he has a shoulder problem. Having not yet seen Guzman backhand and toss one to first from deep in the hole--its hard to tell for sure. Really, his throws have little zip.

But "The Guz" did tear up at the plate tonight. 2 triples--as he continues to run the bases as well as any player on Our Team. Cristian with three total hits, 2 runs scored and 3 runs batted in. Only his throwing error ruined a fine game.

A lapse by Lastings Milledge that also took away from his fine night at the plate. A two run double and a sacrifice fly scored three runs for Our Washington Nationals off Our Number 44's bat. But--his opening inning outfield blunder--stood out tonight and got this ballgame off to a bad start. Having only seen Milledge play a few times--his outfield skills don't seem fluid. He circles to fly balls and doesn't appear overly confident. Yeah, it's a new ballpark and everyone's getting use to it--on the fly--but that's the impression I have received while watching him play centerfield.

After Cristian Guzman made his throwing error and before Amezaga stroked his double down the right field line--Florida's Matt Treanor slapped a slow roller just inside the third base line. Running hard on the hit was The Marlins Josh Willingham from third base--attempting to score--but Ryan Zimmerman had other ideas. Charging hard and fielding the baseball barehanded, Our Number 11 picked and threw home to Paul LoDuca in one motion. A Perfect throw that beat the sliding Willingham easily. Home Plate Umpire Adrian Johnson with the punch out call. LoDuca with the nice punch of Zimmerman's glove in appreciation of The Defensive Play of This Game. Later in the 5th--The Marlins Jorge Cantu would RIP a hard grounder appearing to be headed into the left field corner--again "Z" with a terrific backhand stab and toss to first for the out. Fielding to either side or charging on the grass--NO ONE makes those plays better and makes them look easier than Ryan Zimmerman.

For the fourth time out of their last five games--Our Washington Nationals have banged out at least 10 hits and didn't win. Although Nick Johnson knocked a late double to right centerfield--his stroked hit was the only one from the middle of Washington's Lineup. Zimmerman, NJ & Austin Kearns a combined 1-11 tonight with four walks. How badly does this team miss Wily Mo Pena? Our Team needs some punch from the left field position. Right now--they are getting none.

In fact--Our Manager Manny Acta used his entire bench tonight. With Dmitri Young still out with a back problem--only Jesus Flores was available to pinch hit after the 7th inning. Our Number 14 had used Willie Harris, Aaron Boone and Rob Mackowiak earlier in the game.

The Florida Marlins banged out three Homers tonight. Hanley Ramirez's shot to left in the third. Dan Uggla's blast to the Red Seats in left-center off Chris Schroder--in the sixth and Robert Ardino's no doubt two run blast to left off Big Jon Rauch in the 9th. The final Home Run of the evening that put this game out of reach. All five home runs so far at New Nationals Park got out quickly. Is this new ballpark becoming a Launching Pad?

In our slow attempt to try the various food options at New Nationals Park--this evening Sohna and I purchased the Chicken Tenders Basket with Fries from The Anacostia Station Grill in The Stars & Stripes Club. For $9.50, we received three small chicken fingers with a handful of potatoes. Simply zero value for the price. At Pat's Pizza in Stars & Stripes--Sohna was interested and asked about the "Specialty" Pizza on the menu. In response--The African Queen received a blank stare, then "Ask her," pointing to another employee. This second employee states "Oh, we don't have that." Sohna says: "But what is it?"
Response--"We don't have that. We only have cheese and pepperoni." They had no idea what the "Specialty Pizza" was on their own menu. Great--thanks for being helpful.

Finally, The Nats Express Service again worked tonight for us without a glitch. But, be aware that for Wednesday Nights game--DC United is also scheduled to play at RFK Stadium. While boarding the Motorcoach to travel to New Nationals Park tonight from Lot 8--The African Queen and I were handed a special flyer noting that NO NATS EXPRESS Service will operate from Lot 8 on Wednesday Night as DC United Fans will pay to park there. Instead--Fans of Our Washington Nationals are asked to drive over to Lot 7 at RFK and enter from The Whitney Young Bridge (East Capitol Street) or Oklahoma Avenue. There will be NO ACCESS for Nats Fans through Lot 8 to reach Lot 7. Plan accordingly.

Tonight's InGame Photo--(AP) Kevin Wolf

PS--Two New Programs Tonight:

The Large Version "Official Magazine of The Washington Nationals"--Volume 4, Issue 2 with Lasting Milledge, Paul LoDuca and Aaron Boone on the cover. $5

and my new favorite:

Nationals Inside Pitch, Volume 1, Issue 2. The slick, glossy 32 page mini-program with scorecard insert. This second issue covering this week's two series with The Florida Marlins and The Atlanta Braves. Lastings Milledge on the cover. You can't beat it--and it's Free--to anyone as they enter the gates at New Nationals Park.


VCUAlum Kyle said...

One week into the season and many things to talk about!

There has been mixed reviews on this topic but from what I have seen in person and watched on MASN, I believe that our bullpen has been great! Rivera, Ayala, and Schroder have been lights out. Chief needs to come back b/c I feel Rauch is a way better set-up man then closer.

We can hit, but not in the clutch and that is going to kill us this whole season and make for another sub .500 season. I think if you going to blame anyone on that you got to start at the top with Manny and his staff.

And finally I have been saing this since the day we got him from Cincy but I think its time to face facts and GET RID OF KEARNS. I dont think he can hit period. I think at best he is a 4th OF or Defense Replacement late in a ballgame in RF.

I know its early in the season but MY EXPECTATIONS ARE HIGH for this '08 team. I felt we had a killer offseason with what we got in youth, Millie and Dukes(judgement still out there on him) and vets like LoDuca, Boone, Estrada, Harris, etc. Like Zim said after opening night THEY ARE TIRED of loosing and so am I. I really believe in the bottom of my heart that this team can go 84-78 and next season win the wcard or division.

On a side note I hope we can put D.Young on the DL get him healty for a late May-June comeback when all the pistons are firing on this ballclub!

J-Red said...

One question: if only 20,000 people attended last night's game, how will people know Wednesday that they can't park in Lot 7? I'm not sure the average suburban Nats fan knows how to get from Lot 7 to the East Capitol Street side.

Anonymous said...

I watched some of the game last night on Channel 20-HD, flipping back and forth between the NCAA game and the Nats game. It's interesting to see how the new home park looks on TV. Those first three rows of seats behind home plate were mostly empty last night. That never looks good on TV. We ought to do what the Academy Awards does and have some designated seat sitters to play the role of interested fans for the TV show. Fans that won't be on their cell phones and waving every time they realize they are on TV. Fans that were really into the game. Or at least actors who could play the role.

Sam R said...


Any thoughts about attendance last night? I really decry the lack of bodies in the $300 - $150 seats. When you see it on TV it only amplifies the perception of emptiness. I think these seats are just priced too high. Perhaps they could lower the price and charge an entry fee to the respective clubs so those who bought already don't feel slighted, sort of like the recent iPod discount. On the food issue I highly endorse the Cantina Marina's Cajun Corn Dog, $5 and it's rolled in cajun spices so I imagine if you didn't like that you could ask them to hold off rolling it in the spices. But I did like the spices and that corn dog is among the low priced food offerings in the Park. See you next time.

Screech's Best Friend said...

j-red: That is a good point. The flyer handed out as you boarded the Nats Express included a simple map, but that is not going to help anyone that did not attend last night.

I am going to post details later--but there are a few ways to get to Lot 7 from Virginia. From the SE/SW Freeway instead of heading into the RFK Lot 8 Parking Lot, bear to your right and go up the ramp to Pennsylvania Avenue. Turn Right and head across the bridge to the very first left hand turn--295.

Turn Left onto North 295. Once on 295 either take the East Capitol Street Exit heading west toward RFK and turn right into Lot 7 once you cross back over the waterway. Or--Second Choice--continue on 295 North until you reach Benning Road Exit (a left hand exit) bear left--drive west about 1/2 mile toward Langston Golf Course--take a left hand turn onto Oklahoma Avenue. The Second left on Oklahoma Avenue is Lot 7.

I hope that helps for now.

Screech's Best Friend said...

On Attendance: Sohna and I were actually talking about the limited number of folks not sitting behind home plate last night. Since from our position attendance looked sparse--on TV--it must have appeared worse. Image-unfortunately-can mean everything. People notice that sort of thing. But, there were quite a few folks hanging out inside both Presidents Club & Diamond Club all night.

And that's not an excuse. The Marlins not being a big draw and weather being less than great are not either.

And I don't think the NCAA Basketball Championship had anything to do with the small crowd. Quite a few folks mentioned to us this evening how they believe those seats behind Home Plate are priced too high for the marketplace.

Everything for 2008 is a Test Case for New Nationals Park. The Market will decide how this issue goes. The full course of the season will ultimately either verify the price points or mean change must be made.

We shall see. But I am not expecting The Nationals to change any price points anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

I know quite a few folks who share season tickets, and several told me this spring that they were avoiding picking the early games because they figured the traffic would be so bad.

There is no question in my mind that Stan, the Nationals marketing team, and the Metro ad agency created their own nightmare by going negative in their transportation campaign. The message wasn't "Take Metro or park for free!" It was "If you try to drive you will miss the entire game because traffic and parking will be pure hell." Why do you think they now have individual game parking available for sale?

Local news reporters, who feed on any fear angle they can find, played this up. Even sports reporters were advising on air to give the team a couple of months to work the logistics out. April 7th was widely talked about as the first true test of how awful the traffic was going to be.

I scanned the local stations last night and to their credit, they all covered the traffic story and reported that there were no problems. This is what the team needs.

Separately, I have to miss this entire homestand for family commitments. Did you guys yell "Nationals!" before the anthem?

SenatorNat said...

Willie Mo Pena meant the difference of one full run per game last season when he arrived. I am beginning to understand why - Kearns is the least feared 5th hitter in baseball, and for good reason. Bat Pena in back of Johnson, and I suspect that the Nats would have won 2-3 out of the 5 in a row they have dropped. Kearns should not be batting higher than 7th in a good line-up. I also suspect that it will be a month before LoDuca builds up his strength - very worried that the Nats misplayed his acquision in light of Jesus Flores. Estrata and Flores might have been better and more economical tandem for 2008.

And FLOP, love his grit in left, but he adds nothing to the line-up being there, in reality...And Rob M. looks like a total bust, too.

Starting Pitching: someone out of this group has to have a commanding game, and soon. Perhaps "Rutgers" will start a good trend tonight. Suspect that Nats best starters come in this order: Lanan; Bergmann; Hill; Chico; Redding...

Could be a long year if the pitching does not jell.

I think that with Pena playing everyday, the 9 loaded bases with no production shall not repeat itself. Take a pitch, you guys, when the pitcher is wild like last night, and the bases are loaded. Don't swing at 2-0 and ground to third!

Trust in Manny. All Good.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

"Teddy" has a good point. Could too many fans have been scared away by the talk about how there was no place to park, Metro would be crowded, bladda bladda bladda? I think the Nats should consider running commercials SHOWING how easy it is to take Metro. Run footage of actual fans taking the Metro and the Nats Express. It couldn't hurt!

Also, while this can't be fixed for this year, I really think the Nats---and MLB for that matter---needs to have more day games in April when the weather is colder. You know in Walter Johnson's day the season wouldn't open until next week? There was a reason for this! I know many fans have to work, but I honestly think in many towns if you have more day games in early April, more fans will turn out to the ballpark.

Last, but not least, I really like reading Lo Duca's comments in the paper the other day. I like a guy who won't accept poor play from himself because he isn't on a pennant contender, and I hope his attitude rubs off on his teammates. I still miss Schneider, but I'm more willing to give Lo Duca a chance now...