Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pitching & The Z-Man

Cole Hamels pitched a very fine game. Tim Redding got the win. And Ryan Zimmerman received the unofficial save. Tonight Our Washington Nationals defeated The Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 in as tight and as well played a baseball game as you might see all season long. If Citizens Bank Park hosted this affair later this season--in a pennant race--many would remember this one for a long time. Really, this was a very good baseball game.

A classic pitching match up broke out. Their Number 35 and Our Number 17 battling throughout the evening--pitch for pitch. Not one hitter for either team getting an advantage until Our Number 11 decided to take this game into his own hands. Ryan Zimmerman hacking a Cole Hamels two strike high and away fastball down the right field line. A whack that took flight and landed JUST over the right field fence for a Home Run. A stunning development in the top of the 6th that left Cole dropping his head in disbelief. On an evening he deserved far better, Hamels' one mistake pitch--was the difference between winning and losing. One of the best lefthanders in the game had flinched--and "Z" made him pay for it--with an opposite field shot.

Then--with Redding faltering while attempting to hold that slim lead--Ryan delivered again--this time on defense.

Tim was tiring in the bottom of the 7th as Our Manager Manny Acta decided to get his bullpen up and ready. One little miscue--could turn this game around. Ryan Howard had just walked with one out and Our Number 17 was losing his form--consistently opening up on his delivery--that happens when you begin to tire. As the dangerous Pat Burrell stepped to the plate for The Phillies--looking for the game breaker--Ray King & Luis Ayala stepped up to the bullpen mounds to warm up.

They were not needed--thanks to "Z"--because when Burrell slammed Tim Redding's next offering to the hole between 3rd and short--it sure looked like a game changing single. But, Ryan Zimmerman dove to his left--scooped the ball into his glove--recovered, got up, whipped the baseball to Ronnie Belliard coming across the 2nd Base Bag to retire Howard for out number two. Whereupon "The Ballplayer"--continuing to turn two as well as anyone in the game--fired a strong overhead toss to Nick Johnson for an inning ending, rally killing, double play. With "Z" again the catalyst--Our Washington Nationals had survived this potential Philadelphia comeback. Our Number 11, the man with the catlike reflexes--had not only saved Redding, but Our Washington Nationals--again. Not surprisingly, Ryan Zimmerman with The Offensive & The Defensive Plays of This Game.

Tim Redding pitched a great game, but Our Number 11 was the difference.

Curly "W" Number Three was all about Pitching and The Z-Man. Calm and collected on the field--it's hard to believe Our Franchise Player is just 23 years old. With The Game On The Line--few others are as dependable as Ryan Zimmerman.

Final Score--from chilly Philadelphia--Our First Place Washington Nationals--One and The Philadelphia Phillies--Zero. The First Washington Shutout ever at Citizens Bank Park.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Tim Redding was exceptional tonight. Just one hit allowed, while walking three--including two of the last three batters he faced. Importantly, before tiring--he stay ahead in the count which allowed him to set up his rising fastball, and low and away slider. And where did he get that nasty change up? Maybe his best pitch of the night. (and has everyone learned that Ryan Howard can't hit the soft stuff?) At the age of 30--Tim Redding is beginning to show the consistent talent so many saw of him some years ago in Houston. Expertise which Our Manager Manny Acta remembers well--while coaching Our Number 17-- in The Astros Organization. When you shutdown a potent Phillies lineup for seven innings at Citizens Bank Park--you should go home happy. As it turned out--Our Number 17 deserved and received his first victory of 2008.

Redding and Zimmerman also combined for another defensive gem--if only by accident in the bottom of the 3rd inning. With one out--Jimmy Rollins slammed a hard comebacker to the mound--right off Tim Redding's turned back. The baseball ricochet toward third--where "Z" charged in, barehanded the baseball and tossed out the hard charging Rollins at first base. Another quality effort by Our Number 11. A sure Defensive Play of The Game candidate until Ryan started that crucial double play in the bottom of the 7th.

Luis Ayala and Big Jon Rauch closed this out. Ayala with an impressive 1-2-3 8th--after relieving Redding (who had walked the leadoff batter) and "The Wookie" closing out The Phillies in order in the 9th for his 1st Save of 2008. Only four Philadelphia Batters reached base all evening. Pedro Feliz with the only hit--a single. A fine pitching performance all around--by Our Team.

"The Guz" had two more hits from the leadoff spot tonight and even saved Ryan Zimmerman in the 8th--when what appeared to be a sure inning ending double play grounder off the bat of Philadelphia's Pedro Feliz--bounced off "Z"'s glove--right to Cristian Guzman--who fired the baseball to Belliard at second to retire Geoff Jenkins. A little luck and nice reflexes helped extinguish The Phillies last rally of this ballgame.

Finally tonight--an interesting announcement by Our General Manager Jim Bowden. Before the game---JimBo hinted that Our Washington Nationals were considering moving Flop to leftfield as a temporary replacement for the injured Wily Mo Pena and Elijah Dukes. Especially--now since Dukes may be out for longer than two weeks. His hamstring injury is more serious than first believed. First thoughts--GOOD MOVE. Felipe Lopez has a terrific arm--better than Willie Harris. Our Number 2 has more pop in his bat. And FLop has alot more to prove than most anyone else on the current 25 man roster.

But then--Bowden announced LIVE on MASN during the game broadcast that he and Manny had agreed to let Lopez START tomorrow afternoon in the finale of this three game series in Philadelphia. Not wasting any time--Our Washington Nationals are making a move--to better the everyday lineup--while not exposing anyone to waivers. Previously--they have stated no move will be made for the time being--if it means losing anyone from the 40 Man Roster to another team.

Felipe Lopez is going to be watched closely. This could be his chance. Does this now mean that FLop is the leadoff hitter and "The Guz" moves to 7th or 8th in the lineup? I can't wait until 1:05PM Thursday--to find out.

Tonight's In Game Photo--(AP) Tom Mihalek


Greg Young said...

I like the idea of starting Lopez in left field. I think that it should help their lineup, as Lopez is another solid hitter, and his athleticism and reflexes should help him transition quickly from the infield to the outfield.

Also, the win tonight was definetly solid, as they showed they can win close low scoring games (like today and sunday) and win big (like on monday)

natsfan said...

I really enjoyed the win last night. I realize that it is early in the season, but the team seemed to show the scrappy, tenacious attitude of last year mixed with the confidence of developing a better ball team in the offseason. A win like this, early in the season that clinched taking a series win from the division champ can only help the team stay loose but focused.

I did not know that Lopez could play outfield, but it might be a great move to get him up, active and involved. I imagine he is very hungry now and wanting to show what he can do.

Anonymous said...

The most impressive part of that double play is that Zimmerman was aware of the game situation and intentionally trapped the ball instead of catching it, with the intent of trying for two outs instead of one. I was listening on the radio and Charlie and Dave had thought he was trying to catch the ball.

Unknown said...

LTWtPR, Bob and Don on TV initially speculated that Zimmerman might have intentionally trapped the ball before correcting themselves with a "nah, no way, just trying to make a play".

All I know is that this morning I've already confirmed with my contact in the ticket office that I'll receive priority as a partial plan holder over the general public for playoff tickets. :)

SenatorNat said...

In 1951, while I was still a fetus, the Washington Senators began the year 3-0; I was two weeks old when Bobby Thompson hit the Shot Heard 'Round the World...So, you can say that it is not a big deal for the Nats to be 3-0, but it is. Consider the hole they as yet do not have to dig out of. And, yes, the face of the franchise has won 2 out of three, and the pitching, other than the last guy to make the roster, and Beer Belly King, has been outstanding!

Now - what is Mr. Bow-Bow up to? I suspect that he wishes to showcase FLOP as a versatile guy to have on one's team ( NOT the Nationals) as he is trying to pull off a minor Blockbuster trade involving: Chad Cordero; Felipe Lopez; and Demtri Young for a starting pitcher and a back-up young first baseman, if possible. Some talk that the Tigers are/were interested in Cordero, and we know that the Cubs need a second baseman. Lots of teams in the AL could use D.Young as a DH. Look for this trade very soon, or not at all.

Stadium punch list: still need to display the 29 team flags somewhere; and I intend to hammer on the desirability of stenciling lettering at the top of the red press box (in white or blue) "Nationals Park."

Trust in Bow-Bow. All Good.