Thursday, April 03, 2008

Train Derailment

If 90% of the game is half mental--according to Yogi--what was exactly swimming inside Jesus Colome's head during the 10th inning this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park? At the time--that early season Freight Train known as Our Washington Nationals was still undefeated. Yeah, some wheels had fallen off and the locomotive was listing--but there was a chance momentum could be found again--putting everything back on track.

Of course--five and one half innings into this affair--it looked like The Philadelphia Phillies could not stop this Nats Express. Trailing 6-1 to DC's Team and Jason Bergmann cruising along--what Washington Fan--DID NOT believe the fourth straight victory to begin the 2008 season was at hand. Then came an excruciating bottom of the sixth. A dink single here, a blooper there, a seeing eye grounder up the middle--eight singles in all-- a wild pitch, a hit bat's man. Our Manager Manny Acta running out three pitchers--in an attempt to quell this unexpected rally. When all was finally stopped--not only had The Phillies scored six runs to take the lead--but Our Washington Nationals Locomotive had lost steam and broken down.

A Junction was ahead and this crossing point had Philadelphia written all over it. At least until Aaron Boone saved the inning from further disaster, when he executed a terrific and difficult 3-2-3 Inning Ending Double Play. The Defensive Play of This Game. Just when you thought Philly was going to produce a Steamroller of their own--Our Number 8 put on the brakes. Washington's Caboose--nearly derailed--was now back on track.

Our Nats were still alive. Down 7-6, but not out. Switching the tracks back in their direction--"The Guz" tied things up at 7 apiece with a run scoring single in the top of the 8th. From there--these two battled on--into extra innings. The Phillies looking to stop a losing streak--while Our Washington Nationals looked to extend their winning ways. Two journeys in different directions--each side looking for an advantage. Then came--the decisive 10th frame.

So, I repeat: What in the world was Jesus Colome thinking?

The game was on line. The reigning National League MVP is standing on first with no outs in the bottom of the 10th. Game tied 7-7. And The Philadelphia Phillies are attempting to sacrifice Jimmy Rollins to second base--scoring position--with their big boppers coming to the plate. As Shane Victorino lays down a nice bunt--Ryan Zimmerman rightfully calls for the ball and throws Shane out at first base--only to see Rollins not even hesitate. You see, Jesus Colome forgot the situation at hand and failed to cover third base. Our Number 43 was watching the train run by. The Speedy & Sharp Rollins not even hesitating--getting on his caboose--rounding second and scooting his way to third--freely. When Nick Johnson beats the sleeping Colome to the bag--in an attempt to tag out Rollins--everyone knew a game changing moment was at hand. Another Crossroad had been reached. This journey now joined--again.

Everyone realizing that Freight Train--still known as the Undefeated Washington Nationals was soon coming to a screeching halt. And I am not talking about My Best Friend!! Screech!!

Just moments before--in position to quell this rally--Our Washington Nationals now found themselves the victim of their own misdeed. Having now no choice--Our Manager Manny Acta intentionally granted free on board passes to both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to load the bases--setting up the force.

Little good that did.

As Jesus Colome--having precipitated the situation at hand in the first place--now took it once step farther--losing his composure. A quick four pitch walk to Jayson Werth scored Rollins from third with the game winning run--signifying the train wreck complete. Just like that--the season opening winning streak was over. The Phillies had walked all over Our Washington Nationals. A Train Derailment was at hand. And to think--Our Number 43 --playing The Conductor--never even gave his fielders a chance to get him out of the jam. Having failed to cover third base on a routine sacrifice bunt--Jesus Colome had let down his teammates and subsequently cost them the ball game.

Final Score--an 8-7 loss that just a few hours earlier had all the makings of the fourth consecutive win for Our Washington Nationals. Yeah, its just one loss--the first of 2008--but so early in this season--losing a game so badly is magnified. This one hurt. There are 158 baseball games yet to be played over the next six months and as Our Washington Nationals fly to Missouri Tonight--they will be looking to lift their once fast moving Freight Train back up on the tracks. Hopefully, not looking back and moving full steam ahead. Momentum that can be regain this very weekend--at the hands of The St. Louis Cardinals.

Game Notes & Highlights:

What a roller coaster game. The Ups & Down of Baseball are what makes The Great Game so special. You never know what's going to happen. And despite the ending--this afternoon's affair was fun baseball--until the 10th. Hardly any team is ever out of any game--no matter what the score. This one proved it.

How quickly this ball game changed. Jason Bergmann cruising along--having allowed just one run on a solo homer by Chris Coste. You had to feel sorry for Our Number 57. As he handed the baseball to Our Number 14 and slowly walked off the mound in disbelief--it was hard to fathom this bottom of the sixth would find Jason recording an 8.44 ERA. Beaten by dinky hits and seeing eye grounders--Bergmann's outing was further hampered by poor performances from Saul Rivera--surprisingly, and Ray King.

Our Washington Nationals batted around in the top of the 1st inning--thanks to some shoddy Philadelphia fielding. Four hits (generous scoring by The Official Scorer), including two doubles, one walk and an error lead to five Washington Runs. Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer seemed on the brink of being knocked out early. But somehow survived--even after Our Nats loaded up the bases with nobody out in the top of the second inning. A frame that saw Washington not score--and a harbinger of the tough times to come--later in the afternoon.

Cristian Guzman--three more hits today, the game tying RBI and some decent play in the field. Lastings Milledge and Jesus Flores also contributing with three hits apiece. Our Number 3 looking comfortable and ready to play. Although I am sure he's going down to the Minors once Johnny Estrada returns--you have to give Jesus credit. He's come a long way in a short period of time. If Flores continues to improve--he may well be one of the best Rule V Picks in some time--other than Johann Santana.

FLop started in left field today. Felipe Lopez made a nice running catch on a liner early in the game and did not appear lost playing his new position. Unfortunately--at the plate--Our Number 2 did not deliver--when it counted the most.

Finally--Nick Johnson rested most of this day--but was called on late to pinch hit for Aaron Boone. Batting in the top of the ninth--Our Number 24 was down quickly two strikes. But, patient as always--he recovered nicely, worked the count and produced a slicing single off Tom Gordon to right. One of the most enjoyable parts of Nick Johnson's game--is his ability to wait for something good to hit at the plate. Not many batters have such an eye. Most--fresh off the bench--would come up swinging at nearly everything. Seeing Our Number 24 back on the field--makes Our Washington Nationals a far better team. NJ makes our lineup dangerous. He was gone so long--it's nice to be reminded--how valuable a player he really is.

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


Anonymous said...

The game was disappointing, but I found the turning point in the top of the ninth when the Phillies Pitcher ( Tom Gordon ) continued to churn out walks, and eventually the bases were loaded and Willie Harris gets up to bat ( i believe the count was 2-1) and he swings and grounds out. I really don't understand why he didn't at least wait for the pitch especially the way Gordon was pitching in that situation. Oh well I guess you just gotta move on. Go Nats!

Anonymous said...

While I was rooting for 4-0, I think all of us would have signed on for 3-1 before the season started.

Can't wait for the next home game.

natsfan said...

What a disappointment! I had never seen a pitcher just loose a game like that. Sure there are fastballs that stay up or curves that don't curve and wind up in the bleachers for a win, but this was different. I would have thought that handling the runners would be fresh in his mind this early in the season. I think that they really miss Cordero.

Anyway, it is good to see the Nats getting on the board early in the game. This shows an eagerness that hopefully will continue for a good while. I have two home games next week and can't wait.

Anonymous said...

No no no. It's not the pitcher's job to cover third on that play - ever. If the catcher fields the ball, the 3b should get back there. Or if the play is to have the 3B charging hard - the shortstop must cover third. Or if the ball is bunted hard down towards third and the 3b has to field it - the catcher continues to third. The play was botched, but it wasn't Colome's fault.

Unknown said...

On 3-0 with the bases loaded and the winning run on third, PUT THE BALL ON A "T" if you have to.
A ball guarantees a loss, a slow pitch down the middle of the plate, at least has the opportunity to become a pop up over even better a double play, a home run doesn't matter.
Was Colome, a major league pitcher, physically incapable of getting a pitch into the strike zone in that situation?

SenatorNat said...

Z-Man's quotes indicated that the team did not think this one was on Colume, but he is the only fielder without any other assignment - look at Johnson's reaction when his first responsibility had concluded. Alas, Ray King is not getting it done this nascent part of the season - I am concerned that he is shot - hopefully not. Phillie's were fortunate to put so many singles together just out of the infielders' reach; but, let's also acknowledge that two of them were beyone Belliard (the ballplayer) who has about an 80% normal range...We had the bases loaded three times after the first inning. This should have been a blow-out. But, we are getting a bit spoiled perhaps: two one-run games won; one one-run game lost; and one blow-out win. Average runs scored per game: 5.5. Maintain this for 2008, and we can break .500

Trust in Nick Johnson's pure baseball mentality. All good.

Anonymous said...

Well at least Manny knows now he can never ever have Colome pitching with bases loaded and the game on the line.

Anonymous said...

I think most teams in the majors DO NOT want the pitcher to cover a base on bunts. In my opinion, Flores or Zimmerman was supposed to cover 3rd, not Colome. By the way, I love this blog. You do a great job, thanks so much!!

Eric said...

Wasn't there some issue last year with the Nationals not scoring in the first inning until well into the season? Looks like that's not an issue this year.