Monday, May 19, 2008

Checking That List

Let's See. If Manny was making a list from tonight--this is what he would highlight.

Shutout Pitching From Our Starter This Evening On A Night He Gives Up Seven Hits and Two Walks--Give That A CHECK.

Thanks To The Ability To Get Out Of Jams--Defensively--Another CHECK.

In Fact, Solid Defense With Runners In Scoring Position All Evening by Our Washington Nationals--CHECK.

And Assisted By Two Stellar Defensive Plays From Our Franchise Player--That 3rd Baseman called "Z"--HUGE CHECK.

Later--When That Starting Pitcher Got Into Trouble--Three Successive Relievers Shut The Door--BIG CHECK.

Not Only Some Timely Hitting At New Nationals Park Tonight by Our Washington Nationals--But Six Doubles, Tying A Season High--ANOTHER CHECK.

Including A Game Breaking Two Run Bloop Double By Our Centerfielder Struggling Of Late--BIG, BIG CHECK.

All On A Night--Not Nary A Sound Was Heard From The Most Obnoxious Baseball Fans On Planet Earth--Philadelphia's. That's Not Only A HUGE CHECK--But Also A Couple Of Thumbs Up and High Fives Added For The Distinct Pleasure of NOT HEARING THEM.

This Monday Evening at New Nationals Park--Our Washington Nationals shutout The Philadelphia Phillies by playing a nearly flawless baseball game. From start to finish--Washington was hardly in trouble. And for every Phillies offensive move--Our Washington Nationals made a defensive counter move.

Resulting in only one outcome for Philadelphia this evening at New Nationals Park: Checkmate.

By the time this fairly swiftly played game ended after Two Hours and 34 Minutes--one could rightly state that Curly "W" Number 20 was Our Washington Nationals most complete game of 2008. And if Our Manager Manny Acta was making a list and checking it twice for what constitutes a good performance--The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! after tonight's win would signal what Our Young Team can do--when playing solid baseball against Good Hitting Teams.

Game Number 46 of the season was a ball game--Really--NEVER IN DOUBT.

Final Score from slightly chilly New Nationals Park--Our Washington Nationals 4 & The Philadelphia Phillies ZERO!!.

Game Notes & Highlights.

Tim Redding pitched shutout ball into the 7th inning--but was far from perfect. In the very first inning alone--he was hit hard and in trouble. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley all slammed pitches into right field. Fortunately, Rollins' was stroked directly at tonight's starting rightfielder Rob Mackowiak for an out. But Victorino and Utley had singled putting runners on first and second with the dangerous, but slumping, Ryan Howard at the plate. For all his power--Ryan Howard has holes in his swing. And Major League Pitchers have found all of them. Setting Howard up with the off speed stuff--Our Number 17 eventually struck Ryan out on a fastball up and away--a pitch he simply can not hit.

But Tim Redding was not out of trouble just yet. Pat Burrell was now up with two outs. Another dangerous hitter off to a fine start to his 2008 season. Burrell can jack the baseball and he was looking to jump all over Redding. A pull hitter--Burrell would slam Our Number 17's offering right down the third base line--a sure run scoring double. Except--Ryan Zimmerman was all over it. Reacting with his cat reflexes we have all enjoyed--Our Number 11 slid toward the line--sliding on the right side of his hip. Then, after catching the baseball in the left hand--his glove hand--"Z" proceeded to slide over the foul line--into foul territory and stopped himself by putting his right hand down directly on the dirt--not only putting an end to his forward momentum--but using his right hand to lift himself off the ground AND TURN toward first base. Immediately upon righting himself--Ryan Zimmerman threw a perfect toss to Dmitri Young at first base to retire Burrell and end The Phillies threat to score--while making The Defensive Play of This Game.

Over the course of his mound appearance--Philadelphia would have baserunners in all but the 5th inning against Redding. But every time a threat was upon him--either Our Number 17 made some quality pitches to get the subsequent batters out or he received some nice defensive work from his teammates in the field.

During that top of the 5th--Ryan Zimmerman prevented the speedy Shane Victorino from reaching base on an infield single after Shane hit a soft dribbler down the 3rd base line. With "Z" charging in all the way--hard--he proceeded to pull off the defensive play he executes, as well as, ANYONE IN THE GAME. A bare handed pickup and toss to first base--all in one motion. Since the very day Ryan Zimmerman started playing for Our Washington Nationals--I have never been anything but impressed with his consistently deft way of handling such a difficult maneuver. Again tonight--Our Number 11 with a beautiful one handed pickup and toss to first to retire another fast runner. Just great stuff.

When Redding finally got himself in a tight spot in the 7th, Our Manager Manny Acta decided to remove him from the game. No way--Our Number 14 was going to allow Our Number 17 to receive a loss for this outing--having pitched so gallantly. Manny calling for Saul Rivera to protect Redding's lead. With Philadelphia Runners on first and second with only one out and Washington holding a three run lead--Our Number 52 trotted out to shut the door again on any Phillies rally. Saul Rivera getting Victorino to ground out meekly to Dmitri Young and Utley to fly out to Willie Harris in leftfield.

Luis Ayala and Joel Hanrahan would close this shutout victory out over the final two innings. The final out coming on a swinging strikeout of Philadelphia's Jayson Werth. A "K" that witnessed not only Hanrahan fist pumping in joy, but his catcher Jesus Flores doing the same--then both fist bumping on the field as the partisan faithful cheered on this decisive victory.

Tim Redding received his sixth win of 2008 and lowered his ERA to 3.16. Remember--in 2007--the most victories by any pitcher for Our Washington Nationals was eight--8!! And that was for the entire season. And that leader was Jon Rauch--a reliever/set up man.

Washington scored their first run of the evening in the very first inning, when Zimmerman ripped a liner to the wall in left field--over the head of Burrell after Cristian Guzman had slapped an infield single to reach base. Then Dmitri Young would hammer a liner to center--caught by Victorino--who threw home in an attempt to toss out "The Guz". But the relay throw was a split second late--allowing for Our Number 15 to use his patented left handed hand slap down on Home Plate as Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz applied the tag--too late.

Later in the 3rd--FLop had lofted an opposite field double to the wall in left center off The Phillies Brett Myers--followed immediately by "The Guz" lacing a sharp liner to left and a Zimmerman walk to load the bases. With one out--Lastings Milledge swung at the very offering from Myers and blooped a fly down the right field line--JUST INSIDE THE LINE--Fair territory--the game breaking double. Felipe Lopez and Guzman scoring on the play. A two RBI hit for Our Number 44 that found him standing on second base--clapping for himself--and pointing to his teammates in the first base dugout--happy over his contribution.

Guzman would also score his third run and Our Washington Nationals final tally of the night--when he scored from third on a Double Play grounder hit by Dmitri Young. "The Guz" continuing to play his BEST BASEBALL EVER in a Washington Uniform--easily our most consistent player all year. Excellent at the plate, running bases and decent in the field. If The National League was picking their All-Star Selection from Washington--it would be hard NOT to pick Cristian Guzman. Although, Tim Redding is making a nice run for the honor, too.

Tonight's shutout of The Phillies is Washington's 5th of 2008. Over 162 games in 2007--just six total Shutouts. Starting pitching is keeping Our Washington Nationals in the games.

There was a strange moment in the bottom of the 7th. After Guzman had led off with a double and Ryan Zimmerman followed with single--Philadelphia Pitcher Ryan Madson said something to Home Plate Umpire Jerry Layne. Not sure what was said--but Layne then immediately took off his mask and pointed at Madson. A potential confrontation simmered when his catcher--Ruiz stood between them and eventually walked out to talk to Madson. Once the inning was over--Madson was slowly walking toward the third base dugout and Umpire Layne made the concerted effort to walk toward him to get the last word in. Interesting.

Finally--check out the Build-A-Bear Phillie Phanatic brought to the ball park tonight by one of Our Ushers--Rick. Last season, while attending a game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia--he asked the folks there whether their Build-A-Bear Operation had a Nationals Uniform. They did and this particular Phanatic dressed in DC Red/White/Blue & Gold was born.
Of course--My Best Friend Screech!!! took exception to its appearance. At one point during the game--punching The Phanatic Doll and making every attempt to pulverize it. At long last, this Phillie Phanatic was saved--for another day--by another Usher--Coach.

Tonight's In-Game Photos--(AP) Lawrence Jackson
All other photos--Nats320 (All rights reserved)


Anonymous said...

There's something wrong with a Nats uniform on a Phanatic -- if Screech had fingers, I'd suggest he (at least) rip off the cap :)

SenatorNat said...

Great account - the Post is finally giving Nats prominent coverage, now that other sports are grinding to a halt but the bent about a Nats outfielder finally delivering key hit, while true and interesting, meant no mention of Z-Man first dropping a foul ball in the first inning, and then more than making up for it with two gems.

Extremely well-played game, and I cannot help but feel that Flores as backstop and two pros Harris and Mackowiac in left and center, enabled the team to play defense like a ML team behind gritty professional pitching.

Not having to endure Kearns at the plate gives the whole team a lift too - he is just a total depressant unfortunately.

"Lastings Being Lastings" Is it any wonder based on this guy's running self-centered inane commentary why the entire Mets organization soured on him so quickly and absolutely? How long before some joker says Washington: "First in War; First in Peace; and Lastings in the NL East!"

He has the rap of Manny and Agent Zero without any of their credentials - a devastating combination. He is very young and attractive guy, and hopefully, with some success (?) someone like Dmitri Young can help him tone it down a bit.

I would love to see Dukes in right on a regular basis, as he seems like a raw talent with a very decent low-key on the field manner - no hot dog apparently. And I have no problem with Harris in left regularly - as said, Pena experiment should be shelved.

Pitching, pitching, pitching. Are the Nats on the verge of putting together a terrific rotation, anchored by Redding? We are going to know a lot by Friday on this score - "Rutgers" goes v. Hamils tonight in tough match-up, followed by Chico v. the Man Moyer Thursday. Should these two have good outings, the mood among the Nats faithful could improve dramatically for this season, and beyond.

Speaking of Nats faithful, this Spring has been consistently chilly, while the Nats bats have been ice-cold, which may account for about 5,000 less per game than were it warmer on both fronts. However, even with 25,000 only at the park, how quiet can a crowd be? Last night, there was virtually no energy in the Park, and the hand for Redding when he exited was sad. Folks are crying out "O" during the National Anthem, after I thought we spent the three RFK years beating that out of the collective system.

It is though baseball has arrived new to D.C. - that the RFK three years happened in a distant land...

Trust in Manny being Manny - Acta that is! All Good.