Sunday, May 18, 2008

Learning How To Pitch

For seven innings this afternoon, John Lannan was pretty tough. Facing a new opponent--most pitchers have the advantage in the first At-Bat against new foes. Sometimes, even the second go round. But, usually by the time any Major League Hitter comes to the plate against any ONE PITCHER--you can bet--those professional batters have an idea of what to do to beat that pitcher. What comes around--goes around.

John Lannan felt that type of pressure late this afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Pitching against Hitting is a game of moves--followed by counter moves. Eventually--one more move. A process that continues on until familiarity decides the outcome. Ask anyone that has faced Livan Hernandez over the past ten seasons in The Major Leagues. Any veteran hitter can tell you EXACTLY what Livo can command. But, what they can't tell you is how and in what situations Old Number 61 will use everything his arm can possibly throw. That's respect and concern. Because timing is everything when hitting at the plate--and when any pitcher confuses that batter--the pitcher most always wins.

Something John Lannan was doing nearly all day in Baltimore. This young man does not throw overly hard. If Our Number 31 is throwing a 90 Mile Per Hour Fastball--that's about as good as he's going to get. So, Lannan must KNOW HOW TO PITCH. He has no other choice as this 23 year old is never going to blow hitters away for velocity. For five innings this Sunday, John cruised through The Oriole lineup. Facing just two hitters above the minimum--a single and a walk--Lannan was basically untouched. And thanks to a Cristian Guzman Home Run in the top of the third off Baltimore's Jeremy Guthre--was holding onto a slim 1-0 advantage.

This was a precarious situation and became worse when Melvin Mora belted a two out double down the left field line in the bottom of the 6th. Baltimore now had a runner in scoring position for the first time all afternoon and the very dangerous Nick Markakis was stepping to the plate. Markakis had grounded out twice in his two previous times in the batters box.

It was at this point, Our Young Starter began to grow up. Knowing Markakis can crush the fastball--Our Number 31 started feeding in some off speed stuff. Only throwing the heater (all of 89 MPH as it was) to set up his slider and curveball. This six pitch At-Bat showing the promise of a Rookie finding his way in the game. Nick Markakis would finally be fooled again with two strikes and meekly ground out to Aaron Boone at first base--on an off speed pitch.
Last season, John Lannan may well have crumbled under that same type of pressure--especially in a hostile park. But today--he calmly and cooly stuck to his game plan--and retired a difficult batter for the third consecutive time--and eventually moved on to the bottom of the 8th inning--finding himself still unscored upon and now ahead by two runs--thanks to an RBI Double by Ryan Zimmerman.

As luck would have it--the cooling rains that reappeared from the skies above (which eventually halted this game for the second time this afternoon)--began to cool off the very hot John Lannan. He would not survive the 8th frame after giving up a lead off single to Adam Jones and one out double to pinch hitter Luke Scott. With runners now on 2nd and 3rd and the go ahead run at the plate represented by Brian Roberts--Our Manager Manny Acta made the right move--calling for Luis Ayala from the bullpen. Lannan was through for the day. And he received a nice ovation from the few thousand Washington Fans in attendance in Baltimore--and hearty thanks from his teammates in the visiting dugout--deservedly so.

It was quite the performance as John Lannan tasted success late in a Major League Ball Game. And Manny did not wish for Our Number 31 to lose confidence after such a fine performance. Thankfully, Luis Ayala would quell the final storm--after a 30 minute rain delay. Brian Roberts would knock in Baltimore's only run of the game on a sacrifice fly in that 8th.

Curly "W" Number 19 was a confidence builder. The 45th Game of 2008 proving that you don't have to be a fireballer--one who throws in the Mid-90's to be successful in the game. What any pitcher really needs is--guts and the touch and ability to confidently throw your pitches for strikes--no matter what the count. No matter how many times you have faced any hitter.

Game Notes & Highlights

Lannan's numbers today quite impressive--7.1 innings giving up just four hits and one walk. He was IN CONTROL until the 8th and evened his season record at 4-4. Big Jon Rauch picked up his 10th save of 2008.
Ryan Zimmerman's RBI Double in the 8th scoring FLop was a fine piece of hitting. Facing submarine pitcher Chad Bradford, Our Number 11 shortened up his swing and laced a liner down the right field line on an up and over the outside portion of the plate fastball. A nice hit that also found Ryan diving Head First into the bag at second to beat the throw from the strong arm of Nick Markakis. I don't recall Ryan Zimmerman EVER diving head first into ANY BASE? Either way--"Z" has been hot of late at the plate. A good sign.

Speaking of a strong arm--with Washington holding that slim one run lead in the top of the 7th, Elijah Dukes was standing on second base with two outs--Wil Nieves at the plate. Looking for an insurance run--Nieves stroked a soft liner into right field--a single that appeared to be a sure bet to plate Dukes with the second score of this game. But The Orioles Nick Markakis had other ideas. Moving swiftly and deftly toward the skipping baseball--Their Number 21 cleanly fielded the ball as Our Number 34 rounded third base and was waved home by 3rd Base Coach Tim Tolman. This was going to be a close play and became more daring when Dukes slightly slipped on the wet turf heading toward home. A split second delay that proved costly. Markakis threw a PERFECT TOSS to his catcher Guillermo Quiroz--a one hop strike right on the plate. All that Quiroz had to do was apply the tag on Elijah for The Defensive Play of This Game. This 3rd and final out of the 7th brought the house down at Camden Yards. Oriole Fans up in jubilation over the effort by their up and coming star rightfielder. Nick Markakis made a TERRIFIC THROW--whether Dukes slipping--cost Washington the run or not.

There was concern on the injury front today on two players for Our Washington Nationals. First, the fact that Shawn Hill received a cortisone shot in his right forearm. Once again--Our Number 41 admitted the pain is worse than he has let on. In fact--is hindering his pitching mechanics. Knowing it takes a few days for cortisone to run its course through the human body--Shawn Hill may well miss his next start.

A start which Austin Kearns was denied today--although originally penciled into the starting lineup. Listening on WTOP while driving to Baltimore today, it was reported that Kearns would sit out today--just to gather his thoughts after his rough start to 2008 and after last night's game changing strikeout. But then, Our Washington Nationals reported Kearns has an elbow problem and was being rested as a precautionary measure. Interesting development. And which report is the correct one?

Despite losing the first two games of this Inter-League Series--Our Washington Nationals actually had a winning week. They went 4 and 3 thanks to The New York Mets at Shea from this past Monday through Thursday.
At the conclusion of each rain delay--when the grounds crew at Camden Yards was removing the protective tarp on the field--the P.A. played the Starters Bell of a Horse Race and then the Lone Ranger Song in conjunction with the crew running across the field hauling off the cover. It was funny. Speaking of the music at Oriole Park--it's mighty good. Someone knows what they are doing in Baltimore with the sounds. The music is always lively and entertaining and well timed to the mood of the audience. Well done and Melvin Mora's Personal Batting Salsa Music--the best tune we have heard from any player in some time. Melvin's got it going.

And what's up with this guy? Prancing around all day long with his Leopard Skin Full Length Coat. Not really sure--but he did get alot of attention--even as a potential Fan of The Game.

Sohna and I had some unexpectantly great seats this afternoon. In the pre-season sale of individual game tickets offered by The Baltimore Orioles--we purchased seats in three different areas of Camden Yards to try different offerings. Today's seats just so happened to be in The Family & Friends Section of The Orioles & Our Washington Nationals. Right behind home plate and in front of the Press Box--these tickets were TERRIFIC. We spent the afternoon chatting with many of the folks sitting in our section. And had a terrific conversation with Orioles Broadcaster Jim Hunter's Good Friends. These three guys were fun to talk to and helped pass the time during the two long rain delays. And it just goes to show that it's always best to move around in any visiting ball park--not just remain in one place. You never know who you might meet or what opportunity may come your way--by just being friendly.
At the end of the game--Sohna and I ran into Huge Nationals Fans--Karen and Lou Gehrig (that's right that's his real name and also now as TEDDY--stock picture from Viera). Jim Hunter's Friends walked down to meet them. One saying:"I always wanted to meet Lou Gehrig!!" It was funny. Everybody laughed.
Of course what would be any Nats Away Game without seeing some more of our friends from Nationals Park? Last night--we met up with MickNats and Little Andy's Parents from Section 218. Today--MsZimmy--ironically sitting in the exact same Club Level Section that The African Queen and I sat in last night. We all spoke for some time.

After the game ended--Sohna and I took the opportunity to actually visit the Babe Ruth Statue and Retired Oriole Jersey Numbers Tribute just outside the Eutaw Street Gate in Centerfield at Oriole Park. That area is constantly filled with heavy pedestrian traffic. After all the rains this afternoon--we had the chance to view the displays virtually all by ourselves. Worth doing.

Finally--as has become tradition for Sohna and I after the final game of each Orioles/Nationals Series played in Baltimore--we head over to Edo Sushi at The Inner Harbor to celebrate. Never disappointing, the sushi and maki were very good.

Today's InGame Photos--(AP) Nick Wass
All other photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)


SenatorNat said...

Saturday night was the first time back to Camden Yards since I saw them play the Expos in interleague play some 6-7 seasons ago. The place is still magnificient, and the fans are devoted and lively, and I concur that the setting and the music and all are first-rate. The Orioles are a classy hard-playing group, too, and they seem united and like they are loose and having fun playing. Other than Angelos, hard not to like them altogether...

The Nationals outfielders on Saturday night put on another Major League (the movie) demonstration - the only good thing is that no player was hurt by a ball or a teammate!!

Let us give up on the Pena experiment, shall we. Yes, last season, he raised the team average run production by one whole run, but he is such a glaring liability in the field that he would have to raise it by 1.5 per game to justify. Milledge has neither the instincts nor the range to play center. Move him to left; bring up Maxwell now to play center (since we lost Ryan Church, NL All-Star...); and play Dukes everyday in right. He is an athlete, and will start hitting if he is in the line-up everyday. Play Boone at second if Acta plans on starting D.Young at first, since we will need a back-up first baseman on the field!

Starters mighty fine, as is Rauch. Z-Man starting to hit. Guz great. Flores encouraging.

Trust in adjusting the Plan. All Good.

Anonymous said...

A slightly off-topic question I was curious about:

Since interleague play began, have any two teams split a day-night doubleheader in their two respective stadiums?

It's probably overly gimmicky and far from practical, but it'd be fun to travel up to Baltimore for the day then come back to DC that night or vice versa.

Screech's Best Friend said...

The Yankees & Mets played two in both their respective parks on the same day--a few years back--due to a previous rain out. Although, I don't recall which year this occurred. When I was growing up in the late 60's The Senators & Orioles played just such a day/night double header on a couple of occasions. Former Senators Pitcher Jim Hannan told me last year he was scheduled to pitch the second game in Baltimore--so he drove on his own to Old Memorial Stadium and listened to the first game on the radio. He found the set up strange.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm sure the situation would be an incredible hassle for the teams and stadium staff and all. Just wondered what kind of fan experience it made for. Thanks for the background!

SenatorNat said...

It's still a good idea - an Oriole could hit a slicing line drive down the left field line late in the day game at Camden Yards - and Willie Mo Pena would still be heading towards it as the night game commenced at Nationals Park!

Trust in the marvels of GPS. All Good.

Anonymous said...

Camden Yards is still on the top of the list for ballparks. Just looking at the background city-scapes and sightlines in your pictures is proof enough for me!