Thursday, September 18, 2008

Our Luck Had Finally Run Out

The New York Mets could not quite put this game away.

Our Washington Nationals could quite finish their comebacks.

On the very night New Nationals Park celebrated Half Way to St. Patty's Day, the dancing and festivities representing Celtic/Irish Traditions held just off the baseball diamond sure looked alot like The Jig being performed on the field by New York and Washington. Neither team taking full control. Both never being able to pull away from each other. All night long they romped all over the field. Moving here and there, but never quite getting anywhere. For 3 Hours & 13 Minutes, a victor could not be found. No one able to draw away from the other. High Stepping maybe--but never quite breaking the hand holds of a dancing pair.

This one actually undecided until the very last batter of the game. How incredible to believe this one went down to the wire.

Surprising, because Our Washington Nationals were down by one run--just one batter into this game. In fact, down Two-Zero after one inning. 6-1 after three. Thanks to one seriously poor start by Washington's Shairon Martis. Our 21 year old starter, still learning The Great Game, was given a serious schooling by New York's top hitters. You can't leave fastballs in and over the middle of the plate--complications from falling behind in the count--and giving Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado all the impetus they needed to take Martis deep over the first three innings. Home Runs which certainly gave the early feeling this contest would be short on drama.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Yet, while Washington was not giving up--they could never quite breech the void.

Thanks to some of Washington's inexperience. Kory Casto would be doubled off second base on a liner to center hit by Emilio Bonifacio in the second inning--killing a rally.

Thanks to some more of Washington's bad base running. Alberto Gonzalez would be caught attempting to steal third base in the bottom of the 6th on BALL FOUR to Willie Harris. A terrible decision on a baseball that bounced a few feet from The Mets Catcher Brian Schneider. A Gift Out that killed another potential much larger rally by becoming the final out. And found "The Guz" standing on deck, waiting to take his hacks, frustrated and throwing his bat down in the On-Deck Circle then slowly jogging back onto the field in disgust.

Thanks to some of Washington's relievers just not quite holding New York scoreless. Jason Bermann, Levale Speigner and Charlie Manning all were successively placed out on the mound by Our Manager Manny Acta. And each pitcher gave up a crucial run--taking back what little had been gained in an effort to overcome Washington's Deficit.

And thanks to simply some plain bad luck. Ryan Zimmerman would step to the plate in the bottom of the 8th with two runners on board and greeted New York Side Arm Reliever Joe Smith with a first pitch DRIVE deep to centerfield. A totally hammered baseball, the sound of which sure sounded like the baseball would go the distance, certainly land safely for a multiple run scoring double--only to see New York Centerfielder Beltran drift back and under the ball for out number three. One of those "YES!! He's done it!!" moments that quickly turned to "I can't believe that ball was caught!!" So unbelievable in fact that Our Number 11 stood between first and second base, taking off his batting gloves and handing his batting helmet to first base coach Jerry Morales, smirking, incredulous himself, that he had not just radically changed this ball game in Washington's Favor.

No, not even luck was on Washington's side this evening. Opportunities Lost all night long, but not given up on by The Team That Calls DC It's Home.

A Kory Casto RBI Double in the second. A Bonifacio RBI Single in the 4th. A RIPPED Pinch Hit RBI Single by Gonzalez in the 6th, moments before his baserunning blunder. A MAMMOTH Two Run Homer off the strong bat of Elijah Dukes in the 7th. A possible game changing Home Run, pulling Washington within three, until Manning allowed Beltran to DRILL HIM for a Laser Beam of a Home Run into The Mets Leftfield bullpen--in the very next half inning of play--the top of the 8th.

And even when all that momentum was lost, They still didn't give up. Washington fought and fought their way back--in an attempt to tie or take the lead. Even Zimmerman's blast, caught to end the bottom of the 8th, did not deter their spirit.

In the bottom of the 9th, Wil Nieves was down to his last strike. Washington down to their last out. And with New York's Fans standing and hollering for their Mets to close this odd game out, Our Number 53 fought back and drilled a liner into the gap off Pedro Feliciano for a two run double, getting Washington's Fans, those at least that remained from the announced crowd of 25,019 back into their seats, and back into this long and enduring affair, with a two run double. A last gasp that now brought Our Washington Nationals within two runs at 9-7, and sending New York Mets Manager Jerry Manuel out to the mound to replace Feliciano with long time National and now Mets' Closer Luis Ayala.

A situation you just know Our Former Number 56 relished to partake.

Manny countered by pinch hitting Young Roger Bernadina for Luke Montz (who was pinch hitting for Garrett Mock). The final dance was now taking place. Would experience be able to distance itself from youth?

With the now entire crowd consisting of both Mets & Nationals Fans rising to their feet cheering on their respective teams--Luis Ayala went with a pitch selection not seen many times when he donned a Washington Uniform. Not once did he toss his wicked slider. Not once did he depend on his breaking stuff. Fastball after fastball was all Our Number 2 was thrown. Pitches which Bernadina could not handle.

For the final time tonight--Our Washington Nationals had been Out Gunned. This time--Out Manned. Roger Bernadina would strike out on a 93 Mile Per Hour Fastball signaling the end to this marathon of dances. The Final Bow going to The New York Mets. Leaving Sohna and I to wonder--how Ronnie Belliard would have fared in such a moment--with the game on the line--if he were not out for the remainder of the season with a groin injury. As Sohna stated: "We needed Our Lucky Number 10." And we did. Experience had finally silenced Youth. Our Luck had finally run out.

Final Score from Green Clad and Partying New Nationals Park--The New York Mets 9 and Our Washington Nationals 7. The Luck of The Irish was shining brightly down on New Nationals Park this wonderfully cool and comfortable evening. Sadly, The New York Mets received the majority of the fortune--although Our Young Washington Nationals gained some Invaluable Experience--in a wild one.

Game Notes & Highlights

Shairon Martis just got hammered. Pitching three innings, he gave up three homers, six total hits and two walks. His inexperience showed against a veteran hitting lineup. All a part of the learning process.

Determination that Washington showed all night long by continually fighting back into this game. Yeah Washington eventually lost, but they never gave up and continually gave The New York Mets and their fans fits with their never give in nature. The sight of New Yorkers bellowing out "Let's Go Met's" with two out and two on in the bottom of the 9th--believing the victory was mere seconds away--and then witnessing Nieves' final blow to pull Washington close--delightful to watch. You could just see on the faces of every single New York fan around us--their glee turn to worry. The Mets Fans understanding their team has not played well down the stretch for the second straight season and New York might be blowing one again. Did Nieves ever silence a very loud New York Throng with that blow. Too bad Our Washington Nationals could not finish off that frustration for New Yorkers at their very own team.

Nieves had a fine night at the plate--knocking three hits to go along with his two RBI's. A single game personal record for his career. "The Guz" tallied his 54th Multi-Hit game by adding two base hits. Kory Casto added two hits himself. And the confident strut of Elijah Dukes crossing home plate after jacking a Brian Stokes pitch over the left field wall--delightful to watch as well. His 13th Home Run of 2008 was a MONSTER SHOT. A rocket that got out quickly. That Man Can Play.

Aaron Heilman must be the designated hated player for New York Mets Fans. When he was relieved from the mound after allowing back to back hits in the 7th--the RAIN OF BOOS that cascaded down from the highest reaches of New Nationals Park was quite remarkable to hear. The Displeasure was loud and New Yorkers standing behind The Mets Third Base Dugout were relentless. They were giving Heilman the business. A Razzing that you could see made this New York Pitcher very, very uncomfortable. He stared straight ahead at the disgruntled fans then dropped his head at the dugout steps and walked down and into the clubhouse. He must have thought he was playing a Home Game at Shea Stadium. New York's Fans were quite loud. An incredible moment for a player that thought he was playing within the comforts of a visiting ballpark.

After the ball game ended and The New York Mets were on the field congratulating themselves over the victory--virtually every single player for Our Washington Nationals had left the home dugout. Every single one of them, except for Willie Harris. Standing with his arms folded, upset over the loss--Our Number 1 DID NOT LEAVE for the Home Clubhouse until every single New York Met Player and Coach had also left the field. He was pissed. I liked that. I liked that A LOT!! Willie Harris Does Not Like To Lose. And visibly showed that tonight--scoring even more points in my book of delights with his play and professionalism.

For Half Way To St. Patty's Day--Our Washington Nationals handed out Green Curly "W" Caps to fans 21 Years and Older as they entered New Nationals Park Tonight.

Irish Dancers and Musicians played music in Center Field Plaza before the game.

The D.C. Fire Departments Emerald Society Pipe & Drum Corp played during one half inning break.

Even Green Beads were thrown by The NatPack to fans from the dugouts.

While My Best Friend!! Screech!! displayed a Green Beard??!!

And in The Clubs Tonight--Jameson Irish Whiskey was on hand--offering samples of their well known brand of liquor to patrons.

Finally, September 17th is Sohna's Birthday. Planned well in advance--we celebrated in Presidents Club. She was shocked and quite pleased to see her two nicknames "The African Queen/Agent 99" displayed on the HDTV Screen during the 5th Inning Birthday Salutes. Agent 99 is Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes moniker for The African Queen. We both got a total kick out of that moment and were even more pleased when we ran into Hall of Fame Pitcher Don Sutton and MASN Broadcaster after the game ended and he said to Sohna: "We are celebrating a birthday tonight?!"

"How did you know that?" replied The African Queen. "I don't miss much. I saw the scoreboard mention between innings." He proceeded to give Sohna a nice hug and birthday kiss--topping off a wonderful evening for Sohna at New Nationals Park. A Birthday Bash which began with Our Manager Manny Acta spotting Sohna sitting in Presidents Club, near Our Washington Nationals Dugout and blowing her a Kiss--as well. A very nice moment and well appreciated by both of us. As I always say: Manny ever the nicest and most charismatic of men.

Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Evan Vucci
All Other Photos--Nats320 (All Rights Reserved)


Mike Janssen said...

Hi there SBF -- I'm writing an article for the City Paper about the Nationals and would like to talk to you today or tomorrow if possible. Could you e-mail me? The e-mail address is mike at mikejanssen dot net. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I, too, love Harris' play and professionalism. BTW, per a recent piece in the NY Daily News, prior to every game against the Mets, Harris tapes to his locker a photo of his '07 catch (as a Brave) against Delgado.

Happy belated birthday to the AQ.

SenatorNat said...

I hope I look that good on my 57th tomorrow, but I know that would be impossible - Happy, Happy, and Many Happy Returns!!! (What are you doing with such an older man?! You are his Bacall alright...)

My message, incidentally, is going up on the Big Iconic Baseball over the Red Loft - please look for it!

Trust in the Magic of True Love - All Very Lovely!

Anonymous said...

Running late today HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY AQ!!!!

An Briosca Mor said...

Senatornat, will your message say Future Giant Iconic Baseball Location? I'll be there tomorrow night and I'll keep my eye up there looking for it, even if I have to miss the game in the process!

Edward J. Cunningham said...

I considered going to the Halfway to St. Paddy's Day event but decided not to. Now I deeply regret it.

Thanks for taking that pic of your Best Friend! I thought of the perfect caption:

"Please don't make Screech angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry!"

Edward J. Cunningham said...

One more thing---concerning Mike Janssen's request, be very, VERY leery. At least the Washington Post has publicly supported the return of major league baseball in D.C. The Washington City Paper has been an enemy of Washington baseball since at least 2004. When rumblings about the Expos moving began to surface, they were openly rooting for the team not to move into D.C. at all. In fact, they claimed in one of their articles that D.C. never cared for or suppported baseball EVEN IN THE BRIEF ERA WHEN THE NATS WERE WINNING PENNANTS AND A WORLD SERIES.

If you still want to participate, SBF, go on ahead, but I have a pretty good idea what the CP's slant will be and I don't want your words twisted against you.

Anonymous said...

Too bad the Nats are now on pace for the #3 pick in the draft AND we did not sign Crow...another blunder by the front office!

Anonymous said...

Too bad the Nats screwed up the 1/2 way to St. Patty's day hats. They put a 4 leaf clover on instead of a Shamrock!!!

Anonymous said...

This is taking up from a previous post on the schedule.

Before that - Syracuse? Why not Richmond? Is it just that Richmond's ballpark is so poor? That area could bring in a lot of new fans for the Nats as future and present Nats go back and forth. The Richmond fans would love Bonifacio and would come to DC to see him once he learns a little more. Oh, well...

Not to get political, but if Obama or McCain become President, they need to leave their parochial connections (Chicago and Arizona) behind and embrace the entire nation -- and that includes baseball.

The President lives in the White House, which is in D.C. He needs to throw out the first pitch in D.C. - not Baltimore, not Chicago, not Phoenix - unless affairs of state or security dictate otherwise. The Senators or Governors of Maryland, Arizona and Illinois can do the honors in those states.

Baltimore and Washington are distinct and separate cities, they are not one sports market, no matter what us Redskins fans thought in the Colts absence or what Orioles fans thought while baseball was in exile from Washington.

Both cities have their good points and bad points, both mostly good, both have baseball and football. Two markets, not one.

The President of the United States needs to be there to honor the national pastime in the Nation's Capital. This was a no-brainer for 60 years, why is it so wrong now?

Anonymous said...

== Anonymous said...
Too bad the Nats are now on pace for the #3 pick in the draft AND we did not sign Crow...another blunder by the front office!==

Anon - Why was this a blunder by the front office. The guy didn't want to play here. Should they have begged? Get over it. End of story.

If you want to blame the front office for LoDuca, Machowiak, Brett Boone (Minor league deal), Estrada, Felipe Lopez, etc. then you may be able to make a case at BLUNDERS.

On the good side the front office deserves credit for Willie Harris, Flores, Hernandez, Gonzalez, Bernandina, Bonifacio, and Dukes.

Milledge for Church and Schneider---too early to tell.

This team is now built for speed and exciting. Get us a #1 starter and a power hitting 1st baseman and this team can when 85+ next year.

Hats off to management on handling the Dukes incident too.

All in all, Bowden may have saved his job with the late season moves, and Manny showed he can manage when given a decent starting 9.

Now they have to make some tough off-season decisions on WHarris, Kearns, NJohnson, and DYoung. Its how they handle these decisions coupled with the pickups they must make to be competitive.

An Briosca Mor said...

Now they have to make some tough off-season decisions on WHarris, Kearns, NJohnson, and DYoung.

What's so tough about the decision on Harris? He's arbitration eligible, so he's not going anywhere. Just sign him. It's a no-brainer.

Anonymous said...

Briosca - NO-BRAINER??? Why is it a no-brainer? Atlanta let him go last year and he was a .270 hitter there and will bat around .250 here so was it a no-brainer in Atlanta when they had just lost their veteran Andruw Jones.

To further complicate the issue, arbitration is a roll of the dice and the team may not want to go that route on a player who will be 31 next year.

If you sign him prior to arbitration then you keep him as a good back-up and a good teammate but far from a no-brainer but with that said he is not a starter unless Bowden doesn't do his job and get this team a LF.

You have under contract next year Wily Mo Pena (option), Kearns, Dukes, Milledge, Langerhans, Maxwell, Bernandina, so there are already tough decisions to be made there.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Optimistic said...Now they have to make some tough off-season decisions on WHarris, Kearns, NJohnson, and DYoung. Its how they handle these decisions coupled with the pickups they must make to be competitive.

You forgot Wily Mo Pena on that list!

An Briosca Mor said...

Signing Willie Harris is a no-brainer because after the year he's had this year, and with what he brings to the table, there's absolutely no way you don't want him on the team next year. Whether it goes to arbitration or not is not an issue. Like the old joke about the woman who wouldn't sleep with the guy for $100 but would if he paid her a million, all arbitration would do is establish the price on a deal that gets done either way. Arbitration is not going to result in the Nats having to pay Harris any more money than he's worth on the open market. It also would only give him a one year deal, not a big risk to take on a 31 year old player who's showing no signs of slowing down.

Was Atlanta's decision to non-tender Harris last year a no-brainer? I don't know, because I don't follow the Braves closely nor was I following Harris's career until he got here. But I bet they're wishing now that they hadn't let him go.

Anonymous said...

B - The no-brainer is the term that is a problem. It is not a no-brainer. The Nats OF is overfilled and they have to make some tough decisions.

The year WHarris had this year? It was a good year for the Nationals comparitively speaking, but based on the standards of competitive playoff teams guys like WHarris and Kearns don't get much playing time on those types of teams. That is why the Atlanta Braves got rid of him and I will make the same point---he hit .270 there vs. .250 here!

If you think he will hit 10+ HRs again at a 3.7% HR/AB pace, then the Nats are in trouble as they better get Dukes HR production from a corner OF where Dukes is 5.1% HR/AB guy.

If Justin Maxwell wasn't injured, he would have been with the team too.

What does your starting OF look like with reserves and what do you do with Langerhans, Kearns, Wily Mo Pena, Bernandina and Justin Maxwell?

Anonymous said...

I was at the Bowden/Rizzo ESPNZone event this afternoon.

The topics included the past, the present, near-term, and future. Most of the excitement of course was about the future.

The outfield was a big part of the discussion and Bernandina definitely had his fan club in attendence and most there liked the way he played the 9th inning last night. Obviously his hitting hasn't been overly impressive, but my side conversation with Bowden/Rizzo and Stan was this team needs extra emphasis on BUNTING. For Bernandina, Hernandez, Gonzalez, and Bonifacio, these guys have to be a bunt threat and as Rizzo said in the Luis Castillo type of mode.

What's different for our September call-ups until this San Diego series is they are seeing real pennant run playing as the Phillies, Mets, and Marlins haven't been playing their September call-ups.