Saturday, August 08, 2009

The 10th Man

No one watching tonight's game between Our Washington Nationals and The Arizona Diamondbacks could ever say this one was not A THRILLER. A five run early deficit for DC's Team, became an eventual tie, then a two run lead, then a total nailbiter. And, OH YEAH--as an added bonus on a Bang!! Zoom!! Go The Fireworks!! Friday Night--one of the VERY BEST JAW TO JAW, SPITTLE TO SPITTLE MANAGER TO UMPIRE ARGUMENTS YOU MAY EVER SEE!! In fact, who knew Our Washington Nationals were hosting The Ultimate Fighting Championships tonight? The heated argument between The Snakes A.J. Hinch and 1st Base Umpire Jerry Crawford goes down into the annals of Earl Weaver, Lou Piniella and Tommy Lasorda. Classic stuff that should have been put on center stage in a cage. Physicality--which nearly overplayed the action of the field.

Whenever a manager from an opposing team nearly receives a standing ovation for his theatrics from the home side--you know he's struck a cord. The backbone--in this case--of the always emotional Crawford who may well give it back better than ANY OTHER ARBITER IN THE GAME. Just ask his brother--NBA Referee Joe Crawford. They don't back down to ANYONE. THIS WAS A FABULOUS ARGUMENT--near award winning for its action. Please--just give both of them The EMMY for Live Action. But first lets get back to the actual thriller of a game.

Because as anyone who follows sports knows--winning provides excitement. Victories bring crowds. And tonight on South Capitol Street, 22,674 decided to take the cheering into their own hands. For so long since Our Washington Nationals moved from The Old Ballyard On East Capitol Street to Nationals Park on South Capitol Street, canned cheers have taken precedent. Staged music and lyrics that sometimes drown out the natural responses of the fans paying the bucks while sitting in the stands. The Romping Good Times then known as Section 320 at RFK Stadium--The Nexus Of The Nats Universe back then--are sadly no longer. But tonight, for the first time in some time--Our Fans took over the 9th inning. There was no "Just Make It Clap!!" Or, "Everybody Clap Your Hands." More importantly, there was the increasingly growing grass roots "Let's Go Nats!!" as pitch by pitch played out with Mike MacDougal on the mound for Washington.

DC's Team was holding on to the slimmest of leads (7-6). MacDougal had pitched in five of the last six games played. And this evening Interim Manager Jim Riggleman was attempting to get a five out save from Our Number 54. This after Ron Villone had pitched or warmed up for nine consecutive days (True) and didn't have it tonight. This after Jason Bergmann pitched in his 4th game in the past six days. Sean Burnett five out of the last six days.

As July has turned to The Dog Days Of August--Our Starting Pitching has begun to crumble. "ACE" John Lannan continues to be solid. But Craig Stammen, Garrett Mock and J.D. Martin have shown their week sides. Less than necessary skill levels on the big stage--which Collin Balester was also guilty of tonight.

Insufficient young talent at this point in their experience--hidden by an explosive and powerful offense.

Having battled their way back again from poor pitching early, Our Washington Nationals now led The Arizona Diamondbacks thanks to Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham and Elijah Dukes continuing to pound the baseball. And if you didn't learn the lesson yesterday afternoon that The Z-Man is ON FIRE and Leading Our Team--then you better understand right now that our current lineup of Nyjer Morgan, Cristian Guzman, Our Number 11, Adam Dunn, Willingham & Dukes is as potent as any six hitters in the game. Good enough to fight back from five runs down. Even better to take the lead--and now trying to hold on to that slimmest of one run leads.

No it's not easy to win in The Big Leagues. Even harder to close one out. And Mike MacDougal was stuggling again. A leadoff single in the top of the 9th to Gerrado Parra reset the stage for what was to come. Our Number 54 knew it. Riggleman knew it. So did The Snakes and Our Fans. Too many times any leadoff hitter eventually scores--and with the worry spreading among the crowd still watching--the home faithful decided To Play 10th Man!! "Let's Go Nats!!" rained down from all over Nationals Park. Raising spirits and providing needed support for a ball club looking to earn back respect.

Both The Snakes and Our Nats had won five straight heading into this match up. But neither could be proud of their work from April to Late July. Each had toiled in last place. Each now wanting to continue moving forward. Yeah, that's hard to accomplish. But when MacDougal got Zimmy's Former UVA Teammate Mark Reynolds to fly out for the first out of the top of hte 9th--relief reigned. Reynolds had socked out his 34th Home Run of 2009 earlier. Another of his swats would have been a difference maker. An alteration of what Washington was looking to accomplish. Get a Curly "W" which seemed imminently possible when Big Mike struck out Miguel Montero on five pitches. The 2nd of 3rd outs needed that brought most all those remaining in the stands up on their feet, rhythmic clapping sustained and most all still shouting "LET'S GO NATS!! LET'S GO NATS!!"

Reminicent of so many games witnessed at RFK Stadium from 2005 to 2007. Really, this was fun. The African Queen and I enjoying a tense ball game knowing Our Fans were INTO IT!! How novel and wonderful to see Nationals Park come alive. Fans whooping it up even after Mike MacDougal allowed a two out single to right by Trent Ojelten putting Snakes on 1st & 2nd bases.

No The Arizona Diamondbacks weren't done yet. Thankfully, neither were Our Washington Nationals and Our Fans. As the loudness continued--and believe me--South Capitol Street was rocking--Mike MacDougal looked in for the sign from his catcher, Wil Nieves, and decided to throw the exact same pitch he had thrown 12 times in the 8th frame and 17 times more at this point in the 9th. A 97 MPH heater that Chad Tracy could not handle but swung at anyway--grounding to Alberto Gonzalez at second base to close this wonderfully exciting game out.

A whole lot more detail on the scoring and the comeback and The Argument coming in The Game Notes & Highlights. But it's important to stress--Our 10th Man was right out there on the field with Our Players tonight. The crowd providing backbone and support for our team that continues to find itself.

Final Score from Nationals Park were watching paid attendees getting emotionally involved just as rewarding as the victory--Our Washington Nationals 7 and The Arizona Diamondbacks 6. Curly "W" Number 37 and sixth in a row is a season high--just one short of 2008's longest winning streak of seven accomplished between August 26th and September 1st, 2008. The Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling that NatsTown is a Happy Town when Washington Wins.

We can't tell you the number of fans who came to us--before, during and after tonight's game that were absolutely thrilled to see DC's winning ways continue. Two older gentleman sitting just our right in Section 218 happy as any fans could ever be. "We've been watching them turn it around and come back to win late on television. We decided to come in person to see it all for ourselves."

"Was it worth it coming? asked The African Queen.

"Absolutely, and we will be back again very soon!!"

Yes, Baseball In The Nation's Capitol is again enjoyable to watch. Our Washington Nationals are attempting to put it all together. Finding a spark and taking advantage of what they can do (Hit, Run & Situational Pitching)--not worrying about what they can't do--just yet. No doubt--that's baseball--ever evolving, ever changing, always adapting and nothing short of surprising. Just like Our Fans Tonight. The 10th Man. They were GREAT!!! We would bet Our Players would agree with that assessment.

Game Notes & Highlights

Now about that argument. In the top of the 8th with the score 7-5 Washington, Arizona's Trent Oeltjen stroked a hard hit grounder to "The Guz's" left. Cristian Guzman slid/dove with his gloved left hand down on the dirt--he scooped the baseball and threw to Adam Dunn manning first base. 1st Base Umpire Jerry Crawford--into the excitement of the moment--ruled OUT!! Replays showed otherwise. Diamondbacks Manager A.J. Hinch would have nothing to do with that call. He came storming out of the dugout and immediately started yelling at Crawford. Crawford--not one to take crap--started hammering right back at Hinch. For a good 30 seconds they went FACE TO FACE as Nationals Park erupted in cheer. Really this was GREAT STUFF!! The argument continued and continued and continued. What a sight. Eventually, Hinch moved toward Home Plate Umpire Brian O'Nora and gave the business to him. Total time--maybe five minutes--but the best five minutes of arguing seen at Nationals Park that we can remember. Maybe better than anything that happened at RFK Stadium from 2005-2007 as well. This bad call for The D-Backs actually cost them when two walks, one single and a sacrifice fly allowed by Villone and MacDougal scored just one run. If Oeltjen was ruled safe--maybe two more scores would have happened--and that would have tied this game up at seven apiece.

Collin Balester was very hittable this evening. Five runs allowed--all in the second inning. Home runs given up to Zimmy's Buddy--Mark Reynolds and former Nationals Farm Hand--Josh Whitesell and Stephen Drew. Our Number 40 only lasting through one out in the fifth frame. 8 Total hits, one walk, three strikeouts, three home runs. Not good.

The opposite of what Saul Rivera showed during a resplendid 1.2 innings of work. 5 batters faced, 5 retired--one strikeout.
With so much work of late, Sean Burnett has been hittable, but he still managed to not give up any runs tonight. Shutout ball that Jason Bergmann has also found. Our Number 57 got the win this evening upon trotting to the mound to retire Miguel Montero with Gerrardo Parra standing on third base for the final out of the top of the 7th frame. As for MacDougal, he is scary but still managed to record his 11th save of 2009.

Down five after the top of the 2nd, Washington mounted their comeback when Willingham sliced a liner to center that Gerrado Parra totally misplayed. The ball sailing over his head and to the centerfield wall. Josh hustling all the way to third base for what was ruled a single a two base error. Elijah Dukes driving Our Number 16 home with Washington's first run on a sacrifice fly.

The beginnings of something special as Dukes knocked in two more when he lined one over Parra's head again scoring Dunn and Willingam. Dukes with three rbi and one run scored. Guzman with another two hit game--his 11th in 12 games. Ryan Zimmerman absolutely ON FIRE!!! Another home run this evening--to right centerfield--hammered again. His 24th, tying his career high. Combined with his usual solid infield work, The Z-Man is providing leadership needed from a veteran on the roster that has experienced all that is Our Washington Nationals. We are very proud of him.

Much like how we feel for Josh Willingham. Despite the shoulder problems of Scott Olsen (and that's a shame because Olsen was pitching well in his three starts before injuring himself again), Willingham alone is a steal of a trade for Emilio Bonifacio and the two minor leaguers given up last fall by Washington. Tonight, he drove in the go ahead and game winning runs when The Snakes decided to intentionally walk Adam Dunn to load the bases. A mistake when Arizona's Juan Gutierrez let Josh drill the second pitch offered him down the leftfield line scoring Nyjer Morgan and Cristian Guzman with Washington's 6th and 7th runs of the night. All they needed, eventually, to win this game.

Maybe it's the effect of Nick Johnson now being a Marlin. A lot of missed signs by Washington baserunners and batters at the plate given by 3rd Base Coach Pat Listach over the past few days and again tonight. Knowing NJ knew all of Washington's signs, you have to figure Interim Manager Jim Riggleman changed them. Being unfamiliar to some on the team--players have run with no hit and run on. Others have been thrown out by a good 10 feet while stealing (Guzman tonight a good example). But it's very strange to realize, Washington swapped up their signs because of one of our former good guys--Nick Johnson.

Teddy lost the lead again tonight during the 4th inning Presidents Race. Tom and GW raced hard to the finish, but Abe again pulled away and danced in enjoyment over his 28th win of 2009.

Finally, 10,000,000th Fan Mark Strattner received the last of his special awards tonight when Yolanda presented Mark with his specially engraved seat from Nationals Park. Mark used his Presidents Club Tickets tonight as part of the awards package as well. Having met Mark a few times before, Sohna and I send our best wishes for his continuing support of Our Washington Nationals.

Tonight's InGame Photos--Nick Wass (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Anonymous said...

The Nats are now 12-11 post All-Star break since canning Manny for Riggleman. Coincidence? Methinks not!

Section 131 said...

SBF, yes it is true. The crowds have not been overly large for these two series but they have been vocal and that has added to the enjoyment of the wins. Very fun tonight. Some folks sitting around were not worried when down by five as they felt we have the power to get back into any game. The Nats sort of proved that too for the second game in a row.

Kevin {137} said...

Fantastic atmosphere at the ballpark last night. Great defense by Zim, too, all game long. Top notch!