Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Boxing Match

This was one terrific baseball game. If Our Washington Nationals had stroked the game winning hit at the very end--the final result would have been spectacular.

Forget the team records. Throw out the very fact The Philadelphia Phillies are in first place in The National League East and Washington is in last.

It just did not matter this night. A battled ensued at Nationals Park. Some might call it a boxing match. One with blow after counter blow. Sometimes with a few standing eight counts. A real goodie. In fact, a nail biter that found both participants propping themselves up, neither wanting to go down, until the very last out was recorded.

First, for nearly seven innings a pitcher's duel broke out between a young lefty looking to make his mark in the game. Against an aging veteran, most assuredly a Hall Of Famer, looking to make his final marks in the game.

Then, without any warning, a slugfest broke out. Four Home Runs in the space of nine batters. Three of which were stroked by The Phillies over four hitters in their lineup. Then a 5th shot out of the park--in the top of the 8th to give Philly a two run advantage.

Certainly knock out blows on most nights. Powerful jabs that few usually recover, much less battle back.

Yet, those painful blows weren't enough to put this prize fight away!! Not with Brad Lidge--The Phillies Closer being BOOED OUT OF NATIONALS PARK by Philly Fans in the bottom of the 9th. What short memories their fans must have for the very guy that closed out their 2008 World Series Championship--after maybe the most perfect season by any closer in history.

What is it with those people? And what was it about this game?

Was there something in the water everyone was drinking? These two teams contested each other toe-to toe-all evening. Just an incredible match up. Sort of like David against Goliath. Rocky versus Apollo Creed.

Really, 17,153 witnessed a nearly indescribable game.

If you thought the twists and turns of the final two innings on Sunday when Ryan Zimmerman slammed out the game winner against The Florida Marlins were unbelievable, then this Tuesday Night affair was simply surreal.

There he was, again, standing at the plate with bases loaded, Our Washington Nationals down by two with the game on the line. Hey, bottom of the 9th, The Z-Man at the plate. Sounds sort of familar--doesn't it? Well, here we were. A Repeat Performance a real possibility. And every single Phillie Fan (which may well have been close to a majority) knew it. In fact, this one die-hard Philadelphia supporter sitting two seats to Sohna's right believed it was going to happen. So badly, he was chewing his fingernails.


Funny stuff that you can only witness when a game matters. And for The Phillies every single one on their schedule matters in September. Fortunately, Our Washington Nationals haven't given up themselves.

How else would John Lannan battle Pedro Martinez pitch for pitch. In fact, throw a better game until that wicked 7th inning when Philadelphia's Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz jacked out three home runs in such a short span--it remarkably sent Our Number 31 to the showers and left South Capitol Street BUZZING over what everyone had just witnessed. No, you don't see that type of firepower too often. Nor, do you see the victim, in this case, DC's Team, not roll over and give up. Fighting back instead when Willie Harris jacked out his own home run over the right field wall in the bottom of the 7th sending Pedro Martinez to the showers.

Knockout blows landed by what seemed like prize fighters. Standing face to face, The Philadelphia Phillies and Our Washington Nationals were having their own "Rocky" moment. Just like in the famous original move--the underdog known as DC's Team was being hammered but they still stood up, clenched their fist--shooked them right back in Philly's face exclaiming: Come On!! We are battered and bruised but we are not going down for the count.

In fact, we are not going to take it anymore.

Fighting spirit not lost, even when Chase Utley slammed out his 30th Home Run of 2009 off Tyler Clippard in the top of the 8th. A 5-3 knock down, drag out score that STILL was not over because, believe it or not. Bloodied and bruised, Our Washington Nationals came back for more. A battle royal were either side was not going to claim victory until that last out was finally recorded.

Which many thought might never come this evening in the bottom of the 9th.

Most everyone at Nationals Park was now standing. Brad Lidge had loaded up the bases on Wil Nieves' leadoff single to center. A Willie Harris Hit By Pitch (his second of the night) and a "Guz" walk. Yes, that is not a misprint--Cristian Guzman walked to fill up the bases. Maybe that's why The Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel immediately took Lidge out of this game. If you can't get Our Number 15 to swing at the pitch, there is no way you are finding the strike zone.

Hitting the black which Manuel felt Ryan Madson could do a better job of. Earlier in this career, Madson was a long ball nightmare for Philadelphia. He consistently gave up home runs late. But over the past few years, the tall lanky righthander has become the steadiest of Philly relievers. And now, there he was on the mound facing Our Number 11 with only one out.

And Madson wasn't fooling around.

The crowd was roaring so loud it was impossible to figure out who exactly the noise was for? Whether it was Washington or Philadelphia rooters, those in the stands were jacked. But this encounter didn't last long. Facing each other down, Madson struck first with two hard jabs, called strikes. Then with Zimmy looking for another fastball and not protecting the plate, Madson came with the haymaker and Our Number 11 had no chance. Off balance, out of sync and just not his night, Zimmy was knocked down for the count. Striking out on a pitch so far off the plate, he might have needed a telephone pole to reach it.

A result that brought a roar from the crowd so loud you would have thought this game was being played at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia. A defacto home game for The Phillies--one in which was still not decided as Adam Dunn now stepped to the plate with two outs. Big Number 44 stood there, settled himself, and slowly drew back his baseball bat from the set position. Four times this year, Adam Dunn has plunked Philly for home runs. Powerful blows that have shaken and stumbled The Defending Champions. And in fact, Ryan Madson had been a previous victim of one of Dunn's career 313 jacks.

But on this night--any last second Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! was not to be.

Using the exact same fight plan on Dunn as Madson had used on Zimmerman--The Phillie Reliever struck with two quick jabs. Fastballs taken for called strike one and fouled off for strike number two--pushing Adam back on his heels, against the ropes. Now, unable to truly defend himself the knockout blow came a few seconds later when Ryan Madson threw in his last haymaker, an 86 MPH changeup that also caught Dunn off-balance and sent Our Washington Nationals down for the final count.

Adam Dunn weakly grounding out to Jimmy Rollins for the knock out blow that ended this rather extraordinary affair on South Capitol Street. You would have thought The Phillies had won the title again by the noise their fans made when that last out being recorded. Just like that, this game was over.

Final Score from Nationals Park where everyone who came to watch a baseball game, witnessed a prize fight break out: The Philadelphia Phillies 5 and Our Washington Nationals 3. Loss number 91 in 138 games was an absolute thriller. And despite the fact that DC's Team lost, this game was satisfying on so many levels. Great pitching early, slugfest late and a down to final wire finish. Entertainment was what this night was all about. One of those battles were you couldn't look away for fear of missing something. Remember, "Rocky" didn't win in the original movie, and neither did Our Washington Nationals tonight. But they went to the clubhouse knowing that in this Boxing Match they had given The Philadelphia Phillies their very best. Washington had survived some serious hard to the body blows but counter punched effectively to stay in the match. And only lost when a couple wicked haymakers at the end were the difference.

As Sohna said as we left the ballpark--"At least we gave them a run for their money." Yeah we really did.

Rematch Wednesday night..

Game Notes & Highlights

For 6.1 innings, John Lannan was quite excellent. He had even retired Ryan Howard all three times he had faced him. Then, over 10 pitches in the top of the 7th, he was done, shockingly so. A noted ground ball pitcher allowing three home runs in four batters. Jayson Werth lining one the opposite way and into Washington's Bullpen. Ibanez with his second home run of the night--also to the bullpen. And finally, Carlos Ruiz (Phillies Catcher) into the first row in left field. Demoralizing for Our Number 31--shaken he walked Pedro Martinez on four straight pitches and was removed from the game by Interim Manager Jim Riggleman. Honestly, Sohna and I can't recall such a fast turnabout from quality performance to out of the game in such a short period. Stunning actually and hopefully moments John can learn from. The game was getting out of hand and he needed to pull himself together, not get caught up in the fact he had been taken deep. And instead, taken a deep breath himself to recover.

The Phillies can pound the baseball--Howard, Chase Utley, Ibanez and Werth all have 30 or more Home Runs for the season right now--only the 12th teammates in history to do so. Ibanez with eight of his 30 homers against Washington. If Raul played his entire career against DC's team he would be a Hall Of Famer. In 13 games, a .426 average with 20 RBI's and 17 runs scored. If Hanley Ramirez and Khalil Greene are bonafide Nats Killers, Raul Ibanez has been added to the list in 2009. Just an incredible series of performances against one team--Washington's.

Pedro Martinez really looked good. No where near as overpowering as he could be during his career years with The Boston Red Sox, but Old Number 45 was hitting his spots and only walking one. And if not for a gift Official Scorers Call on a clearly wild throw by Chase Utley to Ryan Howard at first base in the bottom of the 4th--a sure error ruled an infield hit--he would have left the game allowing just two earned runs (instead of three). Elijah Dukes scoring Washington's second run of the game which should have been unearned.

Willie Harris doing most of the damage to Pedro with a leadoff double (that just missed being a home run in the bottom of the 1st to right) and scoring on a Guzman single. Then, Harris taking Martinez deep in the bottom of the 7th for his 7th Home Run of 2009. Pedro Martinez now 4-0 for his abbreviated season and The Phillies are undefeated (6-0) in all his starts since joining the club on August 12th.

Gotta love Philadelphia Catcher Carlos Ruiz doing the splits behind the plate receiving pitches when no base runners are on. Just watching him set up in that position a sight to behold. That's flexibility.

Our Washington Nationals Minor League Player & Pitcher of The Year were honored tonight at Nationals Park. Catcher Derek Norris was presented a trophy alongside Our Minor League Pitcher of The Year--Brad Meyers. Team President Stan Kasten, GM Mike Rizzo, Asst. GM/VP Player Development Bob Boone and Mark Scialabba Assistant Director Player Development were on hand for the presentation.

Speaking of The Minor Leagues--this picture depicts some integral parts to The Syracuse Chiefs' fine efforts in 2009. Ian Desmond, Justin Maxwell. Marco Estrada, J.D. Martin and Mike Morse all sitting together this evening at Nationals Park.

Tee-Shirt Tuesday was a script red "Natstown" tee presented by The Potomac Nationals. Sohna really like it with The P-Nats logo and Curly "W" Logo printed on the back.

TEDDY WON!! Yes, Teddy won The Presidents Race!! But, then was disqualified for cutting across the outfield grass and not running the race around the warning track. That strange cat re-emerged tonight and tackled both George & Tom. The roar in the ballpark when Teddy crossed the finish line first was quite loud. And resulted in many more boos when My Best Friend!! Screech!! ruled Abe the winner over Teddy.

And finally--at 6:40PM the very first Water Taxi Boat to Nationals Park crossed under the South Capitol Street Bridge. At 6:45PM it docked. And by 7PM, 16 Fans (which I counted watching from the First Base Side Walkway just outside Club Level) who used the service provided by The Potomac Riverboat Company were inside the ballpark. The new round trip service scheduled on selected dates in September to judge ridership for this new transportation option.

Tonight's InGame Photos--Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)
All Other Photos--Copyrighted Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Chris S. said...

Look, we all appreciate what Lidge did last year. Our memories our very long, and I know that this Phillies fan will always remember his perfect season in 2008. But that doesn't mean it's OK for him to be terrible this year.

This is what I don't understand about the "good" fans who always pile onto Philly fans. Supporting your team means expecting excellence, and while it does mean sticking with them when times are tough, it does not mean openly patting them on the back for bad play. Booing doesn't even mean we don't support the guy on the field right now - it just means that his play merits boos.

Jay said...

Thanks for the photos of the water taxi. You documented an historic first.

Let's hope the Potomac Riverboat Company folks account for certain things. One, the water taxi service did not get publicity in the Wash Post, local channel 4, 5, 7 and 9. Two, the weather yesterday and today not too good, and forecast tomorrow rainy. Three, the Nationals not doing good.
Four - we wanted to take it to the Dodgers series but it is not available. Five - if you take Metro, then free trolley bus, you can't reverse that because the trolley bus stops at 10 pm. Six - they only offered night games so far (Except last home game)

Hopefully some of these things will work out for next season.