Sunday, September 06, 2009

One More Defeat

Victor Garate's first pitch thrown in his Major League Career was a strike. The third pitch he threw was swatted out of Nationals Park for a home run by Brett Hayes leading off the top of the 6th inning. Considering the very person he was traded for from Our Washington Nationals to Los Angeles Dodgers last week--Ronnie Belliard--swatted out a home run in HIS very first at bat at Dodger Stadium for his new team--I guess you can call that trade even--at least for now.

If you were looking for a bright spot this evening on South Capitol Street that paradoxical moment might well have been the highlight. Excited to witness LIVO!! return to the very town The African Queen and I believe still loves him--Ole' Number 61 wearing the home white, red & gold of Our Washington Nationals quickly turned anticipation to disappointment when Livan Hernandez laid one of those eggs, not of the golden kind, he's known to do from time to time. 35 Pitches to finish the bottom of the 1st frame resulting in three runs for The Florida Marlins. And by the time Livan had completed five complete The Big Cuban had thrown 107 pitches--half of which were balls. Many batted all over and one out of Nationals Park for six runs by The Fish--to the great discouragement of the majority of the 18,111 wishing to say to Hernandez: Welcome Home!!

No, this was a Homecoming to forget. On the very night--what was once old was new again--defeat continued to mount--reaching eight in a row by night's end. Even breaking out my vintage Ole' Number 61 Red Nationals Tee in commemoration of good times before, now renewed, was not nearly enough to help. Sadly, Livo having his worst performance since signing with Washington in late August.

Such a big hole down 8-1 after six complete that not even a three run rally in the bottom the 7th served enough impetus to spark a comeback. Not this evening when Our Washington Nationals continued to struggle on the mound and at the plate. Five runs on most nights should be enough to win most ball games. Just like six scores last evening should garner a Curly "W" In The Books as well. But when your team stalls at inopportune times--probability then becomes chance. Risk which is always in doubt.

DC's Team is certainly not a complete team yet and while Our Franchise determines over the remainder of the 2009 schedule who should stay and who should go for 2010--every poorly thrown pitch, every error and every runner in scoring position not plated hurts. The saga of a continuing learning process on how to win. The potential growth of raw ability maturing into Major League Talent.

That is why Victor Garate was summoned to the mound in the 6th for his Big League Debut.

That is why Justin Maxwell pinch hit and played out the final three innings in Centerfield--replacing Willie Harris and eventually singling and scoring Washington's last run.

That is why Elijah Dukes has been given an extended look in right field since being recalled from Triple A Syracuse.

And that is why Pete Orr has gone from afterthought--buried within The Chiefs Minor League Squad in Upper State New York all season--but given showcase moments as August turned to September. Featured, like Alberto Gonzalez these past six weeks to determine whether Our Number 12 is capable or exposed.

This is Our Washington Nationals for better and for worse right now. And outside of Nyjer Morgan, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and John Lannan--every single other player, whether on the 40-Man Roster or current active 25-Man Roster is auditioning for 2010. Sure, "The Guz" has a guaranteed contract for next year. In fact, so does Willie Harris. But that doesn't mean Cristian Guzman will start at shortstop or Our Number 22 will remain in the mix. Everyone's current job is on the line outside of the five players mentioned previously in this paragraph. And whether someone dons that Curly "W" proudly next year or not--depends tremendously over their work ethic these final four weeks of 2009.

No, tonight's game is not worth talking about much because the attention should turn to the Current Building Blocks For Our Washington Nationals? Who do we know, for sure, is a keeper? Not, whether another Curly "W" In The Books will give Washington a slightly higher winning percentage as Game 162 nears. The signal lights are being flashed informing a reshuffling is presently in motion--not only in the clubhouse--but in The Baseball Operations Office. And the resultant effect should more clearly state the intentions of Our Ball Club--from the Instructional League Level right up to Our Major League Squad.

Under new management and attempting to get on the same page, a new formula for success is being written. The search for a winning tradition for DC, accepted and expected from The New York Yankees, The St. Louis Cardinals, The Los Angeles Dodgers and, of late, The Boston Red Sox and The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Each of those teams follow a specific plan. A consistent pattern and approach to the game which Our Washington Nationals have set out to realize. But as night's like this one prove--building a team is never that easy of a road to follow. The guide map never openly presents the adversity to come. DC's team is presently grading their wins and losses on a curve right now, while striving to find their useful and winning parts.

Final Score from Nationals Park where Welcome Home!! was on The African Queen's and my mind upon seeing Livan Hernandez warm up wearing The Curly "W" again in person: The Florida Marlins 9 and Our Washington Nationals 5. Loss Number 90 in 136 Games a stoic reminder that DC's Team still has some ways to go. Determinations are being made on who moves forward and who is left behind. And the new boss in town named Mike Rizzo is taking full charge of the situation. Under the circumstances, one more defeat really doesn't alter Our Future.

Game Notes & Highlights

Livan Hernandez just couldn't find the plate early tonight. Even Pitching Coach Steve McCatty headed out to talk with Livo 24 pitches into his first inning. Which had me wondering what would Former Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire have told Hernandez in the same situation. St.Claire knew Livan well. McCatty just starting. Not making any judgement, just curious, but whatever McCatty said Ole' Number 61 responded and struck out the next batter faced to end that very long top half of the 1st. Livan Hernandez only going five innings while allowing six runs--all earned. He wasn't sharp and it showed on every hard hit baseball The Fish smacked off of him. Hernandez now standing with a 7-10 personal record for this season, split between The Mets and Nationals.

Garate did make his Major League debut and it was a dubious one. Hayes with his first Major League home run off Victor to greet him to The Big Leagues. And Our New Number 56 giving up one more run when Jorge Cantu drilled a double to left center scoring Cameron Maybin with The Marlin's 8th run of this affair. Nervousness maybe, but Garate should have retired Hayes when he had him down 0-2 in the count.

Speaking of Maybin--in the bottom of the 3rd inning--Cristian Guzman (batting lefthanded) sliced an opposite field liner into the left-centerfield gap. Cameron, the speedy Florida Centerfielder with gazelle speed moved swiftly to cut off the stroked baseball. And as the fast moving object was slicing to the ground, Cameron Maybin dove to his right--left glove hand extended--face planted himself and caught the baseball in his mitt for The Defensive Play Of This Game. A really nice effort that helped get his teammate--starter Josh Johnson--through five complete frames and record his 14th win against just 4 losses.

10 hits by Washington's Lineup this evening. Josh Bard with a two run RBI Pinch Hit Double in the bottom of the 7th. Elijah Dukes with a triple and subsequent run scored too. But overall, DC's Team couldn't sustain many rallies, especially with Ryan Zimmerman and Livan Hernandez grounding into two key double plays.

And doesn't it seem like Hanley Ramirez hammers out at least one home run in every series played between these two teams? Again this evening, a two run shot off Livan which was Hanley's 20th for the season and 99th of his Major League Career. Also, Former Nationals Pitcher Brian Sanches finished off tonight's game on the mound for The Marlins. A completely different pitcher than seen last year at Nationals Park--Brian attacks the strike zone and challenges hitters. Something, he apparently didn't have confidence in during his Inaugural Season at Nationals Park.

The Home Plate Umpire tonight was veteran Crew Chief Tim McClelland. From our vantage point in Section 218 behind Washington's Dugout--we can pretty accurately tell whether any pitch is high or low in the strike zone. But whether that ball is over the plate or not is a completely different matter. Still, this evening it was clear most every pitcher--from both teams--were mighty upset with McClelland's ball and strike calls. Everyone was complaining and the disbelieving looks from Nationals & Marlins Pitchers quite entertaining to watch.

Pups In The Park night brought 75 Pets & Their Owners to Nationals Park in Section 201. A small grass field was laid down on the nearby ramp overlooking the leftfield line. The sight of the dogs sitting in their seats actually quite entertaining. And as one person mentioned to me while taking in the moment: "These dogs are better behaved than some of the kids in attendance!!" One dog was even named "Fan Of The Game". An event worth repeating this Sunday at Nationals Park during the conclusion of this three game set with The Marlins.

Additionally, The Washington Humane Society brought a handful of dogs to Nationals Park looking for new homes. Fans were invited to Centerfield Plaza near the Exxon Kids Zone to view, handle and decide whether their love was good enough for the pets. Staff was available to answer any questions and set up any adoption for completion.

The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation auctioned off some seriously nice jerseys and memorabilia this evening on South Capitol Street. Frank Robinson, Adam Dunn and Willie Harris signed uniform tops. 2006 Nationals signed team bat. Home Plate signed by Jesus Flores, Wil Nieves & Josh Bard. Baseball signed by Stephen Strasburg and other signed baseballs. Additionally, Blasts From The Past!! were back. Jerseys & Baseballs signed by players no longer under contract to Washington. This evening, Sohna and I picked up an Aaron Boone perfectly signed baseball. Total dollar amount raised for Saturday's Auction Items: $2335.00.

CareFirst Blue Cross and Blue Shield presented a $25,000 Check to The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington. A donation in response to the "K for Kids" program which grows each time a Washington Nationals Pitcher strikes out an opposing batter in every single baseball game. Elijah Dukes & Justin Maxwell participated in the pre-game presentation.

Teddy sat out tonight's 4th Inning Presidents Race. Official word being Number 26 pulled a hamstring warming up before the race and is listed as "DAY TO DAY"--words well known by any fan of Our Washington Nationals. As for the event itself, George just sort of ran away easily to victory. Abe and Tom not threats this evening especially after Abe stumbled over a barrier placed in his path by George.

And finally--Chicken Man--you know Hugh--who always sits behind Our Washington Nationals Dugout waving his rubber chicken. Tonight, he was sporting his new "Tony Plush" Number 1 Jersey for his enjoyment of Nyjer Morgan--out for the season with a broken left hand.

Tonight's InGame Photos--Luis M. Alvarez (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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