Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Z-Man Had Done It Again

Maybe more improbable than his dramatic bottom of the 9th home run off Chien Ming Wang of The New York Yankees in 2006 at RFK Stadium.

More fun than his Fourth Of July Fireworks game winning drive in the bottom of the 9th off Joe Borowski of The Florida Marlins just a few shorts weeks later during that second year of Our Washington Nationals existence.

Not as bone chilling, but certainly as exciting as his GRAND SLAM off Jorge Julio (MY BOY!!) on Mother's Day. The AFTER morning at 1:42AM witnessed by 76 folks at RFK Stadium in 2007.

Certainly more dramatic than his WALK-OFF HOME RUN on Opening Night at Nationals Park.

And for the record--NOW OFFICIALLY--THE GREATEST MOMENT IN NATIONAL PARK'S YOUNG HISTORY--even better than Ronnie Belliard's walk-off home run against The Baltimore Orioles on June 29th, 2008.

Yes, Ryan Zimmerman had done it again in the bottom of the 9th with nobody out and Our Washington Nationals down one run to The Florida Marlins. The very team The Z-Man has tormented over most of his entire young career. Yet, this tremendous moment enriched because it came after so much anguish. With potential victory at hand--twice previously--heart's were ripped out thanks to blown and wasted chances by DC's Team. Elation followed by sorrow that when finally overcome can lead to incredible jubilation. The perfect setup this gorgeous Sunday afternoon on South Capitol Street for Our Franchise Player.

No, it doesn't really get much better than this. The very sight of those who had faithfully waited until the climatic end reveling in the stands. Witnesses to a game winning drive by Zimmy not be forgotten. Simply because the prologue was equally as heart stomping as the ending. The twisting plot to reach the finish mind boggling.

For nearly eight complete innings Our Washington Nationals had been totally controlled by The Florida Marlins. No offense to speak of, just enough pitching to be left behind by a two to nothing score. And not much hope of ending our latest losing streak--a season high eight games. Yet, when many in the announced crowd of 22,325 had walked out of the park, giving up, feeling this Sunday affair was all but over--the two most exciting innings in Our South Capitol Street Ballpark's History played out.

The very reason why The African Queen and I will NEVER LEAVE ANY GAME EARLY.

A two out rally by Washington in the bottom of the 8th started by a simple walk taken by Elijah Dukes now found the bases loaded for Mike Morse. The free swinging pinch hitter that Interim Manager Jim Riggleman sent to the plate. The very right decision as it turned out when Our Number 28 ripped a single up the middle sending Dukes and pinch runner Jorge Padilla home with the game tying runs. Sending Nationals Park into a frenzy, then nearly into disgust, when the attempted toss home to get Jorge by Florida's Cameron Maybin scooted past their catcher, Ronny Paulino, scooted past their pitcher Kiko Calero which then found Morse scooting for second base--advancing into scoring position. Only problem, Wil Nieves running in front of him had not scooted to third. Two men standing on the same base does not a rally make. And just as quickly as Our Washington Nationals had risen to the occasion, tied this game and were positioning themselves for a win, they had just as swiftly ended and scooted themselves right out of the inning. The sight of First Base Coach Marquis Grissom walking backwards into the dugout lecturing Morse on his baseruning blunder giving the impression Grissom wanted to scoot Mike Morse right in his rear end.

An indescribable reaction from the crowd. Disbelief turned to even more sorrow when Mike MacDougal trotted out for the top of the 9th and proceeded to give up two runs--thanks to a Nick Johnson two out single. Gut wrenching because just one play earlier Willie Harris had seemingly saved the day again for Washington--nailing the ever speedy and flashy Emilio Bonifacio at the plate. Our Number 22 rushing in from second base on a grounder by Chris Coghlan and Bonifacio running on contact. With the infield drawn in, Harris snared the hard hit grounder in his glove, then snapped a perfect throw to the plate, handled deftly by Nieves--who was barreled over by Bonificio. Home Plate Umpire Andy Fletcher with the definitive OUT CALL!! And Our Fans in the stands with the definitive Standing Ovation for The Defensive Play Of This Game.

The Ups & Downs that only baseball can provide. Jubilation and distress when you least expect it--many times--at the same time. The very reason why baseball is The Greatest Game.

Now down 4-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth, who would have figured Our Washington Nationals had The Florida Marlins right where they wanted them? Willie Harris starting Rally Time!! by slugging out the very first offering by Florida's Closer--Leo Nunez. A jacked shot into Section 237 of the Scoreboard Walk that re-invigorated the crowd, brought Washington back to within one run. And got everyone back on their feet, and truly stomping when "The Guz" followed that home run by hitting a hard hit grounder on Leo's very next pitch up the middle--to the second base side of the bag. Hustling all the way, Cristian Guzman JUST beat a jump toss thrown by The Marlins' 2nd Baseman Dan Uggla. SAFE!! Safe at first!!

The heart throbbing moments continuing and with now The Z-Man stepping to the plate.

Could Ryan Zimmerman possibly do it again?

Bottom of the 9th, game on the line, on a holiday weekend no less.

Pressure which no other player donning a jersey representing Our Washington Nationals has so consistently excelled.

And he didn't disappoint.

No, it didn't matter that Our Number 11 was hitless in four previous At-Bats this day.

It didn't matter that Zimmy had been beaten all afternoon on changeups and off-speed pitches.

And it didn't matter that Leo Nunez blew a 96 MPH fastball right past him in this crucial At-Bat.

What mattered was that Ryan Zimmerman knew what he wanted to hit.

Exactly what The Florida Marlins had been getting him out on all this very game.

The Change Up which Changed Up this very game for one final time and led to one spectacular finish.

As everyone stood, waiting, clapping, roaring in anticipation, Leo Nunez rared back and tossed in that 88 MPH Change Up.

Expecting it, wanting it, Ryan Zimmerman then downright SLUGGED IT OUT OF THE PARK. Zimmy standing momentarily at Home Plate watching his majestically launched flight. And before that rocket even landed in The Red Porch seats, Our Washington Nationals were jumping out of the dugout. The Florida Marlins were just as quickly jumping off the field. And the faithful known as The Fans of Our Washington Nationals were jumping all over themselves.

NATIONALS PARK ERUPTING IN JOY LIKE NOT SEEN IN SOME TIME!! The roar so loud, the jumping up and down so great--the concrete actually shook below our feet in Club Level. Pandemonium--reminiscent of RFK Stadium--The Good Old Days.

Incredibly, The Z-Man had done it again!! A Walk-Off Two Run Homer in the bottom 9th to BEAT THE MARLINS.

Picture Perfect On A Perfect Late Summer's Day Afternoon.

Sohna and I have not gone home happier all season.

Final Score from Nationals Park where Ryan Zimmerman treated a Labor Day Weekend Crowd to The Finest Moment of 2009: Our Washington Nationals 5 and The Florida Marlins 4. Before the decisive blow, DC's Team had saved this game late twice, then blown this game late twice--making Curly "W" Number 47 as exhilarating a victory of any in the previous five years since Baseball Returned to Washington. And the Bang!! Zoom!! Of The Fireworks!! signaling that The Z-Man is truly one of the finest players in this game. And although Chad Cordero may no longer play for DC's Team, his most famous moniker given him right here on Nats320 now has been given caretaker status into those most trusted hands of Ryan Zimmerman: "The New Most Thrilling Closer In The Game".

Yeah, that was one great finish, because the battle to reach this great ending in Our Washington Nationals History was as excruciating and as exasperating as any rollercoaster ride that has ever played with our minds before.

Game Notes & Highlights

J.D. Martin pitched very admirably this afternoon. Nearly finishing seven complete, the rookie hurler managed a good hitting Florida lineup well. Allowing a solo homer to Nats Killer Hanley Ramirez in the 4th (Hanley's 100th Career Home Run) and one more when Ron Villone relieved him with two outs and proceeded to give up a line drive single to right field scoring Cameron Maybin in that 7th frame. Martin did a fine job and left to a standing ovation from the faithful. J.D. wasn't involved in the final decision but he flashed the moxie of a young pitcher with a better understanding of The Big League Game.

Thanks to Zimmerman's heroics--Mike MacDougal got lucky and received a personal victory instead of a loss. Our Number 54 did not pitch well and was gifted one of those Thank God I am not to totally blame--thank you very much wins--due to Our Number 11.

Florida's Anabel Sanchez pitched much like the rookie that threw a No-Hitter in 2006 before having shoulder surgery. On the repair most of the past three seasons, The Marlins Fire Baller was reaching 94 MPH on his fastball this afternoon and pitched quite a fine game for six innings. Shutout ball while striking out five Washington hitters. He also wasn't involved in the final decision as his bullpen let him down.

There were enough hits this afternoon, but not much offense--at least until the final 1 and 1/2 innings were played. 20 combined base hits by Washington and Florida this day--nine walks granted also. A surprising low scoring affair until the final six outs were recorded.

In the top of the 5th inning, Sanchez roped a liner near the right field line. Elijah Dukes moved speedily to the ball and when it began to drop--Elijah turned over his glove hand--palm up--and made a really nice running one handed catch. The Defensive Play Of This Game, at least until Willie Harris--playing second base late--threw out the ever speedy Emilio Bonifacio on that ground ball hit by Chris Coghlan at the plate in the top of the 9th. A terrific play to retire a dangerous runner moments before Nick Johnson singled in The Marlins two go ahead runs that seemingly put Washington in their final hole.

Speaking of Dukes, he is starting to take more pitches at the plate again. Two more hits, one walk, raising his average to .260 from .237 just a week or so ago. Our Number 34 still is too aggressive at the plate at times, but Elijah is more importantly now laying off the sliders and off-speed stuff thrown well off the plate. Pitches which he has consistently been getting himself out on in the past.

Teddy was back and racing during the 4th Inning Presidents Race this afternoon. His "Day To Day" status due to injury not a bother. But still Our Lovable Loser could not finish first in the race as George and Tom battled head to head to the finish with George taking the honors--by what amounted to--his one very large nose.

Pups In The Park II Day brought 75 more Dogs and their Owners to Nationals Park in Section 201. The special event so popular, there is talk of extending the program for 2010 for at least one home game per month. Again, a dog was named Fan Of The Game, this time accompanied by an owner/parent with a baby. A winning combination in anyone's league.

And finally--"Hey!! How you guys doing!!" exclaimed a smiling Nick Johnson to Sohna and I. Since his trade from Our Washington Nationals to The Florida Marlins on July 31st, The African Queen and I have not had the proper opportunity to thank him for his efforts in a DC Uniform. And we wanted to wish Nicky well in his future. Thankfully, we had that opportunity after today's game--the very last time The Marlins come to Our Nation's Capital in 2009. "We miss you so much," stated The African Queen (and she does). "Thank you for all your support," responded Nick while hugging Sohna. It was a nice moment shared with a baseball player we respect for his demeanor and effort given--both on and off the field of play.

Today's InGame Photos--Haraz N. Ghanbari (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Jay said...

I always think of a fan base as a set of concentric circles. The inside circle is the small set of fans like yourself Nats320, who are loyal to the team despite all the losses, and you stay until the end of the game, no matter what.

I also believe that if and when things get better for the Nats, the victories will taste sweeter for you guys because of your loyalty.

Anyway, savor these moments. Nothing like a Ryan Zimmerman walk off homer!

John R. said...

Interesting that you took a photo of the final pitch. I got the same shot from the third base side. I think we all could just feel like something big was about to happen on this pitch. And then the home run! (But no fireworks yesterday! I'm guessing that was to avoid scaring the canines in the crowd. My Three Year Old also appreciated not having to hear the Bang Zoom.)

Another promotion the Nationals had yesterday was $1 Kids day. And with three kids 12 and under, it was a great opportunity for us to get some excellent seats in Section 115 for a total of $66 (1@$63 and 3@$1) instead of $252 (4@$63). Of course, we would have probably just sat in Infield Gallery at $24 each or maybe not bring as many to the game. It is really nice that the team will occasionally make it easier to bring the whole family and get a chance to see the game up close like we did yesterday. And we usually end up spending any ticket savings on concessions anyway!

And what a great ending to a beautiful day and game yesterday. I was feeling so good after the game that we decided to take the long way to the Nats Express and depart via the Home Plate Gate. I had never seen the year markers that progress from 1859 to 2005 as you walk up to the stadium on that side. Very nice! And then we saw fans waiting outside of a parking lot hoping for autographs. My daughter got autographs from Wil Nieves, Josh Willingham, Saul Rivera and others. We saw Rob Dibble and his massive, tattooed arms. And we saw Willie Harris in his beautiful restored 1960s-era convertible. But the highlight was Nick Johnson walking out to a waiting stretch limousine and stopping to talk with Nationals fans and sign autographs as well. He seemed to be a really nice person.

And then to complete this perfect day, it rained at 8 or 9 PM last night, just enough so we could get some water for our lawns but not at a time that would interfere with anyone's Sunday activites. Perfect!

John R. said...

If anyone's interested, click on the John R. link to see another photo of the final pitch of Sunday's game.

paul said...

I wasn't there, and as the 9th inning quickly progressed I canceled the idea of getting out my bike and then watching the end of the game. Not enough time!

It's difficult to disagree with the most loyal, dedicated, positive sports fan I have ever met, but I must say the HR to inaugurate the new stadium is still the #1 moment to me. After making 24 outs in a row, as the Nats did that night, you can't match that HR for the unexpected.

You should listen to Charlie's call of Zim's HR yesterday if you get the chance. Charlie enjoyed it.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Paul: We did listen to the archives of Charlie & Dave's Home Run call on Sunday--they were living in the moment. For the first time in a while they were calling a down to the last pitch game. One with a lot of twists leading to the ending. That's fun no matter the team records.

And as for the best home run in Nationals Park that's subjective for each person to judge on their own merits. That fine and always good to chat about. What stands out in Sunday's game is Washington had lost 8 straight to that point, never had a lead for over one week, seemed to have little chance of winning until a miraculous rally in the 8th. But blew that chance to pull ahead with poor baserunning, then immediately gave up the lead and still came back to win at the end.

That's good Stuff and very special.

Ronnie Belliard's home run against The Orioles last year was special and our favorite until Sunday because it came with two outs and two strikes and Washington down by two. For us that beats Opening Night at Nationals Park in 2008 because the Z-Man's homer won a tie ballgame. The fact it was done on Opening Night, the christening of the new ballpark is what makes it extra special.

They are ALL FABULOUS MOMENTS. No doubt about it and fun to consider what is the best. But for our money, Sunday was extra special too thank to all the negativity surrounding the event.


JD said...

John R. - You are correct. The Nats did nix the fireworks both Sat night and Sunday due to the Pups in the Park promotion. I worked the event and worked closely with the Nats rep in charge of it. For those of you who were unable to attend, keep your eyes peeled next season, my guess is there will be more of them!!

Oh- it was nice to meet the Nats320 team in person on Sunday!!


Unknown said...

I loved your photos & entry of the event. We had a great time meeting all the dogs & owners that came out both days.

If you use at all, we'd love to have you share your photos with our new group:

Thanks again!

Kristin Moran & Jen Stein,
Owners, Fetch! Pet Care of Herndon