Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Double Edged Sword

Being aggressive in order to force the opposition to make a key mistake--always welcomed.

Being overly aggressive without thinking through the situation at hand--dangerous.

The Double Edged Sword came into play this afternoon at overcast and damp Nationals Park. And Nyjer Morgan found himself on the short end of an aggressive move that directly affected this game's outcome.

With Our Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers tied up at two in the bottom of the 6th--Our Number 1 stepped to the plate with Pitcher Craig Stammen standing on first base. Stammen had just knocked in Alberto Gonzalez with two outs with a beautifully driven single to center. South Capitol Street was hopping over yet another comeback from a fresh Washington Team that has never given up through the first 18 games played so far in 2010. Yet, what was soon to come was both exhilarating and frustrating at the very same time.

The Dodgers Wonder Kin, 22-Year Old lefty starter, Clayton Kershaw, was in trouble. His manager Joe Torre knew it and had L.A.'s Bullpen warming up. Only thing was--Torre wanted his southpaw hurler to face the lefty swinging Morgan right now. Big mistake, when Nyjer rapped a slicing liner down the left field line--a go ahead run sure to score with Craig Stammen running as hard as his legs would take him. As Our Number 35 rounded third base and headed for home--The Dodgers' leftfielder today--Xavier Paul--retrieved the bouncing baseball in the corner and threw to his cutoff man--Blake DeWitt. Washington's 3rd Base Coach Pat Listach rightfully waved Stammen home. DeWitt realized, right away, he had no chance of catching Craig. And with Nationals Park erupting in cheer over D.C.'s 3rd run of the ballgame possibly scoring--Nyjer Morgan set sail around not only 1st base, but 2nd base, and incredibly toward 3rd as well.

Like Why?

Running far faster than Craig Stammen will ever run in his life, Our Number 1 ran blindly toward 3rd Base. He didn't seem to realize DeWitt was about to catch Paul's throw. And he didn't pay attention to the game playing out directly in front of him. Nyjer Morgan didn't have to look at Pat Listach. He didn't have to depend on someone else. He only had to use good baseball sense and realize any attempt to force his way to 3rd--would put Stammen crossing the plate in jeopardy.

Nyjer Morgan never stopped rounding 2nd base, and he didn't slow down either to let Craig score first. The Result--Blake DeWitt threw out Washington's Leadoff Hitter on a clean throw to Casey Blake manning 3rd. The 3rd out of the bottom of the 6th that occurred a precious few seconds before Craig Stammen even crossed home plate.

The standing and cheering home fans quieted--rather quickly--stunned over the unexpected development.

3rd Base Umpire Jerry Crawford called Morgan out and 1st Base Umpire Phil Cuzzi--covering home--properly waved off any score from Stammen.

Being overly aggressive, Nyjer Morgan had ran into the final out without thinking of the consequences at hand. Yeah, Our Washington Nationals had many, many more chances later. In fact, this game would run a good 13 innings. And Morgan would be an instigator in each of their late rallies. But after D.C.'s Team lost this afternoon to The Los Angeles Dodgers, this one play in the bottom of the 6th inning will always be remembered as the pivotal moment.

No one wants to see Washington just sit back and wait for things to happen. Forcing the issue can pay off. But when over-aggressiveness leads to a direct shift to the command of the game--that's failure. Love Nyjer Morgan, love the spark plug attitude he brings to the ballpark each and every day. But Washington was moments away from taking over this game and Nyjer Morgan's baserunning lapse killed any such opportunity.

Final Score from Nationals Park where, no question, Washington had every chance to win--multiple times--but left 13 runners on base in scoring position: The Los Angeles Dodgers 4 and Our Washington Nationals 3 in 13 innings. Ian Desmond got caught in a rundown between 3rd and home in the 7th. Pudge Rodriguez thrown out at the plate in the 13th. D.C.'s Team never gave up--a continuing positive trend in 2010--but they lost playing an overly aggressive style that came back to haunt them.

Better days are ahead, but on this Saturday Afternoon, April 24, Nyjer Morgan was the pacesetter when he ran himself and his team right out of the key and decisive 6th inning. A rally killer in which Washington really never recovered.

Sporting a 9-9 record after just 18 games is positive direction for a franchise coming off two straight 100-loss seasons. But today's extra inning defeat to Los Angeles was bittersweet because Washington really should have won. And that's The Double Edged Sword that rises when any team exceeds expectations and everyone--STARTS--WANTING--MORE--NOW.

The belief Our Washington Nationals CAN put that Curly "W" in the book.

Game Notes & Highlights

Craig Stammen allowed two home runs to The Dodgers' Casey Blake. The first an absolute blast to right centerfield in the top of the 2nd with one runner aboard. Blake's second in the 7th--a solo shot. Stammen would finish seven complete. Again, he didn't walk anyone. And expect for those two pitches to Blake--he was in command. Craig also wielded quite the bat at the plate with a double to left in the bottom of the 4th and an rbi single to center scoring Alberto Gonzalez with game tying run at two--moments before Nyjer Morgan's baserunning miscue. Stammen pitched well. He just didn't win.

Brian Bruney pitched a scoreless 8th. Matt Capps the 9th and 10th. Miguel Batista the 11th, 12th & 13th. Los Angeles finally getting to Batista for the eventual game winning score when Rafael Furcol singled with two outs, stole second and scored on a Russell Martin single to center.

Washington had another prime opportunity to tie this game up in the bottom of the 13th with Pudge Rodriguez on 3rd base (pinch hit single) and a Nyjer Morgan double with one out off L.A.'s Carlos Monasterios. But Ian Desmond followed with a grounder right toward 3rd base--where Casey Blake fielded and threw out the hard charging Rodriguez at home for out number two. Cristian Guzman then followed with a fly ball to left that Xavier Paul caught for the final out of this game.

An Ian Desmond triple in the very first inning resulted in Washington's first score when "The Guz" grounded out to plate Desmond. Washington's final score of the game came in the bottom of the 8th when Nyjer Morgan singled home Adam Kennedy from second base. That tally sent this game into extra innings.

Our Manager Jim Riggleman used his entire bench except for Ryan Zimmerman--out injured. Dodgers Manager Joe Torre used his entire bullpen and bench--save for catcher A.J. Ellis. This 13-inning game took 4 Hours & 20 Minutes to play. The announced crowd was 18,039.

In the top of the 11th, Los Angeles Catcher Russell Martin lofts a deep fly to right over the head of Willie Harris. As usual, Harris doesn't give up on the ball as he races toward the fence. Nearing the green padded wall, Willie realizes the baseball is heading back over his left shoulder--in the opposite direction he's running. Pirouetting right to left now with his back facing the wall--Our Number 22 leaps backwards, raises his left hand--his glove hand--and catches the baseball while smashing into the fence. The Defensive Play Of This Game that was enhanced when Willie Harris immediately yells out "YEAH!!" as he rolls to a stop on the warning track. Good Stuff!!

Sporting their new Red Curly "W" Jerseys--The Racing Presidents raced twice today. Once in their typical middle of the 4th outing. And again in the 13th inning. George took the checkered flag early. Abe in the last race.

The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation hosted their Saturday Afternoon Live Auction. Willie Harris and Brian Bruney signed jerseys and a Ryan Zimmerman autographed bat were among the items up for bid which brought in $1355 for Our Washington Nationals charitable arm.

And finally, The Malaria Vaccine Initiative was on hand at Nationals Park today on the main concourse distributing literature and information on World Malaria Day. The worldwide effort to stamp out malaria and improve lives of millions across the world.

Today's In-Game Photos--Nick Wass (AP)
All Other Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

Chris S. said...

Great afternoon at the park.

I fully agree that the game was lost on the basepaths, not only by Morgan right there but twice including once in the 13th were a man on third with less than two outs ran into an unforced out at the plate.

I agree with you that the less-cheesy Presidents' Races are more fun.

I was going to write a full report on my afternoon (we sat in sec. 117, which was amazing), but I went out and time has passed and I forget much of it.

I will say this: This Ian Desmond fellow is going to be NUTS.