Saturday, June 26, 2010

In The Most Awful Way Imaginable

Sitting waterside at an Inner Harbor Restaurant early this morning in Baltimore, our friend Pat looks over at me and says: "You still looked steamed?"

SBF: "I am. That was an awful loss to an awful team in the most awful way imaginable."

The latest chapter in this Tale Between Two Cities finished when Our Washington Nationals could not turn a tailor made double play in the bottom of the 9th inning at Camden Yards. What seemed like a simple 6-4-3 inning ender was blown after Ian Desmond scooped up The Baltimore Orioles Julio Lugo's grounder at shortstop and tossed the baseball swiftly to Cristian Guzman coming across second base. The problem? "The Guz" was arriving a little late and a little awkwardly on the bag, catching the baseball to record out number two, but then proceeded to relay a bad throw toward Adam Dunn at First Base. A low and away sinker that Our Number 44 failed to realize he had to stop--NO MATTER WHAT--with the game winning run motoring toward home. Instead of coming off the bag to block the baseball, Dunn stretched out with his glove hand and completely missed it.

The last of four Washington errors for the evening was the most crucial and most damaging--as The O's Jake Fox raced home from second base with the game winning run. A 7-6 Baltimore Victory that brought what was left of a huge crowd of 43,484 roaring with delight at Oriole Park. And putting the look of dejection on the faces of every single fan of Our Washington Nationals having sat through this awful ending.

A six run lead blown by D.C.'s Team on the very night Nyjer Morgan played his finest game wearing a Nationals Uniform. Morgan with four hits, three runs scored, one run batted in and THE DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THIS YEAR and maybe, The Finest Defensive Play in the short history of Our Washington Nationals.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Baltimore's Corey Patterson drove a deep fly to right center off a pitch from Washington's J.D. Martin. So high and so over the wall, there appeared to be no way for Nyjer to catch it. As the baseball carried over the wall--looking to settle near the front row of the Eutaw Street Bleachers, Our Number 1 used all his energy and speed to climb the padded wall at Camden Yards--reach out and over and snare the baseball with his right gloved hand--inches from a fan leaning over and attempting to retrieve the baseball himself. A FABULOUS PLAY that brought a standing ovation from just about every single person watching in the ballpark. And a wonderful helmet salute and bow in recognition from Patterson himself--toward Morgan in center field--for a job well done too.

Great sportsmanship on behalf of Corey Patterson because he even knew that was one incredible catch. Nobody inside Camden Yards EXPECTED Our Number 1 to make the play. A sure home run robbed--with what looked like in the replays was performed--with the greatest of ease.

Too bad Our Washington Nationals could not ease their way to victory over The Baltimore Orioles after taking a commanding 6-0 advantage? Instead, they fell apart and it was not just because of poor defensive play. Playing an American League Team in an American League Park, Our Manager Jim Riggleman wasted his bullpen by managing a National League Game. When J.D. Martin got into a little bit of trouble in the bottom of the 5th by giving up two runs--but still up by four--Manager Jim called on Doug Slaten FOR ONE BATTER. Two batters later, Miguel Batista allowed a third run to score. In the bottom of the sixth, Our Manager used Batista, Sean Burnett & Drew Storen to record the three outs.

Burning through his bullpen unnecessarily with the lead, Jim Riggleman found himself in trouble for his quick hooks when Tyler Clippard was called on in the bottom of the 8th and produced his worst outing of the season--giving up the game tying runs--including a pinch hit two run homer to The O's Scott Moore. That's bound to happen to any pitcher, but Our Washington Nationals found themselves now in a huge bind. With only Tyler Walker, Joel Peralta and Matt Capps remaining to use out of the pen--Our Number 5 didn't trust those first two as options.

Another crucial error, this time of the mental kind, when--quite incredibly--Tyler Clippard was sent out to the mound to pitch the bottom of the 9th inning after already having thrown 35 pitches in the bottom of the 8th. I vividly recall Pat stating upon seeing Tyler step out of the dugout: "This doesn't look good." And it didn't. In fact, it was a shocking personnel decision that quickly turned for the worse when Our Number 36 walked Matt Wieters with one out and gave up a single to that pesky Scott Moore to put Baltimore Runners on 1st and 2nd. The final set up for the final miscue for what should have been the final out of the bottom of the 9th inning.

Instead, the set up for the game winning run.

The sure double play ground ball hit by Julio Lugo off a Matt Capps' pitch to Ian Desmond at shortstop--the relay of which was thrown away by Cristian Guzman and never blocked by Adam Dunn manning 1st base. Pinch runner Jake Fox, running for Wieters, scoring the game winning run in the most awful way imaginable for any fan of Our Washington Nationals.

When "Guzzie's" toss scooted past Dunn's glove at first base, I remained seated while thousands of Orioles fans sitting around us began screaming. "Game Over" I quietly said to Pat. "In the most awful way possible," he responded.

Final Score from Camden Yards where not many regular season losses could hurt as much as this one: The Baltimore Orioles 7 and Our Washington Nationals 6. Loss Number 41 of 2010 just had to rip any D.C. Fan's heart out. For the first four and one half innings, Washington played one of it's better games of the season--quality starting pitching, timely hitting. Our offense was coming alive while Nyjer Morgan performed a miracle of a defensive gem.

Everything was sailing along smoothly.

Then, just like that, a completely different ballgame was witnessed over the final half. Guzman with two errors, Ian Desmond two--all resulting in four unearned runs scored by Baltimore. Our Manager Jim Riggleman burning through his bullpen unnecessarily playing with the Designated Hitter in an American League Park--on the very night he needed to save as many pitchers as possible for Baltimore's late surge. The evening in which "Clipp & Save" provided no discount to the Curly "W".

Not only did this game provide an awful ending for Nats Fans, it was pretty depressing too. When The African Queen and I arrived back home early this morning around 2:30AM after a late dinner at The Inner Harbor with Pat & Christy--all we really wanted to do was sleep this latest defeat off. Our headaches too big after watching Our Washington Nationals lose in the most awful of ways imaginable.

This latest edition of the Tale Of Two Cities concluding because D.C.'s Team simply could not turn a double play after burning through their bullpen.

Game Notes & Highlights

Leading 6-2 at the time--after Ian Desmond made a nice diving stop on a ground ball hit by Nick Markakis but proceeded to force a throw to second resulting in a run scoring error in the bottom of the 5th--Jim Riggleman decided to replace his starter J.D. Martin with Doug Slaten. With Baltimore runners now on 2nd and 3rd with one out and the powering hitting lefty Luke Scott stepping to the plate--that's a managerial decision that's fine for the moment. Scott has the capability of socking the baseball out of the park. Luke could have made this game a one run game with one swing of the bat. But after Slaten struck out Scott, it made little sense to replace him with Miguel Batista--who promptly gave up a run scoring single to Adam Jones. Just a waste of a relief pitcher. Only half way through this game, no reason to start using up your pitchers so quickly. We are playing American League rules here.

22 pitches were thrown by Batista, Burnett and Storen in a scoreless 6th inning to record all three outs. Sean Burnett called on just to face one batter--Corey Patterson. Again, it's still a three run game at the time--why?

And when Clippard was roughed up pretty hard, Manager Jim didn't trust Walker or Peralta with the game on the line. Sending Tyler Clippard back to the mound in the 9th was a poor decision. Sometimes you just have to trust who you have, not just what you think you have.

The Baltimore Orioles had no right to win this game. Our Washington Nationals handed it to them. What was Guzman thinking on that final play? Adam Dunn knocked in four runs on a double and sacrifice fly, but struck out twice with runners in scoring position and was a key player involved in that final defensive miscue of this game. He didn't make the bad throw, but as a first baseman in that situation--with the game winning run heading around third base--Adam Dunn has to stop that errant toss by Cristian Guzman--no matter what.

No matter what--get your body in front of the ball--give your team the chance to face another batter.

Matt Capps made the perfect pitch and received the perfect grounder. And watched his teammates mess up a perfect inning ending double play. Capps just dropped his head as Fox scored the winning run. Guzman and Dunn looked at each other, painfully, as they slowly walked off the field.

Can't say much more about Nyjer Morgan, for the first time all season, he performed exactly as Our Washington Nationals have wanted to see all season--catalyst at the top of the order--defensive wizard in centerfield. A tremendous effort. Really.

Hard to believe, but Camden Yards is nearly 20 years old now. And it's still as beautiful as ever. A great ballpark. Just a wonderful place to watch any baseball game.

Loved catching up with Dwayne Herndon from Nationals Park's NJ's Pretzels (formerly Noah's) in Baltimore. Dwayne also has the pretzel concession for Oriole Park--his stand located on the first base side of the ballpark on the main concourse. No Curly "W" Pretzels sold there though. And for the second year in a row--the Navy Midshipmen were in attendance at a Nats/O's Game --taking pictures and signing autographs to promote Navy Football in Annapolis.

After batting practice concluded, Stephen Strasburg signed autographs for a few fans standing behind the visitors dugout. Roger Bernadina signed for some time a little farther down the left field line.

And finally, Sohna and I really had some great company tonight--Nationals Season Ticket Holders Pat & Christy sat with us for the game. Discounting the loss, we had a wonderful time at the ballpark. There is nothing better than to sit and watch a baseball game with those who also understand it.

Nyjer Morgan Catch Off MASN TV
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Wombat-socho said...

I have to say, I'm glad STATS had me scoring the Astros/Rangers game, or I would have been suffering through this game too.

Linked at Beltway Baseball.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

I couldn't have summed it up better myself. One thing you missed when you took pictures---the Orioles FINALLY added a "42" monument for Jackie Robinson. I've been complaining about the lack of a monument for many years---back when I was still an Orioles fan.

The current hold-out is the New York Yankees and I assume that the reason they haven't put "42" in Monument Park is because Mariana Rivera is still active, and then they will put two "42"s there---one for Jackie and one for Mariana.

Laurie said...

If you think you were "steamed" last won't make it any better :(
We just got home from the game...Ed and I had a good time in Balti...but a win would have been nicer..