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Friday, April 27, 2007

Chico and streaking Nats halt Mets, Perez, 4-3

Well, now, THIS is more like it!

The Nationals have had, to put it lightly, a rough April. They'd gone through their first 22 games without scoring a run in the first inning, a modern National League record, and that tied them with the '52 White Sox for the second longest such streak (the longest stretch without scoring in the first inning belongs to the '48 White Sox, with 28 straight games).

Tonight, against possibly the strongest offense in the National League (certainly the NL East), they demonstrated that they would not quit trying.

Austin Kearns showed some two-out thunder, smashing a 3-run homer to center field. It must have gone 415 feet. Bang, zoom, went the fireworks, as I heard Charlie Slowes shout on the radio. Yes, I wasn't there to see it live, I was on my way to the stadium. My friend Kathryn and I marveled at what we'd just heard, though, and it was interesting entering the stadium with the Nats in the lead for once! Kearns has been one of the Nats best hitters of late, and he only went 1 for 4 tonight, but what a one!

Matt Chico notched only his second win, but considering the hitters he was up against, it was a big one. He also got his first major league hit. One cool tidbit about Matt Chico, as reported by MASN's Debbi Taylor, is that Chico got to know Hall-of-Fame center-fielder Duke Snider when he himself was in high school in California. Snider liked watching Chico pitch, and he counseled him to maintain a cool composure on the mound. Matt certainly did tonight, as he threw 98 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, allowing 9 hits, but only 2 earned runs.

Ryan Report: Church only went 1 for 3, but he had a CRUCIAL RBI, the winning RBI, on what was almost a double. He may have been tagged out at 2nd, but he got Dmitri Young home. He made several great catches in center field, too. Zimmerman went 1 for 4, and he showed some great defense, too.

Saul Rivera pitched a great inning, allowing no hits or runs, but Jon Rauch struggled in his one inning, allowing 2 hits and 1 earned run on 22 pitches. Chad Cordero, the "Chief of Cardiology" was more merciful tonight, closing out the 9th inning and notching his 3rd save of the season on 14 pitches. He seems to have found himself this week, and I hope that he is feeling more comfortable. Perhaps it's the nicer weather.

In short, when the Nats play good, solid defense, have decent pitching and don't beat themselves with errors, they can hang in with the best in their league. This game was very encouraging. I'm not getting my hopes too high, though, as the Nats are about to face several very good starting pitchers the rest of this weekend and into the road trip.

It was great to finally get back to R.F.K., and apparently the Nats were just as glad to get home, too, if only for three brief games. I hated missing that home stand last week, and it was a lovely night to be at the old ballpark. The threat of rain was overstated, the temperature was around 72 at game time, and it felt wonderful to stretch out in my section. I saw Rico, the best program-vendor in the park, and he had been out sick recently, too. I also understand that a flu has been running rampant through the Nats clubhouse, so I guess I was in good company. Didn't see Ellie, perhaps she's fallen victim to this bug as well. Kathryn and I both got some beef brisket, which was tasting well tonight, and I caught back up with my friend Howard, beer vendor supreme. Howard surprised me with an INCREDIBLY nice gift - an old Washington Senators mug! It has the classic pretzel "W" logo on one side and the player in throwing stance in front of the Capitol on the other - VERY cool! I have to post a photo of this when I can, it's an incredibly cool thing for an old Washington boy like myself to have. It's currently in my car (I'm taking it to work) but I think this is the very same mug:

It was a pretty good crowd for a Friday night in April. It sure sounded as though there were a LOT of Mets fans in attendance. Our fans tried mightily to shout them down whenever they cheered loudly for their team. One little kid in my section had his face painted in Nationals colors and kept exhorting fans to start a wave.

"Teddy" motored into a win in the President's Race on a mini-motorcycle, but was disqualified, so "Tom" notched up another win for himself. I think that Teddy will win when he wants to win, there's no other explanation for it.

What a wonderful pleasure it is to end a work week by taking a friend to a ballgame in pretty weather and just relaxing with a beer and watching the home team win a thriller.

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