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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nats rebound, rally to 6-4 victory over Braves OR Church cleans Cox's clock

Sometimes, when you expect the worst, life has a way of surprising you.

Take today's weather for instance. It wasn't supposed to be great, and showers were expected at some point. And, indeed, the sky was rather overcast, and rains began around 3:30 or so, and sometime between 4:00 and 4:30, they got really heavy. Suddenly, just before 5:00, the heavy stuff stopped. There was a break in the clouds, and there was just a trace of rain for the next few hours. The rest of the evening was rather pleasant, with a gorgeous sunset.

As it was with the weather, so has it been for the Nationals. Yesterday's loss to the Braves seems like nothing more than a little late-afternoon shower during an otherwise excellent, sunny homestand. Tonight's 6-4, come-from-behind victory over the Braves put the Nats back on a winning track.

Starter Leval Speigner got off to a shaky start for the Nats, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in his 4 innings of play. He threw 58 pitches with 45 strikes (almost 78%). The bullpen of just-called-up lefty Billy Traber, Ray King, Winston Abreau, Saul Rivera, Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch only allowed 2 hits and no runs. Traber got the win, too, and Rauch the save. GREAT job, guys!

The 5th inning was where most of the fun happened. Here's how it broke down according to Stats LLC:

Fick flied out to left fielder W.Harris. Langerhans singled to right. J.Flores pinch-hitting for Traber. J.Flores walked on a full count, Langerhans to second. C.Guzman safe at first on fielding error by second baseman K.Johnson, Langerhans to third, J.Flores to second. Belliard grounded into fielder's choice, shortstop Renteria to second baseman K.Johnson, Langerhans scored, J.Flores to third, Belliard to first, C.Guzman out. Zimmerman walked on a full count, Belliard to second. Church doubled to center, J.Flores scored, Belliard scored, Zimmerman scored. Paronto pitching. Kearns walked on a full count. Schneider grounded out, pitcher Paronto to first baseman Thorman.

Is there anything more exciting than a come-from-behind rally? Church is the cleanup-man and, boy, did he ever! That was enough for Atlanta manager, Bobby Cox, who pulled starter Kyle Davies. Davies began and ended the day with an E.R.A. over 5.00.

Speaking of excitement, "George" won the President's Race, and for some reason "Teddy" ran back the way they came.

As for me, I got to the park early and chatted with some folks and enjoyed the turkey sandwich from the Attman's stand. That is really turning out to be my favorite dining experience at R.F.K. along with Capital Q Barbecue. Very tasty. My friend Myron joined me and we had some fun chats. I had my one MGD from Howard. It was nice to relax.

I was foiled again in my autograph pursuit. Thinking that I was FINALLY able to arrive at the stadium in time for the designated player autograph session, I was disappointed to see that the players were staying warm and dry in their clubhouse, not out in the cool and rain. Rats!

By the way, has anyone bothered to notice what a great job Saul Rivera has been doing in relief? His E.R.A. is 1.83, and he'd pitched over 9 hitless innings before giving up 1 hit tonight. Excellent work, Saul - keep it up, we need it!

Ryan Report: Whoo, hoo! Church went 1 for 4, but what a 1! That bases-clearing 2-out double was the crucial play of the game. Zimmerman went 2 for 3 with 2 RBI's and a walk and that included a solo-shot home run. Langerhans went 1 for 3 with a run. Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 3 but was walked once.

So just when you think it might be a rain-delayed ugly game, things turned out really well and proved to be exciting. I admit, I sometimes worry that the only fireworks I'm going to see are during the 7th inning singing of "God Bless America", but with Zimmerman's homer and the victory, I got to see plenty tonight. And all in fairly decent May weather, better than expected.

By the way, with tonight's win, the Nats have EXACTLY the same record that they had at this point last year. Last year, they went 71-91. Bad, but hardly historically bad. Also, tonight marks the halfway point between Opening Day and the All-Star break. One quarter of the season is already behind us. Gosh. Seems like Opening Day was yesterday.

Alas, I cannot attend the Thursday afternoon game - work somehow manages to interfere with that. I'll get to follow the game online, maybe even with Charlie and Dave on the radio. Naturally, I'll record it and watch it later on. I hope that Matt Chico can keep things rolling.

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