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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nats rally early, surprise Indians 4-1 OR Cleveland rocked as Nats roll.

Well, wasn't THIS a pleasant way to kick off the first ballgame of summer?

The Cleveland Indians came into D.C. today for the first time since 1971, owning the 4th best record in baseball, and succumbing to the Washington Nationals devastating battery.

Nats starter Micah Bowie, who has been the staff good-luck charm, once again pitched a dandy. The Nats have won every game which Bowie has started, their record now 7-0 when he's the man on the mound. Tonight, he threw 104 pitches for 58 strikes (56%) in 4.1 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits, walking 5 but striking out 7. I hope that it is no insult to Micah to say that he reminds me of Hector Carassco two years ago. Carassco's entire career was revived when pitching coach Randy St. Claire worked with him on a killer change-up, and Carassco became a valuable commodity, so valuable in fact that the Nats lost him to free agency. Now, Bowie's career didn't need "reviving", he was doing just fine out of the bullpen, and I think that Carassco's career was a little farther along than Bowie's, and Carassco bounced-around a bit more, but he found success here and moved on to greener pa$ture$ and Bowie just seems to be completely thriving in his new situation the same way that Carasco did.

The "Magnificent Seven"
The Nats used seven, count 'em, SEVEN pitchers tonight (1 short of this season's record, 7) and the one I most anticipated seeing in action was the first one out of the bullpen tonight, Luis Ayala. Ayala made his first major-league appearance since September 2005, as he injured his arm while pitching for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic in March, 2006. Ayala was considered one of the best setup men in baseball before that injury, and tonight he only faced 2 batters, throwing 9 pitches for 4 strikes, allowing 1 hit. Welcome back to the majors, Luis, we've missed you, and I hope that you are around here for a long time.
Saul Rivera, Ray King, Jesus Colome, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero were almost flawless, with Rauch allowing the only 2 hits, and no runs. GREAT work, guys!

Ryan Report: Church went 1 for 4, Zimmerman went 1 for 4, Langerhans went 0 for 1, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 2 but was walked twice.

The real sluggers tonight were Cristian Guzman and Felipe Lopez, who each went 3 for 4, with Guzman slugging his first career homerun at R.F.K. Brandon Watson was right behind them, going 2 for 4 with 2 crucial R.B.I.'s Did I remember to welcome Brandon back to D.C. yet? Well, welcome back to Washington, D.C. Brandon Watson, keep on sluggin' 'em and stick around for more grande lattes, why don't you?

In the 4th inning, with 2 outs, a long fly ball was hit to left field, and Ryan Church went way over into the corner by the visitors bullpen and went up to get the ball, but a fan interfered by snagging the ball with his own glove, much to the delight of the fans in that section. Due to fan interference, an out was ruled, ending the inning (I think Church would've had it anyway, though). The young fan in question was given a stern lecture by an usher and was allowed to return to his seat, but he could have easily had him escorted out of the stadium. Balls which enter the stands are fair game for fans, but that ball was in the field of play, and fan interference is strictly prohibited.

The old "hidden ball" trick
Ryan Zimmerman was involved in one of the most bizarre plays of the season in the top of the 2nd inning, although it ultimately didn't mean much. As Bill Ladson reported it for,

Indians right fielder Franklin Gutierrez hit a sharp ground ball to Zimmerman, who tried to field the ball to his left, but it went inside his uniform top instead, and he couldn't make a play. Official scorer David Vincent gave Gutierrez a base hit."

I didn't get to see the play live, as I was still on my way into the stadium, but I watched the replay and it is truly priceless. Ryan looked for the ball and couldn't find it, and it hung in the bottom of his jersey like a small tumor in his belly. The expression on his face was priceless. He was trying SO HARD not to laugh, but he did smile about it. As Ladson mentioned in the report, that play alone will probably ensure Zimmerman a spot in baseball blooper reels for eternity. Bob Carpenter on MASN opined that such a circumstance probably wouldn't have happened in the 1970's with the old-style pull-over jerseys. Too funny.

I got to the stadium late, as usual from work, and I went right up to see Rico and Ellie and get some Capital Q Barbecue and a sweet tea for dinner. The weather was completely ideal for baseball, 73 degrees, sunny and with a nice, slight breeze. The sky was blue and clear, and there was little if any humidity. Gorgeous.

I met my friend Myron, who got there ahead of me, and we had a great evening chatting about various things. Saw lots of friends, too.

What a wonderful way to enjoy one of the longest days of the year, with fireworks going off overhead and another "Curly W" in the books, as Charlie Slowes might say. The Nats might lose the next two for all I know, at least they can't be swept, but for one night, they were as enjoyable as the summer evening. One of life's more simple, but oh, so satisfying pleasures.

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