Nats survive O's rally, win 9-6 in 11th, win Battle of the Beltway II OR Lopez lifts Nats off O's rally-coaster
What a wet and wild Wednesday for Washington.
The Nationals beat the Baltimore Orioles for the second consecutive night, winning 9-6 in 11 innings and taking round 2 the "Battle of the Beltway" series, as well as taking the season lead in their series against the O's 3-2 with the final game to be played tonight.
By all indications, it looked as though this game was certain to be rain-delayed, as heavy rains came in to Baltimore around 5:15. Rain had also battered the D.C./Northern Virginia/Maryland area around Washington, and many Nats fans who intended to make the trip to Camden Yards were justifiably concerned, especially with tornado watches announced by the weather services. By game time, however, the rains were gone, the wind was slightly up and it was a somewhat cool evening. I had a windbreaker and jeans and was glad that I'd dressed appropriately.
Nats starter Matt Chico had a pretty good outing, going 6.2 innings, throwing 112 pitches for 75 strikes (67%), allowing 2 earned runs on 8 hits, striking out 3 and walking 1. Unfortunately, the bullpen was erratic. The Nats used 6 relievers, Jesus Colome, Ray King, Jon Rauch, Chad Cordero, Billy Traber and Saul Rivera. Colome and King each allowed a run, Rauch allowed a hit, and Chad "The Chief of Cardiology" blew the save in the 9th as the O's tied the game. I've heard Don Sutton and Bob Carpenter and Ray Knight on MASN say time and again how nothing good ever happens when a reliever walks a leadoff batter and Chad, unfortunately, did it again tonight. It's a regrettable trait that he's picked up this season and to say that it makes things interesting is an understatement. Fortunately, he only allowed the 1 run, tying the game, and sent the Nats into extra innings.
Ryan Report: Church went 1 for 4 with 2 RBI's, Zimmerman went 1 for 5 with a walk, but that 1 was a triple, Langerhans hit a homerun, his 2nd for the season, going 1 for 3 with an RBI and walked twice, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI's and a walk. Not a bad evening, Ryan-wise!
The highlight for Nats fans, of course, came when Felipe Lopez, who has struggled a bit of late, hit a bases-clearing triple in the 11th inning to put the Nats up 9-6. I'd say that most of the O's fans remaining in the stadium headed for the exits after that happened.
What a rollercoaster of a game. The lead going back and forth. Tough on a fan's nerves!
Due to time-constraints, I have to cut this short, but I'll pick it back up as soon as I can. More soon!
*EDIT Okay, so where was I? Oh, right. Baltimore!
Being as Wednesday was my day off, I was really looking forward to my first Nats "away" game, and I invited three friends to join me: My friend Randi and my friend Myron and his wife. Well, due to the torrential rains, Myron and his wife begged off halfway up I-95 (to be fair, they both had to get up at 5:00 the next morning) so Randi and I just met at the Marriott near the park and I had some dinner (the "Chesapeake Burger", a grilled burger with a crabcake on top, along with coleslaw and onion rings, washed down with a Sam Adams "Summer" on draught - Yum! I could eat one of those at least once per week) I was glad to have the chance to dry off, as I'd gotten drenched walking from the parking garage to the ballpark, thinking that we'd meet there before changing our plans. After eating, we walked over to the ballpark and bought our tickets and went inside. Once inside (we made it just as the National Anthem was being sung) we went over to the first-base side where our seats were (sec #26, row SS, right behind the left-side of the Orioles dugout) and, lo and behold, there was HOWARD, my favorite beer vendor from R.F.K.! Howard was vending Coors Light with his usual gusto, and when I caught his attention, he bear-hugged me, he was so happy to see me. I laughed and told him that this was the only reason why we came up. Howard told me that, 16 rows in front of me, B.J. Surhoff and Tommy Lasorda were sitting with one of the Orioles minority-share owners, which was cool to see. Howard has been a vendor for 26 years, and I knew that he vended at Oriole Park when the Nats were on the road, as well as Ravens Stadium during football season, and I was thrilled that we were able to run into him. Howard might retire at the end of this season, so this was an extra-special aspect of our visit. Howard is great, I love seeing him work with people. By sheer coincidence, I also happened to notice another R.F.K. vendor who I've talked to from time to time, Neal. Neal is the favorite vendor of MickNats from the Nats320 blog, and Neal said that Mick was at the Tuesday night game. Gotta love the comraderie amongst the fans and vendors. You see these guys often enough and they become like members of your extended family.
Since I hadn't been to Oriole Park in so many years, and back then I just wasn't a baseball fan, as I was embittered about MLB's attitude towards Washington, D.C. at the time, I never fully appreciated just what a gorgeous ballpark Oriole Park at Camden Yards truly is. It is so well-designed and thoughtfully laid-out, the amenities are so nice, that the whole experience got me excited about our own new ballpark, opening April 2008. We Nats fans keep hearing about it, and it all sounds nice, but when you get to experience a gorgeous modern ballpark like Camden Yards, it just whets your appetite. And Oriole Park is FIFTEEN YEARS OLD! It's not state-of-the-art, but I don't hear any complaints. Man, does dowdy old R.F.K. seem even worse to me now. I like it, it has it's own character, but....man.
Some things that I think the Orioles do well that I'd like to see the Nats do:
1) Establish a queue for buying tickets. The Orioles have a line, just like at a bank or airline ticket area, and an employee stands there and directs you to an open and available window. A nice touch, much more orderly than what they have at R.F.K. now.
2) A description of the pitches thrown along with the speed from the radar gun on the display. This was REALLY cool to me. Not only do you get the speed of the last pitch, they tell you exactly what kind of pitch it was, i.e. curveball, slider, split-finger fastball, etc.. I LOVE that! However, the Orioles don't show you the pitch count for the pitcher or his ball and strike numbers. I thought that was strange.
3) Cupholders! I know, I know, this is already on the Nats list of features for the new park, but I can't TELL you how nice it was to have those! No more worrying about anyone kicking over your drink (even myself, I've inadvertently kicked over my own beverage before - d'oh!)
4) Beer cups! Interestingly enough, when I bought a Coors Light from Howard, I got the 16 oz. bottle, but Howard also gave me a cup. VERY nice! Any professional beer vendor will tell you that they WANT you to enjoy your beer out of a cup because the gas in the beer is disippating faster, so less of it goes into your stomach, therefore you don't feel so full and you are more likely to spend more money to eat and drink more. The beer vendors don't want to have to pour the beers for you, because it slows them down tremendously, they'd much rather just hand you a cold one and be done with it. This is the best of both worlds, and I hope that the Nats (or more accurately, the food service that runs the beer vending) adopts this system next year.
One funny moment I had was when The Bird saw a guy a few rows in front of me wearing a New York Yankees jersey with "Jeter" on the back (for Derek Jeter). Now, the New York Yankees are the Orioles most HATED rival, as they are the Orioles #1 nemesis in their own division. The Bird, indicated the Jeter name on the back of the jersey then proceeded to turn around and fan his tailfeathers over the guy, as though to simulate avian defecation. Hilarious! That got a big laugh from the O's fans who watched this happen.
One thing that rubbed me the wrong way was when the video scoreboard displayed a segment where The Bird went to Washington, D.C. and magically planted an Orioles flag on the Capitol dome, changed the Washington Monument's color to orange, and changed a fan wearing a Nationals shirt and cap into wearing an Orioles shirt and cap (!!!!!) Maybe they do this with all of the visiting teams, but I doubt it. I suspect that this is a Peter Angelos-inspired bit of nastiness, implying that all Nationals fans are REALLY Orioles fans underneath, and further implying that Washington, D.C. is an Orioles town, an Orioles market. Well, not any longer, Peter! As of tonight (June 14th, 2007) the Nats have the SAME RECORD as the Orioles, and have a season and historic advantage over the Orioles in Interleague play. Shove THAT into your brief case!
Please keep in mind, I have NO beef with the Baltimore Orioles, only their owner. Orioles fans who are actually from Baltimore have usually never liked people from Washington, D.C. anyway, but I've never had hard feelings about Baltimore folks or Orioles fans. They have a fine franchise which has been hijacked by an egotistical tyrant, a great ballpark and some great surroundings.
I look forward to visiting again next season.