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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nats again take Rockies 3-0, win series OR It's "deja-Julio" all over again!

In many competitive contests, sometimes the loser is the player or team which "blinks" first, which makes the first mistake, which can't sustain the struggle. Today, the Colorado Rockies lost to the Washington Nationals for the 2nd straight day with the score 3-0, and it was all because the Rockies made the first mistake: they sent in reliever Jorge Julio.

As Arthur Miller wrote in Death of a Salesman, "Attention must be paid." and in that spirit, I must respectfully ask all reader's to pay attention to the fine Nats320 blog, which has extensively detailed the phenomenon that is the Jorge Julio victory-scuttle. It's author, SBF, informed me today that, when Julio was a Baltimore Oriole, he blew every save situation that SBF ever saw him in, and I personally witnessed Julio's delightful blown save against the Nats when he was a Marlin this last May. I cannot do justice to such an interesting player so I gladly defer to the blogger who can. I look forward to seeing Jorge Julio appear against the Nats when they visit Colorado in a few weeks with great eagerness.

Nats starter Tim Redding went head-to-head against Rockies starter Josh Fogg in a long day's pitching duel. Redding threw 60 strikes on 97 pitches (62%) in his 6.2 innings, allowing 5 hits but no runs, striking out 1 and walking 2. He kept the Nats in the game, and that's all anyone could ask of him. I can't think of any mistakes that Redding made, and we're lucky that he's integrated himself into the starting lineup so seamlessly.

What can I say about the bullpen that hasn't already been said? Unless I'm very wrong, we now have the bullpen with the lowest E.R.A. in the majors, and their talents were on display again as they allowed no runs and only 2 hits and 2 walks. Chris Booker, just called up from AAA Columbus, only faced 1 batter but he struck him out in style, first befuddling him with a wicked forkball, then what looked to me like a fastball up, swung upon and missed.. Jon Rauch picked up the win and Chad Cordero got his 19th save. It's a fine-tuned machine, that bullpen.

Ryan Report: Looks like Church had the day off, Zimmerman went 1 for 2 with a double and was walked twice, Langerhans was 0 for 2 but was walked once, and Austin Ryan Kearns was the hero of the day, going 1 for 4 but taking Jorge Julio's breaking ball in the 8th inning and sending it streaking right into the left field mezzanine, a frozen-rope that stayed just fair to break the scoreless tie and give the Nats a 3-0 win. Kearns had gone 52 games, over 2 months and 2 days, without a homerun, the longest such streak of his career.

The Nats also had hits from Felipe Lopez, D'Angelo Jimenez, Ronnie Belliard and Jesus Flores.

After the game was over, it suddenly occurred to me that I couldn't remember the last time the Nationals had back-to-back shutouts. I asked a couple of people, and they couldn't remember either. As it turns out, the Washington Nationals have NEVER had back-to-back shutouts, but in their previous incarnation as the Montreal Expos, they last did it in 2004. So those of us who were there today got to see a little bit of Nationals history being made.

The Nationals ended this homestand 5-2, winning both series. Now they get a day off before taking on the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizen's Bank Park for 3 games, and the New York Mets for 4 games, which includes a make-up game Saturday afternoon to create a day-night double-header.

I arrived at the ballpark nice and early and got myself ready, lathering up with 45-spf sunblock. It was another nice day, ideal baseball weather, around 83 degrees at game time but with a few big clouds passing by, enough to keep fans from roasting right away. The humidity wasn't oppressive. It was the sort of day where a baseball fan feels that the ball is going to carry a little bit better. As I walked towards the stadium, I ran into Rico outside again, but this time he took up a strategic spot right under Independence Avenue, in the shade, and right where thousands of fans would walk past him. Rico's no fool.

Only a little over 21,000 fans reported today, which I thought was unfortunate, considering how well the Nats have been playing lately, and how nice the weather was. I was thinking that there would be more like 27,000 or so. The ones who didn't attend will certainly wish that they had.

I entered the stadium and went up to the Terrace Cafe and said hello to Jonathan at the Press Cafeteria door (Ellie was with family today). Then I walked over to Capital Q Barbecue to get my usual, and it wasn't open. I was met by John, one of the Capital Q managers, who informed me that one of the cold boxes that held all of their meat had failed overnight, so they had nothing to sell that afternoon - a culinary tragedy if ever there was one! Worse, I didn't get to see any of my Capital Q friends, since they weren't needed that day. But that still left me with a gastronomical dilemma - where to eat instead? I wandered down to the Attman's stand and grabbed a corned beef on rye with cole slaw and a pickle instead. I went in to say hello to the ushers that I know and see who else was around. I settled in and chatted with Tim, who was happy to have some company for the afternoon. We were joined later by a friend of his, Jan, who came to the ballpark straight from the beach. She was fun to chat with.

Howard was in fine spirits, very energetically selling lots of beer today. I bought my usual 1 from him, and he was having a good time chatting with some fans and teasing some of his fellow vendors a bit.

One of the highlights of my day was when the Nat Pack did their Safeway t-shirt promotion, where they always come out and use a special air-powered bazooka to shoot t-shirts into the stands. Today they happened to be right in front of where I was sitting and after they shot a bunch of shirts into the stands, they proceeded to throw a few shirts to those of us in the lower seating area, and darned if one of those suckers didn't come arcing right at me, and I stuck my left hand up and snagged it in the air! FINALLY! After 53 games this season, and all of last season and the various games I attended in 2005, I finally got a red shirt with a white curly W on front and "Pledge your Allegiance" on the back (and, of course, a Safeway logo). Very cool.

This was the sort of day that summer dreams are made of, watching your ball club win a thriller under sunny skies. A nice way to end the weekend and send the Nats onto the road with some good wins to bolster their spirits.

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