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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nats, Bacsik, shutout Rockies 3-0 OR "Our Lopez is better than YOUR Lopez!"

Two nights ago, when the Nats beat the Rockies in 10 innings, I crowed that OUR Jimenez (D'Angelo) was better than their Jimenez (their starting pitcher that night), as D'Angelo Jimenez singled to score Austin Kearns, the winning run. Today, OUR Lopez (Felipe) was better than their Lopez (Rodrigo, again, their starting pitcher), as Felipe Lopez homered to score what amounted to be the winning run, as the Washington Nationals shut out the Colorado Rockies 3-0, in front of a crowd of 31,674, one of the best crowds of the season.

Starter Mike Bacsik earned a terrific win for himself. He threw 53 strikes on 98 pitches (54%), striking out only 1 batter, and walking 3, but he only allowed 3 hits and, of course, no runs in his 6.2 innings of work. So he wasn't exactly mowing them down, but he got great defense behind him. The bullpen, which I believe has the 2nd-best E.R.A. in the majors (behind Kansas City, I think) came through in fine style, with Luis Ayala, Saul Rivera and Chad Cordero each striking out 1 batter, and allowing no hits.

Ryan Report: Church and Zimmerman each went 1 for 4, with Church having a ground-rule double and Zimmerman a double, Langerhans did not hit but he did pinch run and played some centerfield, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 2 but was walked once. Congratulations to Rodrigo Lopez and company.

The Nationals other hits came off of catcher Brian Schneider, who had 2 including a double, Felipe Lopez, whose 6th inning homer was the game-winning hit, and Tony Batista, who drove in 2 runs with a thrilling 2-out pinch-hit in the 7th.

There was a moment of frustration for the Nationals when Ryan Zimmerman was on 2nd after his double, and was then picked-off of 2nd to end the inning. From my (admittedly-poor) angle, it sure looked like they got him, but manager Manny Acta came out of the dugout to argue with the umpire at 2nd. Perhaps he was simply trying to keep Zimmerman from being thrown out of the game, but this is the 2nd time recently that Acta has come out of the dugout to question umpire calls. It's been suggested that, as a first-year manager, Manny Acta didn't want to do this during the first half of the season, lest he get a reputation among umpires for being confrontational and perhaps therefore taken less-seriously. That might be true, but personally I just think that Manny likes to pick his battles, he's not hot-tempered and he isn't going to just run out onto the field for the exercise. He's honorable and dignified, though, he's going to stick up for his players and won't take poor umpiring lying down. To his great credit, he has yet to get ejected from a game, and it will be interesting to note the time and circumstances when (if?) that happens. If he manages for the next 40 years, I don't think that he'll challenge Atlanta's Bobby Cox for career ejections, though. That's just not his style.

I try to take any kind of good news that I can out of a win, and given the Nats history with the Rockies, I'm just gratified that they cannot LOSE this series. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that they can win the series tomorrow afternoon.

The large crowd was treated to gorgeous late-July weather, wonderfully atypical, and I remarked to a friend that the Rockies had brought some temperate Denver weather with them to D.C. 78 degrees at first pitch (a most atypical 3:55 p.m., due to the scheduling hassle with Fox - more on that in a bit), low humidity, and a slight breeze. Bright and sunny. Gorgeous.
I was a little bit late getting to the stadium as I was coming directly from work less than an hour from gametime, and I hit two traffic jams, one on Rock Creek Parkway 9ongoing construction) and then again on the freeway a couple of miles from the stadium. So I was parking my car when the game began, and I missed the Army parachute team and other Armed Forces Appreciation Day pre-game festivities.

As I walked from Lot #8 towards the stadium, I hear what sounded like Rico's voice, but it was outside, not inside. As I got closer to Gate A, I saw him manning a program and souvenir table outside. I walked towards him and smiled - "What happened?", I asked, afraid that he'd been demoted or something. "Oh, I just wanted to work outside today!", he replied. I can't say that I blame him.

I dropped off my toys with the Marines conducting their annual "Christmas in July" campaign for their Toys for Tots charity. Luckily, I work in the same building as one of D.C.'s best toy stores (Treetop Kids) and I asked the experts there to please put together a nice assortment for me to drop off. I stopped by 3 tables, leaving some toys at each one, hoping to see or meet some players wives. Last year, I got to meet and say hello to Jordan Schneider and tell her how highly I thought of her husband, catcher Brian Schneider. This time, I got to chat briefly with Micah Bowie's wife, Keeley, and saw their son, Brayden. I asked her how Micah was, (him being on the D/L since July 2nd) and she said that he was doing much better and was expected to be back soon. I told her that we fans missed him, and how wonderfully he's been pitching, and hoped that he'd get better and return quickly.

Saw Ellie and Jonathan upstairs, got my Capital Q beef brisket and said hello to Dave and John up there, and headed down to my seats. Got my beer from Howard and chatted with Tim the usher and my friends Kate and Zeke and some other nice folks. I saw some Nationals staff folks sitting below where I was in the middle innings, and after the Nats went up 3-0 and the stands were jumping, I went over to chat with them and I said, "If it isn't too late, could you please ask (team president) Stan Kasten to see to it that the seats in the new stadium bounce? It's important. Get a shock-absorber company to sponsor it!" They laughed. That's one of the little things that I definitely WILL miss about R.F.K. stadium. The new ballpark can't do that in the lower seating area. The only reason the seats in R.F.K.'s lower bowl do that is because they had to be moveable to re-arrange seating for football and baseball, and then soccer, concerts, whatever uses were required.

I have to say, I was lucky to be able to get off of work early to attend this game (thanks, boss!) and it was an unusual 3:55 game because this game was originally supposed to be part of a Fox baseball package that afternoon. Well, for some reason that deal changed and Fox has the exclusive rights to televise during that time slot, so MASN couldn't show it. Not wanting to risk confusing or upsetting fans attending the game, the Nats elected not to change the time to 7:05. As one of those fans, I can attest to the fact that this was actually a wonderful time of day to attend the ballgame. It ended earlier than expected, a little bit after 6:20 rather than 7:00, and in the month of July that meant that there was still a good couple of hours of sunlight left - plenty to spend the rest of the evening doing other outdoor activities, and just in time to enjoy dinner, perhaps an evenings picnic or on a restaurant patio. By starting at almost 4:00, many fans who might normally be in the sun for 3 hours for a 1:00 game were either in the shade instead or soon to be. On a day like this one it didn't mean as much, but on a typical July day here, it would have been a Godsend. Many is the 1:00 game that I've spent roasting with no shade. It's really too bad that Fox has the exclusive rights to broadcast during that timeslot, I'm sure that many other fans would appreciate being able to go to a 4:00 ballgame, rather than 7:00. Truthfully, though, the 7:00 Saturday games are better for me due to my work schedule, so I'm not really complaining.

Now to root in a series win to cap off a great homestand.

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