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Friday, July 20, 2007

Nats rally in 8th, rock Colorado 5-4 in 10th OR "Our Jimenez is better than your Jimenez!"

Thursday night was "Ladies' Night" at R.F.K., with the Nationals offering a special baseball package for female fans to take advantage of, but nothing the Washington Nationals could have offered could have been as special as the way the game ended.

In the 10th inning, with the Nats having rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the 8th to tie the game at 4-4, Nats Manager Manny Acta sent in his last remaining bench player, D'Angelo Jimenez, to pinch-hit for pitcher Jon Rauch. Jimenez, who was 1 for 25 and had spent some time down at AAA Columbus already this season, came into the game with 1 out and Austin Kearns on 2nd thanks to a Brian Schneider sacrifice bunt. After Rockies reliever LaTroy Hawkins threw a wild pitch, advancing Kearns to 3rd, he then threw a ball to give Jimenez a 2-0 count. Then Hawkins made his fatal mistake, throwing a pitch which Jimenez hit right up the middle to score Kearns and give the Nationals their 40th win of the season and first against the Rockies since 2005. Jimenez was mobbed by his teammates as though he'd just won them the pennant while fireworks went off overhead. A Hollywood ending on East Capitol Street.

The ending made the game special, as fans endured some rain which began to fall almost 2 hours into the game. While it never appeared to threaten to delay the game, it certainly moistened most of the 20,573 reported to be in attendance. The ending also took the sting out of Nats 1B Dmitri Young's 3rd inning ejection, after he argued what, on replay, looked to be an off-the-plate ball rather than the called strike. Young, who is leading the National League in batting average, was a tough player for the Nationals to have to lose so early in the game, and it definitely made their rally even more impressive, as they were certainly handicapped without his hot bat in the lineup.

Starter Matt Chico had a fair outing, with two of his 6 innings being poor and four of them being very good. He threw a personal-high of 107 pitches, with 69 of them for strikes (64%) allowing 4 runs on 7 hits with all 4 runs coming off of two 2-run homers, striking out 3 and walking 3. The bullpen of Luis Ayala, Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch (who got the win) was flawless, allowing no hits or walks.

Ryan Report: Church went 1 for 5, Zimmerman went 1 for 5 with a double and a R.B.I., Langerhans went 1 for 3 with a R.B.I., and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 3 with a walk and he was the game winning run.

The rest of the Nats hits came from Felipe Lopez, Robert Fick, Jesus Flores and, of course, D'Angelo Jimenez, who all had 1 hit. The Nats were walked 7 times, with Ronnie Belliard getting the pass 3 times, Dmitri Young 1, Robert Fick 1, Brian Schneider 1 and Austin Kearns 1.

Coming from work, as usual, I was late arriving, but said hello, as always, to Rico and Ellie. I got my Capital Q barbecue beef brisket and went to find my friend Myron, who I'd emailed my other ticket to that day. Myron filled me in on what I'd missed, and we chatted about the games possibilities for the night. Howard was back at work, so I bought us each a beer, and Howard, ever the extrovert, made loud notice of the four lovely ladies who happened to be sitting to my right, and he informed them of my retail occupation and said that they all wanted my business card (!!!) Whether or not that was true, I took it to be true, and I proferred my cards to the ladies, who were either genuinely interested in that or else they were being exceedingly polite to me. Either way, it was a pleasant introduction and made for another nice ballpark moment. Thanks, Howard - hope that cold water I gave you went down easy.

Unfortunately for both of us, Myron had informed me earlier in the day that he had a self-imposed curfew of leaving the ballpark by 10:00, as he had a very early day on Friday and had to get home at a reasonable time, so we had to leave early. At 9:41, with the Nats down 4-2 in the middle of the 8th inning, I decided that it was best for him if we left. Now, Lord knows, I never, EVER leave the ballpark early because you never know what could happen, and I've never understood it when large numbers of fans leave the ballpark early, especially when the Nats are only down by 2 runs, but I had to do the right thing and get Myron out of there. We left our seats and walked out, surprising a few people who knew us along the way. When we got to my car, I turned on the radio to hear Charlie Slowes inform that the Nats had just tied the game at 4-4. By this time, it was almost 10:00, and as we started to leave the parking lot, four members of the parking crew asked us what the score was. When I told them that it was 4-4, they erupted in frustration! Having been rained upon, and given the time, they were anxious to go home, and a tie game likely meant extra innings and their late departure. Poor guys. Fortunately for them, they only had another 30 minutes or so to wait.

Myron and I drove out and listened to the radio intently as the 9th inning came and went, and I got him to his Red Line Metro stop just as the 9th inning ended with the game still tied. The game ended while he was still on the Metro, I'm sure, while I got to listen to the game on my drive home, Austin Kearns crossing home plate for the win just as I reached my driveway. Ah, well. At least I recorded the game and was able to see the final drama that I'd missed. Such is life, but it certainly reinforced my maxim that one should simply never leave a game before the final out. You never know what you might miss. I hope that I'm around for many more late-inning heroics.

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