The unofficial home of "Neil and the Rushmore Four"!

Image Hosted by

Current Weather & Forecast (plan your gameday!)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Nats take lead, lose lead, rally to beat Phillies 7-6 OR Flores has fun in Philly

The Nationals had a roller-coaster afternoon in Philadelphia, starting the game 2-0, then falling behind 3-2, then 5-2, then rallying to close it 5-4 before gaining the lead for good on a Jesus Flores 3-run homer to put them up 7-5 and held on to eventually win 7-6.

Starter John Lannan, making his very first start in the major leagues, had an unfortunately inauspicious debut. He lasted only 4.1 innings, throwing 87 pitches for 50 strikes (57%), but allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on 6 hits, walking 2 and striking out 1, establishing his E.R.A. at 8.31. He also allowed a Ryan Howard homerun. The worst part for Lannan, though, was his control, as he hit the Phillies Chase Utley on the hand, breaking a bone which will likely end his season, and Ryan Howard. The home plate umpire,
Hunter Wendelstedt, threw Lannan out of the game after he hit Howard, apparently because he had to believe that Lannan was retaliating for Howard hitting a homerun off of him in the 3rd inning. Wendelstedt argued that, rookie or veteran, he can't read a pitcher's mind and has to treat them all the same. Personally, I believe that NO ONE, including Wendelstedt, believes that Lannan was purposely throwing at Howard, but the rules are in place to protect the batters. From where I sat, it didn't look like Howard made any effort to get out of the way, merely turning a bit, but that's neither here nor there. Wendelstedt was 12 inches away from him, I was not. Still, if Lannan had hit any other batter besides Howard, he probably would have only received a warning from the umpire at most, since it was apparent to Wendelstedt, who acknowledged that he saw Lannan was having control problems.

It occurs to me, though, that one unintended benefit of Lannan's ejection was, we avoided a possible beanball war. Who knows? The next Phillies pitcher might have been strongarmed by his teammates to drill Dmitri Young or Ryan Zimmerman. It could have gotten seriously ugly. Wendelstedt's decision, as wrong-headed as I think it was (and, boy, did Don Sutton ever agree on MASN!) had that one little upside to it.

Later on, as I watched the replay of the broadcast, I was very pleased to hear Don Sutton's analysis of that entire situation. Besically, Sutton said, "When this situation happens, you stick the rule book in your ear and employ BASIC COMMON SENSE." After all, WHY would Lannan intentionally put a 2nd man on base with only 1 out when the Nats were behind by 1 run? It's ludicrous! Manny sure wouldn't stand for that sort of nonsense - if he thought that it was intentional, he'd have driven Lannan to 30th street station personally and put him on the next train back to Columbus.

Lannan's ejection resulted in some Nationals history as well, as Manager Manny Acta came out to discuss the call with the umpire, and wound up getting his very first ejection as a major league manager. To his credit. Acta didn't use any profanity (I could have guessed that, it doesn't seem to be his style) and to the umpire's credit, he said that Acta hadn't. Acta merely kept arguing with the umpire as he was changing pitchers, and got the toss.

Fortunately for the Nationals, their bench coach, Pat Corrales, had years of experience as bench coach to Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox, who is nearing the record for career ejections by a manager, so Corrales was in a very familiar situation.

Chris Schroeder, Ray King, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero did fine work in relief with only Cordero allowing a run in the bottom of the 9th. Rauch got the win and Cordero got the save.

Ryan Report: Church and Zimmerman both went 0 for 4, Langerhans did not bat, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 3 with an R.B.I.

The hits came from Felipe Lopez (2 for 5 with 2 R.B.I.'s), Ronnie Belliard (1 for 5), Dmitri Young (2 for 4 with an R.B.I.), Nook Logan (2 for 4 with a double), and Jesus Flores who had the game winning homerun, going 2 for 4 with 3 R.B.I.'s.

Happily, I was able to attend this game. My brother Steven got some good tickets from a client and invited me up for this "businessman's special". I elected to take Amtrak, even though Citizen's Bank Park is right off of I-95 and only 152 miles from D.C. I just figured that the game would end shortly after 4:00 and I'd be hitting rush hour traffic in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, which didn't appeal to me. Besides, I was worried that I might hit traffic on my way up and didn't want to risk running late. As it turns out, this was a great decision. I hit heavy traffic driving to Union Station, but once I was there I was able to grab the 9:25 train to Philadelphia, and less than 2 hours later, I was in 30th Street station with my brother able to pick me up in short order. I have to say that taking the train was great. I was, indeed, very tired from not getting enough sleep the previous night, and I wasn't 100% sharp to make a 2.5 hour drive. Being able to sit back and relax and read the Washington Post was a treat for me, and I arrived in Philadelphia better rested and certainly a lot less stressed from highway travel. Besides, it was a good "green" decision - I'm sure I would have burned around $35 worth of gasoline on that round trip. The fare seemed reasonable, too, only $58 round-trip (plus $15 to park at Union Station all day). I even ran into another Nats fan along the way.

Words cannot completely express how impressed I was with Citizen's Bank Park. It is simply gorgeous. I had a complete ball walking around, enjoying the scenery. I was so impressed by Citizen's Bank Park that it really got me excited about our own new ballpark. If Nationals Park is anywhere near as nice as Citizen's Bank Park, then I believe every Nationals fan will be more than satisfied with it. Citizen's Bank Park is only the second of the so-called "modern" ballparks that I've ever visited (Oriole Park at Camden Yards being the other), so I can't compare it with Pittsburgh, which even some Philly fans have told me is even nicer than CBP, or San Francisco, but I couldn't have been more impressed. Some of the features that I most enjoyed were:

The centerfield's "Ashburn Alley". It was completely delightful, and I had a great deal of fun walking around and high-fiving everyone I saw wearing a Nationals cap.

The mural depicting Philly baseball history was another very cool feature, as was the display by the visitor's bullpen with brass reliefs demonstrating various pitches and how to hold the ball.

The statues of various great players in Phillies history.

Caricature artists drawing for fans. I'll bet kids just love those.

The "photo-op" with the cardboard cutout of players. If you've never seen this, it is simply a cardboard relief photo of several players celebrating at home plate, and a fan can stand behind it and get their photo, as if they are a player. Another kid favorite, I'm sure.

I was able to buy a Coca-Cola! I had NO idea that any MLB stadium sold any Coke products because I thought that Pepsi was the Official Soft Drink of MLB. Glad to see that I was mistaken. They even let you buy 20 oz. sodas and water with the caps on - unheard of at R.F.K.! One disappointment was, their "souvenir" fountain sodas were in very ordinary cups, nothing worth saving, unlike our own souvenir cups at R.F.K. which are decorative and even have the season schedule printed on them. Chalk up one for the Nationals!

I ate some barbecued beef from Bull's Barbecue, which I just HAD to try to compare it with our own Capital Q. It was NICE, but...hey, it's no Capital Q. :-) So I didn't have a hot dog, but I DID notice the hot dog condiment stations, which had sliced onion dispensers. A very nice touch. I wanted to try a genuine Philly cheese steak, but the line for those was so long, I'd have missed the first inning for sure.

I liked how the program vendors worked the stands, too. This one guy, who called himself "Tommy Programs" was hilarious - he worked the seating aisles shouting, "The most important document since the Constitution! The fastest-selling book since Harry Potter! Lots of pictures and no big words!" Fans were laughing left and right AND buying the programs!

One impressive thing that Tommy did before he left Ashburn Alley was, when the stadium sound system announced the National Anthem, they called for men to remove their hats. Since the sound system isn't that great out on Ashburn Alley, Tommy took it upon himself to shout, "ALL GENTLEMEN ON ASHBURN ALLEY! PLEASE REMOVE YOUR HATS FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM!" I thought that this was one of the classiest moves I've ever witnessed, and I applauded Tommy for it. I asked him if that was his own idea, or if the team asked him to do that. He replied that it was his own idea, because he had a friend who died in Iraq, and he didn't think that it was too much to ask for the men to take 20 seconds to honor the flag. I wholeheartedly agreed with him. Frankly, I'd like to see our own ushers do that.

I had a good time chatting with some Phillies fans, who all seemed to know that we, too, were building our own new stadium, but they were quite proud of Citizen's Bank Park, and justifiably so. No wonder they had ticket sales in excess of 43,000 for the day. With great weather and a ballpark like that, what baseball fan could pass up an opportunity to take in a day game? I understand from the Philly fans that they get a lot of New York Mets fans who come down by train when the Mets are in town. Again, it's a short train ride from Penn Station (2 hours, maybe?) and of course, there are a lot of Mets fans in nearby New Jersey.

My brother got me back to 30th Street Station in time for me to catch the 5:45 back to D.C. I even ran into the same Nats fan that I saw on the way up. We high-fived and chatted about the game, and met another fan who wasn't at the game, but wanted to hear us discuss it. 2 hours later, I was getting into my car at Union Station and motoring home.

All in all, especially with the Nats victory, a wonderful day. I took some photos which I hope to post later.

I would like to wholeheartedly recommend to every Nationals fan to buy tickets and ride the train up to Philadelphia at the end of September to see the Nationals play in Citizen's Bank Park. They finish their season there, and it would be a wonderful tribute for so many fans to make the trip and send them off into the off-season. Besides, if you've never seen that ballpark, you will get some idea of the glories that await us on April 1st here in D.C. and some good things to think about for the next 6 months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Trevor and I very much enjoyed the afternoon with you and Steven. Hope we see you again.

Song of the moment - Celebrating the longest homestand of the season

Survey of the Moment