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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Nats can't contain Mets, lose 7-4 OR Of bobbleheads, baffled batters, and Wily Mo

If there has been a prettier night for a Nats loss this season, then I can't recall when it was. Saturday evening was positively gorgeous, mid-September weather in mid-August. 79 degrees and low humidity, high pressure, partly cloudy, but very pretty clouds. A little 6 m.p.h. breeze, too. Hopes were high, Mets fans were in high spirits (some quite literally) and Abe Lincoln bobbleheads were on the minds of over 35,000 fans, as the Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets for the second straight night, this time 7-4.

The Saturday game was much better than the Friday night game, much more competitive and close the whole evening. Starter John ("The Walrus") Lannan, started things off well enough for the home team, but only lasted 5 2/3 innings, throwing 63 strikes on 100 pitches (do the math), and allowed 5 runs on 8 hits, including a homerun, walking 1 and striking out 3. He also went 1 for 2 with an R.B.I. single at the plate, his first major league hit and R.B.I. Congratulations, John!

The bullpen of Luis Ayala, Saul Rivera, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero couldn't contain the Mets hitting as well as it needed to. Ayala was perfect in his 1/3 inning, Saul Rivera allowed 1 run on 2 hits and also walked 2, and Jon Rauch only allowed 1 hit. Chad Cordero also allowed 1 run on 3 hits.

Ryan Report: Tough night for the "R-Squad". Church went 0 for 1 in a pinch-hitting role, having the night off to make room for the Nats latest outfielder, Wily Mo Peña. Zimmerman went 2 for 4 with a walk and an R.B.I. double, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 4 with a double and a walk. Ryan Langerhans was designated for assignment ("D.F.A.'d") to make room for pitcher Jésus Colomé, who is coming off of the disabled list. I can only guess that Langerhans has to clear waivers before reporting to AAA Columbus. This is going to take some of the fun out of the Ryan report, I'll tell you that. We need pitcher Ryan Wagner to come back up to balance out the Ryan-karma.

The other hits for the Nats came from Ronnie Belliard (1 for 5), Jésus Flores (1 for 4 with an R.B.I.), Nook Logan (1 for 2 with a double, an R.B.I. and a walk), and the Nationals debut of Wily Mo Peña, just picked up from the Red Sox, who went 1 for 4 with a double and a walk.

I got to the ballpark around 5:45, and got my bobblehead ticket right away and headed over towards the Diamond Club to retrieve it. No sense wasting time, and I saw the crowded parking lot and did some quick calculation: If there are only 20,000 bobbleheads and over 30,000 fans, then some people are going home empty-handed. I was determined not to be one of them.

So I said hello to all of my ballpark friends, and with beef brisket sandwich in hand, I went to my seat. I had some nice fans to chat with this time, too. Got up at one point to get a beer from Howard (it's hard to get a beer from him when my row is full) and Howard was in something of a poetic mood - "Look at the shadows that the fans in the mezzanine are casting on the wall above these seats. Look at this stadium with the eyes of a child, like it's your first time. You'll always want to remember this." I had to admit, he's right, I feel the same way, only I didn't put it quite the same way. There are fewer than 20 games remaining at R.F.K. and I'll never see another baseball game there again. For the rest of my life, I want to be able to close my eyes and remember the wonderful days and nights at R.F.K. watching Nationals baseball over these past 3 years. I envy the people who tell me stories about Griffith Stadium, attending Senators and Redskins games there. Griffith Stadium is long gone, replaced by Howard University hospital. R.F.K.'s future is undetermined. D.C. United still plays there, though even they are trying to get a new soccer stadium built. There will be concerts, probably, but what else? The city owns it. It is old, but functional. I imagine at some point, it will be torn down to make room for...something.

"Coach" Ron Simms, one of my favorite ushers (he's the one on top of the Nats dugout during "Sweet Caroline") told me that, during batting practice, Wily Mo Peña hit a ball up into section #534 (gold seats, left field, upper deck) 3 rows in. Now, THAT is power! That is Frank Howard territory. I'm hoping to see that in a game, too.

I left my seat at the top of the 6th inning to walk around a bit and enjoy the weather. I walked up to the terrace food court to visit with friends, and while I was there, the Mets Damien Easley turned his left ankle, and I was informed that a foul ball had landed right in my row, near my (now) empty seat. Murphy's Law at work again - I've always said that if I'm not in my seat then foul balls are raining down into my section.

Another Nats loss, and after 3 1/2 hours, too. Not as much fun as a win, but still had a good time. I always do. Anytime spent with friends at the ballpark is time well-spent indeed.

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