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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nats fall to Mets 6-2 under Glavine avalanche OR Chico answers question, "What's high in the middle and round at both ends?" ("O-HI-o")

The Nationals suffered a 6-2 New York mugging on Friday night at the sure and steady hands of 301-game-winner Tom Glavine, a game which saw "Iron Man" Matt Chico walk far too many batters for Manager Manny Acta's comfort.

Matt Chico has been one of the wonderful surprises of this season, not missing a single start in the rotation, and having some games which showcased pitching brilliance, such as a start he had in Pittsburgh followed by his July 4th start against the Cubs at home where he threw 6 shutout innings.

Everyone from Manager Manny Acta to pitching coach Randy St. Claire, to Chico himself has acknowledged that, on probably any other major league club, Chico would probably still be playing at the AA level, so he has certainly performed above and beyond all reasonable expectations this season and his future here is still secure, but right now he seems to have lost his command and just needs a sort-of "time-out" to go to Columbus, Ohio and throw strikes for the Clippers for a couple of weeks. One must also remember that Chico has benefited from playing his home games in what is the most extreme pitcher's park in the major leagues.

This move puts Mike Bacsik back into the starting rotation for the time being, and also makes General Manager Jim Bowden's job easier, since it buys him some time to figure out who else to send down to make room for their newest outfielder, Wily Mo Peña, late of the Cincinnati Reds via the Boston Red Sox.

Matt Chico has one of his worst outings of the season, lasting only 4.1 innings. In that time, he threw 48 strikes on an alarmingly-high 90 pitches (54%), allowing 4 runs on 5 hits, walking 5 and striking out only 2. 2 of those 5 hits were homeruns, by Damien Easley and Moises Alou respectively. I like Matt Chico, he has been one of the friendliest, and most modest, players who has signed my baseball this season, a very nice guy, and I think that it is too easy for us fans to fall into the trap of expecting more from him at this stage than he is reasonable ready to give. I think that he will come back from Columbus right after the September 1st roster expansions, and be just fine. I also think that his 2008 is likely to be a watershed year for him.

In bullpen relief, Mike Bacsik, Chris Schroeder, Ray King and Luis Ayala fared reasonably well, with Schroeder and King both allowing 1 run each. Bacsik and Schroder each walked 1 and King walked 2. To be fair, by the time they got into the game, most of the damage had already been done.

Ryan Report: Church went 1 for 4, Zimmerman was en fuego (that's Spanish for, "he excelled at the plate") going 3 for 4 with a double, Langerhans was 0 for 1, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 3 with a walk and an R.B.I.

Hot Nats bats on a pleasant evening also came from Felipe Lopez (1 for 5, maybe more lukewarm than hot), Dmitri Young (2 for 4 with a double and an R.B.I.), and Brian Schneider (1 for 4).

As I had to close my store last night at 7:00, I was late for the game, but I made great time down Rock Creek Parkway and 295. It seemed to me that everyone had already fled town, so I hit no traffic, and I got to the parking lot shortly after 7:30. As I approached the stadium, I heard a roar, and I thought that the Nats had done something great (no fireworks, so no homerun, but still...) When I got inside (after saying "hello" to Rico first, of course) I noticed that the score was 2-0 Mets (?!?!?) Suddenly, the cold, hard truth set in: those were METS fans shouting! Our dumpy, comfortable old R.F.K. had suddenly turned into Shea Stadium South.

I HATE when that happens.

The Mets aren't quite the Yankees in terms of fan base, but they seem to be getting a larger one all the time. They still play in the country's largest media market and have terrific cable, satellite, radio and T.V. broadcast penetration. Washington, D.C. is only a few hours away by train, and there are lots of transplanted New York/New Jersey residents in the area. Some came to college here and stayed, or came here to work for the government, or any number of other reasons and they, of course, brought their fan loyalties with them. It's part of their personal identity.

The Nationals haven't been around long enough to have developed a multi-generational fanbase yet, but it will happen. And once they start winning and encouraging more and more fans to come out to the new ballpark, they will sell more season tickets to Nationals fans, who will hopefully use them and not give them over to their friends who are Phillies fans, Braves fans, Cubs fans...or Mets fans.

I do not want Nationals Park (or whatever it is to be named - my money is on PNC Park at the moment) to ever sound like R.F.K. has these past 3 seasons when Mets fans, Phillies fans, even Cubs fans to a certain extent, outnumber the Nats fans and sound louder. Even on the T.V. replays, whenever the Mets did something, the crowd noise definitely sounded greatly in favor of New York. That should never happen. It's just embarrassing.

We fans need to do better. Does the club have to have a bobblehead promotion every homestand weekend to bring out the fans? Is it because they're not winning that the fan turnout isn't what it should be?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If your enjoyment of a baseball game is entirely predicated upon the win or the loss, then you're missing the forest for the trees. A win is a bonus. The fact that baseball is here should be enough to fill the stands on weekends with grateful, happy fans.

Maybe in 2008.

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