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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nats avoid Phillies sweep in final homestand OR an ugly story with a happy ending

Emotionally, this is a difficult post for me to cobble together. This is my post about the final series at R.F.K. Stadium, the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the Washington Nationals.

For 3 years now, I have been an over-the-top, dyed-in-the-wool Washington Nationals baseball fan, despite only casual interest in baseball over the previous 35+ years of my life. The arrival of this National League franchise has changed my entire life, I think for the better. It has brought me in contact with so many different people from various walks of life who I never would have met otherwise. From the Lerners themselves and other members of the club ownership group to broadcasters, camera-operators, ushers, service workers, parking lot attendants and the players and fans, I have met a lot of really wonderful people thanks to the Washington Nationals. For almost 8 months of the year, from spring training through the World Series, I have a daily interest which means so much to me now. And then there is all of the off-season machinations to read about as well.

The Washington Post's Thomas Boswell once wrote a piece that resonates with many baseball fans and I have discovered that it resonates with me as well. I love this:

Baseball is not necessarily an obsessive-compulsive disorder, like washing your hands 100 times a day, but it's beginning to seem that way. We're reaching the point where you can be a truly dedicated, state-of-the-art fan or you can have a life. Take your pick." ~Thomas Boswell, Washington Post, 13 April 1990"

For better or for worse, Boswell has described me. I am a truly dedicated, state-of-the-art fan, who pours over box scores, websites and records even the Nats games that I attend, so that I might review them later, if only to see the highlights, but usually to hear the excellent play-by-play calling of Bob Carpenter and the color commentary of Hall-of-Famer Don Sutton. I may have sacrificed what could be called "a life" because of baseball's all-permeating influence on my daily existence. Like the Jimmy Fallon character, Ben Wrightman in "Fever Pitch", I have to check the Nationals schedule before I can commit to any other possible plans. The first season was completely intoxicating, welcoming me to a world that I 'd only had fleeting encounters with in my life. The fact that the Nats were good made it even more wonderful, and the fun of flirting with a pennant race in early September only whetted my appetite for more. I treated myself to season tickets for 2006, mostly to secure a position in the new stadium but also because I was sick of begging for tickets from people who I knew had them, and I wanted good seats. Little did I know what joys awaited me as an official season ticket holder.

First of all, though this is hardly the most important aspect, being a season ticket holder is a matter of pride and dedication. You tell people that you have season tickets and they know how serious a fan you are. Who in their right mind would buy a pair of 81-game season tickets in the lower seating area for personal use (as opposed to a business write-off) unless you were among the most dedicated of fans?

So, on to the final series at R.F.K. (to be continued)

Continuing computer problems OR R.F.K. isn't the only thing in my life which is functional yet obsolescent

Catching up here as best as I can. Sorry for the long hiatus. Due to continuing computer problems (basically, my 7 year-old Windows box is having an affair with obsolescence, and I need to replace it a.s.a.p.) and real life/work interferences, I haven't been able to blog about the past week as I would have liked to.

My thanks to the dozen of you who read this blog for your continued patience.

Nats pound Pelfrey but fall 8-4 OR Broken brooms, no sweep

Well, so much for a Mets sweep. This one wasn't as close as the previous two nights. Starter Matt Chico didn't have as good an outing as he would have liked, and the Nats fell to the Mets 8-4.

It was a close game, with the Nats grabbing the lead back in the 2nd, but the wheels came off in the 7th. Despite 3 Mets errors (1 for the Nats), the Nats couldn't rally this time.

Ryan Report: Zimmerman went 2 for 5 with an R.B.I. That's the highlight of the Ryan Report.

Box score here.

Being my day off, I was able to get to the ballpark early, the last such weekday game at R.F.K. that I would, as it turns out. Saw all of my friends, had my brisket sandwich and beer. It was a nice night to be at the park, 74 degrees. I still managed to have a good time, despite the loss.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nats sink Maine, Mets 9-8, take series OR Déja-vu all over again

I had to check my calendar last night. It read, "September 18th", not "February 2nd". No, it wasn't "Groundhog Day", but it sure must've seemed like that to the New York Mets. Once again, they took an early lead, only to see the Nats rally and triumph.

Starter Joel "The Hammer" Hanrahan, like Tim Hudson the night before, didn't bring his best stuff. He lasted 3 innings and allowed 5 runs on 7 hits. The bullpen came to the rescue, though, with Mike Bacsik, Winston Abreau, Jésus Colomé (who got the win), Saul Rivera, Arnie Muñoz, Chris Schroeder, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero (who got his 35th save) allowed only 3 more runs, and held off the National League East division leaders for the second consecutive night, winning 9-8 and taking at least 2 of 3 games. I loved what's Bill Ladson had to say about Chad Cordero's 9th inning thrills: "
..closer Chad Cordero gave the Nationals their usual scare."

Ryan Report: Church didn't play, Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with a double, Langerhans went 0 for 1, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 4 with a homer and 2 R.B.I.'s.

Nook Logan also had a good night, going 2 for 5 with a triple, Wily Mo Peña went 1 for 4 with an R.B.I., Ronnie Belliard was on fire, going 3 for 4 with a homer and 3 R.B.I.'s, Robert Fick went 2 for 3 with a walk, Brian Schneider went 1 for 3 with an R.B.I., and D'Angelo Jimenez went 1 for 1 with a R.B.I. in a pinch-hitting role.

Box score here.

My own feelings of Déja-vu came when I began driving towards the stadium, having not been able to get off of work early. Before the Nats even got to the plate, while I was still not even at the parking lot yet, the score was 4-0 Mets. I thought to myself, "Well, last night the Nats were behind 4-0 and that turned out okay." I wasn't expecting to win, I just wanted them to make a game of it and not get disgraced and humiliated. Little did I know what thrills awaited me.

The fire department was in attendance for their honorary night at the ballpark, and there were two big engines with the American flag suspended between their ladders out in front of R.F.K. It was a lovely sight. I gave some money to a firefighter collecting money for burn victims, that always feels good, I actually enjoy the opportunity to give at the stadium when charities are collecting.

71 degrees and clear for the just-under 20,000 crowd, and it was another gorgeous night for baseball. Saw Rico but no Ellie (family problem) and I got my usual Capital Q Barbecue beef brisket sandwich and a beer from Howard, and I watched the Nats second consecutive improbable rally. What fun! I joked to some fans that the Nats were reliving history, and we were witnessing the "Sinking of the Maine" right in front of our eyes.

Gotta make the most of these last home games, and with the surging Philadelphia Phillies on their way in for the last 4 games beginning Thursday, this may be the last chance to grab a thrilling win at R.F.K. I dearly hope that I'm wrong.

Nats rally from 0-4, beat Mets 12-4 OR A Monday Mets Mugging

On Monday, the New York Mets came to town for their final visit to R.F.K. Stadium, and the National League East division leaders could not have expected what would happen over the course of the game.

Starting out with a 4-0 lead, the Mets were anxious to shake off their weekend sweep by the Philadelphia Phillies, who are hot on their heels for the division lead, and they certainly hoped to be able to beat up on their weaker division rivals to put some distance between themselves and the Phillies.

Funny how life, and baseball, doesn't always work the way you expect that it will, isn't it?

The Washington Nationals would go on to score 12 unanswered runs, and take the first game of the 3-game series.

The Mets starter, Brian Lawrence, was an "emergency" starter, having just been called up from AAA, but he has an interesting history where the Nationals are concerned. The Nationals acquired him in a trade with the San Diego Padres at the end of the 2005 season, as they sent 3B Vinny Castilla to San Diego for Lawrence. Lawrence had never been injured, and the Nats were looking to get a 200 inning performance out of him, but in spring training 2006, Lawrence was injured and out for the entire season. The Nats released him at the end of 2006. Lawrence got picked up by the Rockies if I'm not mistaken, and found his way to the Mets, and I always wondered what we missed by not having Lawrence in the Nats lineup last year. I'm not wondering any longer. He got hammered for 4 runs on 6 hits, and walked one in his 3 1/3 innings.

Nats starter Tim Redding had an almost identical outing as his Mets counterpart, also allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and walking one. The bullpen of John "Johnny A." Albaladejo (who got his first win), Saul Rivera, Luis Ayala, Arnie Muñoz, and Jésus Colomé did their usual efficient work, allowing only 4 hits and no runs.

Ryan Report: Church went 1 for 1 with a pinch-hitting 2-R.B.I. homerun, Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with a walk, Langerhans went 0 for 1 and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 3 with a double and was walked twice.

Nook Logan had another great game, going 3 for 5 at the plate with a double and an R.B.I. and he bunted well, Wily Mo Peña went 2 for 5 with 2 R.B.I.'s, Belliard went 1 for 4 with a walk and 2 R.B.I.'s, Ronnie Belliard went 1 for 4 with 2 R.B.I.'s, Brian Schneider had a double with 2 R.B.I.'s, Robert Fick went 1 for 2 with an R.B.I. and D'Angelo Jimenez went 1 for 4.

It should be noted that, the mighty Mets made 4 errors, all of which proved costly.

Box score here.

I couldn't get out of work early, so I listened to the game in my car and heard things going badly. The score was 3-0 Mets by the time I even got to the parking lot, and it was 4-0 shortly thereafter. I glumly went about my ballpark routine, and got my food and settled in to see how bad things might get. The Mets fans in attendance were not yet in full voice, and I anticipated another night of R.F.K. turning into "Shea South", much to the continuing irritation of Nats fans in attendance.

For the first time since April, I had to wear a jacket to guard against the chill. Autumn is knocking at our door, and knocking hard. It was 69 degrees and clear, and I was grateful for the good weather.

Saw all of my people (Rico, Ellie, etc..) and got my beer from Howard. I just wanted the Nats to play well and not get humiliated. I feared that the Mets would roar into R.F.K. with a vengence after being swept by the Phillies over the weekend.

The President's Race saw a presidential-pileup, as Teddy went down and Abe and Tom fell over him. Funny to see, I hope that they weren't hurt. George won.

It was wonderful when the Nats tied the score, but to continue getting run after run, I began to wonder, "Who are these guys in Nats uniforms?" It was an uncharacteristic burst of offense (aided by the Mets errors) and yet I couldn't feel comfortable until the score was 10-4. The Mets are good, but I didn't believe that they would overcome a 6-run deficit.

A wonderful way to begin a new series, and I remarked to several people afterward that I've never seen the stadium empty so quickly. I swear, within 10 minutes of the final out, the place seemed almost empty. Lots of Mets fans left early, that's for sure.

Nice to get that first game out of the way and preserve some dignity and respect.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Braves at Nats, the weekend series wrapup

The Washington Nationals began their last homestand at R.F.K. Stadium on Friday, hosting the Atlanta Braves for a 3-game series. They took 1 of 3, so they avoided a sweep, but they should have taken at least 2 of the 3. It was so close, but they just couldn't get the job done.

Friday, September 14th: Braves 8, Nats 5

This game began in the rain, and it ended in the rain. It ended in a 5 hour, 13 minute marathon, the longest Nationals game in terms of pure game time (rain delay times excluded).

This game was also the Nationals 82nd loss of the season, guaranteeing their 2nd consecutive losing season and 3rd season finishing at or below .500.

Starter Matt Chico did okay given the conditions, but he couldn't dominate the Braves hitters. Chad Cordero blew the save in the top of the 9th inning, allowing the Braves to tie. Poor Chad has had more bad luck against the Atlanta Braves than against any other team and, truth be told, with a 2-run lead at the top of the 9th, with the rain the way that it was, and with some of Atlanta's best hitters coming to the plate, I wasn't comfortable, I worried about potential walks and tough Atlanta hitting. Reliever Jesus Colomé didn't have a good game, and his September hasn't been as productive as the earlier part of his season, before he went on the D/L with a non-pitching-related injury.

Ryan Report: Zimmerman hit a 2-run homer.

Soggy box score here.

I had to leave in the top of the 13th inning. I work Saturdays, and I had to be at work at 8:00, so just after midnight, after getting completely soaked, I packed it in. I could have sat under some cover, but with all of the empty seats around me, I thought that I'd have a good chance at any foul balls hit in my section. It didn't happen. As a matter of fact, things got awfully ugly in my section as some Braves fans kept standing up to see over some umbrellas and some Nats fans asked them to sit down. They protested a little bit and one fan made the unfortunate decision to refer to one of the Braves fans, who was, shall we say, "follically-challenged" by a name usually reserved for bald, violent racists. It just escalated from there, with the Braves fan calling the Nats fan a name that rhymes with "ice mole", and then a couple of female Nats fans remonstrating the Braves fans for cursing in front of children. Decorum was eventually restored, but some of these Braves fans started to challenge Phillies and Mets fans for sheer obnoxiousness. I can't wait until the Nats start winning and the stands are filled with Nats fans instead of visiting team fans.

This game was the first game that really felt like the end of the season. Sure, it was a Friday night, but so many of the college students who make up the Nat-Pack or other seasonal workers are gone, and things began to feel a little empty.

Saturday, September 15th: Nats 7, Braves 4

Now this was more like it. Nats starter Jason Bergmann had a quality start, and two of the lest likely Nats homerun hitters connected for crucial longballs.

With the crowd of 26,866 getting in a Latin mood on Hispanic Night at R.F.K. the team was a little more loose (and drier, after the previous night's soggy session). Autumn was in the air as the gametime temperature was 66 degrees, but a beautiful clear evening.

Starter Jason Bergmann won his 5th game, evening his record at 5-5. In his 6 2/3 innings, he threw 93 pitches for 63 strikes (66%), allowing 4 runs on 8 hits, walked 3 and struck out 3. He also allowed 2 homers. The bullpen of Arnie Muñoz, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero allowed no runs and only 1 walk. Chad Cordero picked up his 34th save, but not before giving the Nats faithful chest-pains as he walked a batter and loaded the bases in the 9th inning. Rarely, it seems, does Chad have 1-2-3 9th innings, and "The Chief" was in full cardiac-mode this evening. When he comes through in these situations, the feeling of relief is so wonderful.

Ryan Report: Church did not play, Zimmerman went 1 for 3 with a double and a walk, Langerhans did not play, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 3 with an R.B.I. double and a walk.

The big Nats hits came from D'angelo Jimenez and Robert Fick, both of whom had homeruns, Jimenez going 3 for 3 with 2 R.B.I.'s and a double along with that homer, and Fick went 1 for 3 in a pinch-hitting role for Dmitri Young, and knocked in a 3-run homer. Ronnie Belliard went 1 for 4 with an R.B.I. and Brian Schneider went 1 for 3.

Dmitri Young had a scary moment when a ball took a bad hop and hit him in the side of his head at first base, knocking him to the ground. Fortunately, he wasn't injured, but he had a headache and strained his neck, and the Nats have him listed as day-to-day.

Box score here.

I arrived at the ballpark early, taking advantage of the season-ticket-holder deal to be allowed into the stadium an hour before the rest of the crowd. It was such a gorgeous afternoon, and I dutifully stood in line for some autographs until I realized that I already had all of the player's autographs who were signing, so I just chatted with other fans and saw some friends.

One unfortunate thing I heard was, a fan that I know was with his young sons, and they waited to get the autograph of a particular player. They were the LAST ones in line to get it, so there was no pressure upon that player in terms of time. The fan told his boys to get close in by the wall where the player was signing to get a photograph. Suddenly, the player stopped signing the ball in his hand and declared, "No pictures." in a rather gruff tone. The fan complied with the players request, but he wasn't happy about it. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that the player "owes" a fan anything other than their best effort on the field, but for crying out loud, what harm was there in giving these folks a quick photo? These are well-behaved fans, not pushy or demanding, and they weren't holding anyone else up. I simply don't understand that kind of treatment. If any player wants to explain that side of the argument to me, by all means, the comment section is open. I'm not identifying the player in question because I don't feel that it is my place to embarrass them or cause trouble for them, but I will say that this is a player who has an established reputation for not being terribly kind or friendly to fans. For what these guys are paid, you'd think that some of them would display a little more humility and gratitude. If they don't want a photo taken, there are more polite ways to request that.

I saw all of my friends and ate my usual. Got my beer from Howard and all was right with my world for the evening.

I loved this quote from Manager Manny Acta:
"You can't lose on Hispanic Night when your manager is Hispanic."

Sunday, September 16th: Braves 3, Nats 0

Well, it wasn't a perfect weekend. Atlanta starter Tim Hudson pitched a complete game, throwing precisely 100 pitches for 72 strikes (do the math), allowing 7 hits and struck out 6.

That, in a nutshell, was the story of the game. I've said before, there's no shame in losing to a superior opponent, and Tim Hudson could barely have been better. All you can do is applaud him and hope that you don't see him again for a long time.

The crowd of 23,935 was treated to a pitching clinic watching Hudson, and it was a beautiful 66 degree, sunny day to see it. Nats starter Shawn Hill did his best, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, walking 4 and striking out 2. He also allowed 1 homerun. The bullpen of Mike Bacsik, Chris Schroeder and Luis Ayala allowed no runs and only 3 hits.

Ryan Report: Oh, please.

At least the game only took 2 hours 24 minutes, allowing fans to enjoy the gorgeous weather doing other things.

Box score here.

I have to confess, I barely paid any attention to this game because I was with a lady friend, and believe me, she was a lot more interesting to me than whatever was going on with the game. We both enjoyed sitting in the sun and eating peanuts. Fans in the shade were feeling uncomfortably chilly, and days like this are enough to make you want to savor them as long as possible. We walked around, got some food, and chatted with lots of folks. All in all, it was a nice day, just not if your criteria for success depended upon the day's box score.

At least the Nats didn't get swept, but I was left thinking that really, they should have won Friday night and taken the series.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nats at Marlins, the 3-game wrapup

The Nationals lost their 2nd consecutive road series, this time to the Florida Marlins but, unlike the Braves series, the Nats didn't go down without a great fight and some impressive offense.

Game 1: Monday, September 10th - Nats 5, Marlins 4

This game was a nail-biter, with lots of thrills for Nats fans.

Nats starter Shawn Hill pitched a dandy, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, no walks, and he struck out 6. An interesting statistic: Hill has now allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in 13 of his 14 starts this season. That certainly bodes well for the future.

The bullpen did a god job holding the Marlins back, though Jésus Colomé allowed them back into the game in his 1/3 of an inning when he gave up 2 runs on 2 hits, narrowing the score to 5-4, but "Johnny A.", Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero (with save #33) completed the job.

Ryan Report: Church was 0 for 0 at the plate, but was walked, Zimmerman went 1 for 3 with an R.B.I. and a walk, Langerhans did not play, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 5 with an R.B.I.

Nook Logan went 1 for 3 with 2 walks, as did Felipé Lopez. Dmitri Young went 1 for 4 with a walk, Ronnie Belliard went 3 for 4 with a double and a walk, Jésus Flores went 1 for 5. The biggest hits came from Wily Mo Peña, who had his 8th multi-homer game of his career. His first one was a 2-R.B.I. bullet, which shot just over the left field wall, disappearing in the blink of an eye. The second was a solo shot to the seats in left-center.

The suspense of the game was lengthened with a 40-minute rain delay which, fortunately, didn't shift the momentum of the game.

All in all, it appeared that the Nats had picked up where they had left off with the Marlins in D.C. the previous week.

Game 2: Tuesday, September 11th - Marlins 13, Nats 8

Like the shark in "Jaws", just when you think the Marlins are dead, they seem to find renewed life and keep attacking.

This game had a see-sawing score, with the Marlins jumping to an early lead, losing it to the Nats, gaining it again, the Nats tied it up 8-8, and the Marlins ran away with it in the late innings, scoring 5 runs.

Starter Mike Bacsik never did get comfortable on the mound, allowing 8 runs on 5 hits, mostly due to 3 homeruns. The bullpen of six relievers all allowed at least 1 run, except for Winston Abreau. Saul Rivera, Chris Schroeder (who took the loss) and Luis Ayala each allowed 2 runs, and Micah Bowie (returning to action off of rehab starts and the D/L) and "Johnny A." each allowed 1 run. The Marlins scored in each inning except the 6th.

Ryan Report: Church was 0 for 1 in a pinch-hitting role, Zimmerman went 3 for 5, Langerhans went 0 for 1 pinch-hitting, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 3 with a double and a walk.

Some big hits came from Nook Logan and Felipé Lopez (each 1 for 5), Dmitri Young (1 for 4 with an R.B.I. a double and a walk), Ronnie Belliard (1 for 3 with an R.B.I.), Brian Schneider (1 for 3 with a walk), and Wily Mo Peña (2 for 5 with 2 R.B.I.'s, and he even got a stolen base, his first for the Nats).

The biggest hit of the game came from young Justin "J-Max" Maxwell, though. J-Max got is very first major league hit, on only his 3rd plate appearance, in a pinch-hitting role to boot, and it was one for the ages - a Grand Slam, which temporarily put the Nats ahead by 2 runs in the game.

The funny thing about that Grand Slam for me is, I got to chat for 2 seconds with J-Max as he left R.F.K. last week, the night that saw his very first major league plate appearance, when he hit that towering shot that ALMOST went over the wall for a homer, but was caught at the warning track. When I spoke to J-Max, I said, "Man, I thought that hit was out of there!", and he laughed and said, "Next time!" Little did we know. Who knows, in the new Nats ballpark, that first at-bat of his might have been a homer, but spacious old R.F.K. took it away from him. J-Max, the Nationals best minor-league hitting prospect, is definitely an exciting guy to watch.

Other than that Grand Slam, it was a game the Nats and their fans would just as soon forget.

Box score for Justin Maxwell fans.

Game 3: Wednesday, September 12th - Marlins 5, Nats 4

The Nats had the chance to take the rubber game and their 2nd straight series from the Marlins on Wednesday.

As Maxwell Smart might have said, "Missed it by THAT much!"

The Nationals went into 12 innings, 4 hours and 9 minutes worth of baseball, only to lose in the bottom of the 12th by 1 run.

Starter Joel Hanrahan didn't have much of a game. The only real highlight was Ryan Church and Wily Mo Peña hitting back-to-back homers. The bullpen did alright, but the game wasn't terribly memorable.

The fun part for me was, since it was my day off, and it was an afternoon game, I went down to the ESPN Zone to watch the game on their HUGE projection T.V., in the comfort of a leather reclining chair, with a burger and a 25 oz. beer. They even have little T.V. monitors above the urinals in the men's room, and I even noticed a monitor in the stall, too. Nice touch! Let me tell you, the ESPN Zone is THE place to watch a Nationals road game from. I highly recommend it, and I'll definitely do it more often next season.

Box score for the masochists among you.

So the Nats couldn't replicate a Marlin sweep, but at least they kept the games close. Hopefully, they will do better over the homestand.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nats vs. Braves - the weekend roundup

The Washington Nationals took only the Sunday game from their weekend series in Atlanta against the Braves, but there was much for a Nats fan to be interested in.

Game 1 - Friday, September 7th: Braves 7, Nationals 1

This is a game that I'd just as soon forget. The big story was, that Atlanta starter (and dead-lock 1st ballot future Hall-of-Famer) John Smoltz almost threw a no-hitter, and he dominated the Nats like he hasn't done in their 3 seasons of existence. This came to an end in the 8th inning as Ronnie Belliard blooped a single to right field. Ryan Church, in a pinch-hitting role, drove Belliard in to prevent a shut-out. Those were the only 2 Nats hits of the entire game.

Sloppy play was evident, but I don't want to take away from the accomplishments of John Smoltz. He created some havoc on the mound.

Nats starter Joel Hanrahan didn't have a good game, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 4 hits, striking out 3 but walking 4. Chalk it up to rookie growing pains and the Braves getting September tough.

Ross Detwiler made his major-league debut, but unfortunately, it was in what I call "garbage time". The Nats were getting killed, and a rally didn't appear imminent, but the one advantage for Detweiler was, there really wasn't any pressure upon him at that point to do anything but get some batters out, which he did. He didn't need to "hold" or "save" or anything else, just throw first-pitch strikes and retire batters. He allowed no hits, no runs and struck out one.
Detwiler became the first player selected in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft to play in a major league game so far this season. Happily for Detwiler, the first batter he faced was Andruw Jones, who grounded out. Thus, in one at-bat, you glimpse some of the greatness of the Braves past, and hopefully some of the greatness of the Nationals future.

Ryan Report: Let the record show that it was Church who prevented the embarrassing shutout. Oh, and Ryan Zimmerman made some unfortunate errors.

The box score for the curious.

Game 2 - Saturday, September 8th: Braves 9, Nationals 2

More sloppy play, and another night where the wheels fell off of the Nats victory bus early.
Really not much of a game, from a Nats fans standpoint.

Starter Matt Chico didn't have his best game, allowing 6 runs on 6 hits and walking 1, but he did strike out 5. He only lasted 5 innings, however. He's been better, but he's also been worse.

Ronnie Belliard had a 2-run homer to prevent a shut-out. He gets my vote for the Most Valuable National Player of the weekend series.

Ryan Report: Church had the night off,
Zimmerman went 0 for 4, Langerhanswnet 1 for 1 in a pinch-hitting role, with a triple. Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 4.

All in all, another forgettable road game.

The box score for anyone interested.

Game 3 - Sunday, September 9th: Nationals 7, Braves 4

Well, this was much more like it. No errors today, and some offensive spark.

Nats starter Jason Bergmann got a nice win, another quality start, going 6 innings and allowing 3 runs on 4 hits, striking out 6 and walking 2. He threw 54 strikes on 87 pitches (62%).

The bullpen of Luis Ayala, Arnie Muñoz, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero held the Braves very well, with Cordero notching his 32nd save.

Ryan Report: Let the record show that Church's 3-run homer sparked the rally to victory, and he went 1 for 4. Zimmerman went 1 for 5 with a homer, Langerhans went 1 for 1 and stole a base, too, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 5 with a double.

Big hits came from D'Angelo Jimenez (3 for 5 with 3 R.B.I's and a double), Ronnie Belliard (1 for 4), Dmitri Young (2 for 2, and walked twice, with a double), Wily Mo Peña (1 for 5), Jésus Flores (1 for 3 and walked twice), and Robert Fick (1 for 2).

So the Nats saved some face and avoided a disgraceful sweep, while they left Atlanta behind.
A disappointing weekend, but at least they ended it on a high note.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Nats complete Marlins sweep with 6-4 win OR The Magnificent Seven

(Note: due to personal computer problems, this post is several days late. My apologies.)

The Washington Nationals completed a 3-game sweep of the Florida Marlins on Wednesday to keep themselves in 4th place in the National League East by a margin of 3 games, as well as keeping their undefeated September winning streak alive at 5 games.

By winning on Wednesday evening, the Nationals have guaranteed that they cannot lose 100 games this season, regardless of how the rest of their season unfolds. When one considers that a great many otherwise-knowledgeable baseball prognosticators predicted with smug certainty back in March and April that the Nationals were guaranteed to lose at LEAST 100 games, if not more, possibly becoming historically-bad, this is a welcome revelation. As it now stands, the Nationals are on a pace to win 73 games and lose 89, a .450 average.

The Wednesday game had so many aspects to it, so many changes, plots and subplots, that it was almost a gift for Nationals fans who are fascinated by such intrigue. I would like to think that if I were to write this game's results into a screenplay, it would be rejected by every Hollywood studio as being preposterous.

To begin with, Nationals starting pitcher Tim Redding, who had been pitching well, left the game after 4 1/3 innings with an injury due to being hit by a line drive and then stumbling off of the mound in an attempt to snag the ball. This opened up an opportunity for Jonathan Albaladejo ("Albuh-la-day-hoe", hereafter referred to as "Johnnie A."), a free agent who the Nats picked up after his spending 6 years in the Pittsburgh Pirates system and had an outstanding stint at AAA Columbus this summer. Johnnie A came in with 2 runners on base and got out of the situation, then came back in the 4th inning to strike out the side. He is going to be a fun pitcher to watch the remainder of the season, and someone to look forward to in spring training.

On the Marlins' side, starter Sergio Mitre didn't even last one inning as he loaded the bases and managed to walk in two of the Nats first three runs that inning. I've never seen a starting pitcher make such a quick exit, but that doesn't mean much. However, many other longtime baseball fans seemed equally stunned, unable to recall having seen a starting pitcher make such a quick exit.

The Nationals bullpen of "Johnnie A.", Winston Abreau, Jésus Colomé, Luis Ayala (who got the win), Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero (who got the save) did well enough to win, though it was shaky during Colomé's outing (he blew the save, but the bullpen recovered, obviously).

Ryan Report: Church went 1 for 3 with an R.B.I. and I breathed a sigh of relief to see him back on the field. Zimmerman went 1 for 4, Langerhans did not play, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 3 for 4 with a homer.

The other hits came from Felipe Lopez (1 for 5), Ronnie Belliard (ditto), Wily Mo Peña (1 for 3 with an R.B.I and a walk), Brian Schneider (also 1 for 3, with 2 R.B.I.'s and a walk), and Robert Fick (2 for 3 with an R.B.I. and a walk).

The last home game of this homestand, a chance to sweep the Marlins and hit the road on a high note, and being my day off, I was able to get to R.F.K. early enough to get right inside when the gates opened. After a quick hello to Rico, it was down to the Nats dugout to seek out some autographs. No such luck today, at least at this juncture, but I got to chat with some fans, one of whom was having great fun teasing the Marlin's Miguel Cabrera, who was taking batting practice, shouting, "That's right, Cabrera, get it out of your system now!" (ha!)
I went and saw Ellie and other friends. Tonight was the last night for my friend Maria, who works at the Capital Q Barbecue stand. She is from Slovakia and is going home, along with her friend and sometimes co-worker Elishka.

Today the Nationals honored the late Hall-of-Fame Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente, and between innings the scoreboard showed highlight clips of his amazing playing ability and narration of his marvelous achievements. Very inspirational, and always worthwhile. It's important for each generation of baseball fans to be fully aware of this amazing player and great humanitarian, and the impact that he continues to have to this day.

I had my usual beer from Howard and seriously enjoyed the Nats win. Undefeated at home this month, 5 game winning streak, such fun.

After the game, I again sought autograph opportunities outside the stadium, and one again I struck gold, getting several which I coveted but didn't have yet. It took a little while, as the parking lot was filled with D.C. police squad cars. Police had captured a guy who robbed a concession stand on the 500-level late in the game, and had accidentally shot himself as he attempted to climb a fence. Forget the fact that this guy went to the most difficult section of the stadium, with the fewest fans, and was probably captured on so many security cameras (heck, he was pursued by security as he ran down the ramps). What a dope.

I managed to get Felipé Lopez, Wily Mo Peña, Joel Hanrahan and Jésus Flores! I still need Ryan Zimmerman, Ronnie Belliard, Robert Fick, Tony Batista, D'Angelo Jimenez, Chad Cordero, Cristian Guzman, and several others, but I'm working on it. I'll never get all 40 members of the 40-man roster to autograph my ball (it's not big enough to hold all of those signatures, anyway) but it's fun trying. More to come with the final homestand.

Speaking of Flores, the night before, he fouled-off a ball that bounced off of the Nats dugout and hit a fan, in the face. It was in Coach's section, and the EMT's treated her. Well, she was BACK last night! Talk about a trooper!
Coach didn't know who's foul ball it was. I told Coach that it was Flores's foul-ball, and he got Jésus to autograph it for her (she brought it with her). I think that Jésus even apologized to her. She wasn't upset or angry, she didn't even remember it happening. Her nose wasn't broken, but she was a little black-and-blue and swollen. Gotta give her a lot of credit. It's so funny - I asked Coach how the fan was who got nailed, and he said, "There she is right over there". I'm glad that I was able to tell Coach who it was and have him get her ball signed. I told her, "I'm jealous, I like to say that I bleed Nationals red, and I bleed for this team, but you really did!" She laughed. All's well that ends well.

Another amazing night for me to be a Nats fan. Only a few left, darn it all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Nats rally in heroic 9th inning as Flores hits walk-off double, win 2nd consecutive home series OR Flores ends up smelling like a rose

The Washington Nationals remain undefeated in September, having won 4 straight and taking 2 consecutive home series, against the San Francisco Giants, and last night against the Florida Marlins, winning the first two of a 3-game series.

The Tuesday night game saw the Nats start out 2-0, then the Marlins tied it up 2-2 only to take the lead, 3-2 in the 5th inning, where the score stayed until catcher Jésus Flores hit a walk-off 2 R.B.I. double to give the Nats the win in the bottom of the 9th.

Starter Shawn Hill had a solid outing, if not a dominating one. He allowed 3 runs on 11 hits, but he did strike out 6. He kept the Marlins from running away with the lead and allowed the Nats to stay in the game. In his 6 1/3 innings, he threw 71 strikes on 97 pitches (73%) and was impressive on the mound.

The bullpen was flawless, allowing no runs and no hits. We saw the Nats debut of lefty Arnie Muñoz, who replaced Ray King in the bullpen as lefty-specialist, the return of Winston Abreau, Luis Ayala, and Chris Schroeder, who walked one and struck out one, getting the win in the process.

Ryan Report: Once again, Ryan Church did not play, which continues to alarm me. Zimmerman went 1 for 2 with an R.B.I. double and was walked twice. Ryan Langerhans returned from AAA Columbus with the September 1st roster expansions and he pinch-ran for Dmitri Young and got the tying run at home plate, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 4 with an R.B.I. single.

The Nats did collect 10 hits for the game, none bigger than the Jésus Flores walk-off 2 R.B.I. double into the left-field corner, which sent Ryan Langerhans and Wily Mo Peña home to tie then win the game (thanks to 3B coach Tim Tolman for sending Wily Mo, by the way!). The other hits came from Nook Logan (2 for 4 with a double), Felipé Lopez (2 for 3), Wily Mo Peña with a clutch single in the 9th (1 for 4), Ronnie Belliard (1 for 4), and Jésus Flores who wound up going 2 for 4.

The fact that Jésus Flores became the hero of the game was especially sweet, considering that he was given 2 errors, both on dropping pop-ups behind the plate. You could just tell that this was killing him, and he was trying so hard to do his best. Neither error was costly to the Nats, but it wore on him mentally, so to turn it around and hit the game-winning double was Homeric in its poetry. As I heard Don Sutton say later on the broadcast, a "huge piano" had just been removed from Flores's back on that play.

I decided to take the day off, to give myself a little mini-vacation, so I got to the ballpark when the gates opened. It was a terrific evening for baseball, really lovely weather, 89 degrees and clear at game time, but no wind, so it felt warmer. I went down and got myself some autographs from Ross Detweiler, the Nats #1 draft pick out of Missouri State this summer, and Justin Maxwell, another top draft pick who is the Nats best hitting prospect. Both very nice guys, and the nicest part was seeing the sheer wonderment in their eyes, and their smiles, as though they couldn't believe their luck and that their wishes had come true, which they probably had. It's a different look than the veterans have, and it's a joy to see in person. I got a couple of photos which I'll post later.

Did my usual routine, saying hi to Rico and Ellie and getting my Capital Q Barbecue beef brisket sandwich from Maria. I said hello to several other friends and took my seat. Got a beer from Howard and my evening was perfect. I was hoping to see Shawn Hill dominate the Marlins, and in some ways he did, and we got something of a pitcher's dual with the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis not allowing the Nats more than 2 runs.

The first game post-Labor Day saw a crowd of only 15, 611, which is to be expected I guess, with the Nats not being in a pennant race, the kids back in school and it being a weeknight, and the Marlins aren't usually a big draw here. I remarked to one usher that one of the things I love about the Marlins visits is that there aren't many Marlins fans here, unlike Mets fans, Phillies fans, Cubs fans, who have huge, generationally-loyal fans. It's just nicer when OUR fans outnumber the visiting team's fans. Still, it's so sad to see fewer fans in the stands, it's like back in April again when the weather is cold. September realities, I suppose. I feel badly for the vendors whose livelihoods depend upon fans with cash.

What a fun way to win a game, though. God, there is nothing more exciting (or nerve-wracking) than a come-from-behind win in the 9th inning. Watching Flores get mobbed by his teammates in the infield, and then get not one but TWO shaving cream pies in the face from his teammates, Brian Schneider and Ryan Zimmerman, as he was getting interviewed by MASN's Debbi Taylor was such fun to see. The Nats now have a 4-game winning streak and have 4th place solidly to themselves, with the Marlins now 2 games behind them. I hope that they can win the Wednesday game and gain another game on the Marlins, as well as send themselves off onto their weekend roadtrip on a positive note.

One advantage of attending a post-Labor Day game is, because the crowds are smaller, there are fewer fans requesting autographs at the end of the game out in the parking lot, so I decided to take advantage of that for once (it's usually too crowded for me, too many folks clamoring for the players attention, and many of the players don't stop, which I completely understand, most are just tired and want to go to bed or go out and get dinner). I was lucky, there were only 3 other guys, all of whom had cards to sign, but I had my team ball and tried my luck.

I struck autograph gold. I managed to get Dmitri Young, Austin Kearns, Chris Schroeder, Jésus Colomé, and best of all, Manny Acta! Nick Johnson also stopped for me, but he noticed that I already had his autograph, which I didn't realize, because when I got it at R.F.K. earlier in the season, there was some confusion as to whether or not I was handed back my ball or someone else's. To be fair, some of these signatures are almost impossible to read (like doctor's signatures on prescriptions, really) and thankfully some of the players put their jersey #'s on there to help, but I thanked Nick for stopping all the same, and I apologized for the confusion. He was very nice about it. It was so nice to be able to congratulate Dmitri on his All-Star selection in person, and just to thank these guys. I noticed that Jésus Colomé has a T.V. screen on the steering wheel of his vehicle, and I joked with him that he could use it to watch his highlight videos - he liked that idea! It got a laugh out of him, and that was fun.

Thanks to all the players who signed my ball, I truly appreciate your time to make this fan's whole day.

Now to watch Tim Redding take it to the Marlins and try for the series sweep.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ray King traded to Milwaukee for APTBNL

So it would appear that the Brewers are shoring up their bullpen in preparation for their pennant race campaign. The Nationals GM Jim Bowden traded Ray King, a left-handed specialist, to the Brewers for a player to be named later.

Let's hope for our sakes that the player is Ryan Braun, and that Bowden can convince him to move from 3rd base to 2nd, or shortstop. After all, we have to keep the "Ryan" thing going, right?

This means that the team's new left-handed specialist will be Arnie Muñoz. According to the official press release:

"The trade means Arnie Munoz will be Washington's lefty specialist, and the club wants to see if he has a future in that role. Munoz went 3-1 with a 2.56 ERA in 54 appearances with Triple-A Columbus, where opponents hit .229 against him."

I will miss Ray King, as I miss every player the Nats ever trade, but I wish him well. He played in Milwaukee for 3 seasons so I'm sure that he has some friends there and will settle back into life in Milwaukee just fine.

Thanks for all of your help this season Ray - best of luck in Milwaukee!

Nats take Marlins 6-3, regain 4th place to themselves OR Bergmann's Labors not lost

Labor Day in the Nation's Capital, and there was no place I'd rather have been than at R.F.K. Stadium to watch the Washington Nationals take on the Florida Marlins. It was a beautiful day for baseball and the Nats made the most of it, taking the Marlins 6-3.

Starter Jason Bergmann, making his first home start since coming off of the disabled list and some rehab starts (he pitched against the Dodgers, though), pitched a dandy, but it didn't begin that way, as he threw an unbelievably high number of pitches in the first inning (27 I think), but he settled down and did himself proud. He ended his day having thrown 70 strikes on 108 pitches (65%), allowing only 1 run (a solo homer) on 4 hits, walking 1 and striking out 9. It was a very impressive performance, and I'm thrilled for the guy.

The bullpen of Jésus Colomé, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero kept things more-or-less under control, with Colomé struggling a bit, allowing 2 runs, but Rauch and Cordero allowed none, and Cordero got his 30th save.

*EDIT* I was very remiss in not reporting how impressed I was at the escape act that Jon Rauch engineered, with the bases loaded and just one out. He managed to get out of the inning without scoring any runs, striking out Mike Jacobs and Cody Ross, and making excellent use of his fastball. Great performance, Jon!

Ryan Report: Church did not play, not even in a pinch-hitting role, and I'm quite concerned about that. It pains me greatly that the team might feel that they can get along fine without him. Wily Mo Peña isn't making things any easier for Church, either, having hit some recent homers, including a great one on Labor Day. Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with an R.B.I double, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 3 for 4 with an R.B.I., raising his batting average to .266. Austin really is on a pace to win himself a Gold Glove award. If I'm not mistaken, he leads the National League in outfielders with a .997 fielding percentage. I hope that he can win one, that would be so nice for him.

The other great Nats hits came from Felipe Lopez (2 for 3 with a walk, and an outstanding triple), Dmitri Young (1 for 4 with a double), Wily Mo Peña (2 for 4 with a 2 R.B.I. homer) and Brian Schneider (2 for 4 with 2 R.B.I.'s).

A more beautiful Labor Day I can scarcely recall. The gametime temperature was 80 degrees, it was clear and sunny, and a nice 12 mph wind out to centerfield. I invited my buddy Myron and we got to the stadium just after the gates opened, and we went down to get autographs. No such luck, as no one seemed to be signing, but right after about 12:00 or so, Cristian Guzman appeared and signed lots of autographs, but I didn't see him until he was pretty much done - rats! I wasn't expecting him to be there, he wasn't in uniform, and despite some discussion about him coming back from injury early (he was expected to be out for the rest of this season) I didn't think that I'd actually see him around this week. Still, I hope to get his signature on my game ball before the end of the season.

Saw Rico, saw Ellie, spoke to Susan, and "Coach" down by the field, got my Capital Q Barbecue beef brisket sandwich from Dave and Maria, and Myron and I walked down to our seats. We saw several friends of his and I ran into a few of my own who I didn't expect to see, so that was lots of fun.

We were both a little disappointed in the size of the crowd, only 27, 592 reported, but I blame this on several factors, not the least of which is, that there just aren't a lot of Marlin fans in our area, and the prospect of a matchup between two teams that are 16 games out of 1st place isn't going to fill the seats. Another factor is, that baseball on Labor Day isn't yet an ingrained tradition here except amongst us Nats die-hards - heck, it's only been 3 seasons, it's going to take a few more to get people into thinking about it way ahead of time. It was also gorgeous beach weather all weekend and given our proximity to the Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Virginia beaches, a lot of people probably preferred to take advantage of the weather and enjoy one last weekend before all the schools were back in session. Hard to blame them, after all the Nats aren't exactly in a pennant race.

It was fun to watch "Way-out" Wily Mo hit a homer, but the better he plays the worse I feel for the future prospects with this club for Ryan Church.

I'm just completely happy that the Nats won their 3rd straight, putting them solidly in 4th place in the N.L. East, a game ahead of the Marlins. So many so-called "experts" never gave the Nats any kind of a chance at the beginning of the season, and they never would have predicted them in 4th place on Labor Day - heck, they were convinced that the Nats couldn't win more than 40-50 games. Well, as I believe I heard MASN's Bob Carpenter say recently about the Cardinals Manager, Tony Larussa, having said, "I don't know who 'they' are". and our own Manager, Manny Acta keeps proving that he is deserving of the NL "Manager of the Year" award.

Hope that the Nats can sweep the Marlins and have a winning homestand and go out on the road on a high note.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Nats take 2 of 3 from Giants - weekend wrapup OR Bye, bye, Barry!

Labor Day weekend, and a Nationals home series against the San Francisco Giants. What could be better? The Nationals managed to take 2 of 3 and show some terrific pitching for the most part, plus a couple of homers from less-likely suspects. Just about the only disappointment over the entire weekend was the President's race (well, Friday's game was a disappointment, too..)

Friday, August 30th - Giants 3, Nationals 2 OR Ending August with a wimper.

No Barry Bonds, but Tim Redding on the mound vs. Kevin Correia. Redding didn't have his best outing, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits in 5 innings, but he walked 5 batters and only struck out 1 batter. He threw an alarming 104 pitches in 5 innings, with 57 going for strikes (55%). Mike Bacsik, Chris Schroeder, Jésus Colomé and Jon Rauch didn't allow any more runs but the damage was enough.

Ryan Report: Church 0 for 1 in a pinch-hitting situation, Zimmerman 0 for 4, and Austin Ryan Kearns was walked once and went 1 for 3, that 1 being a booming homer that left the outfield with authority.

It was a gorgeous night for baseball - 84 degrees, clear, 15 mph wind out to right field. It took just 2 hours, 44 minutes. Attendance wasn't what I expected, given that it was a glorious Friday night of a 3-day weekend, only 25,169 reported. I got to the ballpark on time, and didn't hit much traffic.

Saw Rico, saw Ellie, saw Dave and Maria at Capital Q Barbecue. Got my beef brisket sandwich. Saw Howard and had my beer. I'd had an awfully stressful day at work, and just as soon as I got to R.F.K. I could feel my stress melt away. Baseball is a wonderful salve for the soul, a balm against the pressures of life. I was glad that the awful roadtrip was over and a nice homestand could begin. Yes, the Nats lost, but at least it was a close game, an engaging contest.

So the Nats end August with a 12-17 record for the month (.413), bookending a wonderful 5 game winning streak with a 7 game losing streak. It coulda been worse, it shoulda been better.

Saturday, September 1st - Nationals 4, Giants 1 OR Teddy's big night.
*Teddy Roosevelt Bobblehead Day*

This was much more like it. Joel "The Hammer" Hanrahan pitched a no-hitter through 4 2/3 innings, Jésus Flores hit his 4th homer of the year (1st at R.F.K.) to tie the game, Chad "The Chief" Cordero got the save and the Nats broke their losing streak, getting September off to a nice start.

Starter Joel "The Hammer" Hanrahan continued to show outstanding promise for the future of the starting rotation. In his 6 innings, he allowed only 1 run on 1 hit (a homer) walked 1 and struck out 2. He threw 54 strikes on a very conservative 80 pitches (68%). Deservedly so, he got the win, too.

Ray King, Jésus Colomé, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero allowed no runs and only 1 hit. Cordero got the save (his 29th).

It was wonderful to see the pitching staff put together a season-low 2-hitter, and best of all for many fans, they held Barry Bonds hitless. I would like to think that Joel Hanrahan and Chad Cordero went to Mike Bacsik after the game and said, "See, THAT'S how you pitch to Barry Bonds, man!" The best Bonds could manage was a long fly to left field in the top of the 9th, which Wily Mo Peña caught on the warning track to end the game. In some parks, that sucker would have been out, but not in wonderfully-spacious R.F.K.
Many fans were at this game to see the Giant's left-fielder, either to boo him, cheer him on, or just to say that they'd seen him play. Bonds is in the twilight of his career, and this, his last roadtrip to R.F.K. could also be his last trip to Washington, D.C. as a professional baseball player. Every time he came to the plate, camera's flashed. I was pleased that the whole "756" watch was already over, so as not to provide any distraction, and proud of our pitching staff that held Bonds hitless.

Ryan Report: Church hit a pinch-hit sacrifice-fly which scored a run, Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with an R.B.I. double, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 3 with a walk.

The big hit of the game came from Jésus Flores, who belted the homer that tied the game in th 5th inning. It went almost dead-straight-away centerfield, 410 feet. It was his first homerun at R.F.K., 4th of the season. He went 2 for 4 with 2 R.B.I.'s. Nook Logan, Felipe Lopez, Dmitri Young, and Wily Mo Peña each had 1 hit, and Ronnie Belliard had 2 hits.

It was another gorgeous night for baseball - 82 degrees, partly cloudy, 3 mph wind in from right field. It took just 2 hours, 33 minutes. Attendance was pretty good, just over 30,000, but I understand from a few fans who I spoke with who arrived by Metro that as they got to the Stadium Metro station, there were already fans getting on the Metro with their bobbleheads. Maybe some of them even went to the stadium, bought a $5 ticket, went inside, stood in line, got their bobblehead and left. Still, it looked like a good crowd to me. I left work on time, and didn't hit much traffic due to the Labor Day weekend exodus, and was happy to arrive before 6:00. I saw Rico, then immediately went to get my bobblehead, then I went up to see Ellie, then Dave and Maria at Capital Q Barbecue. Got my beef brisket sandwich. Saw Howard and got a beer. I decided to treat myself, being as it was a holiday weekend and all, so I prepaid Howard for an extra beer vowing to get it from him later. In the 4th inning, Howard yelled to me from the aisle, asking if I wanted a beer, and I indicated that I did, and that's when Howard had some fun with another vendor - he yelled over to one of his coworkers that sales were so slow that he was GIVING away beers, shouting, "Look! I'm giving a beer to THIS guy, he looks thirsty!" The fans around me were laughing in bewilderment, and I quickly explained that I'd already paid him for it. It was quite a hoot.

The highlight of the game for many fans was the 4th inning "President's Race", which
was fraught with anticipation, as the entire crowd of 30,221 was anticipating that tonight, at long last, "Teddy" would snap his epic losing streak on this, his bobblehead night. "Teddy" emerged from the right-field tunnel in the middle of the 4th inning, born upon a litter by some Nat-Pack folks, who were followed by "Secret Service" agents who held the other three presidents at bay. The litter was lowered to the ground, "Teddy" disembarked the litter...and promptly fell forward on his face. Pandemonium ensued, with the litter-bearers fleeing back towards the tunnel and the "Secret Service" agents unable to hold the other president's back, and the race was on in earnest. "George" got the big lead, but "Teddy", to his credit, suddenly burst forth but lost the race to "George" by a nose. There was a collective groan of disappointment from the crowd (Later on, as I reviewed the MASN broadcast, Bob Carpenter indicated that it appeared to him that several fans were already heading for the exits - ha!) Now the theory that "Teddy" will win either on the last day of the season or on Opening Day at the new ballpark is the prevailing one. My money is on Opening Day, as the new ballpark will likely be sold out with 41,000 fans in attendance. Stay tuned.

My boss and his wife were with another couple down in 124 and I went to visit them for about a half-inning, and I also went to speak to some other friends, so I was pretty busy.
It was a terrific Nats win, and another wonderful night at R.F.K. I'm fully aware that there are only a few more of these game remaining this season, and I'm trying to enjoy each and every one of them as best as I can.

I did have a fun fan moment when, after the game ended and I was walking towards the parking lot, I got to speak to Ryan Church for a few seconds, as he'd stopped his car to sign a few autographs for kids. He was in a great mood (hey, they won after all) and it was a really nice moment for me. A great ending to a terrific night of baseball.

Sunday, September 2nd - Nationals 2, Giants 1 OR "Mr. Walk-off"'s Good Vibrations beat Brian Wilson.

Sunday's rubber game against the San Francisco Giants was a wonderful pitcher's duel, the Nats Matt Chico vs. the Giant's Barry Zito. Chico went 7 strong innings, giving up only 4 hits, one homerun, one walk and he struck out 3. He threw 58 strikes on 90 pitches (64%) and showed that his 2-week stint down at AAA Columbus was a valuable learning experience for him. It was nice to have him back and, thanks to the September 1st roster-expansions, we got him back just in time. If not for that homerun, the Nats might have won 1-0.

The bullpen of Saul Rivera and Chad Cordero allowed no hits, and Cordero got his 3rd win of the season.

Ryan Report: Church went 0 for 1 in a pinch-hitting role, Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 3, but Zimmerman had the hit of the day, a walk-off single on a 3-2 count with 1 out off of Brian Wilson to drive in Felipe Lopez. It was the day-before Labor Day, so I was considering the holiday factor as Zimmerman came to the plate, maybe that's why it wasn't a homer, but on MASN, Bob Carpenter did indicate that it was Father's Day in Australia and New Zealand. Figures! His teammates mobbed him in the infield, and that's always a glorious sight to see for any Nats fan.

The other Nats hits came from Nook Logan (who also had a "Sports Center"-esque diving catch in centerfield), Felipe Lopez and Ronnie Belliard. Congratulations to Barry Zito for a strong pitching effort, I'm just glad that the Nats have face him twice now and beaten him both times.

A terrific day for baseball, with the gametime temperature of 79 degrees, partly cloudy with a little 5 mph wind out to left field. The reported attendance was 27,310 but it really felt like less than that.
It was "Kid's run the Show Day" at R.F.K. and the highlight of this for me was listening to young Allie Haines sing the National Anthem and God Bless America, and she had a lovely, wonderful voice. It's always a pleasure to hear such pretty renditions of both songs, and that young lady did them both proud.

Some fans had asked me at the beginning of the game if we were going to see the Giants's Barry Bonds at all, and I reminded them that he never plays a day game after a night game, BUT, I said, if the score is tied in the 9th inning, don't think for a second that Giant's Manager Bruce Bochy won't pinch-hit Bonds for their pitcher. I never thought for one moment that I was only going to be off by one inning! In the 8th inning, that is exactly what happened, and all Bonds could manage was a fly ball to centerfield which Nook Logan caught easily. Thus ends Bond's career appearances at R.F.K. stadium.

Being a Sunday, I got to the stadium early and went down to try and get some autographs, which I wasn't able to manage. I did see Rico and my various usher friends who I always try to say hello to when time allows. Saw Ellie, saw Dave and Maria and got my Capital Q Barbecue beef brisket sandwich and settled in for a glorious afternoon of Nationals baseball. Had my sunglasses and sunblock and didn't roast myself. Watching Ryan Zimmerman hit that walk-off single was such a fun moment, putting the cherry on top of a delicious Nationals Sunday "Sundae". A short game, they were done in 2 hours and 20 minutes, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

So the Nats win another home series and get September off to a terrific start. Let's hope that they can keep this going.

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

Survey of the Moment