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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.

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