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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.

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