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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

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.

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