There's a perfectly good reason why the Washington Nationals snapped out of a 2-game losing streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sure, they lost 10-0 Tuesday night, and 5-0 Wednesday night (their only two consecutive shutout games of the season), so one might think that they were due today.
No, I'm convinced it's because I wasn't there, as I said that I would be.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm pretty upset, though. This is what I get for trying to be a dedicated employee. My boss didn't show up until 7:00, and I was buried under a load of work that I had to get off of my desk this evening, as it was all time-sensitive. Oh sure, my boss says, go to the game then come back and finish it afterwards (!!!) Yeah, says I, that doesn't really work for me. I go to the games so that I can relax with a beer and some food and forget about work, and then go home afterwards. I'm not very effective at doing my work after I've just been to a Nats game. My head isn't into it, it's difficult to concentrate and get back into a work rhythm. No, I had to get my work done and be done with it. Damn it all.
Because tonight the Nationals showcased their resilience once again, and stunned the Dodgers by winning 11-4. The Nats had 14 hits, more than they've had the past two nights combined. The bats simply came alive in the 86 degree weather, another great night for baseball. And I missed it, damn it all.
Nats erstwhile-starter Micah Bowie made the most of his start tonight, throwing 78 pitches for 48 strikes (62%) in 5.1 innings. He allowed 3 runs on 3 hits, walked 2 and struck out 2. He got the win, too. And I didn't see it. Damn it all.
Who had the hot bats for the Nats? Who DIDN'T? Dmitri Young went 4 for 4, with an RBI, raising his batting average to .309 for the season, but for the month of May, he was hitting .352 going into tonight's game, now he's probably more like .400-something. Cristian Guzman went 3 for 4. Brian Schneider only went 1 for 5, but he had 2 RBI's. A few other guys had hits, too...
Ryan Report: Now THIS is more like it! Church went 2 for 4 with a walk and 2 RBI's off of his 8th inning homerun. Zimmerman went 2 for 4 with a walk and 4 RBI's, including 2 off of his 1st inning homerun. Langerhans went 0 for 1, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 4 with 2 RBI's. And I wasn't there to see ANY of it.
Damn it all.
I DID manage to follow the game a little bit on my computer at work, both reveling and bemoaning the Nationals fate as they built up a 6-1 lead. I left just before 9:00, and managed to listen to Charlie Slowes on the radio. When I got home, the score was 6-4, so there was some drama afoot. Both Charlie Slowes on the radio and Bob and Don on MASN mentioned that celebrity game show host and announcer Pat Sajak was attending the game with his family (Bob Carpenter made the funny remark that Sajak had heard that Nomar Garciapara was in the game, and he has so many vowels in his name, so Sajak was drawn here by that - ha!) I didn't realize that Sajak owned a couple of Maryland radio stations, including WNAV in Annapolis, nor did I realize that he and his family lived in Severna Park, Maryland part of the year. On T.V., he had a little mini-interview with MASN's Byron Kerr and exchanged playful jibes with Don Sutton, whom he knows from Los Angeles. It always seems odd to see celebrities here in town whom you associate with New York or Los Angeles. Like Dr. Phil, or Bo Derek, two celebrities I've noticed have gone to Nats games over the last two years. Tom Hanks was here last year, too, I think (or was it 2005?) and I seem to remember a strange exchange where he was in a suite which obviously had the game on TV and the announcer made some silly remark about the Tom Hanks movie, "Joe versus the Volcano"and Tom Hanks suddenly looked up, either surprised or annoyed at the remark (Hanks was wearing sunglasses, so it was difficult to tell) and the announcer later apologized. You just never know who you will see at a Nationals game, I guess. Not me tonight, though. Damn it all.
So here we are, with 1/3 of the season in the books, and where do the Nationals stand? They are on pace for 66 wins and 96 losses, only 5 games off of last season's results, but they were hampered by an awful first two weeks, and I don't think that they'll be in that position again. Unless disaster strikes and they just completely tank, which I can't see happening. All they have to do is keep doing what they're doing and let Nick Johnson return, Luis Ayala and the injured starters, Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, John Patterson and Jerome Williams. The Nats went 13-15 for the month of May, after going 9-17 in April. I see no reason why they won't improve in June. It won't be a cakewalk, though. The two best teams the Nationals will play are Cleveland and Detroit, whom they host in interleague action, and they are both two tough teams. I'm not so concerned with the Braves, because I think the Nats will play them tough, they know them too well, but of course they begin the month against the Padres, who gave the Nats such trouble in the beginning of May.
Only 21 more days of spring, folks. Summer is beckoning. I'm looking forward to it.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
There's a perfectly good reason why the Washington Nationals snapped out of a 2-game losing streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sure, they lost 10-0 Tuesday night, and 5-0 Wednesday night (their only two consecutive shutout games of the season), so one might think that they were due today.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I really thought that the Nats would have a fair chance against the Dodgers tonight. I figured that we'd already suffered through Brad Penny, and our own Mike Bacsik was pitching well, so maybe they'd give the Dodgers a battle.
The Dodgers Derek Lowe threw 113 pitches for 64 strikes (57%) over 7 innings, and managed to allow only 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5.
The Nationals Mike Bacsik threw 74 pitches for 48 strikes (67%) over 6 innings, and allowed 4 runs, walking 1 and striking out 1. He did okay, right up until the 5th and 6th innings, when the wheels fell off. Not his fault that he didn't have any run support.
In truth, it was a pretty boring game. About as bad as the previous night. The weather was nice, real warm and slightly humid. The announced crowd was 22,000+ though it seemed smaller than Tuesday night's announced crowd of 18,000+.
Cristian Guzman hasn't had a good couple of days defensively, but he did have 2 of the Nats 4 hits. Lopez had one, and Ryan Church had the other.
Ryan Report: Those with weak constitutions might want to skip this part - Church 1 for 2 with a walk, Zimmerman 0 for 3 with a walk, Langerhans 0 for 1, and Austin Ryan Kearns 0 for 3. Congratulations, Derek Lowe.
Maybe it was the full moon. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's something else, but the Nats were just powerless these past two nights. It could be that the Dodgers are just the real deal, a team that is likely going to be around in the post-season. That's what I'd like to believe, anyway.
Being my day off, I was able to get to the park early and get something to eat before the game started. One happy surprise was the return of Rico at the Main Gate - the Ambassador of Baseball Cheer is back! I knew it before I even got to the gate, I could hear him, but I thought I must be mistaken, as I thought that he'd left, but I was happy to be wrong about that. For all of you fans who park in Lots #7 and #8 and come in to R.F.K. via Gates A or F, you're missing out on being greeted by the most enthusiastic vendor in the whole stadium. Come through the Main Gate over by the Team Store side sometime and you'll see what I mean.
I also bumped into William Yurasko, who was on a search for a particular shirt. We chatted a bit and got caught up. I grabbed an Attman's corned beef sandwich and saw Howard for an MGD and settled in for a nice evening. It was perfect baseball weather again, and I was pretty happy to watch the game unfold on the field, at least until the 5th and 6th innings.
It's painful to see the team struggle, even against a top-notch opponent like the Dodgers. I've always said that there's no shame in losing to a truly superior opponent, and manager Manny Acta repeated his claim that against such teams, the Nats have to play perfectly to give themselves a chance to win. I worry about the effect that loses such as these have on the players mentalities. Sure, they're professionals, but they're still human beings. It's one thing to say, "Ya gotta shake it off and just get back out there tomorrow", but it's another thing to really be able to take that to heart and do it. As I heard Bob Carpenter mention recently, baseball is better than football in that respect - rather than having to stew about a tough loss for a whole week, you can usually forget about it in less than 24 hours.
I'll try to forget about it as Micah Bowie tries his best tonight to get them a win. I'll be there!
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/30/2007 11:00:00 PM
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Tonight's Washington Nationals/Los Angeles Dodgers game was a reality check.
Flying high after going 5-2 on their recent roadtrip and winning 12 of their last 17, the Nationals had every reason to believe that they would be at least be competitive against the western-division-leading Dodgers.
For tonight, anyway, they would be wrong.
The Dodgers' starter, Brad Penny, held the Nats to no runs and only 5 hits, throwing 69 strikes on 103 pitches (67%) in 6.1 innings, striking out 4 and walking 1. He managed to lower his ERA to 2.06 while notching his 7th win of the season as the Nationals lost to the Dodgers, 10-0. Oh, the humanity.
The Nats starter, Jason Simontacchi, allowed 11 hits, 6 runs and 1 walk. Eeesh.
The Nats bullpen of Winston Abreau allowed 4 runs on 5 hits in 1.2 innings. Billy Traber closed out the 9th inning without incident.
Felipe Lopez and Ronnie Belliard each went 2 for 4 and Brian Schneider went 1 for 3.
Ryan Report: (Parental Guidance suggested, please remove impressionable small children from the vicinity of the screen) Church? 0 for 4. Zimmerman? 0 for 4. Langerhans? 0 for 1. Austin Ryan Kearns? 0 for 3. Congratulations Mr. Penny.
I think it's safe to say that these L.A. guys aren't the Cincinnati Reds. Even though I didn't personally see the entire game, I witnessed Cristian Guzman get positively owned by the Dodgers batters. Everything they seemed to hit his way either went over his head or got past him, it was simply ridiculous.
I don't really have a lot to say about this game, though. I was too busy enjoying taking my friend (I'll call her "Fitzy") to her very first Nationals game. She had never been, despite having a previous job where tickets were probably hers for the asking. I got out of work just before 7:00 and went to pick her up downtown, and by the time we got our food and got to our seats, the 4th inning had ended (thanks, in great part, to Mr. Penny's ruthless efficiency).
I toned-down the peripatetic fanboy in me and just relaxed and enjoyed being outdoors on a lovely spring evening with a friend. We had popcorn and nachos and I bought an Attman's roast beef sandwich. She had a margarita to kick off the evening and we each had a beer from Howard. I wanted Fitzy to enjoy the experience that is Nationals baseball, the President's Race, the 7th inning stretch, lots of cheering and trying to make the best of a game which was out of reach by the middle of the 7th inning.
Yes, tonight was one of those nights that I adopt an "attitude of gratitude" for the very existence of major league baseball in my hometown, for being able to spend a lovely late-spring evening outside with a close, dear friend and enjoy a beer and just r-e-l-a-x-i-n-g after work. "Fitzy" had a good time, and we resolved to do this again soon, and that was all I needed to hear to be happy. She's a great person, someone of whom I'm very fond, and I didn't want to get all "Ben Wrightman" with her. She didn't ask me many questions, but I happily explained things to her when they happened. I resisted any and all impulses to cram a bunch of baseball info because with nascent fans, I believe that such actions are often an exercise in futility. It's not worth risking scaring her off as a baseball game attendee. I tried to make the experience fun without intensity. Most new fans don't want to be "schooled" in the ways of the game, they just want to take it in at their own pace and learn for themselves. If they have a good time, then that's all that is important. Ultimately, that's is why any of us do this, isn't it? I'd feared that the Nats would be outmatched tonight, and they were already behind when we got there, so rather than be upset and obsess about it (as I usually might) I simply de-stressed and allowed myself to enjoy what I had, rather than what I did not have. As a result, I had much more fun than I normally would have under such circumstances. Besides, baseball is always more fun with a friend.
Better luck Wednesday, I hope.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/29/2007 10:47:00 PM
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Nats, Langerhans slam Cards 7-2 for 2nd straight road series win OR Washington, Wivewa, outwast Wainwight, wain deway, win!, Ha, ha, ha, ha!
(Yes, I've begun channeling Elmer Fudd - or Lili Von Shtupp - in my blog post titles. Give me a break, it's a holiday weekend and I'm giddy.)
In the 8th inning of today's Nationals/Cardinals game, MASN's Bob Carpenter, who broadcast Cardinals games for several years, observed, "Cardinals fans heading for the exits in the 8th inning. That's something that you don't see here very often."
They were heading for the exits because National's centerfielder Ryan Langerhans had just hit a Grand Slam homerun to make the score 7-1 Washington, and some St. Louis fans had apparently had enough.
The Washington Nationals eventually defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 7-2 this afternoon to take 2 of 3 games from them and win the weekend series. This was the Nationals second consecutive road series win, as they won 3 of 4 games from the Cincinnati Reds last week. They have also won 12 of their last 17, with this road trip resulting in a 5-7 record.
Nats starter Matt Chico pitched only 4 innings, allowing no runs on 3 hits, throwing 68 pitches for 42 strikes (62%). His excellent afternoon was interrupted by the 61 minute rain delay. Reliever Saul Rivera pitched two innings, throwing 28 pitches for 19 strikes (68%) and allowed 1 run on 2 hits. Ray King and Jesus Colomé came in and allowed only 2 hits and 1 run between them, and "The Chief" closed out the Cards in the 9th.
This game had all of the earmarks of a pitcher's duel until the top of the 5th inning when the Nats Ronnie Belliard homered to score 2 and break the stalemate, and then the rain came. In the 6th inning, the Cards got a run to make things interesting at 2-1, but then came the 8th inning, the "Russ and Randy Show":
The Cardinal's Russ Springer began the inning on the mound, and he allowed Ronnie Belliard to single to left. Then Ryan Zimmerman walked on a full count, moving Belliard to second. That was enough for Cardinals Manager Tony Larussa, who gave Springer the hook and sent in Randy Flores in relief, but he didn't fare any better. He walked Ryan Church on four pitches, moving Belliard to third, and Zimmerman to second, setting the table for Nook Logan, who proceeded to strike out. Flores then threw a wild pitch, scoring Belliard and moving Zimmerman to third and Church to second. 3-1 Nationals! Then Robert Fick grounded out and Randy Flores walked the Nats Jesus Flores on a full count, resetting the table for the Nats newest Ryan, centerfielder Ryan Langerhans. Langerhans, who is with his 3rd team in just around a month, and who had been hitting around .138 or so thus far this season, hit a Grand Slam homerun to center field on a 2-2 count, scoring fellow Ryan's Zimmerman and Church as well as Jesus Flores. And, just like that, it was 7-1 Nationals!
So far, the only down note of the game was the injury to first baseman Dmitri Young, who injured his lower back in a collision at 1st when the Cardinal's Scott Rolen ran into him while beating out a tag. He is listed as day-to-day, and hopefully it isn't serious.
Who had the hot bats for the Nats? Felipe Lopez went 3 for 5, and Ronnie Belliard went 4 for 5. Robert Fick had a hit, too. Ryan Zimmerman had 1 hit and, oh, then there was another Nat who had just one hit...
Ryan Report: Church went 0 for 4 but got walked once. Zimmerman went 1 for 4 and also walked once. He had an error, too. Austin Ryan Kearns had the day off from right field, but did pinch-hit once, going 0 for 1, but RYAN LANGERHANS hit his first home run of the year, the aforementioned GRAND SLAM that put the game in the bag. It was also Langerhans' first home run since August of last year, when, as an Atlanta Brave, he homered against Washington, of all teams! He went 1 for 4, but that was some "1", though he only raised his batting average to .153. Let's hope he's beginning a hitting streak, shall we?
My god, I love the resiliency of this team. Lose one game? Fight right back! I think that they have newfound confidence, even as they take advantage of two league opponents who are foundering a bit. What a way to end a 7-game road trip, with an impressive win. Now they all come home for a well-deserved day off, a memorable Memorial Day weekend.
The Nats can rest up for a 9 game homestand against the NL-West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. I hope that they can take at least one game against the Dodgers and one against the Padres. They might stand as fair a chance against the Pirates as they did against the Cardinals. Tuesday, the Nats Jason Simontacchi takes on the Dodgers deadly Brad Penny, he of the 6-1 record and 2.26 ERA.
Let's see if they can close out the month of May in strong fashion.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/27/2007 06:10:00 PM
This was the one matchup I was truly concerned about this weekend, the Nats Leval Speigner vs.the Cardinals Brad Thompson. Thomson had a pretty good record, and an ERA in the 4.0's and Speigner, well, his was in the 6.0's and he hadn't established himself as a starter.
I hate it when my worst suspicions are confirmed.
The Nats lost to the Cards 8-6, after Speigner put them in a deep hole, 8-1, and despite a brief rally where the Nats managed to get 5 more runs, and a yeoman outing from the bullpen which held the Cards scoreless after the 4th inning.
Having worked a very physical 10-hours on my feet, I was pretty exhausted and my legs, knees and feet were barking at me, so I ate a quick dinner and collapsed to watch the game. Between my full stomach and my non-existent energy level, I was in bed before 9:00, trying to maintain a level of interest in a game that I thought might be too far out of reach. The Nats did their best to provide some compelling baseball, and I did make it to the 9th inning, but once those tarps came out, and Nats Access came on, I was done for, off to the Land of Nod.
I never saw the last 1/3 of the top of the 9th inning, but apparently I didn't miss much besides Jesus Flores battling mightily to get a run in. Surprisingly, after over 100 minutes of rain delay, Cardinals Manager Tony Larussa opted to keep closer Jason Isringhausen in to try and complete the job, which he did successfully, darn it.
Ryan Report: Church went 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI. Zimmerman also went 2 for 5, Langerhans went 1 for 1 with an RBI, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI.
I'm very concerned about this team. The bullpen last night of Traber, Abreau, and King did a great job of keeping the Nats in the game, but I fear that the pen is going to be overworked. Saul Rivera and Jon Rauch are already showing signs of being overworked, so at least they got last night off. The trouble lies in their increasingly-depleted starting rotation. Manager Manny Acta seems pretty certain that Speigner can no longer endure a starters role, and he has 5 more days (with the holiday tomorrow) to fill that spot. It seems unlikely that Shawn Hill, Jason Bergmann, or John Patterson will be back from the disabled list in time, and it would appear that there are mo more arms in the bullpen to take over a starting spot. There are 6 pitchers who are on the 40-man roster, who are not active and not on the disabled list, and I know nothing about most of them or what their individual status is.
I was somewhat upset that the Nationals, and several other major league teams won't be playing tomorrow, Memorial Day, a major holiday. It seemed to me that this was also the case last year as well, and it defies explanation. With millions of baseball fans having a three-day weekend, including millions of children, it just seems ludicrous that MLB wouldn't take advantage of that opportunity to rake in a fortune with nice afternoon games, the way baseball was intended to be played. No, instead, the next opportunity to see the Nats play after today is a home game on Tuesday evening, when they will be lucky to draw even 20,000 fans, since it is a schoolnight. It's a world gone mad, I tells ya.
However, with the Nats needing some rest, especially the bullpen, with a 7 game homestand looming, it probably makes sense, but I still don't like it.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/27/2007 10:34:00 AM
Friday, May 25, 2007
Is there any more deliciously-excruciating exercise than watching a major league closer hold onto a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 9th?
That's exactly what Washington Nationals closer Chad Corder did tonight, notching his 7th save of the season as the Nats beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4, in front of 44,000 to kick off the annual Memorial Day-weekend cultural, if not meteorological, start of summer.
While Chad seemed to be more like his old self, the player of the game was Nats centerfielder Nook Logan, who went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI's. Congratulations, Nook!
The defensive play of the game came courtesy of Nats rightfielder Austin Kearns, who made the Sports-Center catch of all Sports-Center catches, sliding up against the concrete base of the right field wall to rob Jim Edmonds of a hit, and then proceeded to throw to first for a double play, thanks to that cannon of an arm he has. That will definitely make the highlight reel of this season, and could be the MLB defensive play of the week, if not the month of May.
Though those three players were standouts, this was truly a collaborative win. Catcher Brian Schneider got the Nats on top in the 3rd inning with a 2-run homer. Dmitri Young had 2 timely hits. Cristian Guzman didn't get a hit, but he got an RBI.
Erstwhile-starter Micah Bowie pitched a very good game, and got another win in the process. While he gave up two solo home runs, to Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds respectively (which is no disgrace, they are outstanding hitters, after all) he threw 83 pitches with 54 strikes (65%), got 2 runs on 4 hits, walked 1 and struck out 2. Nice numbers, and he continues to excel on the mound as an emergency-starter. The bullpen, well-rested after essentially having the previous night off, allowed 2 runs on 2 hits, from Saul Rivera and Jon Rauch, but Winston Abreu, Ray King and Jesus Colomé kept the Nats in the game.
Ryan Report: Another relatively-quiet night for the Ryans. Church went 1 for 4, Zimmerman went 0 for 4 but got a walk, Langerhans didn't bat (again...), but Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 4 and played exciting defense, especially with the aforementioned double play.
The Nats are on a 4-game winning streak, but I'm under no delusions that they are significantly better than their 20-29 record would attest. These St. Louis Cardinals aren't the mighty powerhouse team of recent years, but the Cards are definitely a tougher team than the Reds. If the Nats manage to take either the Saturday game or the Sunday game, I'll be happily satisfied with this road trip. If they take both, I'll be ecstatic.
May has definitely been a better month for the Nats than April. They are heating up along with the temperatures. As long as they stay healthy, by which I mean, as long as they don't lose any more starters to injury and get Jason Bergmann, Shawn Hill, and John Patterson back soon (and perhaps Luis Ayala in June?) I think that this team will be even more fun to watch than I think that they already are.
You'll notice that I didn't mention starter Jerome Williams. While I wish him well, Jerome was the weakest link in the starting lineup, despite having one brilliant outing just before he went on the D/L, and I don't know how the team could deny Mike Bacsik a starting job given his strong performances. Jerome, please get better soon, get some rehab starts and prove me wrong, I'd be more than happy to eat my words.
I hope that all three of you reading this blog have a happy, fun and safe Memorial Day weekend.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/25/2007 10:51:00 PM
Thursday, May 24, 2007
May I see a show of hands from all of the fans who still have doubts about Cristian Guzman, please?
Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?
Didn't think so.
Cristian Guzman's solo home run got the Nats off to a great start in the first inning tonight and helped to set the stage for another sweet Nationals victory, as they took the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 to take this road series 3 games to 1, their first road series victory of the season.
Now it is the Reds, not the Nationals, who have the worst record in the majors. At least for one night.
While Cristian Guzman continues to impress, the real hero of tonight's game has to be starter Mike Bacsik. Bacsik pitched 7 2/3 innings, and while he allowed 7 hits, up until the 8th inning he'd only allowed 1 run. He threw 100 pitches, and 98 of them were great. One of them became a solo home run for left-fielder Adam Dunn in the 5th, but it was that 100th pitch that made things far too interesting for Nats manager Manny Acta. That 100th pitch became a 2-run homer to Reds shortstop Alex Gonzalez in the bottom of the 8th, and Acta pulled Bacsik in favor of fresh-arm lefty Billy Traber. Still, Bacsik only walked 1 and struck out 4 and he threw 64% strikes. He got a much-deserved win and left the bullpen fresh to face the St. Louis Cardinals for the weekend. In addition to his outstanding pitching, Bacsik played very head's-up defense as well. In a move that is certain to be held up as a shining example of it's kind, Bacsik covered 3rd base and made a crucial out in a freak play in the bottom of the 8th: The Reds had runners at 1st and 2nd with no outs. Ryan Freel hit a ball straight towards Nats 2B Felipe Lopez, who tried to get David Ross out at 2nd, but Lopez' throw wasn't clean and it got away from him. Nats 3B Ryan Zimmerman fielded the ball and threw it to Bacsik who covered 3rd to tag Ross, who might have scored on the play had he not done so. I think that Charlie Slowes on the radio called it "your basic 4-5-1 play" (ha!)
Ryan Report: Well, we can't have everything, now, can we? Church went 0 for 4, Zimmerman went 1 for 4, Langerhans didn't bat, but Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI.
Besides Cristian Guzman, the truly hot bat of the night belonged to Dmitri Young. "Da Meat Hook" went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI's and a double. Between Lopez, Kearns and Young, the Nats "Cincinnati Kids" proved valuable in this series.
It was somewhat bittersweet to see former-Nat Gary Majewski come in to the game
for Cincinnati in the top of the 9th. He only threw about 20 pitches, hitting Tony Batista on one. I liked him as a Nat, but I sure don't miss him. He is the only player the Reds really have to show from the trade last summer which brought the Nats Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns and Ryan Wagner. What a great trade that was!
Once again, I listened to this game on the radio at work and followed it on Nationals.com "Game Day" until I went home listening to it on the radio and them catching the 9th inning on MASN. While these games were a lot of fun (even that first one was fun until, well, let's just say it, until the Nats collapsed and lost it), I'm not under any delusions here. The Cincinnati Reds are a woeful team this season, and The Great American Ball Park is an anomaly as far as road venues for the Nats to play in. Only Philadelphia, Colorado and perhaps Houston offer hitting confines as hospitable as TGABP, so I don't expect this weeks offensive onslaught to continue into St. Louis, but I hope that this Red series perhaps gave the Nats some renewed confidence. One happy result of these past 4 games is, NO INJURIES! For once, we haven't lost a single pitcher or position player to any nagging injuries. No contusions, no muscle-pulls, no strains, no "flu-like symptoms" or "general exhaustion", just a happy band of brothers off to engage the defending World Series Champions in their shiny new ballpark.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/24/2007 09:42:00 PM
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I think that Ryan Church's forearm contusion has healed.
The 28 year-old left-fielder, slightly frustrated by having to sit out two consecutive games due to an injury suffered Sunday, took out those frustrations on the Cincinnati Reds tonight, scoring 6 of the teams 12 RBI's with two home runs and a double as the Nats beat the Reds 12-7. Say "AMEN!", somebody!
Starter Jason Simontacchi had puh-LENTY of run support tonight, and he held the Reds to just 1 run off of an early home run. Simontacchi threw 91 pitches for 59 strikes in 5 1/3 innings (65%), allowing just that 1 run off of 4 hits, striking out 4 and walking 3. He got the win, too.
This was a fun game to watch if you were a Nationals fan, though it was pretty long - At 3 hours, 38 minutes, it was the longest 9-inning game the Nats have been involved in so far this season. The heavy artillery came out early, and often.
Brian Schneider had a double and also homered!
Cristian Guzman got yet another triple! Nice way to mark your 1,000th major league game, Cristian, congratulations!
Dmitri Young went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and an RBI.
Ryan Report: RAISE THE ROOF! It gives me GREAT pleasure to report that Church had a career night, going 3 for 5 with 2 home runs and a bases-clearing double, driving in a career-high 6 runs and having 10 total bases. Zimmerman went long, too, going 1 for 4, with a solo shot, Langerhans went 0-1 and Austin Ryan Kearns went 2 for 4.
The only down note was the bullpen tonight. Saul Rivera, who has had an otherwise excellent spring, has stumbled a bit of late, tonight allowing 2 hits and 2 walks and being charged with 4 earned runs. His ERA has jumped recently from .180 to .386. Jon Rauch also allowed 3 hits and 2 earned runs. Ray King only threw 6 pitches and was ejected for arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. Winston Abreau and Jesus Colome each allowed 1 hit and did fine in relief.
Being ever the glass half-full kind of guy, I'm relieved that the Nats can't LOSE this series and now have an opportunity to win it tomorrow, as erstwhile-starter Mike Bacsik makes his second start. I hope he does as good a job as he did last week when he allowed no runs.
Lopez last night, Church tonight. Who will be the Nats hero Thursday night? Find out beginning at 7:10 EDT.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/23/2007 10:18:00 PM
..Nationals General Manager and Vice-President, Jim Bowden, on his 1,000th win as a GM yesterday. Congratulations, JB!
I think that it is entirely appropriate (or unbelievably ironic, depending upon one's point of view) that the win occurred in Cincinnati, where Bowden began his major league general manager career.
Let's hope that the next 1,000 wins only take, oh say, 7 years? Yes, I'm an optimist.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/23/2007 08:22:00 PM
I don't know what Felipe Lopez is eating these days, but I'll have what he's having.
Lopez, the former Cincinnati Red, stuck a knife in his old team last night with a 1-out Grand Slam in the 8th inning to break a tie game and put the Nats up 8-4 over the Reds.
The 8 runs marked the Nationals highest offensive output of the season, and broke a 9 game road losing streak.
Nats starter Matt Chico pitched 5.2 innings, throwing 95 pitches for 60 strikes (63%) allowing 4 runs on 3 hits, including 2 home runs, striking out 3 and walking 2. Not a brilliant outing but not a disaster either. I have to give him some slack for working in one of the best hitters parks in baseball. Speaking of hitting, Chico also went 1 for 1 and had a run, both major league first for him, I believe. The bullpen of Ray King, Jesus Colome and closer Chad Cordero allowed only 2 hits and 0 runs. Colome got the win, lifting his record to 4-0 on the season - Congratulations, Jesus!
Nats hot bats for the night? Well, Felipe Lopez led the pack, going 3 for 5, with 2 doubles and the Grand Slam, giving him 6 RBI's (matching his career high) and 8 total bases for the evening, and Cristian Guzman went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI's. 7 other Nats each had one hit so, all in all, a good night at the plate for them.
Ryan Report: *Sigh* Church sat out another night, but did make a pinch-running appearance. Zimmerman went 0 for 4, but had another brilliant night defensively. If he keeps this up, there's a Gold Glove with his name on it in the near future. Langerhans went 1 for 3 and had a run, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 5. Guys, guys, guys.... why don't you join Felipe for a meal or two while you're in Cincy, or at least rub his head for luck?
As I'm sure you two or three Nationals Power readers have noticed by now, I usually don't write much about the opposition, but attention must be paid to Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr, whose 573rd home run last night tied him with Hall-of-Famer Harmon Killebrew for 8th on the all-time list, 10 behind Mark McGwire, and he also overtook Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks for 19th on the all-time list for RBI's with 1,637.
It was kind of nice to see Cincinnati reliever Mike Stanton on the mound. The 2-time former National was something of a fan favorite in his time here, and last year MASN's Bob Carpenter and Tom Paciorek used to joke that a game wasn't "official" until Mike Stanton made an appearance. He gets credited with a blown save, his second of the season.
I didn't get to watch the game live, but I recorded it as always, thus the lateness of this post. I worked some overtime and my boss was kind enough to have the radio broadcast on, and I had the gameday feed from MLB on my computer to keep up with the action. I was in our warehouse when Felipe Lopez hit his Grand Slam, and my boss came running into the warehouse to find me, shouting, "Lopez just hit a Grand Slam!" I quickly fist-bumped him and ran to hear Charlie and Dave discuss the situation. With the team on the road, I'm trying to catch up on some much-needed overtime (leaving early to take in all those home games and the subsequent costs involved therein - parking, dinner, beer - takes a toll on the wallet, after all) Tonight, though, I'll be home to watch Jason Simontacchi try to make it two in a row.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/23/2007 11:30:00 AM
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Well, that was unpleasant.
After the Nationals rocked the Cincinnati Reds and their staff ace, starter Bronson Arroyo, for 4 runs in the 1st inning last night in their most productive first-inning so far this season, they tacked on two more runs in the 2nd, to take a 6-0 lead, the most commanding position they've seen themselves in this spring. Things were certainly looking good. Arroyo, who had victimized the Nats badly last season, was in for only 2 innings, as he gave up those 6 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks, and threw an ungodly-high 62 pitches.
When a starter comes out after 2 innings, I always hope that the Nats are out of the woods, but I had a funny feeling that last night's game might be different, and I couldn't have imagined how right I would be. The Reds bullpen only allowed 3 hits and 1 run (a solo homerun), striking out 8 and walking 2. With that, the Nats offense was also essentially done after 2 innings.
Nats starter Leval Speigner didn't fare much better than his Reds counterpart, working 3 innings and throwing 66 pitches for 37 strikes (56%) allowing 5 runs on 7 hits, 3 walks and 2 homeruns. The Nats bullpen, which has been their strength all spring, couldn't hold back the rallying Red tide. Winston Abreau and Saul Rivera allowed only 2 hits between them in their combined 4 innings of play, but poor Jon Rauch blew the save in the 8th allowing 3 runs on 3 hits, including a homerun by Javier Valentin.
Ryan Report: So encouraging, but we were down a Ryan. Church sat out this game because of a forearm contusion that he suffered in the Sunday game, but manager Manny Acta said that Church was due for a day off anyway, having played in all 44 games up until yesterday. Zimmerman had the sort of offensive night that we love to see, going 3 for 5, with 2 runs, 2 RBI's, a double and a solo homerun in the 4th. He was a triple away from the cycle. Langerhans was 0 for 2, but he was walked twice. Austin Ryan Kearns, making a return trip to his old stomping grounds, was only 1 for 4 but he hit a 2-run homerun in the 2nd.
Dmitri Young and Brian Schneider each went 2 for 4, with Young driving in 2 runs and Schneider 1.
All in all, a game with tremendous promise, but one that I'd now just as soon forget.
Tonight, Matt Chico takes on Kirk Saarloos. Chico, the only member of the starting rotation not on the disabled list, is looking for his 4th win of the spring.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/22/2007 08:52:00 AM
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Nats rally, beat Orioles 4-3 avoid Beltway sweep OR Nook, Nats, Zimmerman whacks, send Perlozzo home
The question of the day from Mr. P. Angelos of Baltimore, Maryland is, "Has Nook Logan been drinking more Gatorade lately, or what?"
A valid question, for Logan had an excellent day today as he stole second and third base on consecutive pitches in the 3rd inning and also drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 9th, as the Nationals rallied to win 4-3 and send Sam Perlozzo and the Baltimore Orioles back up I-95 to their home.
Today started off a little overcast and there was even a 5-8 second rain early on, but it was bright and sunny from then on. Another large crowd, too. Last night it was 30,600+ and today it was just over 29,000. My friend Randi and I got to the park early again and walked around visiting friends. I ran into some customers of mine who are also dear friends, Steve and Kate, and Randi ran into an old friend from school. Small world department.
I was wearing my new "Nats Power" jersey with the #19 on front and back, and that's how the Three Girls with Heart found me and stopped to say hello and chat a bit. They'd made up a sign to wish Austin Kearns a Happy Birthday and I was mildly embarrassed that I was unaware that it was Austin's birthday today. Happy 27th Birthday, Austin! Glad you guys got a win, now make your teammates treat you to dinner in Cincinnati.
We knocked around in the Team Store and checked out some more merchandise. Randi got some info from a guy representing a basement inspection company. You just never know what you're going to find at a Nationals game.
We got our hotdogs again and sodas and settled in for a day of baseball in the sun. Howard stopped by so I could get my one beer.
Nats reliever Micah Bowie, who was making a start for the Nats today in light of their injuries, did well for himself in the first 3 innings, but then allowed 2 runs on 2hits. All in all, he threw 69 pitches, 45 of them strikes (65%) and exited in the 4th inning for Billy Traber.
Taber was a little shaky, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and a walk and 3 strikeouts, but he threw 41 pitches and 29 strikes (70%). Then came Ray King, Jesus Colome and Chad Cordero, who each pitched one inning and each allowed 1 hit. Colome got the win and Chad got the save. Welcome back to the closer's role, Chad!
Ryan Report: Weird, because I think the stats I read are incorrect. Church had an at-bat but got struck by a pitch on his left forearm and he definitely walked, yet the MLB stats list him as having 0 at-bats. Church left the game later and I believe his examination showed no crucial injury. He's listed as day-to-day. Zimmerman went 2 for 4, both of them doubles, and he had a with a run. Langerhans went 1 for 2 with an R.B.I. and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 3.
Nook Logan is definitely the hero of the day at the plate. He went 2 for 3 with a run, a walk and two R.B.I.'s That manufactured run of his was a thing of beauty.
So, 7-3 on this homestand. Not bad at all. Now onto Cincinnati and the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/20/2007 11:34:00 PM
Oh, the shame of it all. "Charm City" takes a series from "Shangri-La on-the-Potomac".
For the second straight evening. the Washington Nationals lost a 1-run game to their regional rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, this time in 11 innings.
Nats starter, lefty Mike Bacsik, who was called up from AAA Columbus to fill in the battered starting rotation, actually had a very good night, throwing 94 pitches for 63 strikes in 6 innings (67%), allowing 5 hits but no runs, striking out 1 and walking 1. Welcome back to "The Show", Mike, you can pitch like that for us anytime.
The Nats scored on Nook Logan's first double and first R.B.I. of the year in the 2nd inning, driving in Ryan Church.
The bullpen of Rauch, Cordero, Rivera, Abreu and King did well for the most part, allowing 4 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks and 3 strikeouts. Winston Abreu took the loss, and Jon Rauch had the blown save.
Ryan Report: Sadly unimpressive tonight. Church went 1 for 3 and had a run, Zimmerman went 0 for 5, Langerhans did not bat, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 4 but was walked once and had a run.
My friend Randi came down from Baltimore to join me for the evening, and we got to the park early and got inside to get to the fun as soon as possible.
Last night was Geico red visor night, and Randi and I got into the gate a couple of moments too soon because just after we got in, up came Ryan Langerhans and Austin Kearns at the Main Gate, and Ryan Church and Ryan Zimmerman at Gate A. We got some photos, which I'll post later but, alas, none of the photos involve either of us with a player. I don't believe that the club wanted more than a moment's interaction between these guys and the fans, but it was fun to see them all the same, and I'm sure some kids got the thrill of their young lives being handed a new red Nats visor from a real major-leaguer. Kudos to the club for continuing to get these players involved with the fans, we sure appreciated it.
We checked in with Rico, our favorite program vendor and learned the sad news that yesterday was to be his last as a stadium program vendor. I wanted to find out why he was leaving but there were far too many fans coming in and we didn't want to interrupt the flow of commerce, but I am very sad to see Rico leave. His booming voice could be heard all over the stadium, even in the parking lots sometimes - Ellie in the press cafeteria told me that she could even hear him from the press cafeteria ladies room!. To me, Rico was like the welcoming committee, the ambassador of ballpark cheer, Every time I heard him unleash a booming, "PROoooooOOOO-GRAMS! BASE-BALL, GET'CHER PRO-GRAMS!", I have to admit, it got my blood running, It let me know that I was finally at the ballpark and got me in the mood for fun. I wish him nothing but the best, and I am very sorry to see him leave. I'm sure that he will be missed by many fans.
We sat with some friends I'd made last year, Kate and Zeke, who wrote a wonderful piece for the Washington Post Metro Section a few weeks ago about my buddy Myron, who ushered the previous two seasons. I'll have to post that link sometime. The usher in their section these days is Tim, a very engaging guy who seriously enjoys his job and was fun to talk to between on-field action.
Randi and I got a pleasant surprise when the Nat Pack, led by the irrepressible Clint, sat down in our row to conduct the PNC Bank "Guess the PIN" with a happy group of 20-somethings. Clint sat two seats away from me, and before he could say even one word to the attractive young lady who he chose to be his contestant, she BOLTED to the other side of her friends, seemingly mortified at the thought of being on the scoreboard camera. Perhaps she was just shy, but she encouraged one of her friends, an equally attractive young lady, to participate in her stead. Here's how the contest works: There are 4 numbers in the PIN, and they give you the first number (let's say it's the number 3). Your job is to guess if the next number is higher or lower. If you guess correctly, you continue until you get all 4 numbers, if you guess incorrectly, you lose. The crowd around us got into it and encouraged her, and she DID guess all the numbers correctly and won $50, receiving a hearty round of applause. When she and her friend sat back in their original seats, I told the first young lady that her friend owes her a cut - hey, it WAS her seat, after all, right?
I got to talk to Clint a little bit before the contest started. He's an incredibly engaging guy, very high energy, and friendly, and it's plain to see how he got this job, he seems born for it. Given that he gets to work with several of the prettiest young women in the stadium (our Nat Pack is second-to-none in that regard) I offered to fill in for him if he ever gets sick. No, I won't be sitting by my phone expecting a call anytime soon., they can do better than me if that's ever necessary.
The "Rushmore Four" came in tonight on Segways, and it was kind of a hoot. "George" won again, as "Teddy"'s seemed to run out of juice.
Another first in Nats history tonight (as far as I can tell). The first bozo-fan to climb over the rail and onto the field during play. It happened in the bottom of the 7th and, fortunately, didn't last long, as he was quickly escorted out. I couldn't see him very well, so I don't know if he was drunk, confused, or just a jerk, but I have to wonder, what in God's name was he thinking, assuming that he WAS thinking? That the club was going to give him a chair to sit in? Did he do it on a dare? It can be kind of scary when that happens, you never know if you have some crazed nut with a grievance against a player acting out. He seems to have been mercifully removed without incident.
Randi and I had the Super Dog hot dogs, hers with ketchup, mine with ketchup, mustard and relish, Boardwalk Fries and sodas. I bought my one beer of the game from Howard and enjoyed the nice, if slightly breezy, spring weather. We also explored the Team Store a bit before the game and Randi bought me a very early birthday present, a nice white polo shirt with some red and blue horizontal stripes and a curly "W" on the chest. Very nice!
I had to visit Screech's Best Friend and the African Queen for a moment, as I'd found an empty plastic beer bottle for the African Queen to bang on the seats during the rally. She doesn't drink, so she's always hoping to find one to use, and she was happy to get it. It does make a distinctive sound, I can see why she likes using them.
After the game, I was pleased to run into MASN's Bob Carpenter. I introduced him to Randi and we chatted for a few moments. He's an awfully nice guy, and it's always a pleasure to speak with him. Out in the parking lot, we also ran into Tom, the camera operator from the booth who I'd met last season, and Joe, who also works up in the booth, and then we saw MASN's Johnnie Holliday and Ray Knight. That was a whole lot of fun, as we got to chat with both of them for a bit. For me. it's a real pleasure to get to meet these folks, since I spend literally hundreds of hours watching them on T.V. (because I also record the games that I go to and review them, you see) and I enjoy having the opportunity to thank them for their fine work and show them my appreciation. Folks, let me tell you, our television broadcast crew and staff are all great people. They broadcast out of Baltimore right now, but it is my understanding that they are trying to get studio/broadcast facilities here in D.C. to be closer to the games and the community. I'm sure that we'd all enjoy their closer proximity.
Today we try to salvage some pride and take the rubber game. Relief-man Micah Bowie will join the starting rotation and take the mound for this game, while the "fractured four" are recovering from their various injuries.
Randi and I will be there - will you?
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/20/2007 09:16:00 AM
Saturday, May 19, 2007
As I made my way into R.F.K. stadium tonight, for game 1 of the "Battle of the Beltway", I had to grab some food before settling in. Having had no lunch, and wanting to enjoy just one beer to relax, I was in dire need of victuals.
I'd stopped to catch up with Rico and buy a couple of "Battle of the Beltway" commemorative buttons, for myself and friends, and found Ellie up at the press cafeteria for a quick chat, so I was off to forage for dinner.
I simply decided to grab a nice sandwich from the Attman's stand, and now that I've had all of their sandwich offerings, I can say that my favorite is their corned beef on rye with a little mustard. Perhaps it's my Irish heritage, but that's become my sandwich of choice. I got to sit with my friends, proceeded to buy a beer from Howard (who I gave a button to since, as The Dude might say, "It really ties his whole outfit together") and began chowing down.
Perhaps it was the excitement of the evenings entertainment, maybe it was just residual stress from a typical Friday in retail sales, but as I began eating my sandwich, I felt a slight bout of dysphagia coming on. I had to find the nearest Men's room and try and get my food either up or down, and quickly.
Unfortunately, as I was trying to get to the Men's room, some fan attempted to ask me where the Diamond Club was. I was only able to gurgle, "Down that way" and point in the general direction of the Diamond Club as I scurried quickly on my way. I felt bad about that. Under normal circumstances, I'd have been only too happy to stop and direct a fan to precisely where they needed to go to, and in the past, I've even been known to walk them to their destination myself. I seem to have this "look" about me, as though I work at the stadium, or else I just project this confidence that I know where I'm going, so people frequently stop me for assistance. Being a reasonably-accommodating soul, I enjoy helping people out, and as a Nationals fan, I feel very strongly that we need to help each other out, even fans of the visiting teams. I want us to have a good, friendly reputation around the league. So it made me feel bad that I was under some duress and wasn't able to help out this fan. Oh, well. I tried my best under the circumstances.
As my discomfort passed, it suddenly occurred to me that my problem resulted from dining upon a sandwich from a BALTIMORE food vendor. Ah, HA! Attempted sabotage! Those cunning Orioles fans had infiltrated the Attman's stand and had attempted unsuccessfully to bring me, and by extension this blog, down for the evening. Thankfully, my superior Nationals-fan constitution allowed me to survive such an obvious attempt at embarrassment, and I prevailed. Not tonight, Orioles fans, not tonight. I'll return to Attman's again and again, I'm sure, but perhaps I'll wait until the Orioles are out of town first.
As it turned out, my gastro-digestive insurgency was an unpleasant foreshadowing of what was to follow on the field. The Orioles gave the Nationals their own brand of indigestion, as the Nats lost, 5-4. At least it wasn't a blowout, and the Nats had several chances, including first baseman Dmitri Young and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman hitting two-run shots to keep the team within spitting distance of a win, but it was not to be. There would be no bottom-of-the-ninth, walk-off heroics from Zimmerman this evening, though his was the final at-bat, and he battled mightily with 2 outs and a 3-2 count and came VERY close to at least tying the game at 5-5. But t'was not to be.
Starter Jason Simontacchi started off well, but faltered a bit in the middle innings, throwing 94 pitches over 6 innings (60 strikes, 64%) allowing 8 hits, 3 runs, and 1 walk, but he struck out 6. The bullpen of King, Abreau, Rivera, Traber and Colome allowed 3 hits, 2 runs and 3 walks.
Ryan Report: Up and down. Church went 0 for 2 but he walked once. Zimmerman went 1 for 4 (but what a one! That 2-run home run!) but had 2 RBI's and walked once, and he made a rare poor throw to first base early on which failed to get a runner out. Langerhans went 0 for 2, and Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 4.
There were some on-base mental errors which cost the Nationals, including an odd decision by the speedy Nook Logan, on 2nd and ready to be sent to 3rd by Ronnie Belliard, to stay put, fearing perhaps a play at 3rd. Shortstop Cristian Guzman also blundered in the 5th when he failed to reach 2nd base on a wild pitch, ending the inning.
As Forrest Gump would say, "And that's all I have to say about that."
Now to see if Mike Bacsik can step into Jason Bergmann's cleats and get the Nats a win on Saturday. Perhaps I'll have dinner ahead of time.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/19/2007 01:27:00 AM
Friday, May 18, 2007
This Nationals team has been really fun to watch this past week.
After that brutal 1-8 away trip, the Nats have come home to win 6 of 7, including 4 in a row, to even their standings against the rest of their N.L. East opponents, and improve their record to 15-26.
I've been lucky enough to attend all of the games on this homestand except for today's contest (just couldn't get out of work) and I'm sorry that I couldn't, for the Nats had their 2nd consecutive come-from-behind rally against division rival Atlanta, and having watched my DVR recording of the game, I realize that I missed a good one.
Nats starter Matt Chico had a high-quality outing, working 6 innings and throwing 89 pitches (59 strikes, 67%) but allowed 5 hits, 3 runs and 2 walks, striking out 1 batter. Chico picked up his 3rd win. Congratulations, Matt!
The bullpen, led by southpaw Billy Traber, Jesus Colome and Jon Rauch, worked 3 innings and allowed no hits. Rauch collected his 3rd save. Can't ask for much better than that!
One of the funniest things that I've seen happen in a ballgame occured in the top of the 5th inning with 2 outs as Atlanta batter Edgar Renteria swung at a Matt Chico pitch which went almost straight down and landed in front of the plate. FAIR BALL! Nats catcher Jesus Flores had the presence of mind to snag the ball and tag out Renteria, who simply stood there looking positively gobsmacked. What a way to end an inning!
The President's Race took an interesting turn today as the four "Rushmores" began passing around a rather large cell phone which finally landed in "Teddy's" hand, slowing him down and causing him to lose once again. The camera managed to catch the front part of the "cell phone" and on the front it read, "Stan Kasten" (the Nats team president). I thought that was a complete hoot.
Ryan Report: Not too shabby. Church went 1 for 3 with a double and got walked once. Zimmerman went 1 for 4 with a run, Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 3 with an R.B.I. and a walk. Langerhans did not bat today.
Who had the hot bat for the Nats today? Felipe Lopez! After having yesterday off to clear his head and get some rest, Lopez returned today with a vengeance. He broke an 0 for 13 drought, and went 3 for 4 today with a run and an R.B.I. including the game-typing triple. He was a home run away from a natural cycle, too. This team has some base speed, I've seen at least 4 triples this week than I can remember, from Guzman, Logan and Lopez. Very nice to see!
Dmitri Young provided the game-tying single R.B.I., he's very good coming off of the bench.
All told, the Nats had 11 hits today, to the Braves' 5. Excellent work! Other hits came from Cristian Guzman, Jesus Flores, Matt Chico and Tony Batista. Guzman even had his first stolen base of the season. A lot to see on the field today.
Some unfortunate news today happened when the Nats announced that pitcher Jason Bergmann, who had the best outing of any Nats pitcher so far this season earlier in the week, will miss his scheduled start this Saturday due to some pain and stiffness in his right elbow. His MRI today was negative, so let's hope that he just misses the one start and comes back strong.
Now the up-the-highway regional-rival, the Baltimore Orioles, come to town for a 3 game weekend inter-league series. Let's hope the Nats can keep the winning streak alive!
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/18/2007 01:19:00 AM
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Sometimes, when you expect the worst, life has a way of surprising you.
Take today's weather for instance. It wasn't supposed to be great, and showers were expected at some point. And, indeed, the sky was rather overcast, and rains began around 3:30 or so, and sometime between 4:00 and 4:30, they got really heavy. Suddenly, just before 5:00, the heavy stuff stopped. There was a break in the clouds, and there was just a trace of rain for the next few hours. The rest of the evening was rather pleasant, with a gorgeous sunset.
As it was with the weather, so has it been for the Nationals. Yesterday's loss to the Braves seems like nothing more than a little late-afternoon shower during an otherwise excellent, sunny homestand. Tonight's 6-4, come-from-behind victory over the Braves put the Nats back on a winning track.
Starter Leval Speigner got off to a shaky start for the Nats, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in his 4 innings of play. He threw 58 pitches with 45 strikes (almost 78%). The bullpen of just-called-up lefty Billy Traber, Ray King, Winston Abreau, Saul Rivera, Chad Cordero and Jon Rauch only allowed 2 hits and no runs. Traber got the win, too, and Rauch the save. GREAT job, guys!
The 5th inning was where most of the fun happened. Here's how it broke down according to Stats LLC:
Fick flied out to left fielder W.Harris. Langerhans singled to right. J.Flores pinch-hitting for Traber. J.Flores walked on a full count, Langerhans to second. C.Guzman safe at first on fielding error by second baseman K.Johnson, Langerhans to third, J.Flores to second. Belliard grounded into fielder's choice, shortstop Renteria to second baseman K.Johnson, Langerhans scored, J.Flores to third, Belliard to first, C.Guzman out. Zimmerman walked on a full count, Belliard to second. Church doubled to center, J.Flores scored, Belliard scored, Zimmerman scored. Paronto pitching. Kearns walked on a full count. Schneider grounded out, pitcher Paronto to first baseman Thorman.
Is there anything more exciting than a come-from-behind rally? Church is the cleanup-man and, boy, did he ever! That was enough for Atlanta manager, Bobby Cox, who pulled starter Kyle Davies. Davies began and ended the day with an E.R.A. over 5.00.
Speaking of excitement, "George" won the President's Race, and for some reason "Teddy" ran back the way they came.
As for me, I got to the park early and chatted with some folks and enjoyed the turkey sandwich from the Attman's stand. That is really turning out to be my favorite dining experience at R.F.K. along with Capital Q Barbecue. Very tasty. My friend Myron joined me and we had some fun chats. I had my one MGD from Howard. It was nice to relax.
I was foiled again in my autograph pursuit. Thinking that I was FINALLY able to arrive at the stadium in time for the designated player autograph session, I was disappointed to see that the players were staying warm and dry in their clubhouse, not out in the cool and rain. Rats!
By the way, has anyone bothered to notice what a great job Saul Rivera has been doing in relief? His E.R.A. is 1.83, and he'd pitched over 9 hitless innings before giving up 1 hit tonight. Excellent work, Saul - keep it up, we need it!
Ryan Report: Whoo, hoo! Church went 1 for 4, but what a 1! That bases-clearing 2-out double was the crucial play of the game. Zimmerman went 2 for 3 with 2 RBI's and a walk and that included a solo-shot home run. Langerhans went 1 for 3 with a run. Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 3 but was walked once.
So just when you think it might be a rain-delayed ugly game, things turned out really well and proved to be exciting. I admit, I sometimes worry that the only fireworks I'm going to see are during the 7th inning singing of "God Bless America", but with Zimmerman's homer and the victory, I got to see plenty tonight. And all in fairly decent May weather, better than expected.
By the way, with tonight's win, the Nats have EXACTLY the same record that they had at this point last year. Last year, they went 71-91. Bad, but hardly historically bad. Also, tonight marks the halfway point between Opening Day and the All-Star break. One quarter of the season is already behind us. Gosh. Seems like Opening Day was yesterday.
Alas, I cannot attend the Thursday afternoon game - work somehow manages to interfere with that. I'll get to follow the game online, maybe even with Charlie and Dave on the radio. Naturally, I'll record it and watch it later on. I hope that Matt Chico can keep things rolling.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/16/2007 11:33:00 PM
Well, all good things must come to an end eventually.
I had a bad feeling about this game since the day before. I saw Braves pitcher Tim Hudson's very low ERA, and I didn't feel 100% about our Jerome Williams starting. Not because of his struggles last month, but because he was just coming off of the disabled list, and I thought that he might be a little rusty.
As it turns out, my fears were properly founded. Tim Hudson had a no-hitter going into the 5th inning, and he threw an incredibly economical 84 pitches in 7 innings (56 strikes, 67%), striking out 4, giving up 3 hits, one run and one walk. He's as deadly on the mound as I anticipated that he might be. Jerome Williams, on the other hand, left threw 48 pitches in 2 innings (30 strikes, 63%), giving up 7 hits, 5 runs, and one walk. He left with a strain of the rotator cuff, and left the bullpen in a terrible hole to pitch out of. It is claimed that Williams is "day-to-day" but, according to MASN's Don Sutton, that's unheard of except perhaps at the end of a season. I'm betting that the team has to D/L him again and reach into the minors for pitching help.
The Braves Edgar Renteria hit two home runs for the Braves tonight. Not often do we see a player hit two in the same game. Nice for them.
My boss was kind enough to allow me to leave work a little bit early, and I arrived in the parking lot during the first inning. My friend Rico wasn't around for me to wish him a Happy Birthday, so I just grabbed a brisket sandwich at Attman's and headed to the seats. Not a bad crowd for a Tuesday night. The weather was ideal for baseball. A little breezy, but in the bowl of R.F.K. I don't think that you could really tell, though the flags on the roof seemed to be flapping away a bit.
There was a bit of heightened drama as the "Rushmore's" ran the President's Race - "Abe" and "Tom" started to duke it out a bit and "Teddy" and "George" were neck and neck headed for the finish line, with "George" winning by a nose. Sorry, "Teddy", not today.
A funny moment that I witnessed was when team president Stan Kasten was sitting at the top of a section in the 200's, and a foul ball went up and landed near him, and several fans scrambled for it, practically trampling the poor guy in the process. When I saw him sit down, I joked to an usher, "Hey, Boris! Go hand him an All-Star ballot!" Boris laughed but demurred. I'd have paid money to see him do that.
Howard, my Miller beer vendor-friend, told me that, when the Nats visit the Orioles in Baltimore this summer, he'll be working there, and he invited me to come on up and cheer the Nats and visit him in his section, and I'm going to do that. I haven't been to Oriole Park in years, and now that I have a compelling interest to do so, I'll mark my calendar. Thanks, Howard!
With the exceptions of watching shortstop Cristian Guzman get another hit and centerfielder Nook Logan hitting a triple, there wasn't much to cheer about on the field last night, but it was a wonderful opportunity to just sit outside, enjoy the weather and the company of friends, which I did quite happily.
Chad Cordero made an early appearance in the 8th inning, just to get some work in I'm sure, having not pitched in a week. It was nice to see "The Chief" back with the team. The bullpen did a great job, with Micah Bowie, Ray King, Winston Abreau, Saul Rivera and Chad working 7 innings and giving up 1 earned run (that Renteria fellow again - drat!) They'd had the day off the game before thanks to Jason Bergmann, so they were rested, but I hope that we don't need to use so many relievers again any time soon.
Ryan Report: Yikes. Church and Zimmerman both 0 for 4, but Langerhans stung his old team a bit going 1 for 2 with a 2-out RBI. Austin Ryan Kearns went 0 for 3. Congratulations, Tim Hudson.
I'd like to take this opportunity to BEG interim hitting coach Lenny Harris, or manager Manny Acta, to PLEASE TELL THE BATTERS NOT TO SWING AT FIRST PITCHES! There was a nice opportunity tonight with runners on base, and Hudson out of the game for Atlanta, and Dmitri Young came in with 2 outs, and he swung at the first pitch and struck out! I know, I know, I KNOW, "sometimes that's the best pitch they will see, the first one, because it is probably going to be a strike", but what is the HARM in taking a freaking pitch? Establish a rhythm! Look at Church! How many times has he been walked because of his outstanding patience? Especially if there are men on base and two outs! You might get hit, you might get walked, there might be a wild pitch or a passed ball... PUT THE PRESSURE ON THE PITCHER, fer Chrissakes! Okay, I'm done ranting now.
Tonight's matchup looks more promising: Speigner vs. Davies. Let's hope the Nats can get another streak going.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/16/2007 11:54:00 AM
Monday, May 14, 2007
My friend Rico, the program vendor (Oh, sorry, I mean "PRO-GRAM!!!" vendor!) mentioned to me tonight that he won't be at his kiosk tomorrow night, as it is his birthday, so he'll be in the team store, or right outside of it. I shook his hand and wished him best early birthday wishes.
Another man whose birthday tomorrow is tonight's starter for the Atlanta Braves, pitcher John Smoltz. I don't think that he will enjoy his Tuesday as much as Rico will, because he exited the game tonight with a dislocated pinky on a freak play in the 7th inning, as he tagged-out Austin Kearns who was caught in a rundown between 3rd and home plate. Smoltz was looking to notch his 199th career win, and he will have to wait at least five days to get it, as the Nats edged the Braves 2-1, on a beautiful, but very brief night at R.F.K., the game ending in 2 hours and 8 minutes.
The Nats starter, Jason Bergmann, flirted with a no-hitter all evening until finally giving up not just a hit, but a solo home run in the 8th inning, but he still had an absolutely wonderful outing, throwing 111 pitches (81 strikes, 73% ratio) and allowed two hits, one run and one walk. He struck out TEN batters! Manny Acta was going to let him complete the game, but after he allowed his second hit in the top of the 9th inning, Manny wisely decided to pull him, so that he could go out on a very positive note, and a raucous, well-deserved standing ovation from the 18,000+ fans in attendance who witnessed him notch his first win of the season. Congratulations, Jason!
Tonight was a HUGE step in the maturation of Jason Bergmann as a major league starting pitcher. If anyone is not convinced that he is an excellent pitcher by now, well, then they are crazy. Detractors will point out that the Braves Chipper Jones didn't play tonight, and that Andruw Jones is in a slump, but this Braves team is still only a game or so out of the NL East lead, and though they lost a game on Sunday, they just got off of a 5 game winning streak. They must be doing something right.
Contemporary wisdom says that "Chicks dig the long ball", which can be extrapolated to mean that all baseball fans love to watch home runs, but TRUE baseball aficionados get a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of a classic pitcher's duel, and that's exactly what we had tonight at R.F.K. Atlanta's John Smoltz, a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer someday, was not allowing much, (The Nats only had 4 hits, after all.) but he must just hate Jason Bergmann as this is the second time in several weeks of this young season that Bergmann has out-dueled him. I'll tell you one thing, pitcher's duels are a whole lot shorter than games with tons of hits!
And guess who had the hot bat for Washington again? You guessed it - Shortstop Cristian Guzman! Guzman had 2 of the 4 hits, going 2 for 4, the first one for a TRIPLE, his second in two days! He also had a run. Could this be the return of the man who led the American League in triples for a couple of years when he was with Minnesota? I sure as heck hope so! In just a couple of days, Guzman has raised his batting average from .143 to .323 (!!!!) In short, Guzman is EN FUEGO! Gone is the man who, when he would come to bat in 2005 (up until September that is) you prayed that he wouldn't strike out. He finished that year JUST over the dreaded "Mendoza Line" of .200 (.211 for him, if I recall correctly). Cristian, we never realized how much we'd miss you. Congratulations and WELCOME BACK! To all of those Guzman-detractors who wailed and gnashed their teeth and cursed General Manager Jim Bowden for his supposed hubris, let me say this - Bowden's looking a whole lot smarter now, don'tcha think? Bowden's a gambler, but he's not reckless, he does his homework. If Guzman had gotten laser eye surgery two years ago, he might have been the toast of D.C. in 2005 and really enjoyed his first year here. THIS IS THE PLAYER that Jim Bowden foresaw playing here in D.C. If Guzman keeps this up, there will be no further discussion of how the team is "saddled" with Guzman's large contract for two more years, an albatross around the team's financial neck. If Guzman stays healthy, his jerseys will be flying off of the shelves, kids will know his name and cheer. I long to see that day, and it no longer seems like a fantasy.
Ryan Report: Church went 1 for 2 with a run and a walk, Zimmerman went 0 for 3 but he had an RBI, Austin Ryan Kearns went 1 for 3 with an RBI, and Langerhans, who I REALLY wanted to see show up his recently former teammates, went 0 for 3 but he had a very nice catch in the outfield.
Jesus Colome threw 14 pitches (8 strikes) to close out the 9th inning and notch his first save. Congratulations, Jesus!
Manager Manny Acta is positively Bhudda-like in his post-game interviews. If the sound were turned-down, I doubt that you could tell from the expressions on his face whether or not his team just won or lost. He gives the players full credit for the wins, and he comes across to me as a man with rock-solid integrity. Acta seems to me like a man with unimpeachable character, and he truly says all of the proper things publicly. I get the impression that his players admire and respect him tremendously, and REALLY want to play for him. My feeling is that his players don't fear him so much as they fear disappointing him. I hope that they continue to win for him, as frequently as possible.
Oh, and the results of the real drama on the field? "Abe" won the President's Race. 'Teddy" was in the stands watching and participating in the StitchNpitch event this evening.
There was a large police presence in the stands due to so many police being in town for Police Week. If you needed a cop at R.F.K. tonight and couldn't find one, then you simply weren't trying, just like "Teddy" tonight. (Ouch!)
And the streak continues, for at least another day.....
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/14/2007 11:35:00 PM
James Cagney's Cody Jarrett couldn't have said it any better today.
If Saturday night was for mops, then Sunday was for brooms. On a stunningly-gorgeous Mother's Day, the Nats completed their first series sweep of the season by beating the Florida Marlins 6-4. It was their first series sweep since beating the Arizona Diamondbacks September 2nd and 3rd last season.
I've heard MASN's Don Sutton refer to the Sunday players as the "shock troops" and with Saturday night's game going 6+ hours, the relief players were sorely needed.
Jason Simontacchi pitched 5 shutout innings before giving up 3 earned runs in the 6th. He walked and struckout 4 on 80 pitches (58 strikes, 73%). He also had another pick-off at 2nd base, this time Dan Uggla, his second in the past 5 days (remember, he did the same thing to Johnny Estrada in Milwaukee?) He just wheels and throws, with a very fluid motion. Runners at 2nd had better beware.
The 2nd inning was the fun one, with the Nats getting 5 runs on 4 hits. The Marlin's Miguel Cabrera helped by committing an error with his glove. Cabrera has had 6 errors so far in this young season, with 3 this series. Here's how it broke down, courtesy of Stats, LLC:
Church grounded out, pitcher Obermueller to first baseman Jacobs. Kearns singled to left. Fick singled to right, Kearns to third. J.Flores singled to center, Kearns scored, Fick to second. Langerhans walked on a full count, Fick to third, J.Flores to second. Simontacchi safe at first on fielding error by third baseman Mi.Cabrera, Fick scored, J.Flores to third, Langerhans to second. F.Lopez grounded into fielder's choice, shortstop H.Ramirez to second baseman Uggla, J.Flores scored, Langerhans to third, F.Lopez to first, Simontacchi out. C.Guzman tripled to right, Langerhans scored, F.Lopez scored. Zimmerman flied out to center fielder Amezaga.
It looked like a blowout, but the Marlins battled back to get within one and keep things interesting, though the Nats took care of business and kept them at bay.
The hot bats today? Christian Guzman, who went 2 for 4 with a 2-run triple, and Jesus Flores, who went 2 for 3 with 2 RBI's.
Oh, and the "Jesus battery" seems to be very effective, Colome to Flores. They work very well together. Made me want to shout "Jesus on Sunday!" today.
Ryan Report: Church 1 for 4, Zimmerman 0 for 4, and Langerhans 0 for 2 but he got a walk. With last night's inside-the-park home run, I'm going to start including Austin Ryan Kearns in my daily Ryan Report since, yes, that's really his middle name. Austin went 1 for 4. A happy anecdote to mention is that after the game, I was proud to be introduced to Gary and Karen Church, Ryan's parents, by Screech's Best Friend and the African Queen, and they were such wonderful people to meet, I was so very pleased to meet them and have the opportunity to tell them how highly I think of their talented son. They told me that they were familiar with the "Ryan Report" and that just tickled me to death! I regret that I didn't have the presence of mind to ask them about Ryan's younger brother, Matthew, who is serving with the army Rangers in Iraq. I'll bet that Karen Church's fondest Mother's Day wish would be to have Matthew come home, and I'm sure that I speak for Nationals fans everywhere when I wish them the very best and hope that he does come home safely and soon.
Speaking of player parents, I happened to run into Ed Rauch, too, and I complemented him on Jon's play. I also got to ask him if Jon likes closing and he essentially said, sure, he's happy doing whatever the club asks of him, and I enjoyed hearing that. It's really great to see the parents of the players at the home games, I'm sure it means the world to both the players and their parents, especially when the parents can catch their sons doing well, and enjoy a victory.
In the Nats President's Race, "George" also completed a weekend sweep.
The Nats gave away some very cute card packs at the gate: 9 cards depicting players with their mothers: Church, Logan, Cordero, Schneider, Patterson, Johnson, Zimmerman, Kearns and Rauch.
If this posting seems a bit abbreviated, I apologize, but I'm just way too tired to get any deeper tonight. I'm beat!
Catch you at the Braves games!
*EDIT: I would be remiss if I didn't mention that our Nats seem to have great success swinging the special pink Mother's Day bats which raise awareness for breast cancer research. From Nationals.com:
"Six members of the Nationals swung pink bats during the Mother's Day game against the Marlins at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Ryan Church, Robert Fick, Jesus Flores, Cristian Guzman, Austin Kearns and Ryan Zimmerman used the bats and went a combined 7-for-22 (.318) with four RBIs. Flores and Guzman drove in two runs apiece to help the Nationals win, 6-4.
The players helped raise awareness for breast cancer using pink Louisville Slugger bats. More than 200 Major League players signed up to use a pink bat, which is more than twice the participation in 2006."
I'm proud to say that I, too, bought a pink bat for a female Nats fan friend of mine who couldn't attend today's game. During the rain delays on Saturday night, I used it to rest my chin upon, it came in very handy.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/14/2007 12:50:00 AM
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Zimmerman, Nats rally in 9th, slam Marlins 7-3 in rain-delayed thriller OR Holy, moly, Jorge Julio to the rescue - AGAIN!
That is my new nickname for Nationals third-baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He had two of them last season, his rookie year, on Father's Day and Independence Day, and he's had two Grand Slams this season already (both against the Marlins, I think - I'm still pretty groggy from the game ending after 1:42 in the morning) and last night's was what I was hoping for, praying for, and I'm giddy at the thought that I actually called it.
Talk about high-drama on East Capitol Street. Look at the situation: After suffering through 3 hours and 38 minutes of rain-delays, the last of which began just as the Nats were to start the bottom of the 9th, down 3-2, Brian Schneider walked on a full-count, Ronnie Belliard (pinch-hitting for Robert Fick) lined-out. Nook Logan was sent in to pinch-run for Schneider, Dimitri Young pinch-hit for Ryan Langerhans, hit a single to left, and Nook Logan flew to third base. Jesus Flores pinch-hit for pitcher Jon Rauch and was walked on 4 pitches sending Dmitri Young to second. BASES LOADED! Manager Manny Acta, running out of bench players, sent in Jason Bergmann, a starting pitcher, to pinch-run for Young, since Dmitri was nursing a bad foot, but it made sense anyway, since Bergmann is probably faster than Young anyway, as well as being a smaller target to tag out. In comes Felipe Lopez, who celebrated his 27th birthday Saturday night, who singled out to right, scoring Nook Logan. TIE-SCORE! Bergmann went to third, Flores went to second, then Christian Guzman came to bat and struck out for the second out. Then, it happened! The Marlins took out their pitcher, Tankersley, and sent in erstwhile-closer JORGE JULIO, he of the 11.42(?) ERA coming into that game, the man who has single-handedly given the Nationals more wonderful game-winning moments than any other opposing pitcher, and I was completely elated. Would he do it again? Could lighting, which had been seen over R.F.K. during the first rain-delay, figuratively strike tonight? In came Ryan Zimmerman, who was runner-up to the Marlins Handley Ramirez in last year's NL Rookie of the Year honors in the closest voting in over 20 years (and has been showing Ramirez up in this series so far). Two-out thunder time! The stage was set (and the "table", too!) Zimmerman, on a 1-0 count, homered to center field, ending the game 7-3, and the remaining crowd of perhaps 100 fans or so, went completely bananas.
I have so much more to write about this glorious game experience, one of THE MOST FUN baseball experiences I've ever had, rain delays and all, but right now I have no time. Since I didn't get home until almost 2:30 this morning, and today's game is at 1:35, I have to run now. I'm currently filled with such a mixture of exhaustion and lingering excitement from these past two nights, and I can't wait to write about it.
*EDIT Okay, so I was still pretty excited from the Friday night Nats blowout of the Marlins and I was hoping that Saturday night they could extend the streak. I'd worked all day and couldn't wait to get to the ballpark. I picked up my buddy Myron again, and we made it to R.F.K. early. Checked in with Abbi at Lot #8 and parked and got ready for a fun night of baseball. Went to the main gate and said "hello" to Rico program-vendor extraordinaire and then Ellie at the Press Cafeteria upstairs and then we foraged for food, this time settling upon the previously-lauded Attman's stand, and I enjoyed a roast-beef sandwich, pickle and coleslaw. We settled in and the game began.
Matt Chico was on the mound for the Nats and he did pretty well for himself, working only 4.1 innings (due to the rain delay) throwing 67 pitches, 43 of them for strikes (64%), walking one batter and striking out 3. The Nats took the early lead in the 3rd inning, but the Marlins tied things up in the 4th, and when the first rain-delay occurred, I felt badly that Chico would probably not get to finish the game. When the rain-delay ended, it was the top of the 5th and Leval Speigner came in and allowed two runs. Things weren't looking so good for the Nats in the rainy dark, but they kept things close.
During a long rain delay, R.F.K. takes on a somewhat surreal, atmosphere. Depending upon what point of the game it occurs, fans do their best to enjoy themselves. They invade the team store and kiosks and buy fun souvenirs, they explore the many food options available and avail themselves of various types of carbonated malt beverage products. Since it was a Saturday night, most folks seemed very relaxed, indeed. There wasn't as great a crowd for the game as there was for the Friday game the night before, because A) the Friday game had a Miller cooler promotion, B) a lot of fans came over straight from work (many courtesy of Metro) and, to be honest, there WAS a threat of rain, but at the beginning of this game, the weather was ideal. Frankly, I thought that the rain had missed us, I figured that it was due earlier, like around 4:00 or 5:00. In any event, Myron and I had some wonderful conversations with the folks around us, and we even stretched out legs a bit and wandered around.
I'd decided to buy one of the customized replica Nats jerseys that are being sold behind section 213/214. I thought about getting one later in the season, maybe in June, but since the team has a deal on buying any MLB merchandise over $150, I went for it. By getting the jersey when I did, I got a free MLB terry-cloth bathrobe with the breast-cancer pink ribbon on it and the MLB logo superimposed over it. I also got two free bobble-heads, Screech and Chad Cordero. I thought that the bathrobe would make a nice Mother's Day gift for my own mother and, indeed, she loves it. It looks very comfortable. I worked with Scott Huber and Bill Marino, who helped me choose what name I wanted on the back of the jersey and what number I wanted. At first, I thought I'd just get my own name on it, but then inspiration struck: NATS POWER! I had to do it! But then, the conundrum - what number? 07 for the year? 01 or 1? No, I had to choose a player number, one with special meaning to me. I didn't want to use a former player's number (José's Vidro or Guillen, for example) so which current player did I most want to honor? I love these guys, they are all important to me. Dang, this was difficult! Here's how my thought process worked it out:
#11, Ryan Zimmerman: I love Zimmerman, don't get me wrong, but I liken him to the way a slightly-older generation of Americans regarded the Beatles: Paul McCartney was the "cute" one, the one that ALL the girls loved, so it wasn't "cool" to admit that you liked Paul, you had to say that you liked John Lennon or George Harrison (or, if you were really secure with it, Ringo). I couldn't do #11. Sorry, Z, but you know you get plenty of love, and will for many years (I hope). You're our "rock star" player.
#24 Nick Johnson. I love Nick Johnson, too. He's a rock, he's sorely missed at first base and he's provided plenty of thrills in his time here (he always seems to either get walked or get some sort of hit, he rarely seems to strike out), and he is an inspiration with his work ethic, but he's not playing right now and we don't know when he's coming back, and I wanted to use a number on the field right now.
#23 Brian Schneider? Another of my very-favorite players, the anchor of the battery, a true leader, and one of the Nationals that I most want to meet in person and shake his hand. I had to consider him, too.
I wanted to honor one of the few remaining "Original Nats", and that ruled out most of the pitchers, and the pitchers get a fair amount of notice, so I just ruled them out. Short-stop Christian Guzman has struggled but seems to be coming around, but he's been gone so long due to injuries that I can't really relate to him, though I'm anxious for him to succeed. Finally, it hit me, though:
#19. Ryan Church.
I've loved Church since 2005, and I BADLY wanted him to win Rookie-of-the-Year honors back then, he was a strong candidate for it, until he ran into that wall in Pittsburgh on a game-winning catch. He was out for several weeks, but not by his own choice, he wanted to play very badly, and yet some folks began questioning his toughness, like the Washington Post's Tom Boswell who wrote a column about it, so suddenly everyone began believing that he wasn't a tough player. I never gave up on him, though, because he showed flashes of brilliance in 2005, and I believed that he still had it in him. He struggled in 2006, got sent down to AAA, was asked to play winter ball in Mexico so he could learn how to bat better against the breaking ball, but he declined, and I was very worried that he would be traded away. Thankfully, Manny Acta named him the starter in left field in Spring Training and this year, Church has been on fire. His zen-like patience at the plate has caused him to be walked a whole lot of times, his defense in left and in center, where he played while Nook Logan was recuperating, was and is flawlessly-brilliant, and his competitive nature is such that I know he will, literally and figuratively, run through walls to win. He is, in short, the National-who-I-most-want-to-succeed, he still seems to be something of an underdog. When the Nats recently picked up outfielder Ryan Langerhans from the Atlanta Braves (by way of two cups of coffee with the Oakland A's) General Manager Jim Bowden made a remark in the press to the effect that he seemed to fantasize about an outfield with Austin Kearns, Langerhans and Nook Logan. "Hello?", I thought. "What about Ryan Church?!?" That statement alarmed me that Bowden might possibly be considering trading Church while he was so hot. It is thoughts such as these which keep me awake at night. So #19 it is. Scott Huber tried one jersey and then noticed a flaw on the front, so he had to make me another one, but in the meantime, he hung "my" jersey on the display rack next to the player jerseys - VERY cool! Here are some photos, courtesy of Screech's Best Friend:
(Note: Not Neil Diamond, yet still devastatingly-handsome. Photos taken Sunday, the 13th)
Myron and me during the rain delay. Yeah, we sure look miserable, don't we? Ha!
A fun thing that happened during the second rain-delay was meeting the lovely ladies from Three Girls with Heart. They have tremendous spirit and were a delight to chat with. They took some GREAT photos while they were there, well-worth checking out. Thanks, girls!
I saw Jordan Schneider with little baby Tatum, and I got to say hello. Gosh, that is one cute baby the Schneider's have, as cute a baby girl as you could ever imagine. Mom sure looked proud and happy.
"George" won the President's Race, again. Atta boy, "G"!
History was made at R.F.K. and I was thrilled to be present for it. Austin Kearns had an inside-the-park home run, which brought the Nats score to within 1 of tying the game. This was the FIRST inside-the-park home run at R.F.K. since Tom McCraw (who some of you may remember as the former hitting coach under previous Nationals manager Frank Robinson) hit one for the Washington Senators on May 17th, 1971, and this was the FIRST such home run in Washington Nationals history. I couldn't believe it when it was happening because it is so rare and I simply didn't expect it. Kearns has decent speed, but he isn't as fast as, say, Felipe Lopez or Nook Logan. Heck, he probably surprised the Marlins as much as he did his own teammates! Congratulations, "Bluegrass"!
Ryan Report: Church went 0 for 3, but he was walked once. Langerhans had the hot bat, going 2 for 3 with a run. Oh, and Zimmerman went 1 for 4 (Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!)
This was a team win, no doubt about it, I'm not truly doing justice to all of the on-field efforts of the Nats.
Note to fans: This is why you NEVER leave a ballgame early. Especially if it's a Saturday night and you don't have to work the next day. If you have squirming, unhappy kids who need to go to bed, I can understand, that is an extenuating circumstance, but you NEVER know just what you might miss. I ran into several folks today who were COMPLETELY UNAWARE of the walk-off slam because the $0.35 editions of the newspapers didn't have it, of course, and they might not have seen the news on T.V. before coming to the game today. I was one of at least 76 fans in the stadium at the end, maybe as many as 100, and I will treasure this memory for the rest of my life.
According to MASN, there have only been TWO GAMES in MLB history with a walk-off Grand Slam AND an inside-the-park home run in the same game before this one. The last time was the 1987 Montreal Expos vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tim Wallach had the IHP, and Vance Law had the Slam. Before that? 1930, Detroit Tigers vs the Chicago White Sox, Hall-of-Famer Charlie Gehringer with BOTH (two different hits). So you see, you can go an entire lifetime as a baseball fan and NEVER see that happen! It's like seeing two comets at the same time.
There's been a lot of news, with poor Chad Cordero's grandmother passing away a notable event. I'm glad that Chad got to be with his family. Hitting Coach Mitchell Page is out on personal leave and it sounds like a scary medical problem, the reports I've read describe numbness in his side, and he claims that he can't hold so much as a cup of coffee. In the interim, the Nats have promoted Lenny Harris, MLB's all-time pinch-hitting leader, to that role.
On Monday, the Nats have a promotion with StitchnPitch and they also honor law enforcement officers during Police Week which begins tomorrow.
I'm certain that I'm forgetting some things here. The Saturday night game was so memorable, and the Friday night game, too. What a fun couple of days!
Oh, and I love looking at these:
Now to blog about the Sunday game.
Posted by Joe Riley at 5/13/2007 10:28:00 AM