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Monday, May 25, 2009

Pirates/Orioles week summary

A tough week for the Nationals, and a dismal homestand which ended on a nice note.

Nationals vs. Pirates

The Nats only took one of four games, avoiding a sweep but they missed some chances.

Monday, May 18th: Pirates 12, Nationals 7

The Nats 2007 first-round pick Ross Detweiler's debut was a good one, striking out six batters and having no walks. After the game, there was a question as to whether or not Detweiler would go back to the minors or have another start. Fortunately, the club decided to keep him around.

Nick Johnson had a 3 RBI night and was walked three times. Both he and Ryan Zimmerman had homers.

The Nats were down 3-0, then went up 5-3 in the 5th, only to allow five runs in the 6th. They had a chance to stay with the Pirates, being down 9-6 going into the 9th inning, but then they fell further behind, allowing three runs.

Garrett Mock got the blown save and was awarded the loss.

Tuesday, May 19th: Pirates 8 Nationals 5

Shairon Martis had a shaky outing, but the Nats stuck with the Pirates and tied things up 5-5 in the 9th on Adam Dunn's 12th home run of the season. Sadly, they lost in the 10th inning when reliever Joe Beimel walked three batters and allowed three runs. Beimel just hasn't been the same since he returned from the disabled list. I hope that he gets it together soon.

Wednesday, May 20th: Pirates 2, Nationals 1 (THE 100th GAME AT NATIONALS PARK)

I went to this game with high hopes. The weather was flat-out GORGEOUS for baseball, clear blue sky, 75 mild degrees and low humidity. Honest-to-goodness, this is the sort of night that you just pine for over the winter, dreaming of.

Hard to believe that they've already played 100 games here at Nationals Park. I guess 100 games isn't so many, but it seems like the park just opened yesterday to me.

John Lannan pitched another good game, allowing only one run, striking out five and only walking two.

The game was tied, 1-1, going into the 9th inning, and the Nats brought in Joel Hanrahan, who has struggled mightily all spring, and he threw an astounding 35 pitches in the 9th inning, 23 for strikes, but the one fateful pitch that he threw went wild and allowed the Pirates the go-ahead run from third.

At least the weather was nice.

Thursday, May 21st: Nationals 5, Pirates 4

Finally, the Nats notch a victory and avoid a second, consecutive sweep.

25 year-old rookie Craig Stammen had a good start, and the Nats may have found their fifth starter for the rest of the season, since Scott Olsen is on the D/L and Daniel Cabrera is banished to the bullpen.

The Nats briefly lost the lead in the 7th inning, but regained it in the 8th for good. Joel Hanrahan had a pleasingly uninteresting top of the 9th to nail down the victory.

Nationals vs. Orioles - "The Battle of the Beltways"

The Nationals have a pretty even record in Interleague play, and last year they split their two series with the Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals are trying to turn the Orioles series into a big, regional rivalry, but as former Orioles and Nationals Manager Frank Robinson remarked a couple of years ago, unless both clubs are winning, then there really can't be much of a rivalry. Still, Nats fans get appropriately irritated at Orioles fans who disrespect the National Anthem when performed in our park, but at least they come and spend a lot of money there.

Friday, May 22nd: Orioles 4, Nationals 2

Jordan Zimmermann pitched another beauty, striking out seven, walking one, and only allowing two runs. The Nats were tied 2-2 and took that situation all the way to 12 innings (in almost regulation time, though). Jason Bergman, Ron Villone and Joe Beimel all performed well out of the bullpen, but the Orioles managed to get to Kip Wells in the 12th, scoring two runs.

Ryan Zimmerman's 2-run homer was pretty much the highlight of the game for the Nats.

Saturday, May 23rd: Orioles 2, Nationals 1

Ross Detweiler got his second start and he performed well, striking out four and only allowing one run, though he did walk four batters. With the exception of Cristian Guzman's solo homer, there just wasn't much Nats firepower, though they did have seven hits.

The one, great Nationals highlight of the game will be Centerfielder Justin Maxwell's leaping snag of a long fly ball by Oriole Adam Jones to rob him of a certain home run. "J-Max" used all of his 6'5" body and long arms to time his leap to the centerfield wall and reach over the wall to snag the ball at the precise moment. A great moment for him, and one of the Nats defensive plays of the year.

I went to this game, and a personal highlight for me was simply getting to run into so many friends, including beer vendors Neal and Howard. Anyone who has followed this blog for more than one season knows who they are, but in short, they are two of my favorite ballpark people. I've run into Howard at Orioles Park and Raven Stadium, and I've encountered Neal at FedEx Field. They are just great guys who I always enjoy talking to. Along with Coach Ron Simms, Ellie and Roy, Susan, Mr. Charles, James, Ed, and so many others, they make my games a lot more fun.

You know, I still haven't attended a Nats win this season. I think that they've lost every game that I've gone to. Maybe I'm short-term-memory-impaired, but I just can't remember one.

Sunday, May 24: Nationals 8 Orioles 5

The Nats avoided the sweep with a big game by Adam Dunn, who had the first 6 R.B.I. game of his career, and despite a shaky start from Shairon Martis, who allowed seven hits, five runs, and walked two. He also allowed one home run and only struck out two.

The Bullpen of Ron Villone, Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan was essentially perfect, allowing no hits no walks and therefore no runs.

Adam Dunn had two home runs, the second being a Grand Slam thanks, in part, to some clever managing by Nats Manager Manny Acts, who with men on first and second, decided to have Cristian Guzman sacrifice to move the runners and then gambled that the Orioles would walk Ryan Zimmerman to get to Dunn. Dunn responded just as every Nats fan hoped that he would. Considering that both Guzman and Zimmerman were both hitting over .300 and Dunn was hitting in the .260's (I believe) this was a particularly gutsy move which paid off.

The Nats are 13-30 and are done at home for the month of May. Now they're off to New York to take on the Mets

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