Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ye Of Little Faith

It was one of those games that make baseball so great. After one look at the lineup, two of us simultaneously posted the exact same thought: Is this the worst lineup any major league team will trot out on the field this year? Abandon all hope ye who enter here, indeed!

And, somehow, they found a way to win. A lineup that had I.E. Chavez, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Gary "P.B." Bennett somehow banged out five runs against a tough left-hander in spacious Dodger Stadium. And with El Caballo on the mound, who pitched another 130+ pitches, that was more than enough.

Weirdly, the New Orleans Zephyrs contingent were valuable contributors, and, for at least one night, were not obstacles. I.E. Chavez had two hits, including an improbable drive deep to the gap in left center. And Jeffrey Hammonds' sluggish bat finally caught up to those fastballs he was missing back in spring training, resulting in two other hits.

But, the real star of the show was the defense.

Cristian Guzman has impressed the hell out of me with his glove and his hustle, especially lately. Other than a few throwing yips -- one at least had a decent muddy excuse -- he's showed solid range and hasn't let too many balls trickle by him. Each of the last two nights, he's made long runs into the foul triangle between third and left to make plays on balls. Last night he didn't get there, but he was close only because of his hustle. At another point in the game, he ran deep into the third-base hole, caught up to a sure hit, and fired strongly and accurately across his body to nip Jason Phillips at first.

Vinny Castilla has a great night with the glove too. In the eighth inning, Livan was running on fumes (and not premium fumes either, just crappy low-octane ethanol). Two runners were on base with two outs with Milton Bradley at the plate, as the tying run. Castilla was shaded around in the hole, expecting Bradley to pull some of the junk Livan was lobbing up there.

The Nationals seem to aggressively position their players. For the most part, it's worked.

But, the positioning was wrong last night. Bradley scorched a bouncing liner towards where Castilla would have normally been stationed. Castilla sprinted (as much as he could in the .3 seconds it took the ball to get there) scooped the ball up, and with his momentum pulling him hard towards the third base bag, whirled and fired to nip the runner at second base for the inning-ending force out.

With the way his momentum was carrying him towards the line, second was probably his only play. Jamey Carroll, who had replaced Jose Vidro to start the inning, wasn't even to the bag yet. He caught the ball, which hit him right in the glove, on a full sprint for the base.

It was a play that everything had to go right on. Everything did go right, and it looked spectacular: Vinny's reflex to get to the throw, his instincts to know he had to go to second, his agility to shift his momentum to make a throw to a base 180 degrees behind him, the perfect amount of arm strength to overcome that momentum, the deadly accuracy to hit the running fielder, and even Carroll's athleticism in catching the throw, being aware of where the bag is, and avoiding getting tangled up in the runner.

They don't always work that way, but when they do, they stick in your memory.

Throw in his earlier RBI hit and Vinny exemplified the ideals of a Majority Whip. He took action into his own hands and showed the way.

Yeah, Livan pitched a gem, and Nick Johnson battered the ball. But Vinny did it with the glove and the bat. And that play saved Livan's ample backside.

WTF Frank Senior Moment
The lineup, simply. It worked out, but definitely left us with our mouths agape. I just hope that's the last time I see those 8 names scribbled in the same lineup. I don't think my arteries could take it.

Current Road Trip:
Record 2-1. Goal 4-5.
We may get there before hitting Arizona!


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