Sunday, August 13, 2006

I Booed Zimmerman

OK, I did. So what? Does that make me a bad fan? I like to boo. I dutifully booed Endy Chavez when he came to the plate. I booed Sergio Mitre when he pegged Soriano the other game. And I booed Zimmerman. He deserved it.

With the Nats down 1, Zimmerman was on first with (pay attention to this:) one out. The Mets brought in lefty Darren Oliver, who's had as many good years this decade as I have, to face Nick Johnson. Johnson hit a towering flyball to center. Calling it a can of corn would've been charitible. Oh well, two outs and Oliver's going to have to face a righty, Austin Kearns, because there's nobody else warming.

What the!?!? Ryan Zimmerman ran around second, and burned his way to third while the ball was settling into his glove. "Noooooo! Go back! There's only one out! Noooo," I yelled from my seat as if he could pick out my individual voice from the thousands that were screaming. Beltran lobbed the ball to second, and the infielders gathered together, slowly walking the ball to first to complete the LDP on a pop to center. Zimmerman just stood at third, realizing how big his boner was (Think Merkle, pervert!)

Zimmerman stood and stood and stood, while the Mets took their sweet time toting the ball to first. I half expected them to break into an Enrico Palazzo-like dance number as they neared the bag at first. "Boooooooooo," I, ummm.... booed? That was simply one of the dumbest mental errors I've seen.

Then he stood a bit longer, while the Nats came back on to the field for the top of the 9th. Even that seemed to take a beat longer, as they sat, perhaps wondering where that other out went. Felipe Lopez, as he walked by, gave him the universal sign for "it's ok," a pat on the ass -- except for those times the pat on the ass means "good job." And then there are times, as Harold Reynolds can tell you, pats on the asses are completely inappropriate.

That wasn't the deciding play, certainly. And it really was only one of many brutal plays throughout the game, as the Nats punted, threw, and kicked the ball all over the infield and outfield.

Tony Armas was sensational, throwing strikes with his hard-biting slider; his elbow must've been feeling great. Sitting in my po' mans seats in the upper deck, I could see the break on his slider easily. No wonder the Mets batters missed it so frequently. What impressed me, other than how he pounded the zone, was how many of his pitches were called strikes. When a pitcher is getting a lot of called strikes it means they're getting a ton of movement and that they're mixing things up really well.

After Alfonso Soriano homered (what else?), Armas took a 1-0 lead all the way to the seventh inning. He should've taken it to the 8th. With Carlos Beltran on first and one out, David Wright hit a tricky chopper to Felipe Lopez. He made a terrific play on the ball and, instead of taking the easy out at first, he twisted his body and made the play to nip Beltran at second. Marlon Anderson, with Beltran right on top of him, was forced to throw from his back foot and without much momentum. Despite that, he got a strong enough throw off, which came just half a step late -- a tremendous play, which, with a little bit of luck (perhaps a slower runner on first) would've ended the inning.

Easy enough though. Two outs and a runner on first with the bottom of the order coming up. Nothing to worry about. Armas pumped two quick strikes on Jose Valentin before lobbing a ball wide of the zone. On the 1-2 pitch, Wright took off for second, and Brian Schneider's throw was high and it tailed away from the bag into centerfield for an error as Wright scampered to third.

The very next pitch, Valentin hit a solid grounder right to Marlon. Easy play. Except for the part where the ball rolled up, missing Marlon's glove. It dropped back to the ground, and all Marlon had to do was pick it up and fire to first (that's the advantage a 2B has -- they can just knock balls down). He panicked, though, and fired wide of first as Nick Johnson made a terrific diving attempt to his left. Valentin reached, and Wright scored easily.

Had either Brian Schneider or Marlon Anderson not made errors, they wouldn't have scored. Together, they doomed Armas' chances of a well-deserved win.

The defense was ugly again in the 9th. With the Mets up by a measly run, thanks to a homer off Jon Rauch, Beltran walked and Wright followed with a single. Rauch threw a Wild Pitch, one that skipped in the dirt in front of the plate. It's not a play that most catchers make, but it's one that the team needed Schneider to make. Now with runners on 2/3, the weak fly to right by Valentin turned into a sac fly.

I was actually surprised by Kearns' play. Kearns has a strong, accurate arm. He had time to line up under the ball, but he threw to third, to hold that runner there. I would've thought that he'd have come home on the play, even if the odds of him throwing out the runnere were low. There were already two outs, so holding that runner on second isn't that big -- at least not nearly as big as the runner trotting home. Kearns' throw went wide for an error, giving Wright the chance to glide to third anyway. That error didn't cost anything, other than another blemish in an ugly game.

  • With that two-run lead in place, the Nats had almost no chance against Billy Wagner -- especially with the lower part of the order coming up. Kearns had a terrific AB, fouling off a bunch of tough pitches, while taking several close pitches. But, as terrific ABs often do against Wagner, it ended in an out. Ryan Church had almost no chance against Wagner, striking out on a fastball at the knees that completely locked him up. (I suppose that this'll be used as evidence that Church can't hit lefties). Marlon Anderson fought hard, lining a ball to center, and Alex Escobar, as the tying run, came to the plate, looking as if he were looking for a walk, which he drew.

    Amazingly the Nats had the tying runs on base and the winning run at the plate. One problem -- the Nats were out of viable pinch hitters. They were forced to send up Brandon Harper, the career minor leaguer. Safe to say that there aren't many Billy Wagners at Triple-A! Harper took a ball then, with the runners taking off on a double steal, he took a defensive swing (it almost looked like he was distracted), and fouled a ball of the first base side. Somehow, Carlos Delgado, who typically has the range of an Elephant Seal, made a nice sliding catch, sending us all home.

    One thought about how that played out. Damian Jackson pinch ran for Daryle Ward in the previous inning. The role of Ward's legs has always been played by Bernie Castro. Why did Frank burn up Jackson in that previous situation, knowing that he'd likely need a right-handed bat against Wagner in the 9th? I don't think that that made much of a difference in anything, but why not go for every advantage you can. If pinch hitting Jackson instead of Harper increases your chances of winning by 2%, don't you have to take it? Eh. Much ado about nothing, I guess.

  • Offensively, the key time was the 7th inning. That's when the Nats should've blown the game open. But, as per their usual, they didn't. With two quick outs, Anderson and Schneider hit back-to-back singles, ending Steve Trachsel's night. Daryle Ward pinch hit and lefty Royce Ring walked him, loading the bases for Alfonso Soriano.

    In came Chad Bradford. Bradford, who was one of the featured players in Moneyball, throws from below sidearm. It's not quite underhanded because of the way he rotates his torso 90 degrees, but the effect is as if the ball is springing up from behind the pitching rubber. Bradford has talked about how, when he's going well, he'll sometimes scrape his knuckles on the mound. Not only is his delivery funky, but he throws slop, alternating between a 78-mph 'fastball' that rises then sinks thanks to the delivery, and a 65ish 'curveball' which rises then sinks thanks to the delivery. On a 2-2 pitch, he hit a hard chopper back through the middle. Valentin ran over, fielded it on the shortstop side of the bag, and fired, just nipping Soriano at first. Inning over. Bases left loaded. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  • I've had relatively good luck with games lately. This one and the last one I was at, Thursday night, were very entertaining games, even as the Nats came out losers in both. I'm learning to deal with the losing, looking for small things for entertainment -- which is why the sloppiness of the last few innings is killing the good taste in my mouth from the first six or so.

    The Nats are still in last place, and I can't really imagine them digging their way out. The Nats have the sixth worst record and are only 2 games ahead of the fourth pick, so losing has its benefits!

    They are, though, 13-14 since the Bray/Majewski trades, thanks to their improved offense. Lord knows it ain't the pitching!

  • Frank complained about pitch selection to Michael Tucker (I refuse to acknowledge the indignity of losing a game thanks to one of his homers!) Frank has done this a few times. The selection of the pitch -- a fastball -- wasn't the problem. It was the location -- dick high and over the plate. I have no idea what the ol' man is rambling about. At least we won't have to worry about that in another 50 games.

  • Interesting radio note by Barry:
    MASN play-by-play man Bob Carpenter will be away from the team Tuesday through Thursday taking his eldest daughter to college. Radio announcer Charlie Slowes will move to TV for those games. He'll be replaced on the radio by Wizards play-by-play man Dave Johnson on Tuesday and Wednesday and former Redskins announcer Frank Herzog on Thursday

    Feel free to make your "Touchdown!" jokes so I don't have to.

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