Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Two Good ABs and $4'll Buy You Some Over-Priced Coffee

Blame Jerome Williams. He stunk up the park in the first inning, eerily reminding me of Billy Traber's disastrous start against the Reds last year, wherein he was "saved" by a Gary Majewski 2nd-inning relief appearance. When a starting pitcher takes some hacks in the on-deck circle before throwing a pitch, you know it's going to be a long night.

Williams had problems consistently hitting the strike zone. It was a bit hard to tell from my purloined seats, but it seemed like he was missing wildly with his changeup -- the one pitch he typically has command of. With that gone, they were sitting on fastball, and hitting it where they weren't.

But something clicked in the third inning. After allowing the first two batters to reach -- and a run to score -- he turned into a groundball machine, getting weak grounder after weak grounder, retiring the final nine batters he faced.

As these things go, though, too little, too late.

The Nats tried rallying furiously, and had their chance late in the game.

In the bottom of the 7th, John Smoltz came back out, despite having sat on the bench for what seemed like three hours as the Nats used 3 relievers to give up a run in the top of the inning. Brian Schneider singled, then Chris Snelling lined a double near the chalk to right field. When it rolled to the wall, Snelling -- who runs like he's about to have a potty emergency -- made it easily to third. Out goes Smoltz! Felipe Lopez later drove in Snelling, and the Nats had the would-be go-ahead run on first.

With Ryan Zimmerman due to the plate, the Braves called for their flamethrower, Rafael Soriano for a showdown. Soriano throws hard, in the 95-97 range, which is especially tough to get around on a cold, cold night. Zimmerman battled hard, before fouling off five tough pitches on a 2-2 count, while Soriano alternated throwing the hard stuff inside and out. Finally, on the 10th pitch of the AB, Soriano threw him something off-speed away -- slider? -- and Zimmerman lunged, trying to simultaneously keep the bat in the zone a split second longer and reaching for the outside pitch sliding further away from him. No go, and Soriano had his K. Zimmerman reacted with frustration, knowing that he had swung at a ball. But he battled hard, and came close.

As impressive as that AB was, Dmitri Young's was even more spectacular. It took 12 pitches for it to culminate, eight of which Young fouled off. Young's primarily a fastball hitter, and Soriano gave him what he wanted. It was amazing watching the two battle, strength against strength. Soriano got ahead quickly 0-2 before giving up a close ball, that could've been strike 3. He alternated his location in and out, not giving Young a chance to get his timing down on the super-fast heat. As soon as Young seemed to be getting his timing down, Soriano threw the pitch to the other side of the plate, or lobbed up something a bit softer, forcing Young to yank it foul. At one point, he threw him two offspeed pitches away, which Young barely got, before Soriano came back inside with the hard stuff, thinking that Young would have a hard time readjusting to the pitch, only to have Young smack it foul.

On the 12th pitch of the AB, Young got a fastball outside, which he smacked to the opposite field. It looked like sure double that, at a minimum, would've tied the game, but the Braves had him played perfectly. Left fielder Ryan Langerhans was camped out near the line, knowing that if Dmitri was going to hit the ball in the air to left, it was going to be to the line, where he was just missing the pitch. (Conversely, they had him basically straight away, maybe shaded a bit towards the line in right -- if he was hitting the ball to right, he'd have gotten good wood on the ball, and was going to be pulling it.) Threat over. And the game, for all intents and purposes, over.

Two great ABs, and nothing to show for it. But those two battles alone were worth the price of admission.


  • On TV, it really looked like Lagerhans was running a flag route on that fly ball by Young. The ball hit him perfectly in stride near the line. Peyton Manning couldn't have placed it any better.

    By Anonymous Basil, at 4/18/2007 11:28 AM  

  • Those two at bats were TERRIFIC. Baseball at its best. The Nats lost the battle, but what a performance, by both sides. It actually surprises me that The Post and Times Ariticles don't really touch on how important those two at bats were to the game. They WERE THE GAME!!

    Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. Sohna and I appreciated the effort

    By Blogger Screech's Best Friend, at 4/18/2007 11:42 AM  

  • Same! You're lucky it was a cold night. I don't usually wander too far! ;)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/18/2007 11:48 AM  

  • I hope to enjoy these pivotal moments at the park with you eventually. If you remember the ownership talking about attendance going up when the kids get out of school, they were talking about me. I usually bring the whole family of 5 and perhaps friends, making up for rarer attendance with numbers.

    In the meantime, thanks to all of you in the blog crowd for the additional insight.


    By Blogger Skedeebs, at 4/18/2007 6:38 PM  

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