Tagged: Denard Span

Ramos Rights Ship: Nationals Win on Day Two

imageDay Two of Steve and my’s baseballing escapades commenced Tuesday, this time with the same crew that took on the park nearly two years ago.

We got there a few minutes before the gates opened, prime time for catching home runs in batting practice for both teams. We quickly made our way down to the Red Porch as the Nationals took their hacks.

Not many home runs came out our way, but Wilson Ramos managed to clobber one into the restaurant section of the Red Porch. I was standing by the first row of the seating section as I watched it sail way over my head. It hit the ground uncaught and promptly bounced all the way back to where I was standing. The ball found itself in my glove, and I was ensured I was not leaving for home empty handed.image

Another takeaway from batting practice was Bryce Harper. He usually does not take BP on the field, but chose to on this day and put on a display. He hit upper-decker after upper-decker, including one into the third deck which was probably the longest home run I had ever witnessed in person.

Also of note was Denard Span, who was taking ground balls in centerfield. Span, working his way back from back problems, hopes to return to the lineup soon to provide that leadoff spark the Nationals so desperately need.

After batting practice had concluded and we had made our way to our seats, we were informed by the PA announcer that, despite the sun shining, a delay was in effect for an impending storm. The storm never came to fruition and the game started around 7:35.

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From left: Ben, Jack, Steve, and I

Max Scherzer squared off against Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin, who was making his sixth start of the year after coming off Tommy John Surgery.While the first inning did not go very well for Mr. Corbin, it went abundantly well for the home team. Yunel Escobar lead off with a home run to center, and two more runs crossed the plate before the third out was recorded. An early three run lead hoped to be a boost to Scherzer who has proved he does not need much run support to produce a win.image

However, three runs would not be enough. Scherzer labored through a 40 pitch 4th inning in which the D-backs scored the needed amount to tie the game. Things would remain knotted for several more innings until there came some drama in the later stages.image

Drew Storen entered in the top of the eighth for what would become yet another shutdown inning. To put in perspective how he has pitched since the Papelbon trade last week, let’s take a look:

It was the meat of the Nationals order for the bottom half of the eighth, and the game would not be tied in the 9th if they had anything to say about it. Ryan Zimmerman walked, Jayson Werth smacked a double into the left field corner, and Wilson Ramos strode to the plate with two runners in scoring position. He dropped a blooper into shallow right field allowing Zimmerman to score easily and Werth to come home and score from second. The crowd roared as Ramos gave his customary Buffalo horns on second, and the hit seemed to be a product of the day’s work for Wilson.

Jonathan Papelbon allowed one run in the 9th on a throwing error by third baseman Yunel Escobar, but shut the door quickly afterwards and earned his first save at home for his new team.

Papelbon ends the game himself as he tags out Chad Pennington running to first

Papelbon ends the game himself as he tags out Chad Pennington running to first

The Mets defeated the Marlins, so the Nats remain one game back of the Metropolitans.

Today is August 5th, or in the minds of Nationals fans, Jayson Werth Chia Pet day. It is also the one year anniversary of the Gnome day, as many of you may remember from last year. I’ll be there for the Chia Pet with a review of the event tomorrow.

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Jordan Zimmermann Throws First No-Hitter in Nationals History

On Sunday, September 28, 2014, Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for the historic event, and I am excited to share my perspective of everything that happened. So much happened in fact, that I decided to split it up into two posts: one about the actual game and one about after the game.

Unlike Opening Day, Sunday consisted of perfect weather. We got to Nationals Park early in order to meet up with some family friends. As I was standing around checking Twitter, I saw a tweet that not too far from where I was standing, MASN Dan (Dan Kolko) was taking pictures with fans. I hurried over to the MASN area in left field and got a picture with him myself:

Dan Kolko and I on the day Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter

Dan Kolko and I on the day Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter

From there it was time to make our way to our seats. We walked around the stadium to Section 319 and took in the sights on what I mentioned was such a fantastic day; maybe an omen for the events which were about to transpire.

The Nationals were playing the Miami Marlins, and Jordan Zimmermann was being opposed by Henderson Alverez. As you may remember, Alverez tossed a no-hitter in last season’s concluding game. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, but the game was still scoreless. Then in the bottom of the ninth, the Marlins walked-off in what was one of the craziest endings to a no-hitter in the history of baseball.

All my life, whenever I attend a baseball game, I go hoping to see a no-hitter. I constantly check the scoreboard until I see both teams have recorded a hit; it’s just one of my baseball-watching obsessions. So on Sunday, unlike Tyler Moore, who didn’t know a no-hitter was being thrown until the ninth inning, I was attentive to the fact of what was occurring before my eyes the entire game.

Jordan Zimmermann throws a pitch

Jordan Zimmermann throws a pitch

The game started off quickly. Zimmermann recorded a 1-2-3 first inning and the Nats were also set down in order. However, when Ryan Zimmerman came to the plate in the first inning, the crowd sang Happy Birthday to him, as he had just reached 30 years old.

In the second, it was six up six down for JZ, who just kept on rolling. Then in the bottom half of the inning, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond launched his 24th home run of the year and that gave the Nats a 1-0 lead.

The Marlins could not muster a baserunner in the third inning either. When the Nationals got up, it was time for the crowd to begin acknowledging the hard work the starters had put in all season long. After Denard Span doubled, he was replaced by Nate Schierholtz, and he received a standing ovation as he walked into the dugout. The same happened in the bottom of the 4th, when Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper were replaced by Tyler Moore and Scott Hairston, respectively.

Zimmermann’s perfect game was intact until the fifth inning. Chantilly High School’s own Justin Bour drew a two-out walk to give the Marlins their first man on base of the day. I was slightly disappointed the perfect game was gone, but I could tell how well JZ was pitching and I knew there was a strong possibility I could still witness history.

The game continued on and the tension continued to build. While no more runs were scored, the excitement grew as each out was recorded. I have never been to a baseball game before where the whole stadium was so into every pitch; it was an atmosphere I will not forget for a long time.

In the top of the seventh, Miami was able to put a second person on base. Garrett Jones struck out, but the ball bounced away from Wilson Ramos, and Jones was able to make it to first on the dropped third strike. I was glad he was not the only baserunner for the Marlins. If their only runner had been on a dropped third strike, that would have been quite disappointing. Ramos made up for not blocking the pitch though, by picking Jones off of first base. The crowd erupted as the umpire signaled him out, and just like that, Zimmerman was six outs away.

The Nationals did not score in the bottom of the seventh or the bottom of the eighth, so the game went into the top of the ninth with the Nats still ahead 1-0. Stephen Souza Jr. was inserted into left field as a defensive replacement. Jordan Zimmermann needed only three outs to secure his place in Nationals lore. The crowd was on their feet, cameras were recording, and I stayed nervous.

The first two outs were recorded quickly. Then the magic happened. Christian Yelich stepped to the plate as the last chance for the Marlins to avoid being no-hit. On a 2-1 count, he drove a ball to deep left field. The crowd held its breath and Zimmermann threw his head back as he was sure the ball would drop for a double. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the aforementioned Souza came flying in and made a spectacular diving catch to save the day. Bedlum ensued as the players stormed the field.

After the celebration, it was time for Zimmermann to be interviewed by none other than MASN Dan. Zimmermann was showered in Gatorade, bubble gum, and even an equipment bag as well as a rosin bag. Jayson Werth did the honors of throwing the pie in Zimmermann’s face and Werth took no mercy on Kolko either, pieing him as well.

You can see my first hand account of all these events in the YouTube video below. It covers the entire ninth inning as well as the on-field post-game events.

It was a spectacular day. However, the final out did not spell the end of interesting things for me. Be sure to read the next post containing what happened after we left our seats. You definitely won’t want to miss it…

Nationals 10th Win in a Row has Fans Bobbing Heads in Approval

Last night was Ian Desmond bobblehead night at Nationals Park.  As I stated in my post about the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome, I’m not one of those crazy, die-hard bobblehead fans.  However, that Garden Gnome may have converted me.  I found myself desiring a bobblehead of my favorite baseball player, which lead me to 1500 South Capitol Street on Thursday afternoon.  While I was not first in line for this one, I did receive one nonetheless.

The Ian Desmond Bobblehead alongside the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

The Ian Desmond Bobblehead alongside the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

In deciding whether to attend the game or not, I was slightly hesitant.  I had not seen a win at Nationals Park since Jordan Zimmermann’s complete game two hitter against the Marlins last season, and the Nationals were in the midst of an outstanding nine game winning streak.  I figured my presence at the game obviously wasn’t going to affect on-field performance and I thought it would be pretty neat to say I was at the Nats’ 10th win in a row.

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Gio Gonzalez pitched the last game I attended but had a much more solid outing this time around.  He threw 7 full innings while not allowing a run and striking out six along the way.  He only yielded four hits and three walks, an encouraging sign of hopefully similar outings to come in the near future.

The story of the game early and throughout the entire contest for the Nationals was runners left on base.  It seemed that everytime the Nats would find themselves with an opportunity to score, they would also find a way not to score.  In fact, as Adam Kilgore tweeted, through 7 innings the Nats had eight hits and six walks (i.e. lots of baserunners).  However, at that same point in time they were 0 for 11 with Runners in Scoring Position, and had left eight runners stranded.  Had the Nats gone on to lose the game, I’m sure that would have been a more prevalent topic in Matt Williams’ post-game press conference.

The Nationals’ defense though backed up their pitching.  Behind multiple double plays, the game was scoreless entering the 9th inning.  If the Nationals were to extend their winning streak it would come via the walk off.  But what’s new?  The Nats had walked off four of the last five days, so why not make it five of the past six?

A side-note, I had never seen a Major League walk-off in person before even after all my years of attending games.  I guess it was the magic in the air, but I could sense something was brewing in the bottom of the ninth that might put that streak to an end.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Denard Span notched his second hit of the ballgame.  Upon reaching first base, Mark Trumbo, the Diamondbacks’ first baseman, said to Span, “Just how you guys like it (referring to now possibly winning on a walk-off).”  After waiting patiently and analyzing the quick-delivery of Arizona’s pitcher, Evan Marshall, Span stole second base.  He picked a perfect pitch to steal too; a slider, giving him that extra time to slide in and beat the tag.

Span was now in scoring position and it was a question of whether Rendon would come through.  I had my camera recording for what I hoped would be that elusive walk-off I had yet to see in person.  Rendon connected and hit a ground ball to the third basemen, and it’s Arizona’s third basemen Jordan Pacheco whom Nats fans should thank.  He made an errant throw to first, and when Trumbo failed to scoop it, the ball bounced into the Nationals dugout.  The ball was out of play and by rule Denard Span was allowed to score.  The Nationals were now the owners of a 10 game winning streak; only the second time they have accomplished this since returning to the District in 2005.

The National League East Standings (notice the 10-0 in the Last 10 column for the Nats)

The National League East Standings (notice the 10-0 in the Last 10 column for the Nats)

The Nationals had walked off for the fifth time in six days.  I had witnessed my first Major League walk-off.  My losing streak at Nationals Park was over.  I got my favorite player’s bobblehead.  I captured the walk-off on video, which you can see below.  Needless to say, it was a good day.

#2 – Veteran Leadership

There are just two days standing between pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in Viera. This means we have come to number two on my countdown.

#2 – Veteran Leadership

Clubhouse leaders are an essential component to any successful team. They are players who take it upon themselves to guide inexperienced teammates. They know the value of having a mentor show them the ropes in order to become a better player. The value veteran baseball players have  for the team is an intangible aspect of the game which often times goes un-recognized. However, even though there is no award for Best Leader, any knowledgeable player knows the importance of having an experienced core of talent in a locker room.

The Nationals are not low on numbers in this area. Seasoned veterans such as Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, Denard Span, Adam LaRoche, and especially Ryan Zimmerman are part of an essential make up of a contending team. They take the younger players such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg under their wing when times get rough. In return, it is necessary that the younger players absorb what they are told. When the team works together and helps those who are struggling, they roll along like a well-oiled machine.

While it is important that the veterans convey verbal leadership, leading by example is also beneficial.When the rest of the team sees the vets stepping up and producing, it often rubs off on the other players. When the Nats hit a rough patch, it is important the veterans step up and take command in re-directing the team back onto the right track.

Worst Case Scenario:

The worst case scenario for veterans is a tough one. It is easy, yes, to simply say that they won’t perform well. However, that doesn’t provide much insight besides something we all could have thought of on our own. I think what would be the worst case scenario in this situation is that the veterans don’t  come up big in clutch situations. This will be a key in this upcoming season; to be able to win games in late inning contests when either side could steal a victory. It will be these defining moments which characterize the season for the Nats.

Best Case Scenario:

This scenario is not as difficult to contemplate. The vets take the rookies under their wing and the team becomes a unit. Everyone feeds off each other and wins come from the positive attitude as well as on-field performances. Rookies learn from how the more experienced members of the team act in stressful times, and this enables the rookies to become reliable contributors by the end of the season. I may not be stellar in math, but it’s a pretty simple equation here: if the veterans play well and lead by example, the rest of the team will follow suit and it will be one amazing season.

It will be interesting to see where the Nationals get the majority of their contributions from this season. Will it be the veterans who take charge? Or will it be the younger players who step up when their team needs them? Only time will tell.

What will be number one?! Be sure to find out tomorrow!

Only two more days…

Countdown to #Natitude: 2 days

New Manager Matt Williams hitting some ground balls in early work (Photo by: William Ladson)

New Manager Matt Williams hitting some ground balls in early work (Photo by: William Ladson)