On a beautiful night for baseball in the nation’s capital (81 low-humidity degrees at game time), the Washington Nationals continued their mystifying ways – by winning their 6th in a row!
Our boys have been playing error-free baseball with sparkling defense since Rockville’s own Jim Riggleman took over as manager more than 20 games ago. Combine that with a new-found timeliness with their hitting and a rebuilt and generally effective bullpen and – while we may see a bunch of bush-league politics in this town – all of a sudden we’re seeing major league baseball in the District of Columbia!
With Candice and the twins in Florida visiting her family and tonight’s promise of beautiful weather, I made up my mind early to take in the Nats-Diamondbacks game. I was worried that my presence at the ballpark would jinx them, as I’ve been to 4 or 5 games already this season…and all have been losses (if you throw out the 10-10 tie that was won about two months later). When I barely missed a batting practice home run because I was talking on the phone to Candice, I really worried about my luck. And when the Diamondbacks jumped on starter Collin Balester for five runs (featuring 3 home runs) in the 2nd, I was sure the season’s longest winning streak would end at 5 games.
But somebody has replaced these hapless Nats with real ballplayers, and my handy-dandy scorebook tells me that they started chipping away with one run in the bottom of the second and then added 3 more in the 4th. By the time Ryan Zimmerman hit his fourth home run in four games in the bottom of the 5th, the Nats had tied the game and the old momentum had clearly swung. Just like Abe snuck up on George and Tom to steal the President’s race tonight, the Nats snuck up on Diamondbacks and had them looking as helpless as Teddy (especially center-fielder Gerardo Parra who misplayed at least two balls – one of which the official scorer generously credited as a double).
One of the great things about scoring a ballgame is that all the folks around you are willing to ask questions, chat about special plays, and help you out when your eyes are diverted watching George Washington dance and you miss a play. It also helps you remember the key plays. Like Guzman’s very close 6-3 put-out of Trent Oeltjen in the 8th that got the D’backs manager tossed from the game (but not before he did his best Earl Weaver impersonation and got the ump riled up). I suspect the replay showed Oeltjen was safe because they never showed it in the stadium (a suspicion that was later confirmed). Had he been called safe, the D’backs would have tied the game in the 8th and we might still be playing. But as the late philosopher Jerry Reed said, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot!”
My seatmates included a British gentleman who had a very good grasp of the game, two families from NY/Connecticut taking a break from a college-visiting trip with their daughter and son, and two couples out for a night of beer and baseball. I remember asking my British friend why in the world the D’backs would let their pitcher bat in the 6th when he’d already given up 5 runs and had thrown 103 pitches…and then they took him out after just one-third of an inning in the 7th, which messed up their pinch-hitting opportunities later in the game. Riggleman, on the other hand, made a number of double switches that made my scorecard look a bit of a mess but meant that he always had the right guy at the plate when it counted AND he got the most out of his bullpen. I like the way Riggleman is managing this club and think he deserves a shot at a permanent job. (But the Nats and their countless interim positions are another blog for when I’m not feeling so charitable towards our hometown team.)
Great night for baseball. Great win by our Nats. As my t-shirt with a simple drawing of a baseball on the front of it declares, “Life is Good.”
More to come…