Monday, April 16, 2007

Freezin' My Nats Off

Oh man. I was one of the 1,000 or so pathetic souls on hand for tonight's 5-1 victory over the Braves. It was raining and 45 degrees, but the 40 mile per hour wind gusts had the wind chill down to 36 degrees. I've been to warmer NFL games in December.

My buddy and I arrived in the fourth inning, late due to a work meeting. To our pleasant surprise, the Nats were up 3-0 despite Matt Chico's shockingly high pitch count. We needed food and shelter, so we headed straight for the Red, Hot and Blue concourse on the 300 level. We got some pulled chicken platters that were nearly blown into the stands by the headwinds howling through the concourse. Fortunately we had MGD bottles to weigh our platters down. After pounding down the food we headed down to the 100 level where my buddy's seats are located. I had to hold onto my hat while walking on the concourse; the whipping wind was making my eyes tear up.

There were only two kinds of people in the stands: the drunk and the stupid. We fell into the latter category, but I have never seen so few people at RFK. Foul balls that made their way into the stands ricocheted several times before finally being retrieved by fleet-footed youngsters. The Dippin' Dots stand had resorted to selling hot chocolate while the knit cap salesman was having a career night.

The Braves scored a run to close to 3-1, but the Nats added two insurance runs in the 8th due to the boobery of Braves reliever Mike Gonzalez, who loaded the bases and then walked the light-hitting Brian Schneider to send Zimmerman home from third. Another run got slapped in on a sacrifice infield single by Chris Snelling. The Chief came on to close it and put on another stroke-inducing performance, putting a few runners on and then giving up some loooong fly balls that somehow stayed in the park despite a strong wind blowing straight out. One Braves hit actually ricocheted off the very top of the fence and stayed in the park.

Despite the freezing cold it was still great to be at the park. The only thing that disappointed me was the lack of tailgaters in Lot 8. Come on, people!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

We Won't be Denied

It turns out that Don Imus wasn't the only shock jock getting himself into on-air trouble last week. Another radio host inexplicably launched an on-air assault on one of our fellow sports bloggers. On Thursday April 5 ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd launched a random denial of service attack on The Big Lead, a blog run by three twenty-something guys who write about sports of all sorts. Cowherd seemed to have no apparent reason to target sports blogs in general or The Big Lead in particular, yet he exhorts his listeners to bombard the site with so much traffic that it will be forced to shut down:

"Wouldn't it be great if we went and basically gave out every day, like a new young web site: Just blow it up...One that's annoying...I'm going to give you a Web site." (Listen to the rant at mgoblog)
Cowherd then names the Big Lead and tells listeners: "I want you to go to it as fast as you possibly can."

Cowherd's "fans" flooded the site with so much traffic that it was shut down and booted off its ISP's web server. The Big Lead was down for over 48 hours as the site's operators scrambled to find a new web hosting service. Cowherd later boasted to listeners: "We shut it down in 90 seconds...we don't even know thebiglead." He later asked listeners to "knock it out again, just for fun."

ESPN was quick to express its disdain over Cowherd's actions and ombuds(wo)man Le Anne Schreiber announced a zero-tolerance policy for these kinds of attacks in the future. I'm glad to see that ESPN is not condoning Cowherd's behavior, but I don't think this is the last incident we'll see of the mainstream media lashing out at sports bloggers.

Sports bloggers and the traditional sports media are on a collision course. The quantity of sports blogs means that mainstream sports media outlets are getting an ever-shrinking slice of the audience pie. The quality of the writing on many of these sites rivals or surpasses the writing on many mainstream sites. To use a cheesy metaphor, the playing field is getting mighty crowded, and I can see how personalities like Colin Cowherd could feel extremely threatened by a site like The Big Lead or any other quality sports blog.

2007 is quickly becoming the Year of the Sports Blog. When I started the Curly W in 2005 most of us sports bloggers toiled in relative anonymity, known only to our own small community. Over the past two years sports blogging has gained more and more attention as consumption of traditional media continues to decline. The consequences of this trend are still yet to be determined, but a few realities seem to be materializing through the fog.

Sports blogs, at least for now, can get away with things that the mainstream media simply cannot. Sports bloggers make liberal use of humor, satire, sarcasm and parody, devices that are generally off limits to ESPN and its ilk. Freedom from editorial control and obligation to corporate interests lets us spout off about pretty much anything as long as we don't blatantly threaten or defame the subjects of our rants.

There is also zero barrier to entry to becoming a sports blogger. All you need is internet access and a knowledge of sports. This means that there are literally thousands of sites capable of producing content that is as good or better than the content available through MSM outlets. Actually, the quality doesn't really have to be good as long as it's outrageous enough to pull in a bunch of eyeballs. Really, what does Colin Cowherd, who works for one of the most prolific sports outfits in the world, offer to sports fans that even an average sports blog cannot? Not a thing.

I'm not saying that sports blogs will ever eclipse traditional media sites. Sports blogs simply could not exist without the source material their mainstream counterparts provide. My prediction is that blogs will soon be absorbed into the mainstream itself, either through direct syndication of content (think WaPo Technorati links on steroids) or by simply reaching such critical mass that they effectively become traditional sites. Deadspin gets over 1.2 million hits per week- advertisers must be beating down the door to pay the site's editors for screen space. Obligations to these advertisers will soon require editorial control until, voila, another mainstream site is born.

The traditional media can either fight us and lose (the Cowherd approach) or embrace us and add significant value to their content. We in Washington are extremely lucky to live in the orbit of major news outlets that are embracing blogs in a big way. The Washington Post is leading the way, bringing blogging in-house while simultaneously including local bloggers in the conversation. We are very fortunate to have Dan Steinberg (and his editors) on our side. Beat writer Barry Svrluga has also seen the light, extending his excellent Nationals Journal blog into the regular season. It's extra work for Barry to blog in addition to writing the daily gamer, but news consumers in 2007 simply will not wait for the next morning's paper.

It's a great time for sports bloggers and for all who love the free exchange of information. There is simply no more room in the conversation for guys like Colin Cowherd; he's sad and obsolete. The rising tide will lift all boats- the Washington Post and Times get it; Cowherd does not.

Postscript: The Big Lead is back in business. You can read their reaction to the incident here. They used the opportunity to move off of a Romanian web hosting site to a host located right here in the good ol' U S of A.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Staying Interested

Hi all. I haven't had much time to post recently but I wanted to drop in with a few thoughts on these first two weeks.

-There was a great discussion over at Nationals Journal the other day about whether people are staying interested in the team despite all the losing and administrative mishaps. The consensus in the comments on that post seemed to be that yes, the fans (at least NJ readers) are still emotionally connected to this team, even if the bloom is off the proverbial cherry blossom at this point.

I feel the same way. I've been too busy at work to pay tons of attention, but last night's victory against the Braves reminded me of how much fun it can be to watch this team. I was fully expecting an epic bed-shitting when the Chief came on to close it out in the bottom of the ninth. The Braves, particularly the Joneses, have always had Chad's number. It seems to go the same way every time: Cordero puts multiple runners on base and Andruw Jones hammers one to end the game. Sure enough, last night's events found Cordero in just this situation. Yet somehow, he found a way to get out of the jam. It felt great to watch that final out. It just goes to show that even in a dismal season there are great moments to enjoy, and reasons for us all to stay tuned.

-Jason Bergmann had one of the wackiest pitching performances I've ever seen last night. His control was horrible, yet the Braves kept hacking and hacking at his breaking stuff in the dirt. Bergmann managed to walk four and strike out nine only because the Braves, particularly Andruw Jones, had zero patience at the plate last night. I think this shows how little opposing hitters respect the Nats pitching staff. I can't say I blame them, but it was truly incredible to watch Bergmann strike out batter after batter on hideous pitches.

-Ron Belliard is my new favorite Nats player. He has made some absolutely unreal defensive plays at second base. He snared a hot grounder deep in the hole against the Braves and threw an off-balance, on-time strike to Young at first to stop a sure hit. He had a similar play again tonight against the Mets, ranging way back into right field and hauling down a high liner. A few innings later there he was, buried under a would-be second base stealer, ball in glove, to end the inning. It's just plain fun to watch a guy go all-out like Belliard does.

There are still plenty of reasons to pay attention to this team. I'm still enthralled with the fact that I can watch every single game on TV. No more praying that UPN 20 decided to forgo another airing of Kindergarten Cop on a Friday night to broadcast a grainy, third-tier Nats production. No more Red Roof Inn commercials!

I'll be at the games this Monday and Wednesday...I'm looking forward to it!

One, Comma, the Hard Way


It's never dull when you wear the W

While hometown fans wrung hands and gnashed teeth, the Washington Nationals took a day off before heading down to Atlanta for a three-game series against the Braves. What did the Nats take with them? A 5.86 ERA, kept to under eight by Shawn Hill and the bullpen (the Nats' first starter, John Patterson new jersey has a 9.35 ERA), a 2.6 runs per game average, a .140 average (8 for 57) with runners in scoring position (all op. cit.), Ryan Church's six-game hitting streak and a four-game losing streak. Brian Schneider has already been moved down two spots in the order to eighth, one spot ahead of the pitcher, and Chad Cordero who's been flatter than a Don Imus apology in all zero of his save opportunities and may need a tire iron to bang the rust off. The Nats lost the series 2-1. Pour a cold one and let's wrap the series.


The Nationals looked totally unprepared for a major league game as they lost game one on Tuesday 8-0. Starter Matt Chico state hung on for 4-2/3 innings, throwing 98 pitches to 24 batters who got six hits and scored four runs. Thanks to comrade Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard, only one of those runs was earned so Matt's ERA is safe at 7.27. In another Frank Robinson-like use of the bullpen, five other pitchers saw action. Jesus Colome atoned for his terrible outing last Saturday against the Diamondbacks and Ray King's blood sugar was obviously down. He saw 2/3 of an inning action, faced seven batters and gave up two hits and four runs.

Tim Hudson was in complete control for the Braves, throwing seven innings of three-hit, shutout ball. Atlanta homered twice and hit five doubles. It was a massacre.

Washington has been behind at least 3-0 in every game and still has not scored in any of the first three innings of any game. In the bottom of the fifth, Ronnie muffed an infield popup which would been two outs with nobody on. Instead, three runs scored and Matt was pulled for Micah Bowie (who faced the one batter and got out of the jam). Ryan Church ran his hitting streak to seven games. The Prospect Kory Casto did not play after appearing in the last six games and hitting 4-for-23 (.174). Manager Manny Acta, still on the sunny side, said of starter Matt Chico state, "he'll be fine." Nationals 1-7, 154 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga


The weather was not much better Wednesday when the Nats lost game two 8-3 the Braves. Starter Jerome Williams gave up two runs off four hits and issued four walks while facing 22 batters and throwing 95 pitches. A middling night but Jerome solidifies himself as a major league pitcher by pitching his way out of a no-out, bases loaded jam in the second inning. Jerome walked pitcher Chuck James to load the bases, which I thought at the time was a terrible idea since that put the top of the order back at the plate with no outs, but Kelly Johnson grounded into a 3-2 double play, then Edgar Renteria pooped out to second. Head's up play by the infield and good pitch selection by Jerome and Brian Schneider. Relievers Micah Bowie, Ryan Wagner and Jon Rauch all played like they were drunk.

For the Braves, starter Chuck James threw six innings of five-hit, no run ball, a steady diet of fly-outs and ground outs. Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones both homered, but no other Braves player got a multi-base hit and only Chipper and Edgar had more than one hit. Sometimes I feel like Chipper and Andruw have been playing in Atlanta forever.

Washington again fell behind, this time by five runs before scoring. The Nats are the only team in the majors that does not have more strikeouts than walks (46 each after this game). Ryan Church extended his hitting streak to eight games. The Prospect Kory Casto was back in the lineup batting second and got one hit in five at-bats. He's now hitting .179. Brian Schneider may be headed for tenth in the lineup. He was hitless in two at-bats and is sitting on a .111 average. Nationals hitting coach Mitchell Page was sounding positively Joe's Garage after the game when he said yes we are scoring 2.3 runs per game and the team is only hitting .231 BUT WE ARE NOT GROUPIES WE ARE NOT IN SLUMP (op. cit.). Nationals 1-8, 153 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga


I sat down tonight and watched much of game three Thursday, a 2-0 win and if the term 'gutty' is ever used in baseball, this was a gutty performance by the Nationals. Starter Jason Bergmann's cleaners became the second starter to crack the sixth inning and the second to throw 100+ pitches in a start and he made good on his last start, a three-run 50-inning first inning last week against the Diamondbacks. He stayed on the mound six innings, gave up one hit and no runs, walked four and struck out eight, throwing 105 pitches to 22 batters. Good job Jason. Jesus Colome and Jon Rauch were clean and sober, each throwing one inning and giving up no hits and no runs. Then the Chief came in...(more on him later).

John Smoltz, ageless and still with at least seven innings of stuff, pitched eight innings of four-hit, two run ball, a good outing. Bobby Cox brought in fresh arms Macay McBride and Tyler Yates to suppress additional runs, and it worked, and maybe after this Bobby won't extend John into the eighth anymore. Both Nationals runs came in the eighth. John hit Chris Snelling, walked Felipe Lopez, Chris advanced to third on a John wild pitch. Ronnie Belliard got a hit/RBI, Ryan Zimmerman got a hit/RBI.

Good pitching won this one, even though Jason got off to a hard start in the first. The third, fifth and eighth innings were three-up three-down for the Nats' pitchers. Can anyone else remember this happening so far this year? Ryan Church ran his hitting streak to nine games, Brian Schneider was again hitless (now batting .103). After the game, Ray King was put on a diet the 15-day disabled list with a sore shoulder (we'll be seeing Saul Rivera while he's out).

But the best moment was the end, the ninth, the Chief. Chad came out, the bill of his blue hat looking flatter than usual. A neighbor had come over to help me move a piece of furniture and we were watching the end over a glass of Russell's Reserve bourbon and I told him Chad needed to get it done in under 35 pitches, about where he loses it. Edgar Renteria flied out to start, then it got interesting. Chipper singled, then moved to second on Chad's wild pitch. Andruw Jones walked to put men on first and second, then Brian McCann struck out. Jeff Francoeur walked, loading the bases. The winning Braves run was at first.

Up came Scott Thorman. No sooner had I reminded my neighbor about Chad's pitch count limits did the announcer note that Chad was bout to throw his 30th pitch. Chad loaded the count 3-2 and threw a slider that dropped on Scott. He tried to check his swing but went around. Game over. Chad's pitch count? 33. Nationals 2-8, 152 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga

The Nats can take some consolation from this series though. With Stan Kasten no longer at the helm, this Braves team will be noticeably musty after five to eight more years.

Nationals Series record: 0-3-0, 49 to go. Next series, a three-game series today (Friday) through Sunday in New York against the Mets.



Brian Schneider and Chad Cordero: AP / Gregory Smith via ESPN here.
Tim Hudson: AP / John Bazemore via ESPN here.
Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones: AP / John Bazemore via ESPN here.
Jason Bergmann: AP / Gregory Smith via ESPN here.
John Smoltz: AP / Gregory Smith via ESPN here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bergmann's Cleaners


It's the bullpen, stupid

Easter in Washington was colder than Christmas and the Washington Nationals' starting pitchers were tossing an 11.37 ERA headed into the four-game homestand against the Arizona Diamondbacks and their shameless Nats knockoff uniforms. Despite the weather disadvantage, the D-backs swept the Nats four games to none. Bundle up and let's get this series wrap in the can.

I attended game one Thursday on free tickets, but I paid for it. It was freezing cold in the 30s with wind as the Nats lost a heartbreaker 4-3. Before we could even get used to the cold, Jason Bergmann had already given up three runs in the first inning and only lasted 3-2/3 innings, giving up five hits and four runs on 91 pitches to 25 batters. That sad, long first inning alone was 50 pitches for poor Jason.

But then the Cleaners came in. From the fourth to the end of the game, Micah Bowie, Jesus Colome and Jon Rauch threw 5-1/3 innings of one-hit ball, giving the Nats bats every opportunity to get back in the game. And they did. Washington hit five doubles and a home run, stringing together three runs and went into the bottom of the ninth down by one run. Just couldn't get over the top.

Arizona was not spectacular in this game. Starter Edgar Gonzales gave up seven hits over five innings and Orlando Hudson hit a homer, but after that first inning the D-backs were quiet. Once again the Nats fell behind and could not get out, even when the opponent struggled. This game continued the streak of falling behind by more than four runs before the fourth inning, that makes all of them by the way.

Props to the bullpen in this one, they gave the Nats every chance to win. Oh by the way, the Nats set a record-low attendance tonight. By the end of the game, there were not many folks left. Nationals 1-3, 158 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga / SBF


Curly W aside: I know Jason's outing was bad, I was there and you can read the box for yourself. But was it so bad in comparison that it merited a dressing down from GM Jim Bowden? Even if Jason's night out was the worst for a starter yet, I think you need to sit all the starters down and hug it out. Singling out one guy when the supposed ace John Patterson new jersey is tossing a 9.35 ERA in two starts is not productive at this point. It was cold and he had a bad night. Give him a break.


In game two Friday, starter Jerome Williams lasted six innings (the first time a Nationals starter cracked the sixth), tossing 88 pitches to 26 batters that got six hits and scored five runs in a 7-1 loss. The thing to note here is that Jerome threw three scoreless innings before giving up two in the fourth and three in the sixth. Ray King hotplated his way through a scoreless inning and then Lavale Speigner gave up another two in the ninth.

Starter Micah Owings was the story for Arizona, throwing 96 pitches and giving up one hit. Micah (Georgia Tech) and Ryan Zimmerman (Virginia) have some history and Micah won the day: RyZim hit into a ground out once and struck out twice. As a side note, this Nationals team appears to have no offense. Add weak pitching and freeze for three hours.

For young Austin Kearns, this was a night to forget. He mistimed Chad Tracy's outfield shot in the fourth that turned into a triple, then made a bad baserunning call on third and was run down in the sixth and then flopped on a Conor Jackson line drive in the eighth, allowing a run. Nationals 1-4, 157 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga / SBF


I was back at the stadium for game three Saturday, another bad 7-1 loss. The second thing I noticed after how freaking cold it was (41 degrees at first pitch, colder than kickoff temp at any Redskins home game last season) was the face stockings D-backs center fielder Chris Young and surferboy right fielder Eric Byrnes were wearing. The wore them up over their noses so only their eyes were visible under their caps and the action of them pulling the stocking down occasionally to jut out their jaws and spit had the unfortunate effect of making them look like uncircumcised outfielders.

John Patterson new jersey was back on the mound and threw five innings, giving up four hits and three runs on 88 pitches facing 23 batters. The magic moment for John must have been that 31-pitch first inning when Arizona raced out to a three-zero lead. Note to Nats fans: if you miss the first inning, you miss half the total action.

In presidential action, Teddy Roosevelt again failed to win (Abe Lincoln won) but here's the money shot of Thomas Jefferson passing section 102, this pic is for Brandon's mom. Look at how much fun TJ is having in comparison to Abe. Lighten up Abe, it's only civil war.

Chris Snelling pinch-hit for John in the bottom of the fifth and struck out and when Jesus Colome came out to the mound in the sixth he promptly gave up three hits and three runs. Chad Cordero came in for mop-up in the ninth and was flat as two-day old soda, giving up three hits and a run facing six batters. The bullpen the team relies on to keep opponents' bats quiet had nothing in the tank tonight.

Looking down the Nats lineup, there should be some offense there but nothing is happening. You know it's bad when the players are complaining that it's too cold to play and the only run the team can muster is off a bad call, the foul ball Austin hit that was ruled a home run. After the game, the Washington Post's Dave Sheinen, a recovering baseball beat writer, sent Barry Svrluga this email about reveling in the experience of covering a bad team. Section 102 literally yelled itself hoarse heckling surferboy Eric. Also, this guy got shirtless in hopes of being spotlighted as the Nats Fan of the Game but this isn't football and so big guys with arms raised are shunned by the cameras. Way to show your spirit though. Nationals 1-5, 156 games to go.
Box / Recap / Svrluga / SBF


Livan Hernandez started game four for the D-backs Sunday a 3-1 Nats loss, and I was wrong. Apparently you can't carve a better starter out of a banana. Livan pitched a no-hitter into the sixth while Nats starter Shawn Hill lasted 6-2/3 innings, giving up six hits and two runs on 105 pitches facing 29 batters. All things considered, a good outing for a Nats starter.

Tasty stat from the recap: the Nationals have been outscored 13-0 in the first inning so far this season, and 22-0 in innings one through three.

Once again, Arizona was not spectacular offensively, managing eight hits and three runs over the game. The Nats bullpen did its thing again tonight, holding the D-backs to two hits and a run facing 11 batters. Offensively, these guys need to get in the groove. Nationals 1-6, 155 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga / SBF


Nationals series record: 0-2-0, 50 to go. Next series starts Tuesday after a day off, a three-game series in Atlanta.

=====

PS, any stadium regulars out there, the Washington Post is looking for regular contributors on the RFK experience. Gee, I wonder where the Post might find a community of people that are willing to share their game experiences with others...



Jason Bergmann AP photo from here.
Lot 8 sign photo by me.
Sparse attendance at the end of Thursday's game by me.
Micah Owings: Evan Vucci / AP photo from here.
Eric Byrnes face condom by me.
Abe and TJ by me.
Husky dude rallying the faithful by me.
Eric Byrnes missing RyZim's right field shot in the sixth: Lawrence Jackson / AP, pilfered from Nats320 here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad


Good one Dmitri, you're doing fine

Who cares if Nats lost this series three games to one and the president felt like skipping the First Pitch? Most of the country is skipping his Latest Pitch so let's call it even and get on with the Curly W Nationals-Marlins series wrap.

In game one on Monday, John Patterson lasted 3-2/3 innings and gave up six runs on seven hits and threw 80 pitches in a 9-2 loss. By his own admission, he did not have teh stuffs Monday. Nook Logan Gus Frerotted a wall and hyperextended his ankle and Cristian Guzman pulled up lame with a hammy (they were both put on the 15-day disabled list). Now the Nationals have another position controversy brewing, this time with Felipe Lopez.

For the Marlins it was like lions and Christians. The top half of the Florida lineup got 9 hits on 18 at-bats and overall the team hit three doubles, a triple and two home runs. Dontrelle Willis lasted six innings and left with a 1.50 ERA.

But as always, Ryan Zimmerman delivers: he hit a triple in his first at-bat and finished 2 of 4 with a run scored in addition to a great defensive put-out from down on his keister. Comrade Dmitri Young did his best Nick Johnson. Tom Boswell reminds us that this team's 2007 payroll is 36 million dollars (I think Alfonso Soriano craps that out before every Cubs game) and gah! can't we get through a piece on RFK without reminding everyone about the Redskins? They moved to Maryland and suck now, so it's time to quit feeling nostalgic for a time when they were good, won championships and had a great stadium that was easy to get to.

Rookie Manager Manny Acta, after defending his first amendment rights over the weekend, was perhaps er, overly optimistic: "We're tied for second, with the rest of the league who lost today. It's just one game." Manny I hope you never lose that childlike sense of wonderment. Nationals 0-1, 161 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga / SBF

Curly W aside: with this team predicted to be so bad this season, I am a little worried about the team trying so hard to gin up excitement with the mascots that someone winds up getting hurt. Teddy Roosevelt, still winless, rappeled in from the cantilevered roof at RFK and wound up missing his dismount and laying on his face until helped to his feet. With things like space tourism and barrels over Niagara Falls proving that there is no shortage in the world of idiots willing to try anything, I fear by the end of the season we will be seeing presidential Russian roulette, presidential HALO jumping and televised presidential mumblety peg.

Game two on Tuesday looked a lot like game one on Monday only worse and with no injuries as the Nats lost 9-3. The starting pitcher, Shawn Hill this time, lasted five innings, gave up five hits and five runs and threw 84 pitches. His ERA of 7+ is about half of John Patterson New Jersey's. The relievers were mocked relentlessly with Ray King untrussing his gut for a 2/3 of an inning outing where he gave up two hits and a run on 19 pitches and did not head to first to cover the bag for a possible double play. I think he did it on purpose because at his size he looks like a first baseman and he doesn't want any part of a job that makes him play every day.

To add insult to insult, Comrade Dmitri let a ball roll through his legs (it was kind of comical) and with Cristian injured and on the DL, Josh Wilson started at shortstop and made an error that Felipe may or may not have made. When asked about the play after the game, Felipe said "I don't play shortstop so that could not have been me."*

The top half of the Marlins order looked less like sharks this time, producing four hits on 16 at-bats, but also seven runs, a mathematical impossibility until you look at the tape again and note that after hitting a single in the first, Miguel Cabrera appeared to be stranded only to reappear on base in the seventh, score and immediately pick his bat and get back on base. If you've seen Donnie Darko you know what I'm talking about.

But the story of the day was The Prospect Kory Casto (not pictured at right, that's RyZim), sent back down at the end of camp only to get called up with the injuries to Nook and Cristian and now making his major league debut. He went 1 for 4 with a single and obviously Barry Svrluga is already running out of things to write about because half his piece is about Kory. I just love that AAA Columbus flew Kory back to Washington on a private jet and made his wife drive by herself. Honey, stop in Pittsburgh on your way and pick me up a jock at the Sports Authority. Mine just got too small. Nationals 0-2, 160 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga / SBF

Game three on Wednesday highlights how tasty rare wins will be: the coverage is all about the final inning, a three-run frame to cap a five-run comeback and a 7-6 win. But to get there, Matt Chico, who like Kory Tuesday had never played above AA ball before yesterday, had to get through four innings, give up eight hits and six runs on 55 pitches against 20 batters. The ensuing six relievers (a positively Frank Robinson use of the bullpen) held the Marlins to two hits on 64 pitches over 18 batters, good on the pen for pitching four shutout innings.

Florida scored early (that's Miguel Cabrera going yard off Matt Chico State in the third at right) and as Barry points out, the Nats were for the third time in three games trailing by at least four runs after four innings. For this game though it was five runs by three innings which extrapolates in July to 256 runs in the first which makes the comeback that much better. Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez gave up 10 hits in 5-2/3 innings and poor Jorge Julio was only in the game for the final 1/3 inning of the game but gave up five hits and three runs on 23 pitches against seven batters (Screech's Best Friend knew this would happen).

Although he got the winner in the ninth, Comrade Dmitri's comeback started in the sixth. With two outs Comrade Dmitri singled to left, then Brian Schneider singled to center then Ryan Church cleared the bases with a home run.

No more scoring until the ninth when Ronnie Belliard, playing second instead of Felipe who knuckled under and went back to shortstop after Josh Wilson struggled there on Tuesday, hit a double, then Robert Fick singled, scoring Ronnie (6-5 Marlins). Felipe sac-flied Robert to second then Kory singled to shortstop, sending Robert home (tied 6-6). RyZim singled to right sending Kory to third. Jorge lost his cool right there with runners on first and third and one out with a tie game and walked Austin Kearns on four pitches. With the bases loaded and one out, Comrade Dmitri hit a high arc into left that might have gone foul. Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham could not put it in play, or else the tag up would end the game, so he let it drop and it...landed fair. Kory scores, game over, 7-6 Nationals. Sweaty men embrace, but in a totally cool way with no yearning or stares of longing.

Jorge got saddled with the loss, Nats reliever John Rauch only faced two batters but got the win. Sometimes you get it all, sometimes it all gets you. Nationals 1-2, 159 games to go. Box / Recap / Svrluga / SBF (are you kidding me? Did Screech's Best Friend actually suit up and run as George Washington in yesterday's game? Is there any part of the team that's off-limits to this guy?)

Nationals series record: 0-1-0, 51 to go. Next series, Thursday through Sunday at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks. I'll be at the game tomorrow and I'll be in lot 8 pouring a bourbon before the game if anyone would like to join me.

=====

The Curly W sends its thoughts and best hopes to the mother of Robert Fick, who is in bad shape and dying of cancer in California.

=====


* A dramatization.

Dmitri Young: AP photo from here.
RyZim top right: Joel Richardson / Washington Post from here.
RyZim middle left: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP from here.
Miguel Cabrera bottom right:
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP from here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Freakin' Day

Well, it was certainly an Opening Day to remember. First, the bad news: the Nats got shellacked 9-2. Patterson looked horrible (6 runs on 7 hits over just 3 and 2/3 innings). Barf. Nook Logan hurt his foot on a spectacular catch off the center field wall and Christian Guzman went out with a mysterious leg injury. So far, the worst predictions of the punditry are all coming true.

But Opening Day is only kind of about the game. It's more of a panorama of fun activity on a Monday when you'd normally be at work. Or if you're like my friends and I, you just continue doing work via Blackberry between beers.

And in that regard this was a great day. It all started off with a classic Lot 8 tailgate. It seems like more and more people each year are discovering the magic of the Lot 8 tailgate, where open container laws are ignored with a wink and a nod and no meat is left uncooked. Mrs. Kriner, myself and three friends, all veteran Lot 8ers, had decamped our gear (folding chairs, table, and a portable grill) from the car in less than 10 minutes and we immediately broke into the Jim Beam.

After awhile I headed over to the Natosphere tailgate, where I got to meet Dan Steinberg from the D.C. Sports Bog, Dave and Watson from Nats Triple Play, JammingEcono from Banks of the Anacostia, and reconnected with MissChatter and the D.C. Sports Chick. I hear that William F. Yurasko and Thurdl were there but I didn't get to meet them. The jet flyby was incredible. There were only two F-18s, but they made so much noise that they set off several car alarms in Lot 8.

We headed into the park in the second inning and the debacle was already underway. Patterson was pitching his final eternity of an inning when we spied Teddy Roosevelt preparing to jump off the roof on a zip line. Poor Teddy was up there for at least 30 minutes as Patterson struggled, then Manny brought in Lavale Speigner, who took several more batters to end the inning. When the inning finally ended, Teddy jumped off the roof and attempted to fly past the other three racing Presidents.


However, Teddy quickly sagged under his own weight and sank to the ground, where he lay motionless for several minutes until being helped up by some handlers. The PA announced that Teddy had been disqualified for attempting to fly past the other racers, and as such he remains winless in the President race. This was a pretty great stunt and pretty much the only entertaining thing that happened on-field all day. I'm hopeful that the President's race will feature more stunts in the future. George Washington riding a motorcycle through flaming hoops would be cool.

My wife and I grew tired of the on-field debacle so we went on a walk. We stopped to visit several friends and colleagues in the park, and I had a photo op with Screech's Best Friend. We returned to our seats to watch some more of the drubbing but by the seventh inning my group had enough. We returned to Lot 8 for a spot of postgame tailgating and then headed home.

It's too bad that the team lost, but it was a pretty good day. All the attendance fears appeared to be for naught; the stadium was pretty fully packed and there were long lines of walk-up ticket buyers even in the second inning when we were going into the park. My first season ticket date is tomorrow night. See ya there.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Exhibitionism

I figure that title will drag in a few folks from Google searches!

But seriously, I attended the exhibition contest at RFK yesterday and it was great to be back at the park after a six month hiatus. I won't dwell too much on the event as most of you will be reading this on Opening Day, but here's a few quick observations:

-There was NOBODY there. I mean no one. The tailgaters in Lot 8 were spread out farther than the warring tribes on Survivor. The entire upper seating bowl of RFK was virtually empty. Even in my scalper-supplied seats in Section 324 my buddy and I had an entire row to ourselves and a row in front to hang our drunken feet. Not even the disbursement of tickets to D.C. public school students could make RFK seem populated. Apparently there were only something like 14,000 people there.

I don't know whether to be concerned about this or not, so I'll just save myself the trouble and not worry. Yes, there were Cherry Blossoms to be seen and Opening Day was just two days away instead of ten days away like the past two years. But I've been at each of the three exhibition contests now and I have to say this one was the least attended one of all, by far.

-I scared the CRAP out of some D.C. public school students when I emitted the first of my trademark boos of the season. For some reason I've been blessed with the ability to boo loudly and forcefully, sort of like when Gandalf gets really pissed in Lord of the Rings. I just couldn't supress a killer boo when Jason Bergmann gave up his second solo homer of the inning. Three kids nearly jumped out of their shoes. I apologized for startling them, and then continued to boo as appropriate for the duration of the game.

-I paid a visit to Screech's Best Friend in Section 320. It was good to see him, of course.

-The Aramark folks were the most friendly I've ever seen them in my whole life. The girl working the nacho stand chatted me up about the team and looking forward to Monday. She even refused to let me eat the congealed nachos under the heat lamp, insisting that I be served only the freshest nachos in all Aramarkdom. A man sweeping the concourse saw me unsuccessfully try to get cash from an ATM that had run dry and directed me, unsolicited, to another ATM. That ATM was dry too. The third one was a charm. (What I want, what I want...how 'bout some frakkin' cash in the freakin' ATMs, you PNC assclowns?)

-Dave and SBF have already pointed this out, but it's worth mentioning again. The background graphic for all RFK Jumbo-Tron content appears to be the steel girders of Nationals Park. In addition to being hard to see, it is yet another tangible example of the way that the team wants you to look past 2007 toward 2008. I hate to keep harping on that theme, but it seems to be in my face at every interaction with the franchise.

-The Curly W mown into center field looks great. I am glad to see that the Nationals have finally accepted my pleas to advertise this blog in RFK stadium.

-My buddy and I resumed tailgating after the game until we were asked to leave by security. Diehard!

I'll see all you chuckleheads at RFK tomorrow. Go Nats! In 2007, even!

Photo by me. Good luck downloading that sucker.