Some ramblings while I’m watching the game…
A couple of weeks ago, I looked into getting a ticket for this game. Since it was scheduled to be a day game, I thought it would be cool to get a ticket, take an early train up to NY from DC, go to the game, and take the train back home at about 6:30-7:00. That would have gotten me back home sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. But I wasn’t able to find an affordable ticket on the Yankees web site, so I gave up on that idea. Fortunately for me, I didn’t think to check StubHub at that time, where I probably would have been able to find something affordable. Why is that fortunate? Because of the 5-hour 26-minute rain delay! By the time this game got underway at about 6:30, I would have been back at Penn Station, either boarding a train or getting ready to board one soon.
Right now, it’s the bottom of the 7th, and the Nationals are leading 3-0. The Yankees have 2 on with 1 out, and Hideki Matsui is at bat. This will be where the Yankees rally and take the lead…not necessarily this inning, but it’ll happen. This is, after all, the Nationals bullpen we’re talking about.
Update: Tavarez coming into the game? Get ready, Yankees fans…here comes the rally……
Update: OMG…I hope Brett Gardner will be OK. The MASN commentators are talking about his lower back, but it looked to me like hit his head. Ouch!! Hell of a catch too….
Update: I probably shouldn’t be so negative where the Nationals are concerned, but I’m a realist. I know how bad this team — specifically the bullpen — is. It’s the bottom of the 9th, and they only need 3 outs for a win, but they will find a way to blow it…or the defense will blow it. Not that this would be a bad thing, because the Yankees need to win tonight…..
Update: Umm…WHAT?!?! The Nationals won, 3-0? The Nationals WON??
Are you kidding me?!?!?
Once again, the Yankees made a young, unknown pitcher look like Cy Young. Rookie Craig Stammen got his first major league win, pitching a solid 6 and 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, giving up 6 hits with 2 strikeouts. The usually horrendous Nationals bullpen not only protected the lead by not giving up any runs, but Ron Villone, Julian Tavarez, and Joe Biemel didn’t even give up a hit. Mike MacDougal allowed 1 hit. Ryan Zimmerman and Cristian Guzman were 3-5 with 2 and 1 RBI, respectively. Adam Dunn, DH’ing again tonight, was 2-2 with 2 walks. Even the Nationals usually weak defense played well, with a diving catch by Willie Harris that robbed Alex Rodriguez of a hit, and a perfect throw by Austin Kearns from right field to second to get Nick Swisher out.
For the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain surrendered 3 runs in 6 innings, with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke, and David Robertson combined to give up just 1 hit and no runs, but the damage was already done. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher were 2-4; Swisher also grounded into a double play in the 9th inning. Derek Jeter pinch hit for Ramiro Pena with the bases loaded, but the Yankees best threat of the game ended when he grounded into a fielder’s choice. Brett Garner made an excellent catch at the wall to rob Austin Kearns of a hit, crashing into the wall and crumbling to the ground in the process. Considering how his head snapped back and hit the plexiglas wall, he was lucky that he didn’t lose consciousness. I hope he will be OK.
Tonight’s game was the first at Yankee Stadium this season in which no home runs were hit. I guess the baseballs were too wet to leave the park!
I officially suck at making predictions. As I mentioned earlier, I know I shouldn’t be so negative where the Nats are concerned, but I honestly believed that they would not win any of these games. Prior to the series, I thought they might have a slim chance to beat Chien-Ming Wang, but I didn’t expect even two wins, much less a sweep.
(Here goes my split personality again…..)
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!! I’m freaking out here…I can’t believe the Nationals — the “lowly Nationals” — beat the Yankees TWICE. Going back to the 2006 Yankees/Nationals interleague series, the Nats are 4-2 vs. the Yankees! Chien-Ming Wang is 0-2 vs. the Nationals. WOW!! Unfreakingbelieveable! Maybe this will be a turning point for the team, and they will play more respectably for the rest of the season. If nothing else, it’s got to be a confidence builder!
WTF is wrong with the Yankees?! How is it possible that they lost this series to the worst team in baseball…one of the worst teams EVER?! It’s pathetic. A-Rod was 0-the series. The entire team is in a slump — great timing, to be slumping against a team that hasn’t even won 20 games by mid-June. If the Red Sox win again tonight, the Yankees will fall 4 games back in the division. Hell, the Blue Jays have swept the Phillies, so they’re breathing down our necks. This sucks!!! SNAP OUT OF IT, YANKEES!!
Jeez…what a series.
0-8 is the Yankees record vs. the Red Sox this season. 0-8 is also the Nationals record in extra inning games this season.
I am not happy about this state of affairs.
I can’t help but wonder how long Chien-Ming Wang will remain with the Yankees after his latest ineffective performance in a Yankees uniform in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to the Red Sox. Throwing 69 pitches in less than 3 innings, Wang gave up 3 runs (including a home run) on 8 hits. Wang wasn’t the only reason that the Yankees lost, of course — the fact that the Yankees left 19 men on base also had a little something to do with it. But Wang’s performance was certainly disheartening, to say the least. I don’t know if it’s a mental issue, or if his foot is still bothering him. Whatever the issue is, it doesn’t seem like something that will be “fixed” by keeping him in the starting rotation.
At least Wednesday’s game was close, unlike Tuesday’s 7-0 rout by the Red Sox. The Yankees pulled within 1 run on 2 home runs, by Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, in the 7th inning, but that was as close as they got.
In tonight’s game, the Yankees were leading the Red Sox in the 7th inning, 3-1. And if the game had ended there, they’d have been fine. But the 8th inning had to be played, and the Red Sox fought their way back to take the lead in that inning. After a single by Nick Green and a walk to Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew singled, scoring Green. Then Kevin Youkilis singled to load the bases. Jason Bay singled, and Pedroia scored. Mike Lowell drove in the game winner with a sacrifice fly, scoring Drew. And that was the end of that. Final score: Red Sox 4, Yankees 3.
On Wednesday night against the Reds, the rain began to fall at Nationals Park in the bottom of the 9th inning as the Nationals were attempting to rally and possibly win the game. Over 2 hours later, the game resumed, and the Nats managed to tie the score, sending the game into extra innings. Unfortunately, they performed the way they’ve done all season in extra innings — poorly — surrendering 2 runs in the 12th inning to lose the game. Entering the game, Ron Villone had pitched 17 scoreless innings for the Nats, and he picked a crappy time to give up his first run of the year! Jay Bruce walked, then Alex Gonzalez was safe at 1st base on Villone’s error, sending Bruce to 2nd base. A passed ball enabled Bruce to go to 3rd, and Jason Bergmann replaced Villone. All would have been well if Bergmann hadn’t given up a double to Jonny Gomes (scoring Bruce) and a single to Jerry Hairston, Jr. scoring Gomes. The Nats did not get a hit in the bottom of the 12th and fell to 0-8 in extra inning games this season.
Wonder of wonders, the Nationals managed to pull out a win in today’s game against the Reds, 3-2. Down 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th, with the bases loaded, Ryan Zimmerman hit the ball to Alex Gonzalez, who got the force at 2nd. Alberto Gonzalez slid hard into Brandon Phillips at second, as Phillips was trying to get Zimmerman out at first for the double play, and Phillips’ throw to 1st was off-target. Anderson Hernandez and Cristian Guzman scored to take a 3-2 lead. Joe Beimel pitched a perfect 9th inning to preserve the win and get his first save in a Nationals uniform.
The save was the Nationals’ first since May 24th.
The Nationals are 3-7 in their last 10 games, and 2-3 in their last 5 games. Those numbers are a lot better than 0-8.
Is interleague play really necessary anymore? In my opinion, the novelty has worn off. It was fun at first, but it’s just not as interesting as it initially was. This weekend, in particular — with some of the so-called “rivalries” games — was just…well, boring. Was anyone other than the fans of the respective teams really interested in the result of the series between the last place Nationals and the last place Orioles, or the result of the series between the last place A’s and the next-to-last place Diamondbacks? Of course, last place teams in each league do play other last place teams within their own leagues, but those aren’t hyped the way interleague series are hyped.
Another reason why I’m no longer a big fan of interleague play is because it creates a major, and possibly dangerous, disadvantage for AL teams when they play in NL ballparks. Thanks to the lack of a DH in the AL, pitchers don’t normally have to bat, and therefore aren’t used to running the bases. At best, they risk tiring sooner than they normally would; at worst, they risk injury. Remember, it was during interleague play last year when Chien-Ming Wang’s season ended due to a foot injury suffered while running the bases.
Fans generally still seem to enjoy interleague play, as evidenced by the fact that attendence rises for it. I googled “interleague play” tonight out of curiosity, and I found an article showing that ballplayers apparently are far less fond of interleague play than fans. According to Jayson Stark at ESPN.com:
Players we surveyed this week told Rumblings they would estimate the number of players who dislike interleague play is somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-75 percent.
Stark mentions several of the players’ complaints regarding interleague play, most of which make a lot of sense, IMO.
One suggestion made by a ballplayer caught my attention in that ESPN.com article.
Phillies pitcher Chad Durbin proposed an idea we’ve campaigned for forever: “Use the visiting team’s league rules,” he said. “Show the fans something unique.”
I think that’s pretty interesting. It would definitely be unique.
What do you think? Do you still find interleague play fun and/or interesting?
Yankees vs. Phillies
The home run total at the Bronx Bandbox increased by 12 during the weekend interleague series between the Yankees and the Phillies — 6 by each team — as the Yankees lost 2 of 3 games to the Phillies. There have been 87 home runs already at Yankee Stadium, and it’s not even at the end of May. Just imagine how the home runs will be flying out of the park once the temperature and humidity go up later in the season!
Friday: the Yankees lost, 7-3, in a game that included a total of 7 home runs. The testosterone level on the field skyrocketed on the field in the 1st inning when Brett Myers threw a pitch behind Derek Jeter, in obvious retaliation after A.J. Burnett hit Chase Utley in the shoulder. The plate umpire then warned both dugouts. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to throw a pitch at a batter. If you hit him, you give the opposing team a baserunner, and you risk injuring him. Why not just have the pitcher and hitter drop their pants, whip it out to see which one is bigger, and then get on with the game.
Chien-Ming Wang was activated before the game, replaced Burnett in the 7th inning. He threw 51 pitches, giving up 2 runs (including a home run) on 6 hits. His pitches had more velocity, but his location was off a bit. Maybe he’s just rusty?
Saturday: the Yankees were victorious in a 5-4 come from behind win. Those 9th inning comebacks seem to be becoming a Yankees trademark this season. Oh, and “only” 4 home runs were hit in that game.
Sunday: the Yankees lost, 4-3, in 11 innings, before a crowd of 46,986. That’s the largest Yankee Stadium crowd since opening day. Melky Cabrera did his best to be the hero for the second night in a row, hitting a game-tying single in the 9th inning. But it wasn’t meant to be…no wild celebration for the Yankees after this game. CC Sabathia pitched very well, allowing just 3 runs on 9 hits over 8 innings. But with two outs and the score tied in the 11th inning, Brett Tomko walked Chase Utley, and after Utley stole second, Carlos Ruiz doubled to score Utley. The Yankees were unable to score in the bottom of the 11th.
Interleague play resumes for the Yankees on June 12th, vs. the Mets at Yankee Stadium.
Nationals vs. Orioles
The Battle of the Beltways — i.e., the interleague series between the Nationals and the Orioles — wasn’t quite as much of a snoozer as I thought it would be. Yes, both teams stink, and the games probably held very little interest for anyone other than Nats or O’s fans. But the Nationals starting pitchers had very good games on Friday and Saturday, although the usually prolific offense fell asleep on those nights in losses to the Orioles. However, the offense woke up in time to bail out a less than spectacular effort from Sunday’s starter to prevent a sweep.
Friday: the Nationals lost, 4-2 in 12 innings. Jordan Zimmermann had the longest start of his young career, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits over 7 innings. Zimm2 walked 1, struck out 7, and gave up a home run. But the Nationals offense took the night off, scoring just 2 runs (on Ryan Zimmerman’s 4th inning homer, with Nick Johnson on 1st). It would be easy to blame the bullpen again for this loss…but if the offense had not fallen asleep, the game’s outcome might have been different.
Saturday: I was at this game, a 2-1 loss, getting to see Ross Detweiler for myself. He did not disappoint, with a 6 inning, 1 hit and 1 run performance. Justin Maxwell sparkled on defense with an outstanding catch above and over the wall in centerfield, robbing Brian Roberts of a home run. Julian Tavarez gave up a run in the 7th to give the Orioles a lead that they never lost. The Nats’ normally porous bullpen prevented the Orioles from scoring additional runs, but for the second night in a row, the Nationals offense took the night off. Another game…another loss. Ho hum.
Sunday: I was at this game as well, an 8-5 victory to avoid the sweep. Shairon Martis did not have his A-game, but his offense finally woke up and let him off the hook. His defense helped him out as well…in particular, a leaping catch in front of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field by Austin Kearns, robbing Nick Markakis of a hit in the first inning. Martis also helped himself out with an RBI single in the 5th inning, scoring Wil Nieves to tie the score at 3. Adam Dunn got it done with 2 homers, including a grand slam in the 7th inning after the Orioles intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman to get to Dunn. Anderson Hernandez added to the defensive highlights with a spectacular diving catch of a Brian Roberts line drive in the 8th inning. Wonder of wonders, Ron Villone, Joe Beimel, and Joel Hanrahan combined to shut down the Orioles over the last 3 innings — no hits, no walks, no runs. Amazing!!
Interleague play resumes for the Nationals on June 12th at Tampa Bay.
Yet again, ANOTHER loss due to a crappy performance by the Nationals bullpen. The Nats spotted the Pirates a 5-0 lead in the 3rd inning, and then came back to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th inning to send the game into extra innings. Mind you, the Nats had a chance to win the game in the 9th, but failed to do so. Nick Johnson hit a triple, Ryan Zimmerman walked, and then Johnson scored on a wild pitch by Pirates’ starter Russ Ohlendorf. With Zimmerman on 2nd as the potential game-winning run, Adam Dunn struck out. Josh Willingham walked, but then Willie Harris struck out, sending the game into the 10th inning. Since the Nationals had not won an extra innings game yet this season, I changed the channel from the Nationals game to the finale of “Dancing with the Stars.” (Congrats to Olympic champion gymnast Shawn Johnson, who won the DWTS mirror ball trophy!)
Changing the channel was a good idea.
Joe Beimel pitched a scoreless 9th inning, but then Ramón Vázquez singled, and Nyjer Morgan hit a sac fly, sending Vázquez to 2nd. Freddy Sánchez was intentionally walked, Nate McLouth flied out, and Vázquez moved to 3rd. And then…Adam LaRoche doubled, scoring Vázquez and Sánchez. Anderson Hernandez, Wil Nieves, and Alex Cintron (pinch hitting for Beimel) came to bat at the bottom of the 10th, but failed to even get a hit, much less score a run.
For some reason, Beimel seems to have some sort of cult following among at least a few Dodgers fans.
Personally, I can’t figure out why. The guy’s record is 0-3 for Washington, and he’s got 3 blown saves. I am not impressed.
I will give the Nats credit for coming back from a 5-0 deficit. They did make the game exciting. Too bad Beimel had to screw up the comeback.
Monday’s loss to the Pirates was thanks to a blown save by Garrett Mock, and it spoiled Ross Detweiler’s first start of the season. Detweiler allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits while pitching 5 innings, with 6 strikeouts. All of the damage came in the 3rd inning, when Detweiler gave up a home run to Craig Monroe. Although the Nationals scored 5 runs in the bottom of the 5th to take the lead, the Pirates scored 5 runs in the top of the 6th and never looked back. The loss was just the same old same old for the Nats, but Detweiler’s performance was somewhat encouraging. I hope that he remains in the rotation when Scott Olsen comes off the DL, and the Daniel Cabrera is sent packing.
I hadn’t planned on staying up to watch the Nationals/Giants game in San Francisco. I wanted to watch the first couple of innings to see if a certain event would take place, which did happen in the first inning. I refuse to discuss the event because I don’t want to jinx it. (Hint: it involves Ryan Zimmerman…and that’s all I’ll say.) I ended up falling asleep on the sofa, and I woke up as the 6th inning was coming to an end. The score was Giants, 5 Nationals 1. Half asleep, I was just going to check my email before going to bed. And then the Nats scored 3 runs in the 7th inning…so I kept watching…and they scored another 3 runs in the 8th inning. I’m wide awake now! Mind you, the game is in the bottom of the 9th, and the Nats only have a 1 run lead. I’m hoping Joe Beimel can hold that 1 run lead and get the save. Two outs…and Beimel just gave up a single. 😦
UPDATE: Game over. Needing just one more out, Beimel gave up a walk-off home run — the Giants won, 9-7. I’m sooooooo happy I stayed up for this! NOT.
Thank goodness for the certain event that happened in the first inning…The Event That Shall Not Be Named……..
By the way, is there a more beautiful setting for a ballpark in the majors than AT&T Park? I’ve never been there, but the views of the ballpark and surrounding area look incredible on TV.
The Nationals will be a better team in 2009 than they were in 2008. Of course, after losing more games than any team in the majors last year and finishing the season 32.5 games out of first place in the NL East, with a 59-102 record (the final game was rained out), they couldn’t get much worse…they almost have to be better. If the Nats can gain an additional 11 wins over last year, they would finish 2009 with a 70-92 record…certainly not enough to put the team into contention for a pennant, but still an improvement. The Nationals have a long way to go before they will be in a position to challenge their division rivals for the pennant. The baby steps will begin this season.
One of highlights of the Nationals spring training was the departure of embattled general manager Jim Bowden. His departure has enabled the team to focus on baseball, rather than the negative publicity that surrounded the Nats in general and Bowden in particular. Two other spring training highlights were the overall performaces by rookies Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann, who earned the 4th and 5th spots, respectively, in the starting rotation based on their strong showings this spring.
The starting rotation will be…well, an adventure. John Lannan pitched pretty well for the Nationals last season, considering the overall performance of the team. He has pitched well this spring and was named as the opening day starter. I like John Lannan…he’s a tough kid, nothing seems to faze him. He was one cool customer during his rookie season in 2007 when facing Barry Bonds, who had yet to hit his record breaking home run. That was enough of a reason to make me a fan. I like the fact that he bounces right back after poor starts, not allowing them to bother him. That said, Lannan is the team’s #1 starter pretty much by default…the Nationals simply don’t have anyone who’s better just yet. I’ve seen some local baseball writers refer to Lannan as the Nationals’ “ace” — he is absolutely not an ace. On a stronger team, he would be a 4th or 5th starter. As for the rest of the staff, newcomer and fellow lefty Scott Olsen’s numbers last year with the Marlins were similar to Lannan’s, so he, too, should be adequate. His strength is the fact that he’s an innings eater, which, if that trend continues, should help the bullpen. Olsen hasn’t had a particularly impressive spring, so I must admit that I’m a bit concerned how he’ll perform once the games start to count. Former Baltimore Oriole Daniel Cabrera, the elder statesman of the starting rotation at age 27, will be a wild card, with the emphasis on “wild.” He’s a hard thrower who gives up too many walks; there’s a reason why the Orioles gave up on him. He’s had an unimpressive spring training; Nats fans will just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best when Cabrera is on the mound. The really interesting part of the Nationals rotation this year will be the performances of Martis and Zimmermann, who both could end up being future aces for the team. They both were very impressive during spring training, which is what got them into the starting rotation in Washington rather than in Syracuse.
The bullpen got a boost when acting GM Mike Rizzo acquired lefty Joe Beimel from the Dodgers. Beimel is a welcome addition to a weak bullpen. he should be a good set-up man for closer Joel Hanrahan. Speaking of which, Hanrahan became the closer by default last year after Chad Cordero was injured and John Rauch was traded and pitched well enough in the closer role to retain that job this season. How he will perform over an entire season remains to be seen. He’ll probably be effective, but Mariano Rivera he is not.
The offense last year was horrendous, because of injuries and just flat out poor hitting. Adam Dunn, the Nationals’ biggest offseason acquisition, will improve the starting lineup, as will/should Nick Johnson, who appears to be fully recovered from the wrist injury he suffered last season. If the injury prone Johnson can remain healthy, he’ll provide a big boost to the team, both offensively and defensively. But that is a HUGE if and, in my opinion, a huge gamble. The rest of the lineup, with the exception of Cristian Guzman (who hit .316 last year) needs to step up their performances and score some runs for the offense to improve significantly.
The outfield may end up looking like a game of musical chairs, with a surplus of outfielders. Five players — Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, and Josh Willingham — are vying for three outfield spots and for at-bats. And Willie Harris will be in the mix at times as well. It should make for an interesting season.
Unless the other teams in the NL East completely fall apart, the Nationals will not be contenders this year, and probably not next year either. But there will be some interesting things for Nats fans to keep our eyes on:
* The development and maturation of Jordan Zimmermann and Shairon Martis. Will their spring training success continue through the regular season? Will either (or both) of them evolve into a bonafide ace for the Nationals?
* Adam Dunn’s home run production. For the last 5 straight years, Dunn has hit at least 40 home runs. Will that streak continue?
* Ryan Zimmerman. Will this finally be the year that the so-called “face of the franchise” Ryan Zimmerman finally earns that title, by proving that he is a great player rather than just a good one? And will Zimmerman’s defense finally be dazzling enough to earn him a gold glove?
* Overall team health. Nationals Park resembled a hospital ward last season. Nearly all of the Nats key offensive players, including Johnson, Zimmerman, and Dukes, spent time on the disabled list. Will the Nationals remain healthy this year?
I wish I could say that I think the Nationals will improve enough to climb out of the NL East cellar in 2009. But, realistically speaking, I don’t think that will happen. I think the Nationals record will be 75-87, a huge improvement over last year, but not enough to avoid finishing in last place again.
I’m watching the Nats
play lose to the Marlins on MASN this evening. The fact that the Nats are losing isn’t breaking my heart (it is, after all, only spring training), but I was not happy to see Ronnie Belliard leave the game in the 4th inning after turning his ankle. I hope it’s nothing serious and that a bit of ice on it tonight plus a few days rest will take care of it.
John Lannan donned a headset for an interview from the dugout. At one point during the interview, he started laughing and looking to his left…he said Collin Balester was throwing sunflower seeds at him! LOL (Ahh, children!) MASN commentator Bob Carpenter asked Lannan for his opinion about the Joe Beimel signing…looking confused, Lannan said he had no idea what Carpenter was talking about. So Bob let him know that Joe Beimel had been acquired earlier in the day. Lannan was pleased. (Speaking of Lannan, congrats to John on being named the Opening Day starter! Great accomplishment for a kid in his second full MLB season.)
Every time I hear MASN mention “Nats Town,” I want to hurl. So lame…so very lame……..
Crap…now Lastings Milledge is being helped off the field after going knee to knee with the Marlins first baseman. I hope that’s nothing serious. At least the Nats scored to make it a 7-2 game in the 9th inning.
RBI single by Willie Harris makes it 7-3, Marlins!
RBI single by Pete Orr makes it 7-4, Marlins!
Bases loaded after a hit batter. Ryan Langerhans with an RBI single. 7-5 Marlins with 1 out!
Oh well, the game ends on a 3-2 double play. Fun game in the 9th inning despite the loss. Keeping my fingers crossed that Belliard and Milledge will be OK.