Game 19: Washington Nationals
Sam was travelling to Washington today by train, so we arranged to meet him and his son Josh at the stadium. The Nationals generously come up trumps with tickets at the 11th hour, including tickets for our two guests. As I had already purchased four tickets I would be able to sell the ones that I bought to scalpers outside the ground. Kitty and I arrived at Nationals Park early and I made my sales pitch. I sold the four tickets which had cost me ten dollars each for the sum price of ten dollars. The guy was only going to give me five dollars, but I haggled him all the way so that I could at least get the price of one beer for my forty dollars spent. I am a very good businessman and a great entrepreneur.
I took my ten dollars “profit” straight into a nice tent town bar area outside the ground and spent it wisely. The temperature was hovering around the 100 degree mark so liquids – and plenty of them - were definitely the order of the day. Nationals Park is another new ballpark having been opened in 2008. It is located along the Capitol Riverfront near the navy yard. It is a steel, glass and concrete structure with a definite modern feel to it. There is a high tech scoreboard and plenty of entertainment available in the park. Although we had seats quite low down above the players dug out, I went for a stroll and you were able to get great views of the Washington Monument, the Capitol and other landmarks. Thankfully although we were low down, we were still in the shade as the heat was brutal. Kitty actually went up to the top of the third tier to get a breeze. Sam, Josh ad I toughed it out.
For the first time in their relatively short history, Washington is playing winning baseball. This is the final game before the All Star break and they are comfortably on top of their division. They will be looking to consolidate today, and should do so against the lowly Rockies.
Colorado Rockies…………..…..010 000 021 – 4
Washington Nationals……….000 200 100 – 3
A large part of the Washington Nationals success this year has been based on the strong pitching, especially out of the bull pen. They were let down today. Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman was sharp at the beginning of the game on this hot, steamy afternoon. He held the Rockies to only three hits and one run in the seven innings on the 95 pitches that he threw. This action all occurred in the top of the second innings. Colvin singled and then stole second. Helston walked and Jordan Pacheco singled. Following this with two outs, Nieves hit a long sacrifice fly to left field and Colvin scored the solitary run off Zimmerman. In the bottom of the fourth Ian Desmond hit a home run that also scored first baseman LaRoche to give the Nationals the lead. Pinch hitter Bernadina consolidated on this lead as he was helped around the bases by stealing a base and by a long single by Lombardozzi that bought him in as the third and final run for the home team.
However manager Davey Johnson gave Zimmerman some relief in the eighth by handing the ball to Burnett to close out the 3-1 contest. Normally a two run lead secured by the starter has meant little trouble for the Washington bullpen and especially Burnett who took in a 1.42 ERA. But Colorado pinch hitter Eric Young Jr. hit Burnett’s fourth pitch out to left field for a solo home run. He faced two more batters and gave up singles to each of them. Michael Gonzalez then came in to pitch in place of Burnett. With runners on first and third and with a 2-2 count on Carlos Gonzalez , Michael Gonzalez tossed a low slider away and in the dirt. The ball was way too far outside and catcher Jhonathan Solana could not stop it. Dexter Fowler safely scored from third base.
So now, the lead was lost, but not the game. Johnson turned to another bullpen stalwart, Tyler Clippard, for the ninth innings. The right hander had not allowed a run in 20 appearances so he seemed like a good bet in a three all game. He gave up a leadoff double to Pacheco who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Facing pinch hitter Jason Giambi with a 1-1 count, Clippard threw a wild pitch that sailed inside and bounced just in front of Solano’s glove and scuttled away to the fence. Pacheco darted home and scored easily. While the Nationals got runners into scoring position in the last innings of the game, Jesus Florres struck out to lead the Nationals into the All Star break with a surprise one run loss. Good on the Rockies for getting up against the supposed favourites.
Maybe being a pitcher is not so easy after all. It does allow you the opportunity for longevity however. It is not only the designated hitter who can play into his twilight years. Although he has been released now, earlier this season the Colorado Rockies had 49 year old pitcher Jamie Moyer as a starting pitcher. He is reputed to have pitched on 50 different MLB pitching mounds since his debut in 1986. There are only two older pitchers in the history of MLB, Jack Quinn in 1933 who was 50 years old and the legendary Satchel Paige who in 1965 pitched a game for the Kansas City Athletics at the ripe old age of 59. Paige sat in a rocking chair in the bullpen and was served coffee by a nurse between innings. When he left the game, for the final time in his career, the crowd lit matches and cigarette lighters and sang “The Old Gray Mare”.
Compared to Paige, Brian Lochore was just a baby when he retired from the All Blacks at age 30, in 1970. However he was dragged out of retirement to help out a depleted New Zealand team in the third test against the 1971 Lions in Wellington. The selectors phoned Lochore up on his farm in Wairarapa on the Thursday and appealed to his patriotism. He agreed to help his country and his old mate Colin Meads out by playing the one game. Being in a hurry to get to Wellington he did not have time to tell his wife, so just left a note on the kitchen table: “Going to Wellington to play for New Zealand, see you Sunday”.
Sam made no faux pars today and in fact pulled off something of a coup. Washington had advertised that at the completion of the game that kids could run around the bases, which was a real buzz for them. Josh was very excited at the prospect, so you can imagine his disappointment when it was announced that because of the heat that it was cancelled. A headstrong Sam went down to the chief grounds man, dressed in the same colour shirt as the rest of the grounds staff, and demanded that they let Josh on the field. To both of their delights the grounds man allowed Sam and Josh onto the pitcher’s mound for a photo shoot.
We celebrated this with another cool drink and went on our respective ways. This was to be the final game that we would be with Sam as his trip now took him to pastures afresh. Hopefully Sam had at last learnt a few of the nuances of this great game.