Archive for MLB

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Surpassing Expectations

By Brian Skinnell

In possibly the most emotional night in D.C. sports history, the Washington Nationals playoff run ended in a dramatic 9-7 collapse to the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.

The Nationals offense finally had the outburst that everyone was waiting for in the opening innings of the game.

Following a Jayson Werth leadoff double, Bryce Harper hit an RBI triple off the wall to score Werth. The face of the franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, then crushed a two-run homer to put the Nationals up 3-0 after one inning.

In the third inning, the Nationals had the heart of the order up and looking for more. Bryce Harper started the inning with a leadoff home run. After Ryan Zimmerman got a base hit, Michael Morse stepped up to the plate and put one in Cardinals bullpen and the Nationals were up 6-0 after three innings.

While the offense was rocking the Cardinal pitching, the Nationals starter, Gio Gonzalez, was fairing much better against the Cardinals offense. Gonzalez held them scoreless into the fourth inning when Matt Holiday doubled to score Carlos Beltran.

In the fifth inning, Gonzalez found himself in a bases loaded jam. With Holiday at the plate, a ball took a funny bounce off of the dirt just behind home plate and skipped off and away from catcher Kurt Suzuki’s shoulder pad. The wild pitch brought home David Descalso. Gonzalez then walked Holiday to load the bases. Allen Craig then drew a walk that scored Shane Robinson.

That would be the only damage done, however, as Gonzalez worked his out of it allowing just two runs to score and the Nationals lead was cut in half to 6-3 after five innings. Gonzalez’s final line: 5 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 4 walks, and 5 strikeouts.

The Cardinals continued to chip away at the Nationals lead as the innings wore on. With Edwin Jackson on the mound for the seventh, Holiday grounded out to the shortstop, Ian Desmond, which scored Jon Jay. The Cardinals had cut the lead to 2, 6-4.

Reliever Tyler Clippard came on to pitch the eighth. After allowing a leadoff homer to David Descalso, Clippard recovered to get three outs and hold the lead for closer Drew Storen.

However, Kurt Suzuki capped off his productive night (3-4 with an RBI) with an RBI single that scored Adam LaRoche. Storen was given a much needed insurance run.

With the bases loaded, David Descalso hit a hard grounder up the middle that hit off the glove of short stop Ian Desmond and into center field. Two runs scored for the Cardinals and the game was tied. Pete Kozma then followed that with a 2-RBI single and the Cardinals were suddenly winning 9-7.

Those four runs came with two outs in the inning. Five times, the Nationals were one strike away from the National League Championship Series. Five times, however, the Cardinals hitters either fouled off a pitch or took it for ball four.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals went down in order of Werth-Harper-Zimmerman.

As quickly as they had taken the lead, they lost it and their season was over. The Cardinals completed the six run comeback to defeat the Nationals 9-7 and advance to the NLCS to play the Giants. For the Nationals, who have a lot to be proud of this season, it’s game over.

As I stared at my television in disbelief last night, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for (my) the Nationals. A team that lost 100 games just a few years ago made it all the way to game five of the NLDS. Not only did this team exceed expectations, they did it by being the best team in baseball.

They weren’t “supposed” to go to the playoffs until next year. They were just supposed to play a good season and leave us all with something to look forward to next year. The fact that we can sit here today and debate what went wrong last night in and of itself is a blessing given to us by an overachieving baseball team.

So what exactly did go wrong? Simply put, while the Nationals exceeded expectations and got to the playoffs, they weren’t ready. This team was not ready to go to the playoffs. Look at the teams in the AL/NLCS’s: Yankees vs Tigers, Cardinals vs Giants. All those teams have years of playoff experience. It doesn’t matter how great you play in the regular season, the best will rise in October.

The Rangers, Reds, Dodgers, and Nationals were all at the top of the baseball world at some point during the regular season. Now, however, they are all at the bottom and out of the postseason. The playoff experienced teams did what they always do: they got the playoffs and won.

The Nationals took a HUGE step forward this season. Next season, assuming a few offseason re-signings, this whole team will return. More importantly, they’ll return with postseason experience. (Don’t even get me started about whether or not Stephen Strasburg would have made a difference. His replacement, Ross Detwiler, won his game.)

The Nationals have a lot to be proud of. They simply were a season ahead of time. The last thing that Davey Johnson said to the press last night could sum up this entire season: “We proved our worth and we just need to let this be a lesson and … learn from it, have more resolve, come back, and carry it a lot farther.”

Thanks for the ride, Nationals. They’ll be back, folks….they’ll be back.

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

The End of a Season, the Beginning of an Era

By Ben Simpson

I’ve been staring at this screen for thirty minutes, writing and re-writing, typing and then erasing. I keep searching for an angle, some way to look at this loss differently. I check Facebook and all I see are angry and sad fans, even more on Twitter, summing up the season in 140 characters. What do I say? Do I try to be funny, be sad, be angry? Do I blame Drew Storen, do I blame Ian Desmond, do I blame Gio? Do I blame my parents for moving me here to live in the land of “Shoulda, woulda, coulda”? Do I blame myself for choosing to support the Nats no matter what when they arrived in DC? What do I do…I suck it up, take it on the chin, and I remember that this is the burden we carry, welcome to DC Sports everybody.

This one hurts a little more than the others, cuts a little deeper. I guess I realize what Boston fans felt like, what Cubs fans still feel. What Texas felt last year. One pitch and everything changes. One strike away…one foul pop-up, one swing and a miss, one tapper to 3rd, one blazing fastball on the inside corner…any one of those could have sent the Nats fans back into the night with a smile on their face. I don’t like to compare a loss in sports to a death in the family, one is just a silly game and the other a great tragedy but today I feel like my heart was ripped out of my body. Sure, its dramatic. Yes, its only a game. But that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t hurt like hell.

I look at what I wrote last night and they resemble the ramblings of a mad man. Today my head is a little clearer, my thoughts a little more coherent. There is still so much to celebrate about this team, the fact that they made it this far is cause enough for cheer. They accomplished the unthinkable this season, they stood up to the critics and the doubters and non-believers. Harper is too young and arrogant, Werth isn’t worth that kind of dough, LaRoche isn’t a prime time player, Strasburg is just going to get hurt…These are real things said at the beginning of the season. And they were wrong.

The future is bright in Washington. RGIII, the ever-growing potential of John Wall and his surrounding cast, the Caps (if hockey ever returns), and the team that gave DC a taste of playoff baseball. The rest of the fans in the world who have felt this heartache, maybe not only for years but for decades, welcome us in with open arms. Welcome to the club. Baseball is a funny game. The entire mood of a park can hinge on a single pitch. But that’s why we love it, why we respect it. It takes a lot out of you to watch your team play 162 games in the regular season. You watch the heroes emerge, the rookies rise. You see the ups and the downs. The team becomes your team. You know the players all by name, each little distinguishing characteristic or mannerism becomes common knowledge. This was a great group of guys.

I will wait patiently for Spring Training to roll around again, to see what Rizzo and the front office decide to do in the off-season. I hope it is not much, for this group knows how to win. This group is hungry to make it back to the postseason, this time with their ace on the hill. This group deserves another chance. The Nats are built for the future, and I am hopeful they will get their shot at a ring. I pine for the future, but today let’s remember these guys for what they accomplished and how they made us feel in Game 4 when Jayson Werth sent a baseball over the left field wall. Hold on to that memory, and wait.

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

fa·nat·ic [fuh-nat-ik] noun 1. a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal

As I am writing this post I am standing in a cramped metro train waiting to depart towards the East Falls Church station on the orange line. It is 1:04 AM, the car is reeking of urine and sweaty men and I’m not sure whether I’m dreaming or not but, something doesn’t feel quite right. I feel as if my one of my parents were severely injured in a car crash but, my father is next to me and my mother is waiting at home. I feel as if I’ve lost a dog but, I’ve never had one. I feel really hungover but, I haven’t drank an excess amount of alcohol.

There are few, if any, things in this world that compare to the loss of something that has value to you. You feel, at least for the short term, as if you will never recover and the world as you know it won’t ever be the same. In some cases loss is permanent but, from a day to day basis, loss usually doesn’t have affect you forever. You grow past whatever it was and move on. For people like me, however, loss is something that is forever permanent. You see, I’m what the field of athletic competition calls a “fanatic”, or “fan”, and my schema works much differently than the average being.

I’m the person who stands the entire game no matter the outcome. The person who wears his jersey to sleep and wears his team’s logo on every shirt he wears. The person who feels as if it’s his own personal fault for every negative outcome and that he could have done something to change it.

And when my hometown baseball team, who exceeded the expectations of everyone in baseball this year on their way to their first playoff appearance since 1933 and earned the best record in baseball, the Washington Nationals, gave up four runs in the top of the ninth to lose 9-7 in front of a rowdy hometown crowd (that I was a part of) in desperate need of positivity, I responded a lot worse than 95% of people.

Most people that follow sports teams, even remotely, would be sad and maybe even mad at an outcome such as the one I witnessed but, after several days, hours, and minutes they move on with their lives. It becomes something that happened in their lifespan and nothing more. It carries no weight other than that.

For people like me, it haunts them. It stares at them in the mirror and laughs whenever they fall. It follows them wherever they go and whatever they see. It teases them as soon as they think it’s gone.

And as I travel towards my destination I can already see that missed grounder by Ian Desmond that would have at least kept the lead at 7-6 in the train windows. I see the two walks given up by Drew Storen on questionable calls on the Jordan Zimmerman jersey worn by the guy in front of me. I see the absolutely terrifying solo home run that Tyler Clippard gave up to David Descalso to lead off the 8th in the reflection of the bar I’m holding on to.

No matter how many championships, division titles, MVP and Cy Young awards are won in my lifetime, I will be stalked by the memory of this loss. My kids will even see it in my eyes when it’s brought up in the future.

Does this mean I won’t revel in victory when the time comes? Of course not! My life will be completed when a Washington DC sports team finally irrigates the 21 year drought left by the 91 Redskins Super Bowl winning team (luckily enough I was born in 93). My job, until that happens, is to stay in good enough shape so that I don’t fall into cardiac arrest when the Nats, Caps, Wiz, or RG3s finally do so.

But until that day comes tonight’s loss will be as fresh in my mind as Dwayne Wade’s young Heat sweeping the Wizards in 05′, our first playoff appearance in a decade, or Gilbert Arenas missing the two free throws at home in Game 6 at home to allow Lebron James’ Cavs the first of three consecutive playoff series victories over Washington from 06′ to 08′, or every single Capitals’ season since Alex Ovechkin was drafted which ended in a ridiculously good record, with the exception of last year’s 7th seed, and heartbreak at the hands of a rival before reaching the Stanley Cup, or the abysmal Redskins-Seahawks playoff game in 07′, the only Redskins playoff game I have memory of, which featured a miraculous comeback by the Sons of Washington to start the fourth quarter followed by back to back pick sixes by Todd Collins after a missed Shawn Suisham field goal.

Those memories mock me every time I turn on ESPN and each time I open Sports Illustrated. And while the taunts of defeat, blown leads, and loss live on each day, I can’t help but think about why I do this to myself. Why do I set myself like this?

Because I’m a fan. And thats what fans do…

As negative as my feelings are and will be, I have to bring some positivity to the situation. Some light to the perennial darkness if you will.

On December 22, 2011, when Nats GM Mike Rizzo pulled off a trade that would send away four prospects in return for A’s left handed starter Gio Gonzalez I was ecstatic. Not only was he being added to young rotation that included two up-and-coming starters in phenom Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman, he was the final piece of the postseason puzzle. Through the draft and keen free agent signings the Nationals were on the cusp of contending in the playoffs throughout the 2010s and this trade finally made it realistic. My expectations around Christmas time were for ,at least, an 80 win season with maybe a wild-card spot given the change in playoff format. I would have been completely satisfied with 80 wins and no playoffs especially given the fact that we were going to shut down Strasburg early because of his Tommy-John surgery no matter what any pundits or fans had to say about it.

This team went on to win the National League East title with the best record in baseball and achieved the best road record simultaneously. Not only that but, they showed promise in every position they fielded including first time all-stars Bryce Harper, Desmond, and Strasburg who all were developed within the Nationals farm system. Their bullpen developed a strong set-up, closer combo in Clippard and Storen (minus tonight). They have three quality catchers on their roster with the young Wilson Ramos coming off his torn ACL injury which happened early in the season. Unless Strasburg’s arm falls off, Harper turns out to be 29 instead of 19, and Ryan Zimmerman is abducted by aliens this team will bring home a National League Pennant and World Series title before 2020. I guarantee it. I just pray the Mayans weren’t right.


by Matt Fehr

Friday, October 12th, 2012

What We Learned Last Night…it Was Completely Werth it.

I’ll admit, when I first learned of Jayson Werth’s $126 Million dollar, 7-year contract with the Nationals back in 2010 I wasn’t happy. To pay that kind of money for the 3rd best hitter in Philly, to expect a role player to suddenly be the leader of this franchise, it flummoxed me. I thought we could have spent that type of money and gotten at least two quality arms to put on the hill. He seemed sullen, spaced out, and I hadn’t actually heard him speak a word ever. Plus his hair….good lord that hair. Jayson Werth? No thank you…

My transformation of feelings did not begin last night, but when I watched him fall to the grass in agony holding his wrist in a game against the Phillies back in May. I realized that we needed this guy, needed his bat, needed his glove, needed his sullen calmness that never wavered. Just because he looks like the Geico Cave Man doesn’t mean he’s not valuable. And coincidentally, that injury gave us all Bryce Harper sooner than we thought. I’m not thanking Werth for getting hurt so we could see the kid play, just an awesome coincidence.

When Werth came back from his injury we witnessed a Jayson Werth Nats fans had never seen before. Suddenly instead of the number five in the lineup power hitter we all wanted him to be he was our leadoff guy: the spot the Nationals had tooled with more than an old Chevy. He could see a lot of pitches (2nd most in the MLB), he had plenty of speed, and could ramp up the power when needed. The perfect table-setter for Harper, Zimm, LaRoche, and Morse. And boy did he catch fire, making up for lost time. The Nats lineup suddenly resembled a formidable foe, it looked the way I had dreamed it would when the Nats first drafted Bryce Harper.

Last night’s at-bat epitomized not only Jayson Werth but the entire Washington Nationals this season: Just.Keep.Fighting. 13 pitches, 1 mistake, Nats win. Even if Washington is unable to close out the series tonight in Game 5, Werth gave the fans something not seen around here in decades: a memorable playoff moment. So from caveman to hero, Werth proved that yes…he is the $126 million dollar man.


Friday, October 5th, 2012

American League Playoff Preview


Wow, I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes thinking of the best way to describe this season and that is the best way I could think to do it, just wow. Mike Trout had possibly the greatest rookie season in the history of baseball, Miguel Cabrera won the first triple crown since the great Carl Yastrzemski (spelled that right on the first try) we saw a record 3 perfect games and too many no-hitters for me to even remember and despite all of this we still have yet to be treated to the best part of the MLB season, the playoffs.

This is the first year that MLB has instituted their two Wild Card system in each league which now allows for two teams to make the playoffs as Wild Card teams and then play each other in a one game playoff to move on to the next round and the first year result is the surprising playoff runs by the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles. Many people have argued that adding another playoff team will take away from how difficult it is to make the playoffs in the MLB while in the NBA and the NHL over half of the teams make the playoffs, but I think that with winning your division means that you do not have to play in the one game wild card makes the division races much more competitive and is able to keep more teams in the race for the division and for the Wild Cards and have more teams playing meaningful September games, which everybody enjoys, and their also is the added bonus of getting 2 one game playoff games every year. If you may recall, last season we were treated to the best end to a regular season that I have ever had the good fortune to witness, with the added first round of the playoffs we will have the opportunity to see this every year and it starts tonight with the Orioles and Rangers playing later tonight.

The American League was a ton of fun to watch this year, going into this season who would have thought that not only would the Oakland Athletics win the division over two powerhouse teams like the Rangers and Angels? And even more surprising, how the hell did Baltimore Oriole’s manage to finish just one game behind the Yankees? Ahead of teams like the Red Sox and the Rays? Just mindblowing….

Tonight’s game will be the first one game wild card playoff in the history of baseball and it couldn’t be more exciting, the Oriole’s will send Joe Saunders to the mound to counter the Rangers who will send Rookie phenom Yu Darvish, the winner of which will move on to play the New York Yankees. This year has a great mix of powerhouse team’s like the Yankees, Tigers and Rangers, mixed in with a couple of surprise team’s the Oriole’s and Athletics and at this point in the season not a thing would surprise me, but I believe that this will be one of the most excited and drama filled postseasons we will ever see. And this is just the American League…

Every team in the playoffs has a legitimate chance to win the World Series this year but I’m going to take the team that has both the best pitcher and the best hitter on their team, the Detroit Tigers, to go to the World Series.
And to all of you who read my article I did at the beginning of the year, let’s just ignore the fact that I picked the Angels to win the pennant. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

King For A Day

It’s official now. It’s done. It’s over. Felix Hernandez may be nicknamed the “King” but Miguel Cabrera now wears the crown. To finish off a season for Detroit that was more topsy-turvy than a white-water raft, to help propel his team into the playoffs and a second consecutive AL Central Division Title, all just a few years removed from the alcoholic incidents that almost cost him a career; Cabrera has plenty of reason to showcase those pearly whites.     The Tigers are not without faults, plenty of questions still remain about the cast that surrounds Miguel and Prince Fielder, but with a Triple Crown winner in your lineup, can you really be in trouble?

Many arguments surround this AL MVP race. Trout vs. Cabrera, New School vs. Old School, Power Numbers vs. W.A.R, all arguments should be invalid after what transpired on Wednesday night. To  be the first player in 45 years to lead the Major League in Home Runs, Batting Average, and RBI is something special. Something beyond Wins Above Replacement. Something that deserves recognition. Mike Trout has the capability of becoming a Miguel Cabrera, maybe someone even better. He has the AL Rookie of the Year award on lock, no questions asked. The kid will surely win an MVP race in his career, pending some threatening injury.

The question of “value” of a player is hard to judge, that’s why W.A.R. was invented in the first place. The point of Wins Above Replacement is to, “show how many more wins a player would give a team as opposed to a ‘replacement level’, or minor league/bench player at that position.” Trout is around three points higher in that category, it is understandable to see that side of the argument. But put aside your wacky new-school ideas and get down to the basics: without Cabrera the Tigers don’t make the playoffs. Without Cabrera the Tigers finish in the middle of the division, squandering a pitching staff of studs. Without Cabrera, Prince Fielder would not be in Detroit. Without Cabrera, Jim Leyland might be out of a job. Cabrera is the heart and soul of the Detroit Tigers, he is the Most Valuable Player.

By Ben Simpson


Friday, September 21st, 2012

The Wait is Over

As human beings, much of our lives is based on the successes and failures we experience. From that great grade in high school to losing a loved one, each event forms and molds us as people. Sports can be used as another outlet for finding that success we crave so deeply. I spent much of my childhood and young adult life playing sports, watching sports, and immersing myself into the culture that my dad passed along to me. My teams may have had sporadic success, but they were my teams now. My moods, my attitude, all relied on if they had won the night before. It may have been foolish, but is it any crazier than being a die hard fan of a band or loving math or science?

When the Nationals first came to Washington I was in a strange place as a sports fan. My beloved Detroit Tigers were in the process of a rebuild, a few years removed from the most losses in American League history. I had never really jumped onto the Orioles bandwagon, living in Northern Virginia it was always quite a hike to Camden Yards. Each trip to an O’s game was a big event, and we usually got out to one game a season. But now I had a professional baseball team relatively near me. Sure, it was the Montreal Expos castoffs but it was a team. It was now my team.

From the start I witnessed some of the most fun baseball moments I had ever seen. I was there at RFK on Father’s Day of 06 when Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk off homer to beat the hated Yankees. I was there also that year when Ramon Ortiz pitched a perfect game into the late innings against the Cardinals, only to have Albert “The Machine” Pujols spoil the party. I “Hailed to the Chief” Chad Cordero, I cheered for names like John Patterson, Christian Guzman, and Livan Hernandez who are all long gone now. I was living in two worlds, one where the Tigers made a World Series in 06, the other where the Nationals were losing 100 games. But I didn’t care, I would wait.

Today I am reminded of old faces, like Livo

I wish I could tell the 2008 Ben, “Don’t worry, they get better.” I’ll admit, it was hard to stick with a team that loses. But again, they were my team, I had to. It did get better. I got to see the drafting of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The acquisitions of Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Gio Gonzalez, and Kurt Suzuki. The growing of Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, and Stephen Lombardozzi. I guess sometimes you have to deal with watching guys like Nyjer Morgan to get to guys like Bryce Harper. I watched it all, and waited, just waited.

This 2012 season turned out better than I could have ever imagined. I knew this team was good, I believed in this team, but I had no idea they were this good. Playoffs? We’re talking playoffs? No matter how this postseason ends up, even if the Nats get knocked out in the first round, this season has shown me if you wait good things will happen (now try telling that to Cubs fans). Its time, its our time, let’s win this thing….

By Ben Simpson



Friday, September 21st, 2012



Natitude. If you don’t know what it is, don’t even bother calling yourself a Nationals fan. Last night, the Washington Nationals clinched a berth to the postseason for the first time in franchise history as the Nationals. This will be the first time our the District will see playoff baseball since 1933. A warning for those who use the metro regularly, get ready, cause you will be seeing lots of red within the next few months, or so you would hope. I personally went to around 15 Nationals games when I was home this summer from Nebraska.

Now that I am currently back in school, I envy those (Ben) who will get to go to postseason games. I know that he will be there to support the team as will other “die-hard” fans. But here is a statistic that may surprise some of you. The Nationals currently rank 14th in attendance this year. Yes this is not a bad spot to be in, but the Nationals deserve better. You are looking at one of the best teams in baseball. This is a team that goes out every night and gives it all they got. Harper never takes a play off. Zimmerman, the hometown kid from UVA, has been through the ups and downs, but wanted to stay in DC his whole career, and recently signed an extension. Werth is on the road to redemption after struggling in his first year as a Nat, but is currently the spark they need in the top spot of the order. Desmond is one the top shortstops in baseball and like all the other players, is young.

And then there is the pitching, the best in baseball. This will be a first time for many fans and players in the sense that other than Werth, there is not that much playoff experience on this baseball team. They need your support. This team deserves to sell out EVERY game this postseason. In my opinion we should be selling out all games for the rest of the season. We need to have a home field advantage. I am tired of seeing the Yankees and Phillies come into Nats Park and take over. Sorry if this sounded like a rant, but as a “die-hard” fan, over a thousand miles a way from the District, I challenge you Nats fans. Make it so loud and packed, the whole city can here ya. This is the start of something special. Yes we will see postseason baseball for many years to come, but you never know. This team is something special, and they need you, I need you too. Go out there and “Get Your Red On,” and show all of baseball that the Nats both on the field and in the stands are the best in baseball. Bring home a World Series. #Natitude

By Ian Holleran





Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

The Cubs Win the World Series!

I’m just kidding, the Cubs are not going to win the World Series this year. To make myself feel better about every sad,depressing, and demoralizing season I always say “Next year will be the year” every single year, to no avail. Many know us as the “lovable losers”, in reality we are a sad and rare people, the Cubs fans. Fun food for thought: Did you know some people have lived long (not quite fulfilled) lives and died not seeing the Cubs win a World Series? Now, some might call it quits, and hop on the Josh Hamilton band wagon. Maybe even give NASCAR a shot, but true Cubs fans embrace this adversity. Not willingly of course, it takes copious amounts of alcohol at games and more soul food than the Food Network can show. This bonds us together, makes every win feel like the last goal from the movie Miracle. I am a Cubs fan, I am still bitter at my best friend for turning me into one at a young age, and I will make sure that my kid will never know this pain. Just a heads up America; when we win, which we will, You will have a riot in Chicago the likes of this world have never seen. Followed by so, so much crying.

By Dalton Barker

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Sunday Night Baseball Diary: Braves sweep Nats’ with October right around the corner


I thought so. After our “brief” vacation, First Pick is back in black and on the attack. Like that? I thought it was catchy. Although not nearly as catchy as Mace’s celebratory BrettFavresque return to hip hop in 2004 .

Anyway, it is my belated honor to bring you the first of my many in-game diaries. I have been doing these since high school through my personal blog, The Sports Fehr, but, having decided to bring my talents to First Pick, it is now time to pop my diary cherry. I probably will get one of these done a week with no particular schedule in mind and they will vary in terms of the sports being covered but, seeing how democracy is kind of a big deal in this country (at least it was in the 18th and 19th century) I’m open to reader suggestions.

Tonight I will be covering the third game of the Braves/Nats’ series which will be broadcasted on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball at 8 PM ET. The Washington Nationals will send out their heir apparent ace Gio Gonzalez, a lefty who is in pursuit of his major league leading 20th win, and simultaneously look to win their 90th game of the season, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the Nats moved to DC from Montreal in 2005 and hasn’t been achieved since 1993 within the franchise. The Atlanta Braves counter with their own lefty, a sophomore in Mike Minor, a product of Vanderbilt University who looks to complete the sweep that his teammates began over friday night and saturday afternoon as they close in on the Nationals in the NL East pennant race.

Gonzalez-(W/L)=19-7, (ERA)=2.93, (WHIP)=1.13, (SO)=191

Minor- (W/L)= 8-10, (ERA)= 4.42, (WHIP)=1.2, (SO)=132

WSH Lineup= 1. Werth RF 2. Harper CF 3. Zimmerman 3B  4. LaRoche 1B  5. Desmond SS  6. Espinosa 2B  7. Moore LF  8. Suzuki C  9. Gonzalez P

ATL  Lineup= 1. Bourn CF 2. Johnson LF 3. Heyward RF  4. Jones 3B  5. Freeman 1B  6. Uggla 2b  7. Ross C  8. Simmons SS  9. Minor P


Lets get started shall we……

7:49- The first words uttered out Dan Shulman’s mouth were “Despite the loss of Stephen Strasburg…” Should i start a counter for the amount of time his name is mentioned. I think yes. At least they spent time describing the efficiency of the 2012 Nats offense.

7:52- I wish more people liked baseball because Baseball Tonight is the most in-depth, well-thought, and insightful (Yes I realize those are synonyms) look at an individual sport that ESPN offers. Olney+Kurkjian+Kruk+Larkin+Glanville= GOLD. Kicks the shit out NFL Live’s repetitiveness.

7:55- I’m going to try and eat my dinner in five minutes before the game starts. Time me.

8:00- Alright, I couldn’t finish. But you try to finish a plate of brisket, baked beans, and cole slaw in five minutes without savoring every bite. I doubt my mother could escape her Kansas City roots even if she was paid to. This is a woman who spends every night religiously watching the Royals play baseball on MLB Extra Innings and purchased season tickets at Arrowhead Stadium to see her Chiefs play when she got her first ever paycheck. I’ve learned a lot from my mother  but, one thing I will never take for granted is the lessons she’s taught me on loyalty/fanhood. Is fanhood a word? Whatever.

8:01- Strasburg’s name mentioned by Shulman twice in one sentence when trying to compliment Gonzalez’s performance this year. (3)

8:02- I feel like most of the baseball world forgot how bad the Braves were to close last season. Kinda got swept under the rug behind the Red Sox’ chicken and beer fiasco.

8:06- Werth steps up to the plate and were off.

8:08- Every time Bryce Harper steps up to the plate i always stop what I’m doing. Even if I’m looking at a game-cast on my iphone, I frantically refresh the page with hopes of a home run or extra base hit…. as he grounds out to Simmons for the second out.

8:11- “Strasburg shutdown” in back to back sentences from Shulman bringing our count to 5. Zimmerman lines one in to right field for the first hit of the ball game. Quick tangent: Is it just me or are one team athletes the rarest thing in sports nowadays. Even franchise quarterbacks with years of history and loyalty to a team are given the boot with the excuse that the league is a business and nothing else ( see Manning, Peyton). Zimmerman is locked up in DC til 2019 at least and has no intentions of leaving. Hes the reincarnation of Ripken minus the ridiculous durability.

8:12- “Strasburg and Harper are the most well known players” (6).

8:14- Michael Bourn is in a contract year and is playing arguably his best season. Mike Rizzo, Nats GM, expressed intrest in the outfielder during several interviews this season. AWKWARD.

8:17- The Braves hitters probably have the best two-strike approaches since the 07′ Red Sox, a team notorious for their long at-bats and extraordinarily long games.

8:20- Stoned asian in a white tall tee and cargo shorts makes what is probably the highlight of his month, listing slightly to the left and making a phenomenal catch on a Reed Johnson foul ball down the right field line. Did I mention his navajo dreads? Imagine if Troy Polamalu braided his locks and then let them grow for like 4 days. Yeah.. that long.

8:23- I can’t decide if Jason Heyward is the next Alfonso Soriano or the next Joe Carter. Either way kid can ball. My future rankings with absolutely  no statistics to back them up ….. 1.Harper 2.Giancarlo Stanton 3.Matt Kemp/Heyward 4. Big Mike Trout

8:24- Chipper steps in for his first AB of the night. How fucked up is it going to be when he comes back and plays in the American League next year as a DH for the Rangers instead of retiring. No competitor, unless they were on drugs or forced at gunpoint, retires until they absolutely have to. Coming into this game he is hitting .296 with 14 home runs and 59 rbis. Does that sound like washed up and ready to leave behind the game you love? NO! I think its ridiculous that some ballparks have honored him with video montages, surfboards, and other gifts. Like hes goddamn Joe DiMaggio or something. I say he comes back. Jones grounds out to end the 1st. One hit for both sides.

8:34- Looking back on the past few months of consumption, the Doritos Locos Tacos are only good if you are intoxicated. I don’t think there is that much of a difference between eating doritos with bean dip and cheese and grass in between. But of course if you’re hammered, a $1.70 is worth as much as the lead in a mechanical pencil. Plus you dont have to find the grass once you are at the restaurant.

8:38- Freddie Freeman could be a stunt double for the lead singer of Smash Mouth, Steve Harwell. Their facial characteristics and mannerisms are uncanny.

8:40- Dan Uggla has the fattest lip I think I have ever seen in his left cheek. I wonder what brand/what flavor? With the exception of one of my former baseball coaches,who will remain nameless, that is the largest amount of chewing tobacco I’ve ever seen someone spit on television. I thought Selig was cracking down on players dipping? Anyway, I think he should be overseas with the marines. Have u seen the forearms on this dude? Takes a walk after a Freeman strikeout.

8:42- Strasburg count has risen to 7. Give the kid a break. He’d be out there if he could. And i applaud the balls that Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo had in shutting him down. Gotta protect your investment. It is a business nowadays anyway…

8:46- Gonzalez walks Ross to put two on with two out as Minor steps to the plate. Gio’s thrown 45 pitches thus far. Gotta knock that total down a little to be effective in the playoffs.

8:49- Gonzalez strikes out his opposing pitcher to end the inning. Still no score here at Turner Field.

8:52- If you had told me that Oakland and Baltimore would be leading the AL Wild Card spots with close to three weeks left in the season I probably would have laughed in your face. By no means are they in a position run away with their respective leads but, still it’s pretty impressive. Especially considering how the O’s have been outscored by 22 runs by their opponents this season. Gotta love baseball.

8:57- Harper lines out to left field to end the inning after strikeouts by Gonzalez and Werth. Still no score.

9:02- Bourn leads off the inning with a base knock. Johnson lines out hard to Desmond shortly after.

9:07- I’m starting to notice that the better players in baseball are wearing their socks up nowadays. Heyward pops a single by LaRoche and Bourn advances to third. Huge AB coming up for the fan-favorite Chipper. All of his plate appearances this year remind me of Rob Redford in The Natural.

9:10- Gio is coming right at him as we reach a two-two count. 70 pitches thrown.

9:11- Three-two count. Seventh for Gio. The crowd is on their feet..

9:13- And of course, Chipper knocks an RBI single into the left-center gap. Here comes the unbelievably racist and also unoriginal “Tomahawk Chop”. Where have i seen this before?

9:15- OH SHIT… I forgot the 49ers and Lions were on tonight. Looks like my first diary is going bi-racial. How fitting.. I’ll flip over to NBC once the inning is over. Another three-two count for Gio as Freeman takes the 78th pitch. You guys are in luck. two for one Sunday!

9:17- Freeman scores Heyward on a sac fly. Craig Stammen begin warming-up in the Nats’ bullpen.

9:18- Strasburg count is at 8

9:19- Gonzalez strikes out Uggla to end the inning. Braves 2- Nats 0… Now for some football…

9:20- I love the 49ers so much (Sorry Ben)! Funnest team to watch in the NFL if you love defense. And how their special teams dances together on kickoffs? I think it’s at least some what intimidating for the other team. And how they returned close to all 22 starters for this season? Gotta love great football. I’m rooting for the Harbaugh brothers to make it to the Super Bowl this year. That is if RG3 doesn’t lead the Skins’ to glory (Hah).

9:21- Not to mention two of their best players, Aldon and Justin Smith are Mizzou alumns…. M-I-Z… anyone?

9:22- Everytime I hear Javhid Best’s name I think of his concussion at Cal. “Epic”.

9:23- Back to baseball. Zimmerman works a three-one count before spraying another base hit into right field to lead of the inning.

9:26- Espinosa grounds in to a double play after a LaRoche fly-out and a Desmond single to end the  top of the inning. Braves 2- Nats 0

9:28- Flip back to NBC to hear my man, Randy “Straight Ca$h Homie” Moss, make a first down completion. So glad this man is back and playing for a contender. Check out my section of First Pick for a feature on Moss’s career written around his “retirement” last season.

9:30- Literally just said, “Suh is probably trying to keep a low profile this year”, as he makes a sack on Alex Smith for a loss of at least eight yards. Simultaenously, Gio works two quick outs to start the bottom of the fourth.

9:32- Gio strikes out Minor to end the fourth inning. Braves still up two. Pitch count: Gonzalez(92), Minor (48).

9:36- Some incredibly vague and incoherent words are spoken from Braves manager about Chipper Jones.

9:38- Terry Francona’s Montreal Expo’s rookie card is displayed as a segway into the topic of franchise relocation. Shulman lists off the remaining and unsensational Expos in the majors, of which there are 11 if I heard him correctly.

9:40- 22 of the 25 players on the current Nationals roster came up with their farm system or were acquired during Rizzo’s tenure. Thats money-ball for ya.

9:42- Werth ends the inning on an unceremonious ground ball to second. To the bottom of the fifth we go.

9:45- HAH! Its apparently bark-in-the-park night at Turner Field. Fans have brought their dogs to the game with them. Does anyone agree with me that this is the most ridiculously unplanned event in a baseball park since Disco Demolition Night at  Comiskey Park in 79′? Who is going to pick up the after the animals. Plus its raining lightly. So they are going to smell. I know this is common in other parks but come on… really. Just give out bobbleheads or bags or lower your beer prices. I guarantee you’ll have better customer satisfaction. Heyward grounds out to end the inning. Braves 2- Nats 0.

9:51-Harper leads off the inning as Buster Olney presents the viewer voting for the NL Cy Young. Apparently Gio is the favorite. To be determined..

9:53- Harper smashes a ground ruled double on one-two count. This kid is a show-stopper. The rain comes down harder. The fans look for their doggie umbrellas.

9:57- After a swinging strikeout from Zimmerman, LaRoche grounds out to second and Harper advances to third.

10:00- As we enter the tenth hour, Desmond hits a strong blooper (if there is such a thing) off the handle of his bat into center, scoring Harper. Braves 2- Nats 1.

10:02- Desmond gets caught leaning and is thrown out at second.

10:06- Gonzalez walks Chipper to lead off the sixth. The rain is starting to become a factor. Freeman then blasts a double off the wall in right-center. Second and third no outs. Gonzalez gets the hook from Davey. Stammen exits the bullpen onto the field. Looks like Gio’s quest for 20 wins will have to wait another few days.

10:11- Seriously these dogs are about to smell like wet garbage. You have to wonder  if the Umps will want a delay.

10:17- Stammen masterfully throws his slider. Gets Uggla, Ross, and Simmons in order. Braves 2- Nats 1 going into the seventh

10:20- Orel Hershiser celebrates his 54th birthday with Franconca and Shulman. Awkwardly blows out candles and shakes hands of peers. Happy birthday Orel. You cheeky bastard. Braves groundscrew eagerly works away on the diamond. The rain is dying out slightly.

10:27- Nats’ go quietly with Cory Gearrin relieving Minor of his duties. Tight game going into the bottom of the seventh.

10:29- I have seen the Firestone “We are a car company that doesn’t make cars. We are a tire company” at least eight times tonight. Didn’t their tires cause a string of accidents in the early 2000s? Seems just as phony as every Obama/Romney campaign commercial. Stammen takes the hill for the Nats and gets Eric Hinske to flyout to center.

10:33- Shulman reports that Chris Carpenter, ace of the St. Louis Cardinals, will return later in the week for the rest of the season. More bad news for Pirates fans. Not that they’ve had any good news since McCutchen got drafted. Bourn walks.

10:38- Zimmerman takes a tricky hop allowing Bourn to reach third on what would’ve been a double play ball. First and third with one out as Heyward walks to the batter’s box. Sean Burnett relieves Stammen.God only knows what Martin Prado would be doing tonight.

10:42- LaRoche takes a gamble by getting the sure out at first and fires an off-line throw home that allows Bourn to score. Braves 3- Nats 1.

10:46- After an intentional walk to Chipper, Burnett hits Freeman in the ass to load the bases. Still two outs.

10:48- Uggla rips a base hit, scoring two and Freeman is thrown out at third on a cut-off by Zimmerman. Braves 5- Nats 1. LaRoche has got to be punching himself in the dick after that half inning. Hindsight is always 20/20.

10:51- Another Taco Bell thought… Your slogan is “Live Más” which translates to “live more” in English. Just out of curiosity, who in the world at the T-bell corporate office came into a meeting and said “I have this brilliant idea for our new marketing campaign..we are going to get a renowned chef to tell us what ingrediens make Chipotle successful then have her be the spokesperson for our new menu item, based completely off of Chipotle’s bread and butter, and advertise it with a Spanish word to make it seem more exotic (not that many people speak Spanish anymore right) and follow up with a taco made out of old doritos to get every stoner and binge drinking teenager more attracted to our cheap junk.” Probably a very rich man. I do enjoy ripping Taco Bell in my diaries FYI. But I can’t deny that the crunch-wrap supreme is our greatest accomplishment since the moon landing.

10:56- Strasburg Count to 10. Shulman and Orel criticize Davey for his decision using the Braves handling Kris Medlen’s tommy john surgery.

10:58- Nats go down in order. Braves 5- Nats 1. Five hits respectively.

11:00- Do Drew Storen and Gio share the same necklace. Or are they friendship chains?

11:01- I may only be saying this as Virginia native and a Nationals fan but, I honestly believe if we had Drew Storen from game one to now he would have better numbers than Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. Call me bias and call me crazy but, Drew’s special.

11:04- Storen throws an eight pitch, three up-three-down inning and we head to the top of the ninth. Nats lead off with Zimmerman followed by LaRoche and Desmond.                       Braves 5- Nats 1.

11:07- Is it just me or is dubstep taking over the commercial industry? Every car commercial, with the exception of truck commercials, incorporates some type of techno music.

11:08- Zimmerman lines out to short for the first out of the ninth.

11:10- After LaRoche singles, Desmond pops up to Freeman for the second out. Steven Lombardozzi pinch hits for Espinosa.

11:13- Lombardozzi strikes out to end the game and the Nationals hope of 90 wins. Minor takes the win, Gio takes the loss. The Braves sweep the Nats in their final series of the season and sit five and a half games back of Washington for NL East lead.

FINAL Braves 5- Nationals-1

Final Strasburg Mentions= 10


By Matt Fehr