June 13, 2005

Nationals 3, Mariners 0

Not to rub anyone's nose in it or anything, but I thought that the first head-to-head matchup between the favorite teams of this blog deserved some mention (particularly since my team won all the games). I actually attended the Friday night game. (Mariners fans such as my blog partner may remember this as the game in which the M's gave up 6 runs in the 8th inning.) There was a great crowd at RFK... there's a real positive vibe between the Nationals and the fans that's a delight to watch and participate in.

The losing pitcher Friday was the fading veteran Shigetoshi Hasegawa, or as I like to call him, "Ziggy." The pitcher of memory for Seattle, though, was extremely well-traveled lefty Ron Villone. Villone walked Carlos Baerga to open the inning, and Baerga was immediately replaced by new acquisition Junior Spivey. (This was a wise move on Washington's part, as Baerga runs like he's got a baby grand piano strapped to his back.) Two sacrifices got Spivey to third. Marlon Byrd was the next hitter, and he hit a roller to short. Routine play, except the M's shortstop double-clutched on the throw and Byrd, pounding up the line all the way, beat the play. Spivey came in with the tying run.

Now, bear in mind that there are still two outs, with a solid batter, Brad Wilkerson, at the plate. You might think Villone would be focused on, you know, getting the third out or something. But instead he seemed to take Byrd's infield hit personally.

Before delivering a single pitch to Wilkerson, Villone tried to pick Byrd off three times. Each time, Byrd (who obviously had no intention of running) was back easily. The boos from the crowd shook the ballpark. Villone, undaunted, threw two more pickoff throws before delivering ball two. In all, Villone threw six times to first base in the course of pitching to Wilkerson, who walked, which put Byrd on second anyhow. Villone then threw a low slider than got passed the catcher and moved the runners up a base. Then, apparently, Villone finally realized how many outs there were and got Ryan Church to fly out and end the inning.

My point, to the degree that I have one, is this: I've never heard an entire ballpark full of people laugh as hard as we were that night at poor Villone, trying desperately to make sure Byrd didn't steal second. (Byrd, by the way, isn't exctly Willie Mays Hayes on the basepaths.)

The other things I'll always remember is that we got to see what may be the only at-bat of Rick Short's major-league career. Short, 32, has bounced around the minors for a dozen seasons, with a career average over .300 and not a major-league stint to his name... until Friday night. Frank Robinson sent Short up as a pinch-hitter in the fifth. Now, there was no announcement that Short was making his major-league debut. But everyone in the park just seemed to know. We all went crazy, cheering like it was the seventh game of the World Series. And wouldn't you know it... Short punched a single through the left side and drove in a run! You'd have thought it was 1924 all over again. Bedlam in RFK. Better still, when Short came off the field at inning's end, we gave him a standing ovation. Short mentioned in his post-game interviewed that he was moved by the crowd's reaction. He wasn't the only one.

Incidentally, Short was sent down the next day (displaced by the aforementioned Spivey), so there's a distinct possibility he'll never be in the majors again. I hope he comes back later on. But if not, I'll always be proud that I was there for his magical moment.

Incidentally, the Mariners shouldn't feel too bad: they ran into a team on a crazy-hot streak in RFK, where the Nats have been nearly unbeatable. It happens. Meantime, is it too soon to have pennant fever? If we can come out with a 5-4 road trip, keep rolling at home, get some guys back after the All-Star break... well, you can't fault a guy for dreaming, can you?

Frinklin Can you believe that I was in Seattle for 72 hours and didn't pay a bit of attention to the M's? This is what happens when house-hunting.

And don't get cocky Fred... the Mariners have spent most of 2005 playing like sick nuns.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at June 13, 2005 08:54 AM

"...the Mariners have spent most of 2005 playing like sick nuns."

Why the cheap shot at nuns, blasphemer?

Posted by: Richard at June 14, 2005 12:40 AM
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