Nationals Review

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Game Recap: Houston 4, Washington 1, 14 innings

Having been at RFK for this one, I've decided to point out some of the interesting things I saw, in a reasonable chronological order.

- The game was Armed Forces Day, making this the third game out of four that I've been to with a military theme feel (Memorial Day, July Fourth). The national anthem and G-d Bless America were sung by Caleb White, who impressed me very much with his quick pace and deep bass voice. I appreciate those things.

- The top of the first was notable for the Orlando Palmeiro steal. With Gary Bennett catching, it made things easier to run, although the Astros haven't been afraid all series. It's a nice skill to have, but the Nats simply don't have it. It also took John Patterson 27 pitches to get through the inning, so I figured he might make it through six.

- Wandy Rodriguez was pitching for the Astros, starting the day with an ERA north of 6. Brad Wilkerson doubled on the third pitch, but was stranded. Rodriguez retired 13 in a row after Wilkerson's double. The next two batters were Marlon Byrd's double and Bennett's RBI single.

- This was followed by Cristian Guzman's inning-ending double play. For the game, 0-2, 3 outs made.

- The Astros picked up two doubles on bad fielding by the Nats. The first was Palmeiro's in the third, in which Preston Wilson ran back, then right, then forward and missed the ball with a dive by about a foot. Then, in the sixth, Lance Berkman hit a ball to the wall, Byrd misjudged the wall, made an awkward leap and missed, leading to the Astros' first run two long fly balls later.

- Rodriguez was pulled in the eighth after walking Byrd. Chad Qualls was brought in, Bennett laid down a nice bunt, Mike Lamb threw the ball away, and it was now first and third with out. Frank then pinch-hit for Guzman with Brian Schneider and pinch-ran for Bennett with Kenny Kelly. Both moves are defensible, although Kelly's run is less important, Bennett's gone anyway with Schneider PHing, and I don't think that PHing for Guzman needs a defense.

- The question here now is, if you were playing for one run before, why stop? Why not try to suicide squeeze to get Byrd in? The offense is anemic anyway. But Schneider hit away, and hit a soft chopper to second. With the infield in, Kelly advanced, and Schneider was out. One out.

- Here now is the head scratcher. Patterson has recovered beautifully since the first, and is a pretty good bunter. Jamey Carroll has to come in to play short anyway, so if you want to PH, you might want him out there; he's also a good bunter. Again, it's the eighth. You can play for one run. And yet, Frank sends up Ryan Church, presumably to hit a long fly ball. He fails, grounding out to the pitcher. Wilkerson then strikes out to end the inning.

- Note: Frank's now exhausted the bench to just Vinny Castilla, available presumably only in emergencies.

- Chad Cordero throws 12 pitches in the ninth. With an off-day, you'd think he'd go two. Instead, the already overworked Luis Ayala comes in in the tenth. Then Mike Stanton for 2/3 inning. Then Gary Majewski for 1 and a 1/3.

- Meanwhile, remember that emergency? Yeah, Jose Guillen just got injured on a hit-by-pitch. Pinch runner: Ryan Drese. New defensive alignment: Vinny to third, Baerga to first, Wilkerson to right. Other than the HBP, of course, Dan Wheeler is blowing through the Nats' lineup.

- Chris Burke would get hit by a pitch, so Guillen can be happy his pitchers are defending him.

- Move to the top of the 14th, Hector Carrasco in his second inning of work, and with only the dead-armed from Friday Sun-Woo Kim and Joey Eischen left out there, Carrasco's finishing this game no matter how long it goes. He puts two guys on right away, then gives up a scary line drive to pinch-hitting pitcher Brandon Backe, in which Brad Wilkerson almost gets a double play by doubling Jose Vizcaino off of first. Then professional slap hitter Eric Bruntlett squeaked one over the left-field fence. 4-1 Astros.

- Eight Brad Lidge pitches later, drive home safely.

It was the eighth that was the most frustrating, because those are the types of innings that were scoring runs in June. Now, not so much. And here comes an important six-day stretch at Atlanta and Florida which is going to say a lot about where this team is going to be come September.