Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Nats Fan's Notes: Behind the Foul Pole

A couple of weeks ago my friend T---, who programs films at another area theater, decided it was time for a business meeting, and what better place to have it then at the ballpark? The date we chose turned out to be auspicious. By some form of science (picking names out of a hat?) or divination (seeing a vision in the pattern of Dubble Bubble pieces spilled from an overturned bucket?), Jim Riggleman had arrived at the idea of batting his pitchers in the eighth spot, and for some reason it was working.

T --- and I arrived at the park to see a team that had won five in a row. Two nights previously, they had come back from a 6-1 deficit to vanquish the Cardinals 8-6, then stomped them the next night 10-0 behind a complete game from Livan Hernandez. (Hernandez, who normally does everything at the pace of a turtle, proved he could move with lightning speed during his previous start, in San Diego, when he speared a line drive headed right for his face. But the energy expended forced him to lie down on the mound for a quick nap before continuing the game.)

Over the past few weeks, Michael Morse had shed his bewilderment and bad luck to become one of the hottest hitters in the league, and this, combined with his long eyelashes, always-stoned-looking appearance and Keanu Reeves-like pretty/vacant good looks have led my wife to begin referring to him (somewhat worryingly for me) as her ”boyfriend.”

On top of that, Ryan “The Slugging Bland” Zimmerman, had returned to the line-up and was hitting well.

This could only mean one thing: the Nats would lose, and lose horribly. And yet, in the time it took T--- and me to order and pay for our food at the new Taqueria on the Promenade Deck (or whatever it’s called) at Nats Park, weird-bearded gaunt ghost Jayson Werth and Jolly Roger Bernadina had led off the game with back-to-back homeruns, much to the delight of the girls taking our orders, who saw both homers on the big screen behind our backs. (How many video screens are there at Nats Park? Better to ask how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.)

Once at our seats we found ourselves surrounded, annoyingly, by Cardinals fans who, apparently hadn’t gotten enough of watching their team collapse at home and were now following them east for more abuse. Far from the action, behind the left field foul pole, T--- and I were able to have our business meeting in peace while the Nats added a couple more runs and, for the most part, fended off the Cards attacks.

In the ninth, our erratic closer Drew Storen came in to mop things up and promptly surrendered the tying run. Storen is so high strung that you almost expect him to turn into Yosemite Sam, pull out two guns and propel himself into the air by firing them into the ground while yelling “Ooooooohhhhh!” at moments like these, so we once again expected the worst. As the game dragged into extra innings we began to talk about how much more we were willing to take.

But lo and behold, Ryan “Beige” Zimmerman led off the bottom of the tenth with a single, Morse took a pitch to the thigh, and Espinosa cracked a three-run walk-off homer – the second walk-off I’ve witnessed at the park this year.

As of this writing, the Nats have won eight in a row, after beating their alleged rivals the Orioles twice, and Riggleman’s betting order gambit is, against all odds, paying off. All there is to do now is gird ourselves for the next crushing defeat.

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