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Nationals Versus Tigers, June 18th, 8-9 loss. June 19, 2007

P1050492 My friend Eric loves Gary Sheffield. While talking about the Detroit at Washington series, he told me that I was going to see the fastest bat in the majors (disclaimer: he could have said one of the fastest). Yeah, right, like I can see the difference. I can’t tell what pitch was thrown with any reliability, so what chance would I have to notice differences in the swings among major leaguers. Still, I paid attention to Sheff during batting practice and, damn, there is a significant difference. His bat is so quick, it seems to occupy all of the path of his swing at the same time.

It would take a total fanboy to hope for a winning week, with Detroit and Cleveland in town. Scrappy doesn’t beat good for a whole week. 1 win a series, like we did in Toronto, is the most I hope for.

For a loss, I certainly left RFK pumped up. Being down 9-1 and battling back late to 9-8 is almost as much fun as a walk-off hit–almost, almost, almost.

P1050530 Matt Chico, our lone standing starter, pitched in to and out of trouble through his 4-plus innings. Until the 5th, his work was exactly what I have come to expect from him…flirting with giving up runs, but never getting overwhelmed. The Tigers worked 2 runs (one was a questionable call at the plate), plus got a solo home run from Carlos Guillen. Then in the 5th inning, the Tigers remembered they are the Tigers and bombarded Chico. It started out when the pitcher, Mike Maroth, you know from the American League, hit a double to lead off the inning. Five batters faced, 5 reached safely. Winston Abreu replaced Chico and placed into a bad situation, let a few more reach home. In all, the Nats saw all 9 batters in that inning, 6 of them scored.

Down 9-1 at the end of the 5th, with Maroth keeping the Nats to 3 hits so far, it looked like I would have no trouble getting a seat on the Metro going home. In RFK, with our offense, a reasonable fan can’t expect miracles. Yet, a 1-2-3 top of the 6th was a nice start.

P1050591 Then the Nats matched the Tigers 9 batter 5th inning with their own 9 batter appearance in the 6th. Guzman lead off with a single, Lopez next with a triple. More batters, a new Tigers pitcher and suddenly the Nats were only down 4 runs, 9-5.

The Nationals failed to threaten anything in the 7th or 8th, outside of a walk and a single. Still, the taste of those four runs scored in the 6th, plus the troubled Tigers’ bullpen gave me hope.

Following my recent habit, I headed down to the lower deck to stand on a ramp for the last half inning. I was conflicted because I had hope yet by moving down I was saying “well, it is probably only 3 outs left” Really, I could have stood on that ramp for the rest of the night if the Nats tied it up.

The Tigers brought in Todd Jones, who is on my fantasy roster and has been killing me lately. Needless to say, he will not give me any ERA victories this week either. The bottom of the 9th started like this: double, single, triple, single, single. The Nats closed the score to 9-8, with no outs and men in scoring position. While we failed to plate anymore runs, it was still an exciting game and a victory to each young Nats player who will now think twice the next time they think they are out of a game.

A few side points. A number of people brought dogs to the game. The dogs wore vests that said something along the lines of “service dog in training” which was necessary because they were led by people who definitely didn’t need service dogs. Anyway, I thought it would be an easy way to bring your dog to the game, just finding a vest like that.

I would think that fans of a team with a deep history as the Tigers would be more baseball savy, or at least know how to watch a game. As Screech’s Best Friend recounted, I wasn’t the only one that noticed annoying Tigers fans. His guy heckled the Nats fans in section 320 all night long (minor crosstalk is acceptable, but heckle the team not its fans). He topped off the night with a “fuck you” as they left. For me, there was a tall Tigers fan in the last row of the section in front of me. He did nothing more than cheer his team at the appropriate times, but that made me angry because he also liked to stretch his legs for extended periods of times while the game was happening. At least 3 times, he stood up for at least 10 minutes. He wasn’t blocking my view, so I didn’t shout him down but the couple nearest to me couldn’t see the pitcher when he stood.

P1050613 Finally, I got a great laugh out of Placido Polanco’s at-bat in the 5th inning. He was up in a bunting situation but he could not understand the 3rd base coach’s signs at all. It went something like this. He steps to the plate, looks over the third base. The coach runs through a bunch of signs. Polanco continues to stare well after the coach finishes his hand movements. Polanco steps out of the box and stares at the coach, and the coach starts the signs again–this time about 80% the speed of the first time. Polanco stares some more. Finally, they ask for time and meet between home and 3rd. Polanco steps back into the box, tries to bunt but takes a ball. Back in the box, he looks to 3rd for the signs again. To my untrained eye, I saw the exact same sequence of signs from before. Polanco continued to stare, pleading for a clue. The coach went through the signs again, this time at about 50% speed. You could almost feel his thoughts, in a slow drawn out scream “BBBBBUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNNTTTTTTT”. Polanco, still confused, turns and steps back into the batter’s box, and shrugs his shoulders and throws out his hands in the universal signal for “I have no idea what I am supposed to do but here I go anyway”. Before the pitch could be thrown, the coach asked for time again and they conferred on the base paths. So, 4 sets of identical signs and 2 conferences mid at-bat, just so Polanco could understand what everyone in the stadium knew–bunt the damn ball.

UPDATE: Added pictures


1. Eric - June 19, 2007

I love it when I’m right. 🙂 The first time I saw Sheff live was at the All-Star game in Atlanta. TV just does not do justice to his swing, it truly is amazing to see live. I felt a similar feeling when I saw Andy Laroche get his first MLB hit against the Braves earlier this year… very quick bat (ok, it’s not Sheffield quick, but it’s still damn quick).

Awesome story about Polanco. I wonder if he just went brain dead and didn’t know the signs or had trouble actually seeing the coach. Isn’t Polanco noted as being a particularly smart player?

2. Eric - June 21, 2007

damn you. i’d forgotten how good your pictures were.