June 29, 2010 8:18 am
By Miss Chatter
After my family, my other true love is baseball. So here's the partially formed song after last night.
On the fifth day of Strasmas, my true love gave to me... Five opposing runs. Four runs off Strasburg, three were earned, 2 base on balls, and a goose egg in the box score.
My post yesterday rather unfortunately fell into the "Fortune Teller" category, particularly the title stating the Nats had to show the national viewing audience positives as a whole. I guess they thought it was opposite day and performed, well, the opposite, at least on the downhill side of the game as per recent trends. Now I'm worried the whole "12 Days of Strasmas" shtick will lose the holiday cheer feel before Stephen Strasburg finishes his twelfth rookie start. Don't get me wrong, I'm not attributing the role of the grinch to Strasburg. Nats fans must have been very naughty because they received what equates to a lump of coal in their stockings hung by the chimney with care. How do fans end up back on the "Nice" list?
My fantasy of catching the first twelve Strasburg starts in person ended up being completely unrealistic and I would have known that had I looked ahead on the schedule. Making the trip to Atlanta was impossible with my day job and parental duties. I watched on TV like everyone else, and for that I am thankful. How else would I have seen the white-shirted guy behind home plate waving obnoxiously during every Strasburg pitch? If I was there in person, I also would have missed Dibble's tattooed arm in short sleeves. Hey, with a game like that, one has to find the little entertaining things!
Strasburg and Atlanta starter Tim Hudson had a pitcher's duel going through six innings. I joked that was boring. Oh boy was I wrong as things became very exciting in the 7th inning, but not in the tingly anticipatory gleeful way. More like the "holy cow, what just happened?!?!" way. Strasburg was doing an excellent job keeping his pitch count down, throwing 73 pitches through the first six innings. Nationals bats made Hudson work a little harder, but never produced anything off of him. The best opportunity was lost in the top of the 7th when Alberto Gonzalez whiffed hard at a pitch at least a foot outside while Bernadina danced off third ready to score.
Oh! About that "throwing too many strikes" Dibble vs. Knight battle? Apparently Strasburg agreed with Knight and tried to make the Braves chase more outside the strikezone while also trying to pitch more to contact to induce groundball outs. In his last start (his first loss), he threw 95 total pitches with 75 of those being strikes. Last night, his second loss, he threw 92 total pitches and 57 of those were strikes, meaning he threw 15 more balls last night than his previous outing. The end result, however, was about as effective as the lineup change of batting Pudge second. Strasburg got nine strikeouts out of the Royals and seven out of the Braves, meaning this was the first game where no records were broken. He walked no Kansas City players and two Braves, and induced ten groundball outs last night compared to seven against the Royals (2 fly balls to 6). The Royals managed to get nine hits and one run off the rookie while the Braves only got six hits with one extra out, however they scored four runs (three earned).
Oh my -- that unearned run. Do I really have to relive that moment and put it into words? Because I'm not sure I can. Ok, here goes... Inducing groundball outs obviously means relying on the team's defense, and the Nats defense, as pointed out by everyone, has been shaky recently. Strasburg started the bottom of the 7th allowing a walk and a single, then induced a perfect double play ball from Troy Glaus that would have left a runner on third with two outs (hey, the same way the Nats left the top of the inning without scoring!). Instead, Ian Desmond committed his 19th error of the season completely head-shakingly booted the ball to load the bases with no outs. The rest, as they say, is history. The Braves managed to score all five runs in that inning to a background chorus of the annoying Tomahawk Chop chanting.
Here's the video if you really want to see it again. The Braves announcer jokes, "Give an assist to Chipper on that one Ernie. He did everything he could to distract Desmond. Just almost stuck in front of him. And then after Desmond didn't have a play, he looked at third base toward Chipper like 'you rascal'." Yes, Chipper, you rascal! Sounds like something else if you tilt your head a different way... Larrrry!
But hey, that's just part of the game - distracting the fielders -- no different than sliding into 2nd base spikes up. What happened after that first error doesn't really matter as the Nats put a giant goose egg in the runs column anyway, displaying the still absent offense. The Braves could have scored twelve runs and the end result of getting shutout would have remained. But wait, there's more! Hinske followed up with a sacrifice fly to center for an RBI with the bases loaded. Nyjer Morgan caught the ball, but threw to third instead of the cutoff man at second, allowing the runner on first to advance and remove the possibility for a double play to end the inning. The fun just continued from there with another awkward missed ball as Desmond and Zimmerman leapt past each other like an awkwardly orchestrated ballet, but no error was given on that play while NatsTown slapped their foreheads in unision.
So that's what a newly found national viewing audience got to see. Ballgame. Guess what? Strasburg's next start at home on Saturday, July 3rd has been picked up by FOX, so the Nats have at least one more chance to show the world a better team and a cleaner game. Hopefully the sixth day of Strasmas will be more fun to write about too. I will be at that one in person again.