Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Legend of Zimmerman

This trip has had it all. Offensive outbursts, extra innings magic, a fantastic pitching performance, and of course rain delays (5 in all), yet it had been missing one thing. A walk off win. Truly one of the more exciting situations in sports, we had yet to see. Its a situation every child dreams of- "Wills Fallon (or kid x) up to the plate, 2 outs, bases loaded (usually the case in every situation, but all you need is you representing the winning run, or a base runner as the winning run- but its cooler if its you), 3-2 count. Here's the pitch..." We all know how it happens next. Unfortunately, many of us never get to drive in the winning run- but we can always watch. And that's what we did. We watched/hoped/prayed.

To set the scene, the rain followed us again to Nationals Park. We arrived to the stadium early to take advantage of the $5 beer pregame special they had out in the Miller Light Scoreboard Walk section. We also had a coupon for 1 free beer (You can clearly see our priorities this night). We saw ominous clouds, and knew immediately what that meant. Our chances of playing this whole thing starting at 7 were not great. Incredibly, the game started at 7pm (conspiracy theroists believe its because the pregame $5 beer special ended at first pitch- count me in this camp). But, sure enough, with Ryan Howard up and 2 outs, the skies opened. This was worse than any downpour we had on this trip- as the stadium said "Please take cover from the SEVERE Thunderstorm we are experiencing." Oh, yes Nationals fan's it was "SEVERE".

While the wind and rain provided some cool natural effects (for example in the beginning it was only really raining on the left field section of Nationals Park, leaving the entire Right Field side- us included, dry.) We immediately took cover under stairs leading to the upper deck, which were surprisingly dry. Luckily we still had our $5 pregame beer and our coupon for a free beer. Being with Sam and Mike, we were incredibly smart throughout the night. To keep ourselves occupied, we watched the radar on Mike's smart phone (it didn't look good), talked with some Phillies fans for a bit, and then I (Wills) won a bet on to what that string of lights that looked like a triangle was attached too. Sam said a bridge. Mike said a dock. I said a Naval Boat. Of course, being the genius that I am- I won. I know crazy knowledge to all the Bowdoin students reading this right now. 

Finally, right as we were finishing our Half-Smokes (sausages guys) from Ben's Chili Bowl, the game began. Livan Hernandez resumed pitching and just started getting rocked left and right. While he only gave up 4 runs, every hit seemed as if it was fired out of a cannon. The Phillies were seeing the ball great and it looked to be a long night. But then the bleeding kind of stopped, and while Kyle Kendrick pitched a pretty solid 6 innings, what do you know? The Nationals kind of hung around and cut the deficit to 2.  But, with Ryan Madson coming in it didn't look good for the Nationals.

Now, some background- we had the privilege of watching the Phillies take on the far more fearsome Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. If you remember, Roy Halladay had 15K's but blew it in the 9th inning, and on the drive home all of Greater Philadelphia (even in to Amish Country-bewildering I know) railed on Charlie Manuel for leaving Doc in too long, and not bringing in the fearsome Ryan Madson. Well, maybe Charlie knew something that the rest of Philadelphia didn't.... AND NOW THE FLASHFORWARD TO FRIDAY NIGHT.

Ryan Madson can't even buy an out in the 9th inning last night. While it looked bleak when he came in (I recall telling Sam and Mike that it'd be cool to have a walk off on the last night), all of a sudden there is a bit of buzz going around Nationals Park from both Phillies (the many) and Nationals fans (the few). People are shocked that the Nationals have scored to cut it to 4-3 and are still threatening with a runner on 2nd after Jonny Gomes singles in Jayson Werth (less) and no outs. Add in a sacrifice bunt and for those scoring at home we have runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Your Move Phillies. They elect for the standard intentional walk and now the stage is set 1 out, bases loaded bottom of the 9th. Ian Desmond singles in Danny Espinosa and now its 1 out, tie game, bottom of the 9th and the outfielder formerly known as the pitcher Rick Ankiel strides to the plate. Nothing doing. Strikes out. 2 outs, and up walks Ryan Zimmerman.

Now up until last night, Zimm had 7 walk off homers. I don't know if he knew as he was walking to the plate that he would have a record setting night. But, in my imagination of Ryan Zimmerman, he probably knew what was up. To save you some more reading he works to a full count. At this point, I have my camera recording every moment of this at bat. MLB WHERE AMAZING HAPPENS. Here's probably what's going through Zimmerman's mind "Here we are folks, the plucky Nationals have hung around all night with the Phillies, and Ryan Zimmerman is up to the plate. He's worked it to a full count with the bases juiced. All the ducks on the pond here for Zimm. Madson comes to set, the delivery. SWING AND A DRIVE! WAY BACK! GRAND SLAM FOR ZIMMERMAN. THE NATIONALS WIN!" In fact, that was exactly what went through his head.

Anyways, grand slam walk off home run to win the game for the Nationals. And for Ryan Zimmerman, he becomes the 1st player to hit 8 walk off HRs in his first 7 seasons. Pretty cool stat. As for my take after the game? The Phillies are definitely a force to be recokned with, but two blown games in a span of a few days does nothing but boost my confidence for the potential World Series match up against the Red Sox. While the Phillies have the superior pitching, I think the Sox have the superior hitting, and their pitchers could potentially find some gems. Further, I think I like the Red Sox bullpen right now. When we get to October, I see the game plan as: Beckett/Lester/some 3d guy not named Lackey, Aceves (for however many innings you need him, dude pitched 3 and 2/3ds last night after Miller left), Bard, Paplebon. Go ahead, look that up, if you don't have a lead by the time you get to Aceves, it will be a loss for your team. We are obviously at the disadvantage of not having home field advantage, but once it comes back to Boston I like our chances increasingly more. Am I a homer? Yes, but this is a very realistic situation we are facing ourselves with now. I hope Mike can back me up on this?

Anyways, we did some touristy stuff in D.C. on Thursday before the game. Mike and I explored the National Mall before meeting up with Sam to see the Air and Space Museum. I particularly enjoyed the different War Memorials. Obviously, the Vietnam Memorial is the historic draw (and it is quite sobering when you realize how many people died), but an equally impressive one is the newest one the World War II memorial. Just a huge memorial to all the soldiers that died. Intensely retrospective and somber, it helps you reflect on how great the loss of life was during that war. Kind of like Wrigley, its tough to put into words what these Memorials meant to me, but I think the overwhelming sense I felt was patriotism and gratitude. While I do not know anyone in my family who died in any of the wars memorialized, the service that many paid for their country is clearly felt when you visit the memorials. And its not just for the dead either, its for the livign veterans as well. I think we do forget what they have gone to fighting for the U.S over the years. So, while I don't want to get too political on this blog, I will say: Thank you Armed Service Men and Women around the world and please come home soon.

After touring around the Air and Space Museum I was able to meet up with my good friend Tricia Bryant for dinner at Legal Sea Foods. It was good seeing her/catching up with her as she begins her Law studies. Of course she's a Yankees fan, so its difficult to understand her perspective of baseball, but she is a great friend nonetheless. After that, I met up with Mike Sam and their 3rd Roommate Andrew, for another fun night out in Dupont Circle capped off by pizza at 2 AM. 2 really good slices of pizza that were HUGE! I mean had to be a quarter the size of the full pizza. Unbelievable. The Hawaiian was hard to beat and I devoured it.

Okay, that was long, but I feel like it was a pretty awesome game and I had to detail it in full. I'm going to upload more photos later tonight or tomorrow so check those out. Also, tomorrow I will detail the ultimate sports bucket list that I would like to do by the time I RIP, so check that out too. Other than that, I really don't know what we're going to do with the blog. But, here are the regulars to savor until the next time.

Coming Attractions: We finally got home after quite the drive due to traffic- mysterious traffic caused by a large motorcycle tribute ride and horrible NYC traffic by the George Washington Bridge. While the trip was great, it will be nice to be at home for the next week before I leave for San Jose to start work again. The next major road trip I'll be taking is up to The Gorge to see DMB and others for an incredible weekend. 

What I Like: This entire trip was awesome. While I think Mike and I were both maybe a little unsure this trip would happen (even after talking about the past few years) it was great to do it. It was just fun to travel around and as we both discussed, not worry about anything. We lost track of the days of the week, didn't pay much attention to the crumbling economy around us, we were just 2 kids traveling around watching as much baseball as we could. I don't remember one bad part of the trip- even the driving from NYC to Cincinnati. It was just awesome to travel around for 2 weeks in pursuit of baseball and meeting up with everyone everywhere we went.

What I DIS-Like: Obviously the traffic was a bit painful on this trip. Also, the fact that we thought we had unlimited free drinks and ultimately did not at the game last night was a bit disappointing. Also, the DC Metro System: While incredibly convenient was not well thought out- by this I mean their escalators. Not only are they very steep (very difficult for a clumsy fool like me) but they also always seem to be broken. Please DC Politicos figure this out.

The Food Debate: If you're at Nationals Park, do yourself a favor and head over to Ben's Chili Bowl, the in stadium replica of the iconic D.C. eatery. Once there, get the Half Smoke Sausage "All the Way" (for novices Chili, Cheese Sauce, Onions, and Mustard) and a side of Chili Cheese Fries. You won't go wrong. Trust me.

Bleacher Bums: If I were blind, I would have thought we were at Citizens Bank Ballpark last night. The stadium had to be about 90% Phillies Fans who made the quick drive down to D.C. for the game. The result was an anything but homefield advantage for the Nationals, but was quite enjoyable to see the Phillies fans go home disappointed for the 2nd night in as many days. Also, pretty sure we saw an Amish dude in the stands cheering for the Phillies. While we cannot confirm or deny this, the 3 intelligent ones (Mike, Wills, and Sam) are pretty sure this was the fact. I have a feeling this goes against some sort of Amish tradition. Any experts, please let me know.

DJ MMM: Right now I have the song O.N.E by Yeasayer stuck in my head (go download it if you haven't already), but for the ride home today we listened to a lot of The Weeknd- a very talented Toronto Area rapper (thank you Drizzy Drake). Go listen to his newest mixtape if you can.

And that's all for you guys. I'll do the ultimate sports bucket list tomorrow as well as a final photo album. Then who knows what happens to this blog. As always thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed living vicariously through Mike and I!


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