August 15, 2020

Cardiac Kids Take Chicago

April 9, 2012 by · 10 Comments 

Three tense and tightly contested games yielded two road wins for the 2012 Washington Nationals in Chicago thanks to surprising late inning magic. Call them the “Comeback Kids,” the “Cardiac Kids,” whatever you will, but the Nationals scored nine times in the last two innings during the three-game set in the Windy City.  The late inning heroics produced both wins and they almost pulled off a third on Sunday for what would have been a sweep.

Keeping Kerry Wood out of Sunday’s game may have been the difference for the Cubs.  Cub fans wildly cheered when Wood appeared on Thursday according to Nationals fan, Dan Flynn of Chevy Chase—who traveled to Chicago for all three games.  Yet the same excited throng was silenced by two days of bullpen meltdowns and Flynn watched them leave the games in a dejected mood all too familiar to a Nats fan.

Jeff Samardzija tried to avoid the issue by throwing a complete game on Sunday.  He had a heater sitting at 98 mph to start the game and had limited the Nationals to a single run on only three hits as the ninth inning began.  His performance was eerily reminiscent of Strasburg’s on Thursday, but there he was starting the final frame having thrown just under 100 pitches.  Samardzija’s fast ball had lost some of its zip, but he was just an out away from finishing a 4-1 win when a throwing error and a two-run home run by Adam LaRoche cut the lead to 4-3 and ended his day.

Carlos Marmol came into the game for the third time in three days.  The brown and haunted ivy of Wrigley field sagged at the thought of another bullpen collapse.  Marmol blew the save on Saturday and took the loss on Thursday.  His 27.00 ERA going into the game was a dead-on match for Wood’s.  But on Sunday he had only to get a single out.  He toyed with disaster by walking Jason Werth, but got ahead of Xavier Nady and put the Nationals away as Chicago held on to win the getaway game.

Cub starters Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza frustrated the Nationals offense in the first two games until late in both games.  The Nationals best offense may have been playing at Harrisburg where Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel hit three home runs rehabbing with the Senators.

But Kerry Wood was enough of a trigger mechanism to launch the Washington offense in the two Chicago wins.  Wood came in for the eighth inning on Thursday and again on Saturday.  All together he put six runners on base and recorded only three outs over two outings.  Clippard, Lidge and Rodriguez were as good as Marmol and Wood were bad, as Clippard and Mattheus got both wins and Lidge and Rodriguez recorded the two saves.

It wasn’t just the bullpen or any one player; it was a family affair and pretty much everyone contributed.  Almost a goat on Thursday, Adam LaRoche, bounced back and was one of the heroes on Saturday and got the Nationals back on the edge of tying the game on Sunday with another home run.  Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa had their anemic numbers as table setters from 2011 flashed across the screen numerous times in the run-up to Opening Day, but they both played key roles, especially Desmond whose clutch hits over shadowed the quality at bats he had almost every time he came to the plate over the three games.

The 2012 Cubs, it should be noted, are without Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, and did little to upgrade the team in the off-season.  They are part of a collection of April opponents the Nationals will face whose overall winning percentage last year was a lowly .442.  Teams like the Reds and Marlins—who will come in on the home stand–improved dramatically in the off-season. But theChicago series provides the impetus for a strong start, the hope for a winning April once again in Washington.

The Mets will test that proposition over the next three days.  They beat the Braves three times and had strong pitching in doing it.  The law of averages may be working in the Nationals favor, however.  Ryan Zimmerman will not hit .091 for much longer.  A starting rotation that deserves a little love and an early lead or two would no doubt like to see him break out in a big way very, very soon.




10 Responses to “Cardiac Kids Take Chicago”
  1. There’s no “late-inning magic” for the Nationals. It’s just the same-old, same-old crummy Cubs bullpen. I think the Wrigley Field goat is still grazing out there, eating up the Wood and Marmols as well as the grass.

  2. Dan, Don’t forget to eat your prunes when on a Matzah diet. Or has the Braves horrid start got you cranky?? It’s a long season, but the NL East should be velly, velly, interestink this year.

  3. Edward J. Cunningham says:

    Ted, I’m glad to stumble upon your blog! I found this address from the back of your biography of Clark Griffith. I look forward to reading your comments on the Nats’ performance against the Mets as well as today’s Opening Day win against the Reds. I don’t think we’re quite as good as our record, but I have a feeling this team is going to be Washington’s first winning baseball team in 43 years. (You should know how long it’s been since you wrote a book about that season!)

  4. Edward, I have a computer glitch that sometimes puts Mike Lynch’s name on my comments, but thanks for the kind words. Today’s win was a bit maddening. Gonzalez was very, very good and generally the Nationals look like they have great pitching. But Storen’s absence is going to be difficult for a team that will have many close games. I don’t see Lidge as having closer stuff any more and Henry Rodriguez is a bit inconsistent. But some of the young players are starting to turn the corner–Ian Desmond looks great as does Ramos. I wrote here after Strasburg’s first game that he has the chance to be something very special, a pitcher like a Walter Johnson if he stays healthy. With that kind of pitching, they may be able to go quite a ways. It will be fun watching. Thanks again. –Ted Leavengood

  5. Edward J. Cunningham says:

    One more thing, Ted. Have you ever heard of the series of sports books entitled “100 Things _______ Fans Must Know And Do Before They Die” by Triumph Books? The number of sports teams that now have a book in this series is growing, but I am upset that NONE of Washington’s four major sports teams has a book in this series, including a certain baseball team we both follow. However, BOTH former Senators teams, the Twins and Rangers, do. I may try to write this myself if I can’t get somebody like you or Phil Wood to do it instead.

    Anyway, I’ll keep in touch. Hopefully the Nats will stay in first place for a little while longer…

  6. Interesting concept, kind of a travel sports book. I think you are going to have to take this on yourself. Phil has the MASN gig that keeps him busy and I… us old guys get nervous when people start talking about bucket lists. Let me know if you come up with any ideas. I am willing to help, though.

  7. Edward J. Cunningham says:

    Well, I do know what the first two things on this list will be.

    The #1 thing a Nats baseball fan should know is that the history of major league baseball in Washington, D.C. did not begin in 2005—and that history is something to be proud of, not ashamed.

    The #2 thing a Nats fan should know? The pain Washington fans suffered for a third of a century when the Senators left town has now been inficted on Montreal fans. This isn’t a piece saying that the Expos shouldn’t have moved. (To use an analogy that’s exactly one hundred years old tomorrow, the Montreal Expos were the “Titanic” and the Washington Nationals were the “Carpathia.”) Rather, it’s that the history of the Expos are very much a part of the Nats legacy as the Senators and this book will reflect on it.

  8. Edward, you and I need to talk. I am in the book. I like this idea the more you talk about it. A visit to Montreal is definitely part of it. When I started writing the book on the 2005 season I went up to Montreal and went to the stadium and to a display on Montreal in the 1960’s which took in the first years of the new Expos. Then there are monuments here in DC to some of the old landmarks like Griffith Stadium, the Clark Griffith Monument at RFK. I can see this taking shape.

  9. Edward J. Cunningham says:

    Now I am feeling a little nervous. I don’t want to talk you into doing something you don’t want to do, and I’m also worried about writing the proverbial check with my mouth that my derriere can’t cash. But I do have ideas of what COULD be in such a book.

    Profiles of Expos:

    Son of the Yankees (Pedro Martinez)
    The Fifth President (Dennis Martinez and his perfect game)
    The Kid (Gary Carter)
    The Hawk (Andre Dawson)
    Le Grande Orange (Rusty Staub)
    The Impaler (Vladimir Guerrero)

    Profiles of Senators

    Hondo (Frank Howard)
    Dick Bosman
    The incredible pitching record NOT held by Walter Johnson or Stephen Strasburg (Tom Cheney, Most strikeouts in a MLB game. 4/12/62)
    Other players I should know but don’t
    Before he was a Mets manager (Gil Hodges)
    Ted Williams
    Denny McClaine (We can’t just mention the good players)

    Profiles of original Nats
    Walter Johnson
    Clark Griffith
    Sam Rice
    The Original Wizard (Ossie Bleuge)
    Roger Peckinpaugh
    Bucky Harris
    The Washington Monument (Joe Judge)
    (Note for Expos fans—Judge married a French-Canadian and was sympathetic to Quebec)
    The Goose (Goose Goslin)
    Joe Cronin
    Heinie Manusch
    Early Wynn (worst trade in Washington history)
    The Walking Man (Eddie Yost)
    Moe Berg and spying on pre-WWII Japan
    The other Mickey (Mickey Vernon)
    The Most Inappropriate Nickname In Baseball History (Harmon “The Killer” Killebrew)
    Jim Kaat

    Don’t forget there are Nats who have played since 2005—some of them memorable!
    Livan Hernandez
    The Chief
    Ryan Zimmerman
    Stephen Strasburg
    Pudge and “The Glare” (Ivan Rodriguez)
    The Donkey (Adam Dunn)
    Alfonso Soriano
    Nyjer Morgan

    Why is this Dodger being mentioned here? (Maury Wills—who should be in the HOF—was born and raised in D.C.)

    The Stadiums:
    Griffith Stadium
    RFK Stadium
    Nationals Park
    Jarry Park Stadium (now Uniprix Stadium)
    Olympic Stadium

    By the numbers
    (Numbers that were retired by the Expos and those that maybe should be by the Nats.
    Montreal connection with Jackie Robinson–42. Washington, too??)

    The Presidential Opener (maybe sidebar on Racing Presidents)

    Road Trip (recommendations for MLB stadiums for Nats fans to visit. Lots in driving distances!)

    Know your enemies (Profiles on N.L. East rivals. Phillies may deserve chapter by themselves. So do Orioles. Honorary mention to Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs.)

    Gravespotting (Walter Johnson grave in Rockville, Clark and Calvin Griffith buried in P.G.)

    1924 World Series

    1925 World Series (Clark Griffith has second world championship in his grasp—but does the right thing and it slips away. I’m referring to Griffith refusing Landis’ opinion that Game 7 should be called for rain with the Nats ahead. 84 years later, a similar situation in the 2008 World Series led to a rule change about rain postponements in postseason.)

    1933 World Series

    1981 postseason

    1994 high water mark for Expos

    Reading list (Suggested Washington baseball books)

    MASN announcers (props to Bob Carpenter & others; brickbats to Angelos)

    Charlie & Dave (Maybe a sidebar on how bad BOTH 980 and WJFK are regarding baseball)

    The Curly W (can’t believe I forgot this!)

    What’s In A Name? (Why the team isn’t called the Senators anymore. Real name of team is “Nats.”)

    Yes, I’m Serious and DO Call Me “Shirley”! (Shirley Povich & other sportswriters)

    The 900-pound gorilla (D.C. sports fans obsession with Redskins and NFL to the exclusion of nearly everything else.)

  10. Edward J. Cunningham says:

    [You don’t have to approve this message and post it publicly, but if you want to contact me aside from this blog, my e-mail address is and my cel phone number is 301-213-1683.]

    P.S. The image of my gravatar comes from the 1969 World Series trophy won by the Mets where for some reason the gold pennant representing the Washington Senators was at the very top. I think it’s the perfect image for a gravatar since it symbolizes the ambitions of every Nats fan. Mets fans don’t want to just relive 1969 (or for that matter, 1986) over and over—they want new championships. So do we.

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