September 27, 2021

Let’s Play Two

April 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Sunday doubleheader was a staple of baseball in the Golden Era of the game, you know, when the World Series was played in the first half of October and kids listened to Don Larsen’s perfect game on the radio in Ms. Hill’s sixth grade class.  The Nationals and Brewers played a Sunday doubleheader today.  I was not about to miss it and by the time it was over, I was ready for them to play two more.

With the Nationals barely scratching the Mendoza line as a team, the games can go by fast. Pitchers breeze through the order pretty quickly and so on Friday night the game was in the final two frames before the clock struck nine times. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Sunday doubleheader. The Nationals won a squeaker against the Brewers and were once again knocking on the door of respectable play, though it was heated debate to be sure.

But getting two games for the price of one put the Sunday afternoon crowd in a good mood.  The sun was out, the temperature in the mid-60’s and the beer was dark and mysterious.  The first game had Washington written all over it as Jason Marquis was knocked around for eight hits in the first four innings. Somehow he managed to keep the Brewers from scoring more than two runs and he kept it together through seven innings trailing only by a run at 2-1.

Danny Espinosa is the youngest Nationals regular, still just 23 years old. When he stepped to the plate with Marquis and Joey Cora on board, his .250 batting average was second on the team to the other rookie, Wilson Ramos. He turned on an inside fastball from Yovani Gallardo and belted  it off the back of the bullpen wall to give the  Nationals a 4-2 lead. Suddenly the Sunday crowd  was really into this whole doubleheader thing.

Pudge Rodriguez hit a three-run home run in the next inning and the Nationals went on to win by  an 8-4 margin to climb to .500 for the first time in a very long time. Many of the fans went home,  but several thousand stayed for the second game. I don’t know if only the dedicated fans used to  make both ends of a doubleheader back in the day, but there was no “last call for alcohol” today    in the seventh inning so there were added incentives to stay to see if the Nationals could do the  impossible–climb  above .500 behind the  craftiest pitcher in the game today, Livan Hernandez.

When Hernandez, “Cuban Relaxation” in the flesh, threw the first pitch, there were murmurs of contentment in the stands. When he had breezed through the lineup the first time with only a single hit, the murmurs became casual recollections of the 2005 season when no one could hit the big Cuban for love or money. He pitched just that way on this beautiful Sunday afternoon and took a 1-1 tie into the bottom of the seventh inning when the bottom of the Washington batting order once again turned it over for that new lead off hitter, that Danny Espinosa guy from game one.

This time the bases were loaded and there was only one out. The fans were willing to settle for a sac fly and the lead, but Espinosa rocked one into left field to clear the bases.  Even old Matt Stairs managed to come around from first base and once again Espinosa pushed the Nationals out in front with three RBI.  Adam LaRoche added a solo home run in the eighth. Drew Storen pitched two scoreless innings for the save and Washington baseball took a step toward that 2005 feeling when just about anything seemed possible.

Yes it is only the third week of April, and at this time last year the Nationals won-loss was exactly the same at 8-7.  Yet that team managed to finish miserably and sink to last in the NL East again. However unrealistic, there are others dreaming the same dream. The fans in Kansas City and Cleveland are paying attention for a change as they square off atop the heap in the AL Central. Heck, even the Pittsburgh Pirates got game in April of 2011.

So don’t crown the Rangers and Phillies quite yet. The Rockies may be leading the charge of the also rans, but so far they have company and if the Sunday doubleheader crowd in Washington is any test, it is fine company indeed.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!