Monday, March 31, 2008

First-Place Nats Own the Ninth

Ryan Zimmerman (the most clutch player in the Majors?) after last night’s brilliantly scripted (yes, Paul Lo Duca’s passed ball was scripted to bring about the storybook/Hollywood/perfect ending) 3-2 season-and-park opening victory over the Braves: “We’re tired of being mediocre. We’re ready to win and we’re ready to win now.” Ready to win now. Two games into this undefeated season, with first place in the NL East firmly in hand, and with the team’s playoff (first to say playoffs!) destiny similarly firmly in hand, we at DCO say: success!

Could it be possible that the painful rebuild is over early? Could last year’s mediocrity, of which Zim is already sick, be a thing of the past? Quite possibly. After all, mediocrity was supposed to be the impossible dream of last season, something to pine for all summer as 120 losses piled up. That level, of course, was easily achieved, to the shock of all. Now, most projections I’ve seen for the Nats have them somewhere in the ballpark of 70-73 wins. Mediocrity. Time to shatter those low expectations again. Could all of these things come about to thus shatter them? Undoubtedly yes.

Sports Illustrated at least has predicted them to finish ahead of the Marlins. A non-last-place prediction suits this team just fine, as does SI’s lazy regurgitation of the team’s record last year as its predicted record this year. Doesn’t matter.

It’s not hard to see the hand of the Master in each of these season-opening ninth-inning wins. Freakish passed ball to lose a lead in the top of the ninth? Stay positive and win it in the bottom. Blow a 6-2 lead over a couple of innings to be tied against the Phillies in front of their Phaithful during their home opener? Stay even more positive and lay five on them in the top of the ninth, bringing about that chorus of boos Philadelphians are so fond of phaithfully laying on their beloved teams. Seriously, what a sweet sound that was as the last Philly batter haplessly grounded out to finish the formality of the bottom of the ninth. It’s all Manny, keeping the team focused and optimistic, unlike so many rabid Philly fans waiting for the first sign of trouble (or first five signs of trouble) to turn on their boys.

How about Lastings Milledge. The crack of his bat in the sixth inning announced a two-run homer, but it also might as well have announced blossoming validation of the trade that brought him here. We look for more of these 3-run, 2-for-4 outings from Lastings this season, rather than the getting-the-jitters out 0-for-4 performance he turned in last night. Jitters over, time to hit 30 home runs. There should also be plenty of totals of 30 or more doubles on this team by October, if today was any indication. The only thing that could stand in the way of those totals would be those hits finding a few more inches and becoming home runs, as all four Nats’ ninth-inning doubles nearly were.

Now, a day off before the quest for 162-0 continues. In all, a pretty perfect couple of days to start the season. Of course, we need our optimism-haters out there to try to knock us down a bit, and today’s comes in the curmudgeonly form of Post writer Philip Kennicott, whose main beef with the Nationals seems to be that he can’t see the Anacostia River from the new stadium’s third level. That and the sub-standard carpeting in the luxury suites. And the fact that the stadium architecture does not make enough of a world-impacting/shattering statement to suit his high-brow standards. Or something. You’re not welcome to the parade, Philip.

No comments: