COMEBACK KIDS CRANK YANKS
[June 17th] -- The moment of Johnny Damon's grand-slam home run, that made the score 9-2, would have been the perfect time to walk away from my computer and spend the day with my family. They went to the swimming pool, but I stayed behind because I had to prepare for yet another Geology test. So when Damon's blast made the game "unwinnable," I turned down the XM radio but continued to keep an eye on the MLB gameday as I continued my study of plate tectonics. What I should have been doing was watching the events at RFK's plate. Slowly, the Nationals pecked away at the Yankees lead. A run here, a run there, and by the seventh inning, they were actually in position to make a run at the Yankees. But that wasn't possible, right? I mean this is the New York Yankees we're talking about, and they brought in Mariano Rivera in the 8th inning to make sure the game got no closer. You know, Mariano Rivera, the guy who hadn't given up a run in a month -- that guy.
It didn't matter.
Whether rookie or future hall of famer, the Nats kept pounding away, using a lot of talent and a little bit of luck to put the pain of the five game winning streak behind them. What kind of luck? Well, how about Alfonso Soriano running towards third base in an attempt to steal his second base of the inning. One problem, though. Derek Jeter had snuck in behind Soriano and was ready to pick him off the base. And Rivera saw it. Luckily, he saw it after he went into his windup, making the pickoff moot. Whew!
Just as the just completed losing streak didn't make the team worse than they really are, neither did this win against the Yankees make the Nats any better. They won this one game, and they did it in a very special way, but they are still eight games under .500.
When I was thirteen, The Washington Senators had the first pick of the 1969 amateur draft, and with that pick, chose outfielder Jeff Burroughs from Long Beach, California. I remember a photo of him in a pinstriped uniform that graced the front page of the Washington Post's sports section. Burroughs was a "can't miss" prospect, a guy who was going to be the next Frank Howard, someone who would help take the Senators to a new level. And he did to an extent, though it was after the team moved to Texas. Back then, it was difficult to follow the minor leagues. About all that was available was the weekly Sporting News, which offered a single column for each league's highlights for that week. Limited information came from Wytheville, Pittsfield and finally Denver, but it was clear that Burroughs was going to be a good one. Ryan Zimmerman is this generation's Jeff Burroughs. A high draft pick with a "can't miss" future, one of the first things that Nats' fans check after the score of the game is how well Zimmerman played. So far, he's everything that Jim Bowden promised. He looked very "rookie-like" early in the season, but it seems that he has corrected each problem he has faced. After a two or three weeks of outside breaking balls resulted in 20 or so strikeouts, he made a correction, and now those pitches that were resulting in strikeouts are now being driven the opposite way towards right field. His batting average continues to climb as well. It seemed that .250 was a barrier he could not break, but once he finally began hitting that outside breaking ball, his average jumped, gaining more than thirty points in less than three weeks. He hasn't hit a home run in awhile, but he keeps hitting doubles and driving in runs. He's on pace to hit 44 doubles, 23 homers and drive in more than 100 runs. Not bad for a rookie who a year ago was wearing the orange and blue of the University of Virginia.