May 13, 2010
Until yesterday, I wondered what the big deal was about Roger Bernadina, the rookie part-time right fielder for the Washington Nationals. He had a fair-to-middling batting average but hadn't done much to show for himself. Somehow, he got plenty of playing time, as manager Jim Riggleman showed patience. Well, from now on I'll be paying a lot more attention. As the Washington Post reports, the team's coaches knew that Bernadina "was due to break out." Boy, did he! Not only did Bernadina hit tie-breaking homes in both the fourth and ninth innings (his very first two home runs in his career, by the way), he also made a diving catch of a line drive hit by Jeff Francoeur that would have cleared the bases. He prevented a big rally by the Mets and put an abrupt end to the fifth inning. Whew! Superman himself could have hardly done better. Showing the same kind of hustle that Willie Harris has displayed more than once, Bernadina thus single-handedly changed the outcome of the game in three separate clutch situations. Roger that, over and out!
Just last month, Bernadina was called up from the Nationals' Triple-A Syracuse farm club. Even though he is only 25, he has been in the Expos-Nationals organization since 2001. He was born in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, which is also the home of Shairon Martis, Andruw Jones, Jair Jurrjens, and the rogue Sidney Ponson. I'll bet scouts are swarming all over that part of the Caribbean right looking for fresh talent now.
Almost forgotten in the hoopla over the rookie right fielder's heroism was what the pitcher Craig Stammen accomplished in the batter's box: he got two hits and three RBIs in two at-bats, assuring that he would not get tagged for the loss even though he gave up four runs in five innings. And who got credit for the win? Why Tyler Clippard, who now leads the majors with a 7-1 record, even though he's just a reliever. The night before, Clippard was part of a gut-wrenching meltdown as the Nats gave up a four-run lead in the eighth inning. The Mets scored six runs and went on to win, 8-6. It wasn't all Clippard's fault, however, as the shaky relief pitcher Brian Bruney allowed two hits without getting a single out. Clippard keeps getting burdened with making up for other relief pitchers' lapses (especially those of Bruney), and he's only human.
Here's my comment on the MLB.com story about that game:
What a huge relief! After that awful meltdown last night, I was afraid all the wind would have been taken out of the Nats' sails, but today's incredible performance by Roger Bernadina helped us all forget about that. I was wondering when he was going to prove his worth and live up to expectations, and now he's got everybody's attention! So now it's full speed ahead once again to catch up to the Phillies. If we get Strasburg, Marquis, and Wang in the rotation, and they are all healthy, it is going to be very hard to keep this team from getting to the postseason. Seriously.
And to Mr. Brian Bruney: Don't let the door hit you on the way out. BYE BYE!
As a result, the Nationals are now 19-15, with sole possession of second place in the National League East, just one and a half games behind the Phillies. It was just about five years ago that the Nats surged into first place, against all expectations. Could history be repeating itself???
Up in Syracuse, New York, meanwhile, future Nationals star pitcher Steven Strasburg continues to amaze and astound everyone. Yesterday, he threw six innings of no-hit baseball, with seven strikeouts. He even got a hit! Some time next month he'll throw his first pitch in Washington, and we'll find out if he's as good as the hype.
Unfortunately, not all the news is good for the Nationals. Jason Marquis tried to pitch in a minor league game the other day, but the pain in his elbow was too much to bear, so he is going to have surgery to remove the bone chips. That means he'll be out for at least four to six weeks. That is really too bad, and I just hope he returns to the roster in time to make a difference in the pennant race this season. (!)
Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox announced he is going to retire after this year, and some folks on Capitol Hill wanted to express their appreciation for his long, devoted service to the team and to baseball. They ordered a big decorated cake that was supposed to say "Thanks for 50 great years Bobby Cox," but it was misspelled in a way that could be considered profane. What a bummer. If you haven't heard about this incident already, take a look at Jeff Schultz's blog.
In case anybody wonders, I think the police were absolutely justified to use a taser to subdue the drunken fool who ran across the outfield at Citizens Bank Park last week. See for yourself at cbsnews.com. I don't care whether he was a Phillies fan or what; he's an idiot who should be blacklisted from ballgames for the rest of the year. Maybe they need to keep a list of disruptive fans like the airlines keep a list of suspected terrorists.
Thanks to Bruce Orser for correcting me about the home runs by Mickey Mantle that struck the frieze ("facade") at the top of the upper deck in right field at Yankee Stadium, which I mentioned on Tuesday. He tells me, "'56 homer was inches, '63 homer was 6 feet down on the facade." Well, Bruce would know better than anyone about such things. He drew my attention to some excellent graphic comparisons of Mantle's biggest blasts with retouched photos at baseball-fever.com.
Now that the spring semester is behind us, I can get caught up with correspondence once again. My apologies to all those who are still waiting for an e-mail reply.