Monday, June 30, 2008

Stunned; Washington Downs Baltimore, 3-2, With A 12th Inning Walk-Off Two-Run Homer

In the game of baseball, a difference between winning and losing is determined sometimes by an inch or the judgment of an umpire.

That theory could be applied to Sunday’s rubber match against the Baltimore Orioles on a hot, sunny day at Nationals Park.

With two outs in the bottom of the twelfth inning, and Baltimore ahead 2-1, thanks to a valiant comeback in the top the frame, the Washington Nationals were seemingly on their way to a second straight loss, and dropping the Battle of the Beltway series against the Orioles.

Baltimore closer George Sherrill had to only throw a strike to end the game; however, he walked Dmitri Young on a very close pitch that could have called in their favor. A pitch that might have been called a strike, if it was only a fraction of an inch closer within the zone perhaps may have set up the dramatic moment to finish off a strong weekend.

Ronnie Belliard, the next batter, had his shot against Baltimore’s unflappable closer and was behind in the count, 0-2. The third pitch in the sequence to Belliard looked to be close in the strike zone and could have ended the game; however, he would lay off the pitch and it was called for a ball by the home plate umpire.

On the next pitch, Belliard took Sherrill’s slider that missed its spot and deposited it over the field fence at Nationals Park.

When all was said and done, he rounded the bases like a little kid; thus, upon reaching to home plate, Belliard got a hero’s welcome as he was awash in a sea of red with his teammates giving him high fives and much deserved congratulations.

His two-run homer stunned not only the Orioles, but perhaps the 39,824 in attendance – the largest crowd in the stadium’s three month history.

Washington fans, who jockeyed with those that ventured down from Baltimore all weekend in the stands, got a well deserved and hard fought win as they beat the Orioles, 3-2.

Before the dramatic finale of Sunday’s game, Baltimore had gone ahead in the top of the twelfth inning to break a deadlocked 1-1 tie. Washington reliever Luis Ayala started off the inning, and then gave up two consecutive singles with two outs to Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff; thus, moments later, Ayala was replaced with Joel Hanrahan.

With men on both first and second, Adam Jones singled off Hanrahan and plated Markakis and took the lead, 2-1. Guillermo Quiroz would fly out to end the frame, but Baltimore had valiantly come back after being stymied by Washington all day.

After keeping the Orioles off the board for six frames, Luke Scott took Washington’s Jason Bergmann deep to right field and hit his 14th homer in seventh - a solo shot - to tie the game, 1-1.

Meanwhile, Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie, went seven strong innings, gave up an earned run, while striking out three and walking four. He pitched well enough to as well earn a win, but a lack of run support – finished the day with a 3.50 ERA and only a 4-7 record to show for it.

And yes, the Orioles are shockingly only 1-12 on Sundays!!!

For Pictures from this weekend: Click here and here

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