Strasburg’s Final Start, Extra Innings in the District: Marlins at Nationals 9.7.12

Before I begin: 1. Make sure to click links for explanation of references. 2. This is the personal game account of my final game of the season (batting practice account in previous post).

After setting a personal batting practice record, I was eyeing another record as I do prior to every game I watch in person: total runs scored. Until Friday, the most runs I had ever witnessed first-hand was 14, combined between two teams on three separate occasions (most recently in July at PETCO Park).

Here was the view from my ticketed seat in section 114:

I travelled down to the front row of section 115 (down the left field line) to get some pictures before the game started. At that point, a strange sense of deja vu overwhelmed me. Remember this? If you have been with me for a full year, then you might. Otherwise, here is the post about that game last September. Anyway, the same sort of rookie hazing was happening again. They must do it to all September call-ups. Click on the picture to enlarge it, otherwise the ridiculous backpacks are difficult to see.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Jacob Turner, the 21-year old gun from Missouri, was starting for the Marlins. He was set to duel Stephen Strasburg in what was supposed to be the Washington ace’s final home start of 2012. It turned out to be Strasburg’s last start for the season–period.

The Marlins have historically done well against the Nationals, especially with regards to offense, and especially in D.C.. They continued that trend Friday night.

In the first inning, Giancarlo Stanton drove in a run on a hot-shot double down the left field line that was almost picked at third base by Ryan Zimmerman. The ball trickled down the line, allowing the run to score and moving Jose Reyes to third. Carlos Lee followed that up with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Reyes and giving Jacob Turner multiple runs to work with.

However, the lead soon evaporated when Ryan Zimmerman crushed a two-run homer into the left field seats in the bottom half of the frame.

The Marlins did respond, though. In the top of the second, Rob Brantely launched a high fly ball to right field that barely landed past the high green wall into the seats. In the third, Giancarlo Stanton went yard to right-center, and Donovan Solano drove in a run with a single. That made Miami’s lead 5-2 moving into the middle innings.

Sometime in the third or fourth inning, a looping, low foul ball off the bat of a lefty flew towards my section. Unfortunately, I was stuck in the middle of a row, and had no room to run. My dad and I soon moved across the aisle to a pair of seats on the end of a row. Had I been there at the time of the foul ball, I would have had a decent shot at it.

Back to the game. In the top of the fourth, Jose Reyes hit the first of his two triples on the night, scoring Justin Ruggiano. Miami possessed that comfortable 6-2 lead into the seventh inning.

Following the stretch, Carlos Zambrano took over for Jacob Turner and allowed a lead off single to Ian Desmond, an RBI double by Danny Espinosa, and another RBI double off the bat of Kurt Suzuki before getting the hook. Ryan Webb took over and allowed a run-scoring single to Steve Lombardozzi, which transformed the emotion of the crowd from sulking of the shelling of Stephen Strasburg to joyful hope of a comeback victory. The Fish escaped that inning allowing only the three runs, clinging to a one-run lead.

In the bottom of the eighth, A.J. Ramos took the hill for the Marlins, and in signature Heath Bell fashion, promptly allowed a game-tying homer to Michael Morse.

The Marlins had a chance to reclaim the lead in the top of the ninth when Donovan Solano and Greg Dobbs occupied second and third respectively with one out. Rob Brantley lined a shot to center, caught by Bryce Harper on the run. Joe Espada, the third base coach, intelligently took the chance by sending Dobbs, who was nailed at the plate. Harper’s throw earned him an ovation from the crowd, but the momentum did not carry over to Washington’s half of the inning.

After the Nats’ offense stalled in the last frame of regulation, the contest proceeded into extra innings. Singling with one out, Bryan Petersen started the rally. Justin Ruggiano followed up with a single of his own, and both runners scored on a triple by Jose Reyes. Reyes’ 2-RBI smack, his second three-bagger of the game, was nearly caught by a diving Bryce Harper. Had Harper not laid out for the ball, only one run would have scored, and Miami would likely have been held to just one or two runs in the inning. That could have been the difference.

Reyes ended up scoring on a Carlos Lee sacrifice fly, giving the Fish a commanding three-run lead.

But for the next few minutes, things looked good for Washington. Adam LaRoche doubled to lead off the bottom of the tenth, and scored on a Michael Morse single. Ian Desmond followed that up with a double, moving LaRoche to third. However, despite the fact that the Nats had two runners in scoring position with NO outs, they failed to score another run in the inning. Steve Cishek struck out Danny Espinosa, walked Kurt Suzuki, and then K-ed the next two batters in order, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth.

The Marlins continued their inexplicably great success against the Nationals. If the Fish could play as well against the other teams in their division as they do against the Nats, they would be in the thick of the playoff race every year.

Something I noticed this game: My seat was in the lower bowl down the third base line, and there were people getting out of their seats and walking up and down the aisles throughout every inning, not even waiting for a break in the action or the end of a half inning. I have sat in similar locations plenty of times previously, yet I had never noticed that particular habit of fans before. Here’s what I am thinking: When the Nationals were bad, or at least mediocre, only hard-core baseball fans would flock to the ballpark to see the team host another bad/mediocre team like the Marlins. Now that the Nats are winning and are going to make the playoffs, tons of fans will come to see the team play. These new fans are probably unfamiliar with ballpark etiquette and have no clue how annoying it is to get up in the middle of an inning.

Final score: Marlins 9, Nationals 7 (16 total runs, a personal high for me). Attendance: 28,533.

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