Baseball players are very superstitious creatures. If you’ve ever been acquainted with a longtime baseball player, you know what I mean. If not, just know that ball players will often forego washing their socks or shaving or changing spots on the dugout bench if their team is on a hot streak. This week at Nationals Park was all about the “juju” (pronounced “joo-joo” or “jew-jew”), which I can really only describe as baseball’s version of “the force.”
I am NOT superstitious (except for the black cat thing, I run away from cats all the time!). Paul is. Given that I have the luck of Charlie Brown and the suave of Jacques Clouseau, my habits tend to annoy the superstitious of the baseball world.
I stayed at Paul’s house this week, and it soon became apparent that I was on the dark side of his juju. His dog’s longtime windpipe problems began acting up as soon as I arrived and he ended up choke-coughing quite often when I was around. He fought back though as my allergies were aggravated. Soon we discovered a shorted circuit in Paul’s basement that caused spontaneous power outages.
It was even worse for the Washington Nationals. Monday I promised my friend Rachel that she’d see a win in her first ever Nats game. Doug Fister gave up a bunch of homers and the Nats, despite their best ninth inning efforts, could not overcome the jinx I obviously set. I kept my mouth shut on Tuesday and Washington won.
Wednesday, I had an interaction with Drew Storen (I didn’t put that story on this blog, but if you see me in person ask me about it and I’ll tell you), and he paid the price Friday.
Friday morning, a new stove arrived to be installed at Paul’s house. He and I were outside playing catch when the workmen came. The new stove ended up having previously-caused damage and could not be installed. The juju was bad. But we went to the game Friday night anyway.
Paul and I arrived at the park Friday at 4:30 and were soon at the Red Porch for batting practice. Most Nationals homers reached the seats in straight away left instead of where we were in left-center. Dan Uggla hit in the last group of Nats and I told Paul that Uggla would hit me one. Sure enough, a few minutes later the former Marlin hit a low liner right towards me. It was falling short though, so I sprawled forward and made a lunging catch as my torso lay perpendicular to the seat backs. It was uncomfortable but very worth it!
I caught one more in BP off the bat of Colorado catcher Nick Hundley. That was also a sprawling catch as I had to reach over the glass wall separating the porch from the bullpen.
My biggest mission for this game, aside from seeing the Nats win, was catching a 10-year commemorative baseball. The Nats are using special balls during games this year to celebrate their ten years in Washington.
Bryce Harper helped the Nationals jump out to an early lead in the first inning with an RBI, and Washington eventually built their lead to 4-0 in the sixth.
When Dan Uggla came in to pinch hit in the bottom of the seventh inning, I thought my man would come through for me again and hit me a foul ball, but it just wouldn’t be. The Nats were up 4-1 at this point and things were looking good as the Storen-Paplebon combo for the eighth and ninth innings is exactly how management has drawn it up. I said “game over” when I saw Drew Storen run in from the bullpen. And the juju flew away.
Storen ran into some trouble in the eighth though after he walked a batter and allowed an infield single. The bases ended up loaded for Colorado slugger Carlos Gonzalez. A few pitches later, CarGo demolished a line drive into the back of Washington’s bullpen in right field to give the Rockies a 5-4 lead. It was absolutely deflating.
Gonzalez is the only Major League player I’ve ever seen hit a grand slam. More on that in a bit.
The Nationals offense did what they always do, and did not come up clutch. Despite Bryce Harper’s best efforts, he struck out in the ninth to end the game, giving the Nats yet another loss.
Storen had been lights out since the All-Star break, and in general this entire season, so it was particularly tough to see him give up the crushing blow and receive the loss.
During all this, the New York Mets had come back to win in Tampa Bay and build their NL East lead on Washington.
Back to Carlos Gonzalez, because this juju/coincidence is mind boggling. Gonzalez has three career grand slams, including last night’s. Gonzalez has played in 861 games over eight seasons in the Major Leagues. I have seen him play in exactly three of those games. The last time he had hit a grand slam was July 20, 2012 at PETCO Park. That was also the last time I had seen him-or the Rockies-play. And that was the first ever grand slam I had seen in person. I’ve attended many games since then and not seen another until Gonzalez blasted his shot last night.
I looked at some splits on MLB.com, and Gonzalez is 15-for-57 with 44 RBI in his career batting with the bases loaded. At games I have attended, he is 2-for-2 with 2 HR and 8 RBI. Again, I have seen exactly three Rockies games.
So 67% of the time I see him play, Carlos Gonzalez hits a grand slam. In games I do not see him play, he hits a grand slam 0.12% of the time (as of August 8, 2015).
Following Friday’s game were Freedom Fireworks, a summer tradition at Nationals Park. It was a decent ending to an otherwise unfortunate night.
Final: Rockies 5, Nationals 4.
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