Wooden's World of Baseball

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Road Trip #2 - Frederick

Because it's such a relatively short jaunt, it's hard for me to consider this a road trip, but I guess when you're gone nearly seven hours, it still counts.

What kills me about the trip to Frederick is that I usually end up dropping $4 or more in tolls because I prefer to go through Leesburg on the way to, and take 270 to the Dulles Toll Road on the way back, in my vain effort to avoid I-66 during the daytime (seriously, it's one of the best "rules" I've come up with for avoiding traffic).

And I'm fairly certain this is the fourth straight year I've made this trip on this weekend. It's funny how little the schedule can change from year to year.

In terms of the game itself, it was one of those affairs where if you came late and only saw the middle three innings, you saw all there was to see. Steven King homered twice off O's prospect Brian Matusz, who struck out eight over six innings, and Chris Marrero doubled to deep left-center. That was pretty much it for the PNats' offense - the third run coming on two Frederick errors; one to reach base, the other to attempt to nail a runner trying to steal third.

Defensively, the PNats threw this game away with two errors and a misplay in a near-comical fashion in the six-run fourth inning, the only one in which the Keys scored. That's the one thing that strikes me thus far this year - both teams on any given night have looked really, really shaky.

Otherwise, it was the usual easy-in, easy-out that I love so much about Harry Grove stadium (not to mention free parking!!!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Opening Weekend

Wish I could find a picture of the big, honkin' pennant that's now flying above the CF wall, but for now this generic shot will have to suffice.

More than seven months after the P-Nats took the 2008 Carolina League pennant, they came back to the Pfitz, against the very same Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Well, same in name, anyway. There are a baker's dozen or so players that saw time in 2008 for the Pelicans, and sixteen for the Nationals.

Just like last year, there's a whole lot more youth and enthusiasm from the folks in South Carolina and a lot more "experience" on the Potomac roster.

But what makes minor-league ball so eminently watchable is that while Baseball America is fascinated with what will be, a fan like me can still appreciate what is right now.

This weekend, the P-Nats took two out of three from the Pelicans, losing the opener 7-5 on Friday night and taking the next two by scores of 5-4 and 11-4, going above .500 for the first time this season.

It's tough to tell how the pitching will develop, but it does seem clear that this team will be able to generate offense every way possible: HRs (a three-run shot and a grand slam today), doubles (three today, two last night, three on Friday) and a little small-ball, to boot.

I've always been a fan of "putting pressure on the defense" and the good news is that new Potomac manager Trent Jewett is too. Last night was a perfect example of just how well that can work.

With two out and runners on the corners in the bottom of the fourth, Jewett sent the runner on first, catcher Brian Peacock, on a 2-2 count. Instead of throwing through, the Pelican battery instead got upset over the "missed third strike." With a full count, the batter singled to left and both runners were sent and both runners scored, with the batter taking second on the failed throw home to get Peacock.

Clearly rattled, the next batter singled, and the batter after that doubled, who was subsequently sent to third via the steal (still two out!) and the Jewett went for the squeeze play, which ultimately failed, but the point was made: We will make you get us out and we will dictate how.

It was a beautiful display of "real" baseball, as the Pelicans looked every bit the part of a team full of 21- and 22-year-olds and the Nationals looked every bit the part of a team full of 23- and 24-year-olds. Sure, maybe more of the Pelicans may be in the majors this time in 2011, but for now, for that night, the Nationals were the better team.

And that's what I came to see.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Road Trip #1 - Lynchburg

Thanks to a forecast of poor weather, moved up my plans to visit Lynchburg a day and managed to get a good seat for Opening Day. Frankly, I was a little surprised. I know times are tough, but in a rinky-dink town with not much else to do (this is home to Liberty University, after all) I figured that the most popular date on the schedule would have been a draw, not to mention... some guy named Pedro Alvarez.

To the uninitiated, Alvarez was the Pittsburgh Pirates' top pick in 2008 and thanks to some maneuvering by uberagent Scott Boras, Pedro's debut was delayed until this particular night.

Suffice it to say, Alvarez did not disappoint. Three-for-four with a home run, a double, and four RBIs and three assists in the field. About the only quibble I had with him is that he seemed a bit slow for an infielder, but man, this kid can hit. He'll be in Altoona before Memorial Day, if not Mother's Day.

Potomac's hitters picked up where they left off, smacking 11 hits including several doubles. Obviously, it's early, but considering that the Opening Day starter is a 25-year-old, it may be safe to say that a repeat championship will be tough.

That's all for now - the hope is to post more often, particularly during homestands, or at least while I have the time to do so, thanks to our lovely economy.