Stopping the six-game Skid
With pregame warm-ups in the books–Coach leads the pitchers through their routine first, then the position players–we head upstairs for dinner in the press box. Tonight our plate consists of lasagna, canned veggies, grilled redskin potatoes and mini corndogs. Hey, we’d be doing our loyal readers a disservice if we didn’t try a little of everything, and really, how can you pass up corndogs anyway!? Lastly, the Braves lemonade and sweet tea combine for an amazing Arnold Palmer. How cool would it be to have a drink named after you?
The early going is highlighted by Adam Dunn’s mammoth two-run homer in the top of the second. Between innings, we make our way back to the clubhouse to meet up with the Coordinator of Advanced Scouting and Video, Erick Dalton. This guy, with the help of Michael Mazur, compiles countless hours of video on upcoming Nationals opponents. He then combines it with written scouting reports to detail everything from pitcher tendencies to hitter’s strengths and weaknesses, and every trend imaginable in between. With the Nationals leading 3-0, we take a seat next to Erick as he runs through his game day routine, complete with three to four computer monitors, diagrammed printouts and a handful of other resources to help him ensure the Nats are as prepared as possible for their upcoming opponents. He’s already compiled the scouting reports for the Nats next series against the Phillies–he says it’s all about staying at least one series ahead.
Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein comes back to the clubhouse between innings to review some tape of recent at-bats to see what’s been effective thus far for Atlanta’s starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens. Whatever it was Erick had queued up for Rick, he was able to immediately reap the benefits for the Nationals hitters, as Nats pitcher Livan Hernandez took Jurrjens deep in the top of the fourth inning, extending the lead to 4-0. Just how critical was the intel that Erick provided? Consider:
Ramon Ortiz was the last Nats pitcher to hit a home run and that was on September 4, 2006 at RFK Stadium. In the time between the homers by Ortiz (9/4/06) and Hernandez (9/14/10): 47 different MLB pitchers homered a total of 95 times, Ivan Rodriguez gunned down 82 would be basestealers while wearing five different uniforms, Joey Chestnut consumed a combined 247 hot dogs en route to winning four straight Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contests, and let’s not forget Pluto lost its “planet” classification in the Solar System.
The Nationals would tack on two more insurance runs courtesy of a Roger Bernadina RBI single and an Ian Desmond solo HR–let’s add an assist from Erick and Coach Eckstein for good measure–while Livo went eight strong innings and the good guys prevailed, 6-0, evening the series at a game apiece.
Spirits were certainly higher in the post-game clubhouse and on the bus ride back to the hotel. Let’s hope we keep the momentum going tomorrow as we wrap up the series and this roadtrip blog. We’ll be visiting with MASN broadcasters Bob Carpenter and Ray Knight, and maybe a few other surprises as well. Stay tuned…