Saturday, June 04, 2005

150 pitches

89 for strikes, 81 for balls

In terms of on-field performance, last night's game against the Florida Marlins will be remembered as the ¡LIVAN! Caballo game; in terms of beyond-the-box-score symbolism, though, the game might be remembered as the first time we, the fanbase, learned that the guys on the team believed---I mean, really believed.

As noted by the Nats' own Tacitus:

So in the midst of discussing right-hander Livan Hernandez's nine-inning, 150-pitch effort, of talking about overcoming a similarly effective performance from Florida's Josh Beckett, a theme developed in the Nationals' clubhouse afterward. Forget the nice little story about the
pesky team that moved south from Montreal and found a niche in Washington, hanging around .500 and overachieving despite placing 14 different guys on the disabled list. Rather, start talking about a team that -- when it finally gets healthy -- believes it will be contending in September.


That talk has made its way to the GM's box, as well:

"We're right in position," [Jim Bowden] said. "We are where we are. Atlanta came to our house and we won three of four. We went to Atlanta and won two of three. . . . It's June. It
ain't April."


(In St. Barry's companion piece, Bodes notes that he'd have no compunction trading for another player, but the implication is that he's only got $3 million more with which to work. Then again, as the season wears on, that $3 million becomes more and more valuable.)

On Opening Day, I wrote a piece of pure fantasy that anticipated the Nats would start gassing NL East rivals in August and September and ride to the playoffs after defeating Atlanta in a 163rd game. Well, if the piece is actually not fantasy, I'll still note I'm wrong: Washington's upstaging the Braves and Marlins right after Memorial Day.

Can the Nats really make it all the way to September in a playoff race? I don't know; I doubt it. But, right now, I don't care. This is fun, and we're getting in on the ground floor, folks!

Back to ¡LIVAN! , as per Ken Wright of the WashTimes:

Back in his native Cuba, Hernandez was conditioned to throw a lot of pitches. During spring training, Hernandez said it was not uncommon for him to pitch 15-inning games and throw more than 170 pitches a game in Cuba. "I need to [throw a lot of pitches sometimes] to make my arm feel better," Hernandez said. "I haven't thrown 140 or so for a long time so I made the decision, and I feel good. If I don't feel good, I'm not going to go for it."

I'm not sure I'd ever expressly take joy in a 150-pitch outing, especially since I'm a product of the 1990s wussified culture of pitch counts and "PAP" points, but Hernandez is definitely something different. Chris Needham noted last night and before about how ¡LIVAN! just doesn't pitch like other pitchers today. It's true; the guy would have been comfortable 80 or 90 years ago, just tossing for awhile, pitching smartly but not giving every pitch his sore-armed all, like Christy Mathewson:

Another point in Mathewson's favor is the fact that he has never had a sore arm to work with. There are any number of pitchers who attempt to keep in shape, but who by nature are what is known as "sore-arm" workers, and who are therefore sadly handicapped. There's no great appeal in pitching a ball-game where every thrown ball is like the injection of a knife-blade into one's shoulder or elbow.

But in his entire career Matty has never drawn a sore arm. His arm has been tired and worn down from overwork, left without any snap in elbow or wrist, but a short rest has put him back in form. Much of which is due to the fact that he works easily, with little strain, and that he wastes no great amount of effort. Conservation of his natural pitching arm is the
slogan of his administration, and there is no telling how many years he may continue to move along with the elect.

(As if you can't tell, the piece from which that excerpt came was written in 1913. I've never seen Roger Clemens' career, for instance, referred to as an "administration.")

It was an awesome performance, one in a sense made for the two classic forms of baseball spectating: radio and in-person. Well, I've no choice but to go with the radio usually. On the other hand, Chris was at RFK last night and relates a humorous vignette about ¡LIVAN! last night, in the post linked above. It's a good read.

Read it and then smile. This team is only 1/2 game back, folks. Today, second; tonight, first?

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