By the time the first pitch of the game was thrown tonight I had been behind the scenes at Nationals Park for four hours. By the time the game ended, with a Willie Harris Walk-Off in the twelfth for the Washington Nationals' fourth straight win, and second in a row over Toronto, I had been at Nationals Park for 7 and a 1/2 to 8 hours, and if it was up to me I never would have left. The Washington Nationals invited a selection of Nationals bloggers, including yours truly, Ed Chigliak of Federal Baseball.com, to go behind the scenes, meet with players (Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman and surprise guests Willie Harris (who apparently benefited from the meeting), and Nick Johnson (who refused to answer questions, humorously refused), the Nationals' Manager Manny Acta and even team President Stan Kasten and "Acting" GM Mike Rizzo.
(ed. note - "What follows is just what I could get up in one night. Coming Monday, I'll have full transcripts of the interview sessions we did with the players, Mr. Acta and Mr.'s Rizzo and Kasten. I also have the audio, which I'll post so you can see how the blogosphere approached this event. Many thanks to the Nationals' Director of Media Relations, Mike Gazda, who coordinated the event, and to Mr.'s Acta, Rizzo, Kasten, Zimmerman, Dunn, Harris and Johnson for treating us like legitimate media when so much of the baseball world has yet to make such overtures to the blogosphere...")
Coverage Continues After The Jump...Starting With The Player Interviews: Willie Harris, Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman and NIck Johnson. PLUS A COMPLETE GAME REPORT, you know for the completists.
(ed. note - "I summed up the questions briefly, with all apologies to the bloggers who asked them because it was the answers that are of interest, and I can't identify all the various bloggers' voices...the answers are verbatim from the audio I recorded...")
Q: What's The Biggest Thing That's Surprised You About DC?
"What's surprised me is not good. It's how we played. That, that surprises me."
Q: Three-game win streak?
"I think we've played defense and pitched well, I think that's what you have to do to win, and if we continue to do that, I think, we can play good for the rest of the season. We, uh, you know we made some errors last night. But, I mean overall the last week or two we've played some good defense and made the plays when we've needed to."
Q: Young pitchers? How gratifying is it to see others behind you come up?
"Great. I think, having young starting pitchers that are doing so well at such a young age, I think, uh, starting pitching is hardest thing to go out and get, and obviously the most expensive thing to go out and get, so for them to, you know, show what they've done, and know that you have them here for at least four or five or six years, without having to go out and get anybody I think is a big part of us getting better in the future."
Adam Dunn and Nick Johnson:
Q: Strike zone command and plate discipline. A lot of people talk about it being patience, but I think it's a skill, what allows you two in particular to do be able to lay off bad pitches and swing at only the pitches you want, not chase? (ed. note - "So you understand the humor here, Nick Johnson said he was just here to watch, wouldn't be fielding questions, so of course Mr. Dunn starts...")
"Well it goes back and forth for me sometimes...We talk about it, you see(?) patient you know, and uh, I don't mind it if uh, my lower half's good, but uh,(laughter)...if my lower half of my swing, is uh...they'll talk, I'm done, Dunn's messing me up..."
"Ohhh God. I don't know, I mean, I really don't how...I mean...it's, sometimes it's really good and sometimes it's bad, um, I think sometimes, I think what Nick was trying to say, was, uh, you know we're too patient sometimes, I think we get pitches early in the count and, you know, we don't take advantage of it and then we have to hit their pitch and therefore I strike out 200 times, so, um, but you know, that's something I'm trying to work on, is when I do get a good pitch early in the count, you know, walks are good, but there's a lot times where you have a lot of bad walks, and, uh, what I mean by that is you get, you know, you'll get a pitch to hit early in the count with, you know, guys in scoring position or something and you take it but, yet you get a walk, but, you know to me that's a bad walk, so, uh, you know, it is good, but it's again, it's, I mean, basically take the good with the bad, I don't, I wouldn't sit here and say I like walking, but it just happens..."
Q: I like you walking. Keep walking.
"OK. I'll do it for you."
Q: Will Willie Harris answer questions? (Someone (Dunn) responds, "Heck yeah he will.")
"Yeah. Bring it."
Q: Couple good plays recently, you always seem to have such a great attitude. How do you always stay so positive and upbeat?
"Mainly because I know I'm gonna have way more good days than I am bad days and guys feed off of that type of stuff, I mean, even when you're not playing so well like I am right now, not getting a whole lot of hits*, but a lot the younger guys, Anderson and Alberto, those guys are here and they're looking, so you have to kind of stay positive and keep everybody upbeat. I mean, I don't want to go around pouting and it will rub off on everyone else, so I just try to stay positive, play the game hard all the time, play the game right, and if you're doing all that, the game will give back to you eventually."
Q: To Dunn: Do you think the disappointment you spoke about earlier can be turned around?
"Well, I think it's, first of all, I didn't expect that we would come out and be, you know, play as bad as we have. I mean, we've got, I know everyone says it, but we have a lot better team than what we've shown. And, uh, I think now you're starting to see that, I think now you're starting to see our young pitching come together, you know, we're playing a lot better defense, and uh, you know, I mean, we've played, the last five or six games we've played pretty good, the last two weeks, really, we played really good baseball so, um, you know, I think that's definitely a bright spot. And, you know, our second half is going to be really good. I mean, I really, really believe we're going to have a really good second half, because, you know, our young pitching is, obviously coming along, and uh, if we stay healthy I think, you know, our second half, nobody wants to play us now, I mean there's nobody that wants to play us right now, and we s...you know, we've got the worst record in baseball, so, you know we'll, it'll turn around..."
Q: Does it bother you when others make fun of the team and what you're doing?
"Yeah. Yeah, it bothers you, I mean, but, you know, but then again you have to look back at yourself, I mean, you did it to, we did it to ourselves, I mean, no one else did it to us, we did it to ourselves, so, um, you know it would be like somebody, you know, making fun of your family, you'd be pretty mad about that too..."
Q: What was it like in the clubhouse after the wins against the NY Yankees?
Any time we get a win, you know it's great. But, uh, I think a lot of people are making a big deal out of it, just because of who we played. You know, it's still, you still gotta play baseball, I mean, it doesn't matter if you play the Yankees or whoever, a win's a win, so I just think it was just magnified because it was the Yankees, and it was at their place.
Q: Did winning in front of 46,000 people make a difference?
"I think when you play in front of crowd, I mean, it's obviously a lot easier to, you know, to stay focused, and you know, I mean it's tough when you go out there and, you know, there's 5,000 people and you know, 4,000 of them are, you know, not your fans, and I mean that's tough to play. But, uh, you know, when you got 46,000 people screaming and hollering I mean, it seems like you're, you know pitch by pitch, I mean every, it just a lot easier to play the game."
Q: I just had a question for Adam, one of the readers on my site wanted to know if you'd changed your hitting approach, at all, we noticed you hitting a lot more singles and opposite field?
"Yeah, I was uh, yeah, I've been working on that a lot, trying to hit, you know, a lot more singles this year and, um, you know, just trying to slap the ball to left, and things like that, you know try to use my speed game more...HECK NO, MAN!! (LAUGHTER)...Nah, you know, I don't know I think, it's a lot of little mechanical things, and you kind of work on and continue to work on, and just kinda allowing me to uh, you know, do that, I'm not trying to hit singles."
Q: What do you do during rain delays?
What do we do, Nick?
Q: You don't read blogs, c'mon?
"I'm not going to lie, I don't even know what a blog is...and I'm serious. Is it like Facebook?"
Q: Are you on Facebook?
I am not, Nick Johnson is.
Q: Yeah, I know, he didn't approve my friend request.
Huh? He approved it?
Q: No, he didn't.
He didn't? (to Nick Johnson) NICK? Ryan is too, so he'll approve you.
Q: Is there a particular stadium you don't want to play in?
"Mine's Cleveland. I feel, some parks you feel awkward in, you'll feel crooked and this and that. Cleveland's mine."
"I hate Oakland...(inaudible)
END PART ONE: Coming Monday...Manny Acta Interview.
The Game Report...(unedited, cause the interview above took forever to transcribe...")
Toronto Blue Jays at Washington Nationals. Game 66 or 67 of 162.
Ross Detwiler give up a walk in the first but gets out of the first without any damage. Cristian Guzman beats out a ground ball for a leadoff single. Nick Johnson walks with one down to put two on for Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman moves Guzman to third with a DP grounder. Adam Dunn lines out to left for the final out of the first.
Adam Lind starts the second with a ground ball to Alberto Gonzalez. Ryan ZImmerman throws out Alex Rios for out No. 2 of the second. Kevin Millar grounds out to short to end the Jays’ second...Elijah Dukes beats out a sharp grounder to thrid than Scott Rolen stabs in foul territory. Alberto Gonzalez pops up behind first. Willie Harris K’s looking and Dukes gets nailed going for second. Strike’em out throw’em out to end the second.
Raul Chavez sneaks a single under NIck Johnson’s glove at first and into right. Wild pitch by Detwiler moves Chavez to second. Detwiler gets the opposing pitcher looking for the first out of the third. Marco Scutaro back up, and he pops to Nick Johnson near the Nationals’ dugout. Aaron Hill grounds to Guzman, Guz fires to first to end the Jays’ third...Wil Nieves grounds out to short. Detwiler grounds to short. Guzman up, back to the top of the order. Guzman grounds to third to end another scoreless fame.
Vernon Wells lines out to Willie Harris in center. Rolen and Lind hit back to back singles to center and left, respectively. Alex Rios grounds to Gonzalez to Guzman to Johnson, double play to end the top of the fourth...Nick Johnson works the count full and strokes a trademark single through second. NJ™. Ryan Zimmerman gets called out on strike, again. Dukes grounds to Rolen at third, force at second to end the fourth inning.
Kevin Millar starts the fifth for the Jays with a line to left, Dunn gets there and fires it back in to keep the slow-footed Millar at first. TAWH!! Willie Harris tracks a liner to center from Raul Chavez and makes a diving grab for the second out. Detwiler gets the Brett Cecil swinging, and gets a fly ball to left from Scutaro, Dunn’s got it...Aaron Hill makes a backhand grab on a grounder up the middle and throws out Alberto Gonzalez for the first out of the DC fifth. With Wil Nieves up, Harris steals second. Nieves flies to left, deep enough Harris tags and scores, 1-0 DC. Detwiler down swinging to end the fifth.
Aaron Hill sends a fly ball out to Dukes near the line in right. Vernon Wells gets hold of one and sends it to left center and GONE!! HR for V-Dub, 1-1 ballgame. Nick Johnson leaps a little to catch Scott Rolen’s line drive to first. Adam Lind flies out to Willie Harris in center, 1-1 in the sixth...Cristian Guzman leads off the Nationals’ sixth with a double. Nick Johnson doubles to right center, and to the track, Guzman scores from second, 2-1 DC. Ryan Zimmerman hits a sliced liner to right for Rios. Adam Dunn moves Johnson to third with a groundout to short. Elijah Dukes doubles off the out-of-town scoreboard and gets nailed trying for third, Johnson scores, 3-1 DC.
Alex Rios lines out to Alberto Gonzalez at second. Kevin Millar flies out to Elijah Dukes in right. Raul Chavez lines to Willie Harris and Detwiler’s through seventh...Alberto Gonzalez gets a single under short to start the Nationals’ seventh. Willie Harris grounds to Aaron Hill to Scutaro and back to Millar, double play. Wil Nieves grounds to second, Hill fires to first, 3-1 DC after seven.
Jose Bautista starts the eighth against Detwiler. Leadoff single, and Detwiler’s done. Sac bunt from Scutaro, moves Bautista to second, and a line drive from Aaron Hill to Dunn makes it 3-2 DC. Dunn throws home and HIll takes second. Passed ball, tying run moves to third. Vernon Wells pops out to short. Two down. Scott Rolen singles through short and it’s tied. 3-3. Adam Lind reaches on a grounder to second that gets by Gonzalez. Hanrahan gets Alex Rioz swinging...Willingham gets the pinch hit walk. Guzman gets a sac bunt down to move the Hammer into scoring position. Nick Johnson’s groundout moves Willingham to third. Zimmerman lines out to center. 3-3 after eight.
Millar grounds out to Guzman at short. Raul Chavez grounds out to Guzman. Pinch hitter Joe Inglett grounds out to second to end the Jays’ eighth...Adam Dunn vs Shawn Camp...Adam Dunn thinks he’s walked, but he’s called out on strikes. Elijah Dukes K’s swinging. Alberto Gonzalez singles through short. Willie Harris takes a shot at a 3-0 pitch and fouls it before walking on the 3-1 offering. Pinch hitter Anderson Hernandez grounds back to the mound, and it’s on to the tenth.
Mike MacDougal walks Marco Scutaro to start the tenth. Aaron Hill hits a sharp grounder to third, Zim picks it and throws to second for the force, but that’s all. Vernon Wells gets it right, ground ball to short, Guzman to Hernandez to Johnson, double play...Two quick groundouts from Kearns and Guzman and Nick Johnson’s up with two down. Johnson grounds weakly back to the mound.
Jesus Colome takes over in the eleventh. Scott Rolen vs Colome. Colome gets Rolen swinging!! Adam Lind takes a one-out walk, and Colome looks hurt. Lyle Overbay will face Julian Tavarez who gets Overbay swinging!! Kevin Millar walks, two on, two outs. Raul Chavez flies out to Willie Harris in center to end the Jays’ eleventh...Scott Richmond takes over for Toronto. Ryan Zimmerman takes a 2-2 slider for a called strike three. Adam Dunn shows off warning track power. Elijah Dukes grounds out to Rolen at third and gets thrown out by a step...
Tavarez is back for the top of the twelfth. Joe Inglett flies out to Willie Harris in center. Marco Scutaro goes down looking. Aaron Hill rips one right into Zimmerman’s glove...Alberto Gonzalez singles to center to start the DC twelfth. Willie Harris takes one to right, it’s high, it’s far and it is GONE!! Walk-off HR for Willie Harris!! Nationals win their fourth straight!!! The Nationals Win!! The Nationals Win!!! 4-3 final.
Nationals now 20-46.