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Laughing About Good Luck


After the final erroneous, fortuitous pitch last night, Manny Acta started his news conference by saying, "This is the best game ever." He wasn't talking about the 4-3 win. He was just talking about baseball itself -- more a thank you to Doubleday than Hanrahan. Acta continued: "There's no clock. When you think you're in, you're out. When you think you're out, you're in. You blow a save a couple days ago by three runs in the ninth, and then you have second-and-third with no outs and you can get the save."

By the account of everybody involved -- the manager, the pitching coach, the catcher, the even closer himself -- Joel Hanrahan, with runners on second and third and two outs last night, was ordered to throw a slider to Yunel Escobar. A slider, low and away.

Hanrahan decided, though, to do what felt right. And that meant a fastball, hard as 'hide can go.

Maybe every closer needs a little daredevil. Maybe every closer needs a little rebelliousness. But most of all, every closer needs some luck.

Just so happens, baseball can save you with luck at the darndest times.

Just think about what happens if Escobar gets a hit there. Hanrahan blows another save, his third in four chances -- and he fails by throwing the wrong pitch. ("I needed this a lot," Hanrahan said. "I blew two over the weekend, and any more and it's a tight rope.") And if Hanrahan blew that one, you better believe nobody would have been laughing about the fly-by-night pitch selection.

As it was, everybody was laughing. The above photo is from Cheryl Nichols. You can see Flores explaining, half-laughing, what happened. After the game, when a few writers were chatting with the catcher, Flores was asked a couple questions about 1.) what might have happened if Escobar swung and missed and 2.) the conversation he had with Hanrahan right after the game.

The answer to No. 1: If Escobar missed, the ball probably would have hit Flores in the throat.

The answer to No. 2: Flores asked Hanrahan, "What the (bleep)?" There were about four or five additional bleeps as well.

Said Flores: "He was so excited, like 'Yeah!' What do you mean, Yeah? We just talked about it: Slider, first pitch! Yeah, but we get the out, so... "

His answer trailed off.

Some days, it's a funny game.

By Chico Harlan  |  April 22, 2009; 11:57 AM ET
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Next: A Scout's Take on Zimmermann, Nats


There is that old concept of the luck of the Irish, I suppose. But Hanrahan better not push it. Quit while you're ahead, Joel.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 22, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse


I just want to join the chorus commending you on great reporting. Your recent gamer is also fantastic. You recap the essentials of the game that happened, but provide very well-worded element context/angle that you can't get from looking at the box score or the AP wire. People in this forum usually look for reasons to be critical, and I just wanted to say you are doing a very good job.

Posted by: jp2000 | April 22, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Good story - but, oh my goodness, it makes me a little nervous! Nothing a few saves can't fix.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | April 22, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Add me to the chorus of the content.

I've been writing about the Nationals since the day they became the Nationals, and many of my readers poke fun at the way I write. One said, "You can't write about baseball as if it was a novel."

Well, sure you can; it's just that no one does. There is nothing wrong with using the English language as God, and the king, intended.

And then along comes Chico, who sees more to a baseball column then innings and swings and misses and long fly balls.


Who love's ya, baby?

Posted by: rushfari | April 22, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

From the blog Talking Chop:

"What a pisy night. What a pisy game. Sloppy baserunning. Sloppy defense. Sloppy hitting. Sloppy pitching. Everything looked sloppy for the Braves on Tuesday night."

"I agree with those who’ve said that this team is hard to watch right now. Painful even."

"... if our hitters don’t stop being so impatient at the plate – we’ll forever be stuck in mediocrity."

"We can’t win a game to save our life. And the “worst team in the league” continues to use us as a punching bag. That says enough. If we don’t win tonite…………….I don’t even want to finish that sentence."

"I’m hoping we’re not facing another late night that gets you all excited at first, but only ends in disappointment. If I wanted that, I’d call up an old boyfriend."

Sowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwy. Broom, please.

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 22, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

loves ya, even?

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 22, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who doesn't find Joel GasolineCan's decision a *little* bit off?

Posted by: kingrob76 | April 22, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Still trying to figure out how many successful saves it's going to take for me to begin to NOT burst a blood vessel whenever Hanrahan comes out to pitch....

Posted by: Juan-John | April 22, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

He should pay Dukes' fine for not following directions.

Posted by: tailwagger | April 22, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

nova, you said the "s" word. If we don't do it, it's on you...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Well, you didn't exactly say the word. So never mind.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"The answer to No. 1: If Escobar missed, the ball probably would have hit Flores in the throat."

If that's not hyperbole, that's scary. JH needs to apologize to Flores and not do it again.

In tribute to a previous post regarding Bull Durham, I see the following conversation in the not too distant future between Flores and Hanrahan.

Flores: Well, he really hit the [S] outta that one, didn't he?
JH: I held it like an egg.
Flores: Yeah, and he scrambled the [SOB]. Look at that, he hit the f’ing bull! Guy gets a free steak! You having fun yet?
JH: Oh, yeah. Havin' a blast.
Flores: Good.
JH: God, that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball!
Flores: He did know.
JH: How?
Flores: I told him.

JH's new mantra: Don't think Meat, just throw!

Posted by: RicketyCricket | April 22, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Who would you rather have right now, at this stage in their carreers, Hanrahan or Lidge? What about Fuentes, he was available and really tearing it up.

Posted by: NoVaNatRat | April 22, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good, eh Joel?

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 22, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

"Am I the only one who doesn't find Joel GasolineCan's decision a *little* bit off?"

It probably happens more than most people admit

Posted by: Section506 | April 22, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Hanrahan needs to get his act together. Flores had a right to be upset. How can a catcher do his job if he doesn't trust the pitcher to throw what they agreed to? Ridiculous.

Posted by: usmc53 | April 22, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Reposting from the previous:

Fischy - back from before, I'm not ignoring that Hanrahan agreed on slider, I'm arguing that he (or whoever is throwing) has got a vote that counts slightly more than Flores & St. combined, so if he changes his mind, that's ok.

As I said, what's not ok is not letting Flores know, especially since you can look fastball and adjust slider, but it's harder to go the other way. Nobody's arguing just heaving something is a good idea. A swing-miss-passed ball sequence would have been no laughing matter.

More fundamentally than that I'm arguing, given Hanrahan's stuff, which has always been good (if a little wild), it's more important that he feel confident and committed to whatever pitch he's decided to throw as opposed to which actual pitch he's decided on. After all, this is a guy who's K/BB rate doubled when he became a reliever last year. He's got the stuff to make this happen, if he can get out of his own way. He just needs to not freak out because he's the "closer" (OMG the closer - aaaah the pressure!) as opposed to "Random 7th inning Joel."

And, by the way, he would ROCK that Hrabosky Manchu.

And yes, I guess I am Joel Hanrahan's Mom - thanks for asking.

And "Look at that, he hit the f’ing bull! Guy gets a free steak!" is maybe my favorite Durham quotes.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | April 22, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Great freaking game last night. Really glad Martis got his 2nd win. Not sold on H as a closer at all. Nats should think about goin a different route. And when Guzman comes back, the Nats will have as vaunted a 1-6 as any team. If some of these pitchers hold up things could get interesting. Also Cabrera should probably be gone within a month.

Posted by: dovelevine | April 22, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Somewhat off topic, but a question for y'all:

I was complaining about the Nationals' decision to play Monday's game, given the all-day rain and their inability to start anywhere near on time, and I was told by someone in the Nationals' organization that in fact the Nats wanted to postpone but MLB told them to play because of the problems associated with rescheduling.

I had long understood that, until the game started, it's the home team's call. I can certainly understand it if the Nats consulted with the Braves and MLB, but ultimately, whose decision is it? Can we get a definitive answer on this?

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 22, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

BTW for those that like to watch both teams, watching young pitchers J-Zimm, Martis and the Os Bergesen all pitch great and get wins in the past two days is really nice and bodes well hopefully for the future of both these teams.
Os and Nats are very similar this season with great hitting and limited pitching but some very interesting young pitchers on the horizon. This has the potential to be fun.

Posted by: dovelevine | April 22, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Flores doesn't look like he's laughing here -- he looks ticked off! Can't blame him, either.

Posted by: mra5a | April 22, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

If the post of Joel's mom is taken, I guess I'll have to settle for being an affectionate maiden aunty, but even I have to say that deliberately throwing a pitch you know your catcher is not expecting is just unequivocally wrong.

Funny story when it turns out OK, but, seriously, Joel: don't do that again.

Posted by: joebleux | April 22, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, you didn't exactly say the word. So never mind.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 22, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse


rushfari didn't actually use the word, but he/she did use the "b" word which implies the same thing. It's definitely on rushfari if the Nats don't win tonight...

Posted by: combedge | April 22, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I've decided instead of Joel GasolineCan it should be Joel GasCanrahan.

Posted by: kingrob76 | April 22, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

kingrob, done and done.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 22, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

In his article today, Mr Chico recounts: "With a healthy Nick Johnson, a hot Ryan Zimmerman and a towering Adam Dunn, the offense qualifies as the team's greatest

No disrespect to any of those guys but aren't you forgetting about the Lil Ole number 5 hitter who happens to be batting .341? You now Elijah They Call me Mr Dukes?
Just wondering.

Posted by: dovelevine | April 22, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Chico, this is a great post.

And the picture is priceless.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 22, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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