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"That's Definitely a Web Gem." (Nats 4, Mets 3)

This one, Elijah Dukes said, "feels good, especially as far as finishing strong."

The long-term meaning of Nats 4, Mets 3 probably didn't outlive the post-game handshakes on Tuesday. But it told us something about Washington's late-season ability to grind out comeback wins and deliver entertaining baseball. Certainly the 19,614 who braved fall temps -- and who stuck around after J.D. Martin's trying 34-pitch first inning -- deserved a show. And a show they received. They saw a comeback from three runs down, a go-ahead run on two-errors Mets' errors, and most especially, a game-saving catch to clinch the victory.

Here's what happened.

With Washington clinging to a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth, a runner was on first with David Wright at bat. Wright smacked a 96 mph Mike MacDougal fastball toward the right field wall.

"I thought off the bat that ball was well over his head," interim manager Jim Riggleman said.

Dukes thought so, too. He'd been shaded deep and toward the foul line, and here came his save-the-game sprint: 30 feet, to outrun gravity.

"Once I got a good jump," Dukes later said, "I was gaining ground on the ball, and I was like, Yeah, I've got a chance."

He caught the ball with his right arm extended, just as he smacked face-first into the wall. He bounced off the padding, limbs flailing, and tumbled backward. The ball stayed in his mitt. Second later, centerfielder Justin Maxwell greeted him for a flying chestbump.

"I must say, man, it feels good when you come out with the ball in your hand when you crash into the wall," Dukes said. "That's definitely a Web Gem. Definitely."

By Chico Harlan  |  September 29, 2009; 10:47 PM ET
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Next: The Five-Year Anniversary


that was definitely a scoreboard facial.

Posted by: surly_w | September 29, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 29, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Don't know if this is something that he's doing on his own or if the club is pushing him, but I kinda like seeing more quotes from Dukes after such a long public silence. Maybe it had something to do with his demotion earlier this year, or maybe he just feels more comfortable in the clubhouse. Whatta catch!

Posted by: leetee1955 | September 29, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Dukes has always been quotable. That's sort of been part of the problem.
But a classic tough guy play in the best sense of the term. Web gem, indeed.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 29, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm how come its not a 'dismal' first when Lannan, Livan, Mock, Detwiler throw 34 Chico? Dude bias is showing big time.

Either way you cut it, just like in Syracuse he usually finds a way to keep his team in games. Always scrapping. You could be watching Kensing blow the whole thing up sucking the whole team down. Somehow Martin never really does that ...

Posted by: periculum | September 29, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Just having read the game story, I took some perverse satisfaction in the routine blurb at the end that said: "People who read this also read: "Nebraska volleyball team hopes for strong finish,'' which was ahead of: "Rays 3, O's 1''

Misery loves company.

Posted by: nats24 | September 29, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Dukes' catch was No. 2 on SportsCenter.

Posted by: Juan-John | September 30, 2009 12:36 AM | Report abuse

My afternoon/evening tomorrow: Health Care rally @ White House; Nats baseball game; and DC United soccer game. 8 hours, door-to-door.

Posted by: fischy | September 30, 2009 12:55 AM | Report abuse

Forgot to say that after Hernandez came into the game last night, I turned to my husband and said "Maybe he'll throw one away and we'll have a chance to come back." After he did so, I laughed and said "Do I know my ex-Nats, or what?" From the Brain Camp Department: was watching the game on Monday and had a knee-jerk "oh, NO!" reaction when Hernandez made a bad play. Then I realized that he was on the opposing team now. "oh, YAY!"

And I've not had any impression of an anti-Martin bias in Chico's work. Just saying.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 30, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Brain Camp?

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 30, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Can I go?

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 30, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

I watched the replay and I don't think Dukes bounced off the "padding," as Chico writes.

He bounced off the metal cyclone fence that protects the field-level LED board in right field, which had to hurt a lot more than running into the padding.

A small point, perhaps, but not if you're the guy running into it.

Great game.

Posted by: Meridian1 | September 30, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Heehee, talk about your Freudian typos. Brain "Cramp."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 30, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Great ending last night. Loved the Dukes catch, but also the celebration. The enthusiasm looked real. In one shot (on SNY), a Nat appeared to fall off the dugout rail as they all charged onto the field.

It's the end of a misereable season, but I want the wins now as much as ever.

Posted by: KenNat | September 30, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Dukes great catch disguises the fact that MacDougal was attempting to blow a save and the game. Again.
Drop the letter "c" from closer and you get what MacDougal really means to this team.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | September 30, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Doubtless showing my ignorance here, but gotta ask:

Is there any way to unload Guzman and commit to Desmond as next year's starting SS? That would leave us only needing to fill 2B to complete the infield for the foreseeable future.

Or is Guzman unmarketable?

Posted by: gilbertbp | September 30, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Fair point about MacDougal nearly blowing the lead. That's part of why the catch was so special. I have never liked the "save" statistic. If anyone saved the game it was Dukes.

Let's also consider that the Nats were doing their best to not score in the 8th. The Mets simply insisted that they take a run.

Posted by: KenNat | September 30, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Flores, Dunn, Guzman, Desmond, Zimm, Willingham, TP, Dukes. Got the potential to be not bad. Lots of questions, got the potential to be Zimm and the 7 troubling issues, but maybe not bad.

Posted by: markfromark | September 30, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Well, gilbert, if they truly want to commit to Desmond, I don't think there's any rule against just cutting Guzman. Teams seem reluctant to pay guys to do nothing, but it's always an option.

We can talk all about it in the new post.

Posted by: Scooter_ | September 30, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

When I got home last night there was a message from a friend of mine, that this catch made #2 of TOP TEN BEST PLAYS. As I watched BBTN, I saw that it made #2 in WEB GEMS too!

E-Li-Jah Duuuuukes! Way to go!

Posted by: CALSGR8 | September 30, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

meridian1 said: watched the replay and I don't think Dukes bounced off the "padding," as Chico writes.

He bounced off the metal cyclone fence that protects the field-level LED board in right field, which had to hurt a lot more than running into the padding.

A small point, perhaps, but not if you're the guy running into it.


I saw the same thing. I have been down on the field for 2 Season Ticket Holder Picnics and checked out that fence - its chain link covered in plastic which makes for sharp edges. (seems a stupid choice to me) After a couple of slo-mo trials I could only imagine that it would hurt like...the dickens... to run into it full tilt. Dukes really showed his "testicular fortitude" with that play. [that's a term I got from Paul Dickson of the Baseball Dictionary fame - he said a one time Senators announcer used it, though the name escapes me at the moment.]

Posted by: lostein | September 30, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Dukes a quarterback in HS? Seems like a textbook "give up the body" play.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 30, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Metal chainlink padding?? He was LUCKY.

In my day, we had barbed wire covering the outfield wall like ivy. Our dad made us practice over-the-wall catches before every game. In our skivvies. Then we'd have to shower in rubbing alcohol and saltwater.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 30, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

What? No snow, sec3?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 30, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Well, when I say "wall"--it was really just a long pile of broken glass and the rotting corpses of roadkill animals--but it was a WALL to us!

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 30, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 30, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

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