The Streak remembered: John Patterson
Game 9, June 11
Nationals 2, Mariners 1
W - Patterson (3-1)
L - Putz (1-2)
S - Cordero (18)
Though Livan Hernandez was clearly the anchor of the Nationals' staff in the first half of the season, John Patterson might have been the pitcher with the most promise. He arrived at spring training without a spot assured in the rotation, and won one. Then he showed the stuff that made him a first-round pick nearly a decade earlier.
Patterson's seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball provided the core of this victory, and the remarkable bullpen -- this time, Luis Ayala and Chad Cordero -- was perfect over two innings, six up and six down. But there were other milestones here, too.
The 39,108 fans who showed up pushed the Nationals over 1,00,000 in attendance. Over the course of the previous seven seasons, the Montreal Expos reached 1,000,000 only once. And the Nats came back for the 25th time on the season.
"We felt like we were going to win the whole game," shortstop Cristian Guzman said. "It's not a big deal to be down by a run or two anymore. We've got so much confidence, and we expect to come back."
Jose Guillen won the game with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the seventh, giving Patterson the win. The nine straight victories was the longest streak for the franchise since 1997, when the Expos won a franchise-record 10 consecutive games.
At end of the day: 36-26, first place in NL East by 1-1/2 games over Philadelphia
Of all the people on the roster over the course of the 2005 season -- 55, as we showed you yesterday -- I was perhaps most interested in talking to John Patterson for this look back. I was enamored of Patterson's stuff back in the summer of 2005, and I remember an August night when he four-hit the Dodgers, striking out 13 and walking none. (Those 13 strikeouts held up as the Nats record until, I believe, just recently. Can't remember the name of the fella who broke it.)
Anyway, I knew Patterson had retired early in 2009 after a comeback attempt with the Texas Rangers. And I figured I'd find him in the place he truly called home, Orange, Texas, where he grew up.
"I own a batting cage and teach pitching lessons and we've got four select baseball teams," Patterson said when I tracked him down. "I'm not coaching any teams, but giving lessons. I've got like 27 clients right now. My parents are here, my whole family's here."
You might remember Patterson, while in DC, met and married the 2005 Miss District of Columbia, the former Shannon Schambeau. The two married in 2007, and since Patterson's retirement - because of all those arm injuries - they've traveled the world. Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Canada a few times, all over the U.S. I asked him, though, if retiring - then at age 31 - was a difficult decision. He had been cut by the Nationals during the spring of 2008, and latched on with the Rangers, who were giving him a chance to build his arm back up.
"It was pretty obvious," Patterson said. "I wasn't going to be able to throw any more. The Rangers were really, really good with me. They helped me in every possible way. But I pitched in an extended spring game [in 2008], and I could barely get the ball to home plate. I went and saw the Rangers' doctor, and he said, 'You need to stop pushing this. You've been pushing this for two years in a row.'"
"I had eight months off over the course season, '08. I started in December throwing again. By the time I got to the middle of January, it was bothering me again. I didn't need to see anybody else at that point."
I went back and looked at some stories from the spring of 2008. Patterson made only seven starts in 2007 and was ineffective, with a 7.47 ERA, before his arm problems shut him down. But he vowed that he was better in 2008. "I'm very relaxed," Patterson said then. "I'm healthy. I feel good." But he didn't make it through spring training. His fastball never had any zip.
"You guys must have thought I was lying to you when I told you how good I was feeling then," Patterson said. "But everything was fine. It was. So then, all of a sudden, somebody pulls the rug out from underneath you. You can't wash your hair, and then I have to stand there and look like a fool. 'I don't know what to tell you. My arm hurts. It doesn't act right.' It was awful.
"Now that there's been more time, I stand in the batting cage. I pitch, and I throw, and I throw curveballs, and it feels good again."
So I had to ask: Any chance you'd try, at 32, to do it again?
"To go throw myself back into that, to do it really not knowing what would happen, no," Patterson said. "I don't think about it very much. I enjoy it. I love being around all of my kids and teaching them the game. I have a hard time picturing myself being able to go out and do it for 7-1/2 months, from the beginning of spring training, and throwing myself back into it.
"Why put myself through that? I made a lot of money when I played. I think I'm giving back to the game, in doing what I'm doing now. I don't watch the game, though. I don't watch baseball at all. It's too hard. Well, I shouldn't say it's too hard to watch it. It's just, I know what it feels like to be on that field, and so it puts me back into that mindset. I'm sitting there watching the game and I'm going through the pitch sequences in my head. That makes it tough."
I told Patterson it sounded like he had a good life -- comfortable, with an occupation that was fulfilling, with his family around. He agreed. But I have to say, there was still an ache in his voice.
"I'm healthy," he said. "My parents are healthy. I just wish I could've played five more years. I would have loved to. It didn't happen."
Is he, then, over it?
"I don't think I ever will be," he said. "I don't know how you ever get over it. My dad [a former minor leaguer in the Orioles chain], I don't think he's gotten over it. I went from having a career to, now, I guess you could call it a job. I don't really look at it as a job, but it's different. It's not the way I lived my whole life up until now."
June 11, 2010; 11:29 AM ET
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