Saturday, June 28, 2008

Washington/Baltimore Trip Report

A couple weeks ago, my dad and I went to Baltimore and Washington DC for our annual baseball trip. Here is a summary of my trip.

Thursday, June 19th:

We were on the 7am flight from DFW to Chicago O’ Hare (where we connected to go to DC). But we had a 1 hr 20 min delay getting out of DFW because of thunderstorms. We only had a 1 hr 40 min layover between our two flights. Luckily, our flight to DC was only three gates down, so we made it in the middle of the boarding process. Our flight to Washington went right on schedule, so even after a 1 hr 20 min delay we got there just on time. Once we got there we got a rental car from Avis, and drove to Baltimore. The drive didn’t go smoothly because we had to keep making stops at places. Maryland doesn’t do a very good of signing on the highways. The signs will show what’s off of the exits (like McDonald’s), but unlike Dallas where the place is right off the highway, you have to go searching through the town for the place. When we finally got to Baltimore we checked in at a Days Inn that was just two blocks away from Camden Yards. It was nice for a Days Inn, but was way overpriced.

My dad and I hung out in our room for about half-an-hour, and then headed over to the ballpark. The Rangers are incredibly fan-friendly for two main reasons that we saw just on this trip. #1: A lot of teams are starting to only open up the outfield during batting practice (the Rangers open the whole ballpark). #2: The Orioles that day were giving away Nick Markakis bobbleheads. But, they were only giving them away to people 15 and older. When we went there a couple years ago they were doing the same thing with hats. I don’t understand why they would keep kids from getting giveaways like bobbleheads and hats. So they only gave us one bobblehead but my dad gave his to me.

My dad and I got there at 5:00 PM, when Eutaw Street opened (the outfield), for the 7:00 PM game. We went to the team store and I got an Orioles shirt. Camden Yards is my favorite ballpark in all of baseball because of all the plaques of balls that show all of the homers that have been hit out into the concourse and the warehouse that they have in the outfield. And they have a really good scoreboard system.

The Orioles were playing the Astros, who going into the game had lost seven straight. The O’s were going for a sweep. Shawn Chacon was pitching for the Astros and Brian Burres for the Orioles, both of whom had pitched against the Rangers earlier in the year. Neither pitcher got out of the sixth. The Astros scored one in the top of the first and then shut the O’s down in the bottom half. Then, in the top of the second, Hunter Pence had a solo homer that put the Astros up 2-0. In the bottom half of the third, the O’s scored one to get back within one. Then in the bottom half of the fourth, they took the lead for good, with a solo homer from Ramon Hernandez, and another from Alex Cintron two batters later. It was his first of the year. In the bottom of the fifth, the Orioles tacked on three and ended Chacon’s night. He left after five, allowing 8 hits, 6 runs (all earned), 4 walks, 0 strike-outs and 2 home runs. He only threw 50 strikes in 96 pitches. Then, in the top of the sixth, with two outs and nobody on, Miguel Tejada ended Brian Burres’ night (which was only 87 pitches) with a solo homer. Burres pitched 5.2 innings, allowing 7 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 2 walks, 2 homers, and striking out 3 (two in the first inning). The O’s tacked on their last run in the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer hit by Aubrey Huff to take a 7-3 lead. In the top of the ninth, Dennis Sarfate allowed two runs on only one out, but they were both unearned due to an Alex Cintron error. George Sherill then came in and got the last two outs of the game, allowing one hit, but still picked up his 24th save of the year, and giving the Astros their eighth straight loss. The Orioles won 7-5.

After the game, we walked back to our hotel.

Friday, June 20th:

When we woke up, we went to Camden Yards, because Eutaw Street is always open, so we went there and checked out the balls on the ground. The first one ever hit out there was by Kevin Reimer when he was a Ranger. We then went to the Sports Legends museum right outside the ballpark. It has a whole floor for the Orioles and Babe Ruth, and then another floor for all the other sports in Baltimore. It’s a very neat museum. After that we followed the 60 baseballs painted on the ground that lead you from Camden Yards to the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. It’s a very small place, but has plenty of information. The place has a wall that shows every home run he ever hit in his career, categorized by year. After that we ate lunch at a restaurant in Camden Yards and then went and checked out a couple of old ballpark sites, but they were both in just awful areas of town. One of the parks (Oriole Park where the Orioles played in 1901-02 before they became the Yankees) was replaced by run-down apartments, and another (Memorial Stadium) by a YMCA.

After that we drove to DC, but that was also slow, this time due to traffic. When we finally got there we checked into a brand new Marriot Courtyard that was just four blocks from the Nationals stadium.

We got to the ballpark when the gates opened (5:00 PM for a 7:30 PM game), and walked all around the outside, but the outside was very plain. The only neat thing on the outside is an area where they have information on important dates in Washington DC baseball history. They have the years carved into the ground and then posts with information on what happened each year.

After walking around the outside, we went into the park, but like the Orioles, the only let you in the outfield during BP. The inside was also very plain. There just wasn’t much to it, other than it being new. Once it gets older, it’s going to be a very lame ballpark. Eleanor Czajka was there and we talked to her for a while during BP and she came and sat with us during the game.

The pitching match-up was Kevin Millwood for the Rangers against Tim Redding for the Nationals. The first inning was scoreless, but in the top half of the second the Rangers scored all three of their runs on a three-run double by Ian Kinsler. But after the second, the Rangers only had two hits (both of them infield) in their final 12 innings. In the bottom of the 3rd the Nats scored two on a Randy Flores two-run single. No one scored again until the bottom of the eighth. In the fourth, Gerald Laird pulled his hamstring going to first. After the sixth, Tim Redding came out with a stat-line of 5 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. In the bottom of the eighth Elijah Dukes hit a solo homer that tied up the game. Kevin Millwood left after the inning, pitching 8 strong innings, allowing 7 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, and striking out 4. After that the Nationals bullpen dominated. For the Rangers Frank Francisco had one strong inning, Josh Rupe had three strong innings, and Joaquin Benoit had one strong inning. No one scored until the bottom of the fourteenth. Jamey Wright came in and only allowed one hit, but walked two, and with two outs Elijah Dukes singled between third and short for a walk-off victory for the Nationals. Elijah Dukes went 5-for-6, with 2 runs, 2 RBI’s, one walk, a double, a homer, 3 singles, 2 stolen bases, and a walk-off hit. He ended up a triple shy of the cycle. Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy all went 0-for-6 on the night.

Even though the Rangers lost, it was a lot of fun being there. I had never been to a 14-inning game before. They did a 14th inning stretch and ran the Presidents’ race twice. The Presidents’ race is like our dot race but it’s with people dressed up like Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt never wins no matter what he does. Lincoln won all of the races we saw that weekend.

After the game, we walked back to our hotel.

Saturday, June 21st:

On Saturday we hung around the hotel until around 10:00 AM. We then took the subway into downtown DC. We walked to the ESPN Zone for lunch and got there right when they opened. Since we were the first people there, we got to sit in recliners in front of a big screen TV while we ate our food. It was a very neat experience.

After lunch, we went to the International Spy Museum and walked around the museum for about an hour. It’s a neat museum with lots of information on spying and its history. Then, we played a spy game they offer at the museum for an extra charge. In the game you become a spy and you make decisions about what to do. It’s very well done and really fun. It takes just over an hour to do. You go in groups of 12 and are put in spying scenes and situations (all of which are part of one big story). We got to do video surveillance, clean up an audio surveillance tape, break into and search a room, crack open a safe, and question a prisoner. Our group got 4 out of 5 stars. Once we did that, we went back to ESPN Zone and played a few games before getting back on the subway and going to see the Rangers game.

Before the game, we ate at the Red Porch, which is a restaurant in the outfield at Nationals Park. It was good to eat at an air-conditioned place but the restaurant wasn’t very good. They just serve the same food you can get at the concession stands.

To lead off the game Ian Kinsler homered into the Rangers bullpen to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Later on in the inning David Murphy doubled over Elijah Dukes’ head to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead. The Rangers took a 4-0 lead with 1 in the second, but it was cut in half in the bottom half by a solo homer from Lastings Milledge, and then they scored another later in the inning. In the bottom of the fifth the Nationals came within one, scoring one. Nobody scored until the top of the seventh after that, but then there was a lot of it. The Rangers scored seven in the inning. Vazquez struck out to start the inning, but then German Duran singled, Kinsler walked, Milton Bradley singled, Michael Young got a 2-RBI single, Josh Hamilton got an RBI single, and then four runs later the incredible inning ended after a pinch-hitter got two at-bats in it. The Rangers scored again in both the eighth and ninth, scoring one in each inning and ended up winning 13-3 with 18 hits. Kason Gabbard got the win, and Luis Mendoza got a three-inning save.

The game was a lot of fun. We sat with Eleanor again and it rained a little during the last inning. I got to talk with Thad Levine as he was leaving the game. After the game we walked back to the hotel.

Sunday, June 22nd:

We flew home taking the same route back as we took there, going through Chicago O’ Hare to get to our destination. Everything went just as planned this time and we got back right on time.

Results of last week’s poll:
Which of my top five pitchers would you want the most on your team?
Brandon Webb, ARI – 42%
Edinson Volquez, CIN – 26%
Tim Lincecum, SF – 21%
Cole Hamels, PHI – 5%
Roy Halladay, TOR – 5%
Other – 0%

Come back next week for my June Awards.

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