For a moment the line drives rattled off their bats like they hadn't at the start of a game all season long. Three shots rocketing through the thick summer air, each to the same place, strategically to the right of Colorado right fielder Eric Byrnes. It was as if all the slumps and struggles and frustrations went crashing to the outfield along with them.
First Jamey Carroll.
Then Jose Vidro.
And Brad Wilkerson.
It was hard to tell which Washington National hit the ball harder. On the mound, Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings pulled off his cap, sighed deeply and wiped his brow. They had him on the ropes now, ready to blast this one open.
Then they saved his day.
Sometimes you can be too aggressive, sometimes when mired in the deepest of offensive depressions you can try too many things. Vidro followed Carroll's game-opening single with a line shot that rolled past Byrnes, all the way to the wall. Carroll raced home, Vidro stopped at second until he noticed the ball, having been thrown back to the infield, suddenly rolling away. Third base was empty. It seemed so easy, he lunged forward.
In the end it would become too simple a play for Colorado third baseman Luis Gonzalez, who picked up the wayward throw and had a better angle on third than Vidro did. An instant later he swiped Vidro's back for the first out of the inning.
So when the next batter, Wilkerson, singled there was a groan in RFK Stadium, for it almost certainly would have scored Vidro and made this a 2-0 game. Then Nationals Manager Frank Robinson called for a hit-and-run with Jose Guillen up, Wilkerson took off for second and Guillen blooped a fly ball into short right field. Wilkerson turned around, saw nothing and knew instantly he was in trouble.
"I couldn't find the ball," he said. "I saw [first baseman] Todd Helton running out there. I was caught in between. There was nothing I could do."
Helton caught the ball with his back to the field, then calmly made the toss back to first to double off Wilkerson to end what could have been a huge inning.
Three line drive hits but just one run and three outs.
Jennings "got a reprieve to pitch the way he did there and get out" of the inning, Robinson said.
Such is what happens when nothing goes right. Here the Nationals were on the verge of one of their biggest innings in weeks and instead they went down with a whimper, scoring only once the rest of the game. Once again losing by a run -- the run that Vidro probably would have scored had he not been tagged out.
"You never would have known what would have happened," Robinson later said.
Though his face seemed to say he knew that Vidro would have scored.
Later, Wilkerson peeled bags of ice of his knee, shoulder and wrist, then walked to his locker where he slowly shook his head.
"We took a gamble," he said. "We missed out."