So after last weeks' Bonchitis-inspired hiatus, Former Nats Great is back with a player that etched his way into the hearts of true Nats fans way back in June of 2007. Bells should be going off by now for some of you, and now its time to unveil our dozen-th edition of Former Nats Great...
The one... The only...
Congratulations on your accomplishment, and thanks for becoming a part of Nats lore.
Lets start at the beginning of your career in a curly W. Left unprotected by the Twinkies in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, the Nationals decided to take a chance that you could finally realize some potential. Being a Rule 5 draft pick, it is required for the team to keep you on the roster for the entire season, or else you will be sent back to your original club (barring trade).
Things started off well, as Levale put up a 3.38 ERA in his first month as a National, in strictly bullpen work. But things wouldn't stay rosy for very long, as happens to be the case with Former Nats Greats...
By mid-May Speigner had pitched very well in relief (3.77 ERA, 6 ER, 12 appearances), and it was looking like the GM Jim Bowden had found lightning in a bottle, and a quality bullpen arm. But, by this point 4 of the 5 Nats starters had been placed on the DL and someone needed to step up, and 4th in line happened to be Levale Speigner. Results were, um, not so good... And here are his first 4 starts to prove it...
May 16 vs. Atlanta - 4 IP. 4 ER. 8 H. 4 K. 0 BB.
May 21 vs. Cincinnati - 3 IP. 5 ER. 7 H. 2 HR. 0 K. 3 BB.
May 26 vs. St. Louis - 3.1 IP. 8 ER. 8 H. 1 K. 3 BB.
June 2 vs. San Diego - 4 IP. 6 ER. 7 H. 3 K. 1 BB.
In that final start against the Friars, Levale gave up each of those 6 runs in the 1st inning. Not wanting to exhaust his already tired bullpen, Manny Acta decided to leave him in there for the wolves. Speigner didn't give up another run and retired 10 of the last 11 batters, giving Acta faith in the young right-hander to make another start. That start would come June 9th against the Twins...
In this interleague matchup, the Nats were going to have to face one of the most feared pitchers in baseball and the previous years AL Cy Young Award winner, Johan Santana. Levale Speigner, the former Twins prospect, was given a 0% chance of winning the game; it was the definition of a "reverse lock".
6 innings later the score was 3-1, and Levale had done a great job giving the Nats a chance to come back from just a 2-run deficit... Wait... What??... Nats were leading???... Are you sure???
Anyway, Levale Speigner pitched the performance of his life, outdueling a Cy Young winner while giving up just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 3 and walking 1. Ray King, Jesus Colome, Jon Rauch, and Chad Cordero kept the game in check and the Nats ended up winning the un-likeliest of games.
2 starts later, Speigner had given up 9 earned runs in just 5.1 innings pitched. He was DFA'ed 2 days after his June 19th start. The Nats were able to work out a trade with the Twins, sending outfielder Darnell McDonald away to the Twin Cities.
He was able to stick around for just 7 games in 2008, amassing an ERA of 11.25 and a WHIP of 2.38.
Levale will always be remembered in the hearts and minds of Nats fans for that one fateful day where he was able to out-gunsling Johan Santana, referenced from here to eternity whenever the Nats face the Lefty.
Thank you for that wonderful memory, Levale. You will never be forgotten.
As always, be sure to check out previous editions of Former Nats Greats after you leave your favorite memories of Speigner in the comments section!