May 28, 2006
For most teams, winning four games in a row is not all that unusual, but it was the very first time the Nationals had done so this year. The final game in the series against the Astros on Thursday night was one of those tests of team character, and they passed. Poor Matt LeCroy was simply not up to the task of filling in as emergency reserve catcher, however, as the Astros stole bases with impunity, giving Frank Robinson another Maalox moment. Even so, the relief pitchers did not buckle under the pressure, and got out of multiple jams in the late innings, enabling the Nats to hold on and win the game, and the series.
Fortunately, first-string catcher Brian Schneider was reactivated from the DL on Friday, as the Nats beat the Dodgers 10-4. Livan Hernandez pitched another solid game, but he should have been taken out one inning earlier; he gave up three runs in the seventh. Saturday's game was televised by FOX (not subject to blackout ), and new pitcher Shawn Hill only gave up one run in seven innings. (If he had had any run support, it would have been six games in a row.) This afternoon's game was a real slug-fest, as Nick Johnson, who has been in a terrible slump all month, hit two homers, and Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Zimmerman got one each. The Dodgers have been one of the hottest teams lately, so beating them two out of three games was a huge achievement for the Nationals. As a result, L.A. has slipped behind Arizona in the highly competitive NL West.
To put things in perspective, this was the first home stand in which the Nats won more games than they lost since the end of June last year. Most importantly, the Nationals have finally climbed above the .400 threshold of respectability. Unfortunately, Jose Guillen was put on the disabled list after his sore hamstring refused to heal. He is being replaced by Mike Vento, from the New Orleans Zephyrs.
Today's Braves-Cubs game was one for the record books: Atlanta hit eight home runs, a franchise record, taking advantage of the winds. Somehow the Cubs put together enough runs to close the gap in the ninth inning, giving the forlorn fans in Wrigleyville something to cheer about at long last. An error by third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the eleventh inning allowed Atlanta to score what turned out to be the winning run, however. Now the Cubs have lost six in a row. Ouch! On the bright side, 124,089 fans attended the three-game series against the Braves, setting a Cubs franchise record.
The Great American Ballpark page has been updated with a new diagram that conforms to the new standard, and the photos on it have been enlarged and sharpened. That was where Ken Griffey Jr. hit that 11th-inning walk-off home run on May 11, the first of two heartbreaks for the Nationals that week.
* Duly noted. As someone holding up a protest banner at a recent Giants game observed, "Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer."