August 13, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Thanks to the Baltimore Orioles, who won two of three games in their weekend series at home, the Red Sox have fallen below .600 for the first time since April 5. The Bronx Bombers are closing in fast. As of now, not a single major league team has won as many as 60% of their games this year. What's more, only one team is below .400 -- the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The remarkable late-season evenness of the standings is a sure sign of exciting, down-to-the-wire divisional races to come. The hottest race right now is the AL West, where the Angels are just managing to stay ahead of the Mariners. The Tigers, who are fighting neck and neck with the Indians, pulled out of a losing streak thanks in part to Magglio Ordonez, who hit two home runs in the same inning yesterday. See MLB.com In the National League, the Cubs seem to have lost their motivation for some reason, failing to take advantage of the slumping Brewers and thus remaining in second place.
Thanks to clutch hitting in the eighth and ninth innings by Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Church, Jesus Flores, and Felipe Lopez, the Nationals converted a 5-0 deficit into a 7-6 victory. Now that's entertainment! Otherwise, they would have been swept in Phoenix by the D-backs. On Friday, the Nats hit three home runs in one inning to tie the game at 4-4, but then the bullpen fell apart, and they got trounced 11-4. Saturday's 1-0 loss was extremely frustrating, as John Lannan's superb outing (allowing only one run and four hits over seven innings) was wasted. After a day off, the Nationals play host to the Phillies and Mets for the rest of the week.
I was only vaguely aware of what has been called the "feel-good comeback story of the year," but Darren Heitner provides background on the personal side of Rick Ankiel's remarkable transformation from pitcher into slugger. What was his key? Having grown up in a rough home, he knew he had to persevere! Super-agent Scott Boras gets some of the credit for this, surprisingly. Hat tip to David Pinto. Ankiel just got called up from the minors, so it's too early to say whether he can keep up his batting success, but it certainly suggests he's got some good karma.
The New York Mets will only spend one more year in Shea Stadium, and some fans are objecting to plans to abandon the red apple and top hot that celebrates each Mets home run in center field. Some people think it is tacky and decrepit, while others see it as a symbol of their team's identity. It was installed in 1980. See ESPN. Hat tip to Mike Zurawski, who also alerted me to the likely abandonment of the Orange Bowl next year by the Miami Hurricanes. If so, it would free up land for the long-delayed new stadium for the Florida Marlins. See Miami Herald.