September 11, 2008 [LINK / comment]
One of the many ways in which baseball is distinguished from most other sports is the widespread superstitions that are believed to determine winning and losing. The Cubs have labored under the "Billy Goat curse" since the 1940s, while in Boston, the Red Sox finally put an end to the "curse of the Bambino" in 2003. Now they are a successful, psychologically well-adjusted team for the first time in living memory. In similar fashion, the Tampa Bay Rays felt spooked having lost their last nine games at Fenway Park, and their series in Boston this week was a true test of whether they have the intestinal fortitude to make it to the postseason. A ninth-inning home run by Dan Johnson (just called up from the minors) tied the game on Tuesday night, and consecutive doubles after that gave them the margin of victory (5-4). See MLB.com. Last night's game was a marathon pitchers' duel, 1-1 going into the 14th inning, at which point Carlos Peña hit a three-run home run. The Bosox loaded the bases in the bottom of the 14th, but only scored one run, as the Rays won again, 4-2. Thus, the young overachievers from Tampa Bay overcame doubts and finally broke through the psychological barrier that Fenway Park represented. That's a good thing for them, because they may be playing against Boston in the playoffs next month!
The Washington Nationals may have weak spots (such as inconsistent batting and inconsistent pitching), but they are showing that they aren't giving up as the 2008 season enters its final phase. In both games at Shea Stadium this week, they came back or retook the lead multiple times after the New York Mets had racked up big leads. But they just couldn't keep up with the bats of David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado, and lost twice, 10-8 and 13-10. Those were the last games the Nats will ever play in Shea Stadium, which had been one of their luckiest out-of-town venues. (See May 16.) It was strange seeing so many former Nationals (Brian Schnieder, Ryan Church, Luis Ayala, Marlon Anderson, and Endy Chavez) in Mets uniforms, while two former Mets (Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes) are now playing for the Nationals. Both those guys had troublesome reputations in New York, and Dukes was less than gentlemanly in last night's game.
And so, the Mets expand their lead over the Philadelphia Phillies to 3 1/2 games. The Nationals play four games with the Mets in D.C. next week, and three road games with the Phillies to close the season. Will the Nats end up deciding the NL East title like they did last year?
[UPDATE: Speaking of slugfests... ]
To no one's surprise, the L.A./Anaheim/California Angels clinched the AL West division title last night, beating the Yankees. On the other side of the city, meanwhile, the Dodgers are on a hot streak, winning nine of their last ten games thanks in part to Manny Ramirez. They are now 3 1/2 games ahead of the Diamondbacks. With a so-so .514 record, however, the Dodgers still have a lower winning percentage than four teams in the NL Central Division and are below two teams in the NL East!
An interactive photographic chronology of the demolition work at Tiger Stadium can be seen at aerialpics.com. Apparently, the wrecking crew has paused while the historical preservationists get another chance to save what's left of the old ballpark. About one-third of it remains relatively intact for the time being.
Terry Wallace tells me he thinks the reason that the seating capacity for football games at Metroplitan Stadium was 3,000 more than for baseball games was because the lower deck of the "bleachers" in left field were extended by several rows after the end of baseball season. Does anyone else know about that? If so, feel free to comment, if you are registered.