June 21, 2010
For the Washington Nationals, this has been a miserable month, with a win-loss record of 5-13 in June prior to tonight, but they finally got a "W," beating the Kansas City Royals, 2-1. Starting pitcher Livan Hernandez returned to his earlier confident form, going seven full innings. Both Nationals' runs came on homers -- one by rookie utility outfielder Mike Morse, who has been doing fine at the plate lately, and one by Cristian Guzman, his first four-bagger of the year. Once again, Matt Capps was shaky as the closer, giving up two hits in the top of the ninth inning, but he struck out three batters before any damage was done, and thereby got credit for his 21st save. Whew! See MLB.com.
The previous six days were sheer agony for Nats fans, however. They were swept by the Tigers in Detroit, losing by substantial margins each time, and after returning home to D.C. this past weekend, they were swept by the White Sox as well. President Obama was present (though unannounced) at the game on Friday night, when Stephen Strasburg was pitching, and attendance was even higher than in Strasburg's historic debut: 40,325 vs. 40,315. Strasburg got ten more strikeouts, setting a record (32) for the most number of strikeouts by a pitcher in his first three major league starts. But even so, the Nats could not generate any runs support, and they ended up losing 2-1 in 11 innings. That was truly pathetic. Obama is a White Sox fan, and both times he has attended games in Nationals Park, the Nationals have lost.
Saturday's game was broadcast by FOX Sports, and J.D. Martin rose to the challenge of facing the White Sox ace pitcher, Jake Peavy. He went six innings and gave up only one run, but Peavy "went the distance" in a three-hit complete game shutout; final score 1-0. Ryan Zimmerman, who has been in a bad slump lately, struck out four times in four at-bats.
John Lannan had another awful outing on Sunday, giving up four runs in the fifth inning just after the Nats had taken the lead with a three run rally. (Backup catcher Wil Nieves even got an RBI single!) The Nats failed to score any more, and lost, 6-3. Not surprisingly, the Nationals' front office has announced that Lannan has been sent back to the minors -- and not to the Triple-A Syracuse team but to the Double-A Harrisburg team. (Ouch!) I hope he figures out whatever has gone wrong with his pitching delivery. I also hope he's not concealing some physical ailment that might explain his poor performance, as was the case with Austin Kearns last year. There's nothing heroic about playing while you're injured; it certainly doesn't help the team win.
In interleague play thus far this year, the Nationals have won four games and lost nine.
I'm still getting caught up with stadium news brought to my attention by Mike Zurawski. In Minnesota last month, the state legislature turned down a proposed new stadium deal under which the Vikings would have paid $264 million, with the remaining $527 million coming from the taxpayers. See citypages.com. Why not just build a third deck on the east side of the stadium, and add a couple tiers of luxury boxes on the west side? (There is less room because of the adjacent street on that side.) Just like with QualComm Stadium in San Diego, the existing structure is perfectly sound and could be modified to last another 20 years or so.
One of the most colorful players in baseball history was Leroy "Satchel" Paige, the best pitcher ever in the Negro Leagues. With two decades of experience, he was recruited by Bill Veeck to play with the Cleveland Indians in 1948, a year after Jackie Robinson's big breakthrough. He later played for the St. Louis Browns and retired in 1953, with a lifetime record of 28-31, an ERA of 3.29, and 288 strikeouts. Just imagine if he had played 25 years in the majors, instead of only five. In 1965, Kansas City Athletics owner Charlie Finley hired him so that he could qualify for a Major League pension, and at the age of 60 or so (no one is sure), Paige pitched three innings without giving up a run. I actually remember that heartwarming performance. Read some of Paige's witty (or just plain corny) quotes at satchelpaige.com; hat tip to Connie.