July 24, 2011 [CLICK HERE to see proper format.]
After losing two games in Houston, the pressure was on the Washington Nationals to perform as they began a weekend series at Dodger Stadium. The game on Friday night got started on the right note in the top of the first, as Michael Morse drove in a run. In the second inning, pitcher John Lannan batted in two more runs with his very first career home run, just clearing the right field fence. Wow!!! The Dodgers came within a run, and the score remained a very tense 3-2 until the top of the ninth, when Jerry Hairston hit a grand slam near the left field corner, plenty of insurance runs. Final score: 7-2. That was about as much fun as I've had watching a baseball game in a long time!
The next two games started out in the same upbeat fashion, but in both cases the Nats squandered the leads, with final outcomes that were about as depressing as you can imagine. On Saturday, the Nats scored three runs in the first (two of which were thanks to a rare Jayson Werth double), and three more in the third. Tom Gorzelanny was totally ineffective on the mound, allowing the Dodgers to get back within one run of the Nats. He only lasted three innings. Relief pitcher Ross Detwiler handled the Dodgers just fine for the next couple innings, but the Dodgers tied it when Henry Rodriguez threw a wild pitch in the seventh inning, and a double by Rafael Furcal in the bottom of the ninth won the game, 7-6. It was the Nationals' seventh consecutive defeat in games decided by one run. On Sunday afternoon, it started even better, with bases loaded and nobody out, and another RBI by Michael Morse. But then Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley somehow composed himself and struck out the next three batters to escape what could have been a blowout. And, believe it or not, that was it. Not a single National player got a hit for the next eight innings, and the only player to reach base was Jayson Werth, with a walk. Talk about abysmal -- and after such a promising start! Jason Marquis had a good outing, but the Nats still lost, 3-1. They should easily have reached the symbolic 50-win threshold during this road trip (3-6 record), but instead now have a cumulative record of 49-52, and are in danger of falling into fifth place again.
In Boston, the red-hot Red Sox swept the Seattle Mariners, maintaining their three-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East. Today's game was a slugfest, with Boston prevailing 12-8, thanks in large part to Carl Crawford's bat. The Mariners have now lost 15 games in a row, setting a record for the franchise. Ouch. See MLB.com. The Red Sox and the Phillies are the only two teams above .600 right now, both cruising toward the postseason once again. The Phillies have qualified in each of the last four years, while the Red Sox have made it to October six of the last eight years, the same as the Yankees.
Speaking of Boston, I recently had a minor revelation that was a good excuse for updating the Fenway Park diagrams. (Actually, I finished that task on Saturday night.) Bruce Orser recently sent me a 1930 newspaper article saying that right field in Fenway Park was 358 feet, and the distance to left field was 320. I had never paid much attention before, but indeed, those are the dimensions for 1926 cited in Lowry's book Green Cathedrals. But how could the right field distance have increased by 44 feet (from 314) without tearing out a few rows of seats? After trying different solutions to that puzzle, it seems fairly clear that the diamond had to have been moved a few feet forward and to the right, and rotated about two degrees counterclockwise. So, I added a 1926 version, which also shows the small temporary bleachers near the left field corner that were built after the original bleachers there burned down in 1926. (There was another fire during construction in the winter of 1934.) The rest of the diagrams on that page have been brought up to date. One correction of note: before the 1970s, the scoreboard was directly in back of the bullpens in right field. The new scoreboard was put in the far right-center corner of the bleachers, in 1976.