August 22, 2011
As if the Friday night game in which the Washington Nationals came back from a 4-2 deficit in the ninth inning to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-4 wasn't amazing enough, they pulled another trick out of their hat once again on Sunday afternoon. This time the hero was Ian Desmond, who homered into the left field stands to tie the game with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. (The Phillies had scored one in the top of the inning, off of Drew Storen, who owes Desmond a beer at the very least for escaping that game without a loss.) One inning later, Ryan Zimmerman led off with a single, and the bases were quickly loaded after that. Clearly rattled, Phillies pitcher Brad Lidge hit Jonny Gomes in the elbow, forcing in the game-winning run. Against all odds, the Nationals took two games from the usually-dominant Phillies, a big boost to team morale. For more details, see MLB.com.
In recognition for his consistently superior slugging performance and clutch plays, Zimmerman was named the National League Player of the Week, along with Nick Hundley, catcher for the San Diego Padres. Z-man seems 100% fit once again, having recovered from surgery in April.
Thanks to all those fans who came down from Philadelphia, a record number of people were present at the game on Saturday: 44,685. That's about 3,000 over the official seating capacity, suggesting that an awful lot of people were standing up for the whole game. The previous record attendance at Nationals Park was 41,985, on June 25, 2009 vs. the Red Sox. (The highest-ever attendance at a Nationals game was 45,596 at RFK Stadium on April 14, 2005 -- their inaugural home game.) Total attendance for the three-game series with the Phillies was 124,253 -- the second most ever at Nationals Park (the highest was 125,032 on June 23-25, 2009, vs. the Red Sox) but less than the 134,991 recorded on June 16-18, 2006, when the Yankees came to town. Also worth mentioning: the 162,058 who attended the four-game series against the Mets, July 4-7, 2005. That works out to 40,514 per game, an average of about 900 less than in this weekend's series.
This evening the Nationals welcomed the Arizona Diamondbacks to town. The D-Backs recently pulled ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the National League West, and are a more formidable foe than I would have guessed. Thanks to a three-run homer by Jayson Werth (his 15th of the year), however, the Nats took a 4-0 lead, and held on to win, 4-1. They have now a record of 62-64, the closest they have been to an even .500 win-loss record since one month ago. Meanwhile, the fourth-place Mets and fifth-place Marlins continue to lose more games than they win. Will this be the year that the Nationals finally end the season out of the NL East cellar?
Phenomenal rookie (last year) pitcher Stephen Strasburg did very well in his first two rehab starts earlier this month, but got roughed up last week. Well, these things happen to the best of them. All signs indicate that his recovery from Tommy John surgery is coming along very well, but he may not pitch at the major league level until next spring. No need to rush things. Also, the Nats' hot slugging prospect Bryce Harper pulled a hamstring and will be out for the rest of this season.
Also, I forgot to mention that I saw a minor league game in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the first time earlier this month. The Sioux Falls Pheasants (formerly the Canaries) lost to the visiting Sioux City Explorers, 7-6 in 12 innings. See sfpheasants.com. Actually, the American Association of which Sioux Falls is a member is not even part of the official minor league system; see milb.com. (Note to people who live on the east or west coasts: Sioux Falls is in South Dakota, and Sioux City is in Iowa. It's an easy mistake to make. ) Sioux Falls Stadium is attractive and very modern, with a nice view beyond the outfield fence, which has some nice asymmetrical quirks. (Future diagram??!) The ballpark holds about 5,000 fans, but was less than half full the day we went.
I put five new photos on the Kauffman Stadium page, in addition to the two which I posted on the blog yesterday. Perhaps the most dramatic shot is the super-wide upper deck panorama. (Yes, I had to do a fair amount of digital editing to get the three photos to mesh together.) It is interesting to compare it to the panorama I took from nearly the same spot exactly nine years earlier.
While in Kansas City, I went to the site of Municipal Stadium, where the Royals (and before them the Athletics) once played. I knew just where to go, along Brooklyn Avenue, but couldn't find the historical marker because a new residential neighborhood has been built on that plot of land since the last time I was there in 2002, and I didn't recognize the locale. If I had had more time, I would have stopped at the Negro League Museum, just a few blocks to the northwest of that site. "Wait till next year!"