September 20, 2011 [CLICK HERE to see proper format.]
Coming off a triumphant four-game sweep of the Mets in New York, the Washington Nationals just couldn't "get 'r done" as they returned home for a weekend series against the Florida Marlins. Maybe it was the cold weather that chilled their hot bats. (They had scored ten runs the night before in New York.) The Nationals lost the first two games in the series, and barely averted being swept by the Marlins with a 4-3 win on Sunday afternoon. That game was notable primarily for the very good outing by starting pitcher Chien Ming-Wang, who went 6 2/3 innings. He gave up a two-run homer in the sixth, or else it would have been a superb outing. Hopefully, he will continue to show improvement next year.
I was at the game in Nationals Park on Friday night, when John Lannan took the mound. It was obvious from the very first inning that he just didn't have his stuff, as the Marlins kept getting hits off him -- eight, altogether. Lannan gave up three runs and only struck out one batter over six innings, while the Marlins' pitcher, Javier Vazquez, threw a complete game shutout, with seven strikeouts. The Nats had run-scoring opportunities in the second and seventh innings, but failed to capitalize on them. Thus, the Marlins won, 3-0.
The Nationals (and all other Major League teams) observed Roberto Clemente Day on Friday, and the video scoreboard played vintage clips of Clemente's wonderful career and his devotion to humanitarian causes. (You can see Clemente's image on the scoreboard in the photo above.) He died in a plane crash New Year's Eve 1972 while en route to Nicaragua, to help the victims of an earthquake. Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond was chosen to be the team's candidate for the 2011 Roberto Clemente Award. See MLB.com.
After sinking into the doldrums in April and May, Desmond has had a fantastic late season, batting .286 since August 1. Originally he was expected to be stronger at the plate than on defense, but he has turned out to be very reliable fielding balls at shortstop. He is a key part of a very solid infield, including Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa. Michael Morse has moved into left field recently, making room for rookie Chris Marrero at first base. After a shaky start earlier this month, Marrero has started to hit pretty well. I was disappointed that neither Michael Morse nor Jayson Werth played that night. I guess we all need a day (or night) off every once in a while. Morse was on deck as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth, when Ryan Zimmerman lined out to second base to end the game.
So now the Nationals are in a virtual tie with the Mets for third place in the NL East, and with a record of 72-79, they need to win nine of their remaining ten games to finish above a .500 record. Since one of their recent games against the Dodgers was cancelled due to rain (neither team is in postseason contention), they will only play 161 games this year. After a day of rest on Monday, they head up to Philadelphia to face the Phillies in a four-game series. It begins with a double-header on Tuesday, making up a game that was rained out on August 14.
I've been taking a look at an online chat service that would allow fans of this Web site to pose questions in an instantaneous fashion, perhaps making possible a discussion of issues connected to ballpark design and/or the race for the World Series. I hope to give it a spin later this week. Stay tuned!