September 12, 2012
John Lannan took the mound in place of the shut-down Stephen Strasburg tonight, and he did just fine, as the Washington Nationals shut out the New York Mets 2-0, thereby sweeping the three-game series. In the fourth inning, Ryan Zimmerman crushed a solo home run (his 22nd) into deep left-center field at Citi Field, clearing the original wall in back of the "Party Deck" seats that were installed this spring. Ian Desmond added an insurance run with another home run (his 23rd) in the eighth inning. Desmond has more homers than any other shortstop in the majors, and is almost guaranteed a Silver Slugger award for that position, if not a Golden Glove. Same thing for Zimmerman.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers, so the gap between the Nationals and the Braves in the NL East race has grown from 5 1/2 games to 8 1/2 games, an almost insurmountable barrier this late in the season. The magic number for the Nats to clinch the division title has shrunk to just 11. [The Nationals and Braves both rest tomorrow, and then face each other in a three-game series in Atlanta; Saturday's 4:00 game is sure to be broadcast on FOX-TV.]
[On Tuesday night, pinch-hitter Tyler Moore provided the decisive RBIs with a two-run homer in the seventh inning, thereby preventing knuckle-ball thrower R.A. Dickey from getting his 19th win of the year. The Nats put two more runs on the board in the top of the ninth inning, one of which was batted in by Bryce Harper, who became the first teenager since 1996 to get four hits in one game. (The last one before him? Andruw Jones, then of the Atlanta Braves.) Final score: Nats 5, Mets 3.]
I don't like to count my chickens before they hatch, but according to coolstandings.com (hat tip to Dave Givens), the Nationals now have a 99.4% probability of winning the National League Eastern Division, and a 0.6% probability of getting a wild card berth, meaning they are absolutely guaranteed to make it to the postseason. I wonder what their forecasts of the Braves and Red Sox were at this time last year?
With a record of 89-54 and 19 games left in the regular season (ten at home), the Nationals have a very good shot at reaching the stratospheric 100-win level for the 2012 season. I wonder how many experts forecast that at the beginning of this season?
I put some new photos from last Saturday's thrilling game on the Nationals Park page, including the one below. More player photos are coming soon as well.