August 6, 2014
Every time the Washington Nationals seem to gain some momentum with consecutive wins this year, they seem to get a rude setback almost immediately. Then they bounce right back with a convincing victory, and the whole cycle starts all over again. Last week this happened with the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies, and this week it was with the New York Mets. All three teams (NL East Division rivals) played better than their humble below-.500 records might suggest.
In Miami, the Nats lost the first two games of the series [...]. On July 28, the Nats jumped to a 6-0 lead and were still ahead 6-3 in the ninth inning, whereupon closing pitcher Rafael Soriano fell apart and allowed the Marlins to score four runs to win in dramatic walk-off fashion. Perhaps stunned by this turn of events, the Nats failed to score at all the next day and lost 3-0. In game three they finally pulled themselves together and took the lead with a three-run rally in the eighth inning. But in the bottom of the ninth Drew Storen (backup closer?) gave up two runs, one of which was a solo shot by the amazing Giancarlo Stanton. Then they got the third out, so the Nats just barely avoided being swept. Whew! That concluded the road trip on an upbeat note, winning five of nine games.
Back in Washington, the Nats lost the first two games to the Phillies. On July 31, Gio Gonzalez gave up five earned runs and was pulled out in the fourth inning, one of his worst outings ever. The next day, the new ace pitcher Doug Fister only gave up two runs over seven innings but was still tagged with the loss as the Nats just couldn't get hits. On Saturday, the Nats woke up all of a sudden and won by a lopsided 11-0 margin, boosted by Anthony Rendon's homer and new Nat Asdrubal Cabrera's triple. On Sunday they evened the four-game series with a 4-0 victory. Stephen Strasburg pitched like his old self again, a reassuring sign.
On Monday the Nats welcomed the neighboring Orioles to town, in a makeup game originally scheduled for July 8. Wilson Ramos homered, and the Nats had a 3-2 lead going into the seventh inning, when Nats pitcher Tanner Roark lost his command and the O's staged a three-run rally to take the lead. Two more in the eighth made the final score 7-3.
On Tuesday the Mets arrived in D.C. The Nats wasted several run-scoring opportunities, most notably when Jayson Werth was waved past third base on a single hit by Adam LaRoche, and was then tagged out at the plate on a perfect throw by left fielder Eric Campbell. The video review upheld the umpire's call. With no outs, it seemed like a dumb risk to take, but manager Matt Williams insisted that his team will keep playing aggressive ball. In the next inning, Gio Gonzalez got shaky on the mound again, and the Mets scored three more runs, going on to win, 6-1. Then tonight the tables were turned once again, as Adam LaRoche hit two home runs and Danny Espinosa (!) hit another one, and so the Nats won, 6-1. It was the first game this year in which a Nationals player has hit more than one home run. Doug Fister pitched another great game, earning his 11th win of the season.
So, it's been a frustrating two weeks as the pennant races heat up and the Nationals brace themselves for another postseason push. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves have been slumping badly, losing eight consecutive games, so the Nationals remain four games ahead in the National League East. I have posted the June and July win-loss records, attendance, etc. on the Washington Nationals page, which no longer includes the detailed roster and monthly data for previous years. That page was getting way too cumbersome to load, so I decided to simplify things. The detailed historical data are now found [one year at a time] on the new Washington Nationals Annual History page. Enjoy!
It's been a tough year for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who missed several weeks in May and June with a broken thumb, and was injured again late last month. He has a "Grade 3" hamstring injury, meaning that the muscle tissue is torn, so it will take weeks of rehabilitation (using a water treadmill, for example) before he is ready to play again. See MLB.com. The best the Nats can hope for is that he can pinch hit or maybe play first base by early September, but it's possible he may miss the rest of the season. What dirty, rotten luck.
The injury to Ryan Zimmerman created a big void in the Nats' lineup, and even though backup second baseman Danny Espinosa has been improving at the plate in recent weeks, Mike Rizzo decided more was needed. So, just before the July 31 deadline, he made a trade with the Cleveland Indians, getting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (who will play at second) in exchange for hot minor league prospect Zach Walters. See MLB.com. Thus far Cabrera has done well enough, hitting a triple and making some great plays at second base. I wondered whether he could adapt after being a regular short stop, but he seems just fine in his new position.
It was quite a coincidence that I saw Cabrera play during my road trip earlier this summer, during the Indians-Diamondbacks game in Phoenix on June 25. (He went 0 for 4 that night, but got a sac fly RBI.) In fact, I would have seen him twice had he not missed a few days two weeks ago. In the Indians-Royals game I saw in Kansas City on July 25, he was replaced by Jose Ramirez, who seems to be their regular at that position now. Unfortunately, the only photo I took of Cabrera was in a less-than-heroic situation:
Based on my recent visit, I made a few corrections to the diagrams of Globe Life Park (a.k.a. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, etc.). Most significantly, there are 40 rows of seats in most of the lower deck, not 32 as I had previously estimated. Consequently, my estimate of the amount of lower-deck overhang / shade doubled from 15% to 30%. (I wonder how many other stadiums I have underestimated the number of lower deck rows that badly?) Globe Life Park resembles Orioles Park in Camden Yards in that access to the lower deck seats is almost exclusively via entry portals. Except for the portion near home plate, where there are some glass-enclosed luxury suites, there is nothing behind the back row of seats but a big drop-off. There will be a first-deck-only (lower level) diagram version on that page in the near future. To clarify exactly what changed in the diagram, I made this before-and-after profile comparison:
The other change of note involves the position of the seating sections between the bullpens in center field. When that area was rebuilt in 2012, the old-fashioned bleacher benches were replaced by individual seats. (Too bad.)
I that it might be fun to create an interactive graphic showing each of the stadium photo montages that I made after my baseball road trips in five of the last seven years. In 2011 I only visited two stadiums (in Missouri), so I didn't bother to do a montage, and last year I didn't even make a road trip. (Shame!) Each of the links below the photo takes you to the original blog post.
So what are my future plans? Obviously I need to get back to the northeast and finally see a game in Fenway Park, in addition to Yankee Stadium II and/or Citi Field. Time permitting, I might try to combine that with visits to Toronto (a city I have never seen) and Detroit (only one past visit). That would leave just the six stadiums along the Pacific coast (hopefully all during the same trip), and then the four remaining stadiums in the old "Confederacy." With any luck, I'll complete my lifetime goal of seeing all (current) Major League Baseball stadiums by 2017.