September 5, 2014 [LINK / comment]
What an amazing ballgame that was in Los Angeles on Wednesday! The Washington Nationals went toe-to-toe against the L.A. Dodgers in another fierce pitchers' duel, and neither team scored until the seventh inning. Just like the day before (see next paragraph), the Dodgers eventually took the lead, with a two-run homer that just cleared the center field fence. Jordan Zimmermann was taken out of the game, in spite of a masterful performance. The Nats had a chance in the eighth inning, but the would-be rally fell flat. Then in the top of the ninth, Ian Desmond, who had failed to get a hit during the game, reached base on a throwing error by the shortstop. Up to the plate came Adam LaRoche, as a pinch hitter. His back has been ailing him this week, but the Nats needed his power. And sure enough, he belted that ball on top of the left field fence for a game-tying home run! And then to take the lead. But then the Dodgers came right back to tie it in the bottom of the ninth. In the twelvth inning, the Nats scored twice on a two-run single by -- Adam LaRoche again! With a 5-3 lead, they were virtually assured of a win. Tyler Clippard took the mound to close the game, and was within one strike of doing so, when -- guess what? Carl Crawford hit a two-run homer that tied the game 5-5. Poor Tyler cringed and kneeled in disbelieving agony. How could he let that happen? So the game went two more innings, and all of a sudden the Nats staged a real rally. Ian Desmond reached base on an error, Bryce Harper walked on a wild pitch that sent Desmond to third. Adam LaRoche then hit a ground ball out that got Desmond across the plate to retake the lead, again. To top it off, Asdrubal Cabrera then hit a two-run homer to give the Nats a three-run lead. This time the closing pitcher (Blake Treinen) did his job, and that is how the Nationals came out on top, 8-5. Believe it or not!!!
That was the sixth extra-inning victory in a row for the Nationals. The Nats finished the road trip with a 4-5 record, not bad when you consider they lost the first three games, in Philadelphia. Their record is now 79-59, seven games ahead of the Braves, with the magic number down to 17. I can almost taste October baseball!
The Tuesday night game was an epic struggle between Clayton Kershaw (this year's presumptive NL Cy Young winner) and the newest (and best?) starter in the Nats' rotation Doug Fister, and Kershaw came out on top. The decisive moment was when Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning. The Dodgers scored two more in the sixth inning, a very safe cushion for Kershaw. Bryce Harper hit a home run to put the Nats on the scoreboard, but that was it. Dodgers 4, Nats 1. Harper was the first left-handed batter to hit a homer off Kershaw this year.
My plan was to mark this momentous encounter by revising the Dodger Stadium diagrams (which are badly out of date), but...
OOPS! I noticed a few small discrepancies, and before you know it, I had to make a number of significant changes to the Angel Stadium diagrams. [Oops again: corrected link!] The biggest change since my "false start" diagram update on Monday was that the roof extends about ten feet forward, completely covering the entry portals in the upper deck, neatly aligning with the rear of the lateral aisles. How did I determine that? By very closely inspecting the shadows in the detailed panoramic photo of (then-) Anaheim Stadium taken by Jim Dow, and published as a calendar for 2003. So, I decided I had to create a new diagram showing the uncovered upper deck seats, with the entry portals. Also, I added the luxury suites behind home plate that were added in the 1998 renovations. You can get a rough idea of the changes by rolling your mouse over that thumbnail, to see what it was like for the first three days of September. Sorry about that.
Belated hat tip to Marc Gilbert for the information about the changed distance markers at Angel Stadium.
I'll get caught up with other baseball news, etc. tomorrow.
Here's a handy tip from MLB.com:
To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining and add one. Then subtract the difference in the number of losses between that team and its closest pursuer.