April 26, 2016
After a memorable weekend in which the Washington Nationals swept the Minnesota Twins, the "D.C. 9" couldn't quite beat the visiting Philadelphia Phillies tonight. For the second game in a row, Max Scherzer gave up a home run in the first inning, a disturbing sign. Even though the Nats put together a nice rally in the fifth inning to tie the game 3-3, the Phillies tacked on another run in the seventh and won it. So now the Nats are "only" 14-5, rather than 15-4.
On Friday night the Twins came to town, and Gio Gonzalez had another solid outing, giving up only two runs in six innings. The Nats took an early lead (7-0 after three innings), as Jayson Werth homered and Jose Lobaton had three RBIs. Nats 8, Twins 4.
On Saturday afternoon, Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run single in the first inning, and neither team scored any runs after that. Tanner Roark was spectacular on the mound, throwing 15 strikeouts over seven innings. It was the third-highest strikeout total in Nationals history. (Max Scherzer threw 17 once, and 16 once.)
The third and final game on Sunday was a wild one, with Stephen Strasburg only gave up one run until the eighth inning, when Bryan Dozier hit a three-run homer. Ouch! The Nats scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, who should step up to the plate but Bryce Harper!? With the game on the line, he rose to the occasion and smashed a ball over the center field fence, making the score 4-4. (That put him back into the lead in the majors, with nine home runs.) Yusmeiro Petit did splendidly as a long reliever, pitching from the 11th until the 15th inning. That's when the Twins finally got to him, taking a one-run lead. In the bottom of that inning Danny Espinosa drew a walk, and then stole second base. With the bench all but empty, Manager Dusty Baker had the pitcher Oliver Perez go to bat for the first time since 2010. Then, to the surprise of everyone on the field and in the stands, Perez put down a perfect bunt toward third base, and the catcher threw the ball over the first baseman's head, allowing Espinosa to score the tying run. Un-be-lievable!!! In the bottom of the 16th inning, Chris Heisey had a long at-bat with one out, and finally smashed the ball over the left field bullpen, thereby winning the game in a most bizarre fashion. Nats 6, Twins 5. It was the Nationals' first walk-off homer of the year.
I noticed during the series at Marlins Park last week that the center field fence has been moved in significantly, making it a little less friendly to pitchers but still very daunting for batters. In fact, both Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman took advantage of the shorter distance by hitting homers into the new shrubs that have been planted in the intervening space. And so, I made that small adjustment, with new separate diagrams for 2012 and 2016. Those diagrams haven't been updated otherwise since 2012, so it's possible further corrections will be needed in the months to come.