June 13, 2016 [LINK / comment]
The loss to Chicago White Sox last Thursday turned out to be a mere bump in the road, as the Washington Nationals have won four straight games since then. On Friday, welcoming the Phillies to town, they overcame an early 4-0 deficit to take an 8-4 lead, with home runs by Wilson Ramos, Steven Drew, and Danny Espinosa. With such big run support, Stephen Strasburg was able to stay in the game through seven innings, getting the win (the first in the majors to reach ten wins!) and 11 strikeouts. Final score: 9-6.
On Saturday, Tanner Roark was more dominant than in any other game this year, and with plenty of hits (but no homers) to back him up, the Nats won easily, 8-0. Michael Taylor and Clint Robinson both had three hits.
On Sunday, young Joe Ross was in control, as the Nats took an early 3-0 lead, but he left the game after seven innings with the score tied 3-3. In the ninth inning, Jonathan Papelbon gave up a home run to Maikel Franco, and was in line for the loss. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, it didn't look so good for the Nationals, but Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa singled, Ben Revere flew out, and Clint Robinson drew a walk to load the bases. Up to the plate came veteran clutch slugger Jayson Werth, and after a valiant battle, fouling off several pitches, he came through with a line drive single up the middle, allowing two runs to score. Jubilation on the field!! The Nats somehow found a way to come from behind, winning 5-4 and thereby completing a sweep of the Phillies for the second time this month.
As a footnote, Jonathan Papelbon "earned" his first win of the year, obviously meaningless. He has a record of 1-2, with 16 saves out of 18 save opportunities.
The pressure was high as the MLB's hottest team, the Chicago Cubs, came to town tonight. Max Scherzer not only rose to the occasion, he was flirting with a perfect game once again. (See June 24, 2015.) In fact, he struck out nine of the first ten batters, making fans wonder if he was going to surpass his incredible 20-strikeout performance of May 11. But in the sixth inning, after a long at-bat, Addison Russell hit a home run into the left field corner, thus tying the game. But the Nats bounced right back with a rally in the bottom of the inning, sparked by a Wilson Ramos home run, and the 4-1 score lasted until the end of the game.
The Nationals (40-24) thus become the second MLB team to reach the 40-win level this year, after the Cubs, who are now 43-19. Texas will probably become the third such team, but not tonight. (The A's are way ahead of the Rangers, 12-2.)
Get ready for some big scandals involving the Atlanta Braves' new ballpark being built in suburban Cobb County, north of Atlanta. The Braves stadium deal is more than a crooked-accounting swindle, it's being compared with some of the worst such deals ever. Read what Neil deMause has to say about that at vice.com; also see the summary at fieldofschemes.com. What a shame for the Braves.
In preparation for my first Nats game some time in the near future, and possibly even further to the northeast (!), I put together a new Web page: My ballpark visits. It consists of a brief chronology of my baseball "grand tours" which began in 2008, followed by a detailed description of my visits to 26 current and former MLB stadiums, as well as a jumbo-sized photograph of those stadiums. (The quality varies.) CAUTION: Your eyes may pop out of your head! Eventually, those jumbo photographs will be incorporated onto the respective stadium pages.