June 20, 2016 [LINK / comment]
The Nationals' long road trip got off to a good start last Thursday in San Diego, with two victorious slug-fests against the Padres. After a long slump, Bryce Harper hit a home run (his first since May 27) to spark a four-run rally. The very next batter, Wilson Ramos, then hit a home run as well. Anthony Rendon later homered as well, which came in handy as the Padres staged a late-game rally that fell short. Tanner Roark gave up two first-inning runs, but settled down after that and went six innings, qualifying for the win. Final score: Nats 8, Padres 5.
On Friday night, the Nats staged a four-run rally in the third inning, capped by a Ryan Zimmerman home run. Daniel Murphy also homered, and got three RBIs, which proved crucial in the Nats' 7-5 victory over San Diego. Joe Ross went six innings and got his sixth win of the year.
On Saturday, it was a tense pitchers' duel for most of the game, after both teams scored a run in the first inning. The Nats took the lead in the seventh inning on a weird play in which the Padres' [pitcher] failed to catch the ball at first base, and Wilson Ramos scored from third. Ryan Zimmerman hit a clutch RBI single in the eighth inning to give the Nats a 3-1 lead, and it looked like smooth sailing for a possible four-game sweep. But in the bottom of the eighth inning Felipe Rivero took the mound, and all hell broke loose. He gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Then Wil Myers doubled on a squirrely Texas Leaguer to left-center field, thus tying the game. Then there was an intentional walk to Matt Kemp (understandable), followed by a comeback ground ball to the pitcher. Easy out at home, right? Nope, Rivero mishandled the ball and threw it past Wilson Ramos, allowing another run to score. Finally, Dusty Baker replaced Rivero with Blake Treinin who walked the first batter and then gave up a two-run single to Yangervis Solarte. That made it a 7-3 game, an utterly disgraceful reversal of fortune, and the Nats failed to score in the top of the ninth.
That kind of blunder can really ruin a team's competitive spirit, and it indeed may have done so in this particular instance. On Sunday afternoon, Michael Taylor homered on the first pitch of the game, and later hit a double, another homer, and a single. Pretty darned impressive for a second-stringer! (Ben Revere is the usual center fielder.) But the other Nationals did little at the plate, while Gio Gonzalez just could not contain the Padres, giving up six runs (five earned, one due to his own error) in five and a third innings. It was the shortest outing by a Nats starting pitcher since June 7 (Joe Ross). Final score: Padres 6, Nats 3. And that is how the home team managed to split the series with the Washington Nationals.
Tonight, the Nats are facing the L.A. Dodgers and their ace Clayton Kershaw, but Stephen Strasburg was replaced as starting pitcher by Yusmeiro Petit. That's a stiff challenge to meet...
The Chicago Cubs are doing so well this year that hardly anything surprises me anyone. The Pittsburgh Pirates have sagged in the standings lately, and they wilted under the heat from the host team at the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field. To put icing on the cake of their latest triumph yesterday, the Cubs' Willson Contreras hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, one of five four-baggers hit by the Cubs. I was lucky to be watching that live and in living color on ESPN, going back and forth between that game and the big one in Oakland; see below. See MLB.com
I'll bet nobody saw this one coming: the humble Atlanta Braves swept the New York Mets, in Citi Field. In the Sunday game, the Braves' on-and-off ace, Julio Teheran, pitched a complete game one-hit shutout, as the visitors from Atlanta won, 1-0.
At Oracle Arena in Oakland, California last night, the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers managed to beat the heavily favored Golden State Warriors, 94-89. I watched as much basketball in that one game as I had for the entire season, switching back and forth between that game and the Cubs-Pirates game. It was the first pro sports championship for the city of Cleveland since December 1964, when the Browns beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 to take the NFL title. (That was two years before the first Super Bowl, in January 1967.)
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers from the University of Virginia were eliminated from the NCAA regional championship series last week, so they won't be returning to the College World Series in Omaha this year.
I happened to be in Charlottesville today, and took some photos of Davenport field, which has had expanded seating since the last time I saw a game there. Photo updates pending...
I noticed the impression by Philip Matsikoudis posted on the Roosevelt Stadium page, and decided to make a quick revision of the diagram thereon, with a football variant and a "tranparent roof" variant for the first time. The last diagram update for that one was in July 2011.
Roosevelt Stadium was one of those public works projects aimed at lifting America out of the Great Depression, one of the reasons they named it after the president. Can you imagine a stadium being named after President Obama?
Mike Zurawski brought to my attention three slight errors in my blog post of last Thursday. First, the Anaheim NHL team is no longer named the Mighty Ducks, they are just the Ducks since 2006. Second, the Air Canada Centre in Tornto is used by both the NBA Raptors and the NHL Maple Leafs. Third, the Pepsi Center in Denver is used by both the NBA Nuggets and the NHL Avalanche. Once I update the Stadium proximity page, all that will be straightened out.
Mike also informed me that the Texas Rangers are seeking municipal funding to build a new ballpark that would replace Globe Life Park, the latest in a series of names. It would be a climate-controlled retractable roof stadium, costing about a billion dollars. ballparkdigest.com and MLB.com. That is almost as outrageous an idea as the new Braves stadium being built in suburban Atlanta! Texas fan Clifford "Bucky" Nance filled me in on some of the political details. Basically, the Arlington city council approved the funding plan, with a resolution to put it on the General Election Ballot in November. If the measure is passed, the city would pay $500 Million and the Rangers would match it. Funds would come from continuing the existing special tax levy that was originally created to fund the Dallas Cowboys' stadium.
In response, I added a new "proposed alternative" diagram for Globe Life Park, reducing some of the excess capacity and greatly expanding the roof to provide more shade. That should at least add another ten years of usable life to that facility, misbegotten though it may be.
Finally, while watching the Orioles-Red Sox game on MASN last Thursday, I noticed that the upper deck of Fenway Park has been extended by about 20 feet, almost all the way to the foul pole. Those diagrams were due for an upgrade anyway...