54 - 40 and fight!! *
After a dismal 3 - 9 record since the Fourth of July, the Nationals finally won a convincing game at RFK Stadium Tuesday night, beating the Rockies 4 - 0. That was their biggest margin of victory since June 19 (exactly one month ago), when they beat Texas, 8 - 2. This time the promising young ace John Patterson not only lived up to his own high standards, giving up only three hits in eight-plus innings, he actually got some run support. With a record of 54 wins to 40 losses, the Nats are barely clinging to the NL East lead, as the Braves breathe down their backs. Now that Chipper Jones is in the lineup for the first time in six weeks, and Andruw Jones is continuing with the best slugging season of his career, the Braves are heavily favored to reclaim their customary position at the top. (Those two had three home runs in San Francisco last night!) If the Nats can just get a new shortstop to replace Cristian Guzman (batting only .189!), they'll have a good shot at holding their own. Retired Cincinnati Red Barry Larkin is often mentioned, since Nats GM Jim Bowden knows him well. Maybe another starting pitcher would help too, but the main thing is to maintain consistent performance and a fierce determination to win.
* That's a reference to the expansionist slogan of James Polk in the presidential campaign of 1844. The U.S. eventually compromised and settled for 49 degrees latitude as the border with the British colony of Canada in the northwest.
One of the TBS announcers at the game at SBC Park last night mentioned that Barry Bonds doesn't even show up at the ballpark any more. He resides in Los Angeles and keeps the team informed about his rehabilitation progress via his Web site, barrybonds.com.
I stayed up till after midnight to see if the Giants could hold off the Braves, and indeed they did, winning 5 - 4, with each team scoring one run in the ninth inning. So the Nats' lead in the NL East is back to 1 1/2 games. Whew!
Citizens Bank Park
The architects who designed Citizens Bank Park deny that they were warned during the design stage that the tight dimentions in the power alleys would yield a huge surplus of home runs. Yeah, right. They just got carried away with the crowd-pleasing steroid-injected, easy-home run craze of the late 1990s. (Via Baseball Musings, where I just posted a comment.) If the Phillies wanted to, they could solve about half of the problem by moving the wall back about 15 feet in left field, reaching the ends of the diagonal "creases" in the seating sections in the left field corner and deep left center. Moving the right field wall back would be more difficult, but the fence is taller on that side, so it's not quite such an easy target for sluggers.