Nats fall to the Brew Crew
Facing top-notch starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia (Friday) and Ben Sheets (Saturday), the Washington Nationals had little chance of beating the Milwaukee Brewers. So, the 5-0 and 6-0 shutout losses they suffered were tolerable. The true test was in this afternoon's game, and once again John Lannan did a solid job as starter, giving up only one (unearned) run in six innings. The Nats staged a three-run rally to take a 4-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning, but the Brewers came right back with three of their own, and the game went into extra innings. The Nats got eleven
runs [hits!] overall, four more than the Brewers, but they kept wasting run-scoring opportunities, while their relievers gave up eight walks (plus five from Lannan), and that's what made the difference. In the thirteenth inning, finally, Gabe Kapler hit a walk-off home run to end it.
It's a shame, because the Nats had won six of their previous seven games, prevailing over the Reds and the Rockies, a hopeful upturn after a dismal July. On the positive side, Ryan Zimmmerman and Lastings Milledge each got three hits, including a home run for Milledge.
NL Central Division dominates
Within the National League this year, the Central Division has been unusually dominant. The Cubs are practically in "a league of their own" lately (appropriate, since that movie was filmed there), winning ten of their last 13 games. The Brewers have been in hot pursuit, while the third-place team in that division (Cardinals) has a higher winning percentage than the first-place team in the NL East (Phillies)! What's more, the third place team in the NL East (Marlins) in turn has a higher winning percentage than the first-place team in the NL West (Diamondbacks)! So, if the season were to end today, the Cardinals would be left behind, while two teams with lower winning percentages from weaker divisions would get a postseason berth. Is that fair? Disparity among divisions calls into question the current structure of Major League Baseball, especially the way the championship series are done.
Atlanta Stadium update
Remember the Braves? Remember how they used to win the NL East every year? Well, I do. Based largely on the fine, detailed photos in John Pastier's book Ballparks: Yesterday and Today, I have updated the diagrams on the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium page, with lights and a more detailed profile, a 1969 version, plus a couple minor adjustments.
Manny being Manny?
Manny Ramirez's first few days with the Dodgers exceeded expectations, but the trade still raises "manny" questions, and not just for baseball fans. MLB investigators are looking into the matter, since it appears that his slack playing and trash talking may have been aimed at nullifying the value of the option that the Red Sox had on him, so that he could be in effect a free agent. It's almost as bad as throwing a game for the sake of a gambling payoff. See boston.com; hat tip to David Pinto and Bruce Orser.