Nationals sweep the Brewers
After a slow start to the 2011 season, the Washington Nationals have bounced back and climbed above .500 for the first time since June of last year. They are currently 8-7, or .533 for the season. Their peak in 2010 was 20-15 (.571) in mid-May. Perhaps the most crucial game was a week ago when the Nats beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4, to open their home stand. The next two games they faced (respectively) Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and chances for winning either of those matchups weren't too good. So, they managed to avoid being swept by one of the best teams in the majors right now, greatly restoring their confidence.
But the best part is that the Nats swept the Milwaukee Brewers, a very solid team that had been near the top of the National League Central Division. The Friday night game was ugly, as Tyler Clippard blew a save opportunity, but then the Nats took advantage of an error in the tenth inning, and Jayson Werth's base-running hustle provided the winning run. Saturday was rained out, and then the makeup double header on Sunday provided great entertainment for the fans in Washington. See MLB.com
Even though their hitting is on the weak side, the Nationals have mustered a very solid pitching rotation. In fact, they are the only team in the majors whose starters have lasted at least five innings in every single game this year. John Lannan, Livan Hernandez, Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, and even Tom Gorzelanny are all doing very well. It's gratifying to see the team performing that well. The only bad news lately is that Ryan Zimmerman has been put on the disabled list for a pulled abdominal muscle. Hopefully he'll be back by May.
It's a bit awkward having Ivan Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos rotate duties as catchers one day after another, but the results seems to justify it. Pudge has had some great clutch RBIs, even though his average remains low. A newcomer who has had a lot of playing time is reserve outfielder Laynce Nix, who signed as a free agent with Washington in February. His hitting has been subpar, but he did get a home run the other day.
Surprises in the AL East
At the end of the first two weeks of play, the standings look a little bit different than most people would have expected. The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays should not be in the American League East cellar; they're both too good for that. Perhaps it stems from bad "mojo" associated with Manny Ramirez's abrupt retirement from baseball after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The Baltimore Orioles had one of their best starts every, but then fell into a bad losing streak, falling behind the Yankees and Blue Jays in the AL East.
The Diamond update
Matt Ereth (a long-time fan and new Facebook friend) brought to my attention the fact that The Diamond page is outdated. The Diamond used to be the home of the Richmond Braves, but they left after the 2009 season. It is now home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, so I updated the text on that page. As far as I know, the stadium itself has not changed, so the diagram is the same for the time being.