Phillies sweep the Nationals
For the first time in two months, the Washington Nationals have been swept in a three-game series, and it's their fourth consecutive loss. They got off to a bad start on Friday night, when Michael Morse was hit on his hand by an inside pitch thrown by Kyle Kendrick. I was hoping it wasn't going to be another ugly Cole Hamels episode, and apparently that's the case. But Morse missed the rest of the series, and so did Ian Desmond, who hasn't fully recovered from the oblique muscle strain. The rest of the Nats got a fair number of hits, but just not at the right time. In all three games, the Phillies scored exactly four runs, and the Nats could only manage one or two. The low point of the series came on Sunday when Adam LaRoche was tagged out while trotting past second base under the mistaken belief that he had hit a home run. The ball clearly bounced off the top of the rail beyond the wall in Citizens Bank Park, but the ground rules there specify that such balls are in play. The baserunning mistake ruined what could have been a big comeback rally. See the Washington Post.
It's pretty annoying for a team that has been playing so well this month (and all year), but on the bright side, the Nats still enjoy a 5-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, after the Padres beat the Braves in San Diego tonight. Even the best teams have slumps occasionally, and any realistic fan should be prepared for that. You win some series (the last six straight for the Nats, in fact), and you lose some series. The Nationals (77-50) still have the highest winning percentage in the majors, .606, but as of tonight the Cincinnati Reds (78-52) now have one more win than the Nats.
Red Sox - Dodgers mega-deal
It's the end of an era, as the Boston Red Sox front office gave up any hope of contending for the postseason this year (or next year either, probably), and just hit the "reset" button. Those scrappy fighters who overcame injuries and staged miracle comebacks to win two World Series titles over the past decade had become a mere shadow of their former selves, and there was no use in keeping up the pretense any more. And so, the team made a blockbuster "trade" (highly asymmetrical) with the Los Angeles Dodgers, unloading pitcher Josh Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and outfielder Carl Crawford, thus saving the Boston franchise hundreds of millions on payroll over the next few years. Beckett is having a lousy year, with a 5-11 record and 5.23 ERA, and had already lost his favor among fans in Boston. It looks like owner John Henry will give the new GM Ben Cherington another year or two to get the long-term rebuilding process underway. See MLB.com. That was the second major trade by the Dodgers over the past few weeks. This transaction was after the July 31 deadline and therefore (presumably) had to go through the waivers process. Trades this late in the season are inherently disruptive of the competitive spirit of professional sports, and I'm inclined to think the waivers process needs to be tightened up.
In Denver, tonight, the Colorado Rockies gave a rude awakening to the L.A. Dodgers, who had ace Josh Beckett on the mound for the first time since the mega-deal announced. Beckett did OK, giving up just three runs over 5 2/3 innings, but the relief pitchers crumbled, and the Rockies crushed the visitors 10-0. To me, that's poetic justice. Money isn't everything, in life or in baseball.
Progressive Field tweak
Bruce Orser rose to the challenge of figuring out the true distance to center field at Progressive Field*, and I think he is right that it has really been 400 feet all along, not 405 as we used to think. So, I rotated the walls around the bullpen, etc. in center field, and it does indeed yield a slightly better fit. Since I am not yet sure, however, I have colored the 400-foot marker orange to indicate there is some question. For the time being, I have left the 1994 and lower-deck versions alone, so you can compare them for yourselves.
I finally figured out what that weird white spiral thing on the roof near the right field corner of is Progressive Field: a wind turbine that was installed last March. For more information, see cleveland.com.