Nats finally beat the Phillies
After a devastating loss on Friday night and a woeful underperformance on Saturday afternoon, the Washington Nationals at last managed to defeat the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, by a slim margin of 3-2. The last-place Phillies had beaten the Nationals in the five preceding games, and another loss would have been a big psychological blow for the Nats, just as their main rivals the Atlanta Braves are coming to town.
In the Friday game, everything was going just fine for most of the game, as the Nats were cruising on the momentum boost they got from the triumphant victory in Los Angeles on Wednesday evening. Sparked by another Adam LaRoche home run in the first inning, they had a 5-0 after five innings, but the Phillies slowly narrowed the gap as the innings progressed. Stephen Strasburg was taken out after six innings, because of a finger blister, but the Nats were still ahead 7-2 after seven innings. In the eighth, the Phillies took advantage of a Nats error and a walk, scoring two runs on a double by Chase Utley and a single by Ryan Howard. Well, it was still a three-run lead going into the top of the ninth, enough of a cushion even for the often-shaky Nats closer Rafael Soriano. Or maybe not. Domonic Brown quickly singled and Carlos Ruiz homered to make it a 7-6 ballgame, and fans in Nationals Park got nervous all of a sudden. The next two batters were out, and with the Phillies down to their final strike, it appeared all would end well. Except that Ben Revere hit a home run into the right field seats to the left of the bullpen, tying the game. Yep, Soriano did it again, blowing another easy save opportunity. The game went into extra innings, and in the top of the 11th, Bryce Harper collided with Denard Span chasing a fly ball, an error that allowed Domonic Brown to reach second base. After reaching third on a sac bunt, Brown scored on a throwing error by Tyler Moore, playing at first base, and the batter reached second. A single by Ben Revere got another run across, so the Phillies had a 9-7 lead. Un-believable. In spite of the horrific turn of events, the Nats did not go quietly, however, staging a rally in the bottom of the 11th. Tyler Moore hit an RBI single, and the Nats had runners on first and second with just one out. But Ian Desmond struck out and Bryce Harper flew out swinging at the first pitch, and that is how the nightmarish game ended. Phillies 9, Nationals 8. Definitely NOT a game to remember.
On Saturday, the Nats were once again stymied by Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett, and even though they had more hits (7 vs. 6), they fell short in the runs department, 3-1. Tanner Roark pitched OK, but the team seemed shell-shocked from what had transpired the night before. It goes to show how one critical blunder can thrown an entire team off kilter, taking the momentum away.
But on Sunday, the Nats managed to come back, thanks to two more home runs by Adam LaRoche. He won the final game in L.A. almost single-handedly, with five RBIs even though he entered the game in the ninth inning. Scott Hairston hit the go-ahead RBI on a sac fly in the sixth inning, coming within a few feet of hit a home run over the left field fence. Gio Gonzalez got credit for the win, but his record is still only 8-9.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves lost to the Marlins, so the Nationals regained a seven-game lead in the NL East, cutting their magic number to 14 with less than three weeks to go. The Nats still have the highest winning percentage in the National League, and the only real question is whether they will maintain that advantage through the end of the regular season. But with Rafael Soriano on the mound anything is possible, and manager Matt Williams said he is reevaluating the relief pitching duties, giving Soriano a few days off to work on his slider, which apparently is not sliding much. I had some unkind things to say about Soriano on Facebook, furious at what had happened on Friday. I doubt very much that he'll be back with the team next year, so it's going to be a delicate juggling act as the Nats search for a way to share closer duties for the rest of this month -- and into October! Drew Storen looked good yesterday, so maybe he is ready to resume being the closer. I wish they didn't make such a big deal about one pitcher serving as "the" closing pitcher. Tyler Clippard and Aaron Barrett can probably share those duties with Drew, depending on the workload and the situation.
Are you ready for some football?
Apparently the Washington Redskins are not ready; they lost to the Houston Texans yesterday, 17-6. Like it or not, the advent of September heralds the arrival of football season.
As of this 2014 season, the San Francisco 49ers have left Candlestick Park, and the Minnesota Vikings have left the Metrodome, which was demolished in February. That leaves just "o.co" (Oakland) Coliseum, Angels Stadium, and Jack Murphy (QualComm) Stadium, as (current or former) baseball stadiums in which pro football is still being played. See the updated Football use page.
While I was at it, I completed the statistical tables for nearly all of the 1960s- and 1970s-era dual use stadiums, calculating the estimated fair and foul territory, as well as number of rows of seats in the main decks. That page is still "under construction," pending further review, but the whole thing ought to be done in the next month or so.
Football at a racetrack?!
I was intrigued by the news that the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Tennessee Volunteers are going to play a football game at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 10, 2016. With a seating capacity of almost 160,000, they could easily set a new collegiate attendance record. See Yahoo Sports (hat tip to Matt Ereth).