Mets clinch the NL East, Nationals wait till next year
This afternoon the Washington Nationals broke their four-game losing streak with a dramatic 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, as Bryce Harper hit a game-winning RBI double in the bottom of the twelfth inning. But it didn't matter, as the Mets beat the Reds 10-2, thereby clinching the National League East Division title for the first time since 2006.
I was at last night's game, joining my old friend Dave Givens to give one last "hurrah" to the Nats. I was anxious about getting there on time because they were giving out Jordan Zimmermann bobbleheads, commemorating his no-hitter on September 28 last year. I made it with about 20 minutes to spare, but so few fans showed up that there were "leftover" bobbleheads which they offered to fans who bought a Jordan Zimmermann T-shirt or jersey. That's a sad reflection on how fans' enthusiasm has waned toward the end of this bitterly disappointing season. Announced attendance was 31,019, and the bobbleheads were going to be given out to the first 25,000 fans, so something doesn't add up.
For the first time, Dave and I had seats in the second-deck "Club Level" of Nationals Park, with a great view not far from third base. It's on the same level as the "Mezzanine Level," but is situated near the infield, behind closed doors to keep out the riff-raff. I'm sure it's nice to be near air-conditioned comfort on hot summer days, but the weather on Friday was cool and breezy, so that didn't matter much. Indeed, I was afraid it was going to rain, as a big storm system was soaking most of Virginia that day, but not a drop fell in Washington. (The second deck offers good shelter from the rain, unlike most of the rest of Nationals Park.)
The game got started on a very encouraging note, as Jordan Zimmermann pitched a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. In the bottom of the first, lead-off batter Anthony Rendon smashed a double over the head of left fielder Aaron Altheer, and two batters later, Jayson Werth hit an RBI single. Yes!
In the top of the third inning, I went to the Club Level lounge to get refreshments when something very strange happened. Aaron Altheer came up to bat with the bases loaded. He smashed a single up the middle, but it got past the center fielder Michael Taylor, and before you knew it, four runs had scored, making it a 4-1 game. Yes, sports fans, it was an inside-the-park grand slam, the very first one of the 21st Century! But what made it especially weird was that the miscue by Michael Taylor (not ruled an error) was a virtual carbon copy of the play that he himself had started with a line drive on September 8. In that game, the Nats blew a 7-1 lead after the Mets scored six runs in the seventh inning. The italicized words above were copied from that previous blog post, adding Michael Taylor's name and adjusting the score. And guess who was pitching in that other game? Yes, Jordan Zimmermann! How creepy is that bit of deja vu?!
His pitch count wasn't that high (79 altogether), but Zimmermann must have been getting tired by the fifth inning, because he gave up two more home runs, both of which went over the fence. Aaron Altheer hit a towering fly ball that just barely cleared the left field wall, and Darin Ruf hit one into the Red Porch seats left of center field. In the sixth inning, Jayson Werth hit a solo homer to left field, briefly raising hopes for Washington fans, but the Nationals had a hard time getting men on base after that. In the eighth inning, the Phillies' Darin Ruf doubled, and Cody Asche hit a tremendous home run onto the green slope batters eye beyond center field, making it an 8-2 ball game. Bryce Harper struck out three times, and hit a long fly ball to center field for the third out in the eighth inning. In the bottom of the ninth, Ian Desmond and Clint Robinson both singled, but nobody scored.
And so, the Nationals went out "gentle into that good night." (Dylan Thomas) It was a melancholy way for Jordan Zimmermann to end his season pitching in Nationals Park, and perhaps the last time he'll start there in a Nationals uniform.
I added those photos to the Nationals Park page, and am in the process of making small revisions to the second-deck diagram based on my first-hand observations.
No Nats wins for me
Just like two last years ago, the Nationals did not win any of the games I saw this year. Harrumphh! Here's an updated version of the table of all the Nats' games I have seen, showing an apparent growing correlation between the games I see and the team's overall record each year:
Underlined numbers include away games (one each), three total.
R.I.P. Lawrence "Yogi" Berra
Yogi Berra, one of the most productive and popular players in the history of the New York Yankees, died on Tuesday night at the age of 90. He was born in St. Louis, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and played virtually his entire career (1946-1963) with the Yankees, racking up 358 home runs and a .285 batting average. He almost always played as catcher, but happened to be in left field when the Pirates' Bill Mazerowski hit the famous walk-off home run over his head in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series in Forbes Field, Pittsburgh. Yogi later managed for the Yankees as well as the Mets, for whom he actually played four games in 1965. See MLB.com and baseball-reference.com.
When I was very young, I had a hard time understanding why a baseball player would be named after a cartoon character.
Yogi was revered for his playing excellence as well as his good attitude and amiable personality. For a good chuckle, read "35 of Yogi Berra's most memorable quotes" at New York Post. #35 is one that my father repeats ad infinitum: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."