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June 24, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Almost perfect: Nationals sweep the Pirates

Following up on the uplifting 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, the Washington Nationals had one of their most memorable games in their ten-year history. One week after throwing a one-hitter, Max Scherzer had a virtually perfect game, spoiled only by a hit-by-pitch with two outs in the top of the ninth. (See below.) He threw ten strikeouts, making 26 total in his last two games. Meanwhile, Bryce Harper homered, and his team mates kept up the offensive push, leading to a 6-0 victory. [It was the first no-hitter in the major leagues this year, and (as we know smile) the second one in Nationals history (excluding the Expos). Scherzer set all sorts of records with those dominant consecutive games.]

On Sunday, Gio Gonzalez had a decent outing, while the bats came alive again. In fact, they scored nine runs in the first inning, the most ever for the team in the first inning, and tying their record for runs in any inning. Bryce Harper homered after Yunel Escobar singled, jumping to a 2-0 lead, and after getting through the bottom of the order thanks to an RBI double by Gio Gonzalez, Escobar had a second at bat, and he made the most of it, with a three run homer. The rest of the game was fairly dull, although the Braves did finally get two runs in the top of the ninth as the Nats won, 9-2. So, what seemed to have been a daunting opponent (having won eight games in a row) turned out to be almost a pushover. Somehow, the Nats managed to win a series at last?

And what was Joe Ross's reward for pitching so splendidly in his first three major league outings? Why, he was sent back down to the minors. Go figure. Couldn't he at least be part of the bullpen?

Was Scherzer robbed?

The way Jose Tabata put his elbow in front of the ball in Saturday's game raises the question of whether the umpire should have called him out. (Indeed, the exact same thing happened a little while later in Omaha that same evening, and in that case the batter was called out.) To me, it's pretty obvious, but it's [a moot point. It was an eerie echo of when umpire Jim Joyce] blew what should have been an out call at first base [in 2010], robbing [Detroit's Armando Galarraga] of a perfect game. [To his credit, Scherzer graciously took the blame for throwing an inside pitch, and didn't question Tabata's movement.]

Mark London reminded me about what happened to Milt Pappas in 1972, near the end of his career which began with the Baltimore Orioles. [With two outs in the ninth inning, he gave up a walk and then immediately got the third out on a pop-up, for the no-hitter; much like Scherzer.] Watch for yourself at youtube.com.

[Strasburg is back, wins]

After a day of rest, the Nationals opened a home series against the Atlanta Braves last night. Fierce thunderstorms (which struck throughout the region) caused a two-hour delay, but the Nats got off to a good start nonetheless. Denard Span, Anthony Rendon batted him in. The Nats got a total of 12 hits, leaving too many on base, but it was enough runs to win the game, as Stephen Strasburg was in control for a change. Fans in D.C. were nervous about whether he had gotten over whatever it was that was plaguing him, and the initial indication was positive. He went five full innings, escaping from one jam, and striking out six batters. Drew Storen loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, but managed to get out of the jam when the batter popped out to the catcher in foul territory. Final score: 3-1.

Did Pete Rose bet?

You bet he bet! There has been talk that Pete Rose will be allowed to make some kind of appearance at the All-Star Game in Cincinatti next month, as a possible step toward full forgiveness and presumably admission into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A notebook recently surfaced which shows clear evidence that Rose indeed had bet on games in which he played during the early 1980s. See ESPN. My view is that he shouldn't be let into the Hall of Fame until as much time passes as passed between his misdeeds and his belated admission of wrongdoing -- that is, about 20 years.

Virginia reaches CWS finals

Talk about nerve-wracking drama, over and over again! The University of Virginia Cavaliers somehow defeated the Florida Gators in the NCAA elimination game on Saturday night, by a score of 5-4. That put them in the final series for the second year in a row, against the same opponent: Vanderbilt. On Monday night it was a close game until the sixth inning, whereupon the Commodores took a two-run lead. Later they tacked on three more, so the Cavs lost the first game, 5-1. Getting a symbolic run in the top of the ninth perhaps gave them a bit of momentum for Game 2. The usual center fielder [Adam] Haseley took the mound for the first time in over a month, and he did fine for about five innings, exiting the game with a 3-0 lead behind him. The Cavaliers scored single runs in three of the first five innings. Then the relief pitcher Josh Sborz came in to pitch, and he likewise did splendidly, finishing the game with a multi-inning save. In tonight's game, the Cavs got base hits on the first two pitches of the game, but failed to score a run, whereas the Commodores got two runs in the bottom of the first. But in the fourth inning the Cavs tied it 2-2, thanks to a home run by Pavin Smith, and that's where we stand right now.

[UPDATE: The Cavaliers took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning, thanks to an RBI single by Pavin Smith.]

[UPDATED UPDATE: The Cavaliers added on a run in the seventh inning, and went on to win 4-2. Virginia is the national champion in college baseball for the very first time! Brandon Waddell went seven full innings and got the win, and Nathan Kirby pitched the last two and got the save. Details tomorrow.]

TD Ameritrade Park

TD Ameritrade Park!

Just in time for this evening's dramatic finale, I created a brand-new page for TD Ameritrade Park, complete with a fairly accurate diagram and a couple new photos. The panorama below is the best interior shot I could get, as no one was "at home" that day to let me inside. I should note that a minor league football team has played at TD Ameritrade Park, which is in the odd position of having no regular baseball tenant. I'll include a football version at some point in the future.

TD Ameritrade Park

Interior panorama of TD Ameritrade Park, from behind home plate. Taken July 25, 2014.

June 19, 2015 [LINK / comment]

More ups & downs for the Nationals

It is hard to fathom the origins of the maddening inconsistency displayed by the Washington Nationals this year. One day they surpass their sky-high expectations with a performance worthy of the postseason, and the next day they play like a struggling minor league team. Over and over and over again.

The four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers (June 11 - 14) was a good example. Tanner Roark, who had a couple good outings filling in as the fifth man in the pitching rotation after Doug Fister went on the DL, just couldn't get it together in Milwaukee. He's usually very reliable, but gave up too many hits to the Brewers, who won that game, 6-5. The next evening (Friday) Jordan Zimmermann lasted only three and a third innings, giving up six earned runs. It was one of his worst outings ever, putting more pressure on an already battered bullpen. More to the point, those losses put the Nationals back into second place in the NL East, behind the New York Mets. On Saturday, rookie pitcher Joe Ross took the mound, and I feared the worse. But to my immense surprise and delight, Ross went eight full innings, striking out eight, as the Nats won, 7-2.

In the final game of that series on Sunday (Flag Day!), Max Scherzer had a perfect game going until the seventh inning, when the Brewers' Carlos Gomez blooped a Texas Leaguer that just eluded second-baseman Anthony Rendon's grasp. Argh-h-h! Scherzer allowed one walk after that, but nobdy else reached base as he got the second complete game shutout of his career. He threw 16 strikeouts, and none of the batted balls was well hit, so in a sense it could be considered an even better performance than when Jordan Zimmermann pitched the no-hitter last September. Scherzer has had some bad luck on the mound, but he really is living up to the high expectations that were placed upon him. Nats 4, Brewers 0, with the series split two games apiece. So the Nats seemed to have recovered from that slump...

But then the team flew down to St. Petersburg, Florida, where the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays were ready and waiting. In Monday's game, Gio Gonzalez had a poor outing, virtually identical to what Jordan Zimmermann had just had: he lasted only three and a third innings, giving up five earned runs. It was an ugly 6-1 loss. But then on Tuesday, Tanner Roark recovered his old mojo and went seven full innings, as the Nats' bats came alive with a vengeance. Clint Robinson, the new left-batting outfielder, hit a colossal home run into the catwalks at Tropicana Field, and Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos followed suit. (Ramos homered twice.) Altogether the Nats had 23 hits, setting a team record, winning by a score of 16-4. It was a strange night, as the Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles won by similarly huge margins. So that game had to mark a big turning point for the Nats, right?

Nope. As the dual-city series shifted from St. Petersburg to Washington on Wednesday, somehow the Nats fell into a torpor once again, only getting two hits. Jordan Zimmermann had a decent outing, striking out eight and giving up three runs over seven innings, but it was wasted effort, as the Nats fell, 5-0. That game was the first appearance in Nationals Park by Steven Souza, Jr., the guy who caught the long fly ball in the ninth inning to save Zimmermann's no hitter last year. The crowd cheered appreciatively for Souza, and he repaid the gesture by hitting a solo home run. Ouch! On Thursday night, Doug Fister returned to the mound for the first time in over a month, and he did just fine for five innings. But he was clearly tired by the sixth inning, giving up multiple hits, allowing the Rays to take the lead. Why didn't Matt Williams take him out before too much damage was done? It's not the first time this has happened, and it raised questions once again about his managerial decisions-making when it comes to the bullpen. Fister may have suffered from the rain delay, the second in as many nights at Nationals Park. Whatever the problem was, the Rays ended up winning, 5-3, taking three out of four games in that series. That was just a shame. The worst part about that game was when Bryce Harper slipped on the wet grass trying to make a throw to home in the late innings, pulling his left hamstring in the process. He is now listed as day-to-day.

So the Nationals' confidence was shaken once again, as one of the hottest teams in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates, came to town on Friday night. The Pirates had an eight-game winning streak, and with the Nationals' three best sluggers out of action and rookie pitcher Joe Ross on the mound, prospects were bleak. But Ross once again rose to the occasion, pitching seven-plus innings and striking out eleven batters. That guy is really something, and has a confident poise that belies his 22 years of age. Wilson Ramos led the Nats' offense with two clutch RBI hits (a single and a double), and that was enough for the much-needed 4-1 victory.

Max Scherzer will be on the mound Saturday afternoon, raising hopes that the Nats might finally win a series for the first time since late May. They might even climb back into first place, as the division-leading New York Mets have been stumbling recently as well.

Virginia nears CWS finals

In the first round of the College World Series, in Omaha, Nebraska last week, the University of Virginia Cavaliers beat the Arkansas Razorbacks. Two days later beat the Florida Gators (who were favored) in a very tense 1-0 game. Virginia's Brandon Waddell allowed only two hits in seven-plus innings, and amazing performance. The game's lone run came on a sac fly by Robbie Coman in the sixth inning. That win put Virginia on the easy path, getting three days of rest. This afternoon the Cavaliers faced the Gators again, and even though they got on the board with a run in the first inning, this time the top-seeded team won, 10-5. It was the first time Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby had played in two months, but he had to be replaced in the third inning, when Florida scored four runs. Five more runs in the put the game out of reach. (See ncaa.com.) It was Virginia's first loss in the NCAA tournament, but they are still just one game away from reaching the CWS finals for the second year in a row, in which case it would be the same two teams in the final CWS series that made it there last year. Vanderbilt beat TCU today, obviating the need for another elimination game.

Demolition in San Francisco

Very little is left of the former home of the San Francisco Giants. Only a few sections of the Candlestick Park grandstand are still intact, and they'll probably be gone by July. See sfgate.com.

But we still have photographs to remember The 'Stick! In fact, a couple months ago my brother John sent me some photos of a game at Candlestick Park in 1961 taken by fellow South Dakotan Vern Hofer, and they were astonishingly good quality. Unfortunately, Mr. Hofer only took three photos of the game and the stadium that day.

Candlestick Park 1961 grand view

Candlestick Park, July 6, 1961. Juan Marichal is pitching to Vada Pinson, who is about to pop out to shortstop in the third inning, just after the Reds took a 1-0 lead. Final score: Reds 3, Giants 2. (Roll mouse over to see the grandstand, viewed from the same position.) Photos courtesy of Vern Hofer.

How did I figure that out? By looking at the scoreboard and the uniforms, and then consulting baseball-reference.com.

Those photos, plus another one taken from the parking lot, can now be seen on the Candlestick Park page. If anyone has photos of that stadium that they are willing to share, including demolition photos, I would be much obliged.

Seals Stadium update

Seals Stadium

Speaking of San Francisco, I made a few minor corrections to the Seals Stadium diagrams. The grandstand angle is about one degree wider than before, the right-field bleachers extend all the way to the office building in the corner, and the left-field bleachers extend about 40 feet to the left of the foul pole. Finally, the left field corner in the original (1932) configuration is now cleared up. (Before there was a question mark there.) That was the original motivation for this update, when I discovered (via a photo of Mickey Mantle getting caught in a rundown during an exhibition game) that the San Francisco Seals had built an inner fence in left field prior to the 1951 season, reducing the distances by about 18 feet. They removed that fence one year later, however, so I decided not to bother with showing it in the 1947 diagram, at least not for the time being.

June 12, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Virginia goes back to Omaha!

Their regular season performance did not live up to expectations, but the University of Virginia Cavaliers somehow found a way to get into the NCAA regional baseball tournament, and have now qualified for the College World Series which is about to get underway in beautiful downtown Omaha, Nebraska. To get there, Virginia had to win the regional round in California, and then beat Maryland in the super-regional three-game series which was held at Davenport Field in Charlottesville. Virginia won Game One of that series with a big late-inning comeback, and then did likewise in Game Two, capped with a thrilling two-run walkoff RBI single. You can watch a video clip of that game at vasp.tv.

Virginia came within a hair's breadth of winning the championship game last year, when Vanderbilt prevailed. Will those two teams face each other again in the final round? This year's eight contending teams are, listed sequentially by the first-round pairings on Saturday and Sunday:

  • Virginia
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Miami
  • Texas Christian
  • Louisiana State
  • California State at Fullerton
  • Vanderbilt

After 12 to 14 games in the double-elimination tournament, the championship series (best of three) will be played on Monday, June 22 and the next two or three days.

TD Ameritrade Park ext. NW

The northwest entrance to TD Ameritrade Park, behind home plate. Taken July 25, 2014, one month after Virginia finished a very close second place in the College World Series.

"The Road to Omaha," seen in the photo above, was sculpted in 1999 by Omaha artist John Lajba. It originally stood outside Rosenblatt Stadium, which had hosted the College World Series for many years, until 2010. The statue was relocated to TD Ameritrade Park in 2011. cwsomaha.com. UVa baseball coach Brian O'Cconnor was the model for one of the faces in that statue, as he grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the Missouri River from Omaha. See ncaa.com and washingtonpost.com. I distinctly recall hearing that former Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was another one of the faces in that statue, but couldn't confirm that from the sources I checked.

As for dimensions at TD Ameritrade Park, it's 335 feet to the corners, 375 feet to the power alleys, and 408 feet to center field. It's not symmetrical, however, as the straight in right field and curved in left field -- rather like Turner Field in Atlanta. I'll try to come up with a preliminary diagram while the College World Series is still going on...

June 10, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Nats beat Yanks, reclaim 1st place

Thanks to some clutch hits by some of the lesser-known players, the Washington Nationals beat the New York Yankees in The Bronx this afternoon. With some help from the San Francisco Giants (see below), the Nats managed to sneak back into first place, by a half game. Denard Span put the Nats on the board with an RBI double in the third inning, and Danny Espinosa hit a solo home run in the fifth inning. Just like the day before, however, the Yankees scored four runs in the seventh inning, and the Nats were in danger of losing a fourth straight game. That would have been a big blow to their self-confidence. But Michael Taylor erased that lead with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, and the game went into extras. Then, in the top of the 11th, Denard Span (who has taken some time off due to soreness) beat out a throw to first base, getting an RBI infield single, and that proved to be the margin of victory for the visiting team. Nats 5, Yankees 4. Gio Gonzalez had a good outing, giving up just two runs in six and a third innings.

Yesterday's game was similarly close most of the way, with an early home run by Bryce Harper in his first-ever game in New Yankee Stadium. But in the seventh inning, an errant throw to third base by Nats shortstop Ian Desmond allowed a Yankee run to score, followed by three more runs. Desmond probably should have thrown the ball to first base for the third out, since Alex Rodriguez is not exactly a speedster, but it was a great stop and he almost made the out. It was the second straight game that Nats ace Max Scherzer was roughed up, while the Yanks' recently-ailing pitcher Masahiro Tanaka had his besting outing of the year. Yankees 6, Nats 1.

So, at least the Nats salvaged a split in the two-game series, and came out ahead 3-1 in the seasonal series against the Yankees. That was an accomplishment to be proud of. Contrary to what I wrote on Monday, the Yankees have been on a hot streak lately, winning seven straight games until today. (I had been thinking about how the Yankees had been doing before last week.) The return of Alex Rodriguez to the lineup has helped a lot. New York fans seem willing to forgive his substance abuse, and he has been appropriately low-key and hard-working after being suspended for all of last year.

No-hitter by Giants rookie Heston

The big news yesterday was the no-hitter at Citi Field thrown by Giants rookie Chris Heston, making just his 13th major league start. It was the 17th no-hitter in Giants history, and the fourth in the last four years. See MLB.com. There were no errors and no walks, but he did hit three Mets batter with his pitches, or else it would have been a perfect game. The Giants won that game 5-0, and they won tonight's game 8-5, helping the Nationals get back the divisional lead.

It was the first no-hitter in the major leagues this year. Have I mentioned that I witnessed the previous MLB no-hitter, in Washington last September? Yes, I think I did.

Home run races

Baseball fans are enthralled by the competition between Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, who hit two home runs on Tuesday, one more than Harper did, so he now has a 21-20 lead in the race. By the way, former Nationals Steven Souza Jr., the guy who made the diving catch to save Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter last September, has been going gangbusters in Tampa Bay. Believe it or not, he has hit eleven (11) homers this year, tied for 22nd place in the majors with A-Rod, the Cubs Anthony Rizzo, and a few others. I knew the Nats should have kept him!

Unfortunately, Bryce Harper has said that he might not participate in this year's Home Run Derby, because he wants to be with his father, who is ill. That's too bad, on a personal level, and from a fan's point of view.

More enhanced photos

I've been (re-)scanning more photos, including this spliced-together panoramic view of RFK Stadium, which was taken six years before the Nationals even existed. I spent a lot of time getting the colors to match more closely from one segment to the next, and in getting the segments to align with each other in a more realistic fashion. The end product is not perfect, but it's a big improvement. Other newly enhanced photos include one of RFK taken from center field at that same exhibition game, plus one of (then-) Pro Player Stadium taken by my brother John, and one of Three Rivers Stadium in 2000, its final year as home of the Pirates. [Links added.]

Grand view of RFK Stadium, April 1999, before an exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Montreal Expos. Click on the image to see it full-size.

Football back to L.A.?

There has been a lot of movement in recent weeks regarding the possible relocation of NFL franchises to Los Angeles, perhaps as early as next year. One scenario involves bringing the Rams from St. Louis back to L.A., and Rams owner Stan Kroenke is pushing for the Hollywood Park stadium development project in Inglewood; see NFL.com. Another possibility is a partnership between the (San Diego?) Chargers and the (Oakland?) Raiders, the two other NFL teams that was called L.A. home. They have hired an experienced football executive named Carmen Policy to lead the campaign to build a proposed $1.7 billion stadium in Carson, California. See ESPN. The prolonged absence of pro football from the nation's second biggest city is terrible, and somebody needs to make a deal soon.

June 8, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Nationals in a slump, fall into second place

For nearly an entire month, the Washington Nationals were the hottest team in baseball, but of course all good things must come to an end. Just as the lousy month of April (10 wins, 13 losses) ended with three straight victories, the merry, merry month of May (18 wins, 9 losses) ended with three straight defeats -- and rather ugly ones at that.

Plunk! Reds sweep Nats

The Nats suffered a humbling comeuppance on the banks of the Ohio River during the last weekend of May. On Friday the 29th Stephen Strasburg left the game during the second inning, because of some kind of injury. It was the shortest outing of his career. Rookie pitcher Taylor Jordan took over on the mound, and did just fine for the next four innings -- until the Reds scored three runs. Final score: 5-2. The Cincinnati Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani plunked Bryce Harper in the back, causing him to miss a day. In the Saturday game, the Nats had a 5-4 lead going into the eighth inning, and starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez was plunked, twice. Then the Reds scored four runs off Casey Janssen, a veteran relief pitcher acquired from Toronto during the off-season. It was his worst outing of the year. Final score: 8-4. On Sunday the 31st, Tanner Roark (resuming his role as a starting pitcher after being nudged aside into the bullpen this spring) pitched well enough for six innings, giving up just two runs. He stood up for his teammates by a retaliatory plunking of Joey Votto, and that was that. But the Reds once again staged a big late-inning rally, with six runs in the seventh, mostly off Aaron Barrett, who took the loss.

A curious footnote to that forgettable weekend: Joey Votto was awarded a walk by the umpire even though he had only taken three balls. Somehow, nobody seemed to notice. !!?? See MLB.com

If the Nats had swept that series instead of being swept, they would have had a record-setting 21-6 win-loss record for May. The Nationals' best month ever was June 2005, when they went 20-6 (76.9%). They (barely) exceeded 70% one other time, in September 2014, when they went 19-8. I updated the Washington Nationals page with monthly data for May, as well as head-to-head data for for the first two months of 2015, as well as cumulative head-to-head data for 2005-2014.

Before that series, from May 22 to 24, the Nats had edged the Phillies in two out of three games. Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez dominated in their starts, while Stephen Strasburg struggled again, giving up five runs in less than four innings on the mound. The bats were starting to cool off just a bit, a sign of a worrisome trend.

Blue Jays outscore Nats

In their second interleague series of the year, the Nats got off to a good start against the Toronto Blue Jays. Playing back home in D.C. on Tuesday afternoon (June 2) as a makeup for the rainout on Monday night, Jordan Zimmermann was in total command, going eight innings without giving up a run. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman got clutch RBIs, and the Nats won, 2-1. But in the night game, their ace pitcher Max Scherzer was startled when the Blue Jays got two home runs off him, and he took the loss in a 7-3 defeat. On Wednesday, rookie Taylor Jordan gave up four runs in the first inning, but manager Mike Williams nevertheless kept him in the game for five more innings. Final score: 8-0. Talk about "cruel and unusual punishment"! In that regard, I recently posted on Facebook:

Maybe Matt [Williams] was sending a signal to [Mike] Rizzo to get more bucks to bring back Clippard or otherwise fortify this suddenly-weak pitching staff. Poor Taylor Jordan was sacrificed to make a point, I'll bet

Cubs get back at Nats

At Wrigley Field from May 25 to 27, the Nationals took two out of three games from the Cubs, and neither team scored more than three runs. In all three games, the Nats' pitchers had quality starts, with five, seven, and seven innings pitched, respectively. The May 27 showdown between Max Scherzer and the Cubs' new ace Jon Lester was a true classic, and the 3-0 victory marked the climax (and, unfortunately, the end) of the Nationals' hot streak.

So the Cubs arrived in Washington on Thursday, June 4, and they were ready to get revenge. For some reason, Gio Gonzalez had poor command in the first inning, with multiple walks, and the Cubs scored twice. That turned out all they needed, as the Nats fell, 2-1. The Nats lost a challenge to an out call at second base in the fourth inning, and were thus unable to challenge an even more obvious blown call by an umpire when Bryce Harper reached first base on an infield hit in the sixth inning -- but not according to the ump. Argh-h-h-h!!! That game put them into second place (behind the Mets) for the first time since May 17. In Friday night's game the Nats took a 3-0 lead in the second inning, thanks to a huge home run by Danny Espinosa. The ball landed three rows beyond the visitors' bullpen in left field, about 440 feet, I figure. Tanner Roark did fine for the first five innings, but gave up two home runs in the top of the sixth and had to be replaced. He still got the win, though, and the Nats were back in first place. Then on Saturday, the Nats put rookie pitcher Joe Ross on the mound, and he did surprisingly well. He was perfect for the first three innings, and left after six innings, having given up four runs. But the only offense the Nats could manage was a homer by Wilson Ramos and another one by Bryce Harper in the ninth inning. Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel, who has been the Nats' nemesis over the years, beat them once again. Cubs 4, Nats 2. On Sunday, before a capacity crowd of 40,939, Jordan Zimmermann had an uncharacteristically poor outing. Ian Desmond homered to take the lead, but the Cubs piled on more runs and won the game, 6-3. Thus, the Cubs won the regular season series against the Nationals, four games to three. Those two teams might just face each other again during the postseason in October...

Meanwhile in Phoenix, Arizona, the Diamondbacks staged a nice comeback rally against the New York Mets on Saturday night, and added some insurance runs in the eighth inning to win, so Mets fell back into second place again. But on Sunday they beat the D-backs, and thereby claimed first place, with a half-game lead.

So now the Nationals have lost eight of their last ten games, and have a so-so 30-27 record, as they head to New York to play the Yankees in another two-game series. Both teams have been struggling lately, having a hard time living up to expectations. Ryan Zimmerman has been in a bad slump lately, and was given the day off on Sunday to rest.

Harper & Scherzer: NL Player & Pitcher of the Month

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Bryce Harper was chosen as the National League Player of the Month. Not only that, but Max Scherzer was chosen as pitcher of the month, the first time that teammates had won those honors since May 2008. (That was when Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and CC Sabathia were chosen.) See MLB.com. On MASN last week, they had an interesting factoid: Bryce Harper almost became the third player in history have ever led the major leagues in home runs, RBIs, and walks through the month of May. The only two are Babe Ruth (19, 44, 42: 1928) and Ted Williams (15, 55, 40: 1942). Pretty impressive company! Harper (18, 43, 43) was just one behind the leader in RBIs, Giancarlo Stanton. Harper had his 19th homer in the game on Sunday, when the Nats lost to the Cubs.

Werth breaks wrist again

One of the big factors explaining the Nationals' downhill trajectory was the news that Jayson Werth suffered a broken wrist once again, after getting hit by a pitch. Fortunately, it's not as bad as the fracture he suffered while diving to make a catch in May 2012. That caused him to lose three months' of playing time. But still, it's a dirty rotten shame that he has to miss at least two months again.

Get well soon, Jayson!

What's ailing Strasburg?

At the top of the list of most Nationals' fans worries is Stephen Strasburg. What is wrong with him??? In today's Washington Post, Adam Kilgore explores the enigma behind the former ace's cloudy future. The official line is that he has a muscle strain in his neck, but know one seems sure how that happened. The coaches are working with Strasburg to help his pitching mechanics, but there seems to be some kind of psychological problem holding him back. His speed and control seem OK, but he just doesn't seem to be able to outwit batters. More often than not, they seem to expect what pitches he's going to throw.

Bring back Clippard!

Coupled with the minor injury to Doug Fister, the vaunted Washington pitching staff all of a sudden looks rather weak. Rookies are starting games over and over again! Last Tuesday's Washington Post suggested one solution to the Nats' recent bullpen woes: Bringing back Tyler Clippard!

Petco Park renovations

In my blog post of May 21, I neglected to mention one other ballpark renovation this year: Petco Park in San Diego. They have removed several rows of seats in both levels in left field, with that room being made available for standing tables. The upper deck seems to have been truncated by several feet, leaving less overhang. There is also a big new video board, measuring about 62 feet high by 124 feet wide, exceeded only by the display screens at Kauffman Stadium and Safeco Field. See MLB.com; link courtesy of Mike Zurawski.

So, of course I've been busy making revisions to the Petco Park diagrams.

Tal's Hill to be removed

The Houston Astros announced that "Tal's Hill" in center field of Minute Maid Park will be removed before next year, and in its place will be new seating section. See the Houston Chronicle (hat tip to Mike Zurawski), which ran an online poll on the question. I voted NO, of course.

Do you agree with the decision to get rid of "Tal's Hill"?

No (45%, 3,274 Votes)
Yes (42%, 3,013 Votes)
Don't care (13%, 936 Votes)
Total Voters: 7,223

Misc. ballpark news

In Harlem, they have rebuilt the old stairway the fans used to descend en route to the Polo Grounds, with a historical marker; see nydailynews.com. Hat tip to Mike Zurawski.

D.C. United stadium deal!

Today in Washington, the D.C. Government and D.C. United finalized an agreement to build a new soccer stadium, to be located in the Buzzards Point area a few blocks southwest of Nationals Park. They had already reached a tentative deal, but a few details had to be worked out to ensure that the D.C. Council would give its approval. There had been delays in completing the negotiations, because of hesitation by some officials in D.C., but the pace quickened after rumors of a possible deal with Virginia were publicized last month. According to the Washington Post, "The project is expected to cost around $286.7 million and is expected to open for the 2018 Major League Soccer season." Also see dcunited.com. That means that RFK Stadium will become vacant two years from now.

Miller Park visit

Kansas City-area D.J./videographer Scott Rhodes recently went on a road trip up north, seeing games in Milwaukee and the north side of Chicago (Wrigley Field). He took a great photo of Miller Park, and graciously consented to it being used on my Miller Park page.

Miller Park, from the third deck on the first-base side, courtesy of Scott Rhodes.

rockin planet radio In addition, Scott is now sponsoring the Kauffman Stadium and K.C. Municipal Stadium pages, promoting his Rockin' Planet Radio online station: rockinplanetradio.com. Thanks and best wishes, Scott!

Belated thanks also go out to James Bigham, who made a donation via PayPal earlier this year. I appreciate all expressions of support for this Web site, whether it's money, news tips, stadium observations, photographs, or just a friendly word.

Speaking of road trips, I'm making travel plans to see some new (for me) ballparks in the next few weeks...

Coming Attractions

(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Between March 2012, when Marlins Park was completed, and September 2014, there were no major league baseball stadiums under construction. It was the first time since September 1986 that this situation existed. But in light of the recent groundbreaking on the future home of the Braves, the table that had been removed from this space is being restored.

Stadium construction

Franchise /
Opens % done
Atlanta Braves
Sun Trust Field
2017 5%
Oakland (San Jose?) Athletics
Cisco Field (?)
2019? 0%
Tampa Bay Rays
Rays Stadium (?)
2020? 0%
NOTES: This table includes stadiums that are currently under construction or are being contemplated.

Research department:

Baseball books:

See Sources for a brief description of the above books. Also see more specialized books on the Ebbets Field, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium pages.

From October through December, a table of all Postseason game scores is shown here.

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