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September 21, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Nats close in on Braves, then choke

It's too late in the season to really matter, but it was heartening nonetheless that the Washington Nationals bounced back from the loss on Friday with two wins against the Braves in Atlanta. In the Saturday game, Juan Soto was the star, as he went one for two, took three walks, scored two runs, and became the first teenager ever to steal three bases in one game; see MLB.com. The Nats won that one, 7-1. And on Sunday, it was a close, hard-fought match as Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon both homered, and the Nats won it, 6-4.

The Nats thus closed the gap from 8 1/2 games to 7 1/2 games, postponing the all-but-inevitable elimination in the NL East race. (To my surprise, the weather wasn't much of a factor in that series, as Tropcial Storm Florence veered northward and barely affected the Atlanta area.)

In Miami on Monday evening, Eric Fedde started off well enough as starting pitcher for the Nats, but had to be pulled in the fifth inning. The Nats took an early lead, puncuated by Victor Robles' first career home run, but Miami came back with multiple rallies and won it, 8-5. The Nats bounced back the next day at least, as Anthony Rendon put on another display of clutch hitting with a home run. Bryce Harper drew five walks, while Stephen Strasburg threw eleven strikeouts. Final score: Nats 4, Marlins 2.

After a day of rest (and travel), Max Scherzer took the mound and was near the top of his game, throwing a total of 13 strikeouts. That put him at 290 for the year, all but guaranteeing that he will reach the 300-K milestone in his next two scheduled appearances this season. But the Mets took advantage of his tendency to challenge batters with predictable fast balls, and hit two home runs off him in the third inning. The Nats tied it 4-4 in the eighth inning thanks to an RBI double by Juan Soto, but the Nats wasted run-scoring opportunities again. In the 11th inning, Ryan Zimmerman hit a lead-off double but the Nats just couldn't get him home. That was sadly typical of this year. In the 12th inning, Jefrey Rodriguez gave up a single and two walks to load the bases, and former National Jose Lobaton hit a sac fly to center field, scoring what turned out to be the winning run. Mets 5, Nats 4.

For the first time this year, I'll be attending a Nationals game later today, and I don't think I have ever done so under such bleak circumstances. The Nationals could get eliminated tonight, and this might be the last time I see Bryce Harper in a Nationals uniform. Just wait till next year?

Mariners extend Safeco lease

I was informed by Mike Zurawski that the Seattle Mariners have agreed to a 25-year extension of their lease on Safeco Field, where they have played since 1999. The city will provide $135 million in subsidies for renovations instead of the $180 million the team asked for. See ballparkdigest.com. That's good news for anyone who opposes the stadium rip-offs of which the "Atlanta" Braves are the most recent example. Safeco Field is unfortunately one of the oversized stadiums of the early Neoclassical ballpark era, others being Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Coors Field, Chase Field, Globe Life Park (or whatever they are calling it at the moment), and of course Turner Field.

September 14, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Ebbets Field BIG update!

I took a brief diversion from my planned diagram updates to do Ebbets Field Ebbets Field, legendary former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I paid a visit to that location two years ago, and included some of the photos I took on that page. For the first time, there are diagrams of the upper and lower decks, showing where the support beams, grandstand "creases," and entry portals were. As with other stadiums, those architectural "benchmarks" proved very useful in getting other parts of the diagram just right. The ramps are shown in the new lower-deck diagram (note in particular the ones in the northwest and northeast corners), the press box behind home plate is shown in the new second-deck diagram, and the light towers are shown for the first time in the later (1938 and 1948) diagram variants. Believe it or not, this is the first Ebbets Field update since 2006!

Perhaps the most notable change was the slight widening (about one degree) of the overall grandstand angle compared to my earlier diagrams. That resulted in a slight counter-clockwise rotation of the other two sides (left field and right field) relative to the diamond. I used the exterior dimensions along each street that were shown in an old street map/diagram, and applied trigonometry to determine the main grandstand angle, which is (or was) almost exactly 70 degrees.

There are many small changes as well, mostly stemming from "discoveries" I made while peering at photos in the various books I have, as well as some photos available online. Often, such discoveries ended up forcing me to make some rather significant changes. For example, I realized that there were about two exposed rows of seats along the left field side from 1932 to 1947, contrary to my earlier estimation that the outfield wall was perfectly aligned with the front edge of the upper deck and the roof all the way from the left field corner to the right side of center field. It was in fact that way (zero exposed rows of seats) in center field, but not to the left of the bend. The big clue which led to that discovery was that, prior to the addition of new seating rows in 1948, the bend in the outfield wall did not align with the "crease" in the grandstand when viewed from a low angle behind home plate. From 1948 on, they did align, which means that they must have added about three more rows of seats in the center field area than they did in the left field area. That in turn accounts for some of the apparent inconsistencies in dimensions to various parts of the outfield between the 1932-1947 period and the 1948-1957 period.

Another discovery was that the crease in the lower deck near the left field foul pole was about 20 feet closer the home plate than was the crease in the upper deck. For a long time I simply assumed that the upper and lower decks coincided vertically, not having seen any clear photos of that area indicating otherwise, and then I noticed in the detailed seating diagram showing that there were several more rows of seats in the portion of the grandstand wrapping around the left field corner. Another detail is only hinted at in the diagrams: about ten feet above the concourse in back of the lower deck there was an elevated concourse to which the ramps led, and from which the catwalks to the upper deck originated. (Wrigley Field has a similar arrangement.) I have seen old photos with "standing room only" fans crammed onto that elevated concourse.

As I was making what I thought would be the finishing touches on those diagrams, I made yet another discovery. For example, an excellent color photo that appears on page 195 of the excellent book The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 (edited by John Thorn, 2007) reveals that (for the last decade of its history) there were two sets of lateral walkways exposed to the sunlight, with three rows and five rows in front, respectively. To avoid undue clutter, I only included the forward such walkway (located where the front of the grandstand had been until 1947) in the 1948 diagram; all three such walkways are properly depicted on the lower-deck diagram.

There are probably a few other juicy details and discoveries that I have neglected, in which case I will mention them in a later blog post. Finally, I added football diagram since Ebbets Field was the home of a pro football team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, and added it to the Football use page.

Nats sweep the Phillies

The Nationals kept up the momentum after that encouraging come-from-behind win against the Phillies on Tuesday, with a convincing 5-1 win on Wednesday. Stephen Strasburg had a superb seven-inning outing, backed up by home runs by Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Juan Soto. The Phillies ace Aaron Nola, who is in contention for the NL Cy Young Award, was roughed up early by the Nats. It was the Nationals' sixth series sweep (3 or 4 games) of the season, but the first one since May. That right there says a lot about how this season has gone for the Nats. They were briefly only a half game behind the Phillies in the NL East race, but what happened next spoiled their hopes of moving into second place.

Cubs edge the Nats

Interrupting the road trip to finish the four-game series against the Cubs last weekend (which had been rudely interrupted more than once by inclement weather), the Nats played a hard-fought duel on Thursday afternoon, and came up just a little short. In his first outing in more than a year (after recovering from arm surgery), Joe Ross did just fine on the mound, giving up two runs over five innings. The Nats tied it 3-3 in the eighth inning, and could have won it in the ninth if Bryce Harper had gotten a hit. "Doctor" Sean Doolittle pitched in the ninth and tenth innings, which was probably a mistake since he only recently returned from the disabled list. His command wasn't what it usually is, and in the top of the tenth, he gave up what turned out to be the game-winning RBI hit (a weird bunt that got past Ryan Zimmerman), and the Cubs won it, 4-3.

Clash of (rookie) titans in Atlanta!

Notwithstanding the approach of Hurricane Florence, the Braves welcomed the Nats to Atlanta tonight, and the showdown between rival Rookie of the Year contenders Juan Soto and Ronaldo Acuña more than lived up to expectations. The Nats took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, sparked by a double hit by Ryan Zimmerman. But the Braves came right back to tie it, thanks to a two-run "Texas League" bloop single by Ronaldo Acuña. Juan Soto homered while Ronaldo Acuña hit a triple, a double, and two singles. Wilmer Difo got two RBIs, on a double and a sac fly, but Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper failed to get hits in clutch situations late in the game. The Braves tacked three more runs on in the eighth, two charged to Jimmy Cordero and one to the often-shaky Sammy Solis. That 10-5 loss put the Nationals 9 1/2 games behind the Braves, back down to .500 (74-74), essentially ending their last faint hopes of making it to the postseason.

Max Scherzer almost got out of the second-inning jam, but that showdown with pitcher Kevin Gausman, who kept fouling off pitches and finally drew a walk to load the bases before Acuña's RBI single, started to wear him down early. Scherzer only lasted four innings, giving up six runs, the worst outing of the year for him. He did get six strikeouts at least, bringing his season total up to 277. It seems more than likely that his previous game (see below) undermined his readiness to pitch well tonight. With three more probable starts, he is still in position to reach 300.

Nats' complete-game shutouts

In his previous outing (September 8, against the Cubs), Max Scherzer pitched a full nine innings for the second time this year (the only National pitcher to do so), even though there was no shutout or no-hitter on the line. The Nats had a 10-1 lead after seven, so the decision to leave him in was probably to give him a chance to ramp up his strikeout total in the quest for the magic 300 number. (The closest he has come in his career was 284 in 2016.) He did get 11 K's that night, reaching 271 for the year, but at a cost of two extra runs by the Cubs, thus raising his ERA just a tad. Max had a complete-game shutout this year, on April 9 (Nats 2, Braves 0), reminding me of my August 15, 2013 blog post that tabulated Nats' complete-game shutouts, and my long-deferred plans to put a more complete such table on the Washington Nationals page. Well, I finally did it! Two pitchers have thrown four complete-game shutouts while with the Nats: Max Scherzer (with two no-hitters) and Jordan Zimmermann (with one no-hitter). Nats pitchers threw three complete-game shutouts in each of three consecutive years: 2013, 2014, and 2015, but only two since then, oddly. They threw exactly one such game in six of their first eight years (2005-2012), the exceptions being 2007 and 2008. It's odd that they didn't achieve any such games in 2016, one of their best years otherwise.

Jayson Werth gets due honor

Between the two games with the Cubs in Nationals Park last Saturday (September 8), the Nationals honored their former star slugger Jayson Werth, who announced his retirement in midseason after a stint in the minors with the Seattle Mariners organization. His name was the first of a Nationals player (as opposed to Senators or Expos) to be added to the Nationals Park "Ring of Honor," the de facto Hall of Fame for former Washington and Montreal baseball players. I would have loved to have been there, but the rainy forecast made that too much of a risky proposition. But I paid rapt attention to the ceremony and to the video replays of Jayson's biggest moments with the Nats.

It was in early December 2010 that the Nationals acquired free agent Jayson Werth, who had played a few years with the Phillies after beginning his career with the L.A. Dodgers. It was one of General Manager Mike Rizzo's biggest roster coups up to that point, and it signified a big turning point in the franchise's history. The Nats made a huge leap from 69-93 (.426) in 2010 to 80-81 (.497) in 2011, and of course one year later came their breakout year when they first won the NL East division title with a 98-64 (.605) record. Without a doubt, the biggest triumph in his career with the Nats came on October 11, 2012, when he hit a ninth-inning walk-off home run to save the Nats and send the NLDS to Game 5. (Let's ignore that for the moment.) I happened to be present for a similar game-changing home run by Jayson about a month earlier, on September 8, 2012:

Jayson Werth home run 8 Sep 2012

Jayson Werth launches a game-tying home run (diagonal streak in upper right), to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, after a long rain delay had emptied the stands of all but a small cadre of hard-core Nats fans. The Nats went on to beat the Marlins in the tenth inning.

In one of his interviews, I was pleasantly surprised when Jayson said his second proudest moment was when he hit a double in the bottom of the 12th inning to beat the Cubs and win the series June 15, 2016. That series was a big showdown with Cubs, who were likewise serious postseason contenders that year. Perhaps as memorable as the double itself was when he blurted out "Holy $#!+" in the postgame interview with Dan Kolko, who was often the butt of Jayson's gibes. He had been getting lots of criticism for underperforming and for getting too old, and his exultation is easily understandable. Jayson is perhaps not the best role model for young kids, and he showed off his roguish impulses when he was arrested for driving over 100 MPH on the Capital Beltway in August 2014. (He actually spent a few days in jail in early 2015.) But sometimes those qualities are needed in sports, where leadership plays a big role in inspiring players to do their best.

Thank you, Jayson!
You will NOT be forgotten in Nats Town!!!

Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth in a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in March 2017.

September 11, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Insane rain delays help Nats win

As Hurricane Florence approaches, the ground along the eastern seaboard is already soaked from the on-and-off rainfall over the past week, and from the wet summer before that. The Nationals welcomed the Chicago to Our Nation's Capital last Thursday, for what was supposed to be a four-game series. The Cubs won 6-4 in ten innings, taking the lead on an RBI single by pinch hitter David Bote, the same guy who hit a walk-off grand slam against the Nats as a pinch hitter last month. That brought the Nats down to 69-72, three games below .500. On Friday the rains came, and for some reason they started the game in a drizzle in spite of a bleak forecast. The game was called after two innings, nullifying everything that had happened, and so they played a traditional (non-split) double-header on Saturday.

The afternoon game's start was delayed by over two hours due to rain, and Max Scherzer pitched a soggy complete game in the 10-3 victory, with two of those runs coming in the ninth inning. The Nats only had six hits, but took full advantage of the nine walks given up by the Cubs. In the nightcap, Nats' rookie starting pitcher Jefry Rodriguez was doing pretty well until the fifth inning, when virtual rookie catcher Victor Caratini hit a grand slam. It was yet another unexpected punch in the gut, but the Nats gradually came back thanks to a homer by Anthony Rendon, and a double and a triple by rookie Adrian Sanchez. Bryce Harper hit a clutch two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning, which put the Nats on top, 6-5. But then came another rain delay in the eighth inning, and frankly I got tired of waiting and fell asleep around midnight. The next morning I woke up to learn that play resumed after an hour and a half, and that the Nats held on to win, 6-5. Whew! But seriously, why play baseball after 1:00 in the morning? Why not just suspend play until the next day??

Well, maybe that wouldn't have worked either. It rained all Sunday afternoon, and around 4:00 they finally announced that the game would be postponed until this Thursday, when the Cubs and the Nats both had off days. Unfortunately, that's about when the hurricane might start having effects on weather in the mid-Atlantic states, so who knows? It has all been very surreal.

The Nats were supposed to begin a three-game series in Philadelphia yesterday, but the infield at Citizens Bank Park was a huge mud pit because they didn't want to keep the tarp on the field for too long. Stupid! So instead, they played another traditional double-header today, in which rookie catcher Spencer Kieboom had his first career home run to give the Nats the lead in the fifth inning. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman each had an RBI single, and the Nats vaunted closing pitcher Sean Doolittle (who was recently reactivated after nearly two months on the DL) struggled in the ninth inning but finished the game successfully. Nats 3, Phillies 1. In the nightcap, Juan Soto hit an RBI double in the first inning and his 17th home run of the year three innings later. Starting pitcher Tanner Roark did OK until the fifth inning, when he just seemed to fall apart. The Phillies got hit after hit off him, and all of a sudden they were ahead, 5-3. In the eighth inning, aging veteran Jose Bautista homered, his first HR since being acquired by the Phillies in a trade with the Mets two weeks ago. (That was the first batter faced by rookie pitcher Kyle McGowin; in each of his two MLB outings he has given up a home run.) So, the Nats were behind 6-3 going into the ninth inning, and it didn't look too good. But the Phillies' relief pitcher Seranthony (!?) Dominguez gave up three walks and two hits, and the Nats had the game tied 6-6 with the bases loaded. Bryce Harper had a chance to give the Nats the lead, but he swung at a couple bad pitches to end the inning. In the top of the tenth inning, the amazing Juan Soto hit another home run (#18), getting his fourth RBI of the day, and aging veteran pitcher Greg Holland came in to save the game in the bottom of the inning. Nats 7, Phillies 6. Both of those were very satisfying wins, even though they don't mean much as far as the divisional race. The Nats can pull within a half game of the second-place Phillies in tomorrow's game. They've been stuck in third place since June 22.

Century race: Baltimore "beats" Boston

The big question in baseball last week was whether the Orioles or the Red Sox would reach the triple-digit level in the win-loss records this year, and thanks to a rare pair of losses by the team from Boston, that ironic "honor" went to Baltimore, which lost its 100th game of the year on Friday, losing to the Tampa Bay Rays, 14-2. After getting swept by the Rays in St. Petersburg over the weekend, the Orioles lost again tonight, this time to the Oakland A's. So with a record of 41-103 (.285), they need to win at least eight of their last 18 games to reach the .300 mark. The Red Sox won their 99th game of the year tonight (vs. only 46 losses, for a .683 percentage), welcoming the Blue Jays to Boston, and have clinched at least a wild card spot with 17 games left to play in the regular season. The Yankees (90-55, .621) are nine games back, and the Red Sox' magic number is likewise nine. Not much drama in the AL East.

How about those Athletics?

On the west coast, meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics (88-57, .607) have surged into contention for the postseason, coming to within three games of the world champion Houston Astros (91-54, .628). (It's worth noting that none of the the National League teams have win-loss records over .600; the Cubs come closest, with .583 at present.) The Athletics' offensive leader is Khris Davis, who has 41 homers and 109 RBIs but only has a .250 batting average. The A's rank third in the majors in home runs, with 199 total. (The Yankees lead in homers and the Dodgers are in second.) Otherwise, neither the batting statistics nor pitching statistics are especially noteworthy for the A's, so it must be an extraordinarily efficient use of their resources to win games by a close margin.

September 5, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Are you ready for some football?

Well, here we are in the month of September, that exciting time of the year when fans of postseason-contending baseball teams ramp up their enthusiasm for the big battles to come! This year, however, fans of the Washington Nationals are -- barring a miracle -- left out of that elite club. That leads many such fans to pursue other interests and passions, which in my case means putting in long hours on diagram revisions (stay tuned!!!) and paying a bit more attention to other sports.

This fall the Washington Redskins have a "new" starting quarterback, veteran Alex Smith (formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs), as well as a "new" running back, Adrian Peterson (formerly of the Minnesota Vikings). Will those acquisitions lead to an upturn in the team's (mis-)fortunes? Not according to the Washington Post, which in a special section today forecast that the Redskins will come up short in eight out of their 16 games this season. Yikes. Personally, I think the Redskins would have been better off giving their former quarterback, Kirk Cousins, a multi-year contract. But Redskins owner Dan Snyder essentially slammed the door in his face, and Kirk will be playing for the Vikings this year. He just turned 30, and is in the prime of his career.

Well, given those somber prospects and all the divisive nonsense over players kneeling in protest while the National Anthem is being played, maybe I should pay more attention to college football rather than the NFL. That means enduring the laughably unbalanced matchups of Week 1, when most big colleges pick some hapless underdog as an opponent. But there were a few upsets: For example, in Tallahassee, Virginia Tech got the last laugh, beating Florida State.

It so happens that while in Annapolis a couple weeks ago, I paid a brief visit to the home field of one of the most legendary teams in college football history: Navy! Unfortunately, the University of Hawaii beat Navy 59-41 in the opening game last Saturday; see dailymail.co.uk.

USNA Navy-Marine Corps Stadium

USNA Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. (August 19)

Football in (former) Turner Field

In Atlanta last Thursday (August 30), the Georgia State hosted Kennesaw State, winning in a game that went down to the final minute. (See georgiastatesports.com.) For the second year, they played at Georgia State Stadium, which is the newest incarnation of what baseball fans used to know as "Turner Field," former home of the Atlanta Braves. Before that it was Olympic Stadium, for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. See

Marlins Park

A month or two ago, I came across some excellent photographs of the reconfigured Georgia State Stadium, and that was all I needed. Not surprisingly, I felt compelled to make drastic changes to the football-version diagram on the Turner Field page. Note that when I first posted a football diagram for Turner Field on January 19, 2016, I was under the assumption that the gridiron would run along the first base side, maximizing the number of seats with good sight lines for such an arrangement. Instead, as this image shows, it lies roughly parallel to the old third base line. I wonder if they contemplate demolishing the no-longer-used grandstand around what used to be the right-field corner?

WNBA final series!

Last night the visiting Washington Mystics beat the Atlanta Dream to win the fifth and deciding game of the Women's National Basketball Association Eastern Conference series. On Friday they will play against the Seattle Storm, who beat the Phoenix Mercury that same night. (May I interject my personal opinion that it's just dumb for teams to be named after collective phenomena -- such as "Miami Heat" -- rather than discrete entities?) Washington won the Eastern Conference in 2010, but they have never won the WNBA championship. Could this be the year that two Washington teams became champions? (The Washington Capitals won their first-ever Stanley Cup trophy in June.) The WNBA was launched in 1997, and there are currently six teams in each conference.

Nats get revenge on Mets

In spite of their negligible post-season prospects, the Nationals still show competitive spunk from time to time. After getting shut out by the Mets twice (making it three straight shutout losses), the Nats roared back with a vengeance on August 26. A solo homer by Wilmer Difo broke the 30+ inning scoreless streak, and they piled on more runs in the last couple innings, including a grand slam by Mark Reynolds, his first as a Nat. Final score: 15-0. The Nats could have used some of those surplus runs in the three previous games, when their opponents scored a total of eight runs.

Nats beat Phillies twice

The Nats carried that momentum from Queens to south Philadelphia on the next two nights, beating the Phillies 5-3 and 5-4. The Phillies just didn't play with much enthusiasm, and the small crowd sizes (averaging about 22,000) may have been part of the reason. The Nats had hopes of a sweep, but Gio Gonzalez had an off day in the final game of the series, and they lost, 8-6.

Brewers prevail over Nats

Back home in Washington on the final night of August, the Nationals lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 even though they out-hit the visitors 9 to 6. As is typical of this year, the Nats were 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position. Tanner Roark gave up all four runs in the first three innings, and then pitched three more innings. And thus, the Nationals ended up with yet another losing record (14-15) in the fourth month out of five so far this season. The Washington Nationals page has been duly updated.

The first game of September wasn't looking good when rain interrupted play in the latter innings. But maybe that break was just what the Nats needed, as they staged a clutch rally in the bottom of the eighth, capped by a two-run single by Juan Soto. The Nats held on to win that one, 5-4, thus taking Steven Strasburg off the hook for what would have been a loss.

The rubber game game of that series was going well enough early on (especially given that rookie Jefry Rodriguez was pitching for the Nats), but things went south in a hurry in the fifth inning, when the Brewers scored seven runs. Keon Broxton's homer put the visitors ahead 5-4, and soon Tim Collins took the mound as a reliever. One walk later, the bases were loaded, and Christian Yelich hit the first grand slam of his career, giving the Brewers a 9-4 lead. Neither team scored after that.

Cardinals pound Nats

On Monday the St. Louis Cardinals came to town, and Max Scherzer once again rose to the challenge by striking out 11 batters over seven innings, while allowing just three runs. But the Nats were behind two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, when Bryce Harper smashed a home run to tie the game. In the tenth inning, he came to bat again, with runners at first and third, and he played the hero role again, with a long sacrifice fly to left field. Nats win, 4-3!

But after that momentum of exhiliration, the Nats had another relapse. In both the Tuesday night game and Wednesday night game, they showed a lot of spunk in spite of adverse circumstances. Erick Fedde did OK as starting pitcher, giving up four runs over five innings, but rookie reliever Austen Williams somehow gave up three home runs in the sixth inning, while Sammy Solis (just called back up from the minors once again) gave up a grand slam in the ninth inning, giving the visitors a six-run lead. The Nats tried their best in te bottom of the ninth, getting three runs and had the potential tying run in the batter's box, but a hard ground ball hit by Matt Wieters was snagged by the second baseman for the final out. Cardinals 11, Nationals 8.

Tonight (Wednesday), Tanner Roark started the game by giving up two singles and a home run -- by none other than Matt Adams, who was recently traded away by the Nats! Adams hit another homer in the fifth inning, giving his new team a 6-0 lead. Once again, the Nats showed spunk with a late rally, getting four runs in the seventh inning thanks mainly to a bases-clearing double by Ryan Zimmerman. The Nats outhit the Cards 16-15, but wasted a huge opportunity in the ninth inning (runners on first and second with nobody out), and fell agonizingly short in the 7-6 loss.

But the Braves lost to the Red Sox in Atlanta this afternoon, as the visiting team scored twice in the top of the ninth to win, 9-8, so the Nationals remain 7 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East race. Ironically, they have a better chance at the division title than the New York Yankees, who are now nine games behind the Red Sox, but a virtually cinch to be a wild card team -- unlike the Nationals.

Goodbye to Gio Gonzalez

The series against the Brewers was marked by a awkward transaction: Gio Gonzalez was traded to the opposing team just before the trade deadline on August 31. So the next day he appeared in the other dugout, wearing a Brewers uniform, and waving wistfully to the crowd. The trade was no surprise, since he was in the final year of his contract and as an aging veteran, there wasn't much chance the Nats would sign him again. Gio has caught some flak in recent years for flinching in high-pressure situations such as last year's NLDS Game 5. For the most part, however, he was a rock-solid, durable pitcher who made a big difference in the Nationals' rising fortunes from 2012 (when he was acquired) until this year.

Goodbye and good luck in Milwaukee, Gio!
Thanks for helping make the Nats a winning team!


Gio Gonzalez in Citizens Bank Park on August 31, 2016, when the Nats edged the Phillies 2-1, thanks to a Jayson Werth solo homer and a Wilson Ramos RBI. (See September 7, 2016 blog post.)

August 25, 2018 [LINK / comment]

NEW: Periodic Table of the Stadiums!

For some time, I have been pondering a graphical-based way to navigate among stadium pages, as a quicker alternative to the text-based Stadium lists page. One possibility was utilizing a map of the United States with thumbnail diagrams somehow stacked in each respective urban area, but I just didn't get very far. Then I tried putting thumbnails in some logical sequence, and ended up creating a "Periodic Table of Stadiums," which will look familiar to anyone who has ever taken a chemistry course. To my amazement, the pieces of the proverbial puzzle all started to fit together.

The basic idea behind this table is that geographic space is represented by the columns (left is west, and right is east) and time is represented by the rows -- but in both cases, I had to make compromises for the sake of expedience. It bears some similarity in concept to the Stadiums by class, which is largely chronological but not geographical. To get the stadiums to fit the "template" of the Periodic Table of the Elements, I had to combine Boston with Canada, and had to put four stadiums in places where there are no corresponding elements: League Park, Fenway Park, Colt Stadium, and the Astrodome. To add to the "educational value," the color coding is based on the actual Periodic Table of the Elements: Light Metals, Transitional Metals, Misc. Non-metals, Halogens, and Noble Gases. Note that I put Hydrogen in the Halogen column (VIIA), rather than in the Light Metal column (IA), as is conventional; otherwise there would be no room for all six Pennsylvania stadiums. The use of Baker Bowl as the default diagram displayed in the middle is partly because it was the most compact and therefore has the least obstructive effect on the other parts of the table, and partly because it was built in the 19th Century and almost doesn't belong with the rest of them.

This is the culmination of many hours of coding effort, and I hope it was worth it. Here's a screen grab to show what it's supposed to look like, or will look like in the near future. For the time being, stadiums whose diagrams are in need of revision have a red border around them, but those red borders will disappear over the next couple months or so. If anyone has problems with it, please let me know. Otherwise, enjoy! smile

Periodic table of stadiums

Screen grab of the brand-new "Periodic Table of Stadiums." Click on it to go that page.

Nats lose three straight shutouts

Coming on the heels of an uplifting walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman (see below), the Washington Nationals had hopes for sweeping the It was an epic pitchers' duel in Washington on Thursday afternoon, after the Phillies' Aaron Nola narrowly prevailed over the Nats' Max Scherzer. The Nats' one big chance was in the second inning, when Spencer Kieboom hit a lead-off double. Max Scherzer laid down a fine sacrifice bunt that got him to third base, but then Adam Eaton struck out and Trea Turner lined out on the first pitch he saw. Max got ten more strikeouts, raising his season total to , but it was all for nought as one pitch he threw was just where Odubel Herrera was looking for it, and hit smacked that ball into the second deck in right field, scoring the only two runs in that game. What a shame. frown

Beginning a weekend series against the Mets in New York on Friday night, Gio Gonzalez bounced back from a poor start against the Marlins last week. I one of his best outings all year, he went seven full innings while only giving up one run. But that was all it took for the Mets to win, although they did tack on two insurance runs in the eighth inning. The Nats' one big chance was in the second inning, when Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto both singled, but then Matt Wieters flew out, Michael A. Taylor struck out, and Wilmer Difo popped out on a foul ball. And so, Gio's heroic effort was totally wasted; how pathetic. Final score: Mets 3, Nats 0. frown

And this afternoon, Tanner Roark put in yet another exceptional outing on the mound, striking out seven and only allowing one run and four hits over six innings. But the Mets' Zack Wheeler was slightly better, allowing six hits without any runs over seven innings. Time and time again the Nats had opportunities, and they just blew it. They had the bases loaded in the third inning with one out, but Anthony Rendon lined out and Juan Soto grounded out. They were one for eight with runners in scoring position. Juan Soto was tagged out twice at second base: once on a steal attempt and once when he tried to stretch a single into a double. That was in the eighth inning when they were behind 2-0, and one extra run didn't matter much. No excuse, even for a rookie. Same score as yesterday: 3-0. frown

And so, in spite of superb performances by starting pitchers in each game, the Nationals were shut out in three consecutive games for the first time in team (as opposed to franchise) history. According to the guys on MASN, that happened to the Montreal Expos in their final year, 2004. Tomorrow the Nats pin their hopes of avoiding being swept on starting pitcher Jefry Rodriguez, a rookie with a 1-1 record.

Walk-off home runs

When I noted on Wednesday night that the walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman ("Mr. Walk-off") was his first one in more than three years, I really should have mentioned that it was the eleventh walk-off home run of his career. That is especially noteworthy, because Ryan is now only two behind the all-time leader in that category, Jim Thome! Six men are tied in second place with twelve such homers: Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Frank Robinson, and Babe Ruth. Two others besides Ryan have hit eleven: Tony Perez and David Ortiz. For the entire list, see MLB.com

I noticed that all of those listed with at least eleven walk-off homers are either Hall of Famers or (in the cases of Pujols and Ortiz) a Hall of Famer to-be. So what does that say for Ryan's chances of being inducted into Cooperstown some day?

And a final note about walk-off home runs: Cubs rookie David Bote, who stuck a figurative knife into the hearts of Nats fans when his two-out, two-strike bottom-of-the-ninth bases-load four-bagger won the game on August 12, did it again yesterday afternoon, as the Cubs beat the Reds 3-2 in 10 innings. Worth mentioning is that Daniel Murphy hit his first home run since joining the Cubs on Tuesday, and it put the Cubs ahead 2-1 in the eighth inning of that game. See chicagotribune.com and MLB.com.

July 31, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Nats end bleak month on a high note

The way most people saw it, the four-game series in Miami was a do-or-die moment of truth for the Washington Nationals. As the non-waiver trading deadline approached, the unthinkable worst-case scenario of trading Bryce Harper -- the de facto "face of the franchise"* -- loomed as a very real possibility. Ironically, they were playing against one of their main trading "targets": Marlins' catcher J.T. Realmuto.

In the first two games, the Nats came out with guns blazing, winning by lopsided margins. On Thursday, Tommy Milone pitched as an emergency starter after Steven Strasburg was put on the disabled list once again, this time because of a pinched nerve in his neck. (He later had an injection that seemed to help, so he may not be out for that long.) Milone started his pitching career with the Nationals in September 2011 and made history by hitting a home run in his very first major league at bat -- on the first pitch, no less! This time he held his own and left after five innings with the Nats behind, 3-2. The Nats' early runs came on back-to-back homers by Trea Turner and Juan Soto in the fourth inning. Ryan Zimmerman tied the game with an RBI double in the sixth inning, and Trea Turner put the Nats two runs ahead with a triple in the seventh inning. He then scored on an RBI double by Bryce Harper. In the ninth inning, the Nats piled on more runs, starting when Matt Wieters hit a bases-loaded double. Final score: 10-3.

In Friday's game, the Nats took an early lead, and the amazing Juan Soto homered for the third consecutive day! (He has 13 total now.) Max Scherzer went eight full innings on the mound, giving up just one run and striking out eleven batters. That put him at an even 200 strikeouts for the year thus far, and Scherzer thus became the fourth pitcher in history to strike out at least 200 batters in seven consecutive seasons. (The others are Walter Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Tom Seaver.) Not a bad way to celebrate his 34th birthday! The Nats added five more runs in the eighth inning, winning by a score of 9-1.

On Saturday, Gio Gonzalez had one of his best outings of the year, giving up only one run over seven innings pitched. Unfortunately, however, the Nats' bats fell silent -- until Daniel Murphy hit a clutch game-tying single in the top of the ninth. With one out and a runner on third base, the Nats were in position to take the lead and win their fourth game in a row. But Mark Reynolds flew out and Michael A. Taylor grounded out, and the game went into the tenth inning. The Nats went down 1-2-3, and closing pitcher Kelvin Herrera took the mound. All of a sudden, things got weird. Magneuris Sierra laid down a perfect bunt single, Miguel Rojas reached base on catcher's interference, and Brian Anderson singled to load the bases with nobody out. In desperation, the Nats brought in Bryce Harper from center field to set up a five-man infield, but it backfired. J.T. Realmuto hit a pop single down the right field line, which probably would have been caught had there been three outfielders, but with nobody out, it probably didn't change the outcome of the game. And thus the Nats lost a heartbreaker, 2-1.

On Sunday, Jeremy Hellickson took the mound, but he fell short of his recent solid performances, giving up five runs and being replaced in the fifth inning. The Nats only managed to get two hits: an infield single by Bryce Harper in the first inning, and a single by Matt Adams in the ninth inning. For a team that had so much on the line, it was a stunningly weak exhibition. It's as if they just gave up. Final score: 5-0. Attendance in that four-game series was likewise pathetic, peaking at 12,112 in the Sunday finale. It's a shame that more folks in Miami aren't enjoying that climate-controlled (and taxpayer-funded) marvel, Marlins Park. (Diagram tweak pending.)

* The semi-official "face of the franchise" is Ryan Zimmerman, who has a contract with a no-trade clause extending for a few more years. But Bryce Harper is far better known to the outside world, and since his rookie year in 2012, he has been primarily responsible for making the Nationals into perennial postseason contenders.

Trading frenzy: Nats stand pat

Frankly, I was extremely anxious about the Bryce Harper situation in the days and hours leading up to the deadline at 4:00 this afternoon. On [Monday], word spread that Harper was available for a trade, and I cringed. Then late this morning General Manager Mike Rizzo announced that Bryce Harper would not be traded after all, and [that] the front office had full confidence in the team. Whew! Still, I wasn't 100% sure and nervously watched the clock as all the MLB trade alerts kept popping up on my iPhone. The Nats' only trade was letting relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler go to the Cubs in exchange for a minor league pitcher. I get the sense that there were some personality issues there.

I know that many people think that the Nats might as well cash in on whatever Harper is worth now, since his chances of signing with the Nationals again after this year are probably only 50-50 at best. But baseball teams aren't just machines to be taken apart and reassembled at will; they are living organisms that thrive (or not) based on that ephemeral quality known as team spirit. What's more, a big part of team spirit comes from the fan base, and for the Nationals to have let Harper go would be terribly demoralizing to Nats fans everywhere. In strict dollars-and-sense terms, that would have seriously degraded the value of the Nationals franchise, and Mike Rizzo and the Lerner family are to be commended for recognizing that.

One of the biggest last-minute surprise trades was the Pittsburgh Pirates getting pitcher Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays. (I saw him pitch in Toronto in August 2015, when the Blue Jays beat the Rays.) The Pirates have been winning a lot lately, and can't be discounted as potential postseason contenders.

The Milwaukee Brewers, who fell out of first place in the NL Central Division earlier this month, are determined to retake the lead. (After tonight's win, they are tied with the Cubs.) Last week they got Kansas City Royal star slugger Mike Moustakas in a trade, and today they acquired second baseman Jonathan Schoop from the Baltimore Orioles. I occasionally watch Orioles games on MASN, and Schoop has been one of their biggest clutch hitters this year -- after Manny Machado (now with the Dodgers), of course.

The Atlanta Braves, who likewise lost their first-place standing recently, got outfielder Adam Duvall and four pitchers, most notably Kevin Gausman.

And finally, the Philadelphia Phillies (currently one half game ahead of the Braves) acquired two former Nats players: infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mets and catcher Wilson Ramos from the Rays. He is injured, however, and his years with the Nationals were full of lengthy periods on the disabled list (such as when he suffered hurt his knee in late September 2016, just before the NLDS), so the value of Ramos is a question mark. Still, I was hoping the Nats would find a way to get him.

Wilson Ramos

Wilson Ramos, before the Nats-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park on August 31, 2016.

Historic game in Nats Park

So, how would the Nationals react to the announcement by Rizzo this morning? Pretty well, I'd say! The Nats returned to D.C. for a home stand, welcoming the New York Mets. Trea Turner's leadoff single sparked a seven-run rally in the first inning, capped by a three-run double hit by Tanner Roark to the gap in left-center field. Tanner went on to pitch a nearly-flawless game, giving up just one run in seven innings, which makes two stellar outings in a row for him. That had to feel good. The game unfolded in a very unusual fashion: the Nats scored exactly three runs in each of the next four innings! Home runs by Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman were a big part of that offensive surge. The score was 19-0 after five innings, and by the eighth inning the Mets' bullpen was so worn out that they put veteran slugger Jose Reyes on the mound as a "relief pitcher." But the Nats showed no mercy, racking up six more runs, thanks to home runs by Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds, and an RBI triple by Wilmer Difo.

The only sour note in the spectacular one-sided slugfest was when Shawn Kelley came in as a relief pitcher in the top of the ninth: the first two Mets batters reached base on hits, and after an RBI ground-out, Austin Jackson hit a two-run homer. Kelley was angry about something, and threw down his glove in disgust. Thus, the Nats' 24-run lead shrank to 21 runs. More details are at the Washington Post. Final score: Nats 25, Mets 4!!! The last time a team scored that many runs in a game was in 2007, when the Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles, 30-3.

Tonight's game set new records for the Nats, both in terms of the number of runs scored (25) and the run differential (25 - 4 = 21). That is true for both the Nationals as a "reborn" team (since they began playing in D.C. in 2005) and for the franchise, which began as the Montreal Expos in 1969. The Expos' highest scoring game was in Denver on April 28, 1999, when they beat the Colorado Rockies, 21-9. In both cases, the Nationals' previous records were set on April 30 last year, also against the Mets: the final score then was 23 - 5, an 18-run difference. The Nats' previous high score this year (17) was on June 29 in Philadelphia: Nats 17, Phillies 7. The Nats' previous biggest run differential this year (13) was on April 25 in San Francisco: Nats 15, Giants 2.

And so, the Nats finished the month back at an even 53-53, with a 10-14 record in July itself. Thus far, the Nats have only had a winning record in one month this year: May. Pretty hard to believe. I updated the Washington Nationals page accordingly. One factoid that is worth highlighting is that the Nats' aggregate run total in games this year is 484 to 426 for their opponents. Given their .500 win-loss record, that's a sign that they're wasting a lot of runs in easy wins while losing a lot of crucial close games.

Hall of Fame induction ceremony

In Cooperstown, New York on Sunday, six former players were officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Chipper Jones was especially emotional in his speech, partly because his wife was just about to have a baby boy. They named him "Cooper." I have seen Jones and Guerrero play, but I'm not sure about the others. (Numbers below were from the Washington Post print edition; a link to the article was not immediately available.)

# : Played entire career with one team; Hoffman nearly did so. For the other players, the team indicated is the one they played on for the most number of years.
* Chosen by a special "veterans committee."

NOTE: A few corrections were made to the text on the following day.

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

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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.

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Stadium construction

Soon after the 2017 opening of the new home of the Atlanta Braves (SunTrust Park), construction began on the future home of the Texas Rangers, a very brief lapse. The last significant lapse occurred from March 2012 (when Marlins Park was completed), September 2014 (when construction on SunTrust Park began). Before that, there was at least one major league baseball stadium under construction continually from September 1986 until March 2012. Both the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays hope to get public funding for a new stadium, but near-term prospects are bleak.

NEW! Stadium construction page, with a chronology of the past 30 years.

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