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July 8, 2019 [LINK / comment]
Nationals almost sweep the Royals
The good vibes from the triumphant Fourth of July game in Washington carried over into the following series, as the Kansas City Royals came to town on Friday. Trea Turner hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first, followed by a single, a walk, and a double, but no more runs scored because Anthony Rendon grounded into a double play after Adam Eaton's single. Young Austin Voth was pitching again, and once again he lasted exactly 4 1/3 innings before he was replaced. Ryan Zimmerman hit three (3) doubles, the second of which (in the seventh inning) was his 1000th career run batted in. The third double came in the bottom of the ninth inning, bringing the Nats to within one run of the Royals (4-3). He then scored on a Brian Dozier single, and with nobody out, it looked like the Nationals were almost guaranteed a walkoff victory. But they choked and the game went into extra innings. They had another prime opportunity to win it in the tenth, but the rally fell flat. In the tenth inning, recently acquired relief pitcher Jonny Venters took the mound, and he loaded the bases with nobody out. Before you knew it, the Royals were ahead 7-4, and that was the final score. Major bummer.
On Saturday afternoon, Max Scherzer was pitching, and once again he threw every ounce of energy he had into that game. He went seven full innings and got 11 strikeouts, raising his season total to 181. (That's 11 more than Garrett Cole of the Astros, and 43 more than the next-highest National League pitcher(s); Stephen Strasburg and Jacob deGrom of the Mets.) [He even hit a single and stole second base!] Kurt Suzuki homered, and Juan Soto got two RBIs as the Nats prevailed, 6-0.
On Sunday, Patrick Corbin exactly matched what Max Scherzer had just done: 11 strikeouts over seven innings with no runs allowed. Unfortunately, the bullpen let him down, so he didn't get credit for the win. After Fernando Rodney gave up two hits in the top of the eighth inning, Sean Doolittle came in to replace him, and immediately gave up a double that tied the game, 2-2. It was another gut-wrenching choke, but all ended well as the Nats staged a three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth. Clutch RBI doubles by Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick (pinch hitting) made all the difference as the Nats won the rubber game, 5-2.
That win preserved the Nats' hold on second place and the first of the two wild card slots, keeping them within six games of the division-leading Atlanta Braves. If only they hadn't choked at the end in the Friday game, they would have swept the Royals after having just swept the Marlins. In any case, it provided very positive vibes for the team as they entered the All-Star break with far higher hopes than they had a month ago.
All Star 2019 selections
The rosters for the 2019 All Star Game are pretty much set, but some players asked to be excused and will not appear. The Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon was selected after the voting phase of the selection process ended, but he is feeling banged up and says he needs time off. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer has a sore back and likewise will prioritize his own health, which is obviously a good thing. (He also is tending to a baby daughter who was born last week!) Anyway, not many of my All Star picks this year actually made it. The only two National Leaguers I correctly picked are Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, who are -- coincidentally -- rivals in the NL Most Valuable Player race this year. Incredibly, either one of them could conceivably win the Triple Crown! I admit, Nolan Arenado is stiff competition at third base, but I think Juan Soto was more deserving than Ronald Acuña as an outfielder; the latter hits a lot of home runs, but Soto is better overall. On the American League side, I correctly picked five of eight position players plus the designated hitter.
2019 All-Star Game Starting Rosters
|| National League
|| American League
|| Wilson Ramos
| Wilson Contreras
| Gary Sanchez
| Gary Sanchez
|| Josh Bell
| Freddie Freeman
| Carlos Santana
| Carlos Santana
|| Mike Moustakas
| Ketel Marte
| Brandon Lowe
| D.J. LeMahieu
|| Anthony Rendon
| Nolan Arenado
| Alex Bregman
| Alex Bregman
|| Trea Turner
| Javier Baez
| Xander Bogaerts
| Jorge Polanco
|| Christian Yelich
| Christian Yelich
| George Springer
| George Springer
|| Cody Bellinger
| Cody Bellinger
| Trey Mancini
| Michael Brantley
|| Juan Soto
| Ronald Acuña
| Mike Trout
| Mike Trout
|| Josh Bell
| J.D. Martinez
| J.D. Martinez
|| Hyun-Hin Ryu
|| Justin Verlander
"Trop" capacity drops
I recently noticed that the seating capacity of Tropicana Field is now being reported in the Washington Post as 25,025, compared to 42,735 before, a drop of 17,710. The change was made some time in June, according to my clippings of box scores. So, contrary to what I wrote on May 12, there was in fact a change in capacity at an MLB stadium this year. I'll update that page shortly. The big drop reflects the closure of the upper deck, and indeed is fitting inasmuch as the team rarely draws more than 10,000 fans to a game. (The same thing goes for the other Florida team, the Miami Marlins.) How long can this go on?
More stadium locations
I updated the "new" (?) Stadium locations page with map/diagrams for four more cities: San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Some of them include locations for football stadiums and/or basketball/hockey arenas. I may eventually do a separate such diagram for Anaheim. That takes care of all of California, and leaves only Phoenix and Denver among cities in the west.
Angel Amezquita made some helpful suggestions about that page, and I will try to get to those in the near future.
July 4, 2019 [LINK / comment]
Red-hot Nationals surge into
third second place
In the three weeks since my last baseball blog post (June 10), the Washington Nationals have continued to recover from the dreadful first two months of the 2019 season. For all but a few days until the middle of June, they were stuck in fourth place, but they had already begun a long, arduous climb from the lower tier on May 24. In fact, they have the best win-loss record in the major leagues (26-10) since that date. The higher the temperature climbs, the hotter they are playing! There are still signs of persistent problems with the bullpen and hitting, but the worst seems to be behind them, and they now claim one of the two wild card spots. That was almost unthinkable one month ago.
Nats split with Chi-sox
In Chicago on June 10-11, the Nationals split two games with the host White Sox. Anibal Sanchez had another fine outing in the first game, while Trea Turner came a single short of hitting for the cycle as the Nats won easily, 12-1. But everything fell apart the next day as Patrick Corbin gave up seven runs in five-plus innings, including a grand slam in the first inning. White Sox 7, Nats 5.
Nats split with D-backs
On June 13, the Nationals returned to D.C. and began an 11-game home stand against the Arizona Diamondbacks on a sour note, losing 5-0. Erick Fedde took the loss, but the Nats only managed three hits, two of which were by Trea Turner. The next day Max Scherzer was pitching, and put in yet another amazing performance, with ten strikeouts over seven innings. Nats 7, D-backs 3. On Saturday the 15th Stephen Strasburg was ineffective on the mound, giving up six runs in five innings even after Juan Soto and Matt Adams had homered in the first inning for the Nats. They lost that one, 10-3. But in the final game on Sunday, Anibal Sanchez rose to the occasion again, while the Nats' bats went wild. Matt Adams smacked two home runs, including a grand slam, for a total of 7 RBIs. Kurt Suzuki and Anthony Rendon also homered, and the Nats won easily, 15-5, thus splitting the four-game series.
Nats sweep Phillies
Then the Philadelphia Phillies came to town, but so did bad weather: rain, rain, rain. Two games had to be postponed, one of them until September 24, and the other became part of a double-header on June 19. In the afternoon game, Patrick Corbin sailed through seven innings, while Brian Dozier and Gerardo Parra homered in the eighth inning to put the icing on the cake. Nats 6, Phillies 2. In the night game, Max Scherzer pitched seven scoreless innings, while Brian Dozier and Victor Robles provided all the runs the Nats would need, as they won 2-0, thereby overtaking the Mets and claiming third place in the NL East! In the finale on Thursday, Erick Fedde was replaced as pitcher in the fourth inning, but the bullpen managed to hold together and the Nats won, 7-4. Suzuki, Rendon, and Robles all homered in that game, which brought the Nats' record up to 36-38.
Nats fall short vs. Braves
The division-leading Atlanta Braves arrived in Our Nation's Capital for a pivotal showdown on Friday, June 21, and Stephen Strasburg held them to three runs over six innings. Yan Gomes, the nominal first-string catcher this year, hit a home run and the Nats held on to win, 4-3. Wander Suero even got the save! That gave the Nationals their first five-game winning streak of the season, and they rode that momentum into the Saturday game. Matt Adams homered again, and the Nats were ahead 8-4 after five innings. It was at that point that one of the most disheartening sequences of events of the entire year transpired. The struggling relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal took the mound in the top of the seventh inning, and once again was about as wild as you can imagine. He walked the first two batters, and for some reason, manager Dave Martinez decided to give him one more chance. Not a smart move at all! Rosenthal walked the bases loaded without getting an out, and was then replaced. Tanner Rainey walked in a run and then gave up a bases-clearing double hit by Freddie Freeman, and the game was tied. The Nats retook the lead (9-8) in the bottom of the inning, but then the Braves scored four more runs, all charged to former starting pitcher Joe Ross. The Braves scored once more in the ninth inning, for a total of nine (9) runs given up by the Nats' horrendous bullpen in the final three innings. Braves 13, Nats 9. In the rubber game on Sunday, Austin Voth put in an admirable performance as a spot starter for the Nats, giving up just two runs over seven innings. The game went into extra innings tied 2-2, but Tanner Rainey couldn't quite get the third out in the top of the tenth, when a two-run homer by Johan Camargo put the Braves back ahead. The Nats rallied in the bottom of the tenth, but could only manage one run, thereby losing the game, 4-3, and the series. It was the only series the Nationals have lost since May 23.
The very next day, the Nationals unconditionally released Trevor Rosenthal, in effect "eating" his salary of $7 million, pending other teams' reactions. A few days later the Detroit Tigers signed him to a minor-league contract, and he will pitch for their AAA farm club -- the Toledo Mud Hens! Maybe Rosenthal will somehow regain control of his pitching as he recovers from Tommy John surgery and resume his major league career, but for now it looks like an awful tragedy for the former St. Louis Cardinal star.
Nats sweep Marlins (I)
After a day of rest, the Nats flew south to Miami on June 25. Max Scherzer had another great outing against the Marlins, striking out ten batters over eight innings. What's more, he got two hits and scored two runs! Trea Turner homered, and the Nats won, 6-1. On Wednesday, Patrick Corbin gave up just one run over seven innings, but they bullpen gave up four more, and the Nats won, 7-5. On Thursday, Stephen Strasburg got the win even though he gave up four runs over seven innings. Four Nats home runs proved to be the deciding factor in the 8-5 victory by the visiting team. In none of those games did attendance at Marlins Park reach 8,000 fans, an absolutely dreadful testament to the woebegone state of that franchise and its feeble fan base. Something needs to change down there fast.
Nats edge the Tigers
The Nationals then boarded a plane bound for Detroit, where the Tigers were waiting to pounce. Last Friday (June 28), Anibal Sanchez did it again on the mound, giving up one run over six innings, while Juan Soto homered and Howie Kendrick went two for four. Nats 3, Tigers 1. On Saturday Austin Voth couldn't make it through the fifth inning, but the Nats managed to stay ahead 5-3 until the seventh inning. That's when Tanner Rainey gave up three runs without getting an out, and after tacking on another run an inning later, the Tigers won, 7-5. In the rubber game on Sunday (June 30), former Tiger Max Scherzer took the mound for the Nats, and of course he delivered another "gem." He struck out a season-high 14 batters over eight innings, and didn't allow a run to score until the seventh inning. A solo home run by Anthony Rendon in the eighth inning put the Nats back on top 2-1, and Sean Doolittle got the save.
Nats sweep Marlins (II)
After another day of rest back home in Washington, the Nationals welcomed the Miami Marlins to town for a rematch on the second of July. The first three Marlins batters all hit singles, scoring a run, but Patrick Corbin composed himself after that. After a couple innings the game was delayed for over an hour by rain, but Corbin return to continue pitching -- somewhat of a surprise in that situation. He pitched a full seven innings without allowing any more runs to score, but Wander Suero gave up a run in the top of the eighth, and it was tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and a 3-2 count, Trea Turner doubled into the right-center gap, and Yan Gomes reached home all the way from first base for the winning run. Turner had already hit two walk-off homers this year, and he's starting to fill the "Mr. Walkoff" role that Ryan Zimmerman has had ever since 2006.
Speaking of Zimmerman, he recently returned to the active roster after missing nearly two months with plantar fascitis. He is making solid contact and has had several hits, so hopefully he will return to his former status as star slugger as the season moves forward.
Last night (Wednesday) Stephen Strasburg matched the performance of Max Scherzer, getting 14 strikeouts over seven and a third innings. In fact, the fourth inning qualified as "immaculate," as Strasburg threw exactly nine pitches, all of them strikes, to get the three outs. That's a very rare feat. A two-run homer by Brian Dozier in the sixth inning was all the Nationals needed, but Matt Adams tacked on another run with a solo shot in the eighth. Sean Doolittle got the save, but it was rough going as he gave up three hits and one hit batter, but only one Marlin scored. He exulted in relief after striking out Yadiel Rivera to end the game: Nats 3, Marlins 1.
Today's game started early (11:00 AM) so as to make way for all the other 4th of July festivities later on in Washington. Anibal Sanchez pitched yet another fine game, giving up just two runs (one earned) over six innings. Kurt Suzuki and Anthony Rendon homered, and Gerardo Parra hit a two-run double in the sixth inning to give the Nats a 5-2 lead. Nobody scored after that. Since Sean Doolittle was exhausted from the night before, the Nats' new relief pitcher Fernando Rodney (age 42) came in to do the job as closing pitcher. He did just fine, celebrating with his signature "arrow-toward-the-sky" gesture after getting the last out. It was indeed a happy July 4 in Washington, D.C.!
Speaking of which, the Nationals' cumulative record in 4th of July games is now 9-5. The Red Sox spoiled last year's 4th of July festivities in Washington, beating the Nats 3-0. (Starting pitcher Erick Fedde only lasted one inning!) In 2017, the Nats beat the Mets 11-4, thanks in large part to ex-Met Daniel Murphy. In 2016, I presented a table summarizing all the 4th of July baseball games played by the Nationals since the franchise "rebirth" in 2005.
Since the Atlanta Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies this evening, the Nationals have now pulled a half game ahead of the Phillies in the National League East Division race, but they remain six games behind the Braves. The rest of the season is going to be very interesting, in the NL East as well as the NL Central, where all five teams are potential contenders.
The Nationals' first half 2019
I recently updated the Washington Nationals page with data for the first half of the year, including head-to-head matchups and various records of note. At the end of June (two days after the exact midpoint in terms of number of games), the Nats' record was 42-41, and now it's up to 45-41 (0.523). It's certainly below pre-season expectations, but they are headed in the right direction, unlike this time last year.
R.I.P. Tyler Skaggs
A sudden tragedy struck the Los Angeles Angels on Monday afternoon when their starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in a hotel room in Southlake, Texas. No foul play is suspected. The game scheduled for that evening was postponed to allow his team mates time to cope with their grief. See MLB.com. It happens that Nationals' pitcher Patrick Corbin was a good friend of Skaggs, as they were both drafted by the Angels in 2009 and came up together from the minors. Corbin was emotionally distraught when he pitched on Tuesday night.
Baseball in London!?
The much-heralded first-ever Major League Baseball game played in England turned out to be something of a joke. Both teams scored six runs in the first inning, and both teams scored six runs in later innings as well. The Yankees ended up beating the Red Sox by the absurd score of 17-13: thirty runs total??!! Well, that's not cricket! For all the details, see MLB.com. Attendance was 59,659, with a capacity of 66,000 seats. The Yankees also won the next day, 12-8, thanks to a nine-run seventh inning; very strange. The way London Stadium was reconfigured for baseball took me by surprise, as I had assumed that the diamond would be laid out with center field being oriented along the the long axis of the oval. That would follow the logic of Memorial Stadium (Baltimore) and Cleveland Stadium. But instead, for some inscrutable reason, they put the diamond such that center field was only 385 from home plate, with the foul poles being 330 feet away. Even with large seating sections being moved in to fill the void on the right and left sides of the field, there was still a huge amount of foul territory. Several folks have asked me about doing a London Stadium diagram, and indeed that is on my "Coming Attractions" to-do list. Stay tuned!
New (?) page: Stadium locations
As a way to provide a clearer idea of where various stadiums are (or were) located, I have recently been adding some new thumbnail map/diagrams, including Chicago (see below), Cleveland, Kansas City, as well as Milwaukee. I also greatly enhanced ones I had previously done for Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, etc. back in January. I even added the locations of certain turn-of-the-20th-Century stadiums such as West Side Grounds, where the Cubs resided before Wrigley Field. Finally, I decided that I needed to rename what had been called the "Stadium proximity" page. It is now called "Stadium locations," since it encompasses not just stadiums that happened to be situated next to their predecessors, but all MLB stadiums. For the time being, however, there are no thumbnail map/diagrams for some cities. I have finished with cities in the central portion of the country, and have done a few eastern cities but so far only Seattle in the west.
Abstracted map of the "Windy City" of Chicago, showing where several stadiums are (or once were) located.
NOTE: One detail shown on the Arlington map/diagram is that the future home of the Texas Rangers will be called "Globe Life Field," rather than "Globe Life Park" (the same name as their current stadium) as I had thought. I have been doing very preliminary work on a diagram for it based on photos at MLB.com, as well as the aerial photo taken by Clifford "Bucky" Nance. (See March 20, 2019.)
All Star selections, etc.
I need to get caught up commenting on the selections for this year's All Star Game, which will be held in Progressive Field. Plus there are some other news tidbits that I have neglected...
June 10, 2019 [LINK / comment]
After two flubs, Nats get back-to-back-to-back-to-back on track
The way things have gone for the Washington Nationals this year, you could almost expect them to find a way to ruin the precious momentum they had gained from their recent winning streak. Indeed, in the first game of the series at San Diego last Thursday, the Nationals blew a big early lead. Howie Kendrick and Brian Dozier both batted in two runs in the first inning, a nice cushion for starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. But the Padres came back with two runs in the second and three more in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, Trea Turner fielded a grounder awkwardly and threw it to third base but Anthony Rendon missed it, and two runners scored. The next batter hit a sac fly RBI, which was the final run scored during the game, and thus the Nats ended up losing, 5-4. In game two, Erick Fedde pitched a fine game, only giving up one run until the sixth inning, when the Padres scored two more. But in the top of the seventh the Nats finally got a rally going, and a two-run double by Trea Turner tied it, 3-3. The visitors took the lead thanks to a wild pitch in the top of the ninth, but closing pitcher Sean Doolittle proceeded not only to blow the save but lose the game in the bottom of the ninth, giving up three hits and two runs. Same final score as before: 5-4.
With Max Scherzer pitching on Saturday, the Nats were in a much better position. Max struck out nine batters over seven innings, giving up six hits but no runs. Brian Dozier homered again, and the Nats racked up four runs total for the third day in a row, but this time the Padres only scored one run, and that was in the bottom of the ninth. In Sunday's game, Stephen Strasburg nearly matched the pitching performance of Scherzer, but the score was still 1-1 when he left after the seventh inning. And that is when something utterly implausible happened: pinch hitting for Strasburg, Howie Kendrick smashed a solo home run off the front edge of the upper deck in left field. Then Trea Turner came up to bat and homered to center field. Next was Adam Eaton, and he did the same thing! WOW! The next batter, Anthony Rendon, then hit a homer into the "new" seats in right center field. (Before the outfield in PETCO Park shrank in 2013, that ball would have landed in front of the wall.) Believe it or not: back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs!!!
- Howie Kendrick (PH)
- Trea Turner
- Adam Eaton
- Anthony Rendon
Thanks to that offensive outburst, Strasburg got his seventh win of the year; the final score was 5-2. The Nationals thus made history, becoming the first major league team to ever hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats more than once. (I wouldn't be surprised if they set a record for the lowest total score of any team that accomplished such a feat: just 5.) The other time was July 27, 2017, which I mentioned in a blog post that focused mainly on my baseball travels and hence neglected to state which players actually homered. Thanks to today's Washington Post, I learned that they were:
- Brian Goodwin
- Wilmer Difo
- Bryce Harper
- Ryan Zimmerman
It is interesting that not one of those players from 2017 is currently on the active roster. Anyway, the Nats salvaged a split in the four-game series. If they can hold on to their lead in the game against the White Sox in Chicago tonight, they are likely to pull within six games of the first-place Phillies in the NL East race. You never know...
Another foul ball tragedy
Two weeks ago a little girl in Houston's Minute Maid Park suffered a head injury when she was hit by a line drive foul ball hit by the Cubs' Albert Almora, who was stricken with grief when he realized what had happened. In response to this awful incident, USA Today summarized the current extent of backstop netting in all 30 major league parks. While such protective nets have been extended at most ballparks in recent years, none of them are as safety-conscious as in Japan's baseball stadiums, where nets extend all the way from foul pole to foul pole. Perhaps I should find a way to depict such nets in my diagrams...
Toledo Mud Hens!
My brother John saw the famed Toledo Mud Hens play a game at their home field last month. Thanks to the TV show M*A*S*H, and to the character "Corporal Klinger," the Mud Hens became one of the best-known minor league teams in the 1970s. In fact, the city of Toledo rewarded the actor Jamie Farr (a Toledo native) by naming a park after him. Fifth Third Field opened in 2002, and is located in a warehouse district of downtown Toledo. One of the interesting features is that historic buildings were preserved in the northeast corner of the city block in which the ballpark was built, and a triangular section of seats is wedged into a tight space in back of the right field foul pole. See www.milb.com. The Mud Hens are a AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, based roughly 70 miles to the north in Motor City.
Fifth Third Field from the 3rd base side; photo courtesy of John Clem.
So, what exactly is a "mud hen"? The team's web site explains the origin of their name, deriving from the avian inhabitants of the marshy land near the ballpark where they originally played in the 1890s. The American Coot, pictured below, is one of several birds that are sometimes called "mud hens."
A few weeks ago, a visitor to this web site kindly offered me the use of some of his photos of minor league ballparks, and while I appreciated the offer, I'm afraid that until I finish the main objective of updating the remaining MLB stadium diagrams and get caught up with other web site tasks, I really can't make much use of them.
June 5, 2019 [LINK / comment]
Nationals are on a winning streak!
In case you missed it, the Washington Nationals finally seem to have gotten their act together, winning four games in a row for the first time this season, and four consecuive series as well. After their successful trip to Atlanta last week, they headed to Cincinnati on May 31, but Patrick Corbin had another poor outing (the second in his last three starts), giving up eight runs (six earned). He had to be replaced during the third inning. The smokin' hot Juan Solo had another homer, but the Nats still lost to the Reds, 9-3. The next day (Saturday), Erick Fedde pitched four solid innings, giving up two runs, while the bullpen prevented any more scoring. Home runs by Gerardo Parra, Matt Adams, and Brian Dozier tilted the outcome in favor of the visitors, as the Nats won, 5-2. On Sunday, Anthony Rendon led the offense, while Max Scherzer struck out 15 batters (!!!) over eight full innings. Dave Martinez was going to replace him in the bottom of the eighth, but Max refused to leave and went on to strike out Joey Votto to end the inning. Nats 4, Reds 1.
After a day of rest as they headed home to Washington, the Nationals welcomed the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. Stephen Strasburg had a nightmarish first inning, giving up four runs, plus another in the second inning. But then the Nats started to come back, and a clutch three-run homer by Anthony Rendon in the fifth inning put the Nats ahead 6-5. Three more runs that inning gave the home team a comfortable margin, and they held on to win, 9-5. This afternoon, Anibal Sanchez had a fine outing for the second time in a row, after losing the first six decisions of the 2019 season. He left the game with a 4-1 lead, in line for his second win of the year, but the bullpen let him down -- in the eighth inning once again! Kyle Barraclough and Wander Suero gave up back-to-back homers that tied the game 4-4. But in the bottom of the ninth inning, Trea Turner smashed a high pitch into the visitors' (left field) bullpen to give the Nats a 6-4 victory. It was Trea's second walk-off homer this year (the first one was one March 31), and the third for the Nats already this year. The Nats had four walk-off homers in 2008, 2010, and 2015, but never more than that. So, they may just set a team record in that category this year.
Tomorrow night, the Nationals will begin a four-game series in San Diego against the Padres. They are now only five games below .500 (28-33), and only 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies.
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium tweak
Here is yet another minor touch-up of a "cookie-cutter" stadium diagram: Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium diagrams. I recently noticed that some time in the 1970s most of the lateral walkway in the upper deck was filled by seats, so there are now separate 1966 and 1974 upper-deck diagrams. In addition, compared to the last such update (on April 28, 2016), the upper deck is slightly bigger. That post had a preliminary list of stadiums that feature "ribbed" roofs, to which I have added Riverfront Stadium (updated on April 16, 2019). I think the following list is now complete:
- Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (1965, Atlanta)
- Angel Stadium (1966, Anaheim)
- Riverfront Stadium (1970, Cincinnati)
- Veterans Stadium (1971, Philadelphia)
- Olympic Stadium (1976, Montreal)
- Exhibition Stadium -- left field (1977, Toronto)
- Hiram Bithorn Stadium (1980, Puerto Rico)
- Progressive Field (1994, Cleveland)
Basketball in Canada!
Last Saturday marked the first time ever that an NBA finals game was played outside the United States. The home team Toronto Raptors beat the favored Golden State Warriors in Game 1, then lost (just barely) in Game 2, and won in Game 3 tonight. Basketball is not nearly as big in Canada as is hockey, of course. The Toronto Raptors played their first few seasons at what was then called Skydome and is now called the Rogers Centre, so I updated the basketball diagram on that page to more accurately depict the positioning of the temporary seats used in basketball games.
The mail bag
Mark London and Angel Amezquita each provided some information on the location of Three Rivers Stadium relative to other stadiums before and afterward, and I made a small adjustment to the "vicinity" thumbnail map/diagram on that page.
John Morris informed me that I had the wrong year in a caption of photo that my brother John took of the Fenway Park. So, I corrected the date on the Fenway Park page based on what John (Clem) told me: It was 1998, not 1996.
More news from Mike Zurawski and other to get to soon, including recent developments with the Oakland A's proposed new stadium. Stay tuned!!!
May 31, 2019 [LINK / comment]
Nationals hit rock bottom, finally bounce back
This has been a trying month for fans of the Washington Nationals. Whereas they started the 2019 season on virtually the same track as the year before (with a 12-16 record in their first month compared to 13-16 in April 2018; see the Washington Nationals page), unlike May 2018 (when they went 19-7) this year they have continued to stumble throughout May. Tonight's game in Cincinnati will determine whether May is slightly better or slightly worse than April. Indeed, they were doing so badly last week (with a five-game losing streak), that it could have ended up much worse. But this week they achieved a three-game winning streak for the first time this year, and indeed have won five of their last six games -- a minor miracle.
On May 14, the Nats returned home from a bleak road trip to face the New York Mets. Once again, the Nats lost the opening game of the series as Jeremy Hellickson gave up five runs over five innings, and lost, 6-2. But with Patrick Corbin on the mound the next day, the Nats got going offensively as Anthony Rendon (just back from the Injured List) went three for four at the plate and Victor Robles homered for the second day in a row. Final score: Nats 5, Mets 1. In the final game of that series, Thursday afternoon, starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez was replaced in the second inning due to an arm injury. But somehow the bullpen managed to do an adequate job this time, while newly-acquired Gerardo Parra was the hero once again, going 3 for 3, including a home run. The Nats held on to win, 7-6, and that is how they won their first actual series in almost a month!
But the good vibes from that flicker of hope didn't last long. The Chicago Cubs came to town on May 17, and Max Scherzer had a fair outing, giving up three runs over six innings. He was in line for the win, but then the bullpen came in, and yadda, yadda, yadda... Final score: Cubs 14, Nats 6. The next day Stephen Strasburg only allowed two runs over eight innings (one earned), and the Nats won 5-2. A homer by Brian Dozier (a disappointment since he joined the team this spring) and three RBIs by Juan Soto made the difference. In the final game of that series (May 19), Jeremy Hellickson only lasted three innings. In spite of home runs by Howie Kendrick and Anthony Rendon, the Cubs won that game, 6-5. Hellickson was put on the Injured List after the game; ever since the May 3 game against the Phillies when he was abruptly pulled during the sixth inning after throwing nine strikeouts, things have gone downhill for him.
The Nats then headed up to Queens, New York for a four-game series against the Mets. On May 20 Patrick Corbin had a rare off day on the mound, giving up four runs over five innings, and the Mets won it, 5-3. The next day Erick Fedde pitched in lieu of the ailing Anibal Sanchez, and did a fine job, giving up just one run in five innings. But then the bullpen came in, ... Final score: Mets 6, Nats 5. On Wednesday Max Scherzer pitched even better than the time before, blanking the Mets over six innings. Thanks to a first-inning solo homer by Adam Eaton, he left with his team ahead, but then the bullpen came in. The relievers got three quick outs in the seventh inning, but Kyle Barraclough got in trouble in the eighth inning, and manager Dave Martinez called in the usual closer Sean Doolittle -- and all hell broke loose. The Mets hit a bases-loaded double followed by an intentional walk (to ex-Nats catcher Wilson Ramos!) and then a home run (by Rajai Davis), thus scoring 6 runs in the eighth inning. That was four more than they needed to win. And if that wasn't dispiriting enough, on Thursday May 23, the Nats wasted a heroic three-run comeback to take the lead in the top of the eighth inning, when the Mets did likewise in the bottom of the inning. The Nats' promising but inconsistent relief pitcher Wander Suero was one strike away from getting the third out when Carlos Gomez hit a three-run homer, and the Mets won the game, 6-4.
And thus the Nats got swept in a four-game series for the first time since August 13-16, 2015, playing against the Giants in San Francisco. For anyone who had previously imagined that things just couldn't get any worse for the Nationals, they did get worse. What was especially galling was that the Mets themselves had just been swept in four games by the last-place Miami Marlins! May 23 will no doubt be remembered as when the Nats hit rock bottom in 2019.
On that somber note, the Nats returned home on Friday May 24, welcoming the Marlins to D.C. It was a crazy, back-and-forth game in which rookie Kyle McGowin only lasted four innings. The Nats finally took the lead in the eighth inning thanks to home runs by Juan Soto and Matt Adams, and Sean Doolittle got the save even though he gave up a solo home run in the ninth inning. Nats 12, Marlins 10. On Saturday afternoon, Patrick Corbin returned to his normal fine form, going nine full innings without giving up any runs. It was the Nats' first complete-game shutout since April 9, 2018 (by Max Scherzer). Yan Gomes hit a three-run double in the fourth inning, providing a big safety cushion for Corbin. Final score: Nats 5, Marlins 0. On Sunday Erick Fedde pitched five solid innings once again, not giving up any runs this time, and thanks mainly to the bat of Howie Kendrick, the Nats won it, 9-6. It was the first time all year that the Nationals had won three games in a row. On Monday afternoon (Memorial Day), the Nats were in great position to take a four-game sweep as Max Scherzer took the mound, but once again the offense let him down. The Nats were ahead 2-1 when he left after six innings, but errors by Matt Adams (seventh inning) and Trea Turner (eighth inning) resulted in the Marlins tying the game and then taking the lead, as they won the finale, 3-2. [Turner broke a finger while trying to bunt in early April, and after seven weeks on the Injured List, he is slowly getting going again.]
Next, the Nationals headed south to Atlanta for a short two-game series. On Tuesday, Stephen Strasburg was again masterful, striking out 11 Braves batters over seven innings. Howie Kendrick homered once again (his ninth this year), and both he and Trea Turner got three hits. In the bottom of the eighth, Kyle Barraclough gave up a two-run homer, but Sean Doolittle struck out three batters while only allowing one hit in the ninth inning, as the Nats held on to win, 5-4. In the Wednesday night game, something truly amazing happened: starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who had lost six games without any wins during the first two months, was almost flawless and had a perfect game going into the sixth inning. It probably helped that the Nationals had already built a 14-0 lead by then, an extremely comfortable "cushion." But then Ozzie Albies hit a single with one out, and Sanchez's bid for history was stopped cold. (He used to pitch for the Braves.) Dave Martinez replaced him in the seventh inning, being cautious since Sanchez had just returned from the Injured List. So what do you think happened after that? Of course, reliever Kyle McGowin gives up a grand slam to Austin Riley! McGowin stayed in for the final two innings without further damage. Nats 14, Braves 4, Washington's second biggest victory of the year. (They beat the Phillies on April 10, 15-1.)
And so, the Nats have now won five of their last six games for the first time this season, as they head to Cincinnati for a three-game series against the last-place Reds. Patrick Corbin will be on the mound, looking for his sixth win of the season.
The ill fortunes of the Washington Nationals this year raises the question of whether the team can get a collective grip and contend once again for the NL East title this year. Fans wonder whether the Nats can somehow still make postseason, but at eight games below .500 (24-32) and nine games behind the first-place Phillies, that is obviously a long shot.
Rating the new Nationals
This year's Washington Nationals has been revamped since last year, and the new players have had some notable "hits" as well as misses.
| Patrick Corbin
||Starting pitcher (L)
| Anibal Sanchez
||Starting pitcher (R)
| Jeremy Hellickson
||Starting pitcher (R)
| Kyle Barraclough
||Relief pitcher (R)
| Brian Dozier
| Yan Gomes
| Curt Suzuki
Not included on the list is Victor Robles, who played during the latter part of the 2018 season. He is considered a rookie this year, as was his slugging buddy from the Dominican Republic, Juan Soto last year.
Who's to blame for the Nats' woes?
"Victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan."
(Count Galeazzo Ciano, 1942)
Disappointed fans and sports analysts are quick to pin the blame whenever a team performs as far below expectations as the Nationals have this year. Lacking in the finer points of baseball strategy and tactics, I generally hesitate to criticize managers, but my reticence as been sorely tested with Dave Martinez. With that in mind, I tend to share Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell's conclusion that, while the Nationals probably have other problems to tackle, at the top of the list is the team's manager. To Boswell, it seems that Martinez just lacks any awareness that he must push and motivate his players into performing better. That plus the frequent lapses of judgment about whether or when to replace the pitcher add up to a failing grade. Another Washington Post columnist, Barry Svrluga, expressed similar thoughts.
So, who could replace Martinez? Former Yankee manager Joe Girardi is among the possibilities often mentioned. Former Nats coach Bo Porter may be interested, but Dusty Baker would probably refuse an offer even if Mike Rizzo were desperate enough to go back begging. I think it would help immensely to bring back Jayson Werth in some kind of coaching capacity, to see whether he might eventually become a managerial candidate. Ryan Zimmerman's status with the team next year is in doubt, and some have suggested some kind of front office or coaching role for him if the Lerners decide that he isn't worth the $18 million he would be owed if his contract option is taken.
But beyond the manager himself, there is also the hard-to-define quality of team spirit that seems to be lacking with the Nationals this year. The loss of Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy, and Bryce Harper meant that no one was left to get the guys in the dugout fired up when they needed to be.
R.I.P. Bill Buckner
Former MLB star player Bill Buckner passed away at the age of 69 this week. He started with the L.A. Dodgers in 1969, and later went to the Chicago Cubs for a few years before becoming a member of the Boston Red Sox in 1984. With 2,715 hits, 174 home runs, and a .289 batting average over his long career, he deserves to be remembered for all the big things he accomplished on the field. Unfortunately, baseball -- like life in general -- is sometimes very cruel. Read about his legacy at MLB.com.
Three Rivers Stadium update
Continuing with my recent detour from my main objective of "tackling" the remaining stadiums (Griffith, Yankee, and Forbes Field) by doing minor touch-ups of certain "cookie-cutter" stadiums, I made an update to the Three Rivers Stadium diagrams. Nothing really huge changed, but it took longer than expected to resolve some nagging puzzles, and is definitely a needed improvement. The most significant changes since the last such update (on Dec. 9, 2014) are:
- The entry portals and adjacent stairs in the upper deck are now more accurate and detailed than before.
- The entry portals in the lower deck are likewise more accurate, and the dugouts do not extend as far out from home plate as they did before.
- There is no longer a gap between the outfield fence and the seating sections that were added in 1975. (One of the photos taken by former major leaguer Jerry Reuss clearly shows that the fence was flush against the wall.)
- There are now separate diagrams for the first and second decks, rather than a single lower-decks diagram as before. The second "deck" was only about 6 or 7 rows, smaller than the ten-row standard I usually apply for considering a mezzanine level a full-fledged deck. Plus, it was actually above a luxury suite / press box level, and was thus the third level, which means that what I labeled as the "third deck" was actually the fourth level. Both those diagrams shows more detail (partly conjectural in the main concourse), including arrows show which way was up in the access ramps around the stadium perimeter.
- All diagram versions now show the four main pedestrian access bridges by which fans got to and from the parking lots, etc.
As is usually the case, you can compare the new version to the old version (in this case, from 2014) by clicking on the diagram image on that page.
Like Riverfront Stadium, the dugouts at Three Rivers Stadium were ground-level, i.e., not "dug-out" at all. Ever wonder what other MLB stadiums had that characteristic? Well, here's a preliminary listing:
- Three Rivers Stadium
- Riverfront Stadium
- Jack Murphy Stadium
- Olympic Stadium
- Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (until 1974)
- Dolphin (Hard Rock) Stadium
- Exhibition Stadium
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Introduction to stadium diagrams
An interactive graphic and explanation formerly shown here; moved to a new page.
(An interactive graphic table (by decade) formerly shown here; moved to a new page.
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