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May 23, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Four-way race in the National League East!

My last baseball blog post (May 5) was in the middle of the Washington Nationals' daunting road trip through the midwest, on which they won five of the first six games. We all know how the rest of that road trip turned out; see below. The Nats are still in first place, just as they were on May 5, but the race in the National League East Division now involves four teams, not just two. The Mets finally turned cold after an amazing, prolonged hot streak, while the Phillies and the Marlins have surged ahead, and were briefly tied for second place. Whereas last month some people said that the Nationals' success was merely a reflection of the weakness of their division, right now the NL East has more teams above .500 (four) than any other division in baseball.

Tonight the Mets and Nationals began a three-game series in Washington, and once again the Nats took an early lead with three hits in the first inning. But somehow the usually-sloppy Bartolo Colon outpitched the usually-razor sharp Gio Gonzalez, who gave up three home runs. Mets 7, Nats 1. With a 27-16 record (.600), the Nationals' lead in the NL East is now just a half game.

The Nats had beaten the Mets in two out of three games in New York last week, scoring 16 total runs to just 4 for the Mets. Daniel Murphy was briefly welcomed back to Citi Field by Mets fans, but the warm feelings quickly dissipated as he made New Yorkers regret not having kept him there. He continued his unbelievable hitting, flirting with a .400 batting average and hitting a home run. Meanwhile, Anthony Rendon showed a big improvement in the batter's box, getting multiple hits and RBIs.

That road trip concluded in Miami over the weekend, and again the Nats won two of three games. On Friday both Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Taylor slugged impressive home runs way over the deep left field fence, as the Nats won 4-1. On Saturday evening, broadcast by FOX (rather than MASN), pitcher Joe Ross committed an error that gave the Marlins the opportunity to take a lead. The Nats staged a rally in the top of the ninth inning, scoring a run and loading the bases with nobody out. It should have been a cinch to at least tie the game 3-3 or even take the lead, but Jayson Werth grounded into a double play (force at third, tag at home). The umpire had already called at least one very low pitch a strike, or else the tying run would have walked in; that's why Werth had to swing at that low pitch. Final score: Marlins 3, Nats 2. On Sunday, the Nationals wrought revenge, winning 8-2, as Ben Revere finally got into the hitting groove, going 3 for 5. Revere was injured on the very first game of the season, and did not return to the active roster until early May.

Earlier this month in Washington, the Nationals beat the Tigers two out of three games (May 9-11) and split a four-game series with the Marlins (May 13-15). The May 9 game ended on a walk-off home run by Clint Robinson, the first such game by the Nationals this year. On Wednesday May 11, Max Scherzer tied a major league record by throwing 20 strikeouts in a 3-2 victory. It was an unusual situation because Dusty Baker let him pitch the ninth inning, even though Max was tired and the Nats only had a one-run lead. Ordinarily, the closing pitcher (Jonathan Papelbon) would have come into the game. When two batters reached base, Nats fans got nervous, but Max's 20th strikeout and then a ground ball out ended the game (and the series) on a euphoric note. In the first game of the series against the Marlins (Friday the 13th!), three Nats had three home runs to win it, 5-3. The next day there was a double-header, making up for the rained-out game that was scheduled for April 8. The early game on May 14 was plagued by light rain, and they just barely finished it before the field conditions became unplayable. On Sunday May 15, the Nats lost 5-1, with their only run coming on an inside-the-park home run by Ryan Zimmerman. It would have been a double, bouncing off the wall in right-center field, but Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton collided with each other while chasing the ball. They were shaken up, but continued playing.

The big showdown between the Cubs and the Nationals at Wrigley Field in Chicago (May 5-8) ended in a resounding triumph for the home team, as the Cubs swept the Nats. All four game were fairly competitive, however, so it wasn't really a disgrace for the Nationals. On May 5, the Nats were on the verge of being shut out, but Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to make the final score [5-2]. Joe Ross pitched well for the Nats, but Kyle Hendricks was better. The Friday game was a slugfest, as Max Scherzer got pounded, and the Cubs won, 8-6. Saturday May 7 marked Ben Revere's first big day with the Nats, as he doubled and tripled, but the Nats still lost, 8-5. On Sunday Bryce Harper tied a major league record by being walked six times, as the Cubs chose prudence over valor and it paid off in the end. After 13 grueling innings, the Cubs emerged victorious again, 4-3.

All those walks in Chicago seem to have hurt Bryce Harper's batting. Since then he has only had one home run, and only a few hits here and there.

Target Field update

Target Field

My brother Chris saw a game in Minneapolis yesterday, enjoying beautiful blue skies, but it wasn't a great day for the home town fans, as the Twins lost to the Blue Jays. He sent me a nice panoramic photo of Target Field from behind home plate, clearly showing the new restaurant seating area in center field. While I was comparing that photo to the photos I took there in 2010, I noticed a few small discrepancies in my Target Field diagrams, and decided to revise them. The most notable change is that the upper portion of the upper deck in left field has been "pushed back" 8-10 feet, no longer overhanging the lower portion as was previously depicted. I last revised the Target Field diagrams in March 2015

Target Field BHP 2016 panorama

Panorama of Target Field from the lower deck behind home plate; click on the image to see it full size. (Courtesy of Chris Clem)

Old ballpark stuff

On Facebook a couple months ago I saw a youtube.com video of a Philadelphia Phillies game at the Baker Bowl, some time in the 1930s. I was utterly mesmerized. It confirms most of the details that I added when I updated the Baker Bowl diagrams in February.

Bruce Orser brought to my attention a photo of Sportsman's Park on baseball-fever.com which shows the pavilion that went from near first base toward the right field corner. Just as described by Ron Selter in Ballparks of the Deadball Era, and as depicted by my Sportsman's Park diagrams which were updated in April, the roof hung about ten feet in front of the front row of seats, and the structure intersected with the foul line, creating an unusually short right field dimension: an estimated 270 feet!

There's a bunch of new ballpark stuff to get to in the next few days, so stay tuned...

May 5, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals flush the Royals

After a disheartening loss like on Tuesday, when the Nationals let the Royals come from behind with a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth inning, the rubber game on Wednesday was a true test of character. In fact, the Nats passed with flying colors, scoring six runs in the top of the first inning, with help from two K.C. infield errors to start the game. Three consecutive Nats had RBI doubles -- Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, and Jayson Werth -- and Royals pitcher Kris Medlen threw 38 pitches before getting his first out. Ouch! The Nats added four more runs in the third inning, and one in each of the three innings after that, until the final score reached 13-2. Along the way, Bryce Harper broke out of his slump, with an RBI single and a solo home run (#10), while Daniel Murphy went four for five, Ryan Zimmerman hit two doubles, and Wilson Ramos went 3 for 5. Stephen Strasburg raised his record to 4-0. (Full details at MLB.com and the Washington Post) So now Murphy's batting average is back up to nearly .400, while Ramos is batting .364 -- hot, hot, hot!

With a record of 19-8 (second only to the Cubs' record of 20-6), the Nats begin a four-game series tonight against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The outcome of this HUGE matchup will set the tone for the rest of the month, at least.

I forget the exact numbers, but the Nationals have far more first-inning runs than any other MLB team this year. Tonight both the Blue Jays and the Reds did their best to catch up to the Nats, both scoring five runs in the first inning.

Nationals page update

I should have previously mentioned that I updated the Washington Nationals page with data for the first full month of the 2016 season, including the head-to-head matchups. The Nats' 16-7 record (.696) was their best-ever win-loss percentage for the month of April. (Their best month ever was September 2014: 19-8, or .704.) That page also shows two new grand slams (both by Bryce Harper) and one new walk-off home run, by Clinton Robinson.

If the Nats keep flirting with the .700 mark, I'm going to have to recalibrate the winning percentage charts for each year on that page. That's the current upper limit, which few teams reach after April.

May 3, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sweep the Cardinals

There's a first time for everything, and the series in St. Louis over the weekend was a perfect example, as the Washington Nationals won all three games. It was supposed to be the "road trip from hell," with games on ten consecutive days against teams that were in the postseason last year. But instead, the Nats rolled over the Cardinals, their first sweep in St. Louis since the team was "reborn" in 2005. On Friday, Stephen Strasburg gave up just two runs in seven innings, as the Nats hung on to win, 5-4. It was his fourth win of the season. On Saturday, the Nats jumped on top with four runs in the first inning, thanks mostly to Jayson Werth's three-run homer. Young Joe Ross pitched another superb game (his ERA is only 0.79!), as the Nats won easily, 6-1. The final score on Sunday was the same, but the path to victory was slower. Neither team scored for the first five innings, but the Nats finally got to the Cardinals' ace Carlos Martinez, who took his first loss of the year. For the Nats, Max Scherzer finally pitched like his old self and chalked up his third win. He grew up in the St. Louis area, so a lot of his friends and family were probably there to see him, no doubt with mixed emotions.

Another sweep? Nope.

Then the Nationals headed to the other side of Missouri, where the World Champion Kansas City Royals were waiting. Once again, the Nats got on the board in the first inning, and once again an RBI by Ryan Zimmerman proved to be all the Nats needed to win, as neither team scored after that. D.C. 2, K.C. 0. Gio Gonzalez had another fine outing, going six innings without allowing a run; he has a 1.15 ERA right now. Tonight's game was a thriller, with home runs by Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, and Jayson Werth, plus three doubles and a triple. Tanner Roark recovered after giving up three runs in the third inning, and was in line for the win, except that Jonathan Papelbon blew the save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth inning. In fact, he gave up three runs on five hits, as the Royals came back to win it, 7-6. That one stung a little bit, but "you can't win 'em all."

Meanwhile, the Mets and the Cubs keep winning. Those two teams and the Nationals are the hottest teams in the National League right now. The Mets lost to the Braves tonight, thus remaining 1.5 games behind the Nats, while the Cubs trounced the Pirates again in Pittsburgh. After the rubber match game in K.C. tomorrow, the Nats head to Chicago for a true "clash of titans" -- a four-game series that could well be a preview of this year's NLCS. OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves... wink

The mail bag

Ohio resident Jim Gumm informed me that when Riverfront Stadium ("Cinergy Field") was reconfigured in 2001 to make room for construction of Great American Ballpark next door, the diamond was moved backward about ten feet. An article in the Cincinnati Enquirer provides plenty of detail, and clears up lingering doubts in my mind. Diagram update pending!

On a related note, after looking at photos of Riverfront Stadium, I realized that it should have been included among the stadiums with a "ribbed" roof, which I mentioned when I updated the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium diagrams last week.

In another week or so, I'll have a lot more time to work on diagrams and respond to e-mail inquiries.

April 28, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Phillies sweep the Nationals

After winning eight straight home games this month, the Washington Nationals fell flat against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, losing all three games in the series. Unlike the Tuesday game, both the Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon games featured superb outings by the starting pitchers. Yesterday Gio Gonzalez allowed only one earned run over six-plus innings, and today Tanner Roark only allowed two hits in seven full innings. In today's game, the Phillies scored all three of their runs in the ninth inning immediately after Bryce Harper struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, while Daniel Murphy crushed two balls to deep right field that would have been home runs were it not for the chilly, wet weather. Instead, they were just long outs, so his batting average has now dropped below the .400 mark. The final score of both games was 3-0. So much for home field advantage...

This marks the first time since last August that the Nats have been shut out in two consecutive games, and the first time that has happened at home since 2007, back when they played in RFK Stadium. Here is the complete list:

Aug. 27-28, 2005STL 0-6STL 0-6(home)
May 16-17, 2006CHC 0-4CHC 0-5(away)
May 29-30, 2007LAD 0-10LAD 0-5(home)
May 31-June 1, 2008ARI 0-4ARI 0-5(away)
July 26-27, 2008LAD 0-6LAD 0-2(away)
Aug. 8-9, 2008MIL 0-5MIL 0-6(away)
July 17-18, 2010FLA 0-2FLA 0-1(away)
May 18-19, 2011NYM 0-3NYM 0-1(away)
June 3-4, 2011ARI 0-4ARI 0-2(away)
Aug. 11-12, 2015LAD 0-5LAD 0-3(away)
Apr. 27-28, 2016PHI 0-3PHI 0-3(home)

And on that disappointing note, the Nationals embark on a brutal ten-day road trip, facing (in order) the St. Louis Cardinals, the Kansas City Royals, and the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, the New York Mets have won nine of their last ten games and are now only a half game behind the Nats in the NL East race.

Speaking of the Cubs, I would be remiss not to mention their lopsided 16-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds one week ago, April 21. Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter, backed by five Chicago home runs, including two from Kris Bryant. Somebody up in heaven got a big smile from that one... The Cubs are now 16-5, which is the best record in all of baseball. The second-best team right now is on the other side of Chicago -- yes, the White Sox, who are 16-7! Hmmm....

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium tweak

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium

I made a few minor enhancement to the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium diagrams, with the "ribbed" section dividers in the roof now displayed, and more detail in the bullpens. Perhaps it's not even worth considering an update.

This was motivated in part by my ongoing (agonizingly prolonged) work on updating the Angel (Anaheim) Stadium diagrams, as that one likewise features prominent "ribs" between each section on top of the roof. Other such stadiums:

April 26, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nats can't win 'em all

After a memorable weekend in which the Washington Nationals swept the Minnesota Twins, the "D.C. 9" couldn't quite beat the visiting Philadelphia Phillies tonight. For the second game in a row, Max Scherzer gave up a home run in the first inning, a disturbing sign. Even though the Nats put together a nice rally in the fifth inning to tie the game 3-3, the Phillies tacked on another run in the seventh and won it. So now the Nats are "only" 14-5, rather than 15-4.

On Friday night the Twins came to town, and Gio Gonzalez had another solid outing, giving up only two runs in six innings. The Nats took an early lead (7-0 after three innings), as Jayson Werth homered and Jose Lobaton had three RBIs. Nats 8, Twins 4.

On Saturday afternoon, Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run single in the first inning, and neither team scored any runs after that. Tanner Roark was spectacular on the mound, throwing 15 strikeouts over seven innings. It was the third-highest strikeout total in Nationals history. (Max Scherzer threw 17 once, and 16 once.)

The third and final game on Sunday was a wild one, with Stephen Strasburg only gave up one run until the eighth inning, when Bryan Dozier hit a three-run homer. Ouch! The Nats scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, who should step up to the plate but Bryce Harper!? With the game on the line, he rose to the occasion and smashed a ball over the center field fence, making the score 4-4. (That put him back into the lead in the majors, with nine home runs.) Yusmeiro Petit did splendidly as a long reliever, pitching from the 11th until the 15th inning. That's when the Twins finally got to him, taking a one-run lead. In the bottom of that inning Danny Espinosa drew a walk, and then stole second base. With the bench all but empty, Manager Dusty Baker had the pitcher Oliver Perez go to bat for the first time since 2010. Then, to the surprise of everyone on the field and in the stands, Perez put down a perfect bunt toward third base, and the catcher threw the ball over the first baseman's head, allowing Espinosa to score the tying run. Un-be-lievable!!! In the bottom of the 16th inning, Chris Heisey had a long at-bat with one out, and finally smashed the ball over the left field bullpen, thereby winning the game in a most bizarre fashion. Nats 6, Twins 5. It was the Nationals' first walk-off homer of the year.

Marlins Park changes

I noticed during the series at Marlins Park last week that the center field fence has been moved in significantly, making it a little less friendly to pitchers but still very daunting for batters. In fact, both Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman took advantage of the shorter distance by hitting homers into the new shrubs that have been planted in the intervening space. And so, I made that small adjustment, with new separate diagrams for 2012 and 2016. Those diagrams haven't been updated otherwise since 2012, so it's possible further corrections will be needed in the months to come.

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

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Coming Attractions

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

Stadium construction

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

Stadium construction

Franchise /
Opens % done
Atlanta Braves
Sun Trust Field
2017 40%
Oakland (San Jose?) Athletics
Cisco Field (?)
2020? 0%
Tampa Bay Rays
Rays Stadium (?)
2020? 0%
NOTES: This table includes stadiums that are currently under construction or are being contemplated.

Research department: