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August 25, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Nats bounce back, clobber Giants

In baseball, as in all human endeavors, "you can't win 'em all," but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. It was a bit of a letdown when the Nationals had their ten-game winning streak stopped by the Giants in a lopsided score (10-3) on Friday night, but it hasn't affected their momentum at all. In the late afternoon game on Saturday, the Giants scored twice in the first inning, but the Nats did the same in the bottom of the first, and their pitcher Jordan Zimmermann settled down and went seven more innings without allowing a run. The Nats kept adding runs, boosted by Asdrubal Cabrera's second homer as a Nat, and the home team won, 6-2. On Sunday afternoon, it was a more extreme version of that pattern, as Stephen Strasburg allowed five runs during the first three innings. He just couldn't locate his fastball, so his off-speed pitches failed to have the desired effect. He was pulled in the fourth inning, just as the Nats began a comeback with a two-run rally. Relief pitcher Craig Stammen gave up a solo homer, but the Nationals exploded after Ian Desmond led off with a homer in the sixth inning, and before you knew it, the score was 8-6. They added another run in the seventh inning, and then five more runs in the eighth inning. The poor Giants didn't know what hit them. Final score: Nats 14, Giants 6. It was their highest run total of the year, and probably the biggest comeback in terms of net run differential.

Meanwhile, the Braves lost the second two games of their series in Cincinnati, so the Nationals gained another game in the NL East race. They are now eight games in front. The main danger for the Nats at this point is not to get too comfortable with being that far ahead.

Tonight the Nats begin a long road trip, playing against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. After resting on Thursday, they head to the west coast, playing three games in Seattle against the Mariners, and three games in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. That will be a challenge.

Cubs sweep the Orioles

Not many people expected this to happen: The Chicago Cubs swept the visiting Baltimore Orioles at Wrigley Field over the weekend. The young rookie Javier Baez got two more home runs, making his total six (6), in only 82 at bats so far. Pretty amazing, and just what the Cubs need. Meanwhile, the Yankees are on a winning streak, so the Orioles' lead in the AL East has been cut to six games.

Globe Life Park tweak

I finally completed the lower-deck version of the Globe Life Park diagrams, which show the entry portals and (semi-obstructive) support columns for the first time. There are only four rows of seats behind those columns. Making that diagram, in turn, prompted a few very small changes in the other diagram versions, so all that has been taken care of.


August 22, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Nats sweep the D-backs: ten in a row!

It wasn't easy, but the Washington Nationals swept the Diamondbacks in a four-game series this week, their third consecutive series sweep. That was their tenth consecutive win, a feat they managed only one time before since their inaugural season in Washington: June 2-12, 2005. What's nearly as amazing is the fact that five of their last [six] wins have been walk-off victories. The Nationals extended their lead over the Braves to seven games, and now have the highest winning percentage (.579) in the National League.

On Tuesday, Ian Desmond and Asdrubal Cabrera provided most of the offensive firepower, getting 4 and 3 RBIs, respectively, as the Nats won decisively, 8-1. With an early lead as a cushion, Stephen Strasburg has one of his best outings of the year, going eight strong innings. It was the Nats' only blowout win this week.

On Wednesday, Bryce Harper showed more signs of improvement at the plate, getting three hits, the most important of which came in the ninth inning. The Nats had had a 2-0 lead until Tyler Clippard walked a batter and then gave up a home run to Ender Inciarte in the top of the eighth inning. That was the second straight blown save for Clip, which is too bad. He is usually very reliable, and has been the linchpin of the Nats' bullpen for years. But after Bryce Harper got to third base in the bottom of the ninth, thanks to a pinch-hit single by Kevin Frandsen, Anthony Rendon came through with a single smashed down the left field line, and Harper trotted home victoriously. [Final score: Nats 3, D-backs 2.]

And then last night the Nats got 8 hits in the first eight innings, but neither team scored. That meant either a walk-off win or a loss for the home team. In the bottom of the ninth, Denard Span led off with a hit, then stole second base, getting into scoring position with just one out. Here we go again! The next batter, Anthony Rendon, hit a hard ground ball to third base, and the throw to first by Jordan Pacheco was wide and trickled into the dugout (or camera pit?), and the umpire awarded Span an extra base, which won the game. [Gio Gonzalez deserves his share of credit, pitching seven scoreless innings and giving up just four hits and three walks. Final score: Nats 1, D-bakcs 0.] Not as fulfilling as the other walk-off wins, but we'll take it!

Barring a miracle, however, the Nationals' winning streak is about to come to an end. The visiting San Francisco Giants hold a 10-2 lead in the middle of the ninth inning, scoring six of those runs in the final two innings. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted...

[UPDATE: Wilson Ramos doubled in a run in the bottom of the ninth, but that's when the magic came to an end, as the Nats fell to the Giants, 10-3.]

In other news...

There was another weird 1-0 ballgame yesterday: The Tampa Bay Rays beat the visiting Detroit Tigers [in spite of getting] only one hit in the game: an RBI triple by Brandon Guyer [in the first inning], after Ben Zobrist reached base on a throwing error by shortstop Eugenio Suarez. Former Ray David Price pitched eight more innings without allowing a runner to reach base, but still lost the game. Talk about frustration for the Tigers...

Meanwhile, the Oakland A's have slumped badly, losing 8 of their last 10 games, while the L.A. Angels have surged into first place in the AL West, winning 8 of their last 10.


August 19, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Rob Manfred to replace Bud Selig

Rob Manfred was elected last week as a replacement for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, beating the main rival, Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. A three-quarters majority was needed for election. Manfred is currently chief operating officer for Major League Baseball, where he has worked since 1998. Before that, he was an attorney in Washington, D.C. (Did he yearn for baseball back then?) See www.washingtonpost.com. Manfred's selection is widely seen as an endorsement of Bud Selig's tenure as commissioner. Several years ago, I would have scoffed at that suggestion, but I'll have to give Selig credit for taking a firm stand on the steroid issue, and for making innovations aimed at expanding baseball's fan base.

This happens as MLB is embroiled in yet another legal battle involving the baseball franchises in Baltimore and Washington. More on that soon...

Royals lead the AL Central!

The Kansas City Royals are overcoming skeptics, determined to prove that they deserve to lead the American League Central Division. Ever since climbing a half game ahead of the Detroit Tigers last week, they have managed to stay ahead. They now enjoy a two-game margin, with a record of 69-55. I'll bet the Tigers are really regretting that trade with Washington for Doug Fister...

Oh, oh: Sports Illustrated just put the Royals on the cover of the Midwest edition of SI. I hope the jinx effect doesn't happen.

Nationals' win streak up to seven!

Somehow or other, the Washington Nationals keep finding ways to win games, even after horrible miscues make defeat seem almost inevitable. Last night, fresh off of two series sweeps (see below), they welcomed the Arizona Diamondbacks to town, and for a while the Nats' bats were cold. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wilson Ramos fired up the crowd with a line drive home run that just cleared the center field fence, taking a 2-1 lead. But then Jordan Zimmermann uncharacteristically walked another batter and gave up a home run to Didi Gregorious, so the D-backs were ahead once again, 3-2. But wait! The Nats came right back with two more runs in the bottom of the eighth, taking a 4-3 lead. The back-and-forth carnival continued in the ninth inning when David Peralta hit a solo homer off of closing pitcher Tyler Clippard, who was replacing Rafael Soriano. Oops! That's a shame for Clip, who has been a reliable part of the Nats' bullpen for years. So the game went into extra innings. Craig Stammen took the mound in the 11th inning, and before you knew it the bases were loaded with nobody out. Most pitchers in that situation would wilt under the pressure, but Stammen buckled down, got his sinker ball where he wanted it, and escaped the inning with two strikeouts and a ground ball out. Whew!!! In the bottom of the 11th, the D-backs got two quick outs, and then Adam LaRoche hit a massive walk-off home run of the edge of the middle deck! Game over, Nats win, 5-4! THREE WALK-OFF WINS IN THREE DAYS!!! Surprisingly, that was the first walk-off homer in LaRoche's career. It came just eleven days after Bryce Harper did likewise. For more juicy details and video clips, see www.masnsports.com.

Man, am I beat! This race for the postseason is going to take a lot out of me, I'm afraid. The Washington Nationals page has been duly updated, adding LaRoche to the list of walk-off home runs. Last night's game makes the fifth consecutive extra-inning win for the Nationals, another clear sign of improvement. Overall this year they are 7-8 in that department.

The Nationals now have a seven-game winning streak, their longest so far this year. So, even though the Braves are doing much better [than before], they are still six full games behind the Nats. As long as they stay healthy, it's hard to see what could stop the Nationals' momentum. It's beginning to look a lot like 2012 all over again! Much depends on Jayson Werth healing his shoulder and Ryan Zimmerman healing his strained hamstring. Also, there is a looming question of who will be the Nats' regular closing pitcher as this season nears a climax. Manager Matt Williams expressed confidence in Rafael Soriano, which is what he's supposed to do, but the current situation can't continue like this for much longer.

Nats sweep the Mets

After coming up short in Atlanta (August 8-10), where the Braves finally ended their awful slump and began surging back, the Nationals were eager to finish their road trip on a positive note. The first game against the Mets in Citi Field was a near-blowout (7-1), as the Nats' batters finally woke up, with four (4) home runs. Most impressive was Michael Taylor, just called up from the minor leagues, hitting a single and then a home run in his very first big league game! It just doesn't get any better than that for a rookie. Taylor has struggled at the plate since then, but has played fine defense in right field, replacing the ailing Jayson Werth.

Then on Wednesday, August 13, Asdrubal Cabrera hit his first home run as a National, [helping defeat] the home team, 3-2. Closing pitcher Rafael Soriano got the save, but gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth, barely avoiding an ugly blown save and/or loss.

On Thursday the Nats completed the series sweep with a 4-1 win, thanks to solid pitching by Stephen Strasburg (often shaky on the road) and home runs by Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper.

Nats sweep the Pirates

With a 4-2 road trip under their belts, the Nationals returned to Washington on Friday full of confidence, facing the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the very first inning, the Nats scored three runs. Nats pitcher Tanner Roark started off with his usual solid command, but was relieved during the sixth inning, when the Pirates scored three runs to make it a 5-3 game. It stayed that way until the top of the ninth, when Rafael Soriano gave up a run on three hits, once again nearly blowing a save opportunity.

On Saturday, Gio Gonzalez struggled on the mound, giving up three runs to the Pirates in the third inning. The score was 3-0 until the eighth inning, when the Nats staged a sudden three-run rally, capped by an Adam LaRoche home run. In the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper walked, got to second base on a wild pitch, and then scored on a walk-off ground-rule double by Wilson Ramos. And the crowd went wild!

The game on Sunday was an amazing marathon featuring defensive blunders by both sides. The Nats came back and had a 4-2 lead going into the ninth inning, whereupon Rafael Soriano not only blew another save opportunity, but left his team a run behind after Gregory Polanco knocked in two runs with a double to right-center field. ARGH-H-H-H! Fortunately, Jayson Werth (who missed several days with a sore shoulder) came in as a pinch-hitter and reached base on a leadoff walk, and then scored on an RBI single by Asdrubal Cabrera. Anthony Rendon then nearly ended the game with a ball hit to the left field gap, by center fielder Starling Marte somehow caught it, sending the game into extra innings. In the eleventh inning, Jayson Werth hit a double that almost cleared the left field fence, advanced to third base on a hard ground ball hit by Denard Span, and finally scored the winning run on a fly ball to left field hit by pinch hitter Scott Hairston. Nats 6, Pirates 5: two walk-off wins in a row, and a second consecutive series sweep!

Chase Field update

Since the Arizona Diamondbacks are visiting Our Nation's Capital this week, I thought it would be appropriate to finish the revisions to my diagrams for their ballpark (Chase Field) based on my recent visit to Phoenix, on June 25. Once again, my first-hand observations paid off handsomely. For one thing, just like with Globe Life Park, I badly underestimated the amount of first-deck overhang: It's about 30%, rather than 10% as I previously indicated. The upper-deck overhang (about 75%) is inherently difficult to assess in stadiums with retractable roofs. For the time being, I'm going to estimate how much of the upper deck is covered when the roof is open, indicating that modified estimation technique with parentheses on the Stadium statistics page (newly updated). The position of the entry portals in the upper deck has been corrected, a few minor details in the center field wall and the fence in the right field corner have been refined, and the grandstand profile has been altered significantly.

Chase Field is much more attractive than I expected, and the outside view is especially impressive. Here is one of the ten (10) new photos I added to that page:

Chase Field, from the northeast corner, just before game time.

One final note: Having spent nearly a week in 100-plus-degree temperatures out there in late June, I fully understand the need for an air-conditioned baseball stadium in Phoenix!

Native American protests

On my way into Chase Field, I passed by a group of Native Americans who were protesting against the Cleveland Indians' grinning mascot. The Indians have been minimizing their use of that rather tacky and archaic logo for the past couple years, replacing it with a bland red letter "C," which is rather hard to distinguish from the logo of the other team in Ohio -- Cincinnati Reds. I hope they settle on a new team logo before too long...

Protest by Native American Indians at Chase Field.

The protests were a reflection of the state's ethnic composition: 4.0% of Arizona's 2010 Census population was American Indian, the seventh-highest concentration in the United States. As noted on the Chase Field, one of the Diamondbacks' main sponsors is Gila River Gaming Enterprises, which runs the casinos on the Gila River Indian Reservation. See www.gilariver.org.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Redskins are under continual pressure to change their team's name. More on that controversy when the football season gets underway...


August 10, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Kansas City: Hey, hey, hey, hey! *

Has anyone noticed that the Kansas City Royals are on a seven-game winning streak, putting them just a half game behind the Tigers in the AL Central race? They swept both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants, as the visiting team in both series. Now they face a four-game series (at home) against the Oakland A's, who have the best record in the majors. Last weekend in Oakland, the Royals won two out of three games, so who's to say they can't keep it up?

* That was the title of a song recorded by The Beatles in 1964, which they in fact played in Kansas City that same year. It's one of those twangy, rockabilly tunes with lots of seventh chords, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Kauffman Stadium

Kauffman Stadium visit + update!

The game I saw at Kauffman Stadium on July 25 was plenty exciting (Royals 6, Indians 4), and the closeup view I had made it even better. For some purposes, a photograph from field level is more useful than a standard elevated view. So, I just had to take a closer look at my diagrams, and sure enough I found a few minor flaws. For one thing, I realized for the first time that there are additional entry portals midway down the lower deck not far from the foul poles. In the corrected version, the lateral aisle in the lower deck is about five feet toward the rear. The handicapped seating platforms are now rendered more accurately, and the profile has been tweaked as well. Finally, there is a new "transparent roof" version diagram, showing the entry portals in the upper deck more clearly.

Kauffman Stadium

Fans at Kauffman Stadium cheer as Billy Butler heads for home on a two-run pinch-hit home run that ended up deciding the game.

K.C. Municipal Stadium

Municipal Stadium visit + update!

But wait, there's more! The last time I was in Kansas City (August 2011) I couldn't find the old Municipal Stadium historical marker, and I wasn't even 100% sure about the site because the neighborhood had been totally rebuilt and I didn't recognize it. This time I found the marker right away, and learned about the neighborhood redevelopment plan called "Monarch Manor" that apparently caused the marker to be temporarily put away for a while. (See kcmo.gov.) So, once again, I checked my diagrams on the K.C. Municipal Stadium page, and made a few corrections. In the new and improved version, the roof extends ten feet forward from where it used to, and the upper deck extends five feet forward.

K.C. Municipal Stadium sign

The K.C. Municipal Stadium historical marker; roll mouse over to see Monarch Plaza.

At the southeast corner of Monarch Manor is brand-new Monarch Plaza, a nicely landscaped area that is a vast improvement compared to the simple sign and bench that was there before. It features tributes to Satchel Paige (A's 1965), Buck O'Neill (Monarchs 1938-1943 and 1946-1955, with three years of military service during World War II), John Wyatt (A's 1961-1966), Amos Otis (Royals 1970-1983). John Mayberry (Royals 1972-1977), as well as to three black Kansas City Chiefs football players.

I was curious about the big old brick school on the west side of that long-vacant plot of land, and learned that it is Lincoln Preparatory School, which was founded in 1865. See www.kcpublicschools.org.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Less than a mile from Monarch Plaza is the historic 18th & Vine District of Kansas City, and that's where the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is located. It shares a beautiful new building with the American Jazz Museum. It is chock full of professional-quality graphical displays and relic mementos from the glory days of African-American baseball. I learned a lot about the personal hardships endured by the Black players in the days of segregation, and I also learned that the first-ever Negro World Series, in 1924, was played (in part) in Philadelphia's old Baker Bowl. (The Monarchs were "World Colored Champions.") Those who are curious about this vital aspect of baseball history should definitely take a look at www.nlbm.com. I added this photo to the Negro Leagues page:

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

For anyone who is planning a trip through Missouri and is considering a stop in Kansas City, here is an amusing lightning-fast "tour" of highlights in that fair city: youtube.com; hat tip to Dan Clem.

Amazing extra-inning games!!!

This weekend featured some rather extraordinary extra-inning games, some of which had big implications for the divisional races. In Anaheim on Saturday night, the Angels beat the Red Sox 5-4 in 19 innings, thanks to a home run by Albert Pujols. Both teams scored a single run in the 14th inning. In Atlanta, meanwhile, the Nationals beat the Braves 4-1 in 11 innings, thanks to a single by Wilson Ramos and then a double by Kevin Frandsen with the bases loaded. That brought the Nats' lead in the NL East back up to 4 1/2 games. Then today the Blue Jays beat the visiting Tigers 6-5 in 19 innings on an RBI single by Jose Bautista. Toronto tied it 5-5 with a run in the bottom of the ninth, and then neither team scored for the next nine innings! Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays) got three hits and five walks, becoming the first person to reach base eight times in one game since Rod Carew did so (against the Brewers) in 1972. Perhaps also worth mentioning is that the Cubs beat the Rays 3-2 in 12 innings today, on an RBI single by Anthony Rizzo. (No relation to Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, as far as I know.) The Cubs barely avoided being swept at home.

Derek Jeter is #6 in all-time hits

Congratulations to Derek Jeter, who got his 3,431st career base hit on a soft ground ball to shortstop yesterday, passing Honus Wagner on the all-time hits list. See MLB.com. One almanac source I have says Wagner had 3,415 hits, and another source says 3,418. With only seven weeks left to go in his career, there is only a small chance that Jeter will surpass #5, Tris Speaker, who had 3,514 lifetime hits. Jeter's hit did not affect the game's outcome, as the visiting Cleveland Indians won, 3-0.

While looking up those records, I came across an interesting factoid: Asdrubal Cabrera (recently acquired by the Nationals from Cleveland) made an unassisted triple play on May 12, 2008 against the Toronto Blue Jays.


August 8, 2014 [LINK / comment]

Bryce Harper hits walk-off homer!

Bryce Harper has been quite frustrated with his slow recovery since returning from the disabled list in late June. The way he threw down his helmet after a near-home run he hit was caught by the Mets' left fielder on Tuesday exposed his inner rage for all the world to see. When reporters asked if Harper might be sent down to the minors to refine his swing, manager Matt Williams angrily denied that was even being considered. That incident only added to the swirling clouds of doubt, as Washington Post columnist Adam Kilgore discussed in Thursday's paper.

But all that came to end on Friday night when Harper came out of his slump in dramatic fashion, hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Nationals a series win over the Mets. See MLB.com. The Nats used almost their whole bullpen in that marathon game, which became necessary because of the two runs given up after Drew Storen replaced Jordan Zimmerman on the mound during the seventh inning. That was the Nationals' first extra-inning win at home this year.

Harper thus becomes only the second Washington Nationals player ever to hit more than one walk-off home run. The other one, of course, is Ryan Zimmerman, who has hit nine of them! See the newly-updated Washington Nationals page.

I read that the Nationals have the highest run differential in the National League, and the second highest in the majors. My data show their aggregate score this year (including tonight's game in Atlanta*) is 480 to 401.

* Tonight in Atlanta, Stephen Strasburg had a horrible outing, giving up three home runs in the first two innings, and leaving after the fifth inning with his team behind 7-0. Then in the sixth inning, the Nats staged a four-run rally capped by Anthony Rendon's three-run homer, and then got two more runs in the seventh. The Braves were on the verge of catastrophically blowing a seven-run lead and thereby extending their eight-game losing streak, but barely hung on to win, 7-6.

Matt Thornton joins Nats

The Nationals claimed Matt Thornton off waivers; the Yankees had released him last month. He's a left-hander, something the Nationals are lacking, and so far has been pretty solid on the mound.

Cubs' new star: Javier Baez

Maybe the phrase "Wait 'till next year!" really means something for the Chicago Cubs. A rookie player named Javier Baez who was just called up from the minors hit the go-ahead home run in the 12th inning against the Rockies in Denver -- in his very first game in the majors! Then on Thursday, he hit two more home runs to help the Cubs win again. That must be some kind of rookie record. In his first game at Wrigley Field tonight, he roused the home crowd by getting a hit and scoring a run in the first inning, but Cubs lost in extra innings. See MLB.com. Like I said, "Wait 'till next year!"

A bit of baseball news

The people in Houston are still trying to figure out what to do with the Astrodome. One idea is to demolish everything but the main structural beams and build a miniature version inside the ring. "The ribs of the (original) stadium would be preserved, forming a sort of skeletal Stonehenge..." See www.citylab.com. Hat tip to Mario Vara. Frankly, that seems kind of dumb to me.

But at least the Astrodome will be around for another year or more, giving me another chance to see it, whereas Candlestick Park isn't expected to be around much longer. Just as the Beatles gave their final concert there in 1966, Sir Paul McCartney is going to give that venue's final concert there next week, August 14. See sfgate.com. I think that means no more public events there, but we'll see. That article notes that "McCartney did this once before -- at Shea Stadium, just before it was demolished in 2009." Hm-m.

Back in the Eastern Time Zone, meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds unveiled the official logo for the 2015 All-Star Game which they will host at Great American Ball Park; see MLB.com.

Hopefully, I'll get caught up with news and fan mail in the next couple weeks...


July 31, 2014 [LINK / comment]

The Wild, Wild West!   Baseball road trip 2014

I may not have set any records as far as number of stadiums, but I definitely covered more highway miles than in any of my previous baseball-focused road trips. Altogether, I tallied 6,861 miles over the course of six weeks, venturing far into the desert southwest. During these two months, I saw two Major League stadiums for the first time -- Globe Life Park in Arlington and Chase Field in Phoenix -- as well as one new collegiate stadium: TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. I also visited a few small-town ballparks along the way, including one that was just a stone's throw from the Mexican border. Finally, I attended three MLB games, two of which were in stadiums I had previously seen.

The four Major League stadiums I saw in June & July 2014 (clockwise from top left): Globe Life Park, Great American Ballpark (in Cincinnati), Chase Field, Kauffman Stadium (in Kansas City). [Sequence corrected.]

[UPDATE: My visit to the home of the Rangers in Arlington, Texas on June 24 was curtailed because my father was not feeling up to a full-fledged tour, so I just walked around the outside of the fortress-like stadium. Fortunately, that coincided with a special children's event when many people were milling around, so I managed to slip inside the main gates for a few minutes. That saved me some travel bucks, so I felt obliged to buy some souvenirs in the team store. I also photographed the "Dallas" Cowboys' semi-new home, AT&T Stadium, about a half mile away. In Phoenix, Arizona the very next evening (1,077 miles away!), I saw the Cleveland Indians come close to shutting out the Diamondbacks, with the only run for the home team coming in the bottom of the ninth, when Miguel Montero hit an RBI single. Final score: 6-1. See MLB.com. This was one day after the D-backs won 9-8 in spectacular walk-off fashion, getting a run in the bottom of the 14th inning after tying the game with two runs in the bottom of the 11th. Credit for the win goes to Aaron Hill for his clutch RBI drive into the left-center gap. I was lucky to see the dramatic finale of that game on TV in my motel room. The Indians were neck-and-neck with the Royals in late June, on the verge of contending in the AL Central, but have since fallen back.]

Nationals move into first place

Just before I left town in the middle of last month, the Washington Nationals had shown signs of improvement, and by the All-Star break they were sharing first place with the Atlanta Braves. Jordan Zimmermann was supposed to make the trip to [ Minneapolis ] Kansas City (where the American League won the Midsummer Classic), but he had strained his bicep and was replaced on the National League roster by Tyler Clippard. Actually, the two best Nats pitchers this year have been Tanner Roark (now 11-6) and Doug Fister (10-2), who was on the DL until mid-May. His presence has been a huge benefit to the team. Likewise, the return in June of Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper to the active roster (after recovering from thumb injuries) has helped the Nats greatly. With a full, healthy lineup at last, the Nats started to produce runs on a consistent basis, while the bullpen generally held the lead in the late innings of most games. Since the All-Star break, the Nationals have taken sole possession of first place in the NL Eastern Division.

Yours truly enjoying a great game at Great American Ballpark, this past Sunday.

It was in that context that I saw the Nats play in Cincinnati against the Reds last Sunday afternoon. It was only my second game at Great American Ballpark, and the previous time (2004) the team now known as the Nationals was still playing in Montreal, as the Expos. How time flies! The weather that day was threatening, and indeed I had to brave terrible thunderstorms that morning in Kentucky on my way up to Cincinnati. But the sun came out just as the game was scheduled to begin (1:10), and they got the whole nine innings done with barely a sprinkle. It was a pitcher's duel early on, as Doug Fister put on a masterful performance. In the fifth inning a single by Nats' second baseman Danny Espinosa sparked a big rally. Reds' pitcher Mat Latos got shaky, walking two batters and hitting another one with a pitch. The rally was capped when Adam LaRoche hit a two-run single to left field, making it 3-0. The next batter, Ian Desmond hit a towering fly ball to center field that was caught right in front of the fence. A few more feet and it would have been a 6-0 game. In the ninth inning, Anthony Rendon batted in an insurance run that proved to be very useful. In the bottom of the ninth, Aaron Barrett took the mound, but he gave up singles to the first two batters and was immediately replaced by the regular closing pitcher Rafael Soriano. The very next batter, Devin Mesoraco, doubled to deep left-center field, making it a whole new ball game, with the score 4-2. Oh, no, here we go again... Fortunately, Soriano settled down and got the next three batters out to end the game. Whew!

Doug Fister, preparing to pitch.

Before and during the game, I made note of several details that had escaped my notice the last time I was inside GABP ten years ago. For one thing, there is a disjuncture between the lower deck main grandstand and the lower deck in left field, where the "pitch" (slope) is steeper. Also, the upper deck bleachers in left field are shaped slightly irregularly. Minor diagram fixups to come...

Royals climb into contention

One nice surprise of the 2014 season is that the Kansas City Royals have made themselves into a contending team. They're 54-52 right now, just five games behind the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers. I saw the Royals play the Cleveland Indians last Friday night, when it was very hot and muggy. The home team took and early lead, but then the visitors tied it. The crucial play in the game was when the slugging star Billy Butler (who was pinch hitting, after being benched) came through with a dramatic two-run homer deep into the bullpen in left field. And I captured the event on camera! The Royals held on to win, 6-4.

Billy Butler hits the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.

Virginia makes it to CWS finals

The University of Virginia Cavaliers made a great effort in the 2014 College World Series in Omaha, making it to the final three-game series for the first time, but ended up a close #2. In Game 1 was a blowout victory by Vanderilt, but U.Va. tied the series in Game 2. In the deciding game, the game was tied 2-2 in the eighth inning when Vanderbilt's John Norwood hit a solo home run that proved to be the deciding play. See ncaa.com. The U.Va. Cavalier baseball team deserves great credit for fighting back and going all the way to the final out. "So close, and yet so far!"

I was hoping my travel plans might coincide with the CWS schedule, but it just didn't work out. I made a point on my return trip (en route to Kansas City) to stop at beautiful, modern TD Ameritrade Stadium for the first time. It replaced the venerable Rosenblatt Stadium south of downtown Omaha in 2011. (See blog posts from June 2011 and August 2009, when I stopped there briefly.) Strangely, however, Omaha's minor league team (the Storm Chasers, the AAA affiliate of the K.C. Royals) does not play there but instead at a smaller ballpark several miles southwest of Omaha. Go figure.

TD Ameritrade Park CWS 2014 banners

TD Ameritrade Park, showing the CWS 2014 banners. (July 25, 2014)









Coming Attractions
  • Great American Ballpark
  • Metropolitan Stadium
  • Safeco Field
  • Dodger Stadium
  • Braves Field
  • Sportsman's Park
  • Crosley Field
  • Riverfront Stadium
  • Comiskey Park
  • Wrigley Field
  • Fenway Park
  • Busch Stadium (III)
  • Busch Stadium II
  • PNC Park
  • Coors Field
  • Angels (Anaheim) Stadium
  • Mile High Stadium
  • Griffith Stadium
  • Cleveland Stadium
  • Minute Maid Park
  • Astrodome
  • Yankee Stadium
  • Polo Grounds
  • Ebbets Field
  • Three Rivers Stadium
  • Forbes Field
  • Baker Bowl
  • Olympic Stadium
  • Tokyo Dome
  • Champion Stadium (Orlando)
  • Hilltop Park
  • Exposition Park
  • Robison Field
  • B.C. Place

(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

For the first time since September 1986 (just before groundbreaking on Skydome in Toronto), there are no major league baseball stadiums currently under construction. Therefore, the table that used to occupy this space has been removed.


Research department:

  • Bruce Orser
  • Mike Zurawski
  • Mark London
  • Brian Hughes
  • John Crozier
  • Stephen Poppe


Baseball books:


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



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


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