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October 17, 2016 [LINK / comment]

NLCS: Dodgers & Cubs split, 1-1

After a dramatic and ultimately jubilant (for the home fans) Game 1 in Wrigley Field on Saturday night (see next paragraph), the Los Angeles Dodgers prevailed in yet another tense pitchers' duel in Game 2 last night. On just two days' rest, their ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw kept his pitch count low enough to last for a full seven innings, confounding the expectations of critics. How did he do that? The red-hot Cubs sluggers could only manage two hits over the course of nine innings, while the Dodgers had three -- one of which was a solo home run by Adrian Gonzalez in the second inning. One slight lapse by the Cubs' starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks was all it took. Final score: Dodgers 1, Cubs 0.

In Game 1, the Cubs took an early lead and had a 3-1 lead going into the eighth inning. The the Dodgers loaded the bases with nobody out on two hits and a single, and manager Joe Maddon decided to send in closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman to the mound. The next two Dodgers struck out, making Cubs fans feel a little better, but then Adrian Gonzalez hit a single that tied the game, 3-3. Cubs fans groaned nervously, but their spirits rose in the bottom of the ninth when Ben Zobrist hit a leadoff double. Two outs and two intentional walks later, the bases were loaded as pinch-hitter Miguel Montero stepped up to the plate. When the count when to 0-2, hopes dim. And then a miracle happened: a grand slam that almost went over the bleachers in right field!! As Harry Caray would say, "Holy cow!" smile But wait, there's more: Dexter Fowler hit a solo homer, and then Kris Bryant doubled. Joe Blanton was replaced as pitcher, but with the Cubs 5 runs ahead, it didn't seem to matter. In the top of the ninth, however, the Dodgers scored a run, and threatened to get more, raising nerves a little once again. Nevertheless, the Cubs got the third out to win it, 8-4.

Joe Maddon later defended his decision to remove starting pitcher Jon Lester after six innings in Game 1; he had only thrown 77 pitches. Maddon did regret having Aroldis Chapman try to rescue the Cubs from a precarious situation in the eighth inning, however. That's not his usual job. See chicagotribune.com

That continues the pattern in which the Dodgers have won all four of their games this postseason by exactly one run, including their three wins against the Nationals last week. It was somewhat similar in the regular season against the Nats: the Dodgers won five out of six games, even though the cumulative score in those games was only 26-21.

The last time the Cubs faced the Dodgers in the postseason was the 2008 NLDS, which the Dodgers won in three straight games. By amazing coincidence, I paid a visit to Wrigley Field exactly one day after Game 2 was played there on October 3, 2008.

It's the second consecutive year in which both the Cubs and the Blue Jays have reached their respective league championship series. The last time in the NLCS before 2015 for the Cubs was 2003, which many of us would just as soon forget. The last time in the ALCS before 2015 for the Blue Jays was 1993, when they went on to win the World Series.

FUN FACT: Even though my dad was a huge Cubs fan, he didn't care much for Harry Caray, the jovial, bespectacled play-by-play announcer. smile

Old Wrigley Field photo

Speaking of the Cubs, just yesterday a guy named Stew Thornley posted on Facebook this photo of a game he saw at Wrigley Field in June 1972, with Roberto Clemente at bat. (That was about a year and a half before the heroic slugger tragically died.) The photo had special meaning for me, as I too saw Clemente in the same place in the first major league game I ever saw, in August 1963 (see My ballpark visits), with my dad and younger brother Chris. So, I asked if I could use it, and Stew graciously said yes.

Wrigley Field Roberto Clemente 1972

Wrigley Field with the great Roberto Clemente at bat, in June 1972. (Courtesy of Stew Thornley.)

ALCS: Indians take 2-0 lead

About 340 miles to the east on the shores of Lake Erie, meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians edged the Toronto Blue Jays in the first two games of the American League Championship series, by scores of 2-0 and 2-1. In Game 1, Francisco Lindor's home run provided the only runs the Indians needed, and in Game 2, his RBI single in the third inning gave his team a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish.

ALCS Game 3 begins very soon...

October 14, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals flinch, Dodgers advance to NLCS

Once again, something (or things plural) utterly improbable and unpredictable decided a high-stakes baseball showdown in NLDS Game 5 on Thursday evening, as the L.A. Dodgers came back from a 1-0 deficit in the top of the seventh inning and held on to defeat the Washington Nationals, 4-3. (Sound familiar?) Over and over again, the Nationals just couldn't get hits when they needed it, while the Dodgers pieced together an amazing rally in the seventh inning, accounting for all their runs. Both managers constantly adjusted their lineups and pitching duties in a most unorthodox way. You would have to see it to believe it.

During the first half of the game, there was plenty of room for optimism, as the Nats took an early 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Danny Espinosa in the second inning. For the second game in a row, Danny redeemed himself, after getting zero hits in the first three games of the series. But after that, the Nationals stranded Ryan Zimmerman on third base (where he had reached with just one out), the first of several run-scoring opportunities in which the Nats choked. On the mound, Max Scherzer was in the groove and had a no-hitter through four innings, so the Nats' one-run lead seemed safe enough. But in the fifth inning he gave up three hits all of a sudden, loading the bases with just one out. Fortunately, he got out of the jam intact. In the bottom of the fifth, Bryce Harper walked on a full count, but was then picked off first base by Dodgers' pitcher Julio Urias, on what should have been called a balk. (Personally, I think it would be better to get rid of the balk rules entirely, because they are enforced too unevenly. It's just too subjective.)

Scherzer got through the top of the sixth giving up just an inconsequential hit, and in the bottom of the inning, Jayson Werth (who was at the plate when Harper was picked off the inning before) drew a leadoff walk. Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman smashed a double to the left field corner, which was exactly the kind of clutch hit from Ryan that Nats fans had been waiting for! But left-fielder Andrew Toles quickly threw the ball to the cutoff man, and for some inexplicable reason, third base coach Bob Henley waved Werth home. That was one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in a baseball game. Werth was out by a mile (technically, only about 45 feet), and what could have been a game-deciding rally came to an abrupt and disheartening end. See MLB.com. In the post-game interview, Werth said he was just doing the same aggressive base-running the Nats have been doing all year, but the responsibility lay with Henley, and I hope he never wears a Nationals uniform again.

The shift in momentum became dramatically apparent in the top of the seventh inning, when Joc Pederson hit a leadoff homer to tie the game. That exposed Max Scherzer's fatal flaw that we have seen more than once this year: his proneness to giving up home runs. Dusty Baker immediately replaced Max with Marc Rzepczynski, who walked Yasmani Grandal, and was then replaced by Blake Treinen, who gave up a single and then got a strikeout, after which Sammy Solis took the mound. Carlos Ruiz came in to pinch hit for Chase Utley, and hit an RBI single to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. The dangerous rookie Corey Seager flew out, after which Shawn Kelley came in to pitch to Justin Turner, who smashed a long fly ball that bounced off the center field fence for a two-run triple. It's too much to expect Trea Turner to have caught the ball, but an experienced center fielder would have at least handled it better. Would that have affected the score? No. [ Then Oliver Perez threw a 4-pitch walk to Joc Pederson, one of the Dodgers known to hit poorly off left-handers. Justin Turner ... ]

The seventh inning of the 2016 NLDS Game 5 will be remembered in much the same traumatic way that the ninth inning of the 2012 NLDS Game 5 is remembered. In both cases, the opposing team grabbed the lead with four runs, but in this case at least there was time for the Nationals to regroup mentally. I confess to losing heart in the wake of the Dodgers' rally last night, expressing "doom" in Facebook posts. But that turned out to be premature, as the Nationals bounced back in the bottom of the inning, as Danny Espinosa took a lead-off walk and pinch-hitter Chris Heisey hit a home run to close the gap to just one run. Then Clint Robinson singled, and the Dodgers' manager brought in their closing pitcher Kenley Jansen, a truly stunning development. Trea Turner flew out, and then Joe Ross (a pitcher!) came in to pinch run for Robinson. That turned out to be a smart move, as Ross made it to third base on a single by Bryce Harper. With runners on first and third with just one out, Nats fans' hopes were soaring, but Jayson Werth struck out (on a full count), Daniel Murphy was walked to load the bases, and then Anthony Rendon struck out to end the inning. Ouch.

In the bottom of the eighth, Stephen Drew drew (!) a leadoff walk, but Danny Espinosa popped out in a botched sacrifice bunt attempt. The next two batters were hapless second-stringers: Pedro Severino flew out, and Michael Taylor struck out to end the inning. In the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth drew consecutive walks with one out, and in another stunning bullpen move, none other than Clayton Kershaw came in to relieve Kenley Jansen. Daniel Murphy was coming up to bat, and the Dodgers could take no chances. It was a showdown between superstar pitcher and superstar slugger, a confrontation that will be part of baseball lore for years and years to come. All the chips were on the table, and the crowd cheered lustily. And then the mighty Murphy popped out, as hearts sank all across Natsland. There was still one out to go, and the burden of saving the game -- and the year -- fell upon the shoulders of young pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo, who swung wildly at three of the four pitches he saw to end the game. frown

Complete reports of NLDS Game 5 can be found at MLB.com.

I don't want to be too hard on Dusty Baker, who has been magnificent as a manager this season, a key ingredient in the Nationals' regular-season success. But I think it's clear in retrospect that he should have kept Max Scherzer on the mound after Max gave up that solo home run in the seventh inning. Max later told reporters he told Dusty that he was ready to keep going, and even though his pitch count had reached 99, he probably could have finished that inning intact. That fateful decision was the main theme of the Washington Post article summarizing the game by Adam Kilgore. After Max was replaced, Dusty changed pitchers after every batter, which seemed rather desperate. Other than Chris Heisey, who homered, the double-switches made necessary by all the pitching changes ended up costing the Nats dearly. I was appalled when Dusty replaced first baseman Zimmerman in the seventh inning and third baseman Anthony Rendon in the eighth inning. I just couldn't believe it when in the final two innings, the Nationals' fate was decided by a bunch of untested rookies. Michael Taylor??? Wilmer Difo??? It was as if it was a preseason game, or an inconsequential late-season game when the veterans need a rest.

Dusty Baker

Manager Dusty Baker, at the October 1 game. (See October 2 blog post.)

In sum, the Game 5 loss by the Nationals was a combination of adverse circumstances and failure to execute in clutch situations. Without a doubt, the loss of pitcher Stephen Strasburg and catcher Wilson Ramos to injuries in the final weeks of the season cost the Nationals very dearly. Overall, player for player, the Nationals are probably a better team than the Dodgers, but several of their players lacked the mental discipline and grit needed to prevail when they absolutely had to. For the series as a whole, the Nationals outscored the Dodgers 24-19. All three Dodgers' wins were by exactly one run.

Attendance at NLDS Game 5 was 43,936, the eighth consecutive postseason game sellout at Nationals Park. In contrast, there were at least six thousand empty seats at Dodger Stadium (nominal capacity 56,000) in Game 4.

Having desperately pulled out all the stops in two elimination games in a row, the Dodgers are now exhausted and frankly ill-equipped to take on the Chicago Cubs. The NLCS begins in Wrigley Field on Saturday night, and I'll be rooting for my dear departed dad's team -- the Cubs!

And so, the Nationals are done for the year, going home once again with the shadow of deep disappointment hanging over their heads. In some ways, it's not as bad as either the 2012 or 2014 NLDS defeats, as they played better for the most part. Indeed, they came very close to clinching the series in both Game 4 and Game 5, and that's what hurts the most. The Nationals' cumulative win-loss record in postseason home games is now an abysmal 2-8, a sharp contrast to their fine regular-season home game record (50-31 this year). Nevertheless, they have nothing to be ashamed of, and much to be proud of. Hopefully this "character-building" ordeal will strengthen them as they prepare to embark on yet another quest for the world championship in 2017.

So how I am going to cope with this grief? (Lord knows I have had enough of it this year.) Well, I'm learning to play the Eagles' song "Heartache Tonight" on the guitar, and plan to play it in public next week -- possibly with a new verse referring to what happened last night. I played Terry Cashman's nostalgic tune "Talkin' Baseball" a couple weeks ago, and will have more to say on that soon...

October 13, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Cubs slay the Giants, advance to NLCS

Once again, something utterly improbable and unpredictable decided a high-stakes baseball showdown in NLDS Game 4 on Tuesday evening, as the Chicago Cubs came back from a 5-2 deficit in the top of the ninth inning to defeat the San Francisco Giants, 6-5. The Giants seemed to have the situation well in hand, anticipating a Game 5 in Chicago. With Matt Moore pitching the game of his life, somehow they limited the slug-happy Cubs to just two hits during the first eight innings. And then all hell broke loose! Kris Bryant singled, Anthony Rizzo walked, Ben Zobrist doubled to make the score 5-3, and then rookie Willson Contreras (who??) batted in two more runs with a pinch-hit single, thus tying the game without a single out. If the Giants' closer Sergio Romo couldn't hold the line in that situation, their hope was fading fast. After a fielder's choice out, Javier Baez batted in the go-ahead run with a single, and the rest is history. Cubs 6, Giants 5 -- the reverse of the previous night's score.

Back to D.C.: Dodgers edge the Nats

Earlier that day, the Los Angeles Dodgers escaped elimination and forced a Game 5 in the other NLDS, which will culminate this evening in Our Nation's Capital. Out of desperation, they called on ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw to pitch on just three days' rest, and he came through -- almost. He did just fine for six innings, but Danny Espinosa got a hit off him in the top of the seventh, sparking a three-run rally that ended up tying the game at 5-5. It was Danny's first hit in the entire series, a troubling sign that he just can't get his mind to focus when he's in the batter's box. That one hit may have salvaged his reputation for now, but he still is under pressure to deliver. Once again, Daniel Murphy delivered in a clutch situation, with a two-run single up the middle. He is absolutely awesome. Unfortunately (for Washington fans), Chase Utley hit an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to take back the lead for the home team, and the Nationals went down in order 1-2-3 in both the eighth and ninth inning, losing by a score of 6-5.

In a few minutes, the Nationals take the field to face the Dodgers one last time this year, and I'm feeling pretty confident. True, the Nats have not used their home field advantage in postseason games thus far, but fan support will still provide a huge advantage. And with Max Scherzer on the mound, who could ask for more?

Looking ahead: ALCS & NLCS

Looking ahead to the NLCS, which begins in Chicago on Saturday, the Cubs have to be regarded as favorites no matter who wins in Washington tonight, both merit-wise and in terms of pathos. Whispers of the Billy Goat Curse may have been heard during Game 4 in San Francisco, but that's all behind them now. On the American League side, there is no clear favorite, as both the Indians and Blue Jays were the underdogs against (respectively) the Red Sox and the Rangers.

The last time the Indians were in the World Series was 1997 (when they lost to the Marlins), and the last time they were in the ALCS was in 2007, when they lost to the Red Sox in seven games, after taking a 3-2 series lead.

The last time the Blue Jays were in the World Series was 1993 (when they defeated the Phillies), and the last time they were in the ALCS was just last year, when they lost to the Royals in six games.

the last time the Cubs were in the World Series was 1945 (when they lost to the Tigers), and the last time they were in the NLCS was just last year, when they were swept four games to none by the Mets.

And the last time the Nationals (or their franchise predecessors in Montreal) were in the World Series was ... never!

October 11, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Indians sweep Red Sox, advance to ALCS

Confounding just about everyone's expectations, the Cleveland Indians completed their sweep of the Boston Red Sox last night, leaving the fans in Fenway Park dazed and confused. How could this happen? Well, the Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz only had a 8-10 record this year, and in the fourth inning he gave up a two-run single to Tyler Naquin that gave the Indians the lead for good. The Red Sox rallied in the bottom of the eighth to close the deficit to just 4-3, but Xander Bogaerts hit a hard line drive right to the second baseman to end the inning. The Red Sox put two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth, but Travis Shaw hit a fly ball out to end the game -- and the Red Sox postseason dreams.

Perhaps more importantly, this marked the end of an era in baseball that will be remembered for a long time. David Ortiz was loudly cheered when he was replaced by a pinch-runner during the eighth-inning rally, and he came back onto the field after the game was over to issue a tearful farewell to his adoring Boston fans. What a moment to remember! "Big Papi" is almost guaranteed entry into the Hall of Fame, even though most of his career was as a designated hitter.

Fenway Park Thank You Big Papi sign closeup

"Thank You Big Papi": a closeup of the photo I took at Fenway Park on September 5, and previously posted on September 16.

So the Cleveland Indians will host the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on [Friday]. It's the second ALCS in a row for the Blue Jays, and the first ALCS for the Indians since 2007, when they lost to the eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox. Neither Cleveland nor Toronto was considered a top contender back in mid-season, which reminds you that in baseball, as in life in general, the future is never a sure thing.

Magnitude 8: Werthquake hits L.A.!

After the big victory on Sunday, Nats fans were cautiously hopeful, but not many of them expected the eight-run outburst unleashed by their batters in Dodger Stadium yesterday afternoon. In the pivotal confrontation with the Dodgers, the Nationals rose to the occasion, inspired by the clutch hitting and dauntless leadership of Jayson Werth. (He actually started his career as a Dodger before joining the Phillies.) For the third game in a row, the Los Angeles team took a 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to Corey Seager. But this time it was from an RBI double rather than a home run. After that, the Nats' starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (a left-hander) did pretty well. The Nats put together a big rally in the third inning, starting with a single by Trea Turner, then an RBI double by Werth, then an RBI single by Bryce Harper, and finally a two-run homer by Anthony Rendon. Unlike his recent shaky outings, this time Gio Gonzalez did not give the lead right back to the opposing team. But when Carlos Ruiz hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, shrinking the Nats' lead to just one run (4-3), Dusty Baker replaced Gio with Sammy Solis, who gave up a walk but no runs.

After that came Oliver Perez, and Shawn Kelley, and all of them performed superbly. In the three NLDS games thus far, the Nats bullpen has pitched 14 innings without giving up a single run. That is much, much better than most observers expected of Washington's relief pitchers at the beginning of the season. In the top of the ninth, Jayson Werth led off with a tremendous home run (estimated at 450 feet) high up into the left-center bleachers, stunning the Dodgers' closing pitcher Kenley Jansen. He was obviously not used to pitching with the other team ahead, as he proceeded to allow two more base-runners, at which point Ryan Zimmerman smashed a two-run double to the top of the right field fence. Another couple feet, and it would have been a home run, but it might have been just a long out if Josh Reddick had judged it better. Zimmerman then scored on a sac fly to make the score 8-3, and Mark Melancon got the Dodgers out 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth to seal the spectacular victory. For more details, see MLB.com.

As the Nats go for a series win in Dodger Stadium this afternoon, it marks the first time they have enjoyed a 2-1 postseason series lead. In 2012 they won NLDS Game 1 against the Cardinals in St. Louis, even though they had supposed home field advantage (it's complicated), then they lost the next two as well as Game 5. In [2014] they lost the first two games against the Giants, wasting their home field advantage, then won Game 3 in San Francisco before being eliminated in Game 4. Thus far in postseason play, the Nats are 2-5 at home and 3-2 on the road. Hmmm...

Giants survive in epic marathon

Further up the coast in California, the San Francisco Giants were fighting for their lives hosting the Chicago Cubs in NLDS Game 3. It was yet another unbelievable saga that tested the mettle of players, and fans as well. The Cubs' ace pitcher Jake Arrieta shocked everybody by hitting a three-run homer to left field in the top of the second inning. The Giants scored two runs over the next three innings, while the Cubs' slugging crew fell curiously silent. Were they getting complacent? Then in the bottom of the eighth inning, their manager Joe Maddon, often regarded as a baseball genius, put their closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman on the mound. Chapman was not accustomed to pitching before the ninth inning, and he not only failed to hold the one-run lead, he let the Giants take the lead, 5-3. Things seemed pretty bleak for the Cubs, but then Kris Bryant hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth, sending the game into extra innings. The Cubs wasted a chance to score in the top of the 13th inning, and that failure cost them dearly as Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik hit consecutive doubles to end the game in astounding walk-off fashion. So, there will be a Game 4 this evening!

(True confession: Since it was after midnight here in the east, I fell asleep soon after the Giants took the 5-3 lead in the eighth inning, and when I woke up about an hour later, the score was tied 5-5 in the top of the 11th inning. What the heck had happened??? smile)

October 10, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Blue Jays sweep Rangers, advance to ALCS

It was looking like this year's American League Division Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers was going to be a mirror image of last year, with the visiting team winning the first four games and the home team (presumably) winning the deciding fifth game. Last night the Rangers scored in the top of the first, but the Blue Jays came back with two home runs in the bottom of the first, making it a 3-1 game. From there, it was a classic back-and-forth game, and the Rangers took a 6-5 lead in the sixth inning, on a two-run double by Mitch Moreland. The Blue Jays then tied it in the bottom of that inning on a wild pitch, and would have opened a big lead except that right fielder Nomar Mazara grabbed a line drive hit by Ezequiel Carrera to end the inning. It went into extra innings, and in the botom of the tenth, Russell Martin grounded into what would have been an inning-ending double play except that Rougned Odor threw the ball wide of first base allowing Martin to reach base. Meanwhile, Josh Donaldson rounded third base and charged toward home like a madman, scoring the winning run amidst jubilant cheers from the nearly 50,000 Toronto fans. Wow!

And so, the Blue Jays will most likely play at Cleveland (or possibly Boston) on Friday as the American League Championship Series gets underway.

Nationals even the series

Just like in the Friday game, one of the Washington Nationals' two best pitchers struggled in the Sunday afternoon game. But Tanner Roark managed to limit the damage to just two runs, getting out of bases-loaded jams. But when he allowed two base runners with just one out in the fifth inning, Dusty Baker replaced him with Mark Rzepczynski, who held the line. In the bottom of the inning, one of those totally unpredictable postseason "miracles" took place, when the Nats' backup catcher Jose Lobaton hit a three-run home run to take the lead, in spite of swirling winds. Hardly anybody expected that, but I know that Lobaton has risen to the occasion once or twice over the past couple years. But nothing in his career up to now could possibly compare to that heroic feat that instantly changed the chemistry of the game and may have saved the Nats' chances in this NLDS. Daniel Murphy got two RBIs in the latter innings, getting three hits in three at-bats plus a walk. Glad that sore gluteous maximus has healed up! smile The Nats' bullpen really did their job, preventing any more runs from scoring, and the Nationals won 5-2, thus evening the series at one game apiece. MLB.com

Because of the rain-postponed game, there was no travel day as the NLDS resumes in Los Angeles this afternoon.

Boston game rained out

The same storm system (related to Hurricane Matthew?) that drenched Washington on Saturday forced a postponement of the Indians - Red Sox game in Boston on Sunday. So, they're going to play this evening instead. It's a possible elimination game for the Red Sox, and therefore may be the final game of David Ortiz's career. Even though I favor the Indians, I hope [it's not the end for "Big Papi"]. I wonder what the record for rained-out games in a single postseason is?

Citi Field update update

Citi Field

I was going to finish the Fenway Park diagrams by today, which may be the last game played there this year, but I had to make some further corrections to the Citi Field diagrams. First, I remembered finding out that the outside ground level was the same as the field level, probably a reflection of the wet lowland soil in Flushing Meadows. (It's basically a reclaimed marsh.) Second, I noticed in one of my photos that the diagonal sides of the second deck near the two foul poles are angled [less sharply] than I previously estimated. Third, I noticed that the glass-enclosed multi-tiered luxury dining area near the left field foul pole has one one corner (not two), and that the portion toward the infield is angled differently than the upper deck above. [There is also an outdoor balcony with tables in front of the glass. Another new detail is the small video board squeezed between the second decks in the right field corner; the Mets added that in 2012 or 2013, I believe.] Finally, I made some corrections to the position of some of the upper deck stairways, elevator sheds, escalators, etc.

While looking at the photos I took in New York during my 2008 trip, I happened to see a headline on the scrolling marquee outside the ABC News studios on Times Square: "Mets pitcher sought by police." That piqued my curiousity, so I Googled that phrase and found a news item at ESPN.com dated October 2, 2008 -- the same day I was at Shea Stadium / Citi Field. A guy named Ambiorix Burgos was driving an SUV that struck and killed two women in the Dominican Republic. A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that he has had a number of personal problems, and is no longer in the major leagues.

August 31, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Scherzer assures a Nats victory

One of the few bright spots in the Nationals pitching staff right now is Max Scherzer, who had an uneven first half of the 2016 season, but has been returning to form since the All-Star break. Last night in Philadelphia he had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning, when Freddy Galvez hit a double. In the seventh inning, Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer, but Scherzer stayed in for another inning and ended up with 11 strikeouts. The two runs scored by the Nats in the first inning gave him a small but vital comfort zone, and ironically, it was an RBI sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning by Scherzer himself that ended up being the deciding run in the game. Mark Melancon got the save in spite of walking the first batter in the bottom of the ninth. Final score: Nats 3, Phillies 2. See MLB.com.

So who is this Gary Sanchez?

In the Bronx section of New York, some rookie named Gary Sanchez has been setting all sorts of records, including two consecutive American League Player of the Week awards. He has hit 11 home runs over the last 30 games, which is just insane for a rookie. Well, the Yankees are desperate for a new generation of heroes of the Ruth-Gehrig-DiMaggio-Mantle-Jackson-Jeter caliber. Maybe Sanchez is it. And maybe I'll get to see him in a few days! (See note below, and MLB.com.) The Yankees are not out of the AL Wild Card picture, and a lot can change in the standings as the final month of the 2016 season gets underway. If it weren't for Sanchez, the Nationals' red-hot rookie Trea Turner would have been getting such honors.

On the road again

I will be away from home for the next week or so, attending a political science convention in Philadelphia, and hopefully seeing a few baseball games along the east coast. With any luck I will get to see:

Those include two Nationals games, visiting (respectively) the Phillies tonight and the Mets on Sunday evening. The Red Sox will be out of town, so I'll have to content myself with a mere tour of their home. It's too bad, as I was hoping to see David Ortiz in his final MLB year. Stay tuned for lots of great new photos!

Postseason scores, 2016

Major League Baseball championship series, 2016
World Champions: TBA
Wild Card Games / Divisional series
Oct. 4 - 13
League Championship series
Oct. 14 - 23
World Series
Oct. 25 - Nov. 2
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NL-W: Los Angeles Dodgers (.562) 4 2 3 6 4    
NL-E: Washington Nationals (.586) 3 5 8 5 3    
    Los Angeles Dodgers 4 1 6 2 4 0 X  
    Chicago Cubs 8 0 0 10 8 5 X  
NL-wc: ^ New York Mets (.537) 0  
NL-wc: ^ San Francisco Giants (.537) 3   0 2 6 5 X
NL-C: Chicago Cubs (.640) 1 5 5 6 X    
  Chicago Cubs
  Cleveland Indians
AL-E: Boston Red Sox (.574) 4 0 3 X X    
AL-C: Cleveland Indians (.584) 5 6 4 X X    
    Toronto Blue Jays 0 1 2 5 0 X X  
    Cleveland Indians 2 2 4 1 3 X X  
AL-wc: ^ Baltimore Orioles (.549) 2  
AL-wc: ^ Toronto Blue Jays (.549) 5   10 5 7 X X   Extra-inning game: X
AL-C: Texas Rangers (.586) 1 3 6 X X   Win by visiting team: X

See explanatory notes at bottom.
^ : In the National League wild card game, the S.F. Giants won as the visiting team, so their row position was switched with that of the N.Y. Mets so as to properly align in the subsequent divisional series with the Chicago Cubs. On the American League side, the home team (Toronto Blue Jays) won, so no switch was necessary.

Explanatory notes

(Regular season winning percentages in parentheses.) Boldfaced scores indicate the winning team. Underlined scores denote extra-inning games. Olive-shaded score boxes denote games won by the VISITING team. Higher-seeded teams (those with the initial home field advantage) are shown on the BOTTOM side in each matchup. However, beginning with 2012, each league has TWO wild card teams, competing in a one-game "play-in," and whichever of those two teams that wins in each league is displayed below (after the outcome is known), so as to properly align with the subsequent divisional series scores. Beginning in 2003, the league that wins the All Star Game gets the initial home field advantage in the World Series; prior to 2003, initial home field advantage in the World Series alternated from year to year. Except for 2002 (the infamous tie), the American League won the All Star Game every year between 1997 and 2009.

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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.

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: