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June 22, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals choke in Los Angeles

After the Nationals' disappointing final two games in San Diego, everyone was hoping that the Nationals would rise to the occasion in the big pitching showdown in L.A. between Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw. After all, there was a Strasburg mini-poster in the Sunday Washington Post! Alas, that did not come to pass, as Strasburg had a tight muscle in his back and decided to give it a rest rather than risk a serious injury, as he has done in the past. His replacement on the mound, Yusmeiro Petit, did a very good job, going six innings while giving up just three runs. But that wasn't good enough, as the Nationals could only manage to score one run during the [seven] innings that Kershaw pitched. Dodgers 4, Nats 1.

But last night's game was a different story. Bryce Harper hit a solo homer in the first inning, his second of the past week and 15th of the year. Is he finally back on track? In the fifth inning, Danny Espinosa did likewise -- his 13th homer of the year. He has the second-most home runs in the majors since May 29, if I read that caption on MASN right. But the rest of the Nats batters were inconsistent, getting [just one out of ten] hits with runners in scoring position. They actually out-hit the Dodgers 11 to 7, but all that mattered was the three-run home run by Yasmani Grandal (who?) in the bottom of the eighth. That spoiled what had been a magnificent outing by starting pitcher Tanner Roark. Part of the problem was base-running mistakes: Roark was thrown out at third by second baseman Chase Utley, wasting the double he hit right after Espinosa's homer. Also, Wilson Ramos was thrown out at home on a single (by Tanner Roark!) to left field after being waved ahead by the third base coach. [That was the one hit with RISP.] That was just stupid; everybody knows Ramos can't run. But in general it was the wasted opportunities for hitters, especially Ryan Zimmerman who struck out (after doubling in his previous at bat) with the bases loaded to end the top of the fifth inning. Argh-h-h! Final score: 3-2. I asked on Facebook, "When is the last time a team has hit five doubles, none of which resulted in a run?"

Tonight the Nats try to avoid being swept, with Joe Ross facing Julio Urias. Ross is good (6-4 record, compared to 0-2 for Urias), and the Nats should win. After a day of rest, the Nats head to Milwaukee for a three-game series agains the Brewers.

Odds 'n ends

I added a second football diagram to the Roosevelt Stadium page, since the first one (with the gridiron extending from the infield out to center field) was extremely far from the seats. It is more likely that the second such diagram (with the gridiron parallel to the first base line) was the standard arrangement.

I added four new photos (which I took [two days ago]) to the Davenport Field page, including the one below. While there, I noticed that the distances to the outfield fence have been reduced slightly since the last time I saw a baseball game there in 2011: from 335 feet to 332 along the foul lines, and from 377 feet to 370 to the power alleys. (I previously indicated my belief that the power alley distances were exaggerated, and that is probably still the case, but it may simply be a matter of where the distance markers were placed.

Davenport Field 2015 Nat. Champs

The back of the right field bleachers at Davenport Field, home of the University of Virginia Cavaliers, the 2015 National Champions.



June 20, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nats' momentum stalls in San Diego

The Nationals' long road trip got off to a good start last Thursday in San Diego, with two victorious slug-fests against the Padres. After a long slump, Bryce Harper hit a home run (his first since May 27) to spark a four-run rally. The very next batter, Wilson Ramos, then hit a home run as well. Anthony Rendon later homered as well, which came in handy as the Padres staged a late-game rally that fell short. Tanner Roark gave up two first-inning runs, but settled down after that and went six innings, qualifying for the win. Final score: Nats 8, Padres 5.

On Friday night, the Nats staged a four-run rally in the third inning, capped by a Ryan Zimmerman home run. Daniel Murphy also homered, and got three RBIs, which proved crucial in the Nats' 7-5 victory over San Diego. Joe Ross went six innings and got his sixth win of the year.

On Saturday, it was a tense pitchers' duel for most of the game, after both teams scored a run in the first inning. The Nats took the lead in the seventh inning on a weird play in which the Padres' [pitcher] failed to catch the ball at first base, and Wilson Ramos scored from third. Ryan Zimmerman hit a clutch RBI single in the eighth inning to give the Nats a 3-1 lead, and it looked like smooth sailing for a possible four-game sweep. But in the bottom of the eighth inning Felipe Rivero took the mound, and all hell broke loose. He gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Then Wil Myers doubled on a squirrely Texas Leaguer to left-center field, thus tying the game. Then there was an intentional walk to Matt Kemp (understandable), followed by a comeback ground ball to the pitcher. Easy out at home, right? Nope, Rivero mishandled the ball and threw it past Wilson Ramos, allowing another run to score. Finally, Dusty Baker replaced Rivero with Blake Treinin who walked the first batter and then gave up a two-run single to Yangervis Solarte. That made it a 7-3 game, an utterly disgraceful reversal of fortune, and the Nats failed to score in the top of the ninth.

That kind of blunder can really ruin a team's competitive spirit, and it indeed may have done so in this particular instance. On Sunday afternoon, Michael Taylor homered on the first pitch of the game, and later hit a double, another homer, and a single. Pretty darned impressive for a second-stringer! (Ben Revere is the usual center fielder.) But the other Nationals did little at the plate, while Gio Gonzalez just could not contain the Padres, giving up six runs (five earned, one due to his own error) in five and a third innings. It was the shortest outing by a Nats starting pitcher since June 7 (Joe Ross). Final score: Padres 6, Nats 3. And that is how the home team managed to split the series with the Washington Nationals.

Tonight, the Nats are facing the L.A. Dodgers and their ace Clayton Kershaw, but Stephen Strasburg was replaced as starting pitcher by Yusmeiro Petit. That's a stiff challenge to meet...

Cubs sweep the Pirates

The Chicago Cubs are doing so well this year that hardly anything surprises me anyone. The Pittsburgh Pirates have sagged in the standings lately, and they wilted under the heat from the host team at the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field. To put icing on the cake of their latest triumph yesterday, the Cubs' Willson Contreras hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, one of five four-baggers hit by the Cubs. I was lucky to be watching that live and in living color on ESPN, going back and forth between that game and the big one in Oakland; see below. See MLB.com

Braves sweep the Mets

I'll bet nobody saw this one coming: the humble Atlanta Braves swept the New York Mets, in Citi Field. In the Sunday game, the Braves' on-and-off ace, Julio Teheran, pitched a complete game one-hit shutout, as the visitors from Atlanta won, 1-0.

Cavaliers world champs!

At Oracle Arena in Oakland, California last night, the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers managed to beat the heavily favored Golden State Warriors, 94-89. I watched as much basketball in that one game as I had for the entire season, switching back and forth between that game and the Cubs-Pirates game. It was the first pro sports championship for the city of Cleveland since December 1964, when the Browns beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 to take the NFL title. (That was two years before the first Super Bowl, in January 1967.)

Cavaliers fail to repeat

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers from the University of Virginia were eliminated from the NCAA regional championship series last week, so they won't be returning to the College World Series in Omaha this year.

I happened to be in Charlottesville today, and took some photos of Davenport field, which has had expanded seating since the last time I saw a game there. Photo updates pending...

Roosevelt Stadium update

Roosevelt Stadium

I noticed the impression by Philip Matsikoudis posted on the Roosevelt Stadium page, and decided to make a quick revision of the diagram thereon, with a football variant and a "tranparent roof" variant for the first time. The last diagram update for that one was in July 2011.

Roosevelt Stadium was one of those public works projects aimed at lifting America out of the Great Depression, one of the reasons they named it after the president. Can you imagine a stadium being named after President Obama?

Ballpark (& arena) news

Mike Zurawski brought to my attention three slight errors in my blog post of last Thursday. First, the Anaheim NHL team is no longer named the Mighty Ducks, they are just the Ducks since 2006. Second, the Air Canada Centre in Tornto is used by both the NBA Raptors and the NHL Maple Leafs. Third, the Pepsi Center in Denver is used by both the NBA Nuggets and the NHL Avalanche. Once I update the Stadium proximity page, all that will be straightened out.

Mike also informed me that the Texas Rangers are seeking municipal funding to build a new ballpark that would replace Globe Life Park, the latest in a series of names. It would be a climate-controlled retractable roof stadium, costing about a billion dollars. ballparkdigest.com and MLB.com. That is almost as outrageous an idea as the new Braves stadium being built in suburban Atlanta! Texas fan Clifford "Bucky" Nance filled me in on some of the political details. Basically, the Arlington city council approved the funding plan, with a resolution to put it on the General Election Ballot in November. If the measure is passed, the city would pay $500 Million and the Rangers would match it. Funds would come from continuing the existing special tax levy that was originally created to fund the Dallas Cowboys' stadium.

In response, I added a new "proposed alternative" diagram for Globe Life Park, reducing some of the excess capacity and greatly expanding the roof to provide more shade. That should at least add another ten years of usable life to that facility, misbegotten though it may be.

Finally, while watching the Orioles-Red Sox game on MASN last Thursday, I noticed that the upper deck of Fenway Park has been extended by about 20 feet, almost all the way to the foul pole. Those diagrams were due for an upgrade anyway...



June 16, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Holy $#!+ -- Nationals win big showdown with Cubs

The series that was hyped as a preview of a postseason contest more than lived up to expectations, as the Washington Nationals managed to overcome the visiting Chicago Cubs in unbelievably dramatic fashion. It was a game that Nationals fans will remember for years.

It all started as an epic pitchers' duel between Stephen Strasburg and Jason Hammel, both of whom gave up just one run over seven innings. (Both those runs were scored in the first inning, in fact.) Then, in the bottom of the eighth, pinch-hitter Steven Drew smacked a home run just over the corner in right-center field, giving the Nats a 2-1 lead. That was the Nationals' ninth pinch-hit home run this year -- amazing! But in the top of the ninth, Dusty Baker sent to the mound Matt Belisle, just called back up after being on the disabled list since late April. Apparently, he wasn't ready because he gave up a double (to Kris Bryant) on the first and only pitch he threw. The next pitcher, Oliver Perez gave up a home run to Anthony Rizzo, and all of a sudden a 2-1 lead had turned into a 3-2 deficit for the Nats. But in the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper drew a leadoff walk, and two batters later, Wilson Ramos smashed a single toward center field, allowing Harper to score the tying run from second base. That was a huge clutch hit for Wilson!

The game went into extra innings, and in the top of the 12th the Cubs scored a run thanks to singles by Albert Almora and Addison Russell, and a wild pitch by Yusmeiro Petit, who was in line for the loss. The bottom of the inning started with a called strikeout by Anthony Rendon, who was ejected after arguing with the umpire. Then Trevor Cahill hit Danny Espinosa with a pitch, and Danny soon stole second base. Up to the plate stepped Michael Taylor, who hit a single into right field, allowing Epinosa to score. Adam Warren then replaced Cahill on the mound, and he struck out Chris Heisey, leaving it all up to Jayson Werth. Could he do it again, like he did on Sunday? YES! After another long count, he smashed a ball to center field, bouncing off the wall near the top, enabling Taylor to make it all the way to home plate for the winning run. Un-be-lievable!!! Werth ran out to right field, mobbed by his team mates, a repeat performance from his Sunday walk-off hit. And that is how the Nationals beat the Cubs 5-4, thus winning two out of three games against the best (?) team in the majors right now. For a complete rundown, see MLB.com.

In the postgame on-field interview with "MASN Dan" Kolko, Jayson Werth was at his roguish best, uttering a series of uncensored profanities to express his glee. Asked about critics who said he was over the hill, the veteran slugger said "They can kiss my ass." He'll probably get a fine for that, and MASN may have to do such interviews on a 5-second tape delay in the future. smile

Another reason for celebrating was that the the Nationals' manager, born on June 15, 1949, just completed his 67th year of life.

Happy birthday, Dusty Baker!

I had been planning to drive up to D.C. to see yesterday's game, but the forecast of overcast skies and chance of rain dissuaded me from making the trip. In fact, it was sunny for most of the day, and I really blew it. Argh-h-h!!! frown But if I had been there, the climax of the game would have probably looked something like this:

Jayson Werth HR 090812 closeup.jpg

Jayson Werth hits a home run to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth on Sept. 8, 2012. The Nats went on to beat the Marlins in ten innings, 7-6. (See my Sept. 10, 2012 blog post.)

The Tuesday game was also very close and tense, as the Nationals erased a 3-1 deficit with RBI sacrifice flies in both the seventh and eighth innings. But in the top of the ninth, Nats reliever Sammy Solis walked the first batter, who then advanced to second on a sac bunt, and then scored on a double hit by Albert Almora. The Nationals went down 1, 2, 3 in the bottom of the ninth, and the Cubs won it, 4-3.

Gio Gonzalez lasted six and one third innings in that game, the first Nationals starting pitcher since June 7 (Joe Ross) not to pitch for exactly seven innings. If that's not a testament to the amazing reliability and durability of the Nats' starting rotation, I don't know what is. The Nats' only two losses in the last ten games were in games that Gio started. He's not doing badly, he just hasn't had much run support.

Speaking of pitchers, the Nats' closer Jonathan Papelbon has been put on the disabled list due to an "intercostal strain." That's a muscle in the rib cage, apparently. In the June 12 game against the Phillies, Papelbon allowed the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, and would have been charged with the loss if Jayson Werth had not hit the game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. For the time being (at least), there will be some anxiety about who serves as closing pitcher for the Nats.

With a successful 5-1 home stand behind them, the Nationals have raised their win-loss record to 41-25, giving them a five-game lead over the Mets in the NL East. Today the "D.C. 9" are flying to California, where they will play the San Diego Padres [in a four-game series] and then the Los Angeles Dodgers in [a] three-game series.

The Diamond update

The Diamond

The diagram for The Diamond has been revised for the first time since 2008, and there is a new upper-deck variant as well. Foul territory has been expanded slightly (and measured for the first time), and new detail such as the entry portals, bullpen mounds, and the structural beams behind the rim of the upper deck have been added as well. Finally, there are four new photos which I took while in Richmond last week. For those outside Virginia, The Diamond is the home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, and the former home of the Richmond Braves, who relocated to suburban Atlanta in 2009.

Coincidentally, I noticed on The Diamond page a comment from a fan named Doug Coppage, who grew up in Richmond and said he once "saw Dusty Baker and Ralph Garr play at old Parker Field." That was the minor league ballpark that preceded The Diamond.

Hockey & basketball arenas

I have learned to be very careful in commenting about hockey, a sport that I only follow casually and often describe erroneously. (See, for example, June 15, 2009.) In fact, the last time I made a hockey diagram variant was New Year's Day 2015, when the Washington Capitals won a dramatic outdoor "Winter Classic" match held in Nationals Park. Well, the Capitals set some kind of regular-season record for highest winning percentage this year (2015-2016), but then (as has happened in past years), they fell flat in the playoffs. The team that beat them, the Pittsburgh Penguins, went on to win the Stanley Cup National Hockey League championship, defeating the San Jose Sharks. At least I think so... smile

As for the other indoor "winter" sport, basketball, Game 6 of the NBA championship series will be held tonight at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Led by LeBron James, the Cavaliers bounced back from a 3-1 deficit against the favored Golden State (Oakland) Warriors, led by Stephen Curry, and have a solid chance to even the series at home. For those with feeble memories (such as me), it may help to mention that the NBA playoffs began on April 16 -- exactly two months ago today! If that's not a ridiculously prolonged schedule, I don't know what is. For the complete NBA postseason scores, see NBA.com.

I already knew that the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Quicken Loans Arena, is right next door to Progressive Field. (I took a photo of it just before attending an Indians game on August 7, 2012; see below.) But then I realized that that other NBA finalist team this year has a home court right next to an MLB stadium: the "Golden State" Warriors' Oracle Arena is next to Oakland ("o.co") Coliseum. So, that led me to inquire into which NHL and NBA arenas are located reasonably close to MLB stadiums. Information in the following table, which should be considered preliminary, will eventually be incorporated somehow into the Stadium proximity page, after I gather similar information for football stadiums. Note that one other arena might qualify for this list, but has neither an NHL nor an NBA franchise at present: U.S. Bank Arena, next to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

City NBA team NHL team Arena name MLB team Stadium name Approx. distance
Cleveland Cavaliers -- Quicken Loans Arena Indians Progressive Field 200 ft.
Oakland (G.S.) Warriors -- Oracle Arena Athletics Oakland Coliseum 200 ft.
Minneapolis Timberwolves * Target Center Twins Target Field 400 ft.
Denver Nuggets -- Pepsi Center Rockies Coors Field 1/2 mile
Toronto Raptors -- Air Canada Centre Blue Jays Rogers Centre 1/2 mile
Anaheim -- Mighty Ducks Honda Arena Angels Angels Stadium 1 mile

* There is an NHL franchise in Minnesota, the Wild, but it is based at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.

Quicken Loans Arena

Quicken Loans Arena, just a stone's throw from Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland. It hosted Games 3 and 4 of the 2016 NBA Championship Series, and will host Game 6 tonight.



June 14, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Birding on Hite Hollow Road

On Saturday, June 11, I drove up Hite Hollow Road to the summit (ridge) of North Mountain, located about two miles southwest of Elliott Knob. This was the starting point of the Augusta Bird Club hike in late June 2013. The elevation is about 3200 feet, high enough for a number of birds that are only seen in this area during the colder months. I was inspired in part by the trip made there by Penny and Lisa earlier this spring, when they saw a Winter Wren and other unusual birds. On the way up the rugged road (a challenge for my Hyundai), I stopped at the hairpin curve and heard a Prairie Warbler below. This was confirmed a day later by Allen Larner. Once at the summit, I didn't do much hiking, I mostly just watched and listened within an area about 300 yards long. After slow going at first, I eventually hit pay dirt. The highlights from the montage below were the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male), Indigo Bunting (female, with young ones not photographed), and an Eastern Wood Pewee (female, presumably) building a nest right over the road at the summit! Others that were seen but not in this photo montage include Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Northern Flicker. I also heard a Cerulean Warbler just below the summit (east side), as well as a Hooded Warbler. No Canada Warblers or Winter Wrens, however. On the way back down I heard and then spotted a Pine Warbler, and got some good photos. Finally, along the stream at the bottom was an Acadian Flycatcher. Quite a day!

Montage 11 Jun 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Indigo Bunting (female), Great Crested Flycatcher, Pine Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. (June 11, 2016)

eBird report

Since it was a semi-serious birding venture, as opposed to something of a more casual nature, I submitted an eBird report, summarized below. Once I figure out the VABBA protocols, I'll submit a report about the breeding Eastern Wood Pewees and Indigo Buntings.

Hite Hollow Road, Augusta County, Virginia, US
Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:35 AM
Protocol: Traveling
Party Size: 1
Duration: 4 hour(s)
Distance: 1.5 mile(s)
Observers: Andrew Clem
Comments: N/A
32 species total

Blue Ridge mini-hike

The day before, June 10, I drove up to the Blue Ridge and stopped at the intersection of Howardsville Turnpike and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and was entertained by a variety of birds. Then I went for a brief "hike" along the trails near the Humpback Rocks parking area. My main "target" was the Cerulean Warbler, and I did hear several of them, but only saw one or two high in the tree tops. Other sightings (besides those in this photo montage) included American Redstarts, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Montage 10 Jun 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Towhee, Cedar Waxwing, and (in center) Chipping Sparrow. (June 10, 2016)
More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.



June 13, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sweep the Phillies again

The loss to Chicago White Sox last Thursday turned out to be a mere bump in the road, as the Washington Nationals have won four straight games since then. On Friday, welcoming the Phillies to town, they overcame an early 4-0 deficit to take an 8-4 lead, with home runs by Wilson Ramos, Steven Drew, and Danny Espinosa. With such big run support, Stephen Strasburg was able to stay in the game through seven innings, getting the win (the first in the majors to reach ten wins!) and 11 strikeouts. Final score: 9-6.

On Saturday, Tanner Roark was more dominant than in any other game this year, and with plenty of hits (but no homers) to back him up, the Nats won easily, 8-0. Michael Taylor and Clint Robinson both had three hits.

On Sunday, young Joe Ross was in control, as the Nats took an early 3-0 lead, but he left the game after seven innings with the score tied 3-3. In the ninth inning, Jonathan Papelbon gave up a home run to Maikel Franco, and was in line for the loss. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, it didn't look so good for the Nationals, but Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa singled, Ben Revere flew out, and Clint Robinson drew a walk to load the bases. Up to the plate came veteran clutch slugger Jayson Werth, and after a valiant battle, fouling off several pitches, he came through with a line drive single up the middle, allowing two runs to score. Jubilation on the field!! The Nats somehow found a way to come from behind, winning 5-4 and thereby completing a sweep of the Phillies for the second time this month.

As a footnote, Jonathan Papelbon "earned" his first win of the year, obviously meaningless. He has a record of 1-2, with 16 saves out of 18 save opportunities.

Scherzer almost perfect

The pressure was high as the MLB's hottest team, the Chicago Cubs, came to town tonight. Max Scherzer not only rose to the occasion, he was flirting with a perfect game once again. (See June 24, 2015.) In fact, he struck out nine of the first ten batters, making fans wonder if he was going to surpass his incredible 20-strikeout performance of May 11. But in the sixth inning, after a long at-bat, Addison Russell hit a home run into the left field corner, thus tying the game. But the Nats bounced right back with a rally in the bottom of the inning, sparked by a Wilson Ramos home run, and the 4-1 score lasted until the end of the game.

The Nationals (40-24) thus become the second MLB team to reach the 40-win level this year, after the Cubs, who are now 43-19. Texas will probably become the third such team, but not tonight. (The A's are way ahead of the Rangers, 12-2.)

Cobb County swindle

Get ready for some big scandals involving the Atlanta Braves' new ballpark being built in suburban Cobb County, north of Atlanta. The Braves stadium deal is more than a crooked-accounting swindle, it's being compared with some of the worst such deals ever. Read what Neil deMause has to say about that at vice.com; also see the summary at fieldofschemes.com. What a shame for the Braves.

New page: My ballpark visits!

In preparation for my first Nats game some time in the near future, and possibly even further to the northeast (!), I put together a new Web page: My ballpark visits. It consists of a brief chronology of my baseball "grand tours" which began in 2008, followed by a detailed description of my visits to 26 current and former MLB stadiums, as well as a jumbo-sized photograph of those stadiums. (The quality varies.) CAUTION: Your eyes may pop out of your head! smile Eventually, those jumbo photographs will be incorporated onto the respective stadium pages.



June 9, 2016 [LINK / comment]

FOD Prothonotary Warblers!

I mentioned in my blog post of May 21 that one of my birding goals for this summer was to see and hopefully photograph a Prothonotary Warbler. Well, Jacqueline and I drove down to the Richmond area yesterday, and I did in fact succeed in that particular quest. The last time I had seen that species was almost exactly eight years ago, which means this is not only a first-of-year (FOY) sighting, but a first-of-decade (FOD) sighting! (I just made that up.) The birds were in that very same area as in 2008: the Henricus Park / Dutch Gap conservation area, about ten miles south of downtown. Beginning at just before 10:00, we saw the first of many Ospreys over the James River. We then walked along the trails, mostly right along the James River, and were amazed by the large number of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies all around that area. I remember seeing some in river lowlands in Nelson County, but apparently their range doesn't extend any farther west. The photo at the bottom shows the elongated tail (one of two), something I had not noticed before.

Soon we heard some chirping and saw some rustling in the bushes, and eventually I picked out the unique song of a White-eyed Vireo, one of which was briefly in view. Soon thereafter we heard the repetitive song of a Prothonotary Warbler, or perhaps two of them. They were in an inaccessible swamp, however, so I couldn't get very close. After another 20 minutes of patient stalking, we finally saw one. That was a relief, as I had been growing impatient. Their brilliant orange-tinted yellow color is quite breathtaking. Getting the right angle for a good photograph proved very difficult, however.

On the way back to the parking lot, I had a glimpse of a big brown bird in the forest, and soon managed to get a look at the face of a Barred Owl, the first one I had seen in years! I also heard some Acadian Flycatchers, and finally saw and photographed one. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers also made appearances, while Common Yellowthroats and Louisiana Waterthrushes made themselves heard. Later on, in the early afternoon at the Henricus Historical Park, I saw another Prothonotary Warbler, and likewise it was just too quick for a good photo. I did see and photograph an Acadian Flycatcher there, however. So, I'll probably have to give it another shot next year, perhaps at Great Dismal Swamp. Nevertheless, I was satisfied with the views and the photos that I did get.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler, at the Dutch Gap conservation area, June 8. (Click on that image to see an enlarged version of the photo.) More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail, at the Dutch Gap conservation area, June 8.



June 9, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nats' juggernaut stalls in Chicago

If it hadn't been for a momentary lapse by starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez in the first inning, and a couple freak plays later in the game, the Washington Nationals would have swept the Chicago White Sox tonight. The White Sox scored three run in the first inning, after Gio gave up two walks and two doubles. Then he settled down and kept his team in the ball game, getting ten strikeouts over seven innings. Daniel Murphy hit a solo homer in the fifth inning, and in the sixth inning the Nats had runners on second and third with no outs, but then Jose Lobaton was thrown out at home (base-running miscue), and then Jayson Werth grounded into a double play. In the top of the ninth, the Nats were threatening to tie it, with runners on first and third, but Daniel Murphy flew out to end the game. ChiSox 3, Nats 1.

In the first two games of the interleague series at U.S. Cellular Field, the Nats continued their recent offensive outburst, scoring 10 (again!) and then 11 runs. It was only the second time since their 2005 "rebirth" that the Nationals have racked up double-digit scores in three consecutive games, the first being June 26-28, 2012 against the Colorado Rockies. (They actually lost the June 28 game, 11-10 in 11 innings, and didn't even win the series because the Rockies had beaten them on June 25.) After checking my records, I determined that the Nationals' highest run total for three consecutive games was 34, on April 28-30, 2015. (It was WSH 13, ATL 12; WSH 13, ATL 4; and WSH 8, NYM 2.)

On Wednesday night, the Nats scored four runs in the top of the first, two of which came on a home run by Ryan Zimmerman. Later Stephen Drew, Danny Espinosa, and Jayson Werth homered as well. With a nice cushion, Max Scherzer had a fine day on the mound, going seven full innings without giving up a run. The White Sox scored their only four runs in the bottom of the ninth, three of which were the responsibility of relief pitcher Shawn Kelley, who had to be replaced after getting two outs. That was embarrassing. Final score: 11-4.

So, the Nationals concluded a successful road trip, winning six out of nine games. This weekend they face the Phillies, whom the Nats just swept last week, and then the too-good-to-be-true Chicago Cubs, who now have a 41-17 record, ten games ahead of the Pirates and the Cardinals. Talk about a juggernaut!

Tonight in Milwaukee, the New York Mets beat the Brewers, thereby climbing to 2.5 games behind the Nats in the NL East.

Baseball in Richmond

While visiting Our State's Capital (Richmond), yesterday, I stopped at the minor league baseball stadium known as The Diamond, and took some photos. It reminds me that the existing diagram and photos on The Diamond page are pretty lame, so I'll put that on my to-do list. The last time I visited there, September 30, 2004, it was still the home of the Richmond Braves, but they left after the 2009 season and moved to suburban Atlanta -- Gwinnett County, to be more exact. (Why? Because the Atlanta Braves demanded a new city-funded stadium to replace the one built in 1985.) The Diamond is now home of the Richmond "Flying Squirrels," the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Seriously?

They keep talking about building a new baseball stadium in Richmond, probably near downtown, but there is great reluctance to spend precious public money. And with good reason! I think they can make do with The Diamond for the foreseeable future, adding luxury suites or whatever fan amenities may be necessary to generate more revenue.

The Diamond ground view

Ground level view of The Diamond, home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.



June 7, 2016 [LINK / comment]

ABC field trip to Highland County

Last Saturday, June 4, I joined Allen Larner who led the Augusta Bird Club's annual early summer field trip to Highland County. The weather forecast was ominous, but Allen was determined to go, so we went! Along with Brenda and Keith Tekin, we drove west to Highland County, and met up with John Spahr and Bob Ake (who lives in the Tidewater area), and John took us to Sapling Ridge, a high-elevation location that was new for us. It didn't take long to find the Mourning Warbler which were supposed to be there, and I was thrilled to get some adequate photos. Higher up, we saw several different species of warblers, most notably Blackburnians. Later on we went to the home of the late Margaret O'Bryan in search of Golden-winged Warblers, and we did identify it but only by sound, not sight. (That was at, where we met the very friendly guy who continues to take care of the property.) Then we went to other locations where Golden-winged Warblers are known to breed, but without success. The trip was marred by mechanical problems in one of the automobiles, forcing us to spend a lot of time trying to get a tow truck. But at least while we were waiting we were able to see a lot of birds in John Spahr's back yard, most notably a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The following list of notable sightings is not complete, as others saw birds that I missed. One of us will probably submit an eBird report in the near future.

As a footnote, I heard some Dark-eyed Juncos, but somewhat surprisingly, I didn't see any. Same for Yellow Warblers. We had a few sprinkles while looking for birds, and then after we started driving back to Staunton, we encountered a couple real deluges! Overall, it was about the same degree of success (i.e., mid-range) as our club's Highland County field trip last year (June 13); see my June 25, 2015 blog post.

Montage 04 Jun 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Bald Eagle, House Wren, Alder Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Magnolia Warbler, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Mourning Warbler, and (center) American Goldfinch. (June 4, 2016)
Roll your mouse over the image to zoom in on the "star" of the day, the Mourning Warbler.

Sandhill Cranes visit

A pair of Sandhill Cranes visited Fishersville in the first few days of June, and I was fortunate to be ready to go searching as soon as I got the e-mail alert. After a few quick minutes, bingo! I saw one such bird in the same general area in April 2014*, and four of them west of Harrisonburg in March 2014.

* The caption for the photo erroneously states that the bird was in Madison Run; I may correct that later.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes, north of Fishersville, June 2, 2016. More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.



June 7, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Reds almost sweep the Nationals

In Cincinnati over the weekend, the Washington Nationals came within a hair's breadth of being swept by the Reds, who have been in last place in the NL Central Division for most of this season. Nats fans had high hopes that Stephen Strasburg could get his tenth win of the season, but he had to leave in the sixth inning after hurting his leg somehow. (Cramps, apparently.) Danny Espinosa hit a solo homer in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game, 3-3, but in the bottom of the inning Adam Duvall hit a three-run homer off of Shawn Kelley, and the Reds won it, 6-3. That game was interrupted by two lengthy rain delays.

On Sunday, Tanner Roark gave up five runs to the Reds in the second inning, and the situation could not have seemed bleaker. But in the top of the fourth inning, Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos both homered, and after Clint Robinson reached base on a single, manager Dusty Baker pulled Roark out and had Stephen Drew pinch hit for him. Drew hit an RBI single, and then so did Ben Revere, and all of a sudden it was a tie game. The Nats scored five more runs over the next two innings, taking a commanding lead. But then in the seventh inning, Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer to put the Reds right back in the game, down 10-8. In the bottom of the ninth, Nats closing pitcher Jonathan Papelbon put himself in a deep hole, giving up a run and loading the bases with nobody out. It seemed almost certain that the Reds would at least tie the game, and probably win, but somehow Papelbon composed himself, and got the next three batters out. Almost as if by miracle, the Nats averted being swept in Cincy, winning 10-9.

The Washington Post noted that Sunday's game was the first victory by the Nationals in Cincinnati since July 27, 2014. By amazing coincidence, I was there! (The Nats won that game, 4-2, and Doug Fister got credit for the win.)

While watching the games on TV, I noticed there is a new scoreboard behind the right field bleachers at Great American Ballpark. That's a shame, as it partly blocks the view of the Ohio River, which is one of the nicest features of that stadium. In any case, that means you-know-what! Stay tuned...

After resting on Monday (their second break in the last five days), tonight the Nationals begin a three-game series against the White Sox, in Chicago. It's young Joe Ross, who's been having a fine year, against the White Sox ace Mat Latos. By yet another amazing coincidence, he was also pitching against the Nationals in the July 27, 2014 in Cincinnati game mentioned above. He played for the Reds from 2012 through 2014, and has bounced around various teams since then.

Tomorrow, Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Nationals. He is having an up-and-down year, so anything is possible. Today's Washington Post called attention to the overall superb endurance of Nats pitchers thus far this year. [The starting rotation has the second-highest average number of innings per start after the Cubs: 6.3 vs. 6.4. They have the most number of pitchers per start, 101, and the most number of starts with at least 100 pitches, 34. Iron men!]

Stadium diagram updates

On the subjet of Cincinnati, I recently mentioned that I need to update the 2001-2002 Riverfront Stadium diagram, and have gotten started on that. This past week, unforunately, I also realized that I need to revise ALL of the Comiskey Park diagrams. I am now 98% sure that the foul lines there from the 1930s on (except for brief changes such as 1969) were 347 feet, NOT 352 feet. Stay tuned, sports fans...

For the record, I have updated the Diagram update log * page. I'll try to do likewise at least once a month...

I also created a new page that takes the place of all previous (annual) stadium update archive pages: Stadium diagram updates. It is a "work in progress," presently showing all updates since the beginning of 2013. In due course, it will go all the way back to "The Beginning," in 2003.

* Previously it said "Stadium diagram update" page (like the second page mentioned), by mistake.




 

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What's this about?

This blog features commentary and musings on a diverse but well-defined set of topics, from a critical-minded conservative point of view, featuring a veritable library of original graphics and statistical information. It is distinguished in many ways from the rest of the "blogosphere." My blog entries cover a rigidly defined set of topics, with varying degrees of intensity according to how much is going on in each area, and how much time I have. Being somewhat of a "do-it-yourselfer," I chose a "home-made" approach rather than conforming to the common blogging systems such as Blogger or WordPress. The blog entries and archives are arranged in a sort of "proprietary" scheme that I have gradually developed over time. Finally, being an old-fashioned, soft-spoken kind of guy, I avoid attention-grabbing sensationalism and strident rhetoric, and strive instead to maintain a reasonable, dignified, respectful tone.

"It's not just a blog, it's an adventure!"



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My blog practices

My general practice is to make no more than one blog post per day on any one category. For this reason, some blog posts may address more than one specific issue, as indicated by separate headings. If something important happens during the day after I make a blog post, I may add an updated paragraph or section to it, using the word "UPDATE" and sometimes a horizontal rule to distinguish the new material from the original material. For each successive day, blog posts are listed on the central blog page (which brings together all topics) from top to bottom in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the order in which the posts were originally made:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
  2. War
  3. Science & Technology *
  4. Politics
  5. Latin America
  6. Culture & Travel *
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
  8. Baseball (FIRST)

* part of "Macintosh & Miscellanous" until Feb. 2007

The date of each blog post refers to when the bulk of it was written, in the Eastern Time Zone. For each blog post, the time and date of the original posting (or the last update or comment thereupon) is displayed on the individual archival blog post page that appears (just before the comments section) when you click the [LINK / comments] link next to the date. Non-trivial corrections and clarifications to original blog entries are indicated by the use of [brackets] and/or strikethroughs, as appropriate so as to accurately convey both the factual truth and my original representation of it. Nobody's perfect, but I strive for continual improvement. That is also why some of the nature photos that appear on the archive pages may differ from the (inferior) ones that were originally posted.

The current "home made" blog organization system that I created, featuring real permalinks, was instituted on November 1, 2004. Prior to that date, blog posts were handled inconsistently, and for that reason the pre-2005 archives pages are something of a mess. Furthermore, my blogging prior to June 1, 2004 was often sporadic in terms of frequency.



 

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