July 3, 2010 [LINK / comment]

That's what I call a comeback!!

It's been a long time since Washington Nationals fans had so much to cheer about, and today's big come-from-behind win against the Mets may mark a critical psychological turning point toward better days ahead. The game didn't start off well at all, however, as Stephen Strasburg was lucky to escape the first inning with only one run given up to the Mets. When he almost hit Jeff Francouer's head, you had to wonder if he was about to crack under the pressure. Fortunately, he settled down and only gave up one more run through five innings, after which he was relieved. Once again, he received no run support at all from his team mates, but the Nats later managed to tie it 2-2. The Mets then staged a three-run rally in the eighth inning, and relief pitcher Tyler Clippard was on the verge of another discouraging loss. The Nats scored once in the bottom of the eighth, as Adam Kennedy got his first RBI since May 30. In the ninth inning, Cristian Guzman drew a walk, Nyjer Morgan grounded out, Willie Harris singled, and Ryan Zimmerman drew a walk to load the bases. Not a very good day for the Mets' closer, Francisco Rodriguez! Up to the plate stepped mighty Adam Dunn, who hit a long fly ball to deep center field, just missing Angel Pagan's glove and bouncing off the top of the fence back into play. One more inch and it would have been a game-winning walk-off grand slam, but he at least tied the game by driving in two runs. Clutch performance! Cristian Guzman apparently thought the ball had been caught and went back to tag up on third base, and Willie Harris had to put on the brakes to avoid running over him. The two sprinted home in tandem, and Harris had to slide to beat the throw, then clapping his hands in jubilation. The next batter, Josh Willingham, was intentionally walked, and then Pudge Rodriguez came up to bat. He reached for a ball that was low and outside, poking it into short right field for a single that allowed Ryan Zimmerman to cross the plate for the winning run. The team mobbed Pudge, and everybody joined in the celebration because everybody had contributed something to the big win. The game was broadcast nationally by FOX Sports, and the Nationals got great publicity. Because it is the Fourth of July weekend and Stephen Strasburg was pitching, the stadium was nearly filled, with attendance of 39,214. See MLB.com.

And so, the Nats not only came back in this specific game, they have come back to their old high-spirited selves again. And not a moment too soon! The only thing wrong with this memorable tale from the ballpark was that Stephen Strasburg had a relative "off" day, getting only five strikeouts. After six major league starts, he has a 2-2 record with two no-decisions. In 36 2/3 innings, he has struck out 53 batters, walked only ten, and has an ERA of 2.45. Not bad at all!

Supreme Court & baseball

As the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan proceed, the issue of baseball pops up once again. Kagan, who was born and raised in the Big Apple, is a Mets fan, whereas the newest of the current justices and fellow New Yorker Sonia Sotomayor is Yankees fan. As a Federal judge, Sotomayor played a key role in ending the infamous 1994-1995 baseball strike; see May 2009. Last month the New York Times listed the baseball affiliations of the Supreme Court. Justice Samuel Alito is a Phillies fan, and last year he contributed an essay to The Baseball Research Journal. Justice John Paul Stevens is a Cubs fan, and believe it or not he was at Wrigley Field for Game 3 of the 1932 World Series when Babe Ruth (apparently) pointed his finger at where he was about to hit a home run. Justice Stephen Breyer is a Red Sox fan.