June 28, 2013 [LINK / comment]

Nats almost sweep the D-backs

At home in Washington this week, the Nationals came very close to their first series sweep since April. The Arizona Diamondbacks had other ideas, however. In the games on Tuesday and Wednesday, starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann both had fine outings. Adam LaRoche's bat led the way in the 7-5 win to open the series, and Ryan Zimmerman did likewise in the 3-2 win the following night. He "drove in" the go-ahead run late in the game, but it wasn't counted as an RBI, because it was when he grounded into a double play. Sometimes, that's all it takes to win. The climax on Thursday afternoon was a great pitchers' duel between Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, who has a 9-0 record. Both pitchers gave up a two-run home run, and the game was tied 2-2 after nine innings. In the top of the 11th, Craig Stammen gave up a leadoff double to Miguel Montero, and he later scored on a safety squeeze bunt by Didi Gregorius. Final score: 3-2. That put the Nats back down to .500 (39-39).

The Nats got their road trip off to a fine start in Flushing Meadows, New York this evening. It didn't look good early on, as Ross Detwiler gave up four runs, and all the Nats could do against the Mets' ace pitcher Matt Harvey was a solo home run by Ian Desmond. But in the top of the eighth inning, the Nats managed to load the bases, and Ryan Zimmerman hit a perfect clutch double to the left field gap, clearning the bases and tying the game. In the top of the ninth inning, Jayson Werth hit a leadoff double, barely beating the tag at second. Ian Desmond then batted him home with a double down the right field line. Kurt Suzuki batted in Desmond on a sacrifice fly, and Drew Storen got three quick outs (against Daniel Murphy, David Wright, and Marlon Byrd) to end the game. Final score: Nats 6, Mets 4. See MLB.com. Is Natitude finally back??

Modifying Nationals Park

I think the architects did a pretty good job with Nationals Park, but there is one clear defect in my mind: the lower deck is too big, and the upper decks are too far removed from the infield. Previously, I have suggested a major rebuilding of the second deck, moving 10-15 feet forward, but that would be of no use to the regular folks who inhabit the upper deck. What to do? It occurred to me that, instead of moving the grandstand closer to the field, it might be easier to move the field closer to the grandstand. So, I came up with another hypothetical alternative version of the Nationals Park diagram, in which the ground level has been raised by about three feet. That has the effect of eliminating about five rows of seats, thus moving the front edge of the grandstand back by about 15 feet, and the diamond would be moved back by about seven feet as well, and that would raise the backstop distance from 45 feet to 52 feet, which I think is much more reasonable. Wild pitches often bounce right back to the catcher in Nationals Park, so runners on third have to be careful about scoring on one. (Unless Carlos Marmol is pitching, of course! smile)

Note that the modified diagram shows the fence heights, which are also shown on the lower-deck diagram.

How 'bout them Pirates!?

For the first time in living memory, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the very best record in the major leagues, 49-30 which is .620 in percentage terms: Believe it or not!!! (Unless the Cardinals overcome a 6-1 deficit in tonight's game in Oakland, their record will be 48-31.) Everyone knew Andrew McCutcheon was emerging as a superstar slugger, but the improvement in the rest of their lineup and pitching staff is simply amazing. It's a breath of fresh air for baseball, where the dominant teams usually stay dominant for many years, and the also-rans usually stay near the bottom of the heap.

I guess that means I'll have to get the PNC Park diagrams up to standard pretty soon...

In San Francisco, meanwhile, the Giants are continuing a tailspin below the .500 mark, baffling baseball observers. Since they are the reigning World Champions and were expected to make another such bid this year, it puts the Nationals' disappointmenting performance this year in perspective.