April 12, 2015
A full week has now passed since the first official baseball game of the year in Chicago. (The Cubbies lost to the Cards.) There are a number of surprises, such as the fact that the only two teams with undefeated records (6-0) are from the same division: the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. Two of the weekend series pitted two teams that had not won any games: the Minnesota Twins at the Chicago White Sox, and the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Milwaukee Brewers. No sweep in either case, so all 30 teams have won at least one game this year.
For the Washington Nationals, widely expected to make another postseason run this year, the first week was a rude shock. Lacking three key players (Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, and Denard Span) clearly cost them, but they should have won at least four of their first six games. Their first game on Monday was going very well for the first 5 2/3 innings, as Max Scherzer had a no-hitter going, with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Bryce Harper homer in the first inning. That's when Ian Desmond bobbled a routine ground ball that should have been a double play, but instead left two runners on base with just one out. The next batter hit the ball into the right-center gap, and before you knew it, the Mets were ahead, 2-1. Another error by Desmond gave another run to the Mets, and the final score was 3-1.
Hopes that the first game was just a fluke seemed born out by the second game, which the Nats won, 2-1. Ryan Zimmerman's two-run homer in the first inning was all the offense the Nats needed, thanks to Jordan Zimmermann's commanding performance on the mound. The afternoon game on Thursday raised concerns again, however, as Stephen Strasburg struggled to contain the Mets' batters. Michael Taylor got two RBIs, but otherwise the bats were quiet. Final score: 6-3.
So, the Nats headed up to Philadelphia, and the very first batter in Friday night's game, Michael Taylor, hit a home run into the left field corner. But no other Nationals players crossed the plate for the rest of the game, while the Phillies took advantage of Gio Gonzalez seeming to get tired in the seventh inning. (Gio had been throwing quite well up to that point.) But after walking two batters and then hitting one with a pitch, loading the bases, he was replaced by Xavier Cedeno. Then came a two-run single, another hit by pitch, another RBI single, and an RBI sac fly. And that's how the Phillies came from behind to win, 4-1.
In the fourth inning of the game on Saturday, Wilson Ramos hit his first home run of the year, a solo shot, and the Nats again had a rally going in the top of the eighth inning, but only scored one more run. The fact that Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman had back-to-back strikeouts with two runners on base in the top of the eighth says a lot about what is going wrong. Much like last year, the Nats just aren't taking advantage of run-scoring opportunities. In the bottom of the inning, the Phillies tied it, and in the bottom of the tenth, they scored, winning, 3-2.
Today's game fit the dreadful pattern to a T, with the Nats losing an early lead, even going into extra innings with the same score as yesterday (2-2). But this time the Nats got a genuine rally going in the top of the tenth, thanks to a leadoff double by Yunel Escobar (who made it to third on a sac fly and then home on a wild pitch), a double by Clint Robinson, and an RBI single by Wilson Ramos. The added insurance run made all the difference, as Drew Storen walked the first two batters in the bottom of the tenth, one of whom scored. But Storen hung in there, and when Ryan Zimmerman snagged a hard bouncer for a force-out at first, that was the game. Whew! Ryan seems to be adapting to his new defensive position very well, making a number of great plays.
The Nats thus averted being swept by the Phillies, and can at least have something to be proud of as they head to Boston for a three-game series beginning on Monday. Jayson Werth may be in the lineup tomorrow, which would be great. With a 2-4 record, the Nats are in fourth place in the NL East. Until today the Braves were undefeated, but the Mets edged them 4-3.
The new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was at the Opening Day game in Washington, for the purpose of officially announcing that the 2018 All-Star Game will be played in Nationals Park. Huz-zah-h-h!! That means that four consecutive All-Star Games will be played in National League stadiums, the first time more than two consecutive All-Star Games have been played in one league's stadiums. So, of course I updated the Annual chronology page almost as soon as that became official.
It's hard to believe, but today is the 50th anniversary of the first official Major League game in the Astrodome. Mark London was at a "birthday" celebration there, and I look forward to hearing about what happened there.
And you know what that means: I updated the Astrodome diagrams, with more accurate profiles, minor corrections, and additional details such as the entry portals in the upper deck. The last diagram update for the Astrodome was in June of 2011.
I've been seeing various references on Facebook, etc. lately about this or that day being the Nth anniversary of the first-ever game at So-and-so Stadium. It occurred to me that there ought to be a systematic record of all such Opening Days. And now there is!
|Mar. 30||Nationals Park (2008)|
|Mar. 31||Great American Ballpark (2002), Chase Field (1998), Tropicana Field (1998)|
|Apr. 4||Turner Field (1997), Progressive Field (1994), Marlins Park (2012)|
|Apr. 5||Sun Life Stadium (1993)|
|Apr. 6||Kingdome (1977), Metrodome (1982), Miller Field (2000), Oriole Park at Camden Yards (1992)|
|Apr. 7||Milwaukee County Stadium (1970*), Exhibition Stadium (1977), Minute Maid Park (2000)|
|Apr. 8||Jack Murphy Stadium (1969), K.C. Municipal Stadium (1969*), Petco Park (2004)|
|Apr. 9||Ebbets Field (1913), RFK Stadium (1962), Angels Stadium (1966), Mile High Stadium (1993), PNC Park (2001)|
|Apr. 10||Dodger Stadium (1962), Colt Stadium (1962), Veterans Stadium (1971), Kauffman Stadium (1973), Busch Stadium III (2006)|
|Apr. 11||Crosley Field (1912), Sicks Stadium (1969), Rangers Ballpark (1994), AT&T Park (1999), Comerica Park (2000)|
|Apr. 12||Shibe Park (1909), Griffith Stadium (1911), K.C. Municipal Stad. (1955), Candlestick Park (1960), Astrodome (1965), Atlanta-Fulton Co. Stad. (1966), Citizens Bank Park (2004), Target Field (2010)|
|Apr. 13||Polo Grounds (1962*), Citi Field (2009)|
|Apr. 14||Sportsman's Park (1909), Jarry Park (1969), Milw. County Stadium (1953), RFK Stadium (2005*)|
|Apr. 15||Memorial Stadium (1954), Seals Stadium (1958), Olympic Stadium (1977)|
|Apr. 16||Yankee Stadium II (2009)|
|Apr. 17||Braves Field (1915), Shea Stadium (1964), Oakland Coliseum (1968)|
|Apr. 18||Yankee Stadium (1923), L.A. Memorial Coliseum (1958), U.S. Cellular Field (1991)|
|Apr. 20||Fenway Park (1912), Tiger Stadium (1912), Wrigley Field (1916*)|
|Apr. 21||League Park (1910), Metropolitan Stadium (1961), Arlington Stadium (1972)|
|Apr. 23||Wrigley Field (1914)|
|Apr. 26||Coors Field (1995)|
|Apr. 27||Wrigley Field, L.A. (1961)|
|May 2||Baker Bowl (1895)|
|May 12||Busch Stadium II (1966)|
|Jun. 5||Rogers Centre (1989)|
|Jun. 28||Polo Grounds (1911)|
|Jun. 30||Forbes Field (1909), Riverfront Stadium (1970)|
|Jul. 1||Comiskey Park (1910)|
|Jul. 15||Safeco Field (1999)|
|Jul. 16||Three Rivers Stadium (1970)|
|Jul. 31||Cleveland Stadium (1932)|
* : Latter date for "hand-me-down" stadiums used by expansion or relocated teams.
Standard stadium names are used, often differing from the original name.
SOURCE: Lowry (2007), Green Cathedrals, Washington Post, etc.
It so happens that on this date (April 12), there were more MLB stadium openings (eight) than any other date.
Did you notice which stadium opened earlier in the year than any of the others? That's right, Nationals Park! It's rather odd that four stadiums opened during the last two days of March, but no stadiums opened during the first three days of April. The question mark after the word new in the headline above refers to the ambiguous situations when the stadium in question wasn't really "new," but the team was. After making enhancements and/or corrections, I'll probably put the above table on one of the baseball stadium reference pages some time in the future.