June 10, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Nats beat Yanks, reclaim 1st place

Thanks to some clutch hits by some of the lesser-known players, the Washington Nationals beat the New York Yankees in The Bronx this afternoon. With some help from the San Francisco Giants (see below), the Nats managed to sneak back into first place, by a half game. Denard Span put the Nats on the board with an RBI double in the third inning, and Danny Espinosa hit a solo home run in the fifth inning. Just like the day before, however, the Yankees scored four runs in the seventh inning, and the Nats were in danger of losing a fourth straight game. That would have been a big blow to their self-confidence. But Michael Taylor erased that lead with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, and the game went into extras. Then, in the top of the 11th, Denard Span (who has taken some time off due to soreness) beat out a throw to first base, getting an RBI infield single, and that proved to be the margin of victory for the visiting team. Nats 5, Yankees 4. Gio Gonzalez had a good outing, giving up just two runs in six and a third innings.

Yesterday's game was similarly close most of the way, with an early home run by Bryce Harper in his first-ever game in New Yankee Stadium. But in the seventh inning, an errant throw to third base by Nats shortstop Ian Desmond allowed a Yankee run to score, followed by three more runs. Desmond probably should have thrown the ball to first base for the third out, since Alex Rodriguez is not exactly a speedster, but it was a great stop and he almost made the out. It was the second straight game that Nats ace Max Scherzer was roughed up, while the Yanks' recently-ailing pitcher Masahiro Tanaka had his besting outing of the year. Yankees 6, Nats 1.

So, at least the Nats salvaged a split in the two-game series, and came out ahead 3-1 in the seasonal series against the Yankees. That was an accomplishment to be proud of. Contrary to what I wrote on Monday, the Yankees have been on a hot streak lately, winning seven straight games until today. (I had been thinking about how the Yankees had been doing before last week.) The return of Alex Rodriguez to the lineup has helped a lot. New York fans seem willing to forgive his substance abuse, and he has been appropriately low-key and hard-working after being suspended for all of last year.

No-hitter by Giants rookie Heston

The big news yesterday was the no-hitter at Citi Field thrown by Giants rookie Chris Heston, making just his 13th major league start. It was the 17th no-hitter in Giants history, and the fourth in the last four years. See MLB.com. There were no errors and no walks, but he did hit three Mets batter with his pitches, or else it would have been a perfect game. The Giants won that game 5-0, and they won tonight's game 8-5, helping the Nationals get back the divisional lead.

It was the first no-hitter in the major leagues this year. Have I mentioned that I witnessed the previous MLB no-hitter, in Washington last September? Yes, I think I did.

Home run races

Baseball fans are enthralled by the competition between Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton, who hit two home runs on Tuesday, one more than Harper did, so he now has a 21-20 lead in the race. By the way, former Nationals Steven Souza Jr., the guy who made the diving catch to save Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter last September, has been going gangbusters in Tampa Bay. Believe it or not, he has hit eleven (11) homers this year, tied for 22nd place in the majors with A-Rod, the Cubs Anthony Rizzo, and a few others. I knew the Nats should have kept him!

Unfortunately, Bryce Harper has said that he might not participate in this year's Home Run Derby, because he wants to be with his father, who is ill. That's too bad, on a personal level, and from a fan's point of view.

More enhanced photos

I've been (re-)scanning more photos, including this spliced-together panoramic view of RFK Stadium, which was taken six years before the Nationals even existed. I spent a lot of time getting the colors to match more closely from one segment to the next, and in getting the segments to align with each other in a more realistic fashion. The end product is not perfect, but it's a big improvement. Other newly enhanced photos include one of RFK taken from center field at that same exhibition game, plus one of (then-) Pro Player Stadium taken by my brother John, and one of Three Rivers Stadium in 2000, its final year as home of the Pirates. [Links added.]

Grand view of RFK Stadium, April 1999, before an exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Montreal Expos. Click on the image to see it full-size.

Football back to L.A.?

There has been a lot of movement in recent weeks regarding the possible relocation of NFL franchises to Los Angeles, perhaps as early as next year. One scenario involves bringing the Rams from St. Louis back to L.A., and Rams owner Stan Kroenke is pushing for the Hollywood Park stadium development project in Inglewood; see NFL.com. Another possibility is a partnership between the (San Diego?) Chargers and the (Oakland?) Raiders, the two other NFL teams that was called L.A. home. They have hired an experienced football executive named Carmen Policy to lead the campaign to build a proposed $1.7 billion stadium in Carson, California. See ESPN. The prolonged absence of pro football from the nation's second biggest city is terrible, and somebody needs to make a deal soon.