August 29, 2017
After three full months on the disabled list, veteran slugger Jayson Werth was back in the lineup last night (August 28), and he made the most of it! In the fourth inning, he followed a lead-off single by Matt Wieters with a huge home run that almost reached the concourse behind the stands in left field. It was estimated at 425 feet. That gave the Nats a 4-1 lead over the recently-surging Marlins (66-63 before arriving in D.C.), and the lead kept growing. In the sixth inning, Howie Kendrick hit a three-run triple, and three more runs scored in that inning and one in the seventh. Max Scherzer was also back from the disabled list (only ten days), he struck out ten batters over seven innings, while only giving up one run. Final score: Nats 11, Marlins 2.
Tonight Werth rested, while another long-ailing (but much younger) star returned from the DL: shortstop Trea Turner. He immediately proved his worth by nabbing a line drive with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning, squelching what could have been a big Marlins rally. The amazing Giancarlo Stanton (batting second) had already hit a home run -- his 51st of the year! He is well on the way to becoming the first player since the Steroid Era to break Roger Maris's record of 61 home runs. But the Nats later came back. Daniel Murphy batted in two runs in the third inning, Turner scored after doubling in the fifth, and Anthony Rendon batted in three runs in the seventh. Once again, Edwin Jackson pitched effectively after giving up an early run, giving up just two runs over six innings. Nats 8, Marlins 3.
Tuesday night's win (their 80th of the season, against only 51 losses!) marks the eighth consecutive series which the Nationals have either won or tied. Their last series loss was against the Marlins in Miami, July 31 - August 2. But the Nats have not swept any of the series this month, they just keep plugging along with enough wins to keep them at or above the .600 mark.
The Nats had a successful road trip out west, winning five out of seven games. With another great outing by Gio Gonzalez (on August 20), they won the final game of the series in San Diego, 4-1. Daniel Murphy's two RBIs proved decisive in that one. Then the Nats flew to Houston, where the Astros have been having their best year in franchise history. (When the Astros won the National League pennant in 2005, they were only .549 in the regular season.) The Astros began that series with a slight percentage edge over the Nationals, but the visitors won two of the three games and came out ahead of the home team. The finale on August 24 was a heart-stopper: The Nats had a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Astros scored twice off of Brandon Kintzler, the first blown save opportunity by the Nats bullpen since early last month. (For some reason, Dusty Baker had put the usual closer Sean Doolittle on the mound in the eighth inning.) But the Nats staged a two-run rally in the top of the 11th inning, and held on to win, 5-4. That series might be a preview of this year's World Series, assuming the Nationals make it to the NLCS and find a way to beat the L.A. Dodgers. But you know what? Now that the Nationals' injured players are returning, the team is playing at the championship caliber that they displayed earlier in the season, and as we know, anything can happen in the postseason!
And as the month of September approaches, we start thinking about October and counting our chickens before they hatch. The Nationals' magic number is now just 18, whereas the lowest it had been on September 1 of their three division-championship years (2012, 2014, and 2016) was 19. Smooth sailing ahead??!
The Nationals got out of Houston just in time, as Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on southeast Texas. Fortunately, the Astros were also leaving town on a brief road trip to Anaheim, but the storm proved much worse than forecast, with rainfalls of Biblical proportions turning much of the city into a vast lake. Thus far, Minute Maid Park has only suffered minor flooding in the lower service levels (see chron.com), but it could get worse. In the mean time, the Astros are playing a "home" series in Tropicana Field against their cross-state rivals, the Rangers. It would have made more sense to play the series in Globe Life Park, but the Rangers would have been obliged to reciprocate by playing the scheduled series next month against the Astros in Houston, which would have created an extremely long road trip for them.
I updated the Anomalous stadiums page with that information. The last time a Major League series had to be relocated due to a hurricane was in 2001.
By the way, thanks to Facebook I am in touch with a guy who lives near Houston who is one of the most loyal fans of this website: Mark London. So far, he has been coping well enough, but for millions of other folks in that metropolitan area, life has become a sheer hell. I encourage everyone to do their part by donating to the American Red Cross or other relief-oriented charitable organization.
The Wrigley Field diagrams have been revised slightly, based on careful observations made during my visit there earlier this month. It's more than a "tweak," but less than a full-fledged "update." As noted months ago, they moved the bullpens inside, beneath the bleachers, filling in that space with three more rows of seats all the way down to where the grandstand meets the foul line. (I have yet to calculate the reduced foul territory, however.) Most of the other changes were in the grandstand near the left field corner, as the positions of the entry portals and lateral walkways were altered. I also added an elevator shaft that I noticed for the very first time in the rear of the lower deck over there, and there is a corresponding structure atop the second deck as well. In addition, the brick wall is not quite parallel to the foul line down there (remember Steve Bartman?), and there is a gap of about two feet where that brick wall bends. I also added the upper-deck refreshments balcony behind home plate, and there are are also slight corrections in the on the first-base side over there. Finally, I am also in the process of adding some new photos to that page, such as the one below, but most notably some extreme panoramas. They should be ready by Wednesday.