September 29, 2017
Since the Dodgers pulled out of their nose dive last week, there wasn't much chance that the Nationals could catch them in the race to get home field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. So, just as the Dodgers lost the motivation to win by building up such a huge lead in the NL West, so too did the Nationals once they clinched the NL East way back on September 10.
At brand-new SunTrust Park (see below) on Tuesday, September 19, the Nationals capitalized on Ryan Zimmerman's hot bat, as the veteran slugger crossed the 100-RBI threshhold for the first time in years. Max Scherzer had everything under control, and the Nats beat the Braves, 4-2. The next night, it took longer, and Gio Gonzalez left the game after six innings behind by two runs. But in the bottom of that inning, the Nats scored six times, and Gio got the win! The next day, Ryan Zimmerman hit his 34th home run of the year, setting a personal best, but the Nats still fell, 3-2. Tanner Roark was good, going seven innings, but didn't get enough run support.
The next evening in Citi Field (September 22), Edwin Jackson had a rough outing, giving up six runs in just 4 2/3 innings. The Nats later tied it, but the Mets tacked on another run to win, 7-6. On the 23rd, Steven Strasburg gave up three runs over five innings. But home runs by Adam Lind, Matt Wieters, and (former Met!) Daniel Murphy tipped the balance in the Nats favor: 4-3 in ten tense innings. The Nats won the rubber game on September 24, thanks to great pitching by Max Scherzer, a home run by Trea Turner, and two spectacular defensive plays in right field by rookie Victor Robles. He is almost certain to make the postseason roster!
The Nats kept up their pace of winning close games the next evening in Philadelphia, winning 3-1 on the strength of a homer by Michael A. Taylor and a solid outing on the mound by A. J. Cole. But the Phillies took two games from Nats. On the 26th, Gio Gonzalez gave up three runs over five innings, and the Nats could only manage one run. On the 27th, Tanner Roark gave up six runs over 4 2/3 innings, and even though the Nats took a 5-3 lead in the top of the fifth, the Mets retook the lead and scored one more later, and that was that. Mets 7, Nats 5.
So even though they lost that series, the Nats still came away with a net positive road trip, winning five out of nine games. I have been compiling their series win-loss records this year, and found that the Nats won each of their last three road trips of the year, going back to mid-August. Details to follow...
It's worth noting that that was perhaps Jayson Werth's final game of his career in Citizens Bank Park. Did he get a fond farewell from his former fans in Philadelphia? Nope.
Back in Our Nation's Capital last night, the Nats battled a surprisingly tough Pittsburgh Pirates team, finally winning it 5-4, but not until after Sean Doolittle blew his first save since joining the Nats in mid-July. The score went from 4-2 to 4-4, and the the Nats staged a nice rally in the bottom of the ninth, capped by Alejandro De Aza's walk-off RBI single, as Anthony Rendon scored the winning run. Yes!!!
This evening Steven Strasburg takes the mound for the Nats, hoping to end his superb season on a high notes. And I'll be there to see it!
In cavernous Marlins Park last night, the incredible Giancarlo Stanton hit his 58th and 59th home runs of the season, setting a new National League record, and closing in fast on Babe Ruth (60) and Roger Maris (61). With three games left to go, chances are good that he'll at least reach 60. (The numbers attained by Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa during the "Steroid Era" probably won't count as legitimate in most record books.) It is worth noting that Stanton must contend with a much bigger (and more symmetrical) outfield than the two Yankees mentioned above.
And speaking of incredible, the Yankees' Aaron Judge has shaken off his post-All Star break slump and recently broke the 50-home run mark, setting an all-time record for rookie players.
I made several improvements to the diagram of SunTrust Park, the brand-new home of the Atlanta Braves. Aside from greater detail and accuracy, there is now a lower-deck variant, and there will be additional variants in the next week or two.
It somehow escaped my notice, but there was actually a college football game in Target Field last Saturday, as St. Thomas College hosted St. John's College in the annual "Tommies-Johnnies" game. See twincities.com. So, of course I had to make a quickie" football diagram for the Target Field page. Hat tip to Mark London.
Something else that escaped my notice was the baseball game between the MLB Little League Classic on August 20, coinciding with the 2017 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (I was paying more attention to the solar eclipse that weekend!) The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-3. Attendance was only 2,596. To me, this reeks of cheap sentimentalism. They did something similar at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in July 2016. This means I'll have to update the Anomalous stadiums page once again... Hat tip to Steven Poppe.
I've got even more news items to get to from Mike Zurawski, so please stand by!