July 1, 2022 [LINK / comment]

Nationals almost sweep the Pirates

And vice versa! All three games were decided by a single run and easily could have gone the other way. The Nats began their holiday home stand on Monday with two much-need wins over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in both cases came from behind with clutch hits in the eighth inning. In the first game, Erick Fedde had yet another solid outing but was in line for the loss until the bottom of the eighth inning. That's when Maikel Franco hit an ultra-clutch two-run homer to give the Nats a 3-2 lead. Kyle Finnegan only allowed one batter to reach base in the ninth inning and got the save, his first of the year. In Game 2, Patrick Corbin had perhaps the greatest outing of his entire career, striking out 12 batters while giving up just one run (a solo homer), two walks, and five hits over eight full innings. I could not believe my eyes when Davey Martinez sent him back to the mound in the eighth inning, when his pitch count was already over 100, but Corbin struck out all three batters he faced, the last one on pitch #113. Talk about guts and determination! In the bottom of that inning, Yadiel Hernandez came through with a clutch two-run, two-out, two-base hit to give the Nats a 3-1 lead. After Tanner Rainey got three outs in the ningth, that gave Corbin his fourth win of the season, bringing his ERA down to 6.06. After all his frustrations from earlier in the year, you have to admire his competitive spirit.

In the finale on Wednesday afternoon, the same situation arose in the bottom of the eighth, with the bases loaded and the young shortstop Luis Garcia up to bat. Could he rise to the occasion and make it three comeback wins in a row? Sadly, no. That game was marred by a bizarre play in top of the fifth inning, in which the Pirates were awarded a run on a rules technicality. With runners on second and third with one out, Ke'Bryan Hayes lined out to first baseman Josh Bell, who threw the ball to third baseman Ehire Adrianza who tagged the runner (Hoy Park) who had reached third base without tagging up, and then stepped on third base for good measure. Ordinarily that would have forced out Jack Suwinski, who had run on contact and crossed home plate without tagging up, for a fourth out. But because of the stupid baseball rule that says that the team on defense is obliged to protest the runner not tagging up and throwing the ball to the base in question, and because the Nationals had already left the field thinking that the inning was over, they could not protest, and the run counted. UNBELIEVABLE! If Adrianza had stepped on third base before tagging Hoy Park, that run would not have counted. That one bogus run ended up making all the difference in the Pirates' 8-7 victory, most of which was the result of the three home runs hit by Bryan Reynolds. frown

Best pitching rotation!?

Don't look now, but the Washington Nationals seem to have reversed their awful pitching woes over the past week and a half, and rookie Jackson Tetreault suddenly emerged as a potential ace of the future. In fact, over their last 10 games before Wednesday, the Nationals' starting pitchers recorded an aggregate ERA of 1.82, which I read somewhere (but cannot prove) was the lowest in the major leagues! That is based on 12 earned runs given up over 59 1/3 innings from the second game on June 17 through the game on June 28. This table summarizes those ten games.

DateStarting pitcherInnings pitchedRuns allowedWinnerLoser
June 17 (2nd game)Paolo Espino5 IP2 ER + 1 UERPHI 8WSH 7 (10)
June 18Josiah Gray6 IP0 ERPHI 2WSH 1 (10)
June 19Jackson Tetreault (W)7 IP0 ER + 3 UERWSH 9PHI 3
June 21Erick Fedde (W)6 IP0 ERWSH 3BAL 0 @
June 22Patrick Corbin (L)4 IP3 ERBAL 7WSH 0 (6) @
June 24Paolo Espino5.1 IP1 ERWSH 2TEX 1 @
June 25Josiah Gray7 IP2 ERTEX 3WSH 2 @
June 26Jackson Tetreault (W)6 IP1 ERWSH 6TEX 4 @
June 27Erick Fedde5 IP2 ERWSH 3PIT 2
June 28Patrick Corbin (W)8 IP1 ERWSH 3PIT 1

Underlines indicate pitchers credited with the decision. "@" = away game.

Soto haggles over salary

According to unconfirmed, scurrilous rumors of dubious provenance, the Washington Nationals reportedly made a new offer to Juan Soto: $425 million over 13 years, after he turned down a $350-million contract offer after last season, but even the extra [$75]* million apparently wasn't enough. Soto says he is open to staying in Washington, but for some reason he just doesn't seem too enthusiastic about it. He is a charismatic media darling and fan favorite, potentially serving as a vital link between the Nationals' past glory days and a potential future return to World Series greatness, but Soto may be a little too eager to win another championship ring sooner rather than later. With the franchise's financial situation less solid than it used to be, there is just no guarantee that the team will return to championship contention any time soon. See the Washington Post. I really hope Soto recognizes how his name could go down in history in Washington as a beloved superhero, like Mickey Mantle in New York or Roberto Clemente in Pittsburgh. It may depend mainly on Soto's agent, Scott Boras, who epitomizes much of what is wrong with baseball today.

* corrected

Juan Soto, Lerner family 18 Jun 2022

"Let's make a deal!?" During the Ryan Zimmerman retirement ceremony on June 18, Juan Soto took time to greet the Lerner family. The founding owner and patriarch Ted Lerner is in front, wearing the pale suit.

Harper's thumb is broken

In a game in San Diego on Saturday, Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch thrown by Blake Snell, leaving his thumb broken. He was angry at first, as any normal human being would be, but later said he didn't blame Snell for the injury. Harper had surgery on Wednesday, and there is a good chance he could return to the lineup by mid-August if he heals quickly. It's really a shame, as he was having a great year, with a .318 batting average (#6 in the NL), 15 home runs (#13), and 48 RBIs (#9). (See MLB.com.) A second MVP award if not a Triple Crown was within the realm of possibility.

Get well soon, Bryce!

Random fun facts:

Almost as soon as I asked "Can anybody beat the Yankees?" last week, the Houston Astros answered in the affirmative. In fact, they beat the Yankees 3-0 in a combined no-hitter last Saturday, the very first no-hitter in New Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were very close to being swept on Sunday, down 3-0 after six innings, but then came back to tie the game and won it 6-3 in the tenth inning on a walk-off home run by -- who else? -- Aaron Judge.

Kyle Schwarber hit 12 home runs in June, as many as the entire Detroit Tigers team! (In that same month last year, when he was with the Nationals, he hit 16 homers, all of which were after June 11!)

The Washington Nationals had the very same record this May as they did in the same month one year earlier (11-17), but their record in June of this year was only marginally better (11-16), in contrast to their amazing upsurge (17-9) in June 2021. The Washington Nationals page has been duly updated with data for June as well as for the first half of the 2022 season.

Nationals Park BIG update!

Nationals Park

Based on a close inspection of some of the peripheral areas of the stadium during the games I saw two weekends ago, in particular the access ramps, the Nationals Park diagrams have been revised. [In addition, the rear extension of the roof, which hangs over the concession stands that ring the outer edge of the stadium, is now shown for the first time. It consists of an approximate six-foot "blade" that probably serves as a wind shear and is separated from the main portion of the roof by a gap of six feet or so.] It is the first significant update to those diagrams since August 2015, aside from a minor tweak in July 2018. If you click on the diagram and then move your mouse away to reveal what has changed, you will notice that most of the peripheral elements of the stadium have shifted several feet to the south (first base side). So even though the field is the same as before, and the grandstand is essentially the same (except for the upper deck being a bit higher than before), this revision is a pretty big deal.

Since late last year I have begun including various important details into my diagrams, and all of the diagrams will be likewise upgraded in the next few months, as long as the information is available.

For example, you can now see the ramps from which relief pitchers exit the bullpens in Nationals Park. I did not realize until recently that those bullpens are about three feet above the field level, as is the case with most other contemporary MLB stadiums. Hence the need for a ramp. Finally, I added the names of adjacent streets to the "full view" diagram, which includes the parking garages to the north and the triangular office building on the southwest side of the stadium.

Nationals Park grand view 2022

Nationals Park, following the Ryan Zimmerman ("Employee #11") retirement ceremony, just before the June 18, 2022 game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

More on Camden Yards

When I announced (on April 17) that my diagrams of Camden Yards had been revised, I neglected to include a link to an article explaining the background. Well, here it is: MLB.com. Given that fair territory has grown from 108,100 to 111,900 square feet, it is now obviously much less slugger-friendly than it used to be. Nevertheless, in the Nationals' 7-0 loss to Baltimore on June 22, with light rain falling, the Orioles managed to hit three home runs to left field: Austin Hays crushed one into the first row of seats in left-center field, Anthony Santander hit one into the bullpen near the deep corner, and Trey Mancini hit on down the left field line, where the foul pole remains where it was before: 333 feet from home plate. I heard during one of the Nationals games in Baltimore last week that, [if the left field wall had not been moved back this year,] Orioles' slugger Trey Mancini probably would have had five more home runs. (His current total is a modest 7.)