August 7, 2023
One of the low points of this year for the Washington Nationals was when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds at home in Nationals Park, on July 3-6. Well, this weekend they made up for it by sweeping the Reds in three games at Great American Ballpark. The scores were nearly identical (6-3, 7-3, and 6-3, respectively), but each of the games transpired in dramatically different fashion. On Friday Patrick Corbin gave up two solo home runs in the first inning and another one in the third inning, and was on the hook for the loss until Joey Meneses tied the game 3-3 with a 2-run homer in the 8th inning. Talk about clutch! In the 10th inning, Jake Alu (recently called up from the minors) hit an RBI double, followed by a 2-run homer by Lane Thomas. It was a dramatic comeback win for the "D.C. 9"! On Saturday, Joan Adon took the mound as starting pitcher for the first time in over a year. To the utter amazement of everyone, he retired all of the first 17 batters that he faced, whereupon Luke Maile singled to right field in the 6th inning, ruining Adon's chance at a perfect game. That must have broken his concentration, because he then gave up a single and a home run to bring the Reds back into the game with a 6-3 score. A double in the top of the 9th widened the Nats' lead slightly, taking away Kyle Finnegan's chance for a save. (He did get the save in the other two games.) On Sunday the Nats repaid the Reds for what Patrick Corbin suffered on Friday: the first two batters in the first inning (CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas) both hit solo home runs, and in both cases it was on the first pitch! No other MLB pitcher has started the game by giving up home runs on the first two pitches over the past 50 years. It was the very first time on the mound for the Reds' pitcher Lyon Richardson, quite a brutal initiation into the major leagues! The Nats scored two more runs that inning, but the Reds soon narrowed the gap, and Nats' starting pitcher Jake Irvin was replaced during the 5th inning. Lane Thomas batted in two more runs later in the game, raising his season total for RBIs to 65. (See Washington Post.) It was the Nats' second sweep in the past two weeks, and as the Mets continue to lose (getting swept by the Orioles), the Nats are now only a game and a half behind the Mets in the National Leage East Division.
The Nats' comeback win on Friday was the second such feat in as many days. On Thursday, they were behind the visiting Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 going into the bottom of the 9th, at which point they loaded the bases (on two walks and a single), with nobody out. Alex call grounded to third base for what should have been an easy force out at home, but the throw went wide of the catcher and two runs scored. Thus, the Nats ended up winning that game 3-2, thereby prevailing over the Brewers two games to one in the series.
Interestingly, the Nationals did not have an extra-inning game until June 15 (vs. the Astros), which they won. Since then they have played in four other games that went into extra innings, winning three out of four, i.e. four out of five altogether. Ironically, every one of their extra-inning victories was on the road, and their only extra-inning loss (vs. the Reds, on July 6) was at home. That loss concluded an embarrassing four-game sweep defeat, as noted above.
Another interesting factoid: the Nationals are now 22 1/2 games behind the Braves, which is way too much but is actually a smaller gap than was the case one month ago (24 1/2)!
In case you're wondering about all the gratuitous displays of urban scenery in these recent baseball blog posts, it's a subtle way of drawing attention to a new feature on the Baseball cities page, whereby you can see such mini-views of almost all major U.S. cities simply by rolling your mouse over the city names on the map toward the bottom. Is that cool, or what? In some cases, the "montages" are quite deficient (e.g. Phoenix), in some there is merely a skyline (e.g. Atlanta), while for two cities there are no photographic images at all: St. Petersburg-Tampa and San Diego. "Wait 'til next year!"
Not the Giants! Across the continent, the Oakland Athletics pulled off a two-game "mini-sweep" of the visiting San Francisco Giants. Attendance on Saturday was 37,553, probably the biggest of the year at Oakland Coliseum, and on Sunday it was 27,381. No doubt most of the "extra" fans were fans of the visiting team, so the unexpected losses must have caused some strange vibes.
The question of who owns the Athletics is important right now because of the ongoing discussions on relocating the franchise to Las Vegas. After learning that Lew Wolff had sold his stake in 2012, I updated the MLB Franchises page to indicate that John Fisher is the owner of the Oakland Athletics, not Lewis Wolff. Fisher acquired a majority stake in the franchise in 2005, at which time Lewis Wolff became a minority owner who served as the de facto chief executive role. (That page also now shows updated 2022 attendance figures for each MLB team, rather than the 2019 figures as shown before.)