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September 3, 2013 [LINK / comment]

Nats are barely clinging to life

The last few days have seen a continuation of the ups and downs that have defined the Washington Nationals' 2013 season, and with time running short, they just can't afford many more downs. Last night in Philadelphia, they lost 3-2 to the Phillies, who scored twice in the eighth inning. The Nats had runners on first and third with one out in the top of the ninth, but Wilson Ramos was called out on strikes, a blatant ripoff. The ball was clearly wide of the plate, and the ump's bad call probably decided the outcome of the game.

The New York Mets played the role of spoiler in the weekend series, and I had the misfortune to see with my own eyes the Nationals' recent hot streak come to a screeching halt. In fact, the Mets came very close to sweeping the Nats (at home!), just like the Braves swept the Nats in Washington on August 5-7. That would have killed their last hopes for October baseball.

But because of a stupendous late rally on Sunday night (broadcast by ESPN), the Nats came back to win the final game of the series, so they still have a flicker of hope for the postseason. As the bottom of the eighth inning began, with the Mets on top 5-3, Scott Hairston and Denard Span each singled. Then Bryce Harper entered the batters box, and everybody started thinking about a mighty blow that would give the Nats the lead. But instead of playing the headline-grabbing hero, Harper did what was best for his team, laying down a sacrifice bunt that advanced the runners to second and third. That showed real class and maturity on Harper's part. Next, Anthony Rendon hit a ground ball that scored a run, at the cost of a second out. Then Ryan Zimmerman came in and hit an infield single that scored the tying run. Perfect! But then it got even better, as Jayson Werth then hit a double to the right-center gap, and Zimmerman made it all the way home, as the Nats took a 6-5 lead. For once, Rafael Soriano closed the game 1-2-3, so the Nats won the game. Whew!

That precious victory came on the heels of a humiliating 11-3 loss on Saturday, during which Dan Haren reverted to his pre-July ways, giving up seven earned runs in less than three innings on the mound. It really wasn't all his fault, as the Mets got lucky with some short "Texas Leaguer" fly balls that dropped just beyond the infielders' grasp.

In the Friday night game, which I saw, the Nationals let another close one slip away. It was a well-matched pitchers' duel between Jordan Zimmermann and Dillon Gee of the Mets. Wilson Ramos hit a solo homer in the third to give the Nats a 1-0 lead, but in the top of the fourth, Ike Davis homered to same general area (left field), and Mets were ahead, 2-1. The Mets scored again in the top of the eighth, as Ryan Zimmerman tried in vain to make a difficult throw to first, allowing Daniel Murphy to score from second. It was a big mistake, and it ended up proving decisive. In the bottom of the inning, with two outs, pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi hit a solo homer to the Nats' bullpen in right field, sparking a rally that fell short when Bryce Harper grounded out to second base for the fourth straight time. Final score: Mets 3, Nats 2. frown

Note that in the photos below, I took much better closeup shots in the latter innings, after I had given up on the seat in the very farthest section of the mezzanine level, and just wandered around the lower-level concourse. In my original seat, I had good views of the two early home runs, but not much else.

Nationals Park from mezzanine near LF pole

Grand view of Nationals Park from the mezzanine level near the left field pole. Roll your mouse over the image to see a zoom shot through the gap toward the Anacostia part of D.C.

Wilson Ramos into dugout

Stepping back into the dugout, Wilson Ramos gets high fives for his fourth-inning home run. All three of the Nationals players on the left -- Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, and Jayson Werth -- hit home runs the day before.

Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann maintained his composure and velocity into the late innings, but couldn't get enough run support.

Dillon Gee

Dillon Gee kept inducing ground balls, holding the Nats to just six hits. He was taken out of the game about a minute after this photo was taken because of ...

Steve Lombardozzi

... pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi, just before he hit a [solo] home run with two outs in the eighth inning. It sparked a rally that ultimately fizzled.

Sad end to a great month

For the Nationals, August was their best month of the year, winning 16 games and losing 11. [They lost the last two games of the month, unfortunately.] So, I updated the Washington Nationals page, and added a whole new feature: a set of graphs showing the daily winning percentages for each separate year going back to 2005. You can either compare those graphs to the monthly totals in each year, or compare them to each other in a separate section further down that page.

[NOTE: Unfortunately, I forgot to upload the new version of that page until a day later. It's there now, along with all those winning-percentage graphs. Sorry about that.]

"The Beast" in Baltimore

Former Nationals slugging star Michael "The Beast" Morse was traded by the struggling Seattle Mariners to the still-hopeful Baltimore Orioles, after clearing waivers. In the first game he played, on Sunday in New York, he went two for four, helping his new team beat the Yankees, 7-3. Michael may just end up in the postseason again, but not with team he helped get there last year.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 04 Sep 2013, 7: 16 AM

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