Bouncing back from Covid-19?
Does Covid-19 somehow provide some kind of rejuvenating boost to teams and players that recover from the infection? It sure seems that way that way with the Miami Marlins, who swept the Baltimore Orioles in four games straight after the team was quarantined for eight days as a precaution. The Marlins faltered a bit after that, but after beating the Braves at home in Miami earlier this evening, they now have a 9-4 record and a two-game lead in the National League East Division.
I was expecting the St. Louis Cardinals to resume playing on Friday a week ago, but two more players tested positive, and they have now gone two straight weeks without playing any games at all. The Cards are slated to play against the White Sox in Chicago this weekend, and then play five games in three days against the Cubs a few miles north. That's just insane, even with double-header games being reduced to just seven innings. Having only played five games (2 wins, 3 losses), it is hard to see how they can possibly catch up in this abbreviated season. It's an awful shame. If there is a "bounce-back" effect from Covid-19, the Cardinals are going to really need it.
And as far as individual players, what Juan Soto has done in the games since he returned from the Covid-19 quarantine protocol on August 5 is simply amazing. Over the course of eight games he has hit 5 home runs and has a batting average of over .400, with 11 RBIs. (The Yankees' Aaron Judge leads the majors with 9 homers, but he has played in 17 games.) If the Nats are going to bounce back from a mediocre start to the season, they are going to need Soto to be playing at his very best. He keeps racking up historical records for achieving various marks before his 22nd birthday, rivaling Hall of Famers such as Mel Ott and Mickey Mantle. The Nats front office better sign him to a long-term contract before he becomes eligible to be a free agent.
Rash of injuries plague Nationals
None of the Nats have tested positive for Covid-19 lately, but a sudden series of injuries raises questions about their ability to compete for a postseason slot and thus defend their World Series title this October. Tonight we learned that one of the new team members, Starlin Castro, broke his wrist while diving to catch a ball in the afternoon completion of the rain-suspended August 9 game. He was putting up some great numbers during his first three weeks as a Nat, and he will be sorely missed. In addition, both the Nationals star pitchers have been afflicted: Stephen Strasburg with some kind of pinched nerve in his wrist, which forced him out of the game during the first inning in Baltimore tonight, and Max Scherzer is coping with overall soreness from pushing himself too hard -- as usual. Former closer Sean Doolittle has been placed on the injured list after giving up way too many home runs in clutch late-inning situations. He's mad at himself, but there may be a knee problem that explains his poor performance.
I should note that Daniel Hudson assumed the primary responsibility for finishing games since the overworked Sean Doolittle started having problems last year, and that has not changed. Doolittle's ERA last year was 4.05, and Hudson's was 3.00 with the Nationals; he played the early part of 2019 with the Blue Jays, where he had a 1.44 ERA. My Washington Nationals page has been duly corrected.
The Nationals won the first two games in that four-game series with the Mets, but lost the second two games. The Monday game was an utter rout, with two home runs by Asdrubal Cabrera, and one each by Juan Soto and Trea Turner; final score 16-4. On Tuesday night against the Mets, Max Scherzer barely got through the first inning, but even with a high pitch count he managed to last six innings, without giving up any more runs. It was his ferocious will to win that got the Nationals a much-needed 2-1 victory. On Wednesday, Anibal Sanchez once again had a lousy outing, not even making it through the third inning, as the Nats lost, 11-6. On Thursday afternoon, Austin Voth was doing OK for the first four innings, but his replacement, Seth Romero, soon gave up a grand slam that almost put the game out of reach. The key play of that game was when Asdrubal Cabrera smashed a ball to left center field that surely would have scored two runs if the Mets' Jeff McNeill had not sprinted to catch it. He ran into the wall, and had to be taken out of the game, but it was probably worth it. Mets 8, Nats 2.
In tonight's game against the Orioles, the Nationals bounced back, and then some! Almost all their batters got hits, including Luis Garcia, who replaced Starlin Castro at second base. In his very first game in the major leagues, he got two hits including a two-run double. The Nationals have a virtually insurmountable 13-3 lead in the ninth inning, which guarantees them a slight percentage edge over the Phillies in the NL East race. (It's a virtual tie for fourth place.) The Nats have a long way to go, and not much time to get there...
New stadium page: Sahlen Field!
I was hoping to finish the Sahlen Field diagram(s) in time for the "Toronto" Blue Jays' first home game this year, but there were too many uncertain details, and I had to watch video replays of the game on Wednesday afternoon (when they beat the Marlins 5-4) to be sure. Anyway, I have created a new page with a diagram for their temporary home: Sahlen Field. (Under normal circumstances, it is the home of the Buffalo Bisons.) There are separate diagrams showing the lower and upper decks, and two photos, including the one below. The Blue Jays' predicament of having to find an alternative "home away from home" for much if not all of this season constitutes an extreme example of the emergency situation various teams have faced over the years, which are detailed on the Anomalous stadiums page, newly updated. (NOTE: I plan not to include on that page stadiums where the home team was playing as the visitor, such as Nationals Park where the Nats played as visitors against the "host" Blue Jays on July 29 and 30. If it's nothing more than a simple home vs. away "role reversal," it's really not worth it.)
NOTE: Although this panorama is a big improvement over the glare-blemished photo I posted on July 24, it's also a bit "fake." In order to get the outfield fences as well as the grandstand, I had to stand in different positions: the left segment was taken from a different angle than the middle and right segments. If you look closely, you will see that the Canadian flag pole and the big pole supporting the left-center field lights are duplicated. The full-size image can be seen on the Sahlen Field page.
Candlestick Park, ribbed roofs, etc.
In my haste, I forgot to mention some other new and improved features on my Candlestick Park diagrams, updated on August 4 last week. There is an access ramp leading to the second (rear) lateral walkway at the end of the grandstand near the right field foul pole. (It was obscured by the extended upper deck from 1972 on.) Also, there is a new 1961 football diagram, recognizing that the Oakland Raiders played there in late 1960 and throughout the 1961 AFL season. Hat tip to Larry Freitas for sending me a photo showing how the gridiron was aligned. Also, the profiles of right field now show the correct positioning of the three segments of the collapsible grandstand; the rear segment (colored orange to show its relative height) folded down in back of the middle segment (which was used for baseball games), and the front segment slid out from under the other two. Some people may regard those as trivial, but I'm a stickler for detail, and I know many other folks are too.
Since one of the features of the Candlestick Park diagrams that I did mention was the "ribbed" roofs, I thought I would list the other stadiums with such an architectural design. I first brought that issue up on January 10, 2016, and followed up on April 28, 2016 and May 3, 2016. I am fairly confident that these are all such past and present MLB stadiums:
- Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
- Angel (Anaheim) Stadium
- Progressive Field (Cleveland)
- Olympic Stadium (Montreal)
- Veterans Stadium (Philadelphia)
- Exhibition Stadium -- left field (Toronto)
- Hiram Bithorn Stadium (Puerto Rico)
- Candlestick Park
- Riverfront Stadium