Nats bounce back from bitter blow
Just when the Washington Nationals were emerging from the doldrums and showing a spark of hope for a respectable season, everything fell apart. In their first game in Miami against the Marlins last Tuesday, their starting pitcher Josiah Gray had another fine outing, only giving up two runs (one earned) over seven full innings. Once again, however, his team failed to provide him with much run support until the top of the 8th when they staged a 3-run rally to take a 4-2 lead. The bottom of the 9th inning, Hunter Harvey got the first two batters out, and had an 0-2 count on Garrett Cooper. A win was all but secured with 99.9% probability, but Cooper somehow managed to hit a double. Then on a 1-2 count Luis Arraez singled to make the score 4-3. Nats fans grew a little edgy as Jorge Soler stepped up to the plate. Harvey got him to a full count, but the fourth pitch that was called ball 3 was actually inside the strike zone, according to the radio announcers, as well as the MLB pitch track log. That bad call gave Soler the chance he needed: he smashed the sixth pitch all the way into "The Clevelander" club area beyond the left field fence. And that's how the Nats lost the game in a most heartbreaking way, 5-4.
On Wednesday the Nats took an early 2-0 lead as Corey Dickerson (filling in as designated hitter for Joey Meneses, who was on paternity leave) homered in his first at bat after six weeks on the injured list. But in the 4th inning Jorge Soler hit a 2-run homer once again, and the Marlins held on to win it, 4-3. And on Thursday, the Nats rallied with 2 runs in the top of the 8th inning, but Keibert Ruiz grounded into a double play, and the Nats blew their chance to at least tie the game. Final score: 5-3, as the Marlins swept the Nationals in the games straight. It was only the second series sweep loss for the Nats this year, and the first was in similar circumstances, as that other team from Florida rallied with 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to win the game on April 4.
On Friday, the Detroit Tigers arrived at Nationals Park, and rookie pitcher Jake Irvin gave up a home run to the very first batter, Jake McKinstry. By the time Irvin was replaced in the 3rd inning, the Tigers were ahead 6-0. By the middle of the 6th inning it was 8-0, and it's hard to imagine how dismal the atmosphere must have been in the Nats dugout. But then a miracle happened: in both the 6th and 7th innings the Nats scored three runs, and in both cases a runner was left on second base. (In the 7th inning, three consecutive outs followed a double by Alex Call.) It was a respectable final score (8-6), but it easily could have been one of their biggest comebacks ever. On Saturday Patrick Corbin gave up a 2-run homer in the first inning, but he held the line for the next five innings while his team mates came through at the plate, and he earned his third win of the season. That was the fourth straight quality start for Corbin, who now has a lower ERA (4.47) than the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins (5.05) -- believe it or not!! In yesterday's game, Josiah Gray had poor control and gave up 6 walks, but just barely got out of multiple jams so that he could make it through five innings with his team ahead. Home runs by Riley Adams and Ildemaro Vargas (both second-stringers) and a 4-for-5 day for Jeimer Candelario assured the Nats win, 6-4. That gave the Nationals their third series win of the month, against two series losses and one series tie (2-2).
Today the Nats get to rest and prepare for the San Diego Padres, who will begin a three-game series in Washington tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how the fans in D.C. react to Juan Soto, who has recently improved (8 HRs, .248 average) after a dismal first month. Two of the New Nats (Joey Meneses and Lane Thomas) have a batting average in the .290s range, and Thomas has hit 6 home runs.
While we're on the subject of former Nats players, I should mention Phillie slugger Kyle Schwarber's first-inning grand slam against the visiting Chicago Cubs on Sunday. His batting average is only .174, however, and his team mate Trea Turner (also an ex-Nat) is only batting [.257]. Bryce Harper is slowly improving after his long recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Forbes Field update!!??
Have you ever read the book Moby Dick? Me neither. But I do know that it is about a whaling ship captain who becomes so obsessed with vanquishing this one particular whale that it totally consumes his life by the end. It's a classic tragedy, a "cautionary tale" about setting unrealistically high goals in life.
Forbes Field is my Moby Dick. It is (or was) an exquisite ballpark with nice aesthetic adornments (such as patterned brick exterior) and numerous quirks in the layout. It deserves the very best. In spite of the fact that hundreds of articles and a number of books have been written about it over the year, my quest to render it with the appropriate accuracy and detail has repeatedly fallen short. Every time I get close to solving the big riddle, some new piece of evidence (or lack of crucial evidence) confounds my endeavor to complete a set of historical diagrams for it. (The same kind of problems have plagued me with Griffith Stadium, from the same era of "classical" ballparks, holding me back there.) Instead, I keep opting for the "path of least resistance," updating the diagrams of stadiums for which there is more supporting evidence or fewer mysterious quirks to unravel. In recent months (especially the last couple weeks) I have concentrated on revamping ALL my diagrams with a larger image size so that big stadiums (e.g. Yankee, Candlestick) won't have to be "truncated" to fit within the standard 500 W x 480 H pixel dimensions. This "new standard" (600 W x 600 H) will also leave more room around the periphery for the side-view profiles, all (or nearly all) of which will eventually be mutually commensurable, so that you can compare the profiles as well as the top-view diagram of the stadium itself.
Well, yesterday I decided that enough is enough, and that my yearning for a high degree of accuracy was unfairly depriving fans of this site from seeing the "work in progress." Accordingly, I swallowed my pride and posted a set of updated (but still flawed) diagrams on the Forbes Field page, labeled "2022," which is when I did the most recent tweaks to it. The "new" 1909 diagram now shows the original left field wall, before the Pirates acquired additional land in 1911. In additional, all the diagrams from 1911 forward show that the left field was angled inward slightly, not perpendicular to the left field foul line as I once thought. Those diagrams feature some of the newer detail enhancements that nearly all pages now include, such as entry portals in the bleachers and bullpen pitching rubbers and home plates, but not others. There are as yet no separate diagrams for the first deck or second deck without the roof. Please bear in mind that those diagrams do NOT reflect what is probably the biggest insight I have gained in recent years, which is that the diamond at Forbes Field was originally symmetrical with respect to the two main wings of the grandstand, and that the semi-final configuration dating from 1925 was actually "tilted" slightly. Taking care of that proved to be just too much in light of all the other things on my plate.
As an example of the extreme delay in getting this thing done, one critical piece of evidence can be found at post-gazette.com, but that link is several years old. Anyway, hat tips to both Bruce Orser and Mark London for that. Mark is the sponsor of that page,and I owe a big debt of gratitude to him for his patience and understanding. I will most assuredly finish this task and present a more accurate rendering of Forbes Field within the next few months! (Or else...)
Globe Life Field
Many thanks to Terry Wallace for sharing the photo he recently took at Globe Life Field. It shows very clearly the oddly "interrupted" upper deck on the first base side, where one of the big rails that holds the retractable roof sections is located. Like Marlins Park and T-Mobile Park, which also have retractable roofs, Globe Life Field is way too big to render within the standard diagram dimensions, and the new standard will make it much easier to see that stadium in its entirety.