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July 9, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Schwarber gets hurt, Nats get swept

After the pivotal role he played in the Nationals' big rebound last month, the loss of Kyle Schwarber in the lineup has had a huge effect on the Nats's fortunes during the early part of this month. In the opening game of the four-game series against the Dodgers in Washington on Thursday July 1st, Schwarber once again ignited the offense with a first-inning leadoff double, but the run he soon scored was one of only two for the Nats that day. Patrick Corbin did very well as pitcher until the fifth inning, when the Dodgers scored five runs. Final score: 6-2. On Friday Max Scherzer took the mound and once again lived up to his All-Star caliber standards. (For some incomprehensible reason, however, he was not selected for the 2021 All-Star Game.) He struck out eight and only gave up one run over six innings, but the bullpen immediately crumpled in the seventh inning, as the Dodgers scored nine (9) runs. Argh!!! Final score: 10-5.

The worst part of that game, however, was that Kyle Schwarber pulled a hamstring while rounding first base, and immediately left the game. He was put on the ten-day Injured List, so he might be back soon after the All-Star break. Such injuries are often dicey, however, and we won't really know his status for at least another week.

On Saturday, Josh Harrison filled in as leadoff batter and left fielder, while the Nats acquired Alcides Escobar from the Kansas City Royals. (Escobar has taken Harrison's place at second base.) Paolo Espino was having an OK night pitching until a lengthy rain delay in the fifth inning put an end to his evening on the mound. The Dodgers scored a couple runs in the latter innings and won that one too, 5-3. On Sunday, the Fourth of July (game time 11:05 AM!), the Nats took a 1-0 lead in the third inning thanks to Starlin Castro's RBI single, but the Dodgers came right back to tie it. Starting pitcher Joe Ross was having one of his best games of the year, striking out eleven batters over six-plus innings, but then he gave up an RBI single to aging superstar Albert Pujols, and that proved to be all the Dodgers needed. They won the game 5-1, thereby completing a four-game sweep of the home team on a quite disappointing Independence Day in D.C.

Nats get thwarted in San Diego

Then the Nationals headed to the west coast to face the San Diego Padres in another grueling four-game series with a highly competitive team. Thanks to the acquisitions of infielder Manny Machado and pitcher Yu Darvish, the Padres have been highly competitive in the National League West Division this year. They even held first place for a while earlier in the season, but have slumped a little recently. On Monday Jon Lester only lasted into the fourth inning as pitcher for the Nats, but home runs by Trea Turner (back from a short stint on the IL) and Josh Bell proved to be the decisive edge in the Nats' 7-5 victory. On Tuesday Erick Fedde had a mediocre day on the mound, giving up six runs in less than five innings. As a starting pitcher, he has sometimes been excellent and sometimes not this year. In spite of homers by Josh Harrison and Juan Soto, the Padres won that game, 7-4. On Wednesday Patrick Corbin was dominant for seven innings, only allowing two runs to the home team. Juan Soto homered again, while "the two Joshes" (Bell and Harrison) had three hits apiece in the offensive eruption. Final score: Nats 15, Padres 5. smile

Last night (Thursday) started out great for the Nationals, and thanks in part to Trea Turner's two home runs, they had an 8-0 lead going into the bottom of the fourth inning. That's when Fernando Tatis Jr. put his team on the board with a leadoff home run. That apparently rattled the Nats' pitcher Max Scherzer, who proceeded to hit two of the next four batters, while another one hit a single. Nerves began [to] tighten across Nats Land when he walked in a run with the bases loaded, but since the next batter was a backup pitcher who had just been called up from the minor leagues, what's the worst that could happen? You guessed correctly, a #&@$%! grand slam! The batter, Daniel Camarena, had never even gotten a hit in the major leagues before, and Max Scherzer had never given up a home run to the opposing pitcher throughout his entire career. So, you might say it was an unlikely event. The pitch he hit was a bit low and inside, reminding me of when Howie Kendrick hit such a pitch for a home run to give the Nats the lead in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. How Camarena connected with that pitch is a mystery. The score was now 8-6, and all depended on whether Scherzer would compose himself and get out of the inning with the (shrunken) lead intact. He did not. The next batter, Tommy Pham, doubled, and Max was replaced by Kyle Finnegan, who gave up an RBI single to Tatis, and the margin was now only one run. Two innings later, Pham doubled again, driving in the tying run. The Nats failed to score any runs in the latter innings, and in the bottom of the ninth, relief pitcher Sam Clay (who was culpable in the fourth-inning debacle in the July 2nd game), gave up a walk and two hits, including the game-winning single hit by Trent Grisham. The Padres won it 9-8 after being behind 8-0 in the middle of the fourth inning. It was one of the worst collapses in Nationals' history, ruining what could have been an uplifting series win against a very good team. frown Instead, the Nats and Padres split the series two games apiece.

As a result, the Nats fell into a tie for third place, and facing the division-leading Giants in San Francisco tonight, things are not looking much better...


July 1, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Super Schwarber sparks Nats' amazing upsurge

After stumbling a bit in Miami over the weekend (see below), the Washington Nationals have drawn closer to their rivals the New York Mets in the race for the National League East title. On Monday they played the first of three makeup games against the Mets necessitated by the postponement of the scheduled early April series in Washington. Since the #5 starting pitcher Erick Fedde was placed on the Injured List, Paolo Espino was tapped to fill in for him, and just like in the game I saw on June 16, he rose to the occasion again and got the win. Kyle Schwarber hit yet another leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning, and the #2 batter Trea Turner did likewise. In the second inning, Gerardo "Baby Shark" Parra, recently called up from the minor leagues, hit his first MLB homer of the year, and in the fifth inning, Schwarber hit a second solo homer. In the top of the eighth inning, the Mets closed the gap with two homers of their own, but in bottom of the inning, Ryan Zimmerman hit a long three-run homer into the Red Porch seats, securing the Nats' 8-4 win. That brought the Nats to within three games of the Mets in the NL East race.

Schwarber's June homers

Believe it or not, for the first eleven days of the month, Kyle Schwarber did not hit any home runs. Then manager Davey Martinez decided to move him into the leadoff spot, which seemed strange for a batter known more for power than batting average or speed. Well, it turned out to have worked out very well, to say the least! For the rest of the month, Schwarber made history becoming just the third player ever to hit 16 home runs within an 18-day period. The other two, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, have big asterisks next to their records, and one may easily conclude that Schwarber really stands alone in this regard. [With 25 home runs this year, he now ranks #4 in the major leagues, one behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres), and three behind the Angels' incredible slugging pitcher Shohei Ohtani, who has hit five more homers in the last seven games.] Perhaps the most jaw-dropping aspect of Schwarber's hot streak is that seven of those 16 homers were in the first inning! He hit two home runs in three games over that span, and three home runs in one game. He hit home runs in ten games overall between June 12 and 29, nine of which the Nationals won. I happened to see (on June 16) one of the nine games during that period in which Schwarber did not homer. Here's a quick listing:

Date Inning Nationals'
score
Opponent
("@" = away)
Opponents'
score
smile June 12 1st 2 SF 0
smile June 13 1st 5 SF 0
June 13 2nd " " "
smile June 14 7th 3 PIT 2
smile June 19 1st 6 NYM 2
June 19 4th " " "
smile June 20 1st 5 NYM 2
June 20 5th " " "
June 20 7th " " "
smile June 23 5th 13 @ PHI 12
smile June 24 1st 7 @ MIA 3
June 24 2nd " @ " "
frown June 25 3rd 2 @ MIA 11
smile June 28 1st 8 NYM 4
June 28 5th " " "
smile June 29 1st 4 TB 3

smile = Nationals victory; frown = Nationals defeat
Scores and opponents are shown once per game only; ditto marks indicate multiple home runs by Schwarber within one game.

Kyle Schwarber

Kyle Schwarber at bat in the fifth inning at Nationals Park on June 16. In the first inning, he hit a leadoff single, but this time he flew out to left field.

Kyle Schwarber

In left field, Kyle Schwarber catches a fly ball hit by Gregory Polanco for the third out in the top of the sixth inning.

Nats split with Marlins

Last Thursday the Nationals flew down to Miami to play Marlins, almost coinciding with the apocalyptic collapse of that condominium building north of Miami beach. Joe Ross had one of his best nights on the mound this year, allowing just two runs over seven innings. Two more home runs by Kyle Schwarber proved to be decisive in the Nats' 7-3 win. The first one landed several rows up in the upper deck near the right field corner, and the second one landed just beyond the center field fence, in a spot that would have been in play before they shortened the center field dimension a few years ago. In Friday's game, pitcher Jon Lester was just awful, and he later expressed deep frustration over not being able to command the ball. He was replaced during the third inning, by which time the Marlins were way ahead. Kyle Schwarber's home run was of little consequence. Final score: Marlins 11, Nats 2. On Saturday, Patrick Corbin completed six innings on the mound, but the Nats only scored two runs, losing in a close one. Sunday was Max Scherzer's turn to pitch for the Nationals, and he came through once again. Home runs by Trea Turner and Josh Bell (both with one runner on base, both in the sixth inning) gave the Nationals the winning edge in the 5-1 final score. Thus ended the 2-2 series split.

Nats take two from Rays

On Tuesday night the Nats welcomed to town the Tampa Bay Rays, who until recently had been leading the AL East Division. (The Red Sox pulled ahead last week.) Joe Ross was effective once again, but the real difference was -- surprise? -- another leadoff home run by Kyle Schwarber. Trea Turner then doubled and Juan Soto homered, giving the Nats a 3-0 lead before an out had been made. Victor Robles homered in the second inning, and then the Nats just kind of took it easy. Closing pitcher Brad Hand took the mound in the ninth inning, and promptly gave up a home run to Mike Zunino, making it a 4-3 ball game, but then the next three Marlins batters flew out or lined out to end the game. On Wednesday the big star was Trea Turner, who singled, doubled, homered, and (in the sixth inning) tripled to the right field corner to complete his third career "cycle," tying the all-time MLB record for that rare accomplishment. Two Washington Nationals, Brad Wilkerson (2005) and Cristian Guzman (2008) previously hit for the cycle. In the fifth inning, Jordy Mercer hit his first home run with the Nationals, and Starlin Castro did so one inning later. Jon Lester got the win even though he gave up five runs over five innings on the mound. Final score: 15-6. That put the Nationals (40-38) two games over .500 for the first time this year, and brought them to just two games behind the Mets.

For the month of June, the Nationals finished 17-9, an amazing improvement over their 11-17 performance in May. If ever one man made a decisive difference in a team's fortunes, this was it: Kyle Schwarber! The latest hard data and assorted useful factoids have been posted on the Washington Nationals page.

Tom Boswell retires

Long-time Washington Post sportswriter Tom Boswell has retired as of the end of June, and today's paper featured a series of tributes to him by colleagues and various sports notables, along with his final column, "The joy of sports can't quite be explained, but you can happily spend a lifetime trying." For most of his career in Washington, he was without a hometown baseball team to report on, but since the arrival of the Nationals in D.C. in 2005 he has relished covering first-hand the grandest sport of them all. I will miss his thoughtful and uplifting observations about the Washington Nationals and other sporting teams.


June 23, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Red-hot Nationals surge into third second place

I picked a very good day to see a ball game in Washington one week ago. Actually, my old friend Dave Givens picked that particular date, an afternoon game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Day games are always more fun. The weather was perfect, and the Nats were on a roll. Once again, I underestimated the traffic delays crossing the 14th Street bridge into Washington, and we passed through the gates just as the first pitch had been thrown. In the second inning, Yan Gomes smashed a line drive solo home run to left field, after which neither team scored for the next four innings. In the bottom of the seventh, Juan Soto drew a walk and then Josh Bell homered to right field, adding two insurance runs that proved to be the winning margin.

Nationals Park from 3B UD, June 16, 2021

It was "a beautiful day in the neighborhood" of South Capitol Street in Washington on Wednesday one week ago.

Paolo Espino

Paolo Espino was masterful for five solid innings, getting his very first major league win at age 34. (He also did pretty well this afternoon, getting a save in a tense back-and-forth slugfest against the Phillies.)

Josh Bell & Juan Soto, June 16, 2021

A gleeful Juan Soto greets Josh Bell, who had just hit a home run.

The bullpen buckled a little bit, giving up six hits and one run in the final three innings, but they got the outs when they absolutely had to. Usual closing pitcher Brad Hand relieved Kyle Finnegan in the eighth inning, and labored through five outs to earn the save. After the first two batters were out in the ninth inning, the next two singled, raising the tension level in the stands, but then Adam Frazier hit an infield dribbler for the final out. [Final score: Nats 3, Pirates 1.] SWEEP! Even though it was a smallish crowd by normal standards [16,781 attendance], that game signified a steady "return to normalcy," with live fans providing stimulative feedback to the players. I was a bit surprised that there were relatively little few warnings about covid-19, and although stadium employees were wearing masks, hardly any fans did.

What was perhaps a bit strange was the large number of players with whom I was not familiar. That's partly due to the fact that some of them started with the Nats last year, when none of us could actually attend games. In the montage below, I photographed seven of the players for the first time. (I was hoping to see third baseman Starlin Castro -- one of the heroes in today's game -- but he took emergency leave to deal with some kind of family problem.) The first nine players constituted the Nationals' starting lineup on June 16, and the last one (Josh Harrison) is the usual second baseman but only played in the final two innings, at third base.

Nationals lineup on June 16, 2021

TOP ROW (L to R):
Kyle Schwarber (LF), Trea Turner (SS), Juan Soto (RF), Josh Bell (1B), Yan Gomes * (C)

BOTTOM ROW (L to R):
Luis Garcia * (2B), Jordy Mercer (3B, 1B), Victor Robles (CF), Paolo Espino * (P), Josh Harrison (3B; played in the 8th & 9th innings, but no at-bats)

Underlined names indicate players who are new to the Nationals' roster this year.
* Asterisks indicate players who joined the Nationals last year, when taking photos was not possible.

Several of the above photos have been incorporated (in very small size) on the Washington Nationals page.

Nationals pitchers, June 16, 2021

Six of the Nationals' pitchers, including the entire regular starting rotation, came out of the dugout to congratulate their team mates on the victory: Joe Ross, Stephen Strasburg*, Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer*, Erick Fedde (#23), and Jon Lester. In the upper right are Josh Bell, Alex Avila, Yan Gomes, and Ryan Zimmerman (#11).

* Then on the Injured List; Scherzer returned to the active roster on June 22.

Showdown with Mets

After a day off on Thursday, the Nationals welcomed the New York Mets to town. Erick Fedde had one of his best outings ever, striking out six batters over seven innings without giving up a run. Neither team scored until the bottom of the ninth, when Ryan Zimmerman hit a clutch single that advanced the runner on first to third base, after which Yan Gomes got the game-winning RBI with a single. That made it five wins in a row! The Nats' winning streak came to an end on Saturday afternoon, as their starting pitcher Joe Ross gave up all five runs to the Mets in a truncated seven inning double-header game. But in the second game, Jon Lester was superb for six innings as his former Cub team mate Kyle Schwarber hit two home runs in a 6-2 victory. On Sunday Patrick Corbin was the Nats' starting pitcher, and he repeated what Lester had done, giving up just [two] runs over six innings on the mound. The Amazing Kyle Schwarber hit three more home runs, but two of them were solo shot, so the Nats' victory margin (5-2) was smaller than you might expect. He thus tied a major league record for hitting five home runs in a two-day span. For this superhuman achievement, he was named as the National League Player of the Week!

Way to go, Kyle Schwarber!!!

Thus, the Nats beat the first-place Mets three games out of four, coming to within three games of the division leaders. The NL East race is becoming extremely tight!

Showdown with Phillies

After resting on Monday, the Nats headed to Philadelphia to confront the Phillies. Back from the Injured List, Max Scherzer pitched five innings, getting eight strikeouts, and thanks mainly to Yan Gomes, who got two RBIs, the Nats won in a nail-biter of a finish, 3-2. This afternoon, Erick Fedde had a rough outing, giving up five runs over four innings, but [thanks to yet another Kyle Schwarber home run (with two on base)] the Nats came right back to tie it, 5-5. Both teams had grand slams over the next inning, including one by Josh Bell, and after more back-and-forth drama, the Nats finally won it 13-12 thanks to a clutch 2-run single by Starlin Castro in the ninth inning. Once again, Brad Hand [OOPS: The photo caption above is correct: Paolo Espino] got the save -- just barely!

That means the Nats (35-36) are now ahead of the Phillies [34-37] in the NL East, and pending the result of the Mets-Braves game later tonight, the Nats may end up in sole possession of second place. [UPDATE: The Braves lost! The Nats] have won nine out of their last ten games, and with the momentum on their side, anything is possible as the middle of the season approaches.


June 16, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Nationals struggle to climb out of NL East "cellar"

The Washington Nationals just emerged from two series against the respectively highest-ranked teams in the two leagues -- the Tampa Bay Rays and the San Francisco Giants, and in some respects they performed surprisingly well for a last-place team. But since it's been a while since my last baseball blog post, let's first do a quick rundown of the last month...

On Friday, May 7, the Nationals arrived in New York City to face the Yankees, and thanks to home runs by Josh Bell, Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison, and Juan Soto, they overcame the hosts, 11-4. It was tied 3-3 until they Nats scored six runs in the eighth inning. It was a great way to rebound after being swept at home by the Braves, but the momentum was ruined by a blown save in Saturday's game. Max Scherzer pitched 7 1/3 solid innings and exited the game with a 2-1 lead. But in the bottom of the ninth, Nats' closer Brad Hand walked the leadoff batter and gave up two singles, thus tying the game. In the tenth inning, the Nats went back ahead, 3-2, but then the Yankees scored twice to win it in walk-off fashion. Final score: 4-3. Why Davey Martinez kept Hand on the mound after having blown the save an inning before is a mystery to me. In the Sunday game, Kyle Schwarber hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to tie the game 2-2, but Brad Hand gave up the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Yankees emerged with a series win.

Next came a home series against the Phillies, who won on Tuesday May 11 by a score of 6-2. It was a close game (3-2) until relief pitcher Kyle Finnegan gave up three runs on three hits and two walks in the eighth inning. On Wednesday, Jon Lester was in line for the win after pitching six innings of one-run ball, but Brad Hand blew the save in the ninth inning and then gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the tenth inning. He took the loss in a most unfortunate 5-2 defeat for the Nats. On Thursday the 13th both Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell hit two-run homers in the first inning, and the Nationals hung on to win it, 5-1. Patrick Corbin struck out nine batters over seven full innings on the mound, a big improvement for him.

Then the Nationals flew to Arizona to play the last-place Diamondbacks. The 17-2 victory on Friday May 14 marked their highest score of the season thus far. Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and Andrew Stevenson all homered, and Max Scherzer pitched five innings to get an easy win. But on Saturday Joe Ross had a tough time on the mound, giving up three runs in the first inning, and eight altogether over four innings. The Nats lost that one, 11-4. In Sunday's game, Erick Fedde had a much better outing, with seven innings of shutout pitching. Yadiel Hernandez homered, and Trea Turner went three for four at the plate in the 3-0 victory.

On Monday May 17th the Nationals began a four-game series at Wrigley Field, against the Cubs, who were in the midst of an upsurge after a slow start to the season. Former Cub Jon Lester took the loss for the Nats in the 7-3 game. On Tuesday Patrick Corbin started but got a no-decision after reliever gave up two runs in the sixth inning. The Cubs won that one too, 6-3. Wednesday's game went much better, as Max Scherzer got the win after pitching five innings in a 4-3 victory. Juan Soto's solo homer in the fifth inning proved to be the decisive score of the game. On Thursday the Nats took a 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to homers by Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, but Joe Ross gave up four runs (two unearned, thanks to errors by Starlin Castro) and was charged with the loss in the 5-2 final score.

The Nationals haven't had much to brag about so far this season, but the three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend was a small step in the right direction. The series opener on Friday was marked by the return of Stephen Strasburg after being on the Injured List for over a month. His last game was April 13, when he was pulled during the fifth inning in an ugly loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. His sore shoulder seems to be healed, as he went five and a third innings without giving up any runs in a 4-2 victory over the O's. Josh Bell got three hits that night, and Kyle Schwarber doubled twice; both those players have been showing signs of improvement after a disappointing first month with the Nationals. On Saturday night, Jon Lester had a rough first inning, as the Orioles scored four runs. But the Nats immediately came back and got three runs of their own. In the fourth inning, tied the game 6-6, and then Ryan Zimmerman came up to bat with two runners on base. Boom! He launched a home run that gave the Nats a 9-6 lead that they would not relinquish. Final score: Nats 12, Orioles 9. On Sunday, Patrick Corbin pitched just well enough, and a Kyle Schwarber home run boosted the home team in a 6-5 win that completed the sweep. Brad Hand gave up a home run in the top of the ninth, another nerve-wracking performance.

I checked my Washington Nationals annual pages and found that only twice in the 16 years that the Nationals and Orioles have played each other (2006-2020) have the Nationals come out ahead in their interleague series: 2007 (4-2) and 2018 (5-1). The Orioles have prevailed in eight of those years, and in five of those years they have split evenly. Including this year, the cumulative total in head-to-head matchups is 35 wins for the Nats and 45 wins for the Orioles.

On Tuesday May 25th, the Nationals welcomed the Cincinnati Reds to town, with a special pre-game ceremony honoring their former closing pitcher Sean Doolittle, who now pitches for the Reds. Max Scherzer took the mound for the Nats and once again performed superbly, striking out nine and giving up just two runs (both homers) over seven innings. Unfortunately, his team mates failed to score any runs until the ninth inning, when Josh Bell hit a solo homer to cut the visiting team's lead in half. And that was it. Final score: Red 2, Nats 1. The Wednesday night game was halted in the middle of the fourth inning, and after a three-hour wait, they decided to suspend the game until Thursday afternoon. Very annoying for the fans!!! The Nats eventually won that one, 5-3. Because of the double-header, the originally-scheduled game was cut to seven innings, and the Nats lost it, 3-0.

After the Friday game was rained out, the Nats began a series against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers with another double-header on Saturday. Patrick Corbin gave up all four runs in the afternoon game, while all the Nats could manage was a solo homer by Kyle Schwarber. In the nightcap, Jon Lester pitched solidly for almost six innings, but the bullpen faltered and the Nats lost again, 6-2. On Sunday Max Scherzer took the mound and did his job, striking out ten batters while giving up just two runs over six innings. His team mates failed to score at all, however, and then 3-0 loss sealed a series sweep at the hands of the Brew Crew.

The Nats then flew to Atlanta to play the Braves, losing the series opener 5-3. Joe Ross took the loss once again. The next day (June 1st), however, the Nats ended their losing streak even though Stephen Strasburg had to exit the game in the second inning due to a tight shoulder or back muscle. He may be out for another few weeks, a big blow to the Nats' hopes of a mid-season rebound. But the bullpen rallied and kept the Braves under control while Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto led a big offensive campaign in the 11-6 win. The Nationals also won the next day, 5-3, thanks to solid pitching by Jon Lester and homers by Juan Soto and Yan Gomes. But in the series finale, the offense fell flat again, and the Nats lost, 5-1. Patrick Corbin took the loss.

The Nationals flew to Philadelphia on Friday, June 4th, and beat the Phillies 2-1 in a classic pitchers' duel in which Max Scherzer (nine strikeout) came out on top. The Nats lost on both Saturday (5-2 final score, loss charged to Joe Ross) and Sunday (12-6 final score, loss charged to Austin Voth).

After a much-needed day of rest (and airline travel), Nats arrived in St. Petersburg, Florida. The first-place Tampa Bay Rays beat them in the first game, 3-1, but the Nationals bounced back in the second and final game of the series with a much-needed 9-7 extra-inning victory. Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, and Juan Soto homered as well, but those heroic feats were almost squandered by the bullpen. The Nats scored twice in the tenth inning, after which Brad Hand blew the save (once again), and in the eleventh inning Starlin Castro doubled in the go-ahead run and later scored himself. Whew!

Back in Washington at long last, Thursday night's game against the Giants was rained out, so the four-game series began on Friday instead. Max Scherzer had to leave the game in the first inning, due to a pulled groin muscle. It was a bad omen, but nevertheless the bullpen pulled together in one of their best performances ever. Sadly, the Nats just couldn't get hits when they needed them, and they lost, 1-0. On Saturday afternoon, Kyle Schwarber homered in the first inning, while Erick Fedde had a great outing, striking out seven batters in five innings. Final score: Nats 2, Giants 0. On Saturday night, a newby by the name of Jefry Rodriguez took the mound for the Nats, and did just fine, pitching four scoreless innings. Neither team scored until the eighth inning, when the Giants got two runs and the Nats came back with one run. Final score: 2-1. On Sunday, Joe Ross finally delivered a top-notch performance, striking out nine batters over eight innings. It was an amazing turnaround compared to his earlier outings this year. Two more home runs by Kyle Schwarber were more than enough to seal the 5-0 victory, as the Nats earned a split with the top National League team. If things had gone just a little bit different, the Nats could have swept all four of those games!

On Monday, the Nats and Pirates were locked in a close game with the score at 2-2 until Kyle Schwarber hit a solo homer to take the lead. Yes, he did it again!! Last night, Yan Gomes hit a grand slam in the first inning (the 67th in team history), giving the home team a 5-0 lead, and the Nationals went on to beat the Pirates 8-1. Patrick Corbin had another fine outing, after struggling earlier in the season, and came within two outs of pitching a complete game. The Nats will go for a series sweep later this afternoon, and I'll be there!

Pythagorean winning percentages

An article in the latest edition of the Society of American Baseball Research Journal compared the actual winning percentages to the Pythagorean-predicted winning percentages over the past century-plus. So, I set out to make those computations for the Washington Nationals, extracting the annual run totals for each year since 2005. (I have kept annual spreadsheets with the scores and home attendances for all Nats' games since the very beginning.)

Wash. Nats winning pct 2005-2021

NOTE: This table will be updated at the end of the 2021 season; the preliminary version displayed only included games through June 9, when the actual winning percentage was 43.1% and the Pythagorean-predicted winning percentage was 44.3%.

Two more no-hitters!

The pace at which no-hitters are occurring this year is rather stunning. On May 18, Spencer Turnbull of the Detroit Tigers no-hit the Mariners in Seattle, and the very next night, Corey Kluber of the New York Yankees no-hit the Texas Rangers in Globe Life Field. That makes six (6) no-hitters so far this year! None have been registered in June, as far as I know, but the rising trend of no-hitters has gotten widespread attention.

Baseball in Washington

I happened to be in Washington on June 6, when the Nationals were out of town, but I drove past venerable old RFK Stadium on the way downtown, and took a few photos in the mid-afternoon, including this one. Lighting conditions would be better in the morning. RFK Stadium is now essentially vacant, and may be demolished some time in the next year or two. With so many great baseball, football, and soccer games having been played there, it's sad to contemplate RFK Stadium's eventual demise.

RFK Stadium, Capitol, Washington Mon. 2021

RFK Stadium, U.S. Capitol, and Washington Monument, as seen from East Capitol Street on the east of the Anacostia River, June 6, 2021.


May 7, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Nats surge to first place, fall to last

In the evenly-matched National League East Division, only a small margin separates the best teams from the -- ahem -- others. The Washington Nationals swept the Miami Marlins at home last weekend, earning them a share of first place, and after the Mets lost on Monday (when the Nats were resting), they briefly held sole possession of first place. But then the Atlanta Braves came to town, beating the Nationals three times in a row. As a result, the Nats have fallen to fifth place, and the precious momentum they had built in recent weeks ground to a screeching halt.

In last Saturday's game, Patrick Corbin had his best outing of the year, giving up just two runs over seven innings. Yan Gomes homered, and Josh Bell finally broke out of his lengthy slump, batting in four runs. Final score: Nats 7, Marlines 2. On Sunday, Max Scherzer took the mound and soon laid to rest any fears that his previous outing (April 27 vs. the Blue Jays) might portend a trend. He pitched a full nine innings, with nine strikeouts, and did not allow a run until the final frame when Isan Diaz hit a leadoff homer. For the Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman provided all of the offensive firepower, with a three-run homer in the third inning. Nats 3, Marlins 1. Sweep! smile

On Tuesday night, the Braves came to Washington, and the first five innings were a classic pitchers' duel between the Nats' Joe Ross and the Braves Huascar Ynoa. Ronald Acuñ hit a solo homer in the fifth inning, and Ross was relieved an inning later as the Braves got a rally going. But Tanner Rainey completely lost control, as the Braves' pitcher (Ynoa) hit a grand slam to take a 6-0 lead. The Nats scored once in the seventh inning, and that was it. On Wednesday, the Nats' young Erick Fedde gave up home runs in the third and fourth innings, and the Nats' attempts to catch up fell short, as the visitors won again, 5-3. In the Thursday afternoon series finale (broadcast by YouTube), Jon Lester had another decent outing (his second this year), but the Braves got clutch RBIs when they needed it, while the Nats let multiple run-scoring opportunities slip by. It didn't help when, with two outs and two runners on base, the umpire called Victor Robles out on a very low pitch to end the eighth inning. Manager Davey Martinez only objected briefly; he should have really let that umpire (Nick Mahrley) have it. Ryan Zimmerman led off the bottom of the ninth with a line drive double to the left field corner, but he (or his pinch runner) never made it past third base as the next three batters were each out. Final score: Braves 3, Nationals 2. Sweep! frown

Two more no-hitters!!!

In Seattle on Wednesday, Baltimore Orioles' pitcher John Means threw a no-hitter to beat the Mariners 6-0, and it would have been a perfect game if a batter (Sam Haggerty) had not reached first base on a third strike wild pitch in the third inning. Means now has a 4-0 record, with an ERA of 1.37 -- fourth best in the majors!

And in Cleveland earlier this evening, Wade Miley went the full nine innings without allowing a hit as his team (the Cincinnati Reds) beat the Indians, 3-0. Miley is now 4-2 with a 2.00 ERA. It's a very odd trend that so many no-hitters are happening this year, even more than in recent years...

Superdome super-duper update

Superdome

Prompted by having seen it with my own eyes two months ago, I made some major revisions to the (Mercedes Benz)* Superdome diagrams. While reading up on the history of the architectural marvel, I came across an important figure: the diameter of the dome is 680 feet. I realized that the existing diagram -- which I did in 2013 -- was too big (it indicated a dome diameter of 700 feet), so I set out to do some corrections. Along the way I realized that there were multiple seating configurations for football games in the pre-2011 era when the lower deck was movable. So, there is now a "standard" football diagram as well as a "modified" one, which seems to pertain to Super Bowls or perhaps other special games. There are now separate lower-deck diagrams for football and baseball, highlighting how the lower deck was shifted for the two sports, as well as an "opaque roof" diagram that shows the eight gates (A - H) and the adjacent streets. For a long time I was uncertain about the precise orientation of the football and baseball fields, but by using my Fodor's/USA Today Four Sport Stadium guide, some online sources, and my own photos, I was able to reach the proper deduction. Elementary!?

* The ten-year stadium naming rights contract with Mercedes Benz ends this year, and I am not aware if a renewal is expected. Given that Mercedes Benz has a stadium naming rights contract with another NFL team (the Atlanta Falcons), my guess is that they will let this one slide.

Stadiums in New Orleans

While not of great importance to baseball per se, my interest in the other stadiums was piqued by having visited New Orleans for the first time a few weeks ago. Almost all sports fans are familiar with the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Cotton Bowl stadiums (as opposed to the events bearing those names), but I only had a vague idea about the traditional venue of the Sugar Bowl. Tulane Stadium, a massive oval with a small upper deck, hosted the Sugar Bowl from 1935 until 1974, after which the Superdome opened, and it also hosted the Super Bowl in 1970, 1972, and 1975. Tulane Stadium seated over 80,000 fans, which was far more than Tulane University's football team would ever need, so it was obviously expanded specifically for the Sugar Bowl. After the Superdome opened in 1976, it was abandoned and then demolished in 1980. Tulane's football team played in the Superdome from 1976 until Yulman Stadium was built (just north of where Tulane Stadium had previously been) in 1999.

What about baseball? Zephyr Field was built in the western suburb of Metairie, Louisiana, in 1997, and was home of the New Orleans Zephyrs until the team changed its name to the Baby Cakes in 2017. At the same time, the stadium was renamed "Shrine on Airline," its previous nickname. Unfortunately, New Orleans bore the brunt of the big contraction of minor league teams, and the franchise relocated to Wichita after 2019. As a result, that relatively new 10,000-seat stadium now is essentially abandoned.

Previously, New Orleans had a minor league team called the Pelicans from 1901-1959 (AA), and in 1977 (AAA). For whatever reason, baseball just never developed a strong presence in the Big Easy, which suggests that the whole idea of making the Superdome adaptable to baseball use was probably a Big Mistake.

Finally, the Tulane University baseball team has played at Turchin Stadium (subsequently appended with "Greer Field at"), just north of Yulman Stadium, since 1991.

New Orleans stadiums




From October through December, a table of all Postseason game scores is shown here.


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Baseball books:


See Sources for a brief description of the above books. Also see more specialized books on the Ebbets Field, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium pages.





Coming Attractions

General diagrams
to be updated:

General diagrams
yet to be created:

City map/diagrams
yet to be created:
"Site today" diagrams
yet to be created:

(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)


Stadium construction

Soon after the 2017 opening of the new home of the Atlanta Braves (SunTrust Park), construction began on the future home of the Texas Rangers, a very brief lapse. The last significant lapse occurred from March 2012 (when Marlins Park was completed), September 2014 (when construction on SunTrust Park began). Before that, there was at least one major league baseball stadium under construction continually from September 1986 until March 2012. Both the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays hope to get public funding for a new stadium, but near-term prospects are bleak.

NEW! Stadium construction page, with a chronology of the past 30 years.


Research department: