April 21, 2006
The Busch Stadium III page is now finished, just in time for the weekend series in which the Cardinals host the arch-rival Cubs. The NL Central Division is proving to be extremely competitive so far this year, like the NL East was last year. Time will tell whether their sparkling new home ends up benefiting the Cardinals. Recent new ballparks in Cincinnati and Detroit did not help those teams much, at least not in their inaugural years. (Note that from now on I will put the thumbnail image in the blog text, rather than on the left side bar of the Baseball blog page.)
Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee broke two bones in his hand in a collision with Rafael Furcal, and will be on the disabled list for up to six weeks. Last year he led the National League in batting average (.335) and hit 46 homers, like Albert Pujols on the fast track to superstardom. That is a huge setback for the Cubs, who have been running neck and neck with the Astros since the beginning of the season.
The Nats' tenth-inning loss to the Phillies on Wednesday night was about as dismaying as you can get. After having built a three-run lead, with pitcher Livan Hernandez hitting a home run, a double, and a single, the Phillies tied it in the eighth inning. Livan stayed in the game for one inning too many, just like he did more than once last year. The Phils then won it in the tenth, 7-6. The Nationals' bounced back the next day, however, and their phenomenal performance in the rubber game on Thursday night showed that they just may be serious competitors this year after all. The Nats scored nine runs in the first two innings, and Nick Johnson hit two home runs, one of which landed several rows up in the right field second deck at Citizens Bank Park. That was about 390 feet horizontally from home plate, and about 40 feet up, so I figure it would have traveled about 440 feet. Colossal! Ryan Church failed to get a home run after doing so in three consecutive games. [Final score: 10-4.] The winning was pitcher Billy Traber, who was -- like Church -- just called up from New Orleans Zephyrs; see MLB.com. Welcome to the Big Leagues! Wouldn't it be great if the Nats lucked out with a fine new starting pitcher out of their own farm system? Tonight the Nationals host the Braves at RFK Stadium, hoping for their first victory at home this season.
Julio Franco, the ageless wonder, set the record as the oldest major leaguer ever to hit a home run last night, helping the Mets to beat the Padres and stay 3.5 games ahead in the NL East. He'll be 48 by the end of the season and says he looks forward to hitting a home run when he's 50. Well, his contract with the Mets lasts through next year; maybe the Braves will sign him up again after that. See MLB.com. Not to take anything away from his accomplishment, but I noticed that the ball fell into that odd protrusion in the right field corner at PETCO Park, or else it probably would have been just a double.