May 30, 2010 [LINK / comment]
For the second time in less than a month, a Major League pitcher has thrown a perfect game: Roy Halladay, who led the Philadelphia Phillies to a 1-0 victory over the Florida Marlins in Miami. He had to struggle at several points, but got through six full counts without cracking under the pressure. The only run in the game was off an outfielder's error, and therefore not an earned run. The Phillies have been in a bit of a slump lately, barely clinging to first place in the NL East, and this triumph will help recharge their batteries. The fact that Halladay was let go by the Blue Jays after last year will be recalled with much bitterness in Toronto. As noted at MLB.com, the only other Phillies pitcher to throw a perfect game was Jim Bunning, in 1964. Bunning is now a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, but will retire at the end of the year.
This was the 20th official perfect game in Major League history, and this was only the second time ever that two perfect games have been pitched within the same month. (On May 9, Dallas Braden of the Oakland A's achieved pitching perfection.) The first time? June 1880 -- nearly 130 years ago!
The Washington Nationals played pretty well during the two series they just completed in San Francisco and San Diego, but not well enough. All six games were fairly close, but they just could not get the clutch plays necessary to prevail in either series. Against both the Giants and the Padres, they split the first two games, and were going neck-and-neck in the "rubber match" third games, but in both cases the home teams scored late-inning runs to tip the balance in an adverse direction.
In the Friday night game at San Diego, the Nats took the lead on a three-run homer by Josh Willingham in the fourth inning, and hung on to win, 5-3. It was a truly inspiring performance against the top team in the National League. (Why do the Nats have such a tough schedule, anyway?) That game was played under protest after the Padres' manager turned in a lineup card with a player who had just been sent back to the minors! Since the Nats won, it didn't matter. Today's Washington Post paid tribute to Willingham and his "torrid start" this season: "Steadiness and consistency have been Willingham's hallmarks since he arrived in Washington before last season." His batting average is a solid if unspectacular .275, but he has ten home runs (two behind the NL leader, Corey Hart), is tied for the NL lead in walks (37), and has a very high (.429) on-base percentage. That takes brawn and brains.
Today's game in San Diego was very tense and exciting throughout, but ended up as a big disappointment. Ryan Zimmerman ended his recent slump by crushing two home runs (#100 and #101 in his career), not at all easy to do in PETCO Park. His teammates failed to produce any more runs, however, and the game went into the 11th inning, tied 2-2, when a [deflected single by Lance Zawadzki]
double by Yorvit Torrealba and a single by Nick Hundley decided the outcome. As MASN sportscaster Ron Dibble pointed out, Hundley probably should have been called out on strikes to end the inning on the pitch before that single. Well, that's how baseball is some times.
As of today, the three Nationals sluggers -- Dunn, Zimmerman, and Willingham -- have exactly ten home runs each this year. At one-third of the way through the 2010 season, it's quite possible that all three of them will cross the 30-home run threshold by the end of the season. I hope the Nats front office is smart enough to offer extended contracts to both Willingham and Adam Dunn this summer. Don't wait until the trade deadline approaches, have faith in your players, and they will pay you back with even better performance.
One reason for the Nationals' recent slump is the absence of catcher Pudge Rodriguez, who strained his back muscle last week. He was put on the 15-day DL and is expected back on or about June 7. That's about when Stephen Strasburg is due to pitch his first game for the Nationals, probably against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In Motown, the field where Tiger Stadium once stood has become unsightly and overgrown with tall weeds, and with the city in bleak financial situation, that's a low priority for the city government. Thankfully, some local residents of the Corktown neighborhood took it upon themselves to cut the grass themselves, technically trespassing on city property. It's good to see that civic pride is still alive in Detroit. See clickondetroit.com; hat tip to Bruce Orser.
Former pitcher Jose Lima died suddenly after suffering a heart attack, at the age of only 37. He was born in the Dominican Republic and played for most of his career in Detroit and Houston, where he had his peak year in 1999, with 21 wins and an All-Star appearance. See MLB.com.
Dorothy "Dottie" Kamenshek, one of the biggest stars in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, passed away at the age of 84. She played for the Rockford Peaches from 1943 to 1953, and chosen as one of the top 100 female athletes of the century by Sports Illustrated. The character Dottie Hinson, played by Geena Davis in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, was based on Dottie Kamenshek. See NPR.org.