May 1, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Confirmed: Osama bin Laden is dead!
A few minutes ago, President Obama made a brief television address announcing that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The President said he had received a report last Augusta that bin Laden may have been taking refuge in a mansion near the capital city of Islamabad. (His remarks will soon be posted at whitehouse.gov.) Last week, sufficient intelligence material had been gathered for him to order an assault on that compound, and bin Laden was killed by American bullets, though the details are still sketchy. We do know that bin Laden's body was taken into U.S custody and that tests have confirmed the identity. See CNN.com for more.
Even though bin Laden had become marginalized as a strategic player in the ongoing conflict between the United States and the radical Islamic movement, his death still carries enormous significance, operationally as well as psychologically. There will be questions about how al Qaeda will be organized and coordinated in the future, and splintering of this already-decentralized group is almost certain. But above all, this action demonstrates that unflagging American determination to carry out its stated objectives, refusing to give up after repeated frustrations. It constitutes the biggest strategic victory for the United States since the pacification of Iraq during the surge of 2007-2008. President Obama deserves congratulations for persevering in getting U.S. intelligence and security agencies to track down and kill that phony religious mass murderer from Saudi Arabia.
On the down side, there is a clear risk that al Qaeda will launch some kind of retaliatory attack against the United States or against U.S. interests overseas. Pakistan will almost certainly object to the way U.S. forces conducted the attack without any role for Pakistan's own forces, and possibly without any advance warning. Diplomats will be under heavy pressure as radical Islamic forces attempt to rally Pakistanis in protesting this action. Our policy should be clear: Anyone who knew of Obama's whereabouts or in any way abetted in preventing our intelligence operatives from locating bin Laden should be considered an enemy combatant subject to being apprehended or killed by U.S. forces. I hope Obama is willing to go that far. It is interesting to note that when Obama was running for president in 2007, he declared that if elected, he would be prepared to undertake unilateral military action inside Pakistan if that government failed to cooperate in the hunt for bin Laden. I had my doubts at the time about the wisdom of such a move, but the announcement today may vindicate Obama's rather bold declaration.
It was fitting that President Obama took the occasion to remind Americans of the terrible human toll that we suffered nine years seven months and 20 days ago, and of the way that Americans stood united on that tragic day. President Bush enjoyed a huge wave of popular support for the way he led the country during the troubling days that followed 9/11. It would be likewise appropriate if President Obama would urge people on both sides of the political aisle to set aside their differences and face up to the clear and present danger to our economic system stemming from the impasse over the federal budget. Unless the debt ceiling is increased, default looms as a very real prospect in the next couple months, so there is simply no alternative to compromise on fiscal policy.
May 13, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Nationals nearly sweep the Braves
The Washington Nationals came within eight outs of sweeping the Atlanta Braves last night, leading by a score of 5-1, thanks to home runs by Danny Espinosa and Pudge Rodriguez. But then starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (who had chalked up 11 strikeouts!) had to be replaced after two runners got on base in the seventh inning, and relief pitcher Sean Burnett just couldn't "get 'r done." Before you knew it, the bases were loaded and Martin Prado hit a grand slam to tie the game 5-5. In the bottom of the tenth, an RBI single by Brian McCann won the game, as Doug Slaten was tagged with the loss. See MLB.com. After managing to climb back to a .500 win-loss record for the first time since May 2, the Nats fell below that mark once again.
From the Braves' point of view, it was fitting payback for the night before. Atlanta was leading 3-1 going into the ninth inning, whereupon Alex Cora hit a two-run single to tie the game, sending it into extra innings. In the top of the eleventh, Ian Desmond hit a two-run double to take the lead, and Jayson Werth followed up with a hit a two-run homer that was mere icing on the cake. Final score: Nats 7, Braves 3. That was one of the Nationals' biggest comeback wins of this season.
Well, it was sweet while it lasted. Two extra-inning games in two consecutive nights was rather unusual, to say the least. The Nats have won five out of seven extra-inning games this year, which is a good sign that they can pull together as a team in the clutch. They also managed to win a two series in a row for the first time this season, another positive sign.
Last weekend, the Nationals took two of three games from the Florida Marlins, in spite of mediocre batting. In fact, they struck out seventeen (17) times last Friday night, a team record, winning on a sac fly by Adam LaRoche in the top of the tenth inning. Hopes that they might sweep the Marlins fizzled on Sunday afternoon, as the Fish flummoxed the D.C. 9 by a score of 8 to 0.
The road trip started off on a bleak note, as the Philadelphia Phillies swept the Nats three games straight. In none of those games did the Nats even mount a serious challenge.
Perhaps the proudest accomplishment of the Nationals yet this year was defeating the World Champion San Francisco Giants in three games out of four, in a home series from April 28 to May 2. The final game of the series was an amazing pitchers' duel between two starting pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner (0-4) and Tom Gorzelanny (0-2) -- who had not yet won a game this season. Thanks to a timely 7th-inning rally, the Nats took a 2-0 lead and held on to beat the Giants, 2-0. Fittingly, it was Military Appreciation Night in Washington, on the day after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALS. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
Tonight, the Nationals begin another home stand, welcoming the Florida Marlins to town. The Nats are currently in fourth place (6.5 games behind the Phillies) in the NL East, hoping to close the gap with the second-place Marlins (3.0 behind). A wild card spot is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities...
UPDATE: For the third night in a row (is that a record?), the Nats battled into extra innings, and tonight they came up short, with the same final score as the night before: 6-5. Roger Bernadina, who was recently called up from the minors, is quickly establishing himself as a starting player, going 3 for 5 with two RBIs and an unbelievable diving catch in center field. Laynce Nix blasted a home run into the upper deck in right center field, as well as a clutch RBI double, but it wasn't quite enough for a win.
Great pitching, lousy batting
With a record of 18-19, it's hard to complain about the Nationals' performance, overall. True, it's not as good as they were doing a year ago, when they were 20-15 -- at .571, their peak percentage of the 2010 season -- but's not bad considering that their star player has been injured for over a month. (See below.) To the surprise of many, the team's strong point has continued to be pitching, especialy the starting rotation. Until May 5, every single starting pitcher for the Nationals had gone at least five full innings, a consecutive streak of 30 games unmatched by any other team. That was the day John Lannan gave up six runs in the third inning to the Phillies, who went on to win, 7-3. The streak almost came to an end on April 23, when the Pirates scored five runs (four earned) off Livan Hernandez in the first inning, but he shook it off and went on to pitch five more innings anyway. (The Nats still lost.)
Meanwhile, the Nationals have recorded horrible offensive statistics over the first quarter (sic weeks) of the 2011 season. The team batting average is currently only .222, dead last among all 30 Major League teams. Jayson Werth, who signed a seven-year contract werth worth $126 million (see Dec. 6), is batting only .226. Granted, he is leading the team with six home runs, but is only tied for third on the RBI department. Werth was recently advised by his agent Scott Boras to focus on his speed, and just getting on base. Whatever may be his hangup in the batter's box, Werth is at least proving his worth (soon-to-be-exhausted cliché!) defensively, making a large number of diving catches in right field. Pudge Rodriguez only recently climbed above .200, but he has had quite a few clutch hits, which help to compensate. The other catcher, Wilson Ramos, was batting over .300 until recently, living up to the high expectations engendered from his 2010 rookie season. One of the pleasant surprises is Laynce (pronounced "Lance") Nix, who is batting .282 with four home runs, second among the Nats.
Ryan Zimmerman gets surgery
Probably the biggest piece of bad news faced by the Nationals this year is the abdominal injury to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He was batting .357 when he slid head-first into second base last month, aggravating a a torn abdominal muscle that had bothered him during spring training. He took a few days of rest, but doctors determined that it wasn't going to heal on its own, so he went under the proverbial knife to repair the damage. He is now recovering from arthroscopic surgery and has begun rehabilitation. See MLB.com. His absence is very acutely felt. With any luck, Z-man will be playing again next month, but nothing is certain. Get well, soon, Ryan!!!
Just think if the Nationals had the use of Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg right now. They'd be legitimate contenders for the postseason. Once Bryce Harper joins the team -- next year, presumably -- the sky's the limit!
Bryce Harper's vision
In the minors, meanwhile, future Nats' star slugger Bryce Harper has hit safely in 16 straight games, and is leading his league in various categories. He had a slow start this season, and it seems that the vast improvement is a matter of vision. Harper had his eyes examined last month, and has started wearing contact lenses, which have helped his hitting immeasurably, to the benefit of the Hagerstown Suns. See the Washington Post. Bruce Orser continues to follow Harper's progress very closely...
Livan in legal trouble
The Nats' most reliable starting pitcher, Livan Hernandez, is being investigated for his apparent ties to a Puerto Rican drug dealer Angel Ayala Vazquez. According to ESPN, Vazquez had a Porsche, a Lamborghini, and other expensive properties registered in Hernandez's name, presumably to evade seizure by law enforcement officers.
Sicks' Stadium update
The Sicks' Stadium diagram has been revised slightly, and two new versions of it have been added: the original 1938 configuration and a rather conjectural 1970 configuration with extra enlargements to the various bleacher sections. [It became a moot point when the Seattle Pilots folded and moved to Milwaukee in 1970, becoming the Brewers.] It is based on an apparent artist's rendering I saw a while back somewhere on the Internet. (So, it must be true, right?)
I have been working on Safeco Field, [home of the Seattle Mariners and] the last remaining current MLB stadium whose diagram is not yet up to standard. But by sheer coincidence, Bruce Orser sent me a link to a very informative historical article on Sicks' Stadium by David Eskenazi and Steve Rudman; see sportspressnw.com. I question the dimension data cited in that article, but otherwise it was very helpful. Sicks' Stadium was easier to redo than Safeco Field, in any case.
I will probably add minor league versions of two other temporary single-deck stadiums of that era: Seals Stadium and Jarry Park. (I already did so for K.C. Municipal Stadium.)
Oakland Coliseum renamed
This would have been a good April Fool's Day joke, but it wasn't announced until the end of the month: Oakland Alameda Coliseum will be renamed Overstock.com Coliseum, under the terms of a six-year deal, worth $1.2 million per year. In relative terms, that's chump change, showing how desperate the pro sports business is becoming. Hat tips to Matt Ereth and Mike Zurawski. See fieldofschemes.com and overstock.com itself. How about just plain "What-ever Coliseum"? I'll update that page in the near future; groan...
About 40 miles south, meanwhile, the folks in San Jose are still hoping to get a deal with the Athletics finalized. Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff is working on plans for a new ballpark there, and the San Jose mayor is amenable to the plan, but the relocation decision will ultimately be made by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. He would have to issue a waiver to the San Francisco Giants' territorial rights over San Jose. Perhaps the fact that Selig and Wolff are old fraternity brothers might help smooth things over. See pressdemocrat.com. Take a look at the artist's renderings of the proposed San Jose baseball stadium at sanjose.com. Hat tip to Bruce Orser, who also drew my attention to a set of photographs showing construction progress on the Marlins' future stadium. See MLB.com. Will anyone shed a nostalgic tear toward the end of this season, when the final baseball games are played at Dolphin Stadium? Probably not. Still, the Marlins have won the World Series twice while making that stadium their home, so there is bound to be some recognition.
School's out for summer!
Which means I can once again devote more time to enjoying Our National Pastime, and getting back to refining ballpark diagrams on a regular basis. (How many of you remember Alice Cooper? Watch him belt out that classic hit "School's Out" on YouTube.)
May 20, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Nats fall into cellar, bounce back
Who knows, maybe it was the anger from the blown call at first base in Citi Field the night before. (See below.) Playing in Baltimore against the Orioles tonight -- the first interleague series of the season -- the Washington Nationals more than made up for their recent lack of hitting, getting as many runs (17) as in the previous six games combined. Five Nationals players got home runs, including two by Jayson Werth, and one each by Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, and Roger Bernadina. Both Espinosa and Ramos also had a triple and a single, almost going for the cycle. All of the starting lineup got either multiple hits or multiple runs, except for the "designated hitter" Matt Stairs, who is not used to that role. (Stupid AL rules.) In a weird twist, starting pitcher Jason Marquis did not get credit for the win because he was taken out after giving up five runs over four innings. His pitch count was already 89, and manager Jim Riggleman seemed to think he was not up to the task.
This was indeed a night to remember, if you're a Washington fan, that is. Prior to tonight, the most number of runs ever scored by the Nationals in a game was 15, which they did twice: on July 20, 2008 against the Atlanta Braves, and on August 25, 2009 against the Chicago Cubs. In terms of the margin of victory (12 runs), it tied their record set on July 25 last year, when they beat the San Diego Padres 13-1. This was the Nats' first double-digit score of the 2011 season; their highest run total previously was 8.
Fven so, the Nationals remain in sole possession of last place in the National League Eastern Division, as the Mets beat the Yankees tonight. The Nats had been clinging to fourth place for the last couple weeks (and were actually in third place for a while before that), but they fell into the proverbial cellar after the resurgent Mets beat them twice in New York. In fact, they were shut out in two consecutive games for the first time since July 17-18 last year. On Wednesday, they had nearly as many hits (8) as the Mets, but couldn't capitalize on any scoring opportunities, and on Thursday, they didn't even get a hit until the sixth inning, when the pitcher (!), Livan Hernandez, hit a hard ground ball up the middle. The Nats had a great chance to tie it in the ninth inning, with a runner on second and one out. Jayson Werth crushed a ball down the third base line, but Justin Turner somehow fielded it and threw it toward first base. Daniel Murphy had to stretch to catch it, and first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi called Werth out on a close play. As the text and video at MLB.com clearly indicate, however, Murphy's foot was off the base when he caught the ball, and in any case, Werth beat the throw!! Jim Riggleman argued the call, to no avail, and when the next batter was out, the game was over. Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo apparently let the umpire have it after the game, because the ump filed a grievance with MLB officials.
That situation reminds me of that blown call at first base last June when Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was robbed of a would-be perfect game. Granted the stakes weren't as high in this game, but it's still too bad that Mr. Cuzzi didn't have the grace to admit he made a mistake, the way the Jim Joyce did in Detroit. In any case, you can't blame the Nats' woes on bad calls by the umpire, it's their own fault they haven't been hitting. Occasionally, they do get hot, as when they got six runs in the first inning last Sunday, thereby averting being swept by the Florida Marlins. But for the most part, their batting performance is just plain mediocre. Time to kick some butt in the locker room!
Even though the Nationals remain the worst-hitting team in the National League (average of .229), their fielding is actually very good. Over the last seven days, they have only committed two errors, and only two teams in the majors have done better than that: the Phillies and the Royals. With a record of 21-23, which is better than eight other major league teams, the Nationals are only six games out of first place. Once Ryan Zimmerman is ready to play again, things will get a lot better!
RFK Stadium update
Prompted in part by a Washington Post article (see below), I went ahead and made some major (?) changes and enhancements to the RFK Stadium diagrams, along with text updates. Now, to the untrained eye, these changes may not appear too significant. Indeed, the position of the outfield fences and most elements of the stadium structure when viewed from above are almost identical to what they were before. But for the true connoisseur of baseball stadium architecture, these refinements will be greatly appreciated.
Most of the changes involve the profile. Upon examining my own high-resolution photos of the exterior of RFK Stadium, I realized that there are four main levels above the ground, except on the west side, which is one level higher. It also became clear that the roof of the top level of the peripheral concourse and ramps was nearly as high as the back side of the roof above the grandstand, at least in the outfield portion. I used my own photos, as well as the many excellent photos in the book by James R. Hartley, Baseball At RFK Stadium. (It was published by Corduroy Press in 2008; I highly recommend it.) Another excellent source of photographic information for RFK Stadium (and others) is the phanfare.com Web site. Some of the other changes I made include a slightly bigger roof (about three feet difference), a more accurate depiction of the dugouts, and the yellow marks to indicate stadium lights. An even bigger innovation, one which I think many fans will enjoy, is highlighted below...
One thing I figured out while finishing this task is that those big steel girders on the west side of RFK Stadium apparently serve as conduits for the cables that support the upper deck, via suspension. This marks the first time since July 2008 that the RFK Stadium diagrams have been revised. I am nearly done with updates to Arlington Stadium, and several others...
Is RFK Stadium obsolete?
A few days ago, I was startled to see a front-page article in the Washington Post, lamenting the sorry state of RFK Stadium and the desperation of the D.C. United soccer team which makes it their home. Part of the problem is lack of proper maintenance (obviously, Nationals Park gets priority from the D.C. government), but it's also a matter of excess size: soccer matches rarely attract more than 25,000 fans, which means there are usually at least 20,000 empty seats at RFK; the upper deck is usually closed. D.C. United front office people have been lobbying hard to get some kind of deal that would facilitate building a new soccer stadium, and have been noisily talking about looking elsewhere for a new home, but in these tough economic times, it's just not happening. So, like the rest of us, they will probably just have to make do with what we've got until conditions improve.
For a long, long time I have been thinking about a better way to visually convey in a two-dimensional medium the three-dimensional structures in which Our National Pastime is played. In many cases, there are unique features underneath the roof or upper deck of stadiums, and it so happens that that is the case with RFK Stadium. It is widely regarded as the prototypical bland, symmetrical "cookie-cutter" stadium, but if you look at the lower seating bowl, you will find out otherwise. So, I decided to make that easier to grasp by presenting a separate lower-deck diagram, which shows that there is an interesting quirk behind home plate, on the left side. I'll probably do likewise with other stadiums in which the upper decks or roofs conceal key features, such as Tiger Stadium and the Polo Grounds. Stay tuned, sports fans!
Look, Ma -- no roof! My first experiment with a "vertically-truncated" lower-deck diagram, in which the roof and upper levels have been omitted. Roll over the image to see the "normal" version, showing the roof and exposed portions of the upper deck at RFK Stadium.
May 25, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Governor visits Staunton
Governor Bob McDonnell came to Staunton on Monday, appearing at two special events. In the morning he was at the School for the Deaf and the Blind, where he signed a piece of legislation that makes American Sign Language qualify for foreign language requirements at schools of higher learning. In the afternoon, he was at Cadence Incorporated, located in the Green Hills Industrial and Technology Center, announcing a major investment by that manufacturer of precision medical instruments. The company "will invest $15.9 million to expand its operation in the City of Staunton and create 65 new jobs within three years," according to the Governor's Web site. Also see the News Leader.
This deal came about because the Governor approved the allocation of $150,000 from his discretionary economic development fund. It may have been the key factor in why Cadence chose this area over the leading alternative, Costa Rica. (!) The money is supposed to help train the new workers, and perhaps defray other costs. One might question whether this sort of state economic intervention is consistent with free market policies that are often touted by conservative Republicans, and it certainly bears scrutiny. Realistically, however, there isn't much that state and local leaders can do about the situation, because "everybody does it." Perhaps some constitutional reform can put a lid on such policies that pit one state against another.
Gov. McDonnell presents a $150,000 check to Staunton Mayor Lacy King (left) and Cadence Technologies CEO Peter Harris.
Augusta County politics
Over the past month, the local political picture has come into a little clearer focus. Former Augusta County Republican Chairman Kurt Michael and his associate David Karaffa announced they are running for the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, in the Beverley Manor and Wayne districts, respectively. Karaffa was the preferred "Base" candidate in July 2009 when the local Republican leaders had to choose a new candidate after Chris Saxman abruptly announced he wasn't going to run again. Dr. Marshall Pattie is running in North River district. Meanwhile, incumbent supervisor Tracy Pyles is running for reelection. Pyles was the lone dissenter during the controversy over property taxes March 2009, becoming a tacit ally of the "grassroots" faction in the local Republican Party. He in effect endorsed Michael, Karaffa, and Pattie. (See the News Leader.) I posted a comment about Michael tossing his hat into the ring on the blog piece "Bloggers who have run for political office" at bearingdrift.com. Because the precise district boundaries have yet to be finalized, however, there remains some question about the fall campaign.
May 27, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Brewers sweep the Nationals
After six weeks of fair-to-middling performance, staying fairly close to the .500 win-loss mark, the Washington Nationals took a sudden nose dive this week. No sooner had they beat the Orioles with a team-record run total of 17 on Friday night, they started finding new ways to lose once again. The Orioles took the next two games, and then the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Nats in all three games in Miller Park. On Monday, Corey Hart hit three home runs as the Brew Crew won, 11-3. On Tuesday the Nats' bullpen imploded, wasting a fine outing by Livan Hernandez. The Nats had a 6-2 lead, which turned into a 6-3 lead, then a 6-5 lead after Tyler Clippard gave up two runs, and then a 7-6 deficit as rookie reliever Henry Rodriguez did likewise. The Nats loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, in an unusual play in which [Ian Desmond]* struck out, which would have ended the game if the catcher had caught the ball. But [Desmond]* reached base, and then Jayson Werth singled, and the next batter [Wilson Ramos]* walked, bringing up Michael Morse to the plate. Morse had already hit a grand slam in that game, and perhaps was too eager to repeat that feat, much like Josh Willingham had done for the Nationals in that same park in July 2009. He popped out to end the game. On Wednesday, the Nats lost again, in a lackluster performance. Getting swept by the Brewers, the Nats have now lost five games in a row for the first time this season.
*[Updated with names one day later.]
This evening, the Nationals welcome the San Diego Padres to town, as John Lannan takes the mound, desperately trying to reverse the Nats' recent slump. Now is the time for all good Nationals fans to come to the defense of their team, and I will be there!
Will Pudge get traded?
News that San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey broke a leg bone during a collision at home plate has led to rumors that the Nationals may trade their star catcher Pudge Rodriguez to the Giants. Pudge has been sharing duties behind the plate with Wilson Ramos, who has been one of the team's best hitters this season. Whether Ramos is ready to assume full-time starting duties remains to be seen, and we may find out sooner rather than later. Personally, I hope they keep Pudge on the roster.
R.I.P. Harmon Killebrew
Former Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew died ten days ago, not long after entering hospice care for terminal esophageal cancer. It would be hard to underestimate the impact he had on baseball in the young Twins team, and how it lifted spirits of baseball fans across the midwest. I remember that all too vividly from growing up on the great plains in the 1960s. See the obituary printed in the Washington Post.
In today's Washington Post, drew attention to Killebrew Drive, in the suburbs of northern Virginia. It was named in 1960, the last year Killebrew wore a Washington Senators uniform.
May 30, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Nationals WIN, then resume plunge
I certainly picked a good day to see a Washington Nationals game, which turned out to be their only victory over the past ten days. John Lannan had a superb outing against the San Diego Padres on Friday night, giving up only two hits and no runs over 7 2/3 innings. With a 1-0 lead, thanks to a home run by Danny Espinosa, Lannan was in position for a win when Drew Storen came in from the bullpen. Storen got the third out of the eighth inning, stranding two runners on base, but then on the first pitch of the ninth inning, he gave up a home run; Jason Bartlett hit a ball that just cleared the fence in the left field corner, thus tying the game, 1-1. Ugh. It quickly deflated the eager hopes of the Washington fans for a win at last, casting a pall of gloom over Nationals Park. But then the mood shifted instantaneously in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mike Morse hit a walk-off solo home run, becoming the hero of the game. Final score: 2-1. YES!!!
Speaking of "pall of gloom," the weather was pretty rough on Friday night, as the photo below shows. The skies were partly cloudy at the beginning of the game but rapidly darkened during the third inning. Before you knew it, there was thunder and lightning, and the grounds crew scrambled to get the tarp rolled out in the midst of a downpour. Fortunately, the rain subsided and the game resumed after a delay of 47 minutes.
I didn't realize it at the time, but it was the fourth consecutive game in which Morse had hit a homer. He has improved markedly in recent weeks, and is currently #2 in batting (.289 average) among regular starting players for the Nationals. Laynce Nix is #1, with a .305 batting average.
It's a shame John Lannan didn't get credit for the win. His 2-5 record thus far this year is not indicative of how well he has been pitching. Having blown the save, Drew Storen certainly didn't deserve the win, but that's how baseball records are kept.
Jacqueline and I sat in the first row of upper level seats in right field, below the scoreboard. (It was Miller Lite Party Night, and we enjoyed pregame music by a retro rock band.) We had a fairly good view, close enough to ground level to feel like you're part of the game. If a home-run ball had come our way, we would have been ready. I had to lean forward to see Rick Ankiel make a superb grab of a long fly ball to center field by Chase Headley to begin the eighth inning. (That was when Roger Bernandina moved over to left field, where Brian Bixler had been playing.) Otherwise, I didn't have any trouble following the action. One of the women fans sitting nearby was flirting with Jayson Werth, playing near us in right field.
This is becoming quite a pattern: When I was at the August 13 home game last year, the Nats broke a five-game losing streak by beating the Diamondbacks, and when I was at the August 2 game in Pittsburgh the year before that, they snapped four-game losing streak. (I erred by writing "the Nats snapped a four-game winning streak" on that post. I meant losing streak, of course.) Unfortunately, this time the Nats were unable to sustain a rebound...
"It was a dark and stormy night..." Ominous dark clouds above Nationals Park, just before the thunderstorm arrived. Roll the mouse over the image to see the Nats' bullpen and the grandstand in the right field corner.
The Nats' "126 million dollar man," Jayson Werth, just below us in right field.
On Saturday afternoon, the Padres got revenge, beating the Nationals by the same score: 2-1. Jordan Zimmermann had another fine outing, but the only run support he got was a homer by Laynce Nix, so his win-loss record fell to 2-6. That is just not fair.
On Sunday, Drew Storen gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning, and the Padres won, 5-4, taking the series from the Nats. Maybe that was karmic justice for what had happened Friday night. To my surprise, Yunesky Maya was called up from the minors to be the starting pitcher that day. (He was tagged with the loss at the last game we saw -- Sept. 25, 2010, when Atlanta beat the Washington, 5-0.) Maybe he's still not ready for the majors. One nice change of routine was that Jayson Werth got three hits; his batting average is finally above .250.
Today in Our Nation's Capital, the Nationals were holding their own against the dominant Phillies of Philadelphia, and they actually took a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning when Laynce Nix homered against Roy Halladay. Wow! There were fleeting hopes for a stupendous upset victory against the Phillies, but alas, the dream was too good to be true. Livan Hernandez had to be relieved in the seventh inning, and his replacement Sean Burnett quickly gave up two runs, which was all the Phillies needed to win, 5-4. Groan... Livan's record is now 3-6, not at all what he deserves.
So, the Nationals have lost eight of their last nine games, leaving them 11 1/2 games out of first place in the NL East, dead last. There must be bad feelings in the Nats' clubhouse, and Jayson Werth had to clarify a comment he made to a reporter a few days ago, to erase the impression he thought others were to blame. There is plenty of blame to go around, from batters who can't get hits when it counts to relief pitchers who can't get outs in the late innings. The Nats have faced harder times than these in past years, however, and I'm sure things will get better before long. That being said, I'm getting tired of having my fan loyalty tested like this.
Movies at Nationals Park
I was aware of the movie How Do You Know, parts of which were filmed at Nationals Park, but I recently caught a brief glimpse of the Nats' home in a night time aerial shot of the Washington skyline in the movie State of Play, starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. Only a stadium nut like me would have noticed the distinctive red NATIONALS letters at the top of the scoreboard, barely visible in the distance. I'll have to incorporate those factoids on the Nationals Park page soon, along with some minor adjustments to the diagram profile.
U.Va. wins ACC tourney
Congratulations to the University of Virginia baseball team for winning the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament, held in Durham, North Carolina. The Cavaliers amassed an incredible 49-9 regular season record (including a game I saw on March 19), and would have reached 50 wins had they not been swept three games straight by the North Carolina Tarheels at Chapel Hill last week. See virginiasports.com. Next week there will be a first-round NCAA tournament in Charlottesville, and I hope to be there.
UVA! UVA! UVA!
Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology
March 9, 2011 ~ Life bird: (un-) Common Redpoll
March 31, 2011 ~ Batter UP!!! Opening Day 2011 is here!
April 3, 2011 ~
Legislators seek redistricting input (?)
April 18, 2011 ~
Tea Party Tax Day rally
May 1, 2011 ~ Confirmed: Osama bin Laden is dead!
May 25, 2011 ~ Governor visits Staunton
May 30, 2011 ~ Nationals WIN, then resume plunge
June 2, 2011 ~ Republicans declare candidacies
June 14, 2011 ~ Anti-tax dogma vs. fiscal sanity
June 23, 2011 ~ Nationals sweep Mariners; Riggleman quits
June 26, 2011 ~ Two extraordinary extra-inning games
July 8, 2011 ~ Nationals sweep the Cubs (almost)
July 26, 2011 ~ Debt ceiling showdown: farce majeur
August 1, 2011 ~ Leaders compromise on debt ceiling
August 20, 2011 ~ Baseball road trip 2011: Missouri
August 31, 2011 ~ Is Obama getting desperate?
September 11, 2011 ~ 9/11: Ten years later
October 1, 2011 ~ THREE "shots heard around the world"
October 3, 2011 ~ Hundreds of hawks, dozens of warblers, and three bears!!
October 10, 2011 ~ Kansas performs in concert at JMU
October 10, 2011 ~ R.I.P. Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011)
October 29, 2011 ~ The Cardinals are world champions again
November 5, 2011 ~ Washington Nationals: year in review
November 9, 2011 ~ Republicans gain, State Senate is tied (?)
November 28, 2011 ~ Newt gets real (?) on immigration
December 3, 2011 ~ Moneyball, the A's, and Billy Beane
December 14, 2011 ~ Libertarians don't get no respect *
December 31, 2011 ~ Those wintertime no-baseball blues