May 22, 2012 [LINK / comment]
In most years when interleague play gets underway, the matchups between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles don't garner very much attention outside the immediate region. This year, however, both teams are in hot contention for the lead in their respective divisions, and there is a real possibility that they will both make it to the postseason. Indeed, the weekend series played in D.C. just might be a preview of the World Series. Now wouldn't that be something!
Even though the Nats lost the first two games in that series, they played well and made it an enjoyable contest. The Orioles are certainly a worthy opponent this year. It was a real pitchers' duel on Friday, when Ian Desmond homered to tie the game 1-1. But Nick Markakis homered in the top of the elevent to win it, 2-1. On Saturday, Ross Detwiler gave up several runs in the early innings, but the Nats kept fighting and gradually climbed back from a 6-0 deficit. In the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Zimmerman hit a home run (his second of the year) to narrow the gap to 6-5, but the next batter was out and that was that. Still, a strong performance by the team, overcoming Detwiler's lapse. On Sunday, Stephen "Hot Stuff" Strasburg took the mound and unlike the previous fiasco, he kept his cool. He also hit his first career home run, running up the score. Nats 9, Orioles 3. So for the three-game series, the cumulative score was Nats 15, Orioles 11. Not bad against one of the best teams in baseball right now.
As of next year, there will be interleague games throughout the season, because the Houston Astros will move to the American League, so that both leagues will have the same number of teams (15). The downside of that is that there will be [a "leftover" team in each league, making interleague games a matter of routine necessity rather than a special feature. I hope this doesn't end up further diluting the distinctive identities of the two major leagues, which were organizationally separate until the 1970s, more or less.]
After watching the games in D.C. (on TV), I made some minor corrections to the Nationals Park diagrams, such as the precise configuration of the dugouts and the two-foot gap between the fence and the seats in left field. I also put back a suggested alternative configuration with the second deck enlarged and pushed forward. There is also a deep corner in center field, for the sake of extra-base excitement.
Meanwhile, the Nats are showing improvement at the outset of their road trip, winning the first two games in Philadelphia. (More on that later.) As a result, they pulled ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East race once again. The Nats will be going for their first series sweep of the year tomorrow evening, broadcast on ESPN. Unfortunately, the Nats lost their previous two nationally-televised games: on May 6 (Phillies won, 9-3) and on May 19 (Orioles won, 6-5). They gotta get over that "stage fright" before October...