August 11, 2016
That was quite a matchup between divisional leaders in Washington this week! The Nationals and Indians split their second two-game series of the year, but given the starting pitchers, it was a surprise as to which team won on which day. On Tuesday night, Max Scherzer was at the top of his game, throwing a no-hitter until the seventh inning, at which point Francisco Lindnor singled and Scherzer committed an error that put a second runner on base. Then Jose Ramirez doubled, batting in one run, and Lonnie Chisenhall batted in a second run. Just like that, Scherzer's bid at a third no-hitter with the Nationals was transformed into a bitter defeat. Jayson Werth hit a solo homer in the eighth inning, but the Indians scored once again in the ninth, winning by a score of 3-1.
Yesterday the Nationals got revenge with a big offensive outburst, led by Jayson Werth. He doubled in the first inning, thereby extending his consecutive-games on base streak to 40 games, the highest in the majors this year. He then scored, and with two outs in the second inning he hit a three-run homer to give the Nats a 4-1 lead. You'd think that would provide enough cushion for Gio Gonzalez to settle down and get some quick outs, but the Indians came right back and tied it in the top of the third. In the fifth inning, the Nats put together a classic multi-hit rally, featuring doubles by Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, and a clutch go-ahead RBI single by Wilson Ramos. That guy has really been performing this year! Gio lasted into the sixth inning, at which point he allowed the first two batters to reach base, and Matt Belisle came in to relieve him, getting three quick outs. The rest of the bullpen held firm, and Mark Melancon got his second save since joining the Nationals. Final score: Nats 7, Indians 4.
On the occasion of the Indians' first visit to Washington since Nationals Park was built, Tuesday's Washington Post had an article about the controversial "Chief Wahoo" mascot for the Indians. I'd be the first to agree that the image is a demeaning stereotype* and should be quickly phased out, but such things need to be seen in historical context. From the article, I learned that the grinning Indian face first appeared in 1947, which happens to be the very same year that the Indians moved into Cleveland Stadium on a full-time, permanent basis. The Indians were a long-suffering team in need of an image makeover, and the combination of the new mascot/logo and the "new" stadium (it's a long story) provided the catalyst for the Indians to win the World Series only one year later. Is there any wonder that the grinning Indian symbol held such a strong positive feeling for Cleveland baseball fans?
On the broader topic of mascots, American pop culture was trending toward whimsical silliness from the late forties throught the late fifties, and clownish grins were par for the course. For example, the Baltimore Orioles have had a clownish bird face on their mascot for many years, off and on. In the 1950s, the St. Louis Cardinals likewise had a cartoon character cardinal as a mascot, as did their erstwhile "house-mates," the Browns. In that same era, the Washington Senators had a bespectacled politician wearing a three-cornered hat as an unofficial symbol. Cincinnati's "Mr. Red" and Queens' "Mr. Met" were similar, but were never official team emblems. After the 1980s, teams got carried away with silly cheerleading mascots, most notably the "Philly Phanatic" or "Youppi" in Montreal. The San Diego Padres did have a brown-robed friar as a mascot for many years, but it's likewise not on the uniforms or official displays.
* In sharp contrast, I might add, to the dignified profile of an Indian chief used by the Washington Redskins.
In Oakland, the Orioles managed to avoid being swept in a four game series by the lowly Athletics, who had won three consecutive games by one run each. Today, the Orioles took a 7-0 lead thanks in part to a grand slam by Mark Trumbo, but Oakland steadily came back, and in the bottom of the ninth had the tying run in the batter's box. He grounded out, and the Orioles won it, 9-6. If they had lost that one, it would have been devastating to team morale. The Orioles and Blue Jays are fighting neck and neck for the AL East lead, with the Boston Red Sox a couple games back.
And in Fenway Park tonight the Bosox fell to the Yankees, 4-2, thanks to a home run in the eighth inning over the Green Monster by some guy named Austin Romine. Rapid rebuilding!?
And in Chicago late this evening, the Cubs beat the Cardinals in 12 innings, as relief pitcher Zach Duke walked in the winning run after loading the bases. (Duke pitched for the Nationals a few years ago.) That was the Cubs' tenth consecutive win! After a lackluster month of July, they are headed back toward the stratosphere once again.
The L.A. Dodgers caught up to the San Francisco Giants earlier this week, but then fell a game behind once again. This is more a reflection of the Giants' recent weakness than strength on the part of the Dodgers. Their erstwhile ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw has been on the disabled list for over a month, and probably won't be 100% back for a few more weeks.
As explained below, I needed to confirm the height of the outfield seating section where Giancarlo Stanton's home run landed, and ended up having to make some revisions to the Coors Field diagrams. Most of the changes were fairly minor, and the most notable changes are the inclusion of "bends" in the grandstand. The lower deck is slightly bigger than previously estimated (there is a new separate lower deck diagram), and the lower concourse level is three feet higher relative to the field.
This was prompted by a reply from Bruce Orser about the estimated length of Giancarlo Stanton's tape-measure home run last week. Given that the stands are three feet higher than I previously estimated, depending on the angle of the ball trajectory, it would have gone about 5 to 10 feet more than I originally estimated, i.e., pretty close to what hittracker.com estimated. I stand corrected.
I noticed that on my semi-new My ballpark visits page, there was no jumbo-sized photo of Miller Park, as there are for all the other MLB parks I have visited. So, I added one. It's pretty spectacular.