September 30, 2016
One of the keys to the Nationals' big success this season was avoiding injuries. Over the past week, that streak of good fortune has been completely reversed -- at the worst possible moment. In more ways than one, the Nats have been "snake-bitten." In the four-game series at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks this week, the Nationals were struggling when they should have been cruising. Part of the problem was the weather: It has been rainy almost every day this week in the mid-Atlantic region, and that was a factor in the awful knee injury suffered by Ramos.
On Monday, Tanner Roark was doing OK early on, but was stunned when Jean Segura and Yasmany Tomas both hit home runs the fourth inning, as the Diamondbacks took a 5-1 lead. He was definitely angry when Dusty Baker put in a pinch-hitter to replace him in the bottom of the fourth, as the Nats closed the gap by scoring three runs. But two innings later, the D-Backs scored five more runs, all charged to the dreadful Yusmeiro Petit, who seems not to want to play in October. Four more runs in the final two innings yielded a final score of 14-4, the worst defeat suffered by the Nationals this year. But even worse than that game result was the freak injury suffered by Wilson Ramos in the sixth inning, when leaped to try to catch a high throw to home by Ryan Zimmerman. Apparently Ramos slipped in the wet dirt, because he twisted his knee on the way down, and then was writhing in pain. Ugly details below...
In the game on Tuesday, Max Scherzer shook off a couple early wobbles and hung in there for six innings to get his 19th win of the season. But that was only because the Nats staged a big rally in the bottom of the sixth, after he had been replaced by a pinch hitter. The big hero of the day (night) was Anthony Rendon, who (with two runners on base) hit his 19th home run of the season. (What a coincidence!) Nats 4, D-Backs 2.
On Wednesday, Gio Gonzalez had another lamentable outing and only lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up the only three runs that were scored by either team in the whole ball game. The Nats' lefty starting pitcher does not look ready for the NLDS against the Dodgers, who are known to hit poorly against left-handed pitchers. The Nats' rotation is in real turmoil.
On Thursday afternoon, Joe Ross had a solid outing, giving up just one run, though he only lasted four innings because his pitch count rose all the way to 90. Rookie pitcher Reynaldo Lopez pitched for most of the rest of the game to earn the win, thanks in large parts to home runs by rookie catcher Pedro Severino and rookie outfielder Wilmer Difo. Final score: Nats 5, D-Backs 3. That at least earned a series split for the Nats, who really should have won three or four of those games against the Diamondbacks.
I just noticed for the first time the Diamondbacks' new uniforms, which look rather weird to me. I thought the "Sedona"-themed beige and rufous color theme (adopted in November 2006) was appropriate for a team based in a desert city, but I just don't know what to make of the dark green colors. The uniform shoulders now feature a snake head with bared fangs, which I argued back then is fitting for a team with a serpentine mascot, but I think their design needs some more work.
MRI tests on Tuesday confirmed that Wilson Ramos had an ACL tear, which will require surgical repair, so he is obviously out for the rest of the season. It was the second time he has injured that knee, the first being in May 2012; he missed the rest of the 2012 season and almost half of 2013. This may be a a sign that his body is becoming fragile, which is ironic for a big hulking guy whose nickname is "The Buffalo." See the Washington Post.
For both Ramos and the team, the injury was extremely bad timing. The Nats' backup catchers (Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino) are decent but nowhere near as effective in hitting as Ramos (.307 batting average), while his negotiating position is suddenly crippled. Ramos' contract expires next month, and the option of becoming a free agent is not nearly as attractive as it was. But Ramos is maintaining an upbeat attitude, at least. See MLB.com. I just hope he is healed in time for the start of the 2017 season -- in Washington, preferably!
The division races have been all but decided for at least a week, but the wild card races this year are WILD! In the American League, the Orioles have pulled ahead of the Blue Jays against, with the Tigers close behind. The Tigers-Indians game on Wednesday was cancelled due to rain, and will only be made up if Detroit is in contention for a wild card spot. Right now, it looks like they will in fact be. So, the Tigers might have to fly from Atlanta to Detroit on Monday for a makeup game, and then possibly to either Baltimore or Toronto on Tuesday for a potential tie-breaking game on Tuesday, and then (if they win) to the other AL wild card rival team's city on Wednesday. Lotsa frequent flyer miles!
In the National League, it's the Mets with a small lead over the Giants, with the Cardinals close behind. The National League wild card race may end up being decided by a walk-off RBI double yesterday by the St. Louis Cardinals, on a play which should have been ruled a ground rule double, in which case the runner would have been held at third base. What a shame.
Two points worth remembering: In 2014, both league pennant winners were wild card teams, reminding us that racking up a big regular season win-loss record counts for very little in the postseason. Remember the 2012 Nationals or the 2015 Cardinals? Also, late-season momentum is often overrated: the Giants in particular were slumping toward the end of the 2014 season, when they won the World Series. (F.P. Santangelo mentioned that during the Nats-Marlins game tonight on MASN.) So, just because the Nats are looking a little feeble right now is no indication of what is to come in the near future.
At the stroke of midnight, the 2016 postseason scoreboard will appear on the baseball blog page, as if by magic. Obviously, some of the matchups are still pending...
The Yankees poured ice water on the Red Sox' celebration of the AL East championship on Wednesday night, as Mark Teixera hit a walk-off grand slam, capping another improbable comeback win by the Bronx Bombers. Boston had won eleven games in a row, and then the Yankees beat them three games straight in New Yankee Stadium. New York fans gave a respective farewell salute to David "Big Papi" Ortiz, whose legendary clutch home runs against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS changed the course of history. That's class.
I have updated the Citi Field page with 26 (!!!) new photos which I took there earlier this month. (Yes, I got carried away. But is that such a bad thing?) It's a veritable guided tour of the whole stadium, showing details you might not know about, arranged more or less chronologically, in the same sequence that I took the photos. In several cases, there is a broad view and then a closeup from the same or similar perspective. Here is one of the better ones:
In addition, I'm also in the process of making some tweaks to the Citi Field diagrams: a few small corrections and a couple detail enhancements, and that's about it. They may be ready by tomorrow...
Finally, I found the website for the band that played Pink Floyd songs before the game at Citi Field on September 4: pinkfloydtributebandny.com. They were pretty darned good, and I'm lucky I picked that day to be there.
Bruce Orser recently came across a 1991 article at baltimoresun.com, which asserts that the foul lines at Memorial Stadium were 303 feet, rather than the official 309 distance. Also, center field was a bit shorter. This is the first I have heard of this, and I'm surprised it's not mentioned in Lowry's Green Cathedrals or other reliable baseball stadium books. Another unwelcome headache for me...
"Transplanted Texan" Mark London informs me that Houston-area leaders are moving ahead with plans to convert the Astrodome into a multipurpose facility. Harris County commissioners approved $10.5 million for the first phase of a project that would eventually raise the floor of the Astrodome so as to provide two levels of parking. See click2houston.com. Well, I suppose that's as good an outcome as one could reasonably hope for. "The world's greatest parking garage"?
Finally, I learned from Mike Zurawski that Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has called a special session of the state legislature for early October to approve partial state funding for a 65,000-seat football stadium and related projects in Las Vegas. New tax revenues would subsidize the Raiders to the tune of $750 million, which is a pretty sweet inducement to move. "Sandoval said he met with Raiders owner Mark Davis this week," and it seems like it's almost a done deal. See reviewjournal.com. Can Las Vegas really support an NFL team? Probably. The population of the Las Vegas metropolitan area is now over 2 million, almost three times what it was in 1990. And on that note, let me add the famous line from Capt. Renault in Casablanca: