Nationals spoil Braves' hopes, again
In a repeat of the series at Atlanta last week, the Washington Nationals beat the Braves in two out of three games, putting them a half game behind the Padres* in the wild card race. (Atlanta is 87-69, San Diego is 87-68.) Jacqueline and I attended the game on Saturday afternoon, with bright skies and very warm temperatures. We had front-row seats behind home plate in the upper deck "Gallery" level, Section 310, close enough to tell balls from strikes. Yunesky Maya pitched pretty well for the Nats, but in the sixth inning he gave up a walk, a double, a single, and then a home run, hit by Alex Gonzalez. That gave the Braves a 5-0 lead, ending Maya's day on the mound. No more runs were scored after that. The jury is still out on whether Maya (0-3) is as good as his reputation from his years playing in Cuba would indicate. For the Braves, starting pitcher Derek Lowe allowed five hits and one walk, scattered harmlessly across five innings.
No mere idle spectator, I voiced my presence on two occasions. The first couple times Adam Dunn came up to bat, I started a "sign Adam Dunn" cheer, and several other fans joined in -- probably just enough for him to hear. Then in the bottom of the ninth inning, Justin Maxwell came up to bat and responded to my loud "go Justin!" yell by smashing a double off the left field wall. Another few feet and it would have been a homer.
For a game wrap-up, see the Washington Post.
* The Giants and Padres are battling down to the wire in the NL West, while the Rockies have just about dropped out of contention. In the AL East, the Rays are clinging to a half-game lead over the Yankees. Nail biting time on the east and west coasts!
Unfortunately, Ryan Zimmerman was not in the lineup at the Saturday game, or in any of the last four games. He has been suffering from a strain right rib, and it probably out for the rest of the season. (Only six more games.) That's too bad, but at least he is sure he will end the season with a .307 batting average (a career high), as well as 25 home runs (his second-highest). His 2010 total of 85 RBIs is only his fourth-best season performance, however.
This marks the fourth game I've seen at Nationals Park this year, of which the Nats won two and lost two games. Friday the 13th last month was the most enjoyable of those games, I'd say. Including the game I saw at Target Field, I've seen a total of five major league games this year, a "personal best."
Sunday's rubber match game was a tense, low-scoring affair. With a 2-2 score going into the 7th inning, three Nats batters reached base on walks, and with two outs, Ian Desmond hit a clutch single up the middle, and that was all it took. Braves manager Bobby Cox was most annoyed at the way his team gave up the lead, putting the dampers on their postseason hopes. The Nationals host the Phillies tonight, Tuesday, and Wednesday, while the Braves host the Marlins in Atlanta. It's do-or-die time for the Braves!
I've added new photos to the Nationals Park page, including an upper-deck panorama. To my surprised, I noticed that the two-level press box in the upper deck is now dark blue, matching the seats, whereas it used to be bright red. They must have repainted it some time in the last month or so.
Rangers clinch AL West
Congratulations to the Texas Rangers for winning the American League Western Division title, earning their first trip to the postseason since 1999. The big question for them is whether Josh Hamilton will be healed in time to play in the postseason. He has been on the DL since September 4 due to minor rib fractures, but says he is "hopeful" he'll be back for the playoffs. With an batting average of .361, far ahead of the #2 hitter in the majors right now, Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies (.341), it would be a shame for the Rangers' star not to see any action in October. See MLB.com.