Nationals' road trip ends well
The Washington Nationals still cannot hit consistently even if their lives depend on it, but their pitching and fielding have been nearly flawless this month, and that was how they managed to take three of four games from the San Diego Padres. On Sunday afternoon, Jordan Zimmerman pitched seven innings without giving up a run, but didn't get credit for the win because the Nats did not score until the ninth inning. Danny Espinosa launched a ball to the right field corner that came within a couple feet of clearing the fence for a grand slam, but it was only a sac fly. The Nats had wasted three prime run-scoring opportunities in the earlier innings, but they still pulled out a win, and that's all that matters in the end. (Right?) All told, they were 6-5 in the eleven games played in Phoenix, San Francisco, and San Diego. It's only the third time this year they have won three in a row, and this streak was notable for the fact the Nats only scored two runs in each of those three wins.
The Phillies have been winning too, however, so even though the Nats' winning percentage has climbed to .455 (30-36), they remain ten games behind in the NL East race. I should mention that Michael Morse has continued to lead the way offensively, as his two-run homer in the first inning on Friday evening was all the Nationals needed to win. It was a towering bomb that landed several rows up in the upper deck in the left field at PETCO Park.
Tomorrow night the St. Louis Cardinals arrive in Washington for a three-game series. Speaking of which, congratulations to Tony LaRussa for recently surpassing the 5,000-game mark as manager, second on the all-time list behind Connie Mack (7,755). LaRussa has managed the Cardinals since 1996, and managed the White Sox and A's before that. See MLB.com. Unfortunately, this occasion was marred by a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, who swept the Cardinals and took over first place in the NL Central Division.
Indians lose their lead
Another big change in the standings took place over the weekend: the Cleveland Indians, who had the highest winning percentage in the majors until earlier this month, have lost nine of their last ten games. As a result, the Detroit Tigers now share first place honors in the AL Central Division. The Indians have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season, and I'm very glad for their manager, Manny Acta, who was released from managerial duties in Washington two years ago. Meanwhile, in the same division, the Minnesota Twins have finally gotten on the track to winning, and have climbed to .400, though they are still in last place. Only one team is currently below .400 -- the Houston Astros, and only two teams have a percentage of as much .600 -- the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. It's good for baseball when there's not so much of a spread between the top teams and the bottom teams.
U.C. Irvine beats U.Va.
I hope the University of Virginia Cavaliers had not already purchased their tickets to Omaha. After beat the University of California at Irvine (the Anteaters!) 6-0 in Charlottesville on Saturday, it looked like smooth sailing. They led 3-0 in the fifth inning, when a thunderstorm forced a rain delay of over four hours. When the game resumed, the Anteaters closed the gap and took the lead late in the game, winning 5-4. At this very minute they are playing the final game of the series to decide who will go to Omaha. Go Wahoos!
Bryce Harper's kiss
Future slugging star Bryce Harper is known for being a bit of a showoff, but his apparent sarcastic blown kiss to the pitcher while rounding third on a home run was a bit much for some people. With so many narcissistic athletes these days (did LeBron James jinx the Miami Heat?), it's easy for fans and pundits to criticize ill-mannered gestures. Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell is more forgiving, however, saying it is just a phase the 18-year old is going through.
Astrodome update, etc.
Prompted by my recent work on Arlington Stadium, I have updated the Astrodome diagram, with a more accurate profile than before. I was vaguely aware that the profile was too short, and recently noticed that some blueprint images I came across indicate that the standard height of each level was 11.5 feet, rather than 10 feet, as I had estimated before. Small differences like that can add up significantly in multi-story structures.
I also updated several of the stadium comparison pages, and added a table of chronological summary data to the chronologies navigation page. Glenn Simpkins kindly drew my attention to a couple of broken links, which have now been fixed. One of the affected pages, Stadiums by Class, remains a "work in progress" because I am still not sure whether the baseball stadiums of the last few years deserve to be in a separate category from the ones built from 1992 to 2004. For the time being, six stadiums (plus the Marlins' under-construction ballpark) are considered both "neoclassical" and "postmodern." I made a few more stylistic alterations to the baseball pages as well. Yet to do: weeding out links to other baseball blogs that are either shut down or in "hibernation."