Nationals squander early lead
When the Sunday afternoon game in Washington began with back-to-back home runs by Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper, it looked like smooth sailing for the home team. Such was not to be the case, however, as the Braves' starting pitcher Tommy Hanson composed himself and didn't allow any more runs that inning, or for the next six. The Nationals repeatedly wasted run-scoring opportunities, a possible sign that they are not yet comfortable with the mantle of division leader. The over-eager Bryce Harper was thrown out at third base trying to stretch a double into another triple, and Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a double play with two runners on base. The Nats' starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez could not control his location, clearly not his usual self. In the fifth inning he threw two wild pitches and two walks (one intentional), loading the bases for Justin Heyward, who singled in what turned out to be the decisive runs of the game. Final score: 3-2. See the Washington Post. It was the first time in the history of baseball since records have been kept (1900) that two rookie batters hit home runs in the first inning of a game. Ironically, Gio Gonzalez had just been chosen the National League Pitcher of the Month, and outfielder Bryce Harper was named the NL Rookie of the Month. See MLB.com.
That gut-wrenching loss is also a shame in light of the splendid game the Nats played on Saturday. With a sell-out crowd numbering 41,042, Stephen Strasburg had his best outing of the year. Showing no signs of fatigue this time, he pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out nine batters. Jesus Flores hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, and Xavier Nady doubled in a run in the sixth inning, and that was enough. Final score: 2-0.
But as a result of the loss on Sunday, there was (briefly) a virtual three-way tie in the race for first place in the NL East. The Marlins (31-23) are now a mere fraction of percent behind the Nationals (30-22), as were the Mets until this afternoon, when they lost to the Cardinals, 5-4. (St. Louis has really been struggling lately.) That loss puts the Mets (31-24) a half game back. Both the Nats and Marlins are off today.
Inopportune rain delay
I was all set to hit the road and drive up to D.C. on Friday, but the forecast 90% chance of rain made me think otherwise. Indeed, there were heavy thunderstorms and even flash floods all around Virginia and Maryland, so it was no surprise that the game was rained out. It won't be made up until later in the summer. I expect to see one of the games at Nationals Park later this month.
Olympic Stadium update
As hinted at recently, I thoroughly revised the Olympic Stadium diagrams, with additional versions that attempt to convey the various roof configurations. It is much, much more accurate than before, and shows details such as lateral aisles and the photographers' areas next to the dugouts.
I recently learned that Montreal's new soccer team, "Impact Montreal" (!?), has been using Olympic Stadium on a temporary basis while their regular stadium (located nearby) undergoes expansion. Hence the soccer version diagram. See impactmontreal.com.
More stadium news to come shortly...