Nationals on the brink of triumph
By defeating the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night, the Washington Nationals reduced their magic number from two to just one. They could have clinched the NL East title if [the New York Mets] had beaten Atlanta either Saturday or Sunday, but that didn't happen. It's perhaps for the best that the Nats will have the opportunity to cross the triumphant threshhold while they are back home in D.C. this week. All they need to do is win one of three games against the Phillies, or else have the Braves lose one of their games against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
The Saturday night game was unusual in several ways. The Nats got on the board in the first inning after Michael Morse hit a grand slam that was initially ruled in play. It cleared the eight-foot-high inner fence and bounced off the wall that's three feet in back. (That small gap is correctly depicted on my diagram for Busch Stadium III; I have been much more attentive to such small but often-vital details* over the past couple years.) After the umpires reviewed the video tape, they made the correct ruling, but just to make sure, they told Morse and two of the base runners to retrace their steps and run home again. It was rather surreal. And those were the only runs scored by the Nats for the next eight innings. Meanwhile, the Cardinals closed the gap with three runs in the seventh inning and one more in the ninth, sending the game into extra innings. It was the once-and-future closing pitcher Drew Storen's first blown save of the year, robbing Jordan Zimmermann of what would have been his 13th win of the year. In the top of the tenth, the Nats had runners on first and third via two walks and a passed ball, when Kurt Suzuki surprised everyone by crushing a two-run double to the fence in left-center field. The Cardinals failed to respond in the bottom of the inning, and the visitors won by a final score of 6-4. That gave the Nationals a 14-6 record in extra-innings games this year. See MLB.com.
On Sunday, the Cardinals came charging back, as Ross Detwiler gave up seven runs in the second and third inning. Only three of those runs were earned, as an error by Danny Espinosa (trying to make a double play) proved costly. The Nats came back with a four-run rally in the fourth inning, but then relief pitcher Chien-Ming Wang gave up a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, widening the gap again. Final score: Cards 10, Nats 4.
And speaking of triumph, the Baltimore Orioles have officially qualified for the 2012 postseason, the first time they've gone past the regular season since 1997. The current issue of Sports Illustrated (dated today) features the Baltimore-Washington area as the emerging capital of pro sports. Notwithstanding all the hype over RG III, the Redskins are lucky to be 2-2, after a last-second field goal to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday.
Tonight in Washington the Phillies have a 2-0 lead over the Nationals in the seventh inning, but the Pirates have a 2-1 lead over the Braves, who are valiantly clinging on to hopes of catching up to the Nats and forcing a tie-breaking game to decide the NL East Division title.
* Speaking of attention to details, I'm afraid I have to make one more significant correction to the Nationals Park diagrams. Stay tuned...
The mail bag
More news from Mike Zurawski: In St. Louis, the long-deferred Ballpark Village project was given the go-ahead by the Missouri Development Finance Board. The state will pay $17 million out of a total of $89 million for first phase of the project. It will include a Cardinals' Hall of Fame, an Anheuser-Busch brew pub, and a variety of shops. See stltoday.com, via ballparkdigest.com.
And in Los Angeles, the city council has given preliminary approval to a proposed new football stadium to be located downtown, not in that far-off suburb known as the City of Industry. See ESPN. Is the NFL's long exile from the City of Angels near an end???
Finally, the Texas Rangers plan to make another round of renovations to the Ballpark in Arlington. Yet another row of up-close box seats, shrinking foul territory even more? I don't like that part. See ballparkdigest.com.
Brandon Henderson informs me that a soccer match between Venezuela and Nigeria will be held at Marlins Park later this year. The official announcement will be tomorrow; see MLB.com. If so, another diagram may become necessary...
Finally, Ira Pastor wanted to know if I agree that the deepest part of Yankee Stadium II is slightly left of dead center field. Yes, I'd say it's about 410 or 411 feet.