Nationals struggle in Cincinnati
Evidently, the road to the postseason this year may not be as easy for the Nationals as some of us thought. Friday night, they suffered the worst defeat in their eight-year history residing in Washington, as the Cincinnati Reds shut them out 15-0. Previously, their worst defeat was on June 19, 2007, when the Detroit Tigers beat them 15-1. I think it's safe to say that 15-0 record will last for a long time. Werth, Harper, Zimmerman, and LaRoche all went hitless. Dan Haren's debut as a pitcher for the Nationals was not exactly auspicious, as he gave up four home runs to the Reds. Henry Rodriguez came in as a relief pitcher and gave up a two-out home run with the bases loaded to Xavier Paul. Groan...
Would it be mean for me to mention that Henry Rodriguez gave up a grand slam in Cincinnati in May of last year? That was when Joey Votto cleared the bases in the bottom of the ninth, winning the game. H-Rod didn't last long as closer after that.
The game on Saturday afternoon went much better, but this time closing pitcher Rafael Soriano blew the save opportunity, and the game went into extra innings. Reds closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman got three quick outs in the top of the 10th inning, and things looked bleak. Thankfully, Ian Desmond homered into the upper deck in left field to take back the lead in the 11th inning, 6-5, redeeming himself after committing two costly errors, and then Wilson Ramos added an insurance run with a blast on top of the bullpen canvas beyond center field. [It proved to be the decisive run, as relief pitcher Craig Stammen gave up a run in the bottom of the 11th, but then got the third out to win the game, 7-6.] The moral of that game? The Reds should have kept their closer Aroldis Chapman in for another inning!! There was talk that he might join the pitching rotation before the season started, so he ought to be able to last more than one inning.
The rubber match game on Sunday was likewise close and exciting most of the way, but manager Davey Johnson kept Stephen Strasburg in for one inning too long. I was surprised that Strasburg was allowed to bat in the top of the inning, with a runner in scoring position. He's good as a hitter as far as pitchers go (Silver Slugger 2012!), but a pinch hitter would be have better luck. A questionable throw to home plate by second baseman Danny Espinosa allowed the Reds to score the go-ahead run, and then two more crossed the plate after that. The Nats batters just couldn't put it together, and they fell, 6-3. See MLB.com.
So, the Nats (4-2) have fallen into third place, behind the Braves, who are 6-1, and the Mets, who are 5-2. Overall, that series in Cincy was a rude slap in the face to the Nationals. Reality check time.
Speaking of the Braves, I should mention that Justin Upton hit his sixth home run tonight, surpassing Michael Morse for the lead in the majors. Justin and his brother B.J. Upton stunned the Chicago Cubs on Saturday by each hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, converting a 5-4 loss into an improbable 6-5 victory. See MLB.com. "How about that?!"
Riverfront Stadium update
To mark the "occasion" of the Nats' first road trip of 2013, the Riverfront Stadium diagrams have been revised. They now show the structural members protruding from the rear of the upper deck. There are entry portals in the lower deck, but not the upper deck. Why not? Because Riverfront Stadium was the only stadium of the cookie-cutter era to feature entries that did not cut into the seating rows. It was an artefact of the extra-wide upper-deck concourse, much like PETCO Park in San Diego or some other neoclassical stadiums. Among other changes, the lateral aisle in the lower deck has been moved back about ten feets, and the front row of seats has been moved back a few feet. That had the effect of increasing my estimate of foul territory from 21.3 to 22.5 thousand square feet.
The mail bag
Here are a couple stadium-related news items from Mike Zurawski. In Toronto's Rogers Centre, they have removed the glass from the restaurant in center field, which used to be a cool place to hang out, but which has been vacant in recent years. See theglobeandmail.com. With the Blue Jays making big acquisitions during the off-season, they are hoping for a surge in attendance. Also, they are making plans to replace the fake turf with real grass as soon as the CFL Argos move out; see thescore.com. That could come in 2015..
In Atlanta, local officials have approved a bond issue to finance a new $1 billion football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons. They hope to have it built in time for the 2017 season. Since 1992, the have played in the Georgia Dome, where the NCAA basketball championship game just ended. (Louisville came back to beat Michigan.) See ajc.com. I have a hard time seeing the necessity for replacing a stadium that is only 25 years old. Hat tip to Mike Zurawski, once again.