Braves sweep the Nationals
The Washington Nationals' quest for a return trip to the postseason came to a premature and definitive end last night, as the Atlanta Braves beat them for a third consecutive game. With a lead of 15 1/2 games over the Nationals and just seven weeks left in the baseball season, the Braves are virtually assured of winning the NL East title. It will take a few more weeks for them to formally clinch that honor.
All three games were razor-close most of the way, as the Nationals again played hard with relatively few mistakes. Tuesay's game was highlighted by the "plunking" of Bryce Harper by Braves pitcher Julio Teheran, apparently to "punish" him for pausing in the batter's box to watch his earlier home run. See MLB.com. Benches cleared, but no fisticuffs ensued. Surprisingly, there was no retaliation by any of the Nationals pitchers. The umpires had issued a warning, meaning a likely suspension for any pitcher doing so. In the MASN postgame analysis, Ray Knight said pitchers have got to stand up for their team mates, or else morale suffers. Final score: Braves 2, Nats 1.
In last night's game, the Nats got a big boost when Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, their first hit of the game. Jordan Zimmermann had to leave after that inning because of recurrent neck stiffness, apparently. The game was tied 3-3 in the top of the eighth inning, when Davey Johnson put in Ian Krol to replace Ryan Mattheus on the mound. Immediately Jason Heyward singled in a run, and then Justin Upton doubled in two more runs. The Nats didn't give up, and had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, sparked by Bryce Harper's leadoff double. Wilson Ramos then hit a line drive to right field, in exactly the wrong place, and that's how the game -- and in effect, the season -- ended. Final score: Braves 6, Nats 3.
So while the Braves have won 13 in a row, the Nats have lost four in a row. [This is an off day, so tonight they are resting and ruefully reflecting; the Phillies arrive in Washington tomorrow for a weekend series.] Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers have won 11 games in a row. With the Indians and Royals well above .500, the American League Central Division has some of the hottest teams in baseball right now.
In today's Washington Post, Tom Bosworth says the Nationals have forgotten the fundamentals of baseball: "Those two games were an execution by proper execution." He pointed to the failed bunt attempt by Gio Gonzalez, and the successful bunt by the Braves which set up a two-run single, their only scoring in Tuesday's game.
Citi Field update
I made some changes to the Citi Field diagrams, almost a full month after the All-Star Game was held there. Most significantly, the grandstand beyond first and third bases angles in more than before. The lateral walkway in the upper deck is wider than before. [I made a special effort to accurately depict the stairways between the upper and lower portions of the upper deck. You may also notice dots where small flagpoles are positioned on the roof at the juncture between each grandstand section. Those details, and the entry portals behind home plate in the upper deck, helped get everything just right.] In some sections there are two extra rows of seats in place of the "balconies" for fans in wheelchairs, but I'm not sure if those are permanent seats, so I have not indicated them for the time being. Also, the lower-deck diagram has more details than before.
One question that had me befuddled was the new rows of box seats between the dugouts. I had thought that they were going to be more or less permanent, but evidently they will only be installed for special events such as the All-Star Game. So, I decided to put those temporary box seats on the lower-deck diagram only.