September 15, 2014 [LINK / comment]
Nats on the verge of clinching
After taking three of four games from the New York Mets over the weekend, and then beating the (second-place) Braves in Atlanta tonight, the Washington Nationals are now just one game from clinching the National League Eastern Division title. With their magic number down to just two, all they need is to win either the Tuesday game or the Wednesday game.
It's quite a contrast from two years ago, when the Nats first won the NL East. The Braves were much better then, and even though the Nats had already secured a postseason berth by September 20, they didn't clinch the divisional title until October 1, with two games yet to play. The Nats ended the 2012 season at 98-64, the best record in the majors, and the Braves were only four games behind them!
In tonight's game, beset with steady drizzle, the Nats got on the board first with another home run (solo) by Wilson Ramos, and scraped together three more runs in subsequent innings. Stephen Strasburg pitched superbly, going seven innings without allowing a run. Unlike past outings in Atlanta, he kept his cool when the pressure was on. He even got an RBI single! But in the bottom of the ninth inning, Matt Williams gave the ball to Rafael Soriano, figuring that a four-run lead was safe enough to entrust to the shaky-at-best former closer. And sure enough, Soriano gave up two doubles and a walk before Williams yanked him, and then Drew Storen struggled to limit the damage, giving up just one more run. A great play by Ian Desmond at shortstop to get the final out may have kept the score from being tied. Final score: 4-2. Whew!
Nats clobber the Mets
Perhaps furious at the way the Mets closing pitcher Jose Mejia taunted them after getting the final out on Friday night, the Nats roared back with a 10-3 win on Saturday. Bryce Harper and Denard Span homered, while the red-hot Anthony Rendon went four for five at the plate. Ian Desmond stole his 20th base of the season, thus becoming the fourth shortstop in Major League history to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases at least three times; the others were Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Alex Rodriguez. Quite an elite grouping! Desmond has been in a slump lately, but he has done more than his share throughout the season, a big reason why the Nationals keep winning. Doug Fister got his 14th win, once again leading the team. (Tanner Roark has 13 wins.) See MLB.com. That win, plus the loss by the Braves earlier that day, raised the Nats' lead to 8.5 games, cutting their magic number to six.
On Sunday, Jordan Zimmermann outdueled the Mets' Jon Niese, with neither team scoring for the first six innings. In the top of the seventh, Ian Desmond hustled for an infield single, and then Wilson Ramos crushed a ball into the bullpens in right field, showing amazing opposite-field strength. In the top of the ninth, Ian Desmond led off with a double, but only made it to third base after two outs. Danny Espinosa walked, and then in one of the weirdest plays I've seen in a while, he attempted to steal second ... but not really. He actually could have made it to second, but he paused before he got there, trying to draw a throw from the catcher and hope that Desmond would run home before Espinosa was tagged. And what do you know? It worked! A nice insurance run to make the final score 3-0. With another loss by Atlanta, the Nationals' lead rose to 9.5 games, more than at any time during the 2012 season, while their magic number dropped to just four.
Rangers sweep the Braves
The Texas Rangers, currently in last place in the AL Central, did their part to help the franchise's former home city (Washington, D.C.) get to the playoffs this weekend. They swept the Atlanta Braves in three games. Not many people saw that coming.
Dodgers clobber Giants
After Friday night's game, in which the Giants beat the Dodgers 9-0, some people may have questioned my statement about L.A. teams "dominating" the Bay-area teams. (In fact, someone did!) But on Saturday, the Dodgers came right back with four runs in both the first and second innings, and ended up beating the Giants by a score of 17-0. Pitcher Zack Greinke not only won his 15th game of the year, he had two hits, one of which was a two-run homer. Altogether the Dodgers racked up 24 hits, while the Giants managed just five. The Dodgers also prevailed in the rubber match on Sunday, by the relatively normal score of 4-2.
Statistical table updates
I have continued with the work of updating the statistical tables on the stadium pages, taking care of Canadian ballparks, and miscellaneous ballparks such as Seals Stadium. After verifying my results with an alternate estimation method, I realized that I had to recalculate fair territory in all stadiums, because of slight flaw in my estimation methods. So, pending further updates over the next week or so, most of the stadium statistical tables currently understate fair territory by about 800 square feet. (For most stadiums, that's less than one percent.) After that work is done, I'll post a virtually complete (and corrected!) Stadium statistics page. Then I'll have a lot more to say about fair and foul territory!