Almost perfect: Nationals sweep the Pirates
Following up on the uplifting 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, the Washington Nationals had one of their most memorable games in their ten-year history. One week after throwing a one-hitter, Max Scherzer had a virtually perfect game, spoiled only by a hit-by-pitch with two outs in the top of the ninth. (See below.) He threw ten strikeouts, making 26 total in his last two games. Meanwhile, Bryce Harper homered, and his team mates kept up the offensive push, leading to a 6-0 victory. [It was the first no-hitter in the major leagues this year, and (as we know ) the second one in Nationals history (excluding the Expos). Scherzer set all sorts of records with those dominant consecutive games.]
On Sunday, Gio Gonzalez had a decent outing, while the bats came alive again. In fact, they scored nine runs in the first inning, the most ever for the team in the first inning, and tying their record for runs in any inning. Bryce Harper homered after Yunel Escobar singled, jumping to a 2-0 lead, and after getting through the bottom of the order thanks to an RBI double by Gio Gonzalez, Escobar had a second at bat, and he made the most of it, with a three run homer. The rest of the game was fairly dull, although the Braves did finally get two runs in the top of the ninth as the Nats won, 9-2. So, what seemed to have been a daunting opponent (having won eight games in a row) turned out to be almost a pushover. Somehow, the Nats managed to win a series at last?
And what was Joe Ross's reward for pitching so splendidly in his first three major league outings? Why, he was sent back down to the minors. Go figure. Couldn't he at least be part of the bullpen?
Was Scherzer robbed?
The way Jose Tabata put his elbow in front of the ball in Saturday's game raises the question of whether the umpire should have called him out. (Indeed, the exact same thing happened a little while later in Omaha that same evening, and in that case the batter was called out.) To me, it's pretty obvious, but it's [a moot point. It was an eerie echo of when umpire Jim Joyce] blew what should have been an out call at first base [in 2010], robbing [Detroit's Armando Galarraga] of a perfect game. [To his credit, Scherzer graciously took the blame for throwing an inside pitch, and didn't question Tabata's movement.]
Mark London reminded me about what happened to Milt Pappas in 1972, near the end of his career which began with the Baltimore Orioles. [With two outs in the ninth inning, he gave up a walk and then immediately got the third out on a pop-up, for the no-hitter; much like Scherzer.] Watch for yourself at youtube.com.
[Strasburg is back, wins]
After a day of rest, the Nationals opened a home series against the Atlanta Braves last night. Fierce thunderstorms (which struck throughout the region) caused a two-hour delay, but the Nats got off to a good start nonetheless. Denard Span, Anthony Rendon batted him in. The Nats got a total of 12 hits, leaving too many on base, but it was enough runs to win the game, as Stephen Strasburg was in control for a change. Fans in D.C. were nervous about whether he had gotten over whatever it was that was plaguing him, and the initial indication was positive. He went five full innings, escaping from one jam, and striking out six batters. Drew Storen loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, but managed to get out of the jam when the batter popped out to the catcher in foul territory. Final score: 3-1.
Did Pete Rose bet?
You bet he bet! There has been talk that Pete Rose will be allowed to make some kind of appearance at the All-Star Game in Cincinatti next month, as a possible step toward full forgiveness and presumably admission into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A notebook recently surfaced which shows clear evidence that Rose indeed had bet on games in which he played during the early 1980s. See ESPN. My view is that he shouldn't be let into the Hall of Fame until as much time passes as passed between his misdeeds and his belated admission of wrongdoing -- that is, about 20 years.
Virginia reaches CWS finals
Talk about nerve-wracking drama, over and over again! The University of Virginia Cavaliers somehow defeated the Florida Gators in the NCAA elimination game on Saturday night, by a score of 5-4. That put them in the final series for the second year in a row, against the same opponent: Vanderbilt. On Monday night it was a close game until the sixth inning, whereupon the Commodores took a two-run lead. Later they tacked on three more, so the Cavs lost the first game, 5-1. Getting a symbolic run in the top of the ninth perhaps gave them a bit of momentum for Game 2. The usual center fielder [Adam] Haseley took the mound for the first time in over a month, and he did fine for about five innings, exiting the game with a 3-0 lead behind him. The Cavaliers scored single runs in three of the first five innings. Then the relief pitcher Josh Sborz came in to pitch, and he likewise did splendidly, finishing the game with a multi-inning save. In tonight's game, the Cavs got base hits on the first two pitches of the game, but failed to score a run, whereas the Commodores got two runs in the bottom of the first. But in the fourth inning the Cavs tied it 2-2, thanks to a home run by Pavin Smith, and that's where we stand right now.
[UPDATE: The Cavaliers took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning, thanks to an RBI single by Pavin Smith.]
[UPDATED UPDATE: The Cavaliers added on a run in the seventh inning, and went on to win 4-2. Virginia is the national champion in college baseball for the very first time! Brandon Waddell went seven full innings and got the win, and Nathan Kirby pitched the last two and got the save. Details tomorrow.]
TD Ameritrade Park!
Just in time for this evening's dramatic finale, I created a brand-new page for TD Ameritrade Park, complete with a fairly accurate diagram and a couple new photos. The panorama below is the best interior shot I could get, as no one was "at home" that day to let me inside. I should note that a minor league football team has played at TD Ameritrade Park, which is in the odd position of having no regular baseball tenant. I'll include a football version at some point in the future.