Nats win fourth straight series
With just five weeks left in the regular season, the Washington Nationals are finally starting to play like their lives (or careers) depend on it. Even though Steven Strasburg gave up a three-run home run in the first inning against the Miami Marlins this afternoon, and only lasted four innings, the team battled back with some clutch hits. About time! Jayson Werth got things going with a two-run homer in the third inning to pull within one run of the Marlins, but then the visiting team immediately homered in the fourth inning to make it a 4-2 game. Obviously, Strasburg was having one of those days when something wasn't right, and Doug Fister took his place for the next two innings. In the fifth inning, the Nats put together a string of hits to get three runs, taking the lead, and in the sixth inning, Clint Robinson hit a pinch-hit two-run homer to extend he Nationals' lead. The bullpen did its part, and the Nats emerged with a 7-4 victory.
On Saturday, Ryan Zimmerman got things started with a solo home run, a feat matched by Clint Robinson, while Jordan Zimmerman had his best outing lately, pitching seven solid innings. Final score: Nats 5, Marlins 1. So even though the series started off on a sour note, with the Nationals wasting multiple run-scoring opportunities in a narrow 4-3 loss, they still won the series. It was their fourth consecutive series win, and once again, it was by a margin of two games to one.
Clint Robinson has proved to be a very worthy bench player for the Nationals this year, batting .268 with seven homers, and his success as a rookie at the ripe old age of 30 warms the hearts of all us "old-timers."
However, the New York Mets managed to avert being swept by the visiting Red Sox this afternoon, winning 5-4, so the Nationals remain 5 1/2 games behind in the NL East race. Still five weeks to go...
Arrieta gets no-hitter
In Los Angeles this evening, the Chicago Cubs ended their recent losing streak by beating the Dodgers 2-0, as Jake Arrieta got his first career no-hitter. The Cubs' only runs came on a homer by Kris Bryant in the first inning. That was Arrieta's 17th win of the season, leading the league, and he may be a contender for the Cy Young Award. Not many people would have expected that at the beginning of the season. It's the sixth MLB no-hitter this year. The last no-hitter by a Cub pitcher was in 2008, by Carlos Zambrano. (Whatever happened to him?)
Fan dies in Atlanta
There was another ballpark tragedy on Saturday night, this time in Atlanta, as a Braves fan died after falling over the front edge of the upper deck at Turner Field, landing in the second deck. He was later identified as Gregory Murrey, age 60. Several witnesses said he was yelling at Alex Rodriguez, who was coming up to bat, and tumbled over the railing. See MLB.com or the Washington Post.
That tragedy cast further gloom on Braves fans, as the Yankees swept the Braves in the three-game series, by scores of 15-4, 3-1, and 20-6.
U.S. Cellular Field tweak
Based on my observations during the game I saw there last month, the U.S. Cellular Field diagrams have been revised ever-so slightly. The field and grandstand are almost exactly the same as before, but details such as the bullpens, the terraced table-seating area in the right field corner, and the exit ramps are more accurate. Also, there is a new "full" diagram version, showing all of the exit ramps and peripheral structures in their entirety.
Although the White Sox didn't win that game I saw (the Cardinals won, 8-5), Chicago fans got to see two of their guys hit home runs, one of which was the second career homer by rookie third baseman Tyler Saladino. He was called up from the Charlotte Knights (the franchise's AAA affiliate) on July 10, and hit home runs on July 19 and July 21 (when I was there). He has hit one more since then. Not a bad start!
As you can see, it was a perfect day for taking pictures outside, but inside the stadium shadows already covered most of the field before play began. I still managed to get several good photos, about a dozen of which you can now see posted on that page. Attendance that day was 29,728, probably including a few thousand "phantom fans" (tax write-offs).