Are the Nationals stuck in a rut?
Having alternated between wins and losses on a precise two-daily cycle for over a week, and briefly sharing first-place honors with the New York Mets, it seems that the Washington Nationals are stuck in a rut. The team's two big stars from last year -- Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer -- have been underperforming lately, and their most reliable pitcher from April, Gio Gonzalez, has lost his touch as well. It's getting to the point where one can legitimately speak of a "slump."
The Nats just finished a seven-game home stand in which they won only three games: one of three against the Mets, and two of four against the Cardinals. There were a few bright spots, most notably on May 24 (Tuesday), when five (5) Nats had home runs: Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Ben Revere (only his 5th career HR!), and Wilson Ramos. Nats 7, Mets 4. (How many games have had such a low score with that many home runs?) The Nats won the first game against the Cardinals 2-1, thanks to homers by Harper and Danny Espinosa -- again, very inefficient use of slugging power. In the Saturday evening game, broadcast on FOX (rather than MASN), Zimmerman went 4 for 4 with two home runs, while Harper hit another homer (his 13th), but the Nats still managed to lose, 7-4. That was a big letdown. Sunday's game was a tight, tense affair until the seventh inning, when Jayson Werth came in to pinch hit with the bases loaded and smashed a grand slam way over the wall in center field. The Nats added two more runs in the eighth inning, and won 10-2, thereby evening the series and hanging on to first place. Thanks to the L.A. Dodgers (and Adrian Gonzalez in particular) in the Sunday night game, the Mets fell a game behind the Nats.
Tonight in Philadelphia, the Nats were embroiled in another close game. But in the eighth inning they staged a three-run rally to take a two-run lead, and closing pitcher Jonathan Papelbon recovered after giving up two doubles to start the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Nats held on to win, 4-3. Whew! Tanner Roark pitched another solid game to get the win (he's now 4-4), but the star was Daniel Murphy, who doubled, hit a solo homer, and drove in two more runs with a bases-loaded single. Kudos also to former Phillie Jayson Werth, whose RBI single tied the game in the eighth inning. (MLB.com)
On Saturday, Daniel Murphy broke a Nationals record by getting his 41st hit in May; the previous record of 40 hits in one month was held by Denard Span, in 2014. With more one day yet to go, Murphy now has 44 hits this month. With a batting average of .395 one-third of the way through the season, people are going to start asking: "Can he break .400?"
Elsewhere in the majors, the Chicago Cubs have gotten hot once again, winning six straight games to push their winning percentage back above .700, while on the other side of town, the formerly hot White Sox are in a serious slump, losing seven in a row and falling into third place in the AL Central. Tonight they lost to the Mets, 1-0. In the AL East, the Red Sox have surged ahead of the Orioles, while the Yankees gradually climb out of the cellar. On the Pacific coast, the Giants have shaken off their early-season doldrums, and have taken a big lead (4.5 games) over the Dodgers in the NL West. In the AL West, the Mariners and Rangers are in a tight race, with the other three teams several games behind.
Since it is Memorial Day, I thought it would be appropriate to list all the [major league] baseball stadiums (plus one that played such a role in the movies) that had "Memorial" as part of their names. (Parentheses are used below if "Memorial" was not generally used [as part of the name].) Interestingly, all of them served as venues for football as well as baseball. The last one, Veterans (Memorial) Stadium, was built (and named) in 1971. Apparently, memorializing isn't as important as it used to be...
- (Los Angeles) Memorial Coliseum
- War Memorial Stadium (Buffalo, NY)
- Memorial Stadium (Baltimore)
- Robert F. Kennedy (Memorial) Stadium (Washington)
- Busch (Memorial) Stadium II (St. Louis)
- Veterans (Memorial) Stadium (Philadelphia)
Speaking of Memorial Coliseum, Bruce Orser recently brought to my attention a news clipping which indicates that the outer rim of that monstrosity was 106 feet above the field level. My diagrams indicate a height of 102 feet, which is pretty darned close, but I still may want to tweak that one just a little bit.