Nats hit a speed bump in Atlanta
Well, you can't win 'em all, even if you do have the second-best record in the National League right now. The Washington Nationals' vulnerabilities were on full display in Atlanta this weekend, as they lost the final two games they will ever play in Turner Field. The Atlanta Braves showed commendable spunk, meanwhile. On Saturday afternoon, Gio Gonzalez slipped back into his funk of mediocrity, giving up six earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings on the mound. Remarkably, Nats rookie Trea Turner hit two more one home runs on Saturday, after hitting one on Friday, for a total of 11 this year! Just think if he had played the whole season... It was a shame that his team mates couldn't follow his offensive lead. Final score: Braves 7, Nats 3.
Just that morning, the Washington Post had an upbeat article by Barry Svrluga about how much Gio Gonzalez has (or had) improved lately, and how much the Nationals will depend on him in the postseason now that Stephen Strasburg is injured again. "Never mind!" This puts manager Dusty Baker in an awkward spot: He has two first-rate starting pitchers (Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark) and a bunch of question marks. It will be hard to prevail over the Dodgers (their likely NLDS opponent) unless one of the younger guys steps up to the ... pitching rubber.
In the Sunday game, Joe Ross took the mound for the first time in over two months, and did OK, giving up one run over three innings. Reynaldo Lopez took his place, and the Braves scored two more runs when Dansbury Swanson hit a double over Bryce Harper's head in right field. That was a killer. MASN commentator Ray Knight questioned why Bryce was playing so close in during that series, as the same thing happened more than once. In the sixth inning, Trea Turner hit a two-out triple, and then Jayson Werth hit an RBI double as the drizzle turned to heavy rain. The grounds crews quickly rolled out the tarp, and after a delay of over an hour, Bryce Harper hit a bloop RBI single, making it a 3-2 game. Then Clint Robinson was hit by a pitch, giving Wilson Ramos an excellent opportunity to tie the game or better. But he struck out. In the bottom of the sixth, Mark Rzepczynski gave up three hits and walk as the Braves tacked on three more runs. With a four-run lead, there wasn't much point to waiting for the weather to improve after the second rain delay in the bottom of the seventh, and the umpires declared the game over. Braves 6, Nats 2.
This evening in Miami, the Nats' troubles continued. The young A.J. Cole once again had an acceptable outing as the Nats' starting pitcher, giving up two runs over four innings. Giancarlo Stanton was back in the lineup after a month on the DL with a groin pull. He made his presence felt, bashing a 448-foot home run into the bar area in the upper-level plaza beyond left field. It was simply amazing. The Nats took the lead in the fifth inning on a three-run homer by Danny Espinosa, but the Marlins came back with two more runs in the seventh, and won it, 4-3.
I was surprised to learn that Trea Turner is (almost) the same age as Bryce Harper: 23. Actually, Bryce was born eight months earlier: October 16, 1992.
Mets sweep the Twins
The Twins came close to beating the New York Mets in Citi Field on Saturday night, but the Mets kept evening the score. They got a run in the bottom of the eighth to make it 1-1, and it went into extra innings. A solo home run by Curtis Granderson in the bottom of the tenth tied the game 2-2, and another one in the twelfth inning won it in walk-off fashion. Two homers in one game!? Who does he think he is, Trea Turner?? . The Twins played a good, tough game again on Sunday, but the Mets did what they needed to do, winning 3-2 again, their third consecutive win.
But in Citi Field again tonight, the Mets fell flat against the suddenly-upbeat Atlanta Braves, who won their third game in a row, 7-3. That reduced the Nationals' magic number to just five.
Red Sox sweep the Yankees
After yet another improbable come-from-behind win by the Red Sox on Sunday night, the New York Yankees are hanging on for their dear lives in the AL wild card race. You could almost see it coming as Hanley Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning, making it a 4-3 game all of a sudden. The Red Sox scored one each in the next two innings, and completed the four-game sweep of the Yankees by a score of 5-4.