Nationals sweep the Marlins again
Much like they did in Houston two weeks ago, the Washington Nationals left a swath of devastation in Miami, beating the Marlins in all three games. (Was it a coincidence that a major hurricane menaced those two cities almost as soon as the Nats left town? See below.) Tonight Gio Gonzalez pitched five scoreless innings, escaping from a couple of tight jams such as having loaded the bases with nobody out. Whew! Ryan Zimmerman hit his 31st home run of the year, and Michael A. Taylor hit his 14th. In a ballpark as big as Marlins Park, that takes some doing. As usual (since late July), the bullpen did their job, and the Marlins' only run was in the bottom of the ninth. Final score: 8-1. The Nats ended up with a 13-6 record against the Marlins this year.
Last night was a tense, hard-fought matchup. Third-string catcher Pedro Severino hit an RBI single in the second inning, and Daniel Murphy hit a solo homer in the eighth inning, and that proved to be the decisive run: Nats 2, Marlins 1. But the real key to victory was Stephen Strasburg, who overcame a persistent leg cramp to get his twelfth win of the year. In the process, he set a Nationals record in pitching 26 consecutive scoreless innings. I wrote on Facebook:
With those six scoreless innings tonight, Stephen Strasburg's ERA drops to 2.78. Of the top five pitchers in MLB right now (ERA-wise), THREE are Nationals!!! That's how you win in October.
In the Monday night game, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy both homered and got three hits, accounting for all seven RBIs between them. As for the Marlins, their superhuman slugger Giancarlo Stanton got his 53rd homer of the year, and has at least an even shot at breaking Roger Maris's legitimate home run record of 61. A.J. Cole went 5 2/3 innings and notched his second win of the year. (He's now 2-4.) Final score: 7-2.
As a result of that series, Nats' magic number is now only 6, as shown at the top right of this blog post. [Their 18-game lead in the NL East is their biggest such lead ever, eclipsing (!) their previous mark of 17 games set at the end of the 2014 season.] So, the Nationals are all but guaranteed a National League East Division title for the second year in a row, and their fourth in the past six years. There will be a big celebration at home in Nationals Park some time over the next week or so...
Not another hurricane!?
As with Hurricane Harvey in Houston late last month, Hurricane Irma poses a dire threat to the entire state of Florida, and perhaps to the east coast. It's close to Puerto Rico right now, and will probably cause damage to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba before it reaches the U.S. The Marlins are leaving town right away, but their destination (Atlanta) may be affected by the storm by Sunday, the final day of their four-game series against the Braves. The Nationals begin a long home stand tomorrow with a four-game series against the Phillies. Some Nats games could get rained out, messing up the schedule as the 2017 regular season nears a conclusion...
Superstitious fans should take note that the Nationals' final three road series will be in Philadelphia, New York (Queens), and Atlanta during the latter part of this month. Folks in those cities, watch out!
Nats hit speed bump in Milwaukee
After cruising fairly steadily for the past month, the Washington Nationals lost a series to the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend. (Their previous series loss was to the Marlins in Miami, July 31 - August 2.) On August 31 (Thursday), Gio Gonzalez had his first shaky outing in a long time, giving up five earned runs over six innings. He kept his composure but just didn't have it that day. Brewers 6, Nats 3. The next day Tanner Roark pitched one of his best games all year, striking out ten and only giving up one run over seven innings, but that was the only score of the game. On Saturday, Michael A. Taylor not only provided the critical offensive firepower with a home run, but he stole a would-be game-tying RBI double to deep center field, making a great catch against the wall. The Nats had a chance to even the series on Sunday, but "reserve" starting pitcher Edwin Jackson was overcome by the Brewers sluggers. The Nats would have been shut out if it weren't for a two-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the ninth; instead they lost by a score of 7-2.
I should mention during the Nationals' series in Houston, I noticed a few details in Minute Maid Park that will serve to help making a more accurate diagram rendering.
Dodgers' pennant drive stalls
Until late last month, one might ask "Can anybody beat the Dodgers?" Now a more pertinent question might be, "Can the Dodgers beat anybody?" I'm sure it's just a temporary blip, but it does raise questions about whether the L.A. Dodgers' path to their first National League pennant [since 1988] is as smooth as we previously thought. They have only won one of their past ten games, which makes them (along with the Miami Marlins) the worst team in the majors over that period! I didn't see that coming. Starting with August 26, they lost almost all their games to (respectively) the Milwaukee Brewers (home), the Arizona Diamondbacks (away), the San Diego Padres (away), and the Diamondbacks again (home). Last night (Tuesday) the D-backs won 3-1 in ten innings, and tonight they are ahead 2-1 in the seventh inning, going for the sweep.
Indeed, the Diamondbacks are charging hard, closing to "only" within 11 1/2 games of the Dodgers. Their chances at the NL West title are slim at best, but they'll (presumably) at least have home field advantage in the NL wild card game. The Colorado Rockies were scuffling for a while, and their lead in the wild card race has slipped to just three games.
And speaking of hot teams, the Cleveland Indians have won an incredible fourteen (14) games in a row, and are now only 2 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros in the race to have the best record in the American League.
I haven't paid much attention to the Baltimore Orioles this year, as they are struggling just to stay above .500, but their rain-delayed game last night had to be very gratifying for the home town fans. The visiting New York Yankees had a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, whereupon their closing pitcher Dillon Betances got two outs and then gave up a walk, which allowed slugger Manny Machado to get an at-bat. Guess what? Walk-off home run!!! It was well after midnight, but the relatively few fans who stuck it out to the bitter end were rewarded handsomely for their loyalty. That was a key outcome because...
The Boston Red Sox hosted another marathon, beating the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 in 19 innings!!! Baseball really gets crazy this time of year. The Red Sox now enjoy a four-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East.
Whazzup with me?
As usual, I am hopelessly behind in communicating with folks, but as I get caught up with things over the next few days, I do intend to reply to the e-mail messages that have been sent, and to acknowledge donations in support of this website. Thanks for your patience.