Reality check: Nats fall into slump
After eking out a win in the first game of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies last Friday, thus tying the Phillies for 4th place in the NL East, the Washington Nationals fell flat on their collective face. All those hopes that they had figured out how to play as a team came crashing down as the Phillies won the next two games. On Saturday, Mackenzie Gore was pitching fine, entering the top of the 6th inning with a 2-2 lead. That's when J.T. Realmuto hit a leadoff homer that ended up being the deciding run in the game. Gore had a "quality start" (just 3 runs allowed over 6 innings), but the Nats' bats fell silent, as they lost, 4-2. Sunday's game was similar, in that starting pitcher Trevor Williams made it into the 6th inning only one run behind (2-1), but after two batters reached base he was replaced by Andres Machado, who promptly gave up a 3-run homer to Kyle Schwarber. Machado returned to the mound in the 7th inning and gave up a 2-run homer to Drew Ellis, which was the 2nd home run of the game for Ellis -- and also for the year! Indeed, this recent call-up from the minor leagues had only hit one major league homer in his career before that day. Go figure. For what it's worth, ex-Nat Kyle Schwarber also hit two home runs that day. The final score was ugly: 11-3.
One day later, Machado was "designated for assignment." About time!
On Tuesday the Arizona Dimaondbacks arrived in Washington, and it appeared that the Nats had shaken off their blues when Stone Garrett hit a grand slam in the first inning. But young starting pitcher Jake Irvin was having a hard time, and was replaced in the 5th inning by Erasmo Ramirez, who proceeded to let things totally fall apart. The D-backs scored multiple runs in four straight innings, resulting in a 10-5 final score. (One month earlier, this Nationals had barely escaped Phoenix without being swept.)
One day later, Ramirez was "designated for assignment." Apparently, the Nats' front office does not have infinite patience with repeat underachievers!
In the Wednesday game, Patrick Corbin had another fine outing, bouncing back and settling down after giving up 3 runs in the first inning. He pitched six full innings without giving up any more runs, but it was wasted effort, as the Nats offense could only generate two runs. Final score: 6-2. The game scheduled for Thursday was postponed due to terrible air quality, just as the games in New York and Philadelphia had been postponed the day before. Those of us who live in the mid-Atlantic region have had several straight days of hazy skies caused by enormous wildfires in Canada. Surprisingly, the two teams' schedules allowed for a makeup game to be played on June 22.
Last night, the Nats began a three-game series with the Braves in Atlanta, and they actually managed to take a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning. Unfortunately, the Braves scored 2 runs on two weird plays: a hard bouncer to first base which Dominic Smith misplayed, and a ground ball up the middle that shortstop C.J. Abrams couldn't quite reach. And that's how the Braves came back to win it, 3-2. Kyle Finnegan blew the save and took the loss.
As a result of last night's loss, the Nationals have now lost 5 games in a row for the very first time this year. It's a real kick in the gut, after showing so much promise last month.
Hopefully the Nats can win either today's or tomorrow's game in Atlanta and cut short that ugly streak. After this weekend's series in Atlanta, the Nationals head west to play the Houston Astros -- and I'll be there!!!
(Rail) Road Trip 2023!
I've been meaning to see a game in Houston for some time, and the opportunity to see the Nationals play very same team that they beat in the 2019 World Series was too much to resist! Surprisingly, the Astros are a few games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West. Another surprise is that the Arizona Dimaondbacks surged ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West race this week, after they beat the Nationals twice. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays are on another hot streak, winning 7 games in a row to put them back above the .700 level. That is just insanely good. The Baltimore Orioles are doing very well this year (39-24), but that still leaves them 6 1/2 games behind the Rays.
I will not only be seeing a game in Houston, but also (hopefully) three games in California during the following weekend! Is that ambitious, or what? Landslides south of Los Angeles have disrupted train service to San Diego, so I'm not 100% sure that I can see all give current MLB stadiums in the Golden States, but I will at least try! I'll rely on Facebook to try to touch base with fans I know in the L.A. and Bay Area during my trip. Details to follow in a couple weeks or so...
The mail bag
As I gradually get caught up with my email in-box, I'd like to thank those folks who have taken the time to communicate with me. One of them, Scott Rudolf, brought to my attention a proposal regarding how to reconfigure L.A. Memorial Coliseum for baseball. Instead of an asymmetrical alignment with very little foul territory on the first base side, it would have resembled the Polo Grounds, with ten or so rows of seats removed on both sides. It would have been 280 feet down the left field line, 259 feet down the right field line, and 426 yards to center field.
Also, Michael Thompson informed me that after the bullpens at Oracle Park were moved to either side of center field in 2020, an extra row of seats (or perhaps space for handicapped fans) was built in foul territory between first base and the right field pole. After checking, I noticed the same thing happened on the 3rd base side. I will take those details into account when I redo the Oracle Park diagrams later this summer. Thank you, Michael!