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August 27, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Nats fall into cellar, bounce back

To the surprise of no one, the newly-rebuilt Washington Nationals struggled throughout this month, and for a while they appeared to be going from bad to worse. After getting swept in a four-game series against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies (see August 5), the Nats chalked up just one victory during the following nine games. They lost seven games in a row from August 8 through August 15, at which point they had fallen into last place, behind the Marlins. Then they bounced back with three consecutive wins and presently have a tenuous hold on fourth place.

From August 6 through 8, the Nationals were nearly swept by the Braves at Truist Park in (or near) Atlanta. Thanks to a pinch-hit double by Ryan Zimmerman and a home run by new catcher Riley Austin, they put three runs on the board in the ninth inning and managed to win the second game of the series (Saturday), 3-2. That late rally helped the Nats' promising new pitcher Josiah Gray avoid a would-be loss; he struck out ten batters over five innings.

After resting on Monday, the Nats headed up to New York City for three games against the Mets. Rain forced a suspension of the first game, which the Mets won 8-7 the next day. Rain also forced a postponement of the second game to Thursday, when a double-header (seven innings each) was played. The Mets won the early game 4-1, with a guy just called up from the Rochester minor league affiliate, Sean Nolin, pitching for the Nats. In the late game, the Nats rallied to tie it 4-4 in the top of the seventh inning, thanks to a clutch two-run single by Andrew Stevenson, but in the bottom of that inning Pete Alonso hit a walk-off home run to win it for the Mets. In a way it was fitting, since he was the champion of the Home Run Derby in Denver last month. Nats' pitcher Kyle Finnegan took the loss.

On Friday the 13th, the Nationals returned home to D.C. and welcomed the division-leading Atlanta Braves to town. There was a rain delay of over three hours, which seems ridiculous, but given the wet forecast for the weekend, they may not have had a choice. The Nats only scored two runs apiece in the first two games, but perked up offensively in the third game on Sunday. Unfortunately, the Braves hit three home runs and won that game (6-5), thus completing the sweep.

The day off on Monday, August 16 seemed to help the Nationals, as they racked up their first double-digit run total in nearly a month when the Toronto Blue Jays came to Nationals Park the next day. Home runs were hit by both Yadiel Hernandez and new catcher Riley Adams, who also doubled and singled. (Adams was traded to the Nationals for pitcher Brad Hand in late July, and he has improved markedly.) On Wednesday both teams hit three home runs, but the Nats came out ahead thanks to a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. Brad Hand took the loss in the 8-5 final result, and Kyle Finnegan got the save for the Nats.

Then the Nationals spent Thursday flying out west to play the Brewers at American Family Field (not "Miller Park" any more) in Milwaukee. After numerous disappointments on the mound this year, Patrick Corbin had a superlative game, striking out seven batters and giving up only one run over six innings. The Nats' star player (with 2 RBIs) in that game was left fielder Lane Thomas, who was traded by the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Jon Lester. (See below.) Much like Riley Adams, Thomas has been hitting much better since he joined the Nationals. He has also played center field, and may end up replacing Victor Robles, whose hitting and base-running struggles are almost legendary. On Saturday the two teams were tied 4-4 until the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Brewers scored five runs thanks mainly to a grand slam by Christian Yelich. (The Brewers slugger has been on the Injured List for most of this season.) Nats' pitcher Javy Rodriguez took the loss in the 9-6 outcome, and lasted a third of an inning. In the Sunday game, the Nats equalled their hosts in terms of hits (9) but just couldn't capitalize on run-scoring opportunities, and lost by a score of 7-3.

Monday the 23rd was yet another travel day for the Nats, as they flew to Miami to play the Marlins. In the Tuesday game Erick Fedde pitched his best game of the year, striking out ten batters over six innings. Home runs by catcher Tres Barrera and Ryan Zimmerman gave the Nationals a much-needed 5-1 victory. On Wednesday Josiah Gray pitched very well for the Nats once again, but his team mates didn't give him any run support until the seventh inning. That's when Josh Bell and Yadiel Hernandez hit back-to-back home runs to give the Nats a 3-2 lead. But in the bottom of the inning, relief pitcher Andres Machado gave up a leadoff triple, and soon the game was tied 3-3. It stayed that way until the tenth inning, when the Nats' Carter Kieboom (automatic runner on second base) was thrown out at home on a single by Riley Adams. So close! The Marlins executed a sacrifice bunt to get their automatic runner to third base, all but guaranteeing a home team victory. Marlins 4, Nats 3.

After flying to New York once again, tonight the Nationals faced the Mets, who have been perhaps even more jinxed than the Nationals over the past month. Thanks to some clutch hits in the third inning, the Nats managed to eke out a 2-1 victory, credited to starting pitcher Paolo Espino. In contrast to what happened two weeks ago, Kyle Finnegan got the save.

Kyle Finnegan

The Nationals' new de facto closer, Kyle Finnegan, at Nationals Park on June 16.

Injury update

The Nationals' fifth starting pitcher, Joe Ross, is out for the rest of the season, but at least for the moment it does not appear that he will need Tommy John surgery, as appeared to be the case at first. If so, it would be his second time. In addition, catcher Alex Avila has been on the injured list for several weeks. Relief pitcher Austin Voth returned to the Nats roster after being placed on the Injured List late in July, and his performance seems more reliable thus far. And, in another chapter of a never-ending tragedy, Stephen Strasburg had surgery to repair thoracic muscles, meaning that he will not only miss the rest of this year, but probably the first part of next year as well. He hardly played at all last year. Sad to say, but his renewed contract in late 2019 after the Nats won the World Series may turn out to be one of the biggest busts in franchise history.

Meanwhile, in L.A. ...

Former National Max Scherzer is doing his best to help his new team (the Dodgers) catch up with the Giants in the NL West race. He has won four of his five starts with Los Angeles, with no losses yet. Last night in San Diego (when the Dodgers won, 4-0) he struck out ten batters, raising his strikeout total to 188 for the year (41 with L.A.), and 2,972 lifetime. If he keeps up this pace, there seems little doubt that he will cross the immortal threshhold of 3,000 Ks some time in the middle of September. The other former National that was traded to the Dodgers in late July, Trea Turner, is likewise keeping up the pace in terms of batting and fielding. With a .320 batting average, he still leads the National League in that category.

Yankees win yet again

On Monday evening, for the first time in 120 years (really???), two teams with nine-game winning streaks faced each other: the New York Yankees and the host Atlanta Braves. The Yankees won 5-1, and beat the Braves again the next day, 5-4. After beating the Athletics twice in Oakland, the Yankees now have a 13-game winning streak and are putting pressure on the AL East Division leaders, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have won nine of their last ten games, which is not too shabby.

Orioles finally win

They came very close to losing once again, but thanks to a five-run eighth-inning rally on Wednesday, the Baltimore Orioles just barely managed to beat the visiting L.A. Angels, thus putting an end to their miserable 19-game losing streak. Suddenly pumped up with adrenaline, they clobbered the Angels 13-1 the next day. After losing to the Tampa Bay Rays tonight, the Orioles are now 40-87 for the year (.315), 39 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East. I heard they have one of the best farm systems in the majors, however, and with the anticipated top draft picks for next year, the franchise should improve markedly.

The Nationals' diaspora: (CORRECTED)

I realized that I had omitted the name of a (former) Nationals player who was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in late July: veteran pitcher Jon Lester. My apologies for leaving him out. So here is a corrected version of the table that I included in my August 5 blog post.

Name Position New team With Nats since
Max Scherzer P L.A. Dodgers 2015
Trea Turner SS L.A. Dodgers 2016
Kyle Schwarber LF Boston Red Sox 2021
Daniel Hudson P San Diego Padres 2019
Josh Harrison 2B Oakland Athletics 2020
Yan Gomes C Oakland Athletics 2019
Brad Hand P Toronto Blue Jays 2021
Jon Lester P St. Louis Cardinals 2021

I will try to assemble a corresponding list of newly-acquired Nationals players, since many of them show great promise for the future. Overall, General Manager Mike Rizzo did a great job in getting very good talent in return for all the top stars who were traded away one month ago.

August 17, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Hollywood ending in the Field of Dreams

I was a little skeptical when it was first announced, but the Yankees-White Sox game played in the corn fields of eastern Iowa last Thursday, August 12 turned out to be a big hit. The Field Of Dreams game had been delayed by one year due to the covid-19 pandemic, and it was a stroke of good luck that the weather was almost ideal. With seating limited to just 8,000 fans, MLB arranged a ticket lottery open only to residents of the state of Iowa. Fair enough. (Mark London, a long-time fan of this website, kept me posted about developments in the weeks before the game took place, and he tried to get tickets via the lottery.) A similar game held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in July 3, 2016 was open only to members of the armed services and their families. Field Of Dreams actor Kevin Costner was part of the opening ceremonies, in which the players for both sides entered the field from the corn, a very effective gimmick. The Yankees and White Sox battled back and forth as the game progressed, with the lead changing four times. In the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees erased a three-run deficit and took the lead thanks to home runs hit by two of their biggest sluggers: Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. But in the bottom of the ninth, Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson hit a home run into the corn beyond right field, as the "home team" White Sox won the game in dramatic walk-off fashion. Almost as if it had been scripted that way... White Sox 9, Yankees 8.

The game was such a success in terms of TV viewing and advertising revenues that MLB announced that there will be another game there next year: between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs. If they open it up to non-Iowans, I'd like to see that game...

Field of Dreams update

Field Of Dreams

And so, needless to say, I made some corrections and enhancements to the Field of Dreams page. It now includes separate diagrams for the new stadium where the game was played last week, as well as the diagram showing the diamond about 1/4 mile to the east, where the movie was actually filmed. [It is based largely on various aerial photos I have seen, including photos I took of the TV screen during the game. NOTE: The estimated 1,300-foot distance between the home plates of those two fields as rendered in the "combined" thumbnail image is only an "eyeball" approximation, and could be off by as much as 50 feet.] The thumbnail image above allows you to compare (by clicking, rolling your mouse over, etc.) the original (1988) Field Of Dreams with the new one where the MLB game was just played.

The new stadium is a simple, one-deck grandstand, resembling Fort Bragg Field, where the Braves hosted the Marlins on July 3, 2016. The portion surrounding the infield consists of 20 rows of seats with a row press boxes perched on top of fan amenities to the rear of the grandstand. There are access ramps on both the first and third base sides. Along the third base line down to the left field corner there is a large bleacher section, with about 40 rows of bench seats. The bullpens are in center field, and the corn fields run right up against the right and left field fences. Behind the main grandstand are two very large tents, presumably serving as emergency shelters and logistical functions. (There are also a number of other smaller structures and tents, which the diagram omits for reasons of simplicity.)

In addition, I have updated the Anomalous stadiums page with that information, as well as the two temporary ballparks used by the Toronto Blue Jays this year: TD Park (new page pending) in Dunedin, Florida and Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York.

Another (very special!) no-hitter

There was yet another no-hitter on Saturday night, as Tyler Gilbert, age 27, led the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 7-0 victory over the visiting San Diego Padres. It was the seventh (!) no-hitter this year, according to my calculations. This one was special, however, as it was the first time that a pitcher had thrown a no-hitter in his very first major league start since Bobo Holliman did it for the St. Louis Browns in 1953. (Holliman didn't last long in the majors, however.) Gilbert's parents were attending the game in Chase Field, obviously delighted beyond measure. Ironically, the losing pitcher in Saturday's game, Joe Musgrove, had thrown the first no-hitter in Padres history back on April 9.

August 5, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Fire sale from the smoldering ruins:
Nats trade away Max, Trea, Kyle, and many more!

As expected, after their season effectively went crashing down in flames last month, the Washington Nationals officially parted ways with three of their biggest stars: Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, and Kyle Schwarber. As the trade deadline (Friday July 30) approached last week, there was a rumor that Scherzer was about to be traded to the San Diego Padres, but then the L.A. Dodgers zoomed in and closed a deal that seemed more attractive to the Nationals. The key condition was that Trea Turner (who was under contractual obligation for another year) be included in the bargain. Scherzer becomes a free agent at the end of this year, and as a "rental" player is of less value to the Dodgers. Those two superstars were exchanged for four young prospects, most notably pitcher Josiah Gray and catcher Keibert Ruiz. The transaction was contingent upon medical exams of all players concerned, and became a formality on Friday. By that time, Kyle Schwarber had already been traded to the Boston Red Sox, but he is still recovering from the hamstring injury he suffered a month ago.

But wait, there's more! In addition to the trades of Scherzer, Turner, and Schwarber, the Nationals also announced on Thursday that Yan Gomes (catcher) and Josh Harrison (infielder) were being traded to the Oakland Athletics, while Daniel Hudson went to the San Diego Padres. Actually, the first National to be traded last was closing pitcher Brad Hand, who was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays. No surprise there. The benefit to the Nationals side will come primarily from the savings in salaries owed, enabling the franchise to rebuild its minor league system.

Although few knowledgeable baseball observers would question the need for the Nationals to unload some of their priciest stars, some might question whether General Manager Mike Rizzo went too far. Obviously, major league baseball is a business, but financial success is derived to a large extent from maintaining the goodwill of the team's fan base. When the Florida/Miami Marlins had "fire sales" immediately after their World Series victories in 1997 and 2003, it did great damage to the Marlins' popularity in south Florida. To the credit of the Nationals' owners, the Lerner family, they did invest a substantial amount of money after the 2019 World Series championship in retaining old talent (e.g. Stephen Strasburg) and acquiring new talent (e.g. Kyle Schwarber). It just didn't work out, and there was no point in pretending otherwise.

The Nationals' diaspora

Name Position New team With Nats since
Max Scherzer P L.A. Dodgers 2015
Trea Turner SS L.A. Dodgers 2016
Kyle Schwarber LF Boston Red Sox 2021
Daniel Hudson P San Diego Padres 2019
Josh Harrison 2B Oakland Athletics 2020
Yan Gomes C Oakland Athletics 2019
Brad Hand P Toronto Blue Jays 2021

The acquisition of free agent Max Scherzer in January 2015 was probably the biggest coup of Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo's career. The seven-year $210 million contract turned out to be a spectacular bargain for the Nationals, as Scherzer played a key role in winning the NL East Division three times and winning the World Series in 2019. (I wrote back then "Is he really worth that much?" Ha! smile) Scherzer threw two no-hitters during his very first year with the Nationals: June 20, 2015 (at home vs. the Pirates) and October 3, 2015 (while visiting the New York Mets). He won the National League Cy Young Award in both 2016 and 2017, after having won the AL Cy Young in 2013 when he was with the Detroit Tigers. During his four months playing with the Nationals this year, Max Scherzer had eight wins and four losses, with 147 strikeouts (seventh best in the major leagues), and a 2.76 ERA. In his first start with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, he gave up a home run to the second batter he faced but then struck out ten batters over seven innings, getting the win. Typical Max! The near-capacity crowd at Dodger Stadium roared its approval, and Max relishes the opportunity to pitch deep into October as his new team tries to repeat its World Series title. It's all very difficult for me to absorb... frown

Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer pitched against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 30, 2017, when the visitors won the game, 4-1. Max finished with a 16-6 record for the year.

Whereas the departure of Scherzer (soon to be a free agent) was widely expected, Trea Turner's sudden exit was quite a shock. The Nationals were unable to come to terms with him on a long-term contract this year, but he is (or was) under team control for one more year. (I try to ignore rumors, but it seems that neither side was particularly motivated to renew the contractual relationship.) That fact that Turner was under a contractual obligation may have motivated the key demand made by the Dodgers in the Scherzer trade. Turner was originally acquired by the Nationals from the Padres in a multi-team trade in December 2014 -- just a few weeks before the Max Scherzer deal, in fact. A speedster, he spent most of 2015 in center field, after which he replaced Danny Epinosa (and Ian Desmond) as shortstop. (I saw his major league debut on August 21, 2015, when he he almost beat the throw on what would have been an infield single.) Over the years he blossomed from a solid contact hitter and defensive player into a top-caliber slugger. During his four months playing with the Nationals this year, Turner had 18 home runs, 42 RBIs, and a .322 batting average -- the fourth best in the major leagues! On July 29 he was placed on the 10-day Injured List after testing positive for covid-19. The Dodgers will benefit greatly from his presence, but there may be some rearrangement of the infield, since Corey Seager has held the shortstop position for a few years. Modest and youthful in appearance, Trea will be missed greatly by fans in Washington.

Trea Turner

Trea Turner in a game against the New York Mets on September 21, 2018, when the visitors won the game, 4-2.

In retrospect, perhaps the historic home run hitting performance by Kyle Schwarber in June (16 home runs within an 18-day period) was just too good to last. His hamstring injury in early July suddenly put a chill on the Nationals' aspirations to vie for the NL East title; it's almost as though the fortunes of the entire Nationals franchise were held together by those fragile ligaments in his legs. He heard an ugly "pop" while rounding first base, and the rest is history. Recovery from hamstring injuries is hard to predict, so it may take a few more weeks before he is able to help his new team (the Boston Red Sox) as they compete against the Tampa Bay Rays.

After two years of disappointment with the Nationals, catcher Yan Gomes (born in Brazil!) showed remarkable improvement in the batter's box this year. He and Josh Harrison were traded to the Oakland Athletics, who have been in a close race with the Houston Astros for the AL West crown. Harrison has been a very useful infielder, who can hit fairly regularly and can play a variety of positions. Relief pitcher Daniel Hudson, who replaced Sean Doolittle as the Nats' closer late in the 2019 season and got the final out in World Series Game 7, was traded to the San Diego Padres. He didn't enjoy being the closing pitcher, a very stressful and often thankless job.

Of all the trades made, the one involving closing pitcher Brad Hand (traded to the Toronto Blue Jays) was least painful for Nats fans. Despite getting a $10.5 million contract for this year, he repeatedly failed to meet expectations, and often turned victories into losses. Hand was criticized for several gut-wrenching blown saves this year, most notably the ones on July 25 (vs. the Orioles) and 26 (vs. the Phillies). After losing those two games, all hope was gone for the Nats. Hand got 21 saves out of 26 save opportunities with the Nationals this year, ranking a very respectable #13 in the major leagues. On the other hand, several of his saves were of a most precarious nature, giving up multiple hits, walks, and runs. It's an odd mixed bag of pluses and minuses. In the top of the tenth inning Monday, when the Blue Jays were hosting the Cleveland Indians, Hand gave up three runs and was tagged with the loss.

Brad Hand

Brad Hand pitched against the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 16, getting his 13th save of the year.

Farewell and best wishes, Max, Trea, Kyle, Josh, Yan, Daniel, & Brad!

Hellish month comes to an end

There was a fleeting moment of wistful glory in the early afternoon of July 29 when Max Scherzer pitched his final game with the Nationals, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. He struck out five batters over six innings, and when Yan Gomes hit a go-ahead homer in the top of the seventh inning, that put Max in line to get his eighth win of the season. Nats 3, Phillies 1. But the second game that day turned out to be an eerie repeat of the 9-8 loss to the Padres on July 8. The Nats jumped to a 7-0 lead by the middle of the third inning, but starting pitcher Patrick Corbin and the relief pitchers that followed him began hemmorhaging runs. The Phillies scored three in the eighth inning, and four in the ninth inning on a grand slam by Brad Miller, winning it 11-8. Sam Clay took the loss for the Nats. It was yet another one of the worst collapses in Nationals' history, ruining what could have been an uplifting series win against a good team. Instead, the Nats and Phillies split the series two games apiece.

Back in Washington for the weekend, the radically revamped Nationals did fairly well against the Chicago Cubs, who also traded away some of their key players in a fire sale of their own. The Nats' Paolo Espino pitched well enough for a victory on Friday (4-3) and Erick Fedde did likewise on Sunday (6-5). But the Saturday game (July 31) was plagued by a mediocre performance by Joe Ross, who was replaced in the fifth inning. The Cubs won that one, 6-3. Still, getting a series win was at least something to be proud of for the New Nationals.

But then the Philadelphia Phillies came to town on the second day of August, and nothing went right for the Nationals. On Monday they had a 3-2 lead going into the top of the ninth inning, and Davey Martinez decided to send Gabe Klobosits back out to the mound after he got three quick outs in the eighth inning. Well, the first two batters singled, so the extraordinarily unreliable Wander Suero was sent in to finish the game. It was a complete, unmitigated catastrophe. Before you knew it, five Phillies had crossed the plate, taking a 7-3 lead. To their credit, the Nats came back with two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but they still lost, 7-5. Suero was promptly traded away, and quite frankly will not be missed in D.C. On Tuesday Patrick Corbin pitched very well until the seventh inning, when the Phillies scored three runs. Comeback rallies by the Nats fell short in the 5-4 defeat. On Wednesday Paolo Espino could not contain the Phillies, and the Nats lost 9-5 even though they hit four home runs -- two by the young second baseman, Luis Garcia. Thursday afternoon looked like the Nats would finally catch a break, as they headed into the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead. But Kyle Finnegan, who is the closest thing the Nationals currently have to a reliable relief pitcher, flinched when the heat was on. The Phillies tied it 5-5 on an RBI double by J.T. Realmuto, and then took a 7-5 lead on an RBI double by Rhys Hoskins. The one run scored by the Nats in the bottom of the ninth was not quite enough.

Two observations about that series: Nats' third baseman Carter Kieboom, who had been heralded as a future star until repeated disappointments, may finally have turned the corner and started to live up to his potential. He has hit two home runs recently, and is hitting regularly as well. Also, the Phillies' Bryce Harper has been on a hot streak lately, and may be a contender for the NL title in the home run and batting average categories. He may even be a candidate for NL MVP, which he won in 2015 -- way back when he was with the Nationals.

For the month of July, the Nats went 8-18, after going 19-9 in June; it was an apocalyptic downturn of truly epic proportions. The Washington Nationals page has been updated accordingly. Now that the Nationals are out of the postseason picture for this year, and probably for at least the next year or two, I plan to spend less time in this blog recounting their games. For a team in rebuilding mode, wins and losses are of secondary importance.

American League wins All-Star Game again

For the eighth consecutive year (not counting last year when the event was canceled), the American League won the All-Star Game. The Nationals' ace (at the time) Max Scherzer started the game for the National League, and got three quick outs. Why didn't they keep him in for one more inning? The pitcher who replaced him, Corbin Burnes (of the Milwaukee Brewers), gave up a run in both the second and third innings. Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays' young phenom Vlad Guerrero Jr. hit a solo homer and later batted in a second run, thus becoming the youngest (age 22) player ever to be named All-Star Game MVP. The final score was 5-2. For the first time ever, the starting pitcher for one league (Shohei Ohtani) was the leadoff batter for that side. (Somehow they let him have a second at-bat as a designated hitter after he had been replaced as pitcher; very strange.) The game was moved from Atlanta's Truist Park to Denver's Coors Field, in response to protests against restrictive voting laws passed by the Georgia state legislature. See the Annual baseball chronology page.

Alonso wins Home Run Derby again

Do you like repeats? If so, you'll love the fact that Pete Alonso (New York Mets) won this year's Home Run Derby, just like the last time the event was held, two years ago. He beat the Orioles' Trey Mancini 23-22 in the final round after beating the Nationals' Juan Soto 16-15 in the second round.

But perhaps the biggest news from that Monday night spectacle was that the top-seeded Shohei Ohtani, who then led the majors with 33 home runs, was eliminated by the Nationals' Juan Soto in the first round. It was a memorable double-tiebreaker situation, with Soto ending up with 31 home runs to Ohtani's 28.

Baseball returns to Canada

On Friday July 30, the Toronto Blue Jays returned home to the Rogers Centre (ex-Skydome) for the first time since the end of the 2019 season. Because of travel restrictions made necessary by the covid-19 pandemic, the Blue Jays played all of the abbreviated last season at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York. They played the first two months this year at their spring training ballpark in Dunedin, Florida -- TD Park -- and then went back to Buffalo for the mid-summer. (Text updates to both those pages are pending; I will have to create a diagram for TD Park in the coming months.)

Superdome is renamed

As expected, the "Mercedes-Benz" Superdome was renamed in mid-July; it is now officially called "Caesar's Superdome," after the resort hotel / casino enterprise. The connection with gambling interests is troubling to some people, just as is the case with the Las Vegas (formerly Oakland) Raiders. The Superdome page has been updated to reflect that.

July 27, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Apocalypse now: Nationals' season is in ruins

In retrospect, that ugly 9-8 loss to the Padres in San Diego on July 8 probably marked the end of the Washington Nationals' chances for a berth in the 2021 postseason. They quickly went from being potential rivals of the National League's best teams (in the Western Division) to mere pretenders. In San Francisco, they were swept in three straight games by the Giants. On July 9, Paolo Espino had a short outing on the mound, while most of the offensive output was generated by rookie Tres Barrera, who batted in two runs. Final score: 5-3. The next day (Saturday), Jon Lester disappointed once again, and was replaced during the third inning. Newly acquired Alcides Escobar (traded by the Kansas City Royals) knocked in two runs, but the Nats lost by a lopsided 10-4. In the Sunday game, Erick Fedde had a decent outing (just three earned runs over five innings pitched), but the Nats' offense fell flat again as the home team won it, 3-1. Notable in that game was Starlin Castro's three hits in four at-bats; he was subsequently taken off the active roster after he was accused of domestic violence, and it is clear that he will not be returning to the team.

Any hope that the Nats might bounce back after the All-Star break (to be discussed later) were instantly crushed on Friday July 16, as they suffered the biggest defeat of the entire year. The Padres were visiting Washington D.C., but Erick Fedde was not at all ready for them. He lasted a little more than one inning, giving up six runs, and the bullpen was not ready to fill in for him, as they gave up an additional 18 runs during the remainder of the game. Juan Soto's two home runs were utterly meaningless, as was Gerardo Parra's one. [Final score: 24-8. frown] Saturday night's game was suspended in the sixth inning due to a strange incident outside the stadium. Several gunshots were fired from cars driving down South Capitol Street, and when a wounded passerby staggered into the gate on the third base side, a mild panic erupted among some of the fans. Eventually fans were told to exit the stadium on the north and east sides, but the period of confusion seemed unduly long. When the game resumed on Sunday afternoon, the Padres added to their lead and ended up with a 10-4 victory. The Nationals finally ended their losing streak in the second game, as Max Scherzer had a solid 7-inning game, striking out eight more batters -- perhaps his last ever in a Nats uniform. frown Alcides Escobar and Juan Soto homered, and after Brad Hand blew the save in the top of the ninth inning, Escobar got the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the ninth to rescue what would have been a disgraceful loss, thereby avoiding another sweep. It ended the Nationals' six-game losing streak.

That marked a mini-revival, as the Nats won the next two games against the Miami Marlins. On Monday July 19 they totalled 18 runs, the most of the year thus far, thanks to home runs by Juan Soto (2), Josh Bell, Tres Barrera, Trea Turner, [and even the pitcher Jon Lester!] Lester finally had a superb day on the mound, going seven full innings without giving up a run. The Marlins scored one in the latter innings. On the 20th Paolo Espino likewise bounced back and got the win in a 5-3 victory for the Nats. But the Nats managed to lose the final game of the series in spite of a good outing by Erick Fedde. In the top of the tenth inning, the Marlins got two runs across and won the game, 3-1.

Next came a visit to Baltimore, where the lowly Orioles showed more spunk than might be expected. Patrick Corbin had a lousy day, giving up four earned runs and one unearned run, while all the Nats could manage was a solo home run by Josh Bell. Final score: 6-1. On Saturday Juan Soto homered and Trea Turner got two RBIs, while Jon Lester had an OK day, giving up three runs. The Orioles won that one, 5-3. On Sunday Paolo Espino did likewise, and a sixth inning three-run home run by Ryan Zimmerman put the Nats ahead, with Espino in line to get the win. But in the bottom of the ninth inning, closing pitcher Brad Hand fell apart, and the Orioles scored twice to win the game 5-4 and thus complete the sweep. frown Things were going from very bad to worse...

Last night's game in Philadelphia against the Phillies was even worse: Thanks to an early four-run rally, the Nats had a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning, whereupon closing pitcher Brad Hand plunked the first batter, got an out, gave up a walk to Bryce Harper, and then gave up a walk-off home run to Andrew McCutcheon. And the fans went wild! Final score: Phillies 6, Nats. 5. frown

That was the final straw. All hope for bouncing back and salvaging the 2021 season has been lost.

Trading deadline approaches

Since the Nationals are essentially out of the race for the postseason, there is no longer any point in speculating who they might acquire in trades by the deadline this coming Saturday night. (NOTE: Unlike recent years, there will be no waiver exceptions for the month of August.) Quite the contrary, General Manager Mike Rizzo has indicated that all players are negotiable for trades, except Juan Soto. Max Scherzer will almost certainly get his 3,000th career strikeout wearing the uniform of a different team, but no one doubts that when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame it will be as a National. I would have thought that keeping Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber ought to be a bigger priority, but it is clear that [the owners of] the Nationals have decided to embark upon a full-blown franchise rebuilding effort, from the bottom up. That means restocking the depleted minor league rosters, and pretty much forgetting about contending for at least the next couple years. With one of the weakest farm systems in the major leagues right now, the Nationals' top priority must be to rebuild the team's long-term foundations in the minor league rosters. What an incredible, sad turnaround for a franchise that was until recently so successful and so proud. frown

July 9, 2021 [LINK / comment]

Schwarber gets hurt, Nats get swept

After the pivotal role he played in the Nationals' big rebound last month, the loss of Kyle Schwarber in the lineup has had a huge effect on the Nats's fortunes during the early part of this month. In the opening game of the four-game series against the Dodgers in Washington on Thursday July 1st, Schwarber once again ignited the offense with a first-inning leadoff double, but the run he soon scored was one of only two for the Nats that day. Patrick Corbin did very well as pitcher until the fifth inning, when the Dodgers scored five runs. Final score: 6-2. On Friday Max Scherzer took the mound and once again lived up to his All-Star caliber standards. (For some incomprehensible reason, however, he was not selected for the 2021 All-Star Game.) He struck out eight and only gave up one run over six innings, but the bullpen immediately crumpled in the seventh inning, as the Dodgers scored nine (9) runs. Argh!!! Final score: 10-5.

The worst part of that game, however, was that Kyle Schwarber pulled a hamstring while rounding first base, and immediately left the game. He was put on the ten-day Injured List, so he might be back soon after the All-Star break. Such injuries are often dicey, however, and we won't really know his status for at least another week.

On Saturday, Josh Harrison filled in as leadoff batter and left fielder, while the Nats acquired Alcides Escobar from the Kansas City Royals. (Escobar has taken Harrison's place at second base.) Paolo Espino was having an OK night pitching until a lengthy rain delay in the fifth inning put an end to his evening on the mound. The Dodgers scored a couple runs in the latter innings and won that one too, 5-3. On Sunday, the Fourth of July (game time 11:05 AM!), the Nats took a 1-0 lead in the third inning thanks to Starlin Castro's RBI single, but the Dodgers came right back to tie it. Starting pitcher Joe Ross was having one of his best games of the year, striking out eleven batters over six-plus innings, but then he gave up an RBI single to aging superstar Albert Pujols, and that proved to be all the Dodgers needed. They won the game 5-1, thereby completing a four-game sweep of the home team on a quite disappointing Independence Day in D.C.

Nats get thwarted in San Diego

Then the Nationals headed to the west coast to face the San Diego Padres in another grueling four-game series with a highly competitive team. Thanks to the acquisitions of infielder Manny Machado and pitcher Yu Darvish, the Padres have been highly competitive in the National League West Division this year. They even held first place for a while earlier in the season, but have slumped a little recently. On Monday Jon Lester only lasted into the fourth inning as pitcher for the Nats, but home runs by Trea Turner (back from a short stint on the IL) and Josh Bell proved to be the decisive edge in the Nats' 7-5 victory. On Tuesday Erick Fedde had a mediocre day on the mound, giving up six runs in less than five innings. As a starting pitcher, he has sometimes been excellent and sometimes not this year. In spite of homers by Josh Harrison and Juan Soto, the Padres won that game, 7-4. On Wednesday Patrick Corbin was dominant for seven innings, only allowing two runs to the home team. Juan Soto homered again, while "the two Joshes" (Bell and Harrison) had three hits apiece in the offensive eruption. Final score: Nats 15, Padres 5. smile

Last night (Thursday) started out great for the Nationals, and thanks in part to Trea Turner's two home runs, they had an 8-0 lead going into the bottom of the fourth inning. That's when Fernando Tatis Jr. put his team on the board with a leadoff home run. That apparently rattled the Nats' pitcher Max Scherzer, who proceeded to hit two of the next four batters, while another one hit a single. Nerves began [to] tighten across Nats Land when he walked in a run with the bases loaded, but since the next batter was a backup pitcher who had just been called up from the minor leagues, what's the worst that could happen? You guessed correctly, a #&@$%! grand slam! The batter, Daniel Camarena, had never even gotten a hit in the major leagues before, and Max Scherzer had never given up a home run to the opposing pitcher throughout his entire career. So, you might say it was an unlikely event. The pitch he hit was a bit low and inside, reminding me of when Howie Kendrick hit such a pitch for a home run to give the Nats the lead in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. How Camarena connected with that pitch is a mystery. The score was now 8-6, and all depended on whether Scherzer would compose himself and get out of the inning with the (shrunken) lead intact. He did not. The next batter, Tommy Pham, doubled, and Max was replaced by Kyle Finnegan, who gave up an RBI single to Tatis, and the margin was now only one run. Two innings later, Pham doubled again, driving in the tying run. The Nats failed to score any runs in the latter innings, and in the bottom of the ninth, relief pitcher Sam Clay (who was culpable in the fourth-inning debacle in the July 2nd game), gave up a walk and two hits, including the game-winning single hit by Trent Grisham. The Padres won it 9-8 after being behind 8-0 in the middle of the fourth inning. It was one of the worst collapses in Nationals' history, ruining what could have been an uplifting series win against a very good team. frown Instead, the Nats and Padres split the series two games apiece.

As a result, the Nats fell into a tie for third place, and facing the division-leading Giants in San Francisco tonight, things are not looking much better...

Postseason scores, 2021

Major League Baseball championship series, 2021
World Champions: TBA
Wild Card Games / Divisional series
Oct. ? - ?
League Championship series
Oct. ? - ?
World Series
Oct. ? - ?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NL-wc: ^  
NL-wc: ^  
AL-wc: ^  
AL-wc: ^     Extra-inning game: X
AL-E:   Win by visiting team: X

See explanatory notes at bottom.
^ : If the visiting wild card teams win, the row positions will be switched so as to properly align in the subsequent divisional series.

Explanatory notes

(Regular season winning percentages in parentheses.) Boldfaced scores indicate the winning team. Underlined scores denote extra-inning games. Olive-shaded score boxes denote games won by the VISITING team. Higher-seeded teams (those with the initial home field advantage) are shown on the BOTTOM side in each matchup. However, beginning with 2012, each league has TWO wild card teams, competing in a one-game "play-in," and whichever of those two teams that wins in each league is displayed below (after the outcome is known), so as to properly align with the subsequent divisional series scores. Beginning in 2003 and continuing through 2016, the league that won the All Star Game got the initial home field advantage in the World Series; prior to 2003, initial home field advantage in the World Series alternated from year to year. Except for 2002 (the infamous tie), the American League won the All Star Game every year between 1997 and 2009. Beginning in 2017, home field advantage in the World Series goes to the team with the higher regular season winning percentage.

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Baseball books:

See Sources for a brief description of the above books. Also see more specialized books on the Ebbets Field, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium pages.

Coming Attractions

General diagrams
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(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Soon after the 2017 opening of the new home of the Atlanta Braves (SunTrust Park), construction began on the future home of the Texas Rangers, a very brief lapse. The last significant lapse occurred from March 2012 (when Marlins Park was completed), September 2014 (when construction on SunTrust Park began). Before that, there was at least one major league baseball stadium under construction continually from September 1986 until March 2012. Both the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays hope to get public funding for a new stadium, but near-term prospects are bleak.

NEW! Stadium construction page, with a chronology of the past 30 years.

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