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November 9, 2019 [LINK / comment]

On the Road Again: Nats Are the Champions!

Did I mention that "Anything, and I mean anything, can happen in the baseball postseason"? Yes, I believe I did. In spite of the heavy odds stacked against them, the Washington Nationals pulled off two more come-from-behind wins to complete another come-from-behind series victory over the Astros in Houston on Wednesday night, October 30. (Ten days ago already!?) After losing all three games in Washington and facing elimination, they managed to win both Games 6 and 7 in Houston to take the World Series title. It was the first such championship in the history of the franchise (which was born in Montreal 50 years ago), and was the first time since 1924 that Washington, D.C. has claimed the honor.

Stephen Strasburg had the weight of the world on his shoulder in Game 6 on Tuesday night, and he delivered like a true champion, fulfilling the sky-high hopes that he had raised after his debut with the Nationals on June 8, 2010. (Nine years ago already!?) It wasn't easy, though, as he gave up two runs in the bottom of the first inning after the Nats had scored one in the top half. George Springer hit a double on Strasburg's very first pitch, and Alex Bregman hit a solo homer later in the inning to take the lead. The ominous prospect of elimination grew as the score remained 2-1 until the fifth inning. That's when everything changed, as both Adam Eaton and Juan Soto hit solo home runs to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead. The ball Soto hit sailed way up into the second deck in right field, a true tape-measure home run. And the crowd went mild! Much like Game 5 of the NLDS in Los Angeles, the home fans grew nervous, as the momentum shifted in favor of the visiting team. Future Hall-of-Famer Justin Verlander left the game with his team behind, once again failing to deliver in the postseason. Strasburg faced his stiffest test in the bottom of that inning, when the Astros had runners on second and third with just one out. But he got Jose Altuve to strike out on three pitches, and induced Michael Brantley into grounding out to shortstop to end the inning. Two innings later there erupted a big controversy when Trea Turner hit a swinging bunt that almost resulted in runners on second and third with no outs, except that he was called out on interference. Technically he was partly on the inside of the first base line, but the applicable rule says that the player is called out if, in the umpire's judgment, he interfered with the throw. Replays showed he probably would have beat the throw from catcher to first, but it wasn't a reviewable play. The normally calm Dave Martinez objected so vociferously that he was ejected from the game. MLB honcho Joe Torre conferred with the umpires and later said they made the right call. The official explanation of why it took so long to issue a definitive ruling was less than convincing, but in the end it didn't matter because two batters later, Anthony Rendon hit a home run to give the Nats a 5-2 lead! That was huge!! In the ninth inning, Rendon pretty much put the game away with a two-run double, his fifth RBI of the game. In the bottom of the ninth, Stephen Strasburg got one out and was then replaced by Sean Doolittle. After a second out, he gave up a double to Carlos Correa, but it was of no consequence as the Nats won in decisive fashion, 7-2.

Having won an elimination game for the fourth time in the postseason, the Nats prepared to do it again in Game 7 on Wednesday night. Could they somehow win On the Road Again? (Cue Willie Nelson.) To the huge relief of Nationals fans, Max Scherzer was able to start, only three days after a neck muscle spasm rendered him too stiff to walk normally. A shot of cortisone did the trick. When Max gave up a solo home run to in the second inning, it was not unexpected. The question was, would he shrug it off and keep his focus? The answer was YES! He put two more zeroes on the board before giving up an RBI single to Carlos Correa in the fifth inning. Time was running short for the Nationals, who only got one hit (a single by Juan Soto) in the first six innings. The Astros starter Zack Greinke was in total command -- until Anthony Rendon came up to bat in the seventh inning. He swung at a low pitch and sent it up into the Crawford box seats above the scoreboard in left field, narrowing the gap to just one run. Greinke walked Juan Soto and was then replaced by Will Harris. Howie Kendrick came up to bat, and in a moment that Nationals fans will never forget, he smacked the ball into the right field foul pole for a two-run homer to put the Nationals ahead. WOW!!! Patrick Corbin pitched the next three innings for the Nationals, and did just fine, only giving up two hits. In the top of the eighth inning, Juan Soto hit an RBI single, and in the top of the ninth, Adam Eaton hit a two-run single to give the Nats a four-run lead. In the bottom of the ninth, Daniel Hudson induced a popup from George Springer, and then struck out Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley to end the game on a joyous note. [Final score: 6-2.] And that's how the all-but-impossible outcome happened: The Nats Are the Champions! (Cue Queen.) For a more complete game wrap-up, see the Washington Post.

When the Nats won World Series Game 6, it was the first time in the history of major professional sports (MLB, NBA, and NHL) that the visiting team had won six consecutive games in a playoff series. When they did it again the next night, they thereby set a new record (seven such games) that may someday be equalled but will never be broken. In only one other World Series in this century has the visiting team won a majority of the games: in 2016, when the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in seven games.

To emphasize the comeback aspect of the 2019 World Series, in none of the seven games did the Nationals have the lead after two innings, and in all but one game (#2) the Astros were ahead at that point. In the aggregate, the run totals for the first four innings were Astros 17, Nationals 6. In contrast, the aggregate score for the final five innings was Nationals 27, Astros 13. The total aggregate score was thus 33-30 in the Nats' favor, an indication of how evenly the series was matched.

One final note: It was the first time since 2014 (when the San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals in seven games) that none of the World Series games went into extra innings.

[UPDATE / Another final note: Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell opined that the Nationals' race to grab a postseason berth and then make it all the way was the biggest such upset in MLB history. Bigger than the 1969 Mets even? Well, like that play at first base when Trea Turner was called out, it's a matter of judgment. smile]

Strasburg named World Series MVP

There wasn't much doubt that Stephen Strasburg made more of a difference in game outcomes than any other Nationals player. And thus he was named World Series MVP. Strasburg made history by becoming the first pitcher to win five games in a single postseason: NLDS Games 1 and 5, NLCS Game 3, and World Series Games 2 and 6. Strasburg is usually very serious, and it was nice to see a big grin on his face after the Game 7 triumph, when he was awarded the MVP trophy. Max Scherzer's postseason record was 3-0 with two no-decisions. Strasburg's overall postseason ERA was a miniscule 1.98, and he led the team in innings pitched, with 36. Scherzer pitched 30 total innings, with a 2.40 ERA. Anibal Sanchez was next in line among the starters with a 2.50 postseason ERA, while Patrick Corbin struggled and ended up with 5.79. FUN FACT: The same guy who was starting pitcher in the Nats' final regular season home game, Joe Ross, was also the starting pitcher in the Nats' final postseason home game: World Series Game 5. Among the top two relievers, Sean Doolittle had a 1.74 ERA over 10 1/3 innings, while Daniel Hudson had a 3.72 ERA over 9 2/3 innings. The consistent, solid pitching by the starters took the pressure off the Nats' otherwise feeble bullpen, and rather remarkably, there was only one blown save in 7 save opportunities during the postseason, and that was by Patrick Corbin.

Stephen Strasburg

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, after the final regular season game on September 29.

On the hitting side, the biggest contributors were Juan Soto, who led the team with three home runs and a batting average of .333 during the World Series, followed by Anthony Rendon, who led the team with 8 World Series RBIs (Soto had 7). Rendon and Adam Eaton had two homers each, while four others had one home run each. Ryan Zimmerman's homer may have been the most important one, as it put the Nationals on the board in Game 1, sparking the unexpected surge that gave his team a precious victory on the road. For the postseason as a whole, Anthony Rendon led the team with 15 RBIs and a .328 batting average. Juan Soto led the team with five home runs.

Dave Martinez vindicates himself

I have often been critical of Nats' Manager Dave Martinez, but after what his team just accomplished, I feel compelled to humbly retract my previous harsh judgments. What do I know? smile I know he had a weak bullpen to work with during the regular season, but I was still perplexed why he kept putting in less-reliable relievers (such as Wander Suero) during clutch situations. Well, Dave showed he knew how to keep things under control in the postseason, and the players seemed to respond very well to his leadership. Maybe it just took a while for his managerial approach to "gel." In any case, he really should have been considered for Manager of the Year, but the three National League candidates are Craig Counsell (Brewers), Mike Shildt (Cardinals), and Brian Snitker (Braves).

Dave Martinez

Dave Martinez, in the dugout at Nationals Park on September 29.

Victory celebrations in D.C.

I really wanted to drive up to Washington to be part of the big parade last Saturday, but (as you can probably imagine) I've been so swamped with various tasks lately that I just didn't have enough energy to do it. The weather was almost perfect, with clear skies and mild temperatures, encouraging a big turnout that probably numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The sight of Ryan Zimmerman holding up the Commissioner's Trophy alongside Manager Dave Martinez and General Manager Mike Rizzo was supremely gratifying. Ryan has worked hard his whole 15-year career for this moment, which he most assuredly deserved.

Then on the south portico of the White House, Kurt Suzuki put on a "Make American Great Again" hat, for which President Trump hugged him, and Ryan Zimmerman held up a "Trump 45" Nationals jersey, saying some good things about the President. On the other hand, Sean Doolittle declined to attend, on the grounds that President Trump has been dividing the country, and a few others likewise did not show up. I can respect all those players' individual expressions. It was an awkward situation that was handled about as well as could be expected.

[In my previous blog post] I should have mentioned another peripheral incident from Game 5: President Trump was booed after the announcer called attention to his presence.

Karma from a young fan

You know all those corny baseball movies where the hero slugger promises to hit a home run for a hospitalized child? Well, reality and fantasy came close to merging this year. Perhaps one reason why fortune seemed to smile on the Nationals more often this October than in their previous four postseason quests is a young fan named Parker Staples. He's a ten-year old cancer patient who lives in Waynesboro, Virginia, not far from where I live. After getting to know Nats pitcher Sean Doolittle through the Make a Wish Foundation, he threw out the first pitch at the May 24 game in Nationals Park against the Marlins, and the Nats ended up winning, 12-10. That broke a five-game losing streak and marked the beginning the big upturn that made baseball history. Parker made a return appearance to Nationals Park before Game 3 of the NLCS, and after the World Series was invited to join in the victory parade in Washington. It sounds like it was scripted in Hollywood, and the best part of all is that he is now cancer free! See WJLA.com. You just can't make this stuff up.

Congratulations to the World Champion Washington Nationals!

Misc. web page updates

Aside from the obvious updates on the Postseason scores page, there have been numerous updates to the Washington Nationals page, which now includes batting averages and ERA data for the Nationals regular players. The table of historical head-to-head matchups shows that the Nationals' cumulative historical win-loss record for regular season games (2005-2019) is now 1222-1206, or 50.3%. After flirting with the 50% threshold for over a year, the finally broke through that barrier some time in mid-season. (For postseason games, including their 12-5 record this year, their cumulative record is now 19-17, or 52.8%.) One negative piece of new information on that page is that the average home attendance at Nationals Park this year was only 27,861, the lowest since 2011. I'll bet it jumps back above 30,000 next year!

In addition, World Series information has been added to the Annual baseball chronology page, and the Baseball chronologies page, which has a decade-by-decade summary. Thanks to the Nationals, the National League won a majority of World Series contests (6 to 4) during a decade for the first time since the 1960s. (Next year we begin a new decade!)

Finally, the Nationals Park and Minute Maid Park pages have been updated with 2019 World Series information. Other stadium information pages are likely to be updated soon as well.

Rendon wins Silver Slugger

Even though he was once again passed over in favor of Nolan Arenado for the All-Star Game, Anthony Rendon was awarded the 2019 Silver Slugger trophy for the third base position. "Tony Two-Bags" led the majors with 126 RBIs during the regular season (postseason statistics are not considered for such awards), with a batting average of .319 and 34 home runs. It was a fitting honor, which may raise his market value as he explores offers from other teams as a free agent. I dearly hope he signs a new contract with the Nationals, but it's more likely that Stephen Strasburg will get a renewed contract offer first, and the odds are probably against both players returning to the Nats next year. I'm going to try not to worry about it.

Anthony Rendon

In his typically relaxed style, Anthony Rendon prepares to hit an RBI bloop single in the sixth inning of the July 28 game against the L.A. Dodgers, which the Nats won, 11-4.

The mail bag

I have had numerous congratulatory messages on Facebook and via e-mail, but thus far have been unable to answer more than a handful of them. Rest assured, now that I have gotten all this baseball record-keeping behind me, I will get around to responding as best as my limited time permits. Thanks very much for all the kind words, and thanks for your understanding!

October 29, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Astros shock the Nationals in Washington, thrice*

Full of vim and vigor after winning their first two World Series games in Houston last week, and with soaring hopes as they returned home, the Washington Nationals instead collided head on with cold, hard reality over the weekend. Whereas they started the series with at best a 30 percent chance of winning it all, after Game 2 those odds had risen to perhaps 70 percent. They could either win two of three games at home or else win just one game and then count on Stephen Strasburg to win Game 6. That is exactly what they are hoping for tonight, but since they failed to win any games at home, this will be a do-or-die elimination game. So now the shoe is on the other proverbial foot: Washington, you have a problem.

Game 3 on Friday night was a litany of missed opportunities for the Nats hitters, who went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Two singles to start the second inning, and nothing. Bases loaded in the third inning, another zero. In the fourth inning Ryan Zimmerman got a leadoff walk and after an out scored the Nats first run on a triple by Victor Robles. But he never got past third, and in spite of multiple situations with runners on second after that, the Nats didn't score any more runs. On the mound, Anibal Sanchez struggled a bit, giving up way too many hits, but at least he didn't implode. He made it into the sixth inning before being replaced, but took the loss in a 4-1 final result.

In Game 4, there were high hopes for high-priced starting pitcher Patrick Corbin, especially since he was going up against an unknown rookie, Jose Urquidy. But the Astros scored twice in the first inning, and took a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning when Robinson Chirinos hit a towering two-run homer way up into the left field seats. The Nats' only run came on a ground ball out to first base hit by Juan Soto. The Nats only managed four hits in the entire game, which was as many runs as the Astros scored in the seventh inning, when Alex Bregman hit a grand slam. (The aged reliever Fernando Rodney was pitching.) It was about as dispiriting result as one could imagine. Final score: Astros 8, Nationals 1.

The Nats still had hopes since Max Scherzer was expected to start Game 5, but when it was learned on Sunday afternoon that he had been scratched, hopes quickly dimmed. Joe Ross started in an emergency situation, and he did about as well as could be expected. The line score looked a lot like the one from Game 4, but the Astros scored two runs each in the second and fourth innings instead of the first and fourth. The Nats' only run came in the seventh inning, when Juan Soto hit a homer that just cleared the fence in front of the Red Porch in left-center field. That closed the gap, but then the Astros scored three more runs in the final two innings to make the final score an ugly 7-1. That game will remain famous for two peripheral incidents: a Nats player in the first row of the Red Porch seats blocking an Astros home run ball with his chest while holding on to two (2) beers, and two ladies wearing yellow shirts flashing pitcher Gerrit Cole in hopes of distracting him. It didn't work, and they have been indefinitely banned from baseball games.

What happened to Max Scherzer?

News that ace pitcher Max Scherzer would not be able to pitch Game 5 was a bitter blow to Nats fans who were dismayed by Games 3 and 4, hoping to avoid a three-game sweep. On Sunday morning he woke up with sharp spasms in his neck muscles, and could hardly move his head or shoulders. The latest word is that he is doubtful for the rest of the series, which means that if the Nats can pull off a win tonight in Game 6, they will have to rely on an awkward combination of pitchers in a possible Game 7. Prospects aren't good, obviously, but the Nationals have overcome steeper odds in making improbable comebacks this year, so it's still anyone's guess who will be crowned champion. Anything, and I mean anything, can happen in the baseball postseason!
Go Nats!!!

* For you folks in Rio Linda, that's an archaic way of saying "three times."

October 25, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Nationals shock the Astros in Houston, twice

By now everyone knows the cliché, so to avoid repetition, I'll render it in Spanish: Houston, Ud. tiene un problema. I tend to be cautious in my prognostications of sporting contests, and I evidently underestimated my favorite team, the Washington Nationals. Most people are talking about the big clutch hits by the Nats' sluggers, but what really made the difference in both games, I think, was the grit and determination of the two starting pitchers, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

Game 1 started off on an optimistic note with a leadoff single by Trea Turner, but he didn't get across the plate. In the bottom of the first, the Astros got the first two runners on base via a walk and a single, after which Max Scherzer struck out the next two batters. But number five in the lineup, Yuli Gurriel, smacked a two-run double to give the home team an early lead. In the second inning, Ryan Zimmerman smacked a home run just left of dead center field, in a location that would have rolled up the slope that used to be in center field of Minute Maid Park. Now I'm glad they got rid of "Tal's Hill"! smile That gave the Nats a big lift, and two innings later, the then-20-year old Juan Soto crushed a ball to the opposite field (left center), and it landed on top of the platform where the train tracks are situated. It was estimated that it would have traveled 417 feet, but I think it might have gone farther. All of a sudden it was a tie game, and the psychological aspect of the game immediately changed. One inning later, the Nats launched a three-run rally, thanks to an RBI single by Adam Eaton and a two-run double by Juan Soto -- his third RBI of the night! Max Scherzer got through the fifth inning, tired but not broken. In spite of the adversity, the Astros' ace pitcher Garret Cole stayed on the mound for two more innings. In the bottom of the seventh, George Springer hit a solo homer for the Astros, and and in the eighth he hit an RBI double, but that was as close as they came to narrowing the gap. Final score: Nats 5, Astros 4 -- a big upset.

Then on Wednesday night both teams scored two runs in the first inning. For the Nationals, Anthony Rendon knocked a two-run double that bounced off the scoreboard wall in left field, but none of the next three batters could get him home. In the bottom of the first, Jose Altuve doubled but was later caught stealing at third base, a huge play for the Nats' catcher Kurt Suzuki. Then Michael Brantley singled and Alex Bregman hit a home run to tie the game. The score remained 2-2 for the next five innings, a textbook pitchers' duel between Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander. Then in the seventh inning there was something of a miracle when Kurt Suzuki hit a lead-off homer to left field. That clearly rattled Verlander, and before you knew it Nats were scoring left and right. They added six runs in that inning, three more in the eighth (featuring an Adam Eaton homer), and one more in the ninth (featuring a Michael A. Taylor homer). Fans in Houston could not believe their eyes, and most of them were gone by the time the game ended. Martin Maldonado hit a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth, a token gesture of resistance. Somehow the underdog Nationals had not only won both games in Houston, but had done so in stunning fashion.

Those two victories put the Nationals in a commanding position, with a very real chance to win the series back home in Washington. That is just like the NLDS, and in fact, that sentence was copied from my October 14 post, which indicated that the visiting team has not won the first two games in any World Series at least as far back to 2002; see the Postseason scores page. I'll find out later when the last time it happened...

Game 3 is about to get underway in Washington tonight, and the atmosphere in Nationals Park must be absolutely electric. I wish I could afford to buy a ticket, but they were going for well over $700 the last time I checked. They'll have three chances to win two games in Washington and thus earn the ultimate championship, which would unleash a celebration unlike anything the city has seen in years. Go Nats!!!

Juan Soto

Juan Soto hits a two-run double in the final regular-season game (against the Cleveland Indians) at Nationals Park, September 29. Today, October 25, is his 21st birthday!

October 22, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Nationals & Astros begin World Series 2019

As an upstart "Cinderella" team with a history of postseason misfortune, the Washington Nationals are clearly the underdogs going up against the Houston Astros, who host Game 1 of the 2019 World Series tonight. The Astros won it all just two years ago, and they boast a starting lineup and pitching rotation that ranks very high by historical standards. For their part, the Nats "are just happy to be here," but that does not mean that they are satisfied with their first National League pennant or that they aren't worthy competitors.

Tonight Max Scherzer will go up against Gerritt Cole, who leads the American League in strikeouts (326) and ERA, and is the odds-on favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award. Tomorrow night it will be Stephen Strasburg against Mad Max's former team mate on the Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander. And it's just possible that another former Tiger, Anibal Sanchez, will end up facing Verlander in one of the later games in this series. I predict it will go at least six games, but it's anybody's guess who will emerge victorious.

Comparing the ballparks

Just like last year, and several years before that, I present the home ballparks of the two World Series teams, for easy comparison. Also just like last year, the contrasts between the two stadiums -- Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium -- are very sharp.

Minute Maid Park Dodger Stadium
Nationals Park

Just roll your mouse over the thumbnail images to switch between the respective full-size diagrams.

Astros beat Yanks in a thriller

Game 6 of the ALCS was a real thriller, as the visiting New York Yankees came back to tie the game 4-4 in the top of the ninth inning thanks to a two-run homer by D.J. Lemahieu. Could this be another one of those miraculous postseason twists of fate? Nope. The Astros did likewise in the bottom of the ninth, as diminuitive slugger Jose Altuve hit a walk-off homer to beat the Yankees 6-4 and thereby win the series 4 games to 2. And the crowd went wild! I would have had mixed feelings about a possible Nationals vs. Yankees World Series matchup...

October 18, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sweep the Cardinals, win the pennant!

Believe it or not, the team that was near the bottom among all major league teams on May 23 (19-31, .380) emerged triumphantly to claim the National League crown for the first time in franchise history. Yes, sports fans, the Washington Nationals finally overcame their star-crossed reputation and lived up to their true potential. Best of all, the Nats got to share the celebration with the home crowd in Nationals Park, in sharp contrast to last year, when the visiting team won the final (deciding) games in all seven postseason championship series. (See the postseason scores page.) This year the visitors won the final games in three of the four divisional series.

With a 3-0 series lead, some feared that the Nats might get complacently overconfident as Game 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals got underway in Nationals Park. Not hardly! The Nats' Patrick Corbin struck out the first three batters he faced, while the Nats scored seven (7) runs in the bottom of the first inning. Trea Turner led off with a single, and next seven batters either hit safely, reached base on an error, or advanced a runner on a sacrifice. The Cardinals' Dakota Hudson was removed from the game having only gotten one out, replaced by Adam Wainright. It seemed the game was pretty much over by then, and the home fans were buzzing in gleeful anticipation. But Patrick Corbin started running into trouble, giving up a solo home run to Yadier Molina in the fourth inning, and then giving up three runs in the fifth inning. He was lucky they didn't close the gap to only a run or two. Corbin departed after getting twelve strikeouts, and the often-shaky Nats bullpen took over after that. Fortunately, Tanner Rainey, Sean Doolittle, and Daniel Hudson only gave up one more hit over the final four innings, so even though the Nats didn't score again, they still won by a 7-4 margin. Center fielder Victor Robles caught an easy fly ball for the final out, and the team members exulted on the field while the fans went wild! Howie Kendrick was named MVP of the National League Championship Series, and he said it was the greatest moment of his entire career.

The 2019 NLCS almost had an air of inevitability around it, with the Nationals feeling they could beat any adversary after overcoming the mighty L.A. Dodgers. In that sense, it was a bit like the 2004 World Series, when the Boston Red Sox cruised on their mojo-infused momentum from having made the historic comeback against the New York Yankees in the ALCS. In both cases, the St. Louis Cardinals were the victims, and for the Nationals that was doubly significant since it was the Cardinals who killed their dreams in the ninth inning of the 2012 NLDS.

And thus, just a few days from now, the first World Series to take place in Our Nation's Capital since 1933 will get underway. It's almost too good to be true, especially for Nationals fans who have watched their team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in multiple postseason runs. During the ritual champagne soaking in the clubhouse afterwards, Juan Soto was served sparkling grape juice, since he will not turn 21 until October 25. (That happens to be the date of Game 3, in D.C.!)

Accordingly, the Nationals Park page has been updated with the 2019 World Series information and a couple more large-sized photos I took during the two games I saw there this year. There is also a new diagram for a proposed (by me) temporary expansion, prompted by the severe shortage of tickets. (Upper deck seats are going for $740 on the resale market, I heard. frown) In the "good old days" (1920s and 1930s), ballparks such as Wrigley Field and Navin Field (later Tiger Stadium) used to be expanded with big bleacher sections for the World Series, and I don't see any reason why a modest-scale expansion like that could not be done. I think they could squeeze in bleacher sections in the plaza on the north side and behind the mezzanine seats on either side of the big scoreboard in right-center field. I estimate an additional 1,500 fans could be accommodated that way.

Long road to the top

The Nationals' manager Dave Martinez said after NLCS Game 4, "Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places." Indeed, the Nats' first two months of this season were very "bumpy." After careening off a (figurative) cliff and hitting rock bottom in late May of this year, the Nationals began a long climb back up to the top. Only three teams in major league history made it to the World Series after being 12 or more games under .500 as of May 23, and only one of them -- the 1914 Boston Braves -- won it all. The 2019 Washington Nationals were hotter than blazes from late May until late July, when their postseason prospects became serious. They ended the regular season with an eight-game winning season, and they are 8-2 in the postseason thus far. The chart below has been added to the Washington Nationals page, which also has the scores of each postseason Nats game:

Nats winning pct 2019

What turned it around? Was it Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and Anibal Sanchez getting and staying healthy? Was it Howie Kendrick finally getting over the torn Achilles tendon that took him out of the 2018 season? Perhaps newly-acquired "cast-off" Gerardo Parra and his "Baby Shark" mojo? Could it have been veteran Asdrubal Cabrera or relief pitcher Daniel Hudson, both acquired during mid-season? Perhaps it was all of the above.

Here's a sobering thought to ponder as the World Series approaches: Of the five other teams that swept the league championship series since 2002 (when I started keeping track of postseason scores), all five went on to lose the World Series: Detroit in 2006 and 2012, Colorado in 2007, Kansas City in 2014, and the New York Mets in 2015. What's more, in only one of those series (Kansas City in 2014) did the losing team win more than one game.

Yanks avert elimination

In ALCS Game 3 in New York, the Houston Astros beat the Yankees with a few clutch hits and a dazzling pitching performance by Gerritt Cole. The fierce typhoon-like storm that swept up the east coast forced a one-day postponement of Game 4, and the Yankees made so many errors (4), it seemed they had just given up. The Astros won that one easily, 8-3, thus taking a 3-1 series lead. Game 5 tonight was rather unusual. The Astros scored a run in the first inning off a wild pitch, an ominous sign that James Paxton was losing it. But in the bottom of the inning, Justin Verlander gave up two home runs: one to D.J. LeMahieu, who was an All Star this year, and one (with two runners on base) to Aaron Hicks, who hit only 12 homers all year. That gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead, and for the remaining eight innings, neither team scored a single run! Very strange. So, the series will return to Houston tomorrow night, with no travel day because Games 4 and 5 were postponed.

Postseason scores, 2019

Major League Baseball championship series, 2019
World Champions: Washington Nationals
Wild Card Games / Divisional series
Oct. 1 - 10
League Championship series
Oct. 11 - 20
World Series
Oct. 22 - 30
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NL-C: St. Louis Cardinals (.562) 7 0 1 5 13    
NL-E: Atlanta Braves (.599) 6 3 3 4 1    
    Washington Nationals 2 3 8 7 X X X  
    St. Louis Cardinals 0 1 1 4 X X X  
NL-wc: Milwaukee Brewers (.549) 3  
NL-wc: Washington Nationals (.574) 4   0 4 4 6 7
NL-W: Los Angeles Dodgers (.654) 6 2 10 1 3    
  Washington Nationals 5 12 1 1 1 7 6
  Houston Astros 4 3 4 8 7 2 2
AL-C: Minnesota Twins (.623) 4 2 1 X X    
AL-E: New York Yankees (.636) 10 8 5 X X    
    New York Yankees 7 2 1 3 4 4 X  
    Houston Astros 0 3 4 8 1 6 X  
AL-wc: ^ Oakland Athletics (.599) 1  
AL-wc: ^ Tampa Bay Rays (.593) 5   2 1 10 4 1   Extra-inning game: X
AL-W: Houston Astros (.660) 6 3 3 1 6   Win by visiting team: X

See explanatory notes at bottom.
^ : In the AL wild card game, the visiting Tampa Bay Rays won, so their row position was switched with that of the home team Oakland A's 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
to be updated:

General diagrams
yet to be created:

City map/diagrams
yet to be created:
"Site today" diagrams
yet to be created:

(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.

Research department: