May 31, 2012
As they say, "What goes around comes around." What began as a very encouraging road trip through Philadelphia and Atlanta ended on a disappointing note for the Washington Nationals in Miami this week. It was their very first visit to brand-new Marlins Park, whose fan-friendly atmosphere helped generate game-winning enthusiasm for the Miami (no longer "Florida") team.
Monday's game was distinguished primarily by the home run hit by starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. Otherwise, the Nats couldn't do much in the batter's box, clearly suffering from lack of sleep. It was rather unfair to schedule the Nationals for an afternoon game immediately following a late night game hundreds of miles away (in Atlanta). But it was Memorial Day, and most of the games across the country were in the afternoon. The Nats had two runners on base with no outs in the seventh inning, and Bryce Harper hit a line drive to left field, but Chris Coghlan made a diving catch to rob him of an RBI double. Then Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a double play. Arghh! Final score: 5-3.
That was the second home run by a Nationals pitcher this year; Stephen Strasburg did so on May 20. The Nats' starting pitchers are not only dominant on the mound, they have the best collective batting average in the major leagues right now!
On Tuesday, Edwin Jackson was pitching very well, but committed a crucial error in the seventh inning. Trying to pick Chris Coghlan off first base, he threw the ball off target, giving two free bases to the runner. The next batter hit a sacrifice fly to take the lead, 2-1. Most disheartening, with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, neither Bryce Harper nor Ryan Zimmerman managed to get any runs in. Hanley Ramirez homered in the bottom of the eighth, making the final score 3-1. One bright note: In his first major league at-bat, with his parents watching in the stands, pinch-hitter Jhonatan Solano hit a double in the top of the ninth inning, but then Xavier Nady flied out to end the game.
Last night, Chien-Ming Wang was the starting pitcher for the first time this year. He pitched three innings of solid relief earlier in the week, but this time he struggled and was pulled during the bottom of the fifth inning. Danny Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi each got two hits, continuing their recent upsurge, but Bryce Harper went 0 for 4, as his eight-game hitting streak came to an end. And so, the Marlins beat the Nats 5-3, completing a three-game series sweep. In all three games it was a two-run margin. Perhaps that is payback for the Nats having spoiled the Marlins' "farewell" game at Dolphin ("Sun Life") Stadium at the end of last September.
As a result of that series, the Marlins have pulled to within a half game of the Nationals in the National League Eastern Division. After a disappointing slow start this year, the Marlins have won an astonishing 21 games in May, while losing only eight. That set a franchise record. And speaking of records, so far this year, the Nats (currently 29-21) have held first place in the NL East at the end of two consecutive calendar months for the first time ever! For the first two months of this year, they have outscored their opponents 180 to 158. I have updated the Washington Nationals page with monthly data, player notes, etc.
Lest anyone forget, the Nationals were on the verge of sweeping the Marlins in Washington last month. They won the first two games of the weekend series, on April 20 and 21, but the Sunday game was postponed due to rain. It will be made up when the two teams will face off again in D.C. in early August, or else in early September. The Nats and Marlins will play again in Miami in mid-July and in late August.
Tomorrow the Nats return home to D.C., welcoming the Atlanta Braves. Pitching ace Stephen Strasburg will take the mound, and will have a chance to allay fears that his surgically-repaired arm is suffering from fatigue already. In addition, there is an outside chance that dearly-missed slugging star Michael Morse will return from the disabled list. (There's a good chance I'll be there as well! )
To commemorate the Nationals' very first series at the new home of the Marlins, I made some major corrections and enhancements to the Marlins Park diagrams. (The update which I announced last month was rather trivial by comparison.) This latest update took a lot of work, but I finally figured out (I think) the geometric logic behind that quasi-domed stadium, which is kind of circular, but not really. That pages now features a "dynamic" diagram, with a regular (exposed) view, a natural-looking view showing the roof open (like in the adjacent thumbnail image), another view with the roof closed but "translucent," showing the field details, one with an opaque closed roof, and one with the first deck only showing. I hope that serves to clarify the innards of what is a very complicated structure. Videos on the team's Web site helped get a few of the details just right. It is certainly unique, and may not suit everyone's taste, but that's OK. Actually, I kind of like it.
I also did some preliminary revisions to another stadium's diagrams, but then realized I had to make some more changes, so I decided not to announce it yet. One of my more astute fans happened to notice, and asked me about it, so the "secret" is already out. I should have it finished over the weekend...
Goodness gracious! There is going to be an international soccer match in Wrigley Field on July 22, pitting the AS Roma club of Italy with and Zaglebie Lubin of Poland. See MLB.com; hat tip to Mark London. You know what that means...