June 1, 2013
Before the 2013 season began, the Washington Nationals were heavy favorites to repeat as National League East Division champions, and it was almost a given that they would reach the postseason one way or another. Now that is in doubt as well. With two months of the season behind us, anyone who uses the excuse "it's still early in the season" is just whistling in the dark. With a record of 28-27 (thanks to a lucky win over Atlanta last night), the team is clearly in trouble. Washington Post sports writer James Wagner notes that the Nats would need to win 63 of their remaining 109 games (.578) for the rest of the season to reach the 90-win level that is usually required to make it to the postseason. It's certainly doable, since their schedule gets a little easier in the second and third thirds of the season, but their margin for error is shrinking rapidly. I look forward to their veteran stars getting healthy and back in the groove, and for a few pleasant surprises from some of their new players.
For the month of May itself, the Nationals were 15-13, a very slight improvement from their mediocre performance in April, 13-14. I updated the Washington Nationals page, which now shows the head-to-head win-loss records against all other teams for each year beginning in 2005. For example, the Nationals' record against the Orioles since their first interleague contest in 2006 is 19-23, or 45.2%. Including this year's four games, it's 20-26, or 43.5%.
Against all odds, the Nationals survived the absence of Bryce Harper and an early exit by Stephen Strasburg (oblique muscle strain, two innings pitched), and hung on to defeat the host Atlanta Braves, 3-2. Huge credit goes to long reliever Craig Stammen, who pitched four perfect innings and earned his third win of the year. Most of the offensive credit goes to Denard Span, who tripled twice to right field, and Steve Lombardozzi, who drove in Span both times with a sac fly to right field. See MLB.com.Though they have struggled at times, the Braves are a very daunting force to be reckoned with, and the Nationals will have to work extremely hard to overtake them in the NL East standings. This evening, lefty ace Gio Gonzalez faces Braves pitcher Tim Hudson.
The extent of Stephen Strasburg's bad back remains unclear, and it would be a huge blow if he missed significant time this summer because of it. Bryce Harper will be on the disabled list until June 11, because of bursitis (inflammation) in his left knee, stemming from his infamous collision with the fence in Dodger Stadium on May 13. See MLB.com. Ross Detwiler is also on the DL with an oblique strain, which is why they had to put Zach Duke in the pitching rotation. Danny Espinosa decided to keep playing while his wrist heals, a dubious move if you ask me. Finally, Jayson Werth is doing better in minor league rehab action, and hopefull will be back in D.C. in the next week or so.
Speaking of rookie replacement players, Nathan Karns deserves recognition for pitching 4 1/3 solid innings against the Orioles on Tuesday night. If he hadn't walked two batters in the top of the fifth, he would have earned a win in his first major league appearance.
If the Orioles' 3-1 series win over the Nationals wasn't enough proof, last night's game in which the Orioles came from three runs behind to beat the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth should erase any doubts. Nick Markakis hit a leadoff homer, and after two outs, Chris Dickerson hit a three-run walk-off home run. As a closer, Jose Valverde often seems as shaky as the Cubs' Carlos Marmol, or Matt Capps, who signed with Cleveland this year. I have to admit it, "Orioles Magic" is alive and well!
As a tribute to the Orioles' successful year thus far, I added a lower-deck version diagram to the Camden Yards page, and made some minor tweaks to the other versions. Since there was so little difference between the current (2012) layout compared to the original layout, I just replaced the 1992 version diagram with the lower-deck version diagram.
As a tribute to the Braves, likewise, I have been working on Braves Field and Turner Field, and expect to get those diagrams updated over the next couple days.
It is taking even longer than usual for me to get caught up with e-mail correspondence. For starters, Glenn Simpkins recently submitted three photos he took at AT&T Park recently, and they form a nice "extreme" panorama, which I "glued" together with a few digital tricks. Also, I have had multiple tips from fans about the major changes in Dodger Stadium this year, and I will be getting to those soon.