Nats vie for first place, again
The Nationals managed to eke out one-run victories against the Brew Crew in the last two games of their series at RFK. They, and the Florida Marlins, are now only a half game behind the first-place Atlanta Braves. Even without "the two Josés" (Vidro and Guillen), the team is clicking on all cylinders. There are some weak spots that need work, but after six weeks of solid play, the possibility that the Nats will still be contending for the divisional title late into the season can no longer be dismissed as idle fantasy. Now they're off to Canada to begin interleague play, facing their (former) regional rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays. Presumably the Orioles will become their regional rivals next year.
Though impressive, the Nationals' winning ways have been far outmatched by the Yankees, whose ten-game winning streak was finally broken by Seattle on Wednesday. Washington fans will be cheering the Yanks as they take on the Mets at in the interleague series at Shea Stadium this weekend, and will be cheering on the Red Sox as they host the Braves, formerly of Boston. In the NL West, San Diego and Arizona have surprised many people by their recent hot streaks, pulling ahead of the Dodgers. I got a good look at PETCO Park when the Braves played there on Monday night, and it left a good impression. The Western Metals Building at the left field corner makes for some interesting plays, and those weird angles in the right field corner do likewise.
Suggestion on win-loss stats
Gary Majewski got credited for the win by the Nationals on Wednesday, but Esteban Loaiza really deserved the credit. Once again he pitched several innings (in this case, eight) without allowing any runs, but once again his teammates provided no run support. After nine starts this year, Loaiza only has three decisions (1-2), and yet only two major league pitchers who have have pitched as many innings as he has (61 1/3) have a lower ERA than he has (3.08). I'm sure his luck is bound to improve, but that raises a more fundamental issue of how pitching records are kept. Recall that Hector Carrasco got credit for a win even though he only threw one pitch; see May 15. Granted, the statistic of pitching wins and losses reflects not merely cumulative pitching effectiveness, such as ERA and strikeouts, but performance in the clutch. I suppose the criterion for winning and losing pitchers should remain based on the moment when the winning team took the lead, but perhaps in some games there should be no pitcher declared to be the winner or loser. Existing rules do allow for some discretion in judgment by the official scorer (see mlb.com, Section 10.19). Nevertheless, I suggest that to qualify for a win, a pitcher must pitch at least two full innings if he enters the game as a reliever. If no one qualifies for the win, so be it. It will keep the stats more meaningful.
As for the losing pitcher, there should be no minimum number of innings for either starters or relievers (as is now the case), but any runs scored by runners who were already on base when he entered the game should be ignored when determining the point at which his team fell behind in score. That is, a pitcher could only lose a game when he is charged with earned runs. This situation is less likely, however, so there would probably be more games with losing pitchers but no winning pitchers than vice versa.
RFK page upgrade & corrections
The diagrams on the RFK Stadium page (sponsored by Rudi Riet) have been revised substantially, based on my inspection of the old ballpark prior to the game on April 30. It now conforms to the new standard, with home plate at the same coordinate. Those with especially sharp eyes will notice that it is slightly smaller than the previous version, reflecting my realization that the upper deck hangs further out above the lower deck. Thanks to Christopher [Jackman] for pointing out that alternate field layout at Camden Yards was only in use for one year (2001), and for letting me know that many scenes from A League of Their Own were filmed at Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana. The Civic Religion page has been duly updated, with a few other additions.