Pirates and Nationals split series
Both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals are young teams that have been down on their luck in recent years, and both are now showing themselves to be on the rise. Having been swept in Anaheim, the Nationals were faced with a test of their self-confidence and resiliency. Tom Gorzelanny measured up to the challenge, going seven innings and only giving up one run. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Michael Morse smashed a leadoff single up the middle, bouncing off the mound at least 20 feet into the air. That was a big lift to the team's spirits. Alex Cora came in to pinch run for him, made it to third base on a sac fly by Wilson Ramos, and then scored the winning run on a long fly ball by Matt Stairs that almost cleared the right field wall. Nats 2, Bucs 1.
Saturday featured a rare double header, of which the Pirates won the first game, 5-3. (That was a makeup of the rained-out May 17 game.) In the evening game, Ivan Rodriguez came in as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and hit a clutch single to right field, batting in the go-ahead run, as the Nats held on to win, 4-3. Another feel-good moment as the veteran Pudge gets a chance to shine in the spotlight again. (Wilson Ramos has been starting as catcher more and more often lately, relegating Pudge to backup duty.) But on Sunday the Pirates got their revenge, scoring eight runs in the first two innings, and forcing Jason Marquis out of the game. It all started when Danny Epinosa mishandled a toss from Marquis that should have been a double play, but left runners on first and third with no outs. It all went downhill from there, other than a two-run home run by Wilson Ramos. Final score: 10-2.
Up at Citi Field in New York, the Mets beat the Yankees 3-2 in ten innings, thereby averting a sweep and taking sole possession of third place in the NL East, a half game ahead of the Nationals. Arghhh.
Today the Nationals welcome the Chicago Cubs to town for what will be their second four-game series in a row. I will be there at Nationals Park, celebrating the Fourth of July in Our Nation's Capital, along with my good friend Dave Givens. Jordan Zimmermann will be the Nats' starting pitcher, and he is the best on their roster right now, with an ERA of 2.63.
Relief pitcher Tyler Clippard was the only National to be selected as an All-Star, and though he was as surprised as anyone, I think he really does deserve it. Michael Morse is one of five candidates for the final position on the National League All Star roster. Unfortunately, he suffered a bad wrist contusion thanks to an errant pitch on Saturday, and may miss a few games this week.
I updated the Washington Nationals page, including data for the first half of the 2011 season, but further revisions on that page will be necessary. That page now includes the table of ninth-inning comebacks and blown leads, as well as a list of grand slams hit by Nationals players.
Miami construction update
I was checking the Florida Marlins' Website, and according to the latest release (June 24), "To date approximately 28,000 seats have been installed." It says that construction is now "over 72 percent complete," so I put 73% on the stadium construction table. (Construction in the other two urban areas in which prospective baseball stadiums are being studied -- Oakland/San Jose and Tampa/St. Petersburg -- seems as far off as ever.) The Miami stadium was 65% complete back in January, and I am puzzled by the slow pace of progress. Maybe those numbers don't mean much. But given the urgency of the Marlins' need for a new home of their own, I don't see why they didn't try to have it finished by mid-season. There's no law that says that new stadiums have to open at the beginning of the season, but the last time a baseball stadium opened in mid-season was none other than Safeco Field. For the curious, here is a chronological list:
|Stadium name||Date of opening||Previous stadium|
|Forbes Field||June 30, 1909||Exposition Park|
|Polo Grounds (V)||June 28, 1911||Polo Grounds (IV)|
|Busch Stadium (II)||May 12 1966||Busch Stadium (I)|
|Riverfront Stadium||June 30, 1970||Crosley Field|
|Three Rivers Stadium||July 16, 1970||Forbes Field|
|Skydome (Rogers Centre)||June 5, 1989||Exhibition Stadium|
|Safeco Field||July 15, 1999||Kingdome|