Rebound? Nats clobber the Mets
Thanks to a grand slam by Wilson Ramos -- the first of his career -- and clutch hits by almost everyone else in the starting lineup, the Washington Nationals beat the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon 14-1. Ian Desmond started a rally in the bottom of the second inning with a double, and Bryce Harper capped it with a two-run single four batters later. The Nats scored multiple runs in four separate innings altogether. Getting nine hits out of twelve times when a runner was in scoring position was in stark contrast to all the wasted run-scoring opportunities earlier this season. Meanwhile, rookie starting pitcher Taylor Jordan struck out seven Mets batters, and allowed only five hits and one run over six innings on the mound, thus earning his first career win. In the three games he has been charged with a loss, the Nats have only scored four runs total, and you can't really blame him for any of those losses. He, Ian Krol, and Ross Ohlendorf offer hope that the Nationals pitching staff can rise again to the high standards that were set last year. Fernando Abad's not bad either. Ryan Mattheus, on the other hand, still has to prove himself after recovering from a self-inflicted knuckle crunch earlier in the season. Today he loaded the bases in the top of the ninth without getting a single out, and had to be relieved by Abad, who finished the game.
So, of course, I had to update the Washington Nationals page with the latest grand slam.
Sunday's game was the Nationals' highest score so far this year, and was the very biggest margin of victory in the team's 8-1/2 year history! (They had 12-run winning margins twice before.) Quite a comeback from the 11-0 shellacking they received on Friday afternoon. More importantly, it gave them the win in the four-game series. It's the first time since the first week of the month that the Nationals have won consecutive games, which is hard to believe. The Nats are currently 52-54.
The Nats won the Saturday afternoon game 4-1, thanks to back-to-back solo home runs by Ian Desmond and Denard Span (his first of the year!) in the second inning, and a two-run homer by Bryce Harper in the third inning. Dan Haren pitched seven innings, only giving up three hits. It was by far his best outing of the season.
So, what started off as the worst home stand in team history (zero wins in the first six games) ended up not quite so bad: 4 wins and 7 losses. The Nationals are enjoying an off day, and are heading to Detroit tomorrow for a two-game interleague series with the Tigers. After that comes another off day, and then a weekend series in Milwaukee.
Hitting rock bottom?
In the Sunday Washington Post, Adam Kilgore tried to explain the Nationals' "ugly unraveling" this year. Early in the season they were straining too hard to meet the sky-high expectations built during the off-season, and toward the middle of the season they were straining too hard to get out of the disappointing malaise. The Nats have scored 3.66 runs per game, have a .299 on-base percentage, and have committed 73 errors. In all three categories, they are either second lowest in the majors, or tied for second lowest.
I think there's no question the Nationals will bounce back and play much better in the final two months of the season, but realistically their chances for making it to October have become rather slim. Since the wild card slots will likely go to teams in the NL Central or West, it mainly depends on whether the Braves suffer a late-season slump, as has happened in the past. We just learned that their pitcher Tim Hudson will be out for the rest of the season, but the rest of the Braves' roster still looks pretty solid. Their late-season schedule includes many home games, and [almost all of the opposing teams are under the .500 mark. That's mainly a reflection of the weakness of the NL East this year.]
Sweeps and near-sweeps
In Atlanta, the Braves completed a three-game takedown of the mighty St. Louis Cardinals, thereby staying 8 1/2 games ahead the Nationals in the NL East. In Detroit, the Tigers swept the Philadelphia Phillies, who have now lost eight straight games. In Los Angeles, the Dodgers beat the Cincinnati Reds 1-0 in 11 innings thanks to a home run by their flashy new star Yasiel Puig. (The Dodgers struck out a record 20 times in that game, and three of those were by Puig.) Winning the last three games of the four-game series increased the Dodgers' lead over the D-Backs in the NL West. And this is hard to believe: The Chicago Cubs swept the World Champion San Francisco Giants, even without Alfonso Soriano in the lineup! The Cubs are now 48-55, compared to the Giants' 46-58. Who woulda thunk it?
In The Bronx on Sunday, Derek Jeter returned to the Yankees lineup and hit a home run on the very first pitch he saw. (Kind of like Bryce Harper!) After two hitless days, newly acquired Alfonso Soriano had a hot day at the plate, capped by a walk-off RBI single, beating the Rays 6-5. That helped the Red Sox stay in first place, so I'm sure Boston fans appreciated that.
Kauffman Stadium update
I made some enhancements and small corrections on the Kauffman Stadium diagrams. As usual, including the entry portals allowed me to get other details more accurate; in this case, the precise curvature of the uniquely-tapered upper deck. Those entry portals are also unique in that the three outward portals toward the ends of the upper deck are successively lower -- about two feet each. I have estimated fair territory to be 117,800 square feet, nearly as much as Coors Field, which has about 118,500 square feet. Marlins Park and Comerica Park are the other two big-outfield ballparks.
Note that I belatedly corrected the 1973 diagram to reflect that center field was originally 410 feet, not 405 feet as indicated in Phil Lowry's Green Cathedrals. The text on that page had already made this clear, based on a tip from Kansas City fan (and classic rock D.J.!) a couple years ago. Thanks, again, Scott! (Check out rockinplanet.com)
Thanks very much to Dr. Thomas Tomsick, author of Strike Three: My Years in the 'Pen, for renewing his sponsorship of the Cleveland Stadium page. (Speaking of which, I am getting close to finishing my estimates of fair and foul territory for all MLB stadiums, something that he tried to do in his book with my diagrams. )
You too can show support for this Web site by sponsoring a page or by making a smaller donation on the Sponsor page.
The mail bag
Bruce Orser let me know about the agreement by which the Chicago Cubs and the city government will collaborate in a half-billion dollar makeover for Wrigley Field. There will be new buildings adjacent to the stadium, and a large video board along one side of the bleachers. See chicagotribune.com.
I learned from Mike Zurawski that San Jose city council voted last month to file a lawsuit in federal court against Major League Baseball. See sfgate.com, via fieldofschemes.com. From what I can tell, at this point Bud Selig is taking a neutral position, letting the owners of the Athletics and Giants negotiate a revised territorial agreement on their own. If it's anything like the March 2005 deal between the Baltimore Orioles (Peter Angelos) and Washington Nationals, I feel sorry for the A's.
Another news item from Mike a few months ago: Former Montreal Expos player Warren Cromartie is leading an effort to bring baseball back to Montreal. See theglobeandmail.com. The Montreal Alouettes football team recently honored former Expo players including Cromartie at one of their games. The campaign even has its own Web site: montrealbaseballproject.com.
And finally, Larry Freitas took exception to my statement in the previous blog post, "There is nothing like the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry in all of professional sports." He called to my attention the intense Dodger-Giants rivalry, which of course predates their relocation to the West Coast a half century ago. (It even turned violent on one occasion last year.) OK, maybe I got a little carried away, revealing my East Coast bias once again. Sorry about that.