Bryce Harper hits walk-off homer!
Bryce Harper has been quite frustrated with his slow recovery since returning from the disabled list in late June. The way he threw down his helmet after a near-home run he hit was caught by the Mets' left fielder on Tuesday exposed his inner rage for all the world to see. When reporters asked if Harper might be sent down to the minors to refine his swing, manager Matt Williams angrily denied that was even being considered. That incident only added to the swirling clouds of doubt, as Washington Post columnist Adam Kilgore discussed in Thursday's paper.
But all that came to end on Friday night when Harper came out of his slump in dramatic fashion, hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Nationals a series win over the Mets. See MLB.com. The Nats used almost their whole bullpen in that marathon game, which became necessary because of the two runs given up after Drew Storen replaced Jordan Zimmerman on the mound during the seventh inning. That was the Nationals' first extra-inning win at home this year.
Harper thus becomes only the second Washington Nationals player ever to hit more than one walk-off home run. The other one, of course, is Ryan Zimmerman, who has hit nine of them! See the newly-updated Washington Nationals page.
I read that the Nationals have the highest run differential in the National League, and the second highest in the majors. My data show their aggregate score this year (including tonight's game in Atlanta*) is 480 to 401.
* Tonight in Atlanta, Stephen Strasburg had a horrible outing, giving up three home runs in the first two innings, and leaving after the fifth inning with his team behind 7-0. Then in the sixth inning, the Nats staged a four-run rally capped by Anthony Rendon's three-run homer, and then got two more runs in the seventh. The Braves were on the verge of catastrophically blowing a seven-run lead and thereby extending their eight-game losing streak, but barely hung on to win, 7-6.
Matt Thornton joins Nats
The Nationals claimed Matt Thornton off waivers; the Yankees had released him last month. He's a left-hander, something the Nationals are lacking, and so far has been pretty solid on the mound.
Cubs' new star: Javier Baez
Maybe the phrase "Wait 'till next year!" really means something for the Chicago Cubs. A rookie player named Javier Baez who was just called up from the minors hit the go-ahead home run in the 12th inning against the Rockies in Denver -- in his very first game in the majors! Then on Thursday, he hit two more home runs to help the Cubs win again. That must be some kind of rookie record. In his first game at Wrigley Field tonight, he roused the home crowd by getting a hit and scoring a run in the first inning, but Cubs lost in extra innings. See MLB.com. Like I said, "Wait 'till next year!"
A bit of baseball news
The people in Houston are still trying to figure out what to do with the Astrodome. One idea is to demolish everything but the main structural beams and build a miniature version inside the ring. "The ribs of the (original) stadium would be preserved, forming a sort of skeletal Stonehenge..." See www.citylab.com. Hat tip to Mario Vara. Frankly, that seems kind of dumb to me.
But at least the Astrodome will be around for another year or more, giving me another chance to see it, whereas Candlestick Park isn't expected to be around much longer. Just as the Beatles gave their final concert there in 1966, Sir Paul McCartney is going to give that venue's final concert there next week, August 14. See sfgate.com. I think that means no more public events there, but we'll see. That article notes that "McCartney did this once before -- at Shea Stadium, just before it was demolished in 2009." Hm-m.
Back in the Eastern Time Zone, meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds unveiled the official logo for the 2015 All-Star Game which they will host at Great American Ball Park; see MLB.com.
Hopefully, I'll get caught up with news and fan mail in the next couple weeks...