It’s been a while…over two months, in fact…but I’m back. Real life intruded upon my online time — work issues and personal issues kept my online time limited to just my message board for the most part, but I’m hoping that everything is resolved now, and I’ll be able to make regular contributions to this blog once again.
Let’s see…what has happened since my last blog entry? Well, starting with the Yankees:
With a sweep of the Twins in early July, the Yankees tied the Red Sox for the lead in the AL East for one game, surrendering the lead the very next day with the first of three losses to the Angels. Less than two weeks later, a win over the Orioles pushed the Yankees into another tie for first in the AL East with the Red Sox. The Yankees have been in first place ever since, and despite losing their first eight games against Boston this season, they now hold a 9-game lead over the Red Sox. Since my last blog post, the Yankees have had winning streaks of 7 games three times and an 8 game winning streak, with no losing streaks longer than 3 games.
As for the Nationals:
Suckrahan Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge were traded to the Pirates for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, giving the Nationals the centerfielder they’ve needed all season. Manager Manny Acta got the boot just before the All-Star game and was replaced by bench coach Jim Riggleman. Shortly thereafter, the Nationals front office sent a “We admit that we suck, but we’re trying not to suck quite so much” email to all season ticket holders and all fans who purchased Nationals tickets or merchandise online. The Nationals were 6-10 in July after Riggleman took over for Acta, and were 14-15 in August, including an 8-game winning streak in early August. The Nats traded Nick Johnson — the last remaining connection to the Montreal Expos — to the Marlins for minor league pitcher Aaron Thompson. Starting pitchers Scott Olsen, Jordan Zimmermann, Craig Stammen, and Collin Balester were lost for the season to injuries (shoulder surgery for Olsen, Tommy John surgery for Zimmernann, arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur int he elbow for Stammen, and an intercostal strain of his left
side for Balester). In need of an innings eater, and/or overtaken by nostalgia, the Nats signed pitcher (and former National) Livan Hernandez after he was released by the Mets. Oh, and the Nationals signed their number 1 draft choice — perhaps you’ve heard of him? — some guy named Stephen Strasburg.
Yep, that about covers it.
…including the Nationals 4-game winning streak.
The Nats lost to the Blue Jays on Sunday, 9-4. Shairon Martis’ on the mound was less than stellar — 6 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings of work. The game was over after the 1st inning, when the Blue Jays had a 4-0 lead. Not even a surprising 3-4 performance from Josh Bard could save the day for the Nats. The 3 runs given up by Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan in the top of the 9th inning were the nails in the coffin. For the record, the only reason I’m not calling him Suckrahan now is because his team was already down by 4 when he entered the game, so the 3 runs he gave up didn’t really matter.
Speaking of Hanrahan, I absolutely cannot figure out why he is still pitching for the Nationals rather than for the AAA Syracuse Chiefs. The only logical reason I can think of for his continued presence on the big league club is that he has some nude photographs of manager Manny Acta, acting GM Mike Rizzo, and/or team president Stan Kasten. I assume that Hanrahan is out of options, and the Nationals don’t think they could get him through waivers if they tried to send him down. But really, if some other
sucker team claims him, so what?! I don’t have anything personal against Hanrahan…he seems like a very nice guy. I met him last September at the season ticket holder Picnic in the Park, and he was very nice and very friendly. He even joked with me when I bumped into the sign with his name on it and knocked it over. (I’m a klutz….) From what I can tell, he really is a nice guy. He’s just not a major league reliever!
Next up for the Nationals in interleague play — the Red Sox. I have absolutely no idea what to expect where this series is concerned. I was convinced that the Nats would be swept by the Yankees, and they ended up winning 2 of 3 games. Will they continue their strong performances of late and win the Red Sox series, or will they revert to form and be swept? Who knows? All I can say for sure is that I’ll be at Nationals Park for all 3 games.
Wow…apparently those interleague wins over the Yankees really were a confidence booster for the Nationals. Tonight the Nats got their 4th consecutive win and 2nd straight extra innings win, beating the Blue Jays 5-3 in 12 innings thanks to a walkoff home run by Willie Harris.
Rookie pitcher Ross Detwiler had one of the best games of his short career, giving up just 2 runs (including a solo home run to Vernon Wells), on 6 hits with 3 strikeouts in just over 7 innings of work. He left the game in the 8th inning with a 3-1 lead and a runner (Jose Bautista) on 1st; Kip Wells was unable to keep the inherited runner from scoring. Joel Hanrahan replaced Wells 3 batters later with a runner (Aaron Hill) on 3rd and gave up a single to Scott Rolen, allowing Hill to cross the plate and tie the score and denying Detwiler a chance to get his first major league win. It was Hanrahan’s 5 blown save of the season. The only reason why I am not referring to him as Joel Suckrahan (or Blownsaverahan, for that matter) is because the Nationals ultimately won the game.
Willie Harris was The Man tonight, with another outstanding diving catch, a stolen base, and the game winning home run. Harris was 2-4, as were Cristian Guzman and Nick Johnson. In addition, Johnson extended his streak of safely reaching base to 10 straight plate appearances with a walk and 2 hits in his first 3 at bats. That set a Nationals record and tied the franchise record set by Rusty Staub (Expos) 40 years ago. The streak ended when Johnson grounded out in the 8th inning.
The Nationals got lucky in this game, facing rookie pitcher (and Maryland native) Brett Cecil instead of Roy Halladay, who is on the 15-day DL. Cecil pitched 7 innings, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits with a walk and 4 strikeouts.
This win finally gives the Nationals 20 wins on the season. The Nats 4 straight wins coupled with the Phillies 5 straight losses puts the Nats only 16 games out of 1st place in the NL East. Start printing the playoff tickets…here come the Nationals! LOL OK, OK…4 straight wins don’t put us into pennant contention. But they do make this long-suffering Nationals fan extremely happy!
I apologize to my readers — all 4 of you! — for being AWOL for more than a week. My roommate had surgery last Monday, so I’ve been visiting her most evenings. Between being busy at work and the stress of the hospital visits (hospitals creep me out), I just haven’t had the energy to post anything here.
To catch up a bit, since my last post, the Yankees have 5 wins and 3 losses. Some notable games:
The June 1st game vs. the Indians featured another attack of the midges, but the bugs didn’t bug starter Joba Chamberlain too much this time. The Yankees set a new MLB record of 18 error-free games, breaking the record that the Red Sox set in 2006, and they beat the Indians 5-2.
In the June 2nd game vs. the Rangers, there was an exceptional amount of testosterone flying through the air, after Mark Texeira was hit by pitches from Vicente Padilla in the 2nd and 4th innings. Tex then slid into Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus at 2nd base in the 4th. Inspired by Tex’s display of manliness, the Yankees scored 7 runs in that inning. A.J. Burnett sent a message of his own in the 5th inning, throwing a pitch over the head of Nelson Cruz. That display of testosterone drew a warning from the home plate umpire to both dugouts. It also drew a fine, as well as a 6 game suspension two days later. (Padilla was also fined.) Burnett’s appeal of the fine will allow him to play until a hearing takes place.
Tex’s comments about being hit by those pitches:
“There’s really no reason for it in baseball. You know, if you can’t get a guy out, don’t hit him. You know, if you don’t want to pitch to a guy, then, you know, put four fingers out there and walk him,” Teixeira said.
I agree, Tex. As I mentioned here, I think the pitcher and hitter should just drop their pants, let everyone see who is bigger, and then tuck it back in and get on with the game.
Unfortunately, the Yankees errorless innings streak ended in this game. Oh well, at least they set a new record and won the game, 12-3.
The June 4th game vs. the Rangers featured Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the starting rotation. Unfortunately, he was not particularly effective, giving up 5 runs on 7 hits, including a home run, in 4.2 innings. But the Yankees rallied in the 8th inning, overcoming a 5-1 deficit to win the game, 8-6.
In the June 5th game vs. the Rays, Mariano Rivera blew his first save of the season and got his second loss, when Joe Dillon broke a 5-5 tie with a single in the 9th inning. The Rays scored 4 runs (3 earned) off Rivera in the 9th for the win.
I watched the Yankees beat the Rays tonight (Monday), 5-3. Andy Pettitte got the win, Mariano Rivera got the save; it was the 59th time the two have combined for a win and a save. Pettitte and Rivera are the all-time MLB winner-closer combo leaders, with two more wins/saves than Oakland’s Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley.
Since my last blog post here, the Nationals have 5 losses and 2 wins. It’s really quite astonishing that they have those two wins in 7 games! Some notable games:
On June 2nd, the Nationals had a surprising 10-6 win against the Giants and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. The Giants were leading 5-2 when the rally began with the Nats scoring 2 runs at the bottom of the 6th. The Nats offense exploded for 6 runs in the 8th inning. Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan gave up a run in the 9th inning, but managed to finish the inning and the game without any further damage. Prior to that win, the Nationals had lost 6 straight games.
On June 3rd, the Giants’ Randy Johnson was supposed to be going for his 300th career win, but Mother Nature did not cooperate. The start of the game was delayed for over 3-1/2 hours as MLB hoped the game could be played and history could be made. Now, I understand the historical significance of the game, with Stretch trying for career win #300. But come on… a 3-1/2 hour delay?! That’s ridiculous!! At 10:46, the game was finally postponed and rescheduled for the following evening.
Stretch did get his 300th win on the 4th, in the first game of a doubleheader, as the Giants beat the Nats 5-1. Ironically, the start of this game was also delayed by about an hour because of rain. Too bad so few people actually saw this historic game; attendance was so low that the attendance stats weren’t even listed in the box score. Perhaps the 16,787 attendance figure for the second game was actually a combination of attendance for both games? Anyway, some of the Nationals commentators, members of the media, and Nats fans have fussed about a called strike against Adam Dunn on a 3-2 count to end the 8th inning, which preserved the Giants 2-1 lead with the bases loaded. The call was a bad one — it was definitely NOT a strike — but hey, those are the breaks. Lots of bad calls have been made against the Nationals this season…and against the 29 other MLB teams as well. Bad calls happen. I saw comments on one particular Nats message board which hinted that the umpire had intentionally called a strike to prevent a run from being walked in to tie the game…that, of course, would have given Stretch a no-decision. OK, so in a split second, when the pitch is thrown and caught, the umpire was thinking, “If I call this a ball, then a run will score, and that means that Randy Johnson will end up with a no-decision instead of getting his 300th win tonight, so I should call this a strike even though the pitch was a ball….” Riiiiiiiiight. [SARCASM] I’m sure that’s exactly what that umpire was thinking at that moment. [/SARCASM] This, of course, was the second time the Nationals were involved in a history-making game. In August of 2007, former Nats pitcher Mike Bacsik gave up Baroids Bonds’ 756th career home run.
After the Nats 3-1 loss to the Mets on June 5th, Joel Hanrahan went back to being Joel Suckrahan as far as I’m concerned. With the game tied at 1 in the 10th inning, Suckrahan gave up a single to Luis Castillo, a walk to Carlos Beltrán, and a double to David Wright which scored Castillo and Beltrán. And that was that. The loss caused Suckrahan to lose his job as the closer for the second time this season.
The June 6th game vs. the Mets was another surprising win for the Nationals. John Lannan pitched the first complete game of his career, allowing just 1 run and 4 hits in a 7-1 win. He even hit a single in the 5th inning and scored a run on Nick Johnson’s home run. Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes also hit home runs in the game, which lasted exactly 2 hours.
The Nationals reverted back to their usual form on the 7th, losing to the Mets 7-0. Just more of the same suckitude.
At least the Nationals didn’t lose tonight…they didn’t play tonight…….
Is interleague play really necessary anymore? In my opinion, the novelty has worn off. It was fun at first, but it’s just not as interesting as it initially was. This weekend, in particular — with some of the so-called “rivalries” games — was just…well, boring. Was anyone other than the fans of the respective teams really interested in the result of the series between the last place Nationals and the last place Orioles, or the result of the series between the last place A’s and the next-to-last place Diamondbacks? Of course, last place teams in each league do play other last place teams within their own leagues, but those aren’t hyped the way interleague series are hyped.
Another reason why I’m no longer a big fan of interleague play is because it creates a major, and possibly dangerous, disadvantage for AL teams when they play in NL ballparks. Thanks to the lack of a DH in the AL, pitchers don’t normally have to bat, and therefore aren’t used to running the bases. At best, they risk tiring sooner than they normally would; at worst, they risk injury. Remember, it was during interleague play last year when Chien-Ming Wang’s season ended due to a foot injury suffered while running the bases.
Fans generally still seem to enjoy interleague play, as evidenced by the fact that attendence rises for it. I googled “interleague play” tonight out of curiosity, and I found an article showing that ballplayers apparently are far less fond of interleague play than fans. According to Jayson Stark at ESPN.com:
Players we surveyed this week told Rumblings they would estimate the number of players who dislike interleague play is somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-75 percent.
Stark mentions several of the players’ complaints regarding interleague play, most of which make a lot of sense, IMO.
One suggestion made by a ballplayer caught my attention in that ESPN.com article.
Phillies pitcher Chad Durbin proposed an idea we’ve campaigned for forever: “Use the visiting team’s league rules,” he said. “Show the fans something unique.”
I think that’s pretty interesting. It would definitely be unique.
What do you think? Do you still find interleague play fun and/or interesting?
Yankees vs. Phillies
The home run total at the Bronx Bandbox increased by 12 during the weekend interleague series between the Yankees and the Phillies — 6 by each team — as the Yankees lost 2 of 3 games to the Phillies. There have been 87 home runs already at Yankee Stadium, and it’s not even at the end of May. Just imagine how the home runs will be flying out of the park once the temperature and humidity go up later in the season!
Friday: the Yankees lost, 7-3, in a game that included a total of 7 home runs. The testosterone level on the field skyrocketed on the field in the 1st inning when Brett Myers threw a pitch behind Derek Jeter, in obvious retaliation after A.J. Burnett hit Chase Utley in the shoulder. The plate umpire then warned both dugouts. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to throw a pitch at a batter. If you hit him, you give the opposing team a baserunner, and you risk injuring him. Why not just have the pitcher and hitter drop their pants, whip it out to see which one is bigger, and then get on with the game.
Chien-Ming Wang was activated before the game, replaced Burnett in the 7th inning. He threw 51 pitches, giving up 2 runs (including a home run) on 6 hits. His pitches had more velocity, but his location was off a bit. Maybe he’s just rusty?
Saturday: the Yankees were victorious in a 5-4 come from behind win. Those 9th inning comebacks seem to be becoming a Yankees trademark this season. Oh, and “only” 4 home runs were hit in that game.
Sunday: the Yankees lost, 4-3, in 11 innings, before a crowd of 46,986. That’s the largest Yankee Stadium crowd since opening day. Melky Cabrera did his best to be the hero for the second night in a row, hitting a game-tying single in the 9th inning. But it wasn’t meant to be…no wild celebration for the Yankees after this game. CC Sabathia pitched very well, allowing just 3 runs on 9 hits over 8 innings. But with two outs and the score tied in the 11th inning, Brett Tomko walked Chase Utley, and after Utley stole second, Carlos Ruiz doubled to score Utley. The Yankees were unable to score in the bottom of the 11th.
Interleague play resumes for the Yankees on June 12th, vs. the Mets at Yankee Stadium.
Nationals vs. Orioles
The Battle of the Beltways — i.e., the interleague series between the Nationals and the Orioles — wasn’t quite as much of a snoozer as I thought it would be. Yes, both teams stink, and the games probably held very little interest for anyone other than Nats or O’s fans. But the Nationals starting pitchers had very good games on Friday and Saturday, although the usually prolific offense fell asleep on those nights in losses to the Orioles. However, the offense woke up in time to bail out a less than spectacular effort from Sunday’s starter to prevent a sweep.
Friday: the Nationals lost, 4-2 in 12 innings. Jordan Zimmermann had the longest start of his young career, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits over 7 innings. Zimm2 walked 1, struck out 7, and gave up a home run. But the Nationals offense took the night off, scoring just 2 runs (on Ryan Zimmerman’s 4th inning homer, with Nick Johnson on 1st). It would be easy to blame the bullpen again for this loss…but if the offense had not fallen asleep, the game’s outcome might have been different.
Saturday: I was at this game, a 2-1 loss, getting to see Ross Detweiler for myself. He did not disappoint, with a 6 inning, 1 hit and 1 run performance. Justin Maxwell sparkled on defense with an outstanding catch above and over the wall in centerfield, robbing Brian Roberts of a home run. Julian Tavarez gave up a run in the 7th to give the Orioles a lead that they never lost. The Nats’ normally porous bullpen prevented the Orioles from scoring additional runs, but for the second night in a row, the Nationals offense took the night off. Another game…another loss. Ho hum.
Sunday: I was at this game as well, an 8-5 victory to avoid the sweep. Shairon Martis did not have his A-game, but his offense finally woke up and let him off the hook. His defense helped him out as well…in particular, a leaping catch in front of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field by Austin Kearns, robbing Nick Markakis of a hit in the first inning. Martis also helped himself out with an RBI single in the 5th inning, scoring Wil Nieves to tie the score at 3. Adam Dunn got it done with 2 homers, including a grand slam in the 7th inning after the Orioles intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman to get to Dunn. Anderson Hernandez added to the defensive highlights with a spectacular diving catch of a Brian Roberts line drive in the 8th inning. Wonder of wonders, Ron Villone, Joe Beimel, and Joel Hanrahan combined to shut down the Orioles over the last 3 innings — no hits, no walks, no runs. Amazing!!
Interleague play resumes for the Nationals on June 12th at Tampa Bay.
OK, for the time being, I will refrain from referring to Joel Hanrahan as Joel Suckrahan. He actually got a save tonight as the Nationals avoided a second straight 4-game sweep by beating the Pirates, 5-4.Not that
Suckrahan Hanrahan pitched well — he did not — but he somehow managed to keep the Pirates from scoring in the 9th inning.
I was at tonight’s game. Not only did the Nats win, but for just the second time this season, I didn’t have to deal with a rain delay. In fact, the weather was perfect!
Tonight’s game marked the major league debut of Craig Stammen, whose performance was actually better than his line indicates. Stammen pitched into the 7th inning, giving up 4 runs on 4 hits (including a home run), with a walk and 3 strikeouts. He was perfect through 4 innings before finally giving up a hit, and eventually a run, in the 5th. Things fell apart for Stammen in the 7th inning when he began to tire, and the Pirates took the lead. Manny Acta probably left him in the game a couple of pitchers too long, but considering how horrendous our bullpen is, I really can’t blame him for being hesitant to take Stammen out. Despite that 7th inning, Stammen was very impressive…he worked fast and threw strikes. That’s not something that can be said about any of Daniel Cabrera’s efforts this season.
I was ready to leave the game after the 7th inning. I had witnessed Stammen’s debut, so I was pleased. But the Pirates had taken the lead, and Stammen was out of the game, and I had little faith that the bullpen would prevent any additional scoring. I went to the bathroom and was on my way to the gate when someone with a funnel cake walked by me. I loooooooove funnel cakes (yes, I know they are bad for me…they are nothing but fried fat covered with sugar…but they are soooo gooooood…..). Seeing that funnel cake made me want one, so I did get a funnel cake. I sat at one of the picnic tables behind section 142 (or thereabouts) to eat it while watching the game. But then the Nats took the lead once more, so I ended up sticking around until the end of the game.
It was nice to see the Nats battle back in the 8th inning to regain the lead. Ryan Zimmerman’s single scored Cristian Guzman, and Adam Dunn got it done with a single that scored Nick Johnson. And I have to mention the nice catch Zimm made in foul territory for the first out in the 6th inning. He leaned over the rail and grabbed a ball that otherwise would have dropped into the front row of seats. I checked out the video of it when I got home from the game…a fan in the front row looked like he was going to try to catch the ball but pulled back at the last moment, allowing Zimm to make the catch. After he caught the ball, Zimm gestured towards the fan to thank him for not interferring. That was pretty funny!
And then came the 9th inning and Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan. Adam LaRoche hit a fly ball to deep center, driving Willie Harris all the way to the wall to make the catch (whew…thanks, Willie!), and then Brandon Moss singled. Pretty much everyone in the ballpark figured that was it…Joel was about to blow another one. But he got the final two K’s, much to the crowd’s delight, and the Nationals were finally winners. The seven game losing streak is history.
Next up…interleague play with the Orioles coming to DC, in the Battle of the Beltways. Two crappy, last place teams…[sarcasm] boy oh boy, this should be an exciting series! [/end sarcasm]
Actually, I should change title of this blog entry to “The Nationals bullpen blows!” It would be appropriate.
Despite an excellent performance from starter John Lannan — 1 run over 7 innings, with 5 strikeouts — the Nationals lost to the Pirates, 2-1, on a wild pitch from Joel Suckrahan in the 9th inning. This was the Nats’ 7th straight loss.
The combined record of the Nationals bullpen is 1-15. Tonight’s loss was not the result of a blown save, but…the Nats bullpen has 12 blown saves in their first 18 chances this season…that’s 12 so far. But hey, it’s not even Memorial Day yet. There’s plenty of time for even more blown saves!
For weeks now, the Nationals offense has been a scoring machine. Unfortuntely, the bats were silent tonight, so Lannan’s efforts were completely wasted.
Have I mentioned lately that JOEL HANRAHAN SUCKS??
After tonight’s game, infielder Álex Cintrón and his .077 batting average were designated for assignment. Bye dude…don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Unfortunately, pitcher Daniel Cabrera is still with the team, but he has been moved to the bullpen. I would really prefer that he be moved back home to the Dominican Republic.
Ugh…I’m going to bed. I just hope I don’t have nightmares.