Month: June 2018
Sitting in Section 136 at Nationals Park Sunday night, I felt a bit hypocritical.
As the skies darkened over the ballpark and my wife examined the approaching green blob on her weather radar phone app, I was quietly hoping for the rain to pass us by.
Yeah, the guy who has been writing The Rainout Blog for the past 13 years, was rooting for a dry evening at the ballpark.
Not for selfish reasons, though.
It was the very first major league game for my wife and two kids. We were in the fourth inning, and I didn’t want to risk the game being called because of rain and spoiling their first big league experience, especially as they were munching Curly W pretzles on Max Scherzer eye patch night.
The Nationals trailed 2-0, but were rallying as a steady drizzle began. Anthony Rendon led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run to left field, slicing the deficit to 2-1. Then, three consecutive Washington singles from Juan Soto, Daniel Murphy and my guy, Michael A. Taylor, tied the game at 2-2.
Rain continued, just enough to get the park wet. It seemed like no big deal to me, but several fans hustled toward the exits as if a tornado were about to barrel through.
We stuck it out there in Row T, seats 1,2,3 and 4.
As the rain intensity increased, I suddenly began rooting for it to continue. This could be fun, I thought. This could be a blog post. Perhaps, I simply knew my previous wishes were no match against those dark, ominous clouds hanging above our heads.
Then the drizzle turned into a downpour. I got out my phone to take photos and a few videos. I’m sure I was the only person trying to capture images of rain pelting the ballpark.
Umpires suddenly ushered the players off the field. Out came the grounds crew, stretching the Skittles tarp across the infield.
We, too, then headed for the concourse. I tried to get into a good position to photograph the tarp, but my angle was bad.
We didn’t need to wait long for the rain to move on. It stopped minutes later, the grounds crew dumped water from the tarp and prepped the field with what I’m told is glorified kitty litter.
In the meantime, my wife, armed with napkins she had stuffed in her pockets earlier at the Potbelly Sandwich Shop on 3rd Street SW – she’s always prepared – wiped dry our wet seats. I broke down and bought everyone $7 sodas.
The game resumed after a 38-minute weather delay. The Nats had runners on first and second with no outs. And just as I pessimistically suspected, the rain killed the rally. Phillies’ pitcher Nick Pivetta had something to do with it, too. He struck out the next three batters he faced. The bottom of the order, mind you.
Rain over. Rally over. Breathing a sigh of relief, the Phillies quickly moved to close out the hometown club in the fifth.
Nats’ starter Jefry Rodriguez began the inning walking Cesar Hernandez, and then he hit Rhys Hoskins to put runners at first and second with no one out. Hard-throwing Sammy Solis relieved Rodriguez and immediately gave up a bases-clearing triple to Odubel Herrera. It was 4-2 Phillies.
Two batters later Nick Williams slammed a Solis pitch 421 feet to center field. The ball just cleared the wall, but hearing the collision between the bat and ball you knew it was a goner. Williams’ ninth homer of the year gave the Phillies a 6-2 lead.
The four-run deficit was a bit deflating for the four of us and the few others who had stuck around after the rain. I’m sure a lot of folks had to work the next day. I’m sure I saw a lot of them bleary-eyed on the Metro the next morning.
But as the night cleared and the game wore on, the Nationals clawed their way back.
In the bottom of the sixth, Adam Eaton entered the game as a pinch hitter and spanked a two-out single to center. Trea Turner put some life into the ballpark when he smoked a liner to left that zipped by a diving Hoskins and rolled to the wall. Eaton easily scored, and Turner had a triple. The score was 6-3 Philadelphia.
I was sure Turner had an inside-the-park homer – I was waving him around – but he held up at third with Bryce Harper coming to bat.
Austin Davis came in to pitch. With the count 2-0, Harper drove the next pitch high and far. I stood up and shouted, “There it goes!” thinking it was as a good as gone.
It thumped off the top of the wall, just above the out-of-town scoreboard.
I’m an idiot.
Harper just missed his 20th home run of the season by inches, but he rolled into second with a double and Turner scored. Rendon next drove home Harper with a double, closing the Nats to within a run.
Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk, and Harper moved him to third with his third double of the contest.
The Phils next chose to walk Juan Soto, with Daniel Murphy on deck. You can understand the reasoning. Soto has been a hitting machine since arriving from the minors a few weeks ago, and Murphy has been slow to get his swing back since joining the lineup after surgery.
But, man, with Murphy’s penchant for slugging big hits in clutch situations, I thought it was gutsy move from Phillies’ manager Gabe Kapler.
“Murph is going to make them pay,” I said to anyone who was listening… which was no one.
Anyway, unlike my Harper homer prediction earlier in the game, I was right this time. Murphy swung at a low pitch and clubbed it just over the second baseman’s head. Goodwin scored. Harper scored. And the Nats had a 7-6 lead.
If you were watching on ESPN, you can see in the background as Murphy stands on first, my wife and daughter clapping and my son giving me a double high five.
Michael A. gave the home team an insurance run with a single to center that scored Soto.
As the eighth inning ended, I ran over to the wall, which was near the Nationals bullpen, just in time to snap a couple of photos of closer Sean Doolittle running out on to the field. An ESPN cameraman tried to keep up behind him as the crowd droned “Doooooooooooo!”
Doolittle recorded the save. The Nats won 8-6.
As I’ve been telling everyone since, the game had just about everything you could ask for: A comeback win for the home team, home runs – although two of those were by the wrong team – doubles, a triple, stolen bases, diving catches – Difo!!! – and, or course, a rain delay.
I write a lot about baseball, but I haven’t been to major league game in years. It’s sort of embarrassing as someone who runs a baseball-related blog.
But my hiatus is scheduled to change this week when I travel to Washington, D.C., to see the Nationals host the Phillies. (Man, I hope Bryce Harper finds his swing before I get to the ballpark.)
So, of course, I’ve been obsessively checking the extended weather forecast – for what’s it’s worth – to see if rain is possible that evening.
Wouldn’t that be sort of cool, the dude who runs The Rainout Blog has his first game at Nationals Park delayed by rain? I sort of think a brief weather delay would be neat – instant blog content – but then again maybe not, which makes me a feel a little guilty for writing this blog for so many years… but not too guilty.
What would not be cool, however, is the game getting rained out. I know I could get a rain check, but I’m not planning another trip to D.C. this year. So, a rainout would be a bummer.
The weather forecast – for what is now six days away – is looking good.
Heat shouldn’t be a huge problem. What was originally a 1:30 p.m. start time has been moved to after 8 p.m. since ESPN picked up the game for Sunday Night Baseball.
The first pitch time change is creating some travel issues – you know the Metro shuts down at 11 p.m. – but at least we more than likely will not be standing in the rain while waiting for an Uber.
Mitch Haniger’s wild game-winning home run in Seattle last week – as the roof was closing and rain was falling in the ninth inning – reminded me of a contest three years ago when the Miami Marlins had a similar weather situation at their relatively new ballpark.
The Marlins, however, weren’t as fortunate as the Mariners. A sudden pop-up spring shower on Opening Day 2015 in Miami sent fans scrambling and forced a brief rain delay in the bottom of the first inning, an embarrassing situation for a ball club with a retractable roof and a tarp tucked away somewhere in the nether regions of Marlins Park.
I wrote about the game for the Spring edition of the SABR Research Journal.
For the article, I interviewed then Marlins President David Samson, who detailed how the Marlins made decisions about when to close the roof. Spoiler alert: They used phone weather apps, something Meteorologist John Morales told me he is not a fan of, for good reason.
If Mike Trout is the king of California, baby, then Mitch Haniger is king of the rain.
King of the rain-drenched walk-off home run, that is.
As a steady drizzle fell and the Safeco Field retractable roof slowly chugged across the top of the ballpark, Haniger clubbed a two-run home run Wednesday over the left field fence to give the red-hot Mariners an 8-6 come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Angels.
The homer completed a three-game sweep for Seattle over the Angels, a club they are battling against for the lead in the American League West.
The Mariners grabbed a 4-1 advantage early in the afternoon contest, but fell behind 6-4. Trailing 6-5 in the eighth, Seattle’s Ryon Healy smacked a pitch into the upper deck to tie the game at 6-6. Statcast measured the home run at 441 feet.
In the ninth, Juan Segura singled to center as rain began to patter the ballpark.
The Safeco roof takes about 10-20 minutes to close, depending on wind and other weather conditions. The sudden Seattle shower left some spectators popping umbrellas or clumsily donning ponchos – Is there any other way? – and it further decorated the dramatic stage for Haniger’s heroics.
He took the first pitch he saw from Angels’ hurler Oliver Drake for a ball, but then lined the next, an 84 mph splitter, through the rain drops and into a crowd of joyful Mariners fans, who were jumping with their hands high in the air in the left field seats.
Haniger quickly rounded the bases and was mobbed and doused with an unidentified clear liquid as he crossed home plate.
It was the newly crowned rain king’s 16th home run of the season.
There’s a lot to learn for a Major League Baseball rookie manager.
Aaron Boone can confirm.
When he took over as Yankees manager, Boone probably didn’t think reading weather reports would be a huge priority.
But storms and rain have played an enormous role in the Yankees schedule this season, particularly over the last few weeks. The Bronx Bombers were rained out in Baltimore on Sunday and Thursday, getting in only two games against the Orioles in what was scheduled to be a four-game series. The Orioles have had four home weather postponements this season.
Those Thursday and Sunday postponed games will be made up July 9 and Aug. 25, respectively.
The Yanks and O’s almost didn’t make it to the field Saturday. The forecast was bleak. Rain and lightning at Camden Yards forced a 1-hour and 44-minute delay. The nasty weather cleared enough, however, for the game to go on.
The Yankees scored an 8-5 win.
The Sunday game was the Yankees’ seventh weather postponement of the season. Plus, they had a rain-shorted game in Washington May 14 that was suspended in the top of the sixth inning. The Yankees and Nationals were washed out the next day, too.
Two mid-April weather cancellations in Detroit are affecting this week’s Yankees schedule. They’ll play a doubleheader in the Motor City today to make up for Saturday Sunday games that were rained out April 14 and 15.
When Boone checks today’s weather report for Detroit, he’ll likely breathe a sigh of relief. The forecast is calling for mostly sunny skies throughout the day and evening. First pitch for game one is 1:10 p.m. Eastern, 7:10 p.m. for game two.
“This seems wild,” Boone said after Sunday’s rainout in Baltimore. “I’ve never looked at weather reports and radar so much in my life. I’m not getting any better at reading them, either.”
UPDATE: Man, it’s a beautiful day for baseball in Detroit. Greg Bird just hit a solo home run that would have hit and burst a cloud had there been one in the sky.