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This Week in Baseball Weather – Nationals Edition

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There he was, foot skating across the base, knee grossly folding in the wrong direction, body somersaulting through the misty late night air – hair still looking glorious – and then crashing in pain onto the infield dirt.

Man, it looked awful. It looked like the end.

Just like Adam Eaton months earlier, Bryce Harper’s mishap at first base would, it seemed in the moment, put the Washington Nationals’ star slugger out for the season, further depleting a team that has so many weapons already on the shelf.

“Nationals Park is in a total hush,” Nats radio guy Dave Jageler said as trainers rushed out to Harper.

But the sun did rise the morning after that wet night in the District. An MRI revealed no structural damage, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo assured us it was only a deep bone bruise on Harp’s left knee.

Nats fans exhaled.

“Thank you, Lord, that Bryce Harper did not shred any ligaments,” Grant Paulsen said on his D.C. sports radio show Monday morning.

The news that Harper was being placed on the 10-day disabled list, with a return projected sometime before the playoffs, was like a total solar eclipse happening on your birthday, which also happens to fall on Thanksgiving Day.

This near tragedy, however, was yet another soggy side note to what otherwise has been a season as bright as the rainbow emblazoned on the team’s new Skittles-themed tarp that had covered the field for three hours before the Harper’s calamity.

As I write, the Nationals stand 14 games ahead of the Miami Marlins in the National League East. Harper is having another MVP season. Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are fueling a high-powered offense.

They’ve had their fair share of injuries (see: Eaton, Turner, Werth, Strasburg, Glover, Taylor, Drew, Ross and so on) but guys named Difo, Sanchez and Goodwin have surprisingly kept the team moving forward. Not treading water, but building upon the division lead.

And Rizzo’s annual trade deadline wizardry has made the bullpen great (maybe) again.
But when it comes to dealing with rainy days, the Nats play the game like the 1886 version of the Washington ball club.

When it rains, and even when it only threatens to rain but doesn’t, the Nats have issues. Criticism has been plentiful, from fans, media, old clown play-by-play announcers of a division rival… and even from Washington players. Gio Gonzalez let his frustration show when the team delayed a game start for hours even though it barely sprinkled.

And Harper, the day after his slip and spill, took a slight shot at the decision to play Saturday night following a 3-hour delay and rain still drumming the field.

“I don’t like wet bases,” he said between games of a day-night doubleheader Sunday with the San Francisco Giants.

Harper thought about Eaton, he said, while he was rolling on the ground, clutching his knee, giving us all heart attacks.

“Then I thought to myself, it’s 10 o’clock at night and we’re playing the game in the rain,” he recalled. “So, I was really upset about that as well. But you know, it’s just a freak accident, a freak situation.”

True, but was it avoidable?

Scott Boras, Harper’s agent, is asking Major League Baseball what it can do to ensure the safety of its players when rain, falling light enough to continue play, is turning the base bags into a slip and slide.

“In this instance with Bryce’s injury, you step on a base and you cannot have it be that slick and it obviously was caused by precipitation and inclement weather. The safeguards are so simple and immediate,” Boras said.

“You can certainly have people, the umpire checking the bag, even pitch-by-pitch. You can have the grounds crew, certainly, called in, or you can have it done between each field exchange by the teams. So, there’s a number of things that aren’t done that could be done rather simply.”

In another interview earlier in the week, Boras made comparisons to the NBA, where action is quickly stopped to wipe up sweat, or whatever, from the court.

Is that a practical solution? Should it be a job for the umpires to periodically wipe off the bases? Every few pitches? How often, I guess, depends on how steadily the rain is falling.
Since Harper’s injury, much discussion has been focused on improving base technology, giving the bag more traction as runners make contact.

“When you have an elite athlete touching in the very middle of the bag and just sliding across, it’s like ice on cement,” Boras said. “So, it’s really something we need more clarification and standards and study to ensure player safety.”

Maybe Boras is on to something. If there’s a base technology that can be used that would allow the bag remain relatively dry throughout a steady rain and not cause players to slip like they were in the shower, as Harper said he felt Saturday night, then the simple logistics of replacing bases is well worth it to save a player’s health, his season and potentially his career.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals

Are the Nationals the baseball weather story of the year?
Each year, I think about writing a post listing the top 10 baseball weather stories of the year. I haven’t done it yet, but maybe this is the year. Last year’s top story developed during the final game of the season, the World Series Game 7 rain delay that allowed the Cubs to regroup and capture the team’s first title in 108 years. Hands down, that was the baseball weather story of the year.

Not nearly as significant and captivating is this year’s top story… so far: the Nationals struggles with weather delays. Are the Nats really this bad at dealing with the weather, or have they simply had a run of bad luck this year?

I’d like to think it’s the latter. However, after tracking the events of Friday night, it’s difficult to not believe the team just can’t get its stuff together.

After a long rain delay of the series opener with the San Francisco Giants that night, the game was finally called and postponed more than two hours after the scheduled start. Players were seen leaving the ballpark. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy was called in to chat with media around 9:15 p.m., according to the Washington Post. There was only one problem: Someone forgot to tell the fans at the ballpark until about 30 minutes later.

Oops!

Rain Delay Theater… on Twitter
During Friday night’s lengthy rain delay, Nationals TV play-by-play announcer Bob Carpenter answered questions on Twitter. Of course, I had to jump in with a weather-related question, but nothing hard-hitting about the Nats’ weather problems. On short notice, the best I question I could think of was: What’s your most memorable rain delay moment?
Yeah, I know. I could have done better. But to my surprise, Carpenter quickly answered with this witty gem:

Picturesque PNC Park

The week’s post can’t be all about the Nats, so to close, let’s go out the PNC Park where, rain or shine, it’s always postcard-perfect. The Pirates posted this photo on Twitter Thursday night to announce the team’s game with the Cardinals would be briefly delayed by rain.

And later, this:

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No speech, no win

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch

As a baseball weather blogger, it’s tempting, and somewhat predictable, to lead off with this and that about the White Sox-Tigers Opening Day game and festivities getting rained out and rescheduled.

However, the indelible images of rain dousing Cubs and Cardinals players – and fans at the ballpark – the night before are hard to ignore.

Just before Cardinals’ closer Seung Hwan Oh let a 3-0 advantage slip away in the top of the ninth, the clouds above unleashed a steady rain down on Busch Stadium. The game played on, however, and the home team grabbed the victory, 4-3, when Randall Grichuk singled to left in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Jose Martinez.

Cards fans went home – or someplace – wet and happy.

“Speechless,” Grichuk, not being speechless at all, said after the game. “Obviously, doing it against our Central rival, the Cubs, who won it last year, that adds to it. It’s just a night I won’t forget.”

Before opening night, the last game the Cubs had played was Game 7 of the World Series, which featured a rain delay, a speech and a memorable comeback that gave the Chicago side its first World Series title since – ah, you know all that 108 years stuff.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked if he considered prompting Jayson Heyward, or anyone wearing Cubbie blue, to rouse the team with another speech, even if it was just game one of 162.

“Believe me, I thought about it,” Maddon said. “That’s our method, is to have a little bit of rain. We just didn’t have a team meeting.”

As for Chicago’s American League team – you know, the one whose Opening Day was spoiled by rain – they made up the game Tuesday, an originally scheduled off day, against Detroit. The Tigers bested the Wet White Sox, 6-3.

Monday’s game was called after an hour and 41-minutes after the 3:10 p.m. first pitch time.

And… this just in: Today’s games between the Cubs and Cardinals in St. Louis and Tigers and White Sox in Chicago have been called because of rain.The Cardinals and Cubs series finale has been re-scheduled for 12:45 p.m. local Thursday.

The Cardinals and Cubs series finale has been rescheduled for 12:45 p.m. local Thursday.

Heavy rain, wind and forecasted 40-degree temperatures forced the postponed of the White Sox-Tigers game. They’ll make it up as part of a doubleheader May 26.

Heavy rain, wind and forecasted 40-degree temperatures forced the postponed of the White Sox-Tigers game. They’ll make it up as part of a doubleheader May 26.

The two teams are scheduled to play Game 2 of the series in Chicago Thursday, but at this rate, it’s not guaranteed. (I’m resisting the urge to point out the play on words in that last sentence. You’re smart; you’ll get it.)

Extra underwear can’t be comfortable

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Judging by the Tweet below, Pirates third base coach Rick Sofield has had it with the Pittsburgh weather.

Tonight, his club will host the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park were temperatures are forecasted to be around 59 at first pitch and fall to the low 50s by the time the Bucs wrap up a win over the last-place, manager-firing-for-no-good-reason Braves. There’s a small chance of precipitation during the game – very small – with a slight breeze blowing in from center field.

The weather looks a little better for Thursday night with temps in the low 60s for the Bucs/Braves series finale.

Is that a little more encouraging Rick?

A Royal rain

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AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Monday night’s game in Kansas City between the Royals and Boston Red Sox was postponed by a rainstorm that refused to go away.

Rain fell throughout the day, and as game time neared, the forecast showed no signs the precipitation would cease enough to play. The game will be made up Wednesday as part of a day-night doubleheader with Game 1 beginning at 1:15 p.m. local time. Wednesday’s forecast shows a sunny day in Kansas City with the high temperature hitting around 67.

This is the Red Sox only visit with the Royals in Kansas City this season.
In case you missed it, rain didn’t stop Hanley Ramirez from getting in a workout while teammate and American League player of the week Jackie Bradley Jr. was being interviewed live on the MLB Network.

Playing it cool

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I’d love to see the route efficiency number on Stephen Drew’s circuitous pursuit of a Cesar Hernandez infield popup at Nationals Park on Thursday.

Drew, playing short for the Nats, positioned himself underneath the high flying ball, for a second, and then had to sprint to his right and in a bit to chase down the falling spheroid.

“There’s a lot of things going on right there, twilight, wind,” Nationals’ TV commentator F.P. Santangelo said.

From the looks of the play, it was mostly wind. You could see it rustling past Jonathan Papelbon’s sleeves as the cameras flashed back to the Nats’ closer. You could see it a few moments early when a strong breeze appeared to push a Cameron Rupp drive to right over the head of Bryce Harper.

(Can we also blame the wind for the Nationals scoring zero runs, getting only six base hits in two games and making the Phillies’ pitching staff look like the ’96 Atlanta Braves’ hurlers?)

It was a bit nasty in the district Thursday… both the baseball and the weather.

The temperature dipped to the low 50s, and the game’s first pitch was delayed 36 minutes by rain.

According to data from Weather Underground, wind speed was hitting around 15 mph at the time of Drew’s infield adventure. You can be a weather-no-nothing like me and still know that’s not a lot, but it was enough play havoc on balls hit toward the coulds in the top of the ninth inning.

Up the road a bit in Baltimore, where the hot-hitting Orioles cooled the first-place Chicago White Sox, temperatures fell to 48 degrees on an overcast night and Rich Dubroff of CSN Mid-Atlantic wondered if it would ever be warm again for baseball.

The game time temperature equaled April 6 for the Orioles’ “second coldest temperature at first pitch,” Dubroff wrote.

The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck wrote today that perhaps the cold weather in Baltimore is helping the AL East-leading O’s stay hot.

“I have an outlandish theory that the Orioles have shown more plate discipline at Camden Yards because it has been so cold most of the time they haven’t been in a hurry to swing the bat,” Schmuck wrote.

Of the six games played outdoors Thursday, five had temperatures of 55 or below. It was 45 in Detroit and at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, 55 at first pitch in Washington and 50 in Boston.

The Rockies and Pirates had the finale of their three-game series postponed by rain and snow and 38-degree temperatures at Coors Field Thursday. That seemed to be OK for Walt Weiss, skipper of the struggling Rockies.

“I’m not going to kick and scream if we don’t play,” he said before the game was called.

The cool trend continues Friday. It’ll be 47 for the Cubs’ game in Wrigley, 48 in Boston, 50 in Philadelphia, 53 at Citi Field in New York, 54 in Baltimore, 56 in Minneapolis, 58 in Pittsburgh and 68 with a chance of rain in St. Louis.

Wait for it…

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MLB Network

We all wanted to see if Jake could do it again.

Five days after throwing a no-hitter, the second of his career, Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Jake Arrieta was scheduled take the mound Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The weather, however, refused to cooperate.

Rain peppered Wrigley Field and was forecasted to continue through evening. Fearing long delays throughout the night, umpires postponed the contest.

“The umpires are very aware of starting pitchers and what they mean in today’s game,” Cubs’ Manager Joe Maddon said. “They don’t want either side to lose their starting pitcher through a long rain delay.”

No makeup date has been announced.

Arrieta’s bid for a second consecutive no-hitter – do we really think he can spin two no-nos in a row? – will come Thursday in a 1:20 p.m. (Central) matinee contest at Wrigley.

Maybe.

The weather isn’t looking great for that game either. As of early Wednesday morning, the forecast for Wrigley is calling for a 40 to 50 percent chance of rain throughout the day.

There are eight games in the Majors today, and there’s a chance of precipitation for five of those contest.

Here’s a look:

A’s at Tigers – 1:10 p.m. (Eastern) – 38 percent chance of rain

Brewers at Cubs – 1:20 (Central) – 49 percent chance of rain

Pirates at Rockies – 1:10 (Mountain) – 39 percent chance of rain

Phillies at Nationals – 4:05 (Eastern) – 47 percent chance of rain

White Sox at Orioles – 7:05 (Eastern) – 48 percent chance of rain

Elsewhere, prize Twins pitching prospect Jose Berrios had his Major League debut delayed and subsequently spoiled Wednesday night. Rain pushed back the start of the game by 35 minutes. It was a breezy 44 degrees when Berrios took the Target Field mound. In four innings of work, he allowed five runs on six hits and struck of five. Cleveland won 6-5.

Cool nights, hot Cubs

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Chicago Tribune

At 15-5, the Chicago Cubs are off to a hot start this season. Not even cold weather has been able to slow them down.

Tuesday night, the Cubbies hosted the Milwaukee Brewers for the first of three games at Wrigley Field, and the temperature at game time dipped to 40 degrees. And with a 16 mph wind shooting out of left center field, it felt like 34 degrees to those sitting in the friendly confines.

The NL Central-leading Cubs managed only two hits in the first 5 1/3 innings against Brewers’ righty Jimmy Nelson, who tossed 109 pitches in the contest.

In the sixth, however, the Cubs’ bats warmed up. Addison Russell slugged a two-out, two-run triple to break a 1-1 tie. An inning later, Anthony Rizzo doubled in a run to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead. Chicago gave up two runs to the Brewers in the eighth, but managed to hang on for a 4-3 victory.

The win improved the Cubs to 4-0 this season in games that had a first-pitch temperature at 48 degrees or below. Chicago has outscored their opponents 26-9 in those four games, all of which were played at Wrigley. Three of the four games, as noted below, were tangles with the Cincinnati Reds.

Date, Opponent, Temperature, Result
April 26, Brewers, 40 degrees, Cubs 4-3
April 14, Reds, 45 degrees, Cubs 8-1
April 13, Reds, 48 degrees, Cubs 9-2
April 11, Reds, 48 degrees, Cubs 5-3

The Brewers, who play their home games in cozy Miller Park where’s there’s a retractable roof, managed only four hits Tuesday night.

“It was a tough day to hit, wind blowing and really cold,” said Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks, who gave up only a run on two hits in five innings, but did not factor into the decision.

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The two teams meet again Wednesday night for game two of the three-game series. Temperatures will be warmer, but a moderate wind will be blowing in from center field. In case you’re wondering, the Cubs are 4-2 with the wind blowing in a Wrigley this season.

Also, there’s a good chance rain could be persistent throughout the night, possibly causing delays.

By the way, Jake Arrieta is scheduled to pitch tonight for the Cubs. Perhaps the Brewers will be praying for rain.