Washington Nationals

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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You need Suzyn Waldman’s weather app

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This Week (or two) in Baseball Weather

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Associated Press

The Yankees, Tigers and everyone hanging around Yankee Stadium Wednesday afternoon waited through a remarkable 4 hours and 37 minutes in rain weather delays.

To many, including the Yanks radio broadcast crew – I love those two – the first 90 minutes were a complete waste of time.

An “immediate threat of inclement weather,” according to the Yankees on Twitter, forced officials to delay the series finale. However, according to many folks on radio and social media, only a drizzle peppered the ballpark.


Michael Kay, the Yankees TV play-by-play guy on the YES Network said, “It rained a little bit, but [it was] certainly not a rain to where you could not play the game.”

Masahiro Tanaka tossed out the first pitch around 2:30 p.m., Bronx time.

While we waited, I tuned into the Yankees flagship station, WFAN, for Rain Delay Theater and got, mixed in with some Mets talk, a lively discussion about whether or not any rain fell at Yankee Stadium.

Going into the game broadcast, Yankees radio color commentator Suzyn Waldman said there were a few sprinkles and encouraged MLB officials to use the same weather app she uses. “My app told the right thing,” she said.

Moments later, play-by-play man John Sterling burst on the air saying, “We have just wasted an hour and a half doing nothing.”

You tell ‘em, John!

It didn’t end there. In the eighth inning, heavy rain began to pelt the ballpark.

“There is a thunderclap,” Waldman said. “NOW, it’s raining. They’re going to bring out the tarp.”

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Sterling jumped in with a little biting sarcasm aimed at Major League Baseball officials, who decided to delay the start of the game rather than play through the early afternoon drizzle.

“Well, it certainly worked out very well. We waited an hour and a half at the beginning of the game when it barely rained,” Sterling said. “Well, now it’s raining. So, there’re going to cover the field, and we will sit here and schmooze and say nothing and then we’ll throw it back to the station.”

Waldman quickly suggested she could tell listeners about games scheduled around the league. But first…

“Now, it is really raining,” she said, interrupting herself. “Wow! This is like the skies opened up. If they had listened to my app – Major League Baseball – we would be done and on our way to Cleveland.”

OK, back to those scores. While reporting details of the Blue Jays vs. White Sox matinee game, Waldman again stopped to comment on the rain pelting the park. “Boy, now this is rain. This is rain!”

Refocusing, she went to tell us about Kansas City playing at Baltimore later that night and then “Cleveland at Boston at 7 [o’clock],” she said. “By the way, Boston, this rain is coming to you. It should get there around 7 [o’clock].”

Man she’s good!

Boston later was hit with about three inches of rain and the Red Sox and Indians, after a lengthy delay, were postponed.

Back comes Sterling, and this, I think, was my favorite part of the conversation.

“You know what it looks like right now?” he asked. “It looks like ‘The Rains of Ranchipur.’” (I had to look that up) “I mean IT IS POURING. This is a monsoon. I wish we had that hour and half back.”

Meanwhile, in Boston

The aforementioned rained-out Red Sox vs. Indians game has been rescheduled for Aug. 14 at Fenway Park. The teams waited on the rain for about two hours before the postponement was announced. Here’s how some of the Red Sox players spent their idle time.

Catching heat
Clouds dropped rain and emptied Camden Yards for a brief moment Wednesday night, causing a 35-minute delay in the third.

Before the rain, the Orioles TV play-by-play announcer Jim Hunter talked about the high temperatures the O’s have played in recently, and specifically, how skipper Buck Showalter has managed his catchers through the summer heat.

“Caleb and [Welington] Castillo, there not exactly alternating, but because it’s been so hot, Buck Showalter is taking advantage of two catchers who right now are both red hot. So, neither of them wares down. They’re each getting quite a bit of playing time,” Hunter said as Joseph, at the plate, took ball two from Royals pitcher Jason Vargas.

“Caleb saw Castillo catch on Sunday in that oppressive heat in Texas,” Hunter continued, referring to the 99, 92 and 92-degree start-time temperatures the O’s played through in a three-game weekend series with the Rangers.

“Caleb caught Monday. Castillo caught last night. Caleb’s in there tonight. So, there’re both staying fresh and they’re both playing very well,” Hunter said.

Seconds later, the lefty Joseph showed his freshness as he slapped a Vargas fastball just over the left field wall for a two-run home run that gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Baltimore went on to win 6-0.

The Orioles suffered through two rain delays the following night, Thursday, while hosting the Tigers in Camden Yards. Weather pushed back the start of the game by 43 minutes. Once the game began, Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton smacked homers in the top of the first. But then more rain, along with lightning, rolled in, stopping the contest, this time for 59 minutes.

Earlier in Chicago on Thursday, rain pressed pause on the Cubs and Diamondbacks three times. The first pitch was pushed back 90 minutes. Another storm passed over Wrigley Field in the top of the second, causing a 35-minute play stoppage.

Once players were back on the field, a Cubs radio broadcaster – I’m not sure who, but it was not Pat Hughes – described the second storm. “It just really got dark. Fog rolled in and it just cut lose raining… And the skies opened up and it poured in buckets here at Wrigley.”

And during that second delay, there was a bullpen dance off.

More weather drama ensued in the top of the ninth inning with the score tied 8-8.

After the skies cleared Paul Goldschmidt hit a two-run home run, his third homer of the game, to give the Diamondbacks the lead for good and a 10-8 victory. The three rain delays totaled 2 hours and 35 minutes.

We’re not done with Hump Day
Before the Rangers thumped Seattle 5-1 Wednesday night, the two squads sat through a 40-minute rain delay at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The halt in action came in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs.

“Caleb caught Monday. Castillo caught last night. Caleb’s in there tonight. So, there’re both staying fresh and they’re both playing very well,” Hunter said.

Seconds later, the lefty Joseph showed his freshness as he slapped a Vargas fastball just over the left field wall for a two-run home run that gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Baltimore went on to win 6-0.

On Tuesday in Miami
There was no delay under the retractable roof at Marlins Park Tuesday – Oh, wait. That’s not always a given – but heavy rains flooded the Miami area that day. Opening the Washington Nationals MASN TV broadcast that night was Dave Jageler, who alluded to the weather issues as he talked over video of fans walking to the ballpark.

“For Marlins Park in Miami, it’s better served to arrive here by boat or by ark. I don’t know how these fans got here; the streets of Miami are flooded today thanks to a tropical depression,” said Jagelar, filling in for Bob Carpenter on TV play-by-play duties.

Heavy afternoon thunderstorms dropped about six inches of rain on Miami Tuesday, according to news reports.

About last week…

Lightning, thunder halts Phillies, Brewers

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Before the Brewers and Phillies could get going on July 22, a strong thunderstorm rolled into Philadelphia and over Citizens Bank Bark. Thunder, lightning and heavy rain delayed the start of the contest for 26 minutes.

Milwaukee edged the Phillies 9-8.

More inclement weather followed Monday night at the Philadelphia ballpark. Rain paused the game – and Phillies fans’ misery – for an hour and 52 minutes beginning in the top of the fourth inning. Those among the reported 17,567 in attendance who hung around witnessed the Astros spank the Phillies 13-4.

What’s up, Buck?
Judging from Buck Showalter’s post-game comments following the Orioles’ 9-7 win over Houston on July 23, the Baltimore skipper was pressured to move the game along quickly in the late innings before rain was scheduled to arrive. (Seriously, who pressures Buck Showalter?)

Turns out, there was no delay, and I’m not sure rain ever fell on Camden Yards while the game was being played or soon thereafter, as Showalter alludes to, I think, in the press conference.

Reporters asked Showalter if he felt pressed to finish the game before the impending rain.

Pressure “is when they come in and say it’s going to storm like heck, forever, at 5 o’clock,” he said.

So, yes, I guess so.

Showalter then asked someone in the room what time the game ended. There was an inaudible response. According to the box score, the contest ended a few minutes past 5 p.m.

Showalter then asked “is it raining now?” like he knew the answer was no.

He then looked around, shook his head and pierced his lips together like he was back dealing with Mike Rizzo in Washington.

Buck just can’t catch a break when rain is threatening.

Speaking of which…

This time, Nats make quick call on weather postponement
With a little help from Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals made a speedy decision to postpone their series opener with the Colorado Rockies on Friday, July 22, reported The Washington Post.

If you’ve been following along, you know the Nats’ decisions on weather delays have been about as accurate as their bullpen this year.

The Post’s Chelsea Janes explains:

“The timing of Friday’s decision could not have been more different from the timing of the Nationals’ last rain delay decision — a much-criticized move earlier this month when a game was called three hours after the scheduled first pitch following only a passing drizzle. Because of schedule concerns, the Commissioner’s office made the decision with the help of Nationals staff. Ultimately, the decision fell to the league, which made it in accordance with a bleak forecast that called for five inches of rain in some places. Flash flood warnings blared over Dusty Baker’s pregame media session.”

Friday’s postponed game was rescheduled for 7:05 p.m. the following Sunday, creating a day-night doubleheader for the clubs. The Rockies were off Monday, but the Nats had to fly overnight to Miami following the second game for a Monday night date with the Marlins.

Perhaps exhausted from the quick turnaround, the Nationals’ offense managed only three hits. That also was the night Gio Gonzalez pitched a gem, taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning before allowing a lead-off single to Dee Gordon.

Washington’s bullpen held strong, and the Nats won, 1-0.

Further delays

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St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong graciously signed autographs for a few soggy fans on Thursday night, July 27, as they waited out a rain shower that delayed the start of the game by 62 minutes. The visiting Arizona Diamondbacks won 4-0 behind a grand slam from J.D. Martinez.

Lee May’s cold blast in Detroit
1975-TRADED-LEE-MAY.jpgFormer major leaguer Lee May died of heart disease on Saturday, July 30, and the next day, a Baltimore Sun article relayed a story from Lee’s former teammate, Jim Palmer, about Opening Day in 1975 when the slugger hit a three-run home run on a near freezing evening at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.

Lee’s blast gave Palmer a comfortable lead and Baltimore went on to win 10-0.

“It got a lot warmer when ‘Mo’ hit that ball into the upper deck. I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if we hadn’t had players like that,” Palmer said, subtly reminding us that he is enshrined in Cooperstown.

The game’s box score does not show the game-time temperature, but does indicate the game was played at night. A look at Detroit weather history shows that temperatures dipped to 33 degrees that night with a high of only 46 during the day.

And now, the history portion of This Week in Baseball Weather
Louis-K-Lou-Finney_artLou Finney had a rough go of things to begin the 1937 baseball campaign. While with his team for spring training in Mexico, the Philadelphia Athletics’ outfielder – sometimes first baseman – became sick. Lingering effects from the illness, along with a chronic sinus infection and handful of other ailments, forced Finney in and out of the A’s lineup throughout the season.

However, it was a wet July day in Detroit, playing in the mud and rain, that forced Finney off the field for much of the remainder of the season.

The Sporting News reported details in its July 29, 1937 issue:

“AT DETROIT – The Tigers defeated the Athletics, 12-9, in the first game of a scheduled twin bill, which was played through intermittent rain and finally called with one out in the last half of the sixth inning, because of the muddy condition at Navin Field. A heavy downpour held up the contest for 52 minutes after one and two-thirds innings had been played, then activity was resumed between the showers, only to be stopped when the players where no longer able to keep their footing on the slippery field. After Second Baseman Russell Peters of the A’s had poled a four bagger with a mate on base to make the score nine-all in the sixth, Gerald Walker singled Charley Gehringer home with the winning run in the Detroit half of the inning. Then both Hank Greenberg and Walker counted when George Turbeville, the third Mack hurler, twice pitched the slippery ball past catcher Earle Brucker. Walker, Peter Fox, Clif Bolton and Greenberg also connected for the circuit, Hank’s drive being his twenty-third of the season. George Gill, who relieved Boots Poffenberger in the fourth, received credit for his fourth win. The second game was postponed. Attendance totaled 23,000 spectators.”

Two weeks later, James C. Isaminger of The Sporting News reported that Finney had “suffered a relapse” during the contest and Philadelphia manager “Connie Mack, fearing about his [Finney’s] health, has decided not to use him any more this season, except in emergencies and double-headers.”

Isaminger wrote that Finney “caught a cold in Mexico and never fully recovered.”

In his SABR Bio Project story on Finney (recommended reading), Doug Skipper writes that Mack gave Finney permission to leave the team with 10 games to go in the season and return to Alabama for surgery on his sinuses. Skipper conveys that Finney “had a hernia repaired, had the inflamed appendix that had bothered him for months extracted, and had his tonsils removed.”

There you have it, two weeks’ worth of baseball weather stories, plus a trip back to 1937. I can guarantee posts in subsequent weeks will not be as lengthy… probably.

O-no! Nats and Orioles rained out

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MASN

 

“Ah, come on,” was the exact quote from me as I stepped into The Rainout Blog official viewing room – my wife calls it the den –and saw the image above on my TV screen.

You may think a guy who occasionally writes about baseball rainouts gets his kicks every time as baseball games is called or delay by inclement weather.

Well OK, I do usually, but last night I was really looking forward to hanging out and watching the Nationals pull even in their series with the Orioles.

Bryce Harper was ready, too, as the MASN cameras caught him peering out at the rain pelting the Nationals Park field.

“It’s raining. It’s miserable and Bryce is hoping mom doesn’t call him home for dinner because he still wants to play ball,” Nationals TV play-by-play man Bob Carpenter said.

 

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Photo from my crappy phone

 

I’m not sure if Bryce got a call from his mom, but he didn’t get to play ball.
The game has been rescheduled for 7:05 p.m., Thursday, June 8 at Nationals Park.

The Nationals are scheduled to host Philadelphia – the Phillies again? – tonight. However, the weather forecast is not promising, calling for a 70 percent chance of rain when Tanner Roark is scheduled to deliver the first pitch.

Rain chances increase to about 85 percent around the 9 o’clock hour… about the time Jayson Werth would be clubbing another home run against his former team.

The Nationals-Orioles rainout was the fourth MLB rainout this week. The White Sox and Twins were postponed Wednesday night.

Hail halted the Monday night contest between the Cubs and Rockies at Coors Field.

On Sunday, the Dodgers and Padres were postponed because of rain, breaking a streak of 134 games at Petco Park without a weather-related postponement. The last came on July 19 1995.

That’s impressive, but not nearly as much as the Padres’ previous mark of 820 consecutive games that began April 4, 2006 and ended with the 1995 postponement.

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.

Heating up Harp

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What does it take to get the reigning National League MVP’s bat hot on a cool night in Washington, D.C.?

A dugout heater, of course.

Bryce Harper was 0-for-3 Tuesday night and his club was struggling to put runs across the plate against a winless Atlanta Braves team. The Nats’ fortunes changed, however, in the eighth with runners on first and second and Harper due to arrive at the plate.

Moments before he climbed out the dugout, MASN cameras spotted Harper warming his hands and bat in front of an orange floor heater.

“Going no gloves, keeping the hands warm. Maybe heating that pine tar up a little,” said Nationals TV commentator F.P. Santangelo. “When you put that bat in front of the warmer it makes that pine tar a little bit wet again. It (pine tar) will get cold on a night like tonight and get real dry.”

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Whether it was warming his hands, his bat or both, the technique worked on this 51-degree night. (Or, maybe it was the fact that No. 34 is quite the slugger.)

Harper slapped the first pitch he saw from Braves’ lefty reliever Eric O’Flaherty into left field. Jeff Francoeur attempted a diving catch, but the ball bopped off his glove, giving Harper a two-run double as Stephen Drew and Anthony Rendon scored.

Temps in D.C. are expected to be about the same Wednesday night, in the mid to low 50s, so perhaps the entire team should gather around the heater and not wait until the eighth inning to put away the Braves.

Can Dusty make it reign in Washington?

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DustyBaker01It’s down to Dusty and Bud.

It’s Bud. He’s our guy!

No, wait. It’s Dusty.

Last week as the World Series wrapped up, news breaking out of Washington about who the Nationals intended to hire as the team’s next manager left us confused as Yoenis Cespedes in the center field.

But things were sorted out over a couple of days, and we learned that indeed Dusty Baker had been hired as the team’s sixth manager. I have to admit, I never was excited about Bud Black, and in the beginning, I was even less excited about Baker.

You know, all the chatter about Dusty ruining pitchers’ arms and despising on-base percentage will do that to a fella.

The more I heard Dusty speak, however, the more I liked the idea of him managing my Washington Nationals. Listening to Dusty speak will do that to a fella, ya know.

For The Rainout Blog, I thought it would be fun to go back through the years of Dusty’s managing days with the Cubs, Giants and Reds to see if I can find any evidence of how he managed his starting pitchers through those days when bad weather delayed games in the early innings and he had to make the tough decision to go with his starter or give the ball to a long reliever.

That information might be tough to find, but I still wanted to give it a modest go. I’m not going to spend days on this.

So, I Googled “Dusty Baker rain,” thinking that was a good place to start. I’ll probably find nothing, I thought, in the 10 minutes I’m allotting myself on this, likely, fruitless endeavor.

The first item to pop up in the search was this MLB.com story from 2011, when Dusty was managing in Cincinnati. The headline read: “Dusty Baker still seeing Red over rain delay.”

Jackpot!

My 10 minutes were competed in less than 10 seconds.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the article in case, for some reason, you’re not into reading about baseball rain delays as much as I am: Early in the 2011 season, the Reds were playing the Cardinals in St. Louis. A large storm was approaching the area. The home team Cardinals decided to go with a reliever instead of their scheduled starter. Dusty claims he wasn’t given sufficient information regarding the approaching storm – it turned out to be a pretty bad storm around the area – and went ahead with his starting pitcher for the day. Six pitches into the game, rains came and the game was delayed 2 hours and 10 minutes. The Cardinals, after starting a reliever, brought in to pitch their originally scheduled starter after the rain delay. Dusty got mad.

Was there a lack of communications on the Cardinals end?

“I lost my pitcher. And we lost the game,” Baker said the night after his Reds lost the delayed game 4-2 to the Cardinals. “I was upset because we still had action on winning that game, plenty of action.”

One of the positives you hear about Dusty is he’s a players manager who will fight for his team. You would think that would be a basic element of Baseball Managing 101, but as we’ve all learned thought the years of watching the game, it simply isn’t basic at all.

Dusty has taken each team he has managed to the playoffs, and he’s going to do a good job in Washington.

Yeah, I’m still bullish on this team.

None of us are certain who all will be on the field and in the dugout when the Nationals open the 2016 season, but I’m confident Dusty will get the most out whomever is wearing the Curly W… rain or shine.

Mind games

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Memorial Stadium
Memorial Stadium

At my very first Major League Baseball game, way back in 1987 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, I, a then-16-year old Yankees fan from rural Virginia, watched Willie Randolph send a ball screaming over the right field wall.

“Get out of here,” I urged the ball, in my mind, as I stood in enemy territory wearing a navy blue T-shirt with Yankees interlocking NY on the chest.

That old ballpark had no chance of holding Willie’s mighty blast.

There I sat, ecstatic, just beyond the left field foul pole, amidst about 26,000-plus Orioles’ fans, three of whom were cursing and spilling beer on my parents and me from the next seat back. Memorial Stadium wasn’t exactly a green cathedral to my Dad, a Baptist minister. It was more a deep shade of blue.

But let’s get back to the home run.

I’ve been talking about Willie’s home run for years to anyone and everyone who would listen.

Recently, after a little digging into my baseball fandom past, I began hoping no one had ever been listening because… well, it didn’t happen.

Nope. At least not the way I remembered.

Willie Randolph did not hit a home run in the Yankees 7-3 win over the Orioles that day, June 22, 1987. It was Claudell Washington, his fourth of the season, off O’s ace Mike Boddicker.

Willie had hit a double in that game.

Somewhere in memory over the last 28 years, my mind confused Willie for Claudell.

It happens.

I was reminded of my confusion last week when I got around to reading David Simon’s Sports Illustrated article about misremembering a home run hit by his childhood hero, former Washington Senator Mike Epstein.

Simon, creator of the HBO series The Wire, writes about his memory of Epstein launching a home run into the right field seats – same as Willie’s, I mean, Claudel’s shot, at RFK Stadium – about 40 miles from my misremembrance – on Opening Day in 1971. Years later, when Simon met his boyhood idol, Epstein corrected Simon’s memory.

“Never happened,” Epstein told Simon over the phone.

You know what would have been just terrific? If Willie Randolph could have personally corrected me. Sadly, I learned of my memory failure through a box score one day while sitting in my office.

No cool story, bro, to write for SI.

Anyway…

The article is applicable to The Rainout Blog only because of a paragraph in Simon’s story about bringing Epstein to Nationals Park, where Epstein was to be recognized. The two waited and waited through a long rain delay only to have the ceremony nixed and the game postponed to the next day.

From Sports Illustrated:

“God,” Epstein said to me, staring at the infield tarp, “is really angry at you.”

It’s an hour past the game’s scheduled start, and Epstein, having done all his interviews for local radio and pregame broadcasts, stands with a team escort at his side. In the escort’s hand are a Nationals jersey with Epstein’s name and number 6 adorning it, and a red ballcap with NATIONALS spelled out phonetically in Hebrew letters. But the rain is unrelenting, and there will be no pregame honorifics for Epstein or anyone else. In the end, a little after 9 p.m., this Monday game between the Nats and the Orioles – yes, my plan was to exorcise the demons from both franchises at once – is called for weather. It will be rescheduled as part of a Thursday doubleheader, a day which will find Epstein back in Colorado.