Washington Nationals

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

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.

This week in poncho theater

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Note: If you’ve ever struggled with a poncho and embarrassed yourself silly at a sporting event, I’d like to hear from you for a fun story on The Rainout Blog – particularly if your epic struggles happened on national TV. Just click on the contact tab at the top and send me a message.

“It’s more important, at this point, to find the face hole.”

Truer words could not have been spoken Monday night when, once again, fans – yes, there were two this time – at a Major League ballpark struggled with the basics of donning a poncho.

I’m not making fun of the fans. Clearly, these poncho things are far more complicated than we might think.

Let’s set the scene of the most recent attack…

The Cubbies were batting against the visiting Dodgers in the top of the eighth inning when rain began to fall on Wrigley Field. The Dodgers’ TV crew spotted a couple of female Cubs fans quickly trying to protect themselves from the precipitation. Dodgers’ broadcaster Charlie Steiner, who gave us the “finding the face hole” quote above, describes the action.

Take it Charlie…

Watch the Video

(I have yet to confirm a rumor that Steiner jumped out of the press box to help the two fans, yelling “Follow me! Follow me to freedom!” )

This week’s poncho tussle is far less agonizing to watch than last week’s fight against death in Washington, D.C. We thought that guy was going to need medical assistance if he didn’t get air soon.

Also worth noting, the two Cubs fans received a helping hand from a friendly woman sitting behind them at the Friendly Confines. That didn’t happen last week in D.C.

Nope. “The two clowns behind him,” as Keith Olbermann called them, were too busy taking a selfie and one was chugging a beer.

Thankfully, each of the fans – the one at Nationals Park and the two in Wrigleyville – survived what could have been vicious poncho attacks.

I’m sure – although I haven’t checked – ponchos come equipped with safety instructions warning of potential suffocation. But after these two incidents and another way back in spring training, poncho labels should also read… Warning: May cause public humiliation at ballparks and on national TV.

Oh, the humidity

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Max Scherzer’s bid for a perfect game on a sticky Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C., was spoiled only by a diving left elbow.

The Pirates’ Jose Tabata stood at the plate in the top of the ninth with his team having yet to get a base runner against the Nationals’ righty. Scherzer fired a 2-2 pitch inside to Tabata and the pinch hitter, doing what good competitors do, learned into the pitch with his heavily padded left elbow.

Home plate umpire Mike Muchlinksi signaled Tabata to first base, and just like that, Scherzer’s perfect day vanished.

However, pitching through humidity nearly as thick as the chocolate syrup his teammates doused him with during the customary post-game TV interview, Scherzer retired Josh Harrison on a long fly to left, securing a no-hitter, only the second in the Nationals’ 10-year history.

Scherzer not only had to battle the red hot Pirates – they had won eight in a row before losing in Washington Friday night – but also the thick humidity at Nationals Park.

“It was pretty exhausting out there; it was pretty hot and humid,” Scherzer said in the post-game press conference. “Going through the first six innings, it was pretty tiring and exhausting, just mentally.”
Scherzer said the Nationals’ offensive outpouring in the sixth inning – the team scored four runs in that frame – helped him catch his breath and cool off.

“Guys just stepped up to the plate and did their job,” he said. “I just felt like that gave me a break, you know, just gave me some time to recuperate, sit in the clubhouse in some air conditioning to kind of rest up. And then I felt strong. I felt like I could get out there and come with my best fastball for the last three innings.”

Scherzer was asked about his in-game superstitions throughout pitching a perfect game and whether he talked with teammates between innings.

“No, I’m not really talking to teammates, it’s just either get some water or I need a new jersey and a new shirt,” he said. “And so I’m just changing my jersey and shirt to try and stay dry because it was pretty humid. I was sweating pretty good today.”

The Nats ace said he changed his jersey about every inning.

Video: