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Strasburg-mania was in full force last night.
It’s the debut everyone was talking about, Stephen Strasburg, and I was there. Seated near the field, just past first base, I had a chance to really see the vertical break on his pitches and their effects on batters.
This is the one everyone has heard of. Strasburg regularly broke 100 mph with his pitches in college. Then he signed with Washington and was throwing in the mid-90s all through AA and AAA. He had to either be lulling the competition into a false sense of security or just working on the rest of his arsenal, because his 98-102 fastball was back in full force last night. Hitters were completely embarrassed by it, no one could keep up, and I couldn’t move my eyes fast enough half the time. It’s that good.
His sinking fastball didn’t appear as often as it did in the minors, with brief appearances here or there. It should be noted that Stephen did not induce many grounders last night, so perhaps he wasn’t really using it or it wasn’t sinking all that well.
Here’s where things start to get dirty…and strange. When you have a guy who throws at 100 mph, his changeup can only believably be about 7-11 mph slower (these are numbers pulled out of nowhere, but they ring true for most pitchers I’ve seen). Strasburg’s changeup clocks in at 89-91. That’s faster than a Jamie Moyer fastball. That is most pitcher’s fastball. It creates a ball that will still throw batters, but if they do make contact, the ball will travel. Exhibit A: Delwyn Young. Everyone’s got their own opinion on the ball he hit, but from my vantage point it sure seemed like he just dropped the bat, almost like a golf swing, prayed, and got extremely lucky. His home run landed in the first row of the high RF, but it just kind of hung in the air. Not solid contact, but fast enough to just carry.
Some people call Strasburg’s curve a slider-curve (AKA slurve), which is an awesome word that I will use. This baby is filthy. It drops like a foot. I read an account of last night that described the umpire as being surprised at how this thing traveled. From my position off to the side it looked nigh-unhittable. I can’t even imagine what batters were thinking when they saw it. Absolutely brutal pitch.
If he continues to pitch this well, I fear for my Marlins. His stuff is just so good, I can barely believe it.
The ballpark was super excited for the debut, breaking 40k in attendance. They were loud and super into the game. It was a refreshing change of pace. I wonder how big the rest of his starts will be this year. I plan to see him in Baltimore later on this month.
I hope to see much more of this for the rest of the season.
I’m gonna blame Memorial Day weekend for making me forget that I was supposed to do this yesterday. All those barbecues were so good!
No games (with the Carp or Eagles)
Baltimore Orioles (0) at Toronto Blue Jays (5). Division rival mega match! Ok, I can’t keep a straight face on that one. The AL East’s two least interesting teams (to me) start a series that will inevitably bore me to death.
Philadelphia Phillies (3) at Florida Marlins (2). A close one that could have gone either way, really. Volstad gets the hard-luck loss.
Chicago White Sox (4) at Tampa Bay Rays (2). I’m so used to David Price being so amazing that it catches me by surprise when he loses. After the Alex Rios home run in the fourth the Rays couldn’t quite catch up.
Washington Nationals (5) at San Diego Padres (3). What should have been an unimportant series suddenly becomes an interesting one about two teams far outperforming expectations. Lannan notches the win and Capps notches another save.
Hiroshima Carp (2) at Rakuten Eagles (3). My teams face off yet again. Katsuhiro Nagakawa, fresh off the DL, gets the loss in a walk-off in the 10th. Hiroshima should still be proud after scoring two on Iwakuma.
Orioles (2) at Blue Jays (5). You know, the Jays are actually a really good team this year. It’s too bad that there are already three other good teams in the AL East.
Phillies (1) at Marlins (0). Oh my god, how did I miss this? Roy Halladay threw a perfect game and Josh Johnson served up a magnificent effort himself allowing only one unearned run. Why are Florida teams surrendering so many perfect games?!
White Sox (5) at Rays (8). Wade Davis finally gets himself another win. Way to go, rookie. PS: I hate the White Sox.
Nationals (2) at Padres (4). J.D. Martin takes the loss to a Padres team that’s hitting pretty well.
Carp (2) at Eagles (4). I love Ma-kun (Masahiro Tanaka) as much as the next guy, just not when he’s beating my team. Oh well. Hiroshima’s record is now 20-31-0 in fifth while Rakuten sports a 24-28-1 mark.
Orioles (1) at Blue Jays (6). The battle of the birds comes to a close with the Orioles (predictably) getting the series loss. The Orange Birds end the weekend at 15-36, but get a breather before moving on to the Yankees.
Phillies (0) at Marlins (1). After the Phillies blank the Fish, Florida comes back and blanks the Phils, but not with a perfect game like the night before. Anibal Sanchez was in his dominant form and the Fish struggled to put just one on the board against Jamie Moyer, as usual.
White Sox (8) at Rays (5). The Sox return the favor against Shields. Sad.
Nationals (2) at Padres (3). 11th inning walk-off loss. They can go either way at that point. Tough break for Washington.
31 May – Memorial Day
Milwaukee Brewers (5) at Marlins (13). The Fish return to their hitting ways, and how! Cody Ross and Cameron Maybin both knock in some mashers and plenty of RBIs are scored. The Fish record sits at 26-26 in a three-way tie for third with the Mets and Nats.
Nationals (14) at Houston Astros (4). The Nats also got in a hitting mood. What a showing! As stated before, their record is 26-26.
Rays (2) at Blue Jays (3). Garza just couldn’t keep the Jays low enough to keep the win. The Rays are still in first with their 34-18 record, 4.5 up on the Yanks.
The Phanatic likes to mess around with everyone, including reporters.
I spent a far-too-cold night at Citizens Bank Park freezing my butt off, but enjoying a Marlins victory over Fish-killer Jamie Moyer. A review of the park should be hitting soon, but I’ve got to finish writing it first.
Chunichi Dragons (3) at Hiroshima Carp (4). If I’m not mistaken, this one was won in extra innings. A thrilling victory for the Carp.
Rakuten Eagles (1) at Softbank Hawks (9). The losing streak continues
Florida Marlins (6) at Philadelphia Phillies (8). Roy Halladay throws 8 innings of 2-run baseball that’s almost ruined by his relief in the 9th. Florida doesn’t have enough to get the last two, but they make it interesting.
Milwaukee Brewers (3) at Washington Nationals (5). Is this a two-game win streak I smell?
Baltimore Orioles (2) at Oakland Athletics (4). It just gets uglier and uglier for the Os.
Dragons (7) at Carp (8). It’s always refreshing to see my other Fish manage so many runs. More late-inning heroics push Hiroshima up and give them the series win.
Eagles (8) at Hawks (3). The Golden Eagles have tons of run-scoring potential, but they’re often unable to get it done. When you’ve got Iwakuma and Ma-kun pitching Saturday and Sunday, respectively, you’d better score runs to capitalize on good pitching performances.
Brewers (0) at Nationals (8). Liván Hernández shows, once again, that he is still an amazing pitcher. I’ll never forget his performance for the Fish in 1997 and it makes me happy that he’s still going so strong. 3-game win streak for the Nats.
Orioles (3) at Athletics (4). More ugliness. How much longer will Dave Trembley have a job if things continue like this? Is there some unspoken Baltimore-Washington rule that one of the teams must be terrible?
Marlins (5) at Phillies (1). The game I was at. What a beauty. Good thing the Fish got to Jamie Moyer early, because the bats were mostly silent after the first inning.
Tampa Bay Rays (3) at Boston Red Sox (1). This game started on Friday, but was rain-delayed in the 9th inning at a 1-1 tie. It resumed and went for 12 before finally getting resolved in Tampa Bay’s favor.
Rays (6) at Red Sox (5). Should have been more of a blow-out for the Rays than it was, but Longoria’s home run turned out to be the difference.
Eagles (0) at Hawks (1). Masahiro Tanaka throws a gem of a game that the Hawks win with in the bottom of the 9th while Ma-kun tried to get his 27th out. It’s a shame that he goes for so many and his offense does squat for him. Rakuten finishes the week in fifth with 8-15-0 with a huge 8.5 game deficit.
Dragons (2) at Carp (4). Was this what I think it was? A series sweep by the Carp! Could this mean fortune is beginning to favor Hiroshima? The Carp close the weekend 9-11-0 in fourth and only three games back from first.
Marlins (2) at Phillies (0). Lefty Nate Robertson does what he was hired to do: kill Phillies left-handed hitters. The Marlins win yet another series and raise their standing to 8-5 putting them half a game back on the Phils.
Rays (7) at Red Sox (1). An amazing performance by Matt Garza puts the Rays ahead of the Sox yet again. If Tampa Bay can manage one more win in this long series, they’ve got themselves a sweep on their hands. Should they manage said sweep, it would be the second sweep of the Sox at Fenway in Rays history. The Rays are 9-3 and tied for first with the Yankees.
Brewers (11) at Nationals (7). Jason Marquis has the ugliest performance of his career, giving up seven runs in the first inning without recording an out. He’s pulled and the Nats give up three more. They make a strong comeback effort, but it’s not quite enough. They’re playing 0.500 baseball, folks, with a 6-6 record that puts then in fourth, but only two games back from Philadelphia. Also great is that they’re two games above New York. Fantastic baseball being played so far.
Orioles (8) at Athletics (3). The skid ends for Baltimore, but the damage has been done. Baltimore is only 2-11 and a gigantic (for this point in the season) 7.5 games back. Ouch.
It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.
Baseball, sad as I am to say it, is nearing the end of its season. As pre-season stories begin to flood my RSS reader I can only lament the loss of the pure baseball period. That time of the year where the only professional sport being played in America is my favorite time of year. Turning on Sportscenter will only yield tiny stories and not spend long segments on the state of some team’s offensive line.
I don’t want to keep dwelling on the oncoming football season. Let’s talk some baseball instead.
Billy and Inaugural Marlins
Last week I went and attended the first of a three game series in Washington against the Florida Marlins. Josh Johnson was slated to pitch, so I figured I should see their ace rock the Nats. The inexplicable happened and Washington pulled out a win in the 8th inning. It kept getting stranger as the Nats swept the entire three-game series, stealing leads from the Fish rather like they did against the Nats all season long.
Set to roll into Philadelphia after the series, I was hoping for at least a win. You might recall that Florida was swept the last time they played, but, surprisingly, the Marlins pulled three straight wins for the sweep, even defeating Jamie Moyer, who is 13-3 lifetime against the Fish.
Thanks to those games, the Marlins are (as of this writing) sitting 3.5 games behind Philadelphia and 3.0 games back in the wild card behind the Giants, Rockies, and Cubs. The Phils are in Chicago facing those same Cubs, which can only be good for Florida as it will definitely advance in at least one of those races each night those two play.
As the title says, they’ve only got 40 games left. They’d better play some solid baseball if they want to make a playoff run.
There was a lot of talk about the mistakes Joe Maddon was making in not bringing David Price up at the start of the year. I think last night speaks volumes about why he thought he needed more work.
Price gave up ten runs to spearhead a 10-1 loss to the Phillies last night, meaning that he was embarrassed by a pitcher more or less twice his age (Jamie Moyer, age 46).
It’s days like these that I’m glad I can at least root for the Marlins, who won last night against the Orioles and took two of three from the Yankees this weekend. Not only did Hanley Ramirez snap his homerless streak against the Yankees, he hit himself a grand slam last night to bust open the game. Of course, the Marlins bullpen gave up so many runs that the game went on to the 12th inning, but still, go Hanley.
While I’m up here, I think it’s worth laughing at the Yankees AND the Blue Jays for each dropping two games to the Nationals last week. Way to play to win.
Last week was also notable for being the day I saw, in the flesh, Matt Wieters hit his first big league home run against the Mets. In a strange coincidence, I also heard Wieter’s second home run while listening to the Orioles at Marlins game last night.
Daisuke Matsuzaka landed himself on the DL due to sucking, since Boston can’t send him to the minors. It’s an interesting practice, but basically all a team has to do is get a sanctioned doctor to sign off on some sort of injury and, BAM, instant DL stint. This is how we get loony injuries like an anxiety disorder diagnosed through blood work. Dice-K has been having a tough season, likely from WBC-related exhaustion, so this should hopefully get him all better. Too bad he cost the Red Sox 103M$, because he sure hasn’t seemed all that worth it yet.
And that’s all I’ve got for now. Here’s hoping that the Nats take two of three from the Sox, the Marlins keep moving up the standings, and the Rays start beating the Phillies.
Jayson Stark had this to say about Randy Johnson’s recent 300th win:
“It’s always a good idea to shoot for a milestone against those hospitable Washington Nationals. On Sunday, they were the victim of Jamie Moyer’s 250th career win. Four days later, they were on the wrong end of Randy Johnson’s 300th. So how rare is that? Glad you asked. If we use 200 wins as the official milestone cutoff, the last team to be victimized for two milestones (200, 250 or 300) in the same season was Rob Deer’s 1990 Brewers (Nolan Ryan’s 300th, Frank Tanana’s 200th). But if we raise the cutoff to 250, the Elias Sports Bureau reports, the Nationals become the first team to do anything like this twice in one year since Pop Corkhill’s 1891 Pirates helped Old Hoss Radbourn win his 300th and John Clarkson win his 250th. Hard to believe, folks.”
“Ryan Howard has hit two grand slams this season off the same pitcher: Washington’s Shairon Martis. Loyal reader Chris Rosenberg wondered how unusual that is? Eh, pretty darned unusual. The only other times that’s happened in the division-play era: Steve Garvey off Clay Carroll in 1977, Fernando Tatis off Chan Ho Park (in the same INNING) in 1999 and Jermaine Dye off Ryan Rupe in 2000.”
Game 2 went precisely how I wanted it to, which leaves today’s matchup, Garza vs Moyer, particularly big and important. It’ll probably be the coldest, temperature-wise, game the Rays have ever played, for one. There’s also that alarming statistic about dome-teams having a hard time beating non-dome teams in the postseason that needs to be proved wrong.
The big important points for the Rays:
-Help Garza manage the Phils and keep them off of base.
-If previous fails, hope Garza doesn’t give up a home run
-Stop letting the Phils get into scoring position. They may be 3-28 or some ridiculously low number like that, but this is baseball and they’ll start performing when you least expect or need it.
If they can manage that, I’ll be a happy camper watching the game from a bar somewhere in DC tonight.
You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ‘em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.
It’s been a while since you’ve last heard from me about the Marlins, but it’s funny how things haven’t changed much since then. The Fish remain 1.5 games back from the Phillies as of today and are, once again, in a series that will challenge the very fabric of their team.
The next few games pit the Marlins against the Phillies and Mets, the teams directly above and below them in the standings. I’ll be fortunate to definitely attend a game against the Mets at Shea and I might even go to Citizens Bank Park for the Phils game this Thursday. My goal of attending a ball game at every major league ballpark isn’t going to achieve itself, is it?
I’ll be crossing my fingers to move the Marlins into first over the Phils. They’ve already achieved quite a feat by beating Jamie Moyer last night. The Marlins were 0-10 against Moyer up until last night when they broke the Moyer hex. Hopefully the win streak begins and remains against him for the future.
Tampa Bay Rays
In Rays news, Tampa remains in first place a full three games ahead of Boston (QUICK ASIDE: Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers! WTF is Boston thinking??) and are holding strong in a series against the bane of their existence, the Cleveland Indians. At this point all that remains for the Rays to do is continue their strong performances and stay in first in the AL East.
Tropicana Field Review
This Sunday I got a chance to see another baseball game at Tropicana Field and boy was I surprised to see a new, reinvigorated ballpark. My tickets were pretty sweet, thanks to my younger brother getting them from the company he’s interning at, located in right field just past first base about 30 rows up from the field, so I feel like I got a good chance to evaluate the stadium.
When I was last in the Trop, back in 2004, the stadium was pretty different with different screens and, more importantly, a different color scheme due to the uniform and name change this year. Formerly a green and purple colored team, the renamed Rays are now a dark blue and light blue team and the new stadium looks very nice in the new color scheme.
Also great in Tropicana Field are some of the new fan traditions. Taking inspiration from the SNL skit, fans are encouraged to bring cowbells to the stadium and use them in cheers, specifically when opposing batters have two strikes on the count.
Unfortunately, the Trop is plagued by a few problems as a consequence of its dome. Sure, being indoors in the Tampa Bay sun is a good idea, however, their climate control system is not as effective as it should be, creating a kind of stale, stuffy environment that doesn’t make for a comfortable sit during the game. The dome itself is a bit of an issue too, with the low rafters in the outfield affecting high fly balls and, in general, the non-retractable nature of the dome being an issue. Sure, in the super-hot summer complete with ridiculous rains, why would you want to have the dome open unless you’re me and love the hot weather, but on cooler days or nice days, not having the option really does affect your ability to enjoy the game.
Tropicana Field is an average stadium to see a game in. You could do worse for a baseball field :cough: Dolphin Stadium :cough:, but it still doesn’t even come close to my favorite (so far), Oriole Park at Camden Yards.