It might be American, but it's not so Great (And Welcome Back, Gary Majewski)
UPDATE: The Reds just announced that they have called up right-hander Gary Majewski from Class AAA Louisville and demoted Todd Coffey. Need some sizzle to the last day of this series? Here you go. Majewski went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 15 appearances for Louisville, allowing opponents a .233 average. Keep your eye on Wayne Krivsky and Jim Bowden if, say, Majewski comes on in a tight spot in the eighth inning and has to face Felipe Lopez or Austin Kearns. Tons o' fun.
Also, here are your lineups:
Lopez -- 4
Guzman -- 6
Zimmerman -- 5
Church -- 7
Kearns -- 9
Young -- 3
Schneider -- 2
Logan -- 8
Bacsik -- 1
Freel -- 8
Gonzalez -- 6
Griffey -- 9
Phillips -- 4
Conine -- 3
Dunn -- 7
Encarnacion -- 5
Ross -- 2
Belisle -- 1
So how about that last night, huh? I could write another whole tome on the state of the bullpen - that would be three innings in two nights from Everyday Colome, and when do we start really worrying about Jon Rauch? - but there's a couple of other related items that are worth looking at.
First, housekeeping: I was heading a completely different direction in the gamer before all those balls started flying out of the yard, and Ryan Church came back from a couple days' rest to drive in six runs and hit two bombs (though it turned out that three-run double really was the key hit). I of course decided before the game to lead the notebook with news of Austin Kearns's horrendous 2-for-29 stretch, and he didn't help my cause much by going 2 for 4. Good for him. The podcast is here.
Anyway, the story of the 12-7 victory last night was obviously Church and all the home runs. The Nationals, with the four bombs last night (Schneider and Zimmerman adding to Church's pair), hit four in a game for the first time since last April 8 at Houston. It brought their season total to 27, and they now have passed both St. Louis (24) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (26) and are within one of Colorado (28) and two of Pittsburgh (29). When they got here, they were tied with the Cardinals for last in the majors in homers with 20. (Incidentally, through May 23 of last year, Albert Pujols had 23 homers all by himself.)
So a trip to Cincinnati will do all this for you. Three nights, 27 runs, seven homers. Most runs in a Nationals' three-game series before this week: 19 against Florida in that sweep at RFK that started this relatively warm streak.
"Maybe we could move this ballpark to St. Louis," said Church, fully aware of the next stop on this tour.
Yet there is talk around baseball that both the Phillies and the Reds will have a tough time winning consistently because their rinky-dink little ballparks will scare off premium pitchers - or make them alter their deliveries and mechanics and screw them up even further. Look at what happened in Colorado over such a long period of time. It took a crazy humidor to un-juice the balls and make it play more normally, but you still have that huge outfield that allows little bloopers to fall in. Great American Ball Park (why it's two words instead of "ballpark," I have no idea) is tiny enough that some routine fly balls become homers. You think Kyle Lohse won't have nightmares about this place after last night?
The concern: What if the new Nationals' park plays that way?
First, a discussion about dimensions. Here are the dimensions at GABP:
Left field line: 328 feet, with a 12-foot wall
Left-field power alley: 379 feet, 12-foot wall
Center field: 404 feet, eight-foot wall
Right field power alley: 370 feet, eight-foot wall
Right field line: 325 feet, eight-foot wall
As Church said, "It's nice to know you can just flip one out of here at any given moment." (Listen to the replay here of Church's first homer, when Reds play-by-play guy Thom Brennaman said, "Off the end of the bat." That's the kind of ball that would be an out/double at RFK. Kearns said his homer the other night - "Front Row Joe," he called it - had no shot at getting out of RFK.)
Understand that the dimensions are not the only thing that determine how a park plays. Last year, when Alfonso Soriano hit what looked to be about a 500-foot blast onto the top of the hitter's eye in straight-away center at GABP - I mean, my jaw still drops when I remember it - it landed on the roof up there. Now, they've put a restaurant (that looks somewhat like a river boat) on top of the hitter's eye, and people say it has affected how the ball carries to center. It doesn't do so as well.
In chatting with Ryan Zimmerman on the topic the other day, he pointed out that parks that are enclosed from the third base line around home plate to the first base line - but then open in the outfield - generally help the ball travel better. "The only place for the air to leave is through the outfield," he said, and I think in general, that makes some sense. That's what it's like in Philadelphia, to be sure. And the plans for the Nationals new park make it seem like Washington's yard might play that way.
So, without further ado - and understanding that we don't know how the ball will travel when the new park opens next year - here are some suggested dimensions for the new park. CLARIFICATION: These dimensions are the ones originally given out, and the club is now keeping them under wraps, so it's possible they could change. Different sources have different numbers too, so please don't tret these as absolutes:
Left field: 332 feet (I don't have fence heights, unfortunately)
Left field power alley: 364 feet
Left field power alley (deep part): 370 feet (Not sure exactly what this means, and where the line is drawn.)
Center field: 409 feet
Right field power alley: 377 feet
Right field: 335 feet
So the number that jumps out at you is the 364 feet in the left-center alley. Not sure how far off the line that is. Could the new park give up some cheapies there? Know what that number is at RFK? That would be 380 feet. (Or, if you remember this little story - from which the sports department still has the 300-foot tape measure - maybe even a bit more, depending on what you believe. (Seriously, if you haven't read that story, it's super fun, and I can tell you the tale of Boz and me measuring the distances one day at RFK, with Boz as super-secret planner, including wearing a red hat so he'd look like a stadium employee and me getting called into Tony Tavares's office for a little, um, chat afterward. Fun stuff.)
My point: Just pray that the new park doesn't create games such as last night's, when a non-power hitting team like the Nationals can come in and just rake its way to four homers - though I think Church's first one was the only one that wasn't really hit well. This park here takes a tremendous toll on the pitching staff, and if the Nationals are going to be built on "pitching, pitching, pitching" (see Bowden, Jim), then they need to have a park that won't scare them away - or just savage them mentally.
Anyway, must decide in the next hour or so whether to get Skyline Chili. I'd like to, I really would, but my stomach might not be able to handle it. Tried pizza recommended by MASN play-by-play man Bob Carpenter, Donatos, and it was good if you like the really thin crust that's cut into party squares.
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