Nationals

Quick Links

A brief look at some of Nationals Park's quirks

201210091826663876871-p2.jpeg

A brief look at some of Nationals Park's quirks

WASHINGTON (AP) Game 3 of the NL division series between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon will be the first time the nation's capital has hosted Major League Baseball postseason action since 1933, when the Senators lost to the New York Giants in the World Series.

Here are some facts and figures - and some quirks - about Nationals Park:

- Opened in 2008, the Nationals' fourth season in Washington.

- In the stadium's regular-season debut, on March 30, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman hit a game-ending solo shot with two outs in the ninth inning to beat the Atlanta Braves, only the third walkoff homer in the first game at a ballpark.

- After averaging about 22,000 fans a game - only a little more than half of the stadium's capacity - in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Nationals drew an average of 30,010 this year. Winning helps, of course. ``You could tell, early on, that it was almost more of a social gathering. Come out, nothing else to do. `We'll go hang out at the park.' Now it's turned into like some die-hard fans,'' first baseman Adam LaRoche said. ``People probably skipping work and skipping school to come see the Nats. And our last few regular-season home games, I think were about as close to a playoff atmosphere as you can get.''

- Dimensions: 336 feet down the left-field line, 377 feet in left-center, 402 feet in straightaway center, 370 feet in right-center, 335 feet in down the right-field line.

- Odd left field ground rule: There are two vertical yellow lines painted in the left-field corner - one extends down from the foul pole to the ground, as is usually the case, and the other is only a couple of feet long, down a wall that juts in behind the main outfield wall. If a ball lands in fair territory and bounces between the two lines, it results in a ground-rule double. But if a ball lands in fair territory and bounces on or to the left of the extra line that sits in foul territory, that ball is in play. Asked about that oddity, Nationals left fielder Michael Morse said it was news to him.

- Sun Monster: After a September day game when Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper and right fielder Jayson Werth each misplayed a ball in the sun, 19-year-old Harper said the ``Sun Monster'' was to blame. Sure enough, the next day, an opponent flubbed a ball hit by Werth for the same reason. Werth said it ``borders on ridiculous. I've never seen anything like it. You almost don't have a chance out there as the game goes on.'' That second game, on Sept. 24, began at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday's game is scheduled to start at 1:07 p.m.

- Presidents Race: Yes, the Nationals will have their mascot race during the fourth inning. A bit of suspense is gone now, though, because Teddy Roosevelt finally won in Washington's final regular-season game on Oct. 3 - his only victory since the fourth-inning ``contest'' involving 10-foot foam renderings began in 2006.

- A-ha Moment: One of the songs played in later innings before Morse's at-bats is ``Take on Me,'' a 1980s hit from the Norwegian group A-ha, and the crowd really gets into it. They know the lyrics well - ``Take on me, take me on. I'll be gone, in a day or two'' - and always stretch out that final word, and its high-octave conclusion, for several seconds. Asked what he expects Wednesday, Morse smiled and replied: ``It'll be magical. I know it will be.''

Quick Links

Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

usatsi_10910276.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

Baseball fans love the long ball. They love the flashy plays. They love the no-hit bids and the rare perfect game. All of these things dominate headlines and capture our attention. 

The often overlooked bullpen of a club, however, almost always serves as the glue holding everything together. Relief pitching is derived of unsung heroes who are asked to perform on short notice and in sticky, high-pressure situations. 

Head skipper of the Washington Nationals, Dave Martinez, is being criticized for his handling of the bullpen during the first half of the season. 

By now it's well-documented that the Nats played their first 96 games at .500 leaving the club in third place in a division the team has walked all over back-to-back years. 

Sure, one can chalk it up to injuries, lack of roster changes or an inexperienced first-year manager working through kinks. But, there's a reason this team expects to compete for a pennant year in and year out: depth. The buzz around Martinez's decision-making continues to point toward his inability to dish out relief pitching assignments to the player's liking.  

Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace once made up the team's relief staff in May. Between disabled-list periods for Kintzler and Madson, and Sammy Solis being sent down to Class AAA Syracuse, the staff took a beating in the month of June. 

Nats relievers aren't necessarily upset about overuse, but more so because of a lack of communication between player and manager. 

At times during the first half of the season, relief pitchers felt overworked and that their wishes were not being acknowledged nor granted by Martinez. 

Sean Doolittle was quick to point out that the addition of Kelvin Herrera, who joined the team on June 18, sparked a change in Martinez's approach. 

“Over the last maybe month or so, maybe since we got Herrera, he’s gone around to the relievers and been a lot more proactive with that communication,” Doolittle said.

On a more tricky note, trust has also been targeted as an area needing improvement. 

When a starter gets in a jam or doesn't seem like he is 100%, Martinez often calls on reinforcements to begin the warming up process. Guys have noticed a pattern in which relief pitchers who initially warm up are often not the ones who start the following inning. 

From a relief pitcher's perspective, this is a sign of Martinez's distrust. Dramatic or not, there was a glaring disconnect throughout the first half of play. 

“With a veteran group, I think we all expect to come into a team and say we’ve all been there; we just want things to go boom, boom, boom and be a piece of cake. But we also all know it’s not like that,” Shawn Kelley said.

Handling his veteran rotation in the second half of the season should become easier for Martinez as Stephen Strasburg is expected to start Friday. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list June 10 with right shoulder inflammation. 

Strasburg pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac on Sunday, allowing three runs while striking out seven and walking one. It was his second rehab start since going on the DL. He allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings for Potomac on July 11. Strasburg is 6-6 with a 3.46 ERA this season, striking out 

95 in 80 2/3 innings.

One thing that hasn't been criticized is Martinez's positive attitude. Players often rave about him as a person and how he brings a source of energy in the clubhouse. 

This was on full display during Monday night's Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. 

Moments after Bryce Harper won the Derby, Martinez was among the first to congratulate his All-Star slugger as he hoisted him in the air. 

As the second half of the season gets underway Friday, expect to see a manager who brings forth an openminded approach to his club while in pursuit of a deep October run. 

Quick Links

Max Scherzer thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience in D.C.

Max Scherzer thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience in D.C.

All-Star Weekend is entertaining for fans and provides and much-needed break in the 162-game MLB season.

It’s not all just for fun, though. Following his start Tuesday night, Max Scherzer shared the benefits of being able to spend a few days sharing a locker room with players from across the league.

Being in the clubhouse, talking to veterans, talking to guys who have been here, getting to know everybody, getting the personalities, you can actually learn a lot from the other players in the league. They’re watching you, they’re watching your team and you get these conversations and it’s great. You’re talking about everybody and you find little things in the game that make them successful and what made you successful and see if you can get better.

Scherzer also didn’t hold back when talking about how great a job the city and his team did hosting the rest of the league. This is his sixth season as an All-Star, so he's speaking from quite a bit of experience.

It was awesome, what an atmosphere. I thought we were a great host team, all the other players in here loved the facilities and the treatment they received - D.C. did it right.

So according to Max Scherzer, the All-Star Game is great, but All-Star Weekend in D.C. is as good as it gets.

More Nationals News