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Season opener, 9-7 in 10 innings. :) Amazingly, the score after regulation was 5-5 - that is a tense tenth inning.

A classic Earl Weaver game: "pitching, defense, and 3-run homers." Look:

1) The Nats struck out *18* batters today, and gave up only 3 walks.

2) Error-free the entire game.

3) Anthony Rendon hit a 3-run homer.

Strasburg fanned 10, and his BAA (batting average against) was .238. It's remarkable that his ERA after this game is 6.00.

We've got to watch giving up the long ball.

Box Score on cnn.com

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That was nuts last night. I've never high-fived so many strangers in my life. It was my fifth game in eight days, and I was pretty worn out, especially with the late start time. My legs didn't want to

YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!  YES! YES! YES! YES!

Well, here we go! Again. (checks pre-season prognostications; SI predicts a Nats-Yanks Series)  Yup, looking good! (checks Boz's Opening Day eve musings)  You bet, this has to be the year!

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Congrats!!!   One more link to the site from a "most" unexpected source....and then a "natitude blog" would be an unusual piece of writing for this forum.  but it would be cool

Playbook doesn't generate much direct traffic, but it is an honor to be in it. Mike is an avid baseball fan and we've been to more than one game together. We always enjoy talking baseball, and he is a wonderful conversationalist.

Contrary to what you might read on another blog, Mike Allen is an avid baseball fan, a genuinely nice human being, and to the best of my knowledge (and I consider him a personal friend, and I think I would know otherwise), does not participate in pay for play. No, I can't "mathematically prove it," but that's not the Mike Allen I know. He is just a good, kindhearted person, plain and simple, and I both respect and like him to the point of bending over backwards for him with *nothing expected in return.* I know him better than the blogger who has been maligning him during these past few months, and I trust my opinion vastly more than I trust this blogger's opinion.

Mike Allen has a heart of gold, and I consider it an honor to be his friend - not because he's famous; but because he's a great person.

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hmmmm..... I must admit to never reading that section of politico, frankly rarely visit it at all on the web, and don't know of the author at all.  I thought the piece you wrote was cool and simply wanted to congratulate you for having been referenced.

.....now if you could only repeat something like that piece 161 more times  (oi...ugh) through the rest of the season.....

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Game 2: Nats 5, Mets 1.

The Nats throw 13 strikeouts for a total of 31 in 2 games.

That is the most of any team, after 2 games, in over 100 years!

Gio Gonzalez "helps his cause" (don't you love the way they always say that?) by hitting a home run.

Jayson Werth has a 4-hit day.

Bryce Harper throws out a runner at the plate from left field.

Enjoy this while you can - over the long haul, baseball is a game of parity.

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Gio Gonzalez "helps his cause" (don't you love the way they always say that?) by hitting a home run.

Don:  In the wonderful retrospective on Brooks Robinson you provided, and in the video that commemorates the "Brooks Robinson World Series" of 1970, where he swept up every hit smashed his way, turned obvious base hits into outs and double plays, made remarkable throws to first base that caught base runners,,,,,AND had a tremendous bat at the plate with an average over .400, two homers and 6 RBI's...the video references that Brooks and the team got contributions from everywhere.

Among those contributions were grand slams by pitchers Dave McNally in the World Series, and by Mike Cuellar in the American League Championship series.

When pitchers are hitting home runs....things are looking up!!!!!!!

Keep it up!!!!!

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Tanner Roark stepped in admirably for Jordan Zimmermann today, who the stat-heads say is the real ace of the staff.  If Fister comes back healthy, and Roark and Taylor Jordan fill in this well when called upon to give the top of the rotation a break every now and then, the Nats should sweep up the NL East.  That being said, Go Reds!

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Tanner Roark stepped in admirably for Jordan Zimmermann today, who the stat-heads say is the real ace of the staff.  If Fister comes back healthy, and Roark and Taylor Jordan fill in this well when called upon to give the top of the rotation a break every now and then, the Nats should sweep up the NL East.  That being said, Go Reds!

Start a Reds thread. Why not?

---

In Game 3, the Nationals just won 8-2.

A 3-0 record playing their first 3 games on the road - not a bad start.

With only 1 error committed in the 1st 3 games, and 39 strikeouts (that's 13 strikeouts per game).

Celebrate, yes, but don't get carried away: This was against the Mets, who won 74 games in 2013.

Tomorrow, a more vigorous test begins in a 3-game home stand against the Braves, who won 96 games in 2013.

If we're 5-1 next Sunday evening, there will be very good reason to be optimistic.

Natitude.

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The Braves have pitching problems. Lots of injuries early in the season. Dear Dog, I've been waiting for the season to start since the last one ended. I've been listening to the games on the radio--a couple of them on my portable from Radio Shack (which I take to Nats Park and listen with the ear buds) while working on my garden on the patio. Pure BLISS.

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To integrate our Thomas Boswell thread into this Natitude thread:

"Mets, Braves Series Could Set The Tone For The Washington Nationals' Season" by Thomas Boswell on washingtonpost.com

Yeah, except it didn't. Why OH Why do they fall apart in the face of the Braves? THREE base-running errors. Never mind the inside-the-park homerun by Desmond that was thrown out. Feh.

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Yeah, except it didn't. Why OH Why do they fall apart in the face of the Braves? THREE base-running errors. Never mind the inside-the-park homerun by Desmond that was thrown out. Feh.

1 Error and *53* strikeouts in the 1st 4 games. That's 13.25 strikeouts per game.

Don't be too worried about a 2-1 loss to the Braves.

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And the Nationals escape getting swept with a 2-1 victory today.

At 4-2, with the fear of God thrown into them by the Braves, this *might* be the best thing that could have happened, long-term.

If there was any overconfidence, it is now completely gone, or should be.

But if they had gotten swept, their core level of confidence might have been shattered, and you don't want that.

Only 2 runs and 4 hits today, but somehow, it was enough to squeak by.

The Nats could have easily won 2 games this series, and they need to get it in their minds that they can play toe-to-toe with Atlanta.

While I had hoped for a 5-1 start, 4-2 is still .667 baseball, and that's good enough to win a pennant.

And rest assured, the Nats will be on high alert when they do it all again, against the Braves, next weekend.

Things are normalizing - the obscene strikeout pace has calmed down (a bit), and the long-term realities of the season are settling in.

Still, in 6 games, the Nationals have pitched an amazing 69 strikeouts, or 11.5 per game - that is noteworthy.

The day off tomorrow is a nice luxury, and the Nats need to go into the Marlins series with the mindset of winning 2, if not all 3, games, and being dead-set on kicking some ass in game number 1.

After the off-day, the Nationals begin a run of *20* consecutive game days.

It is imperative that the starting pitchers go deep into games during this 20-game flurry; else, the bullpen will become exhausted (and maybe even injured).

We need Strasburg to get it together, pronto - other pitchers will have slumps later on, and he'll need to rise to the occasion.

And then the time between next Thursday night (their final home game against Miami) and Friday night (their first away game against Atlanta) must be spent (during travel) focusing, relaxing, and becoming intent on recreating Sherman's March.

While it may be a stretch to say "they need" 2 wins against the Braves next weekend, they absolutely need 1, and things will be a whole lot easier on them if they take 2.

Sweeping the Marlins would take a lot of pressure off of them, but you can never count on a sweep.

If you had asked me, before the season started, where the Nats would be right now, I probably would have said 4-2. So, in the grand scheme of things, there aren't any huge surprises.

But the grind is about to begin.

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Thoughts as follows and Joe Riley might take a whip to my hind for saying this:

Harper and Strasburg are immense talents but the Nationals need to temper their expectations with their production. If they can do so, get Strasburgs head on straight, and get Harper to realize that keeping the congo line moving instead of swinging for the fences, they will naturally release their god given talents. Harper will not face a lefty for about 2 weeks so giving him the day off yesterday was a good decision on Williams part.

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The day off tomorrow is a nice luxury, and the Nats need to go into the Marlins series with the mindset of winning 2, if not all 3, games, and being dead-set on kicking some ass in game number 1.

And so they did kick some ass in the first game against the Miami Marlins, 5-0, giving them a season record of 5-2 (a .714 winning percentage).

This is seemingly one "unimportant" game early in the season, but this was *the* one game in this series that the Nats needed the most psychologically. They needed to win it big, and they did. Even if they only split the following two against the Marlins, they'll still be 6-3 which is just fine. Then, even if they drop 2 of 3 to Atlanta next weekend, they're still a respectable 7-5 on the season with 50% of their games having been played against perhaps the toughest team in baseball.

Let's not forget that the Marlins were 5-2 coming into this series - they're no pushovers.

Gio Gonzalez is now 2-0 with an ERA of 0.75. Even if Strasburg is slumping, the Nats have a go-to guy right now, one who allows them all to take a collective, deep breath on days that he's pitching, and relax. Playing on 20 consecutive days, you need that mental break.

Washington is in control of their own destiny right now, and that's a good position to be in.

And, they've hurled 77 strikeouts in 7 games. Striking out someone in baseball is like serving an ace in tennis. It's a free point, and relieves pressure on the rest of the team. 11 strikeouts per game is 11 times the fielders have zero pressure on them, and no chance to commit any errors (odd exceptions aside).

Stay healthy, gentlemen, and if Zimmerman indeed has an arthritic shoulder, get him away from 3rd base. There are too many critical throws that originate from the hot corner. We cannot afford throwing errors from 3rd because all too often, they result in a quasi-double, putting a runner in scoring position.

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And so they did kick some ass in the first game against the Miami Marlins, 5-0, giving them a season record of 5-2 (a .714 winning percentage).

This is seemingly one "unimportant" game early in the season, but this was *the* one game in this series that the Nats needed the most psychologically. They needed to win it big, and they did. Even if they only split the following two against the Marlins, they'll still be 6-3 which is just fine. Then, even if they drop 2 of 3 to Atlanta next weekend, they're still a respectable 7-5 on the season with 50% of their games having been played against perhaps the toughest team in baseball.

...

Washington is in control of their own destiny right now, and that's a good position to be in.

When I went into dinner this evening, I checked my cell phone, and the Nationals were down 5-0. I wrote the game off, and was just happy that they had won game #1 of the series.

"Werth's Grand Slam Lifts Nats Past Marlins 10-7" by Howard Fendrich on abcnews.com

These are the little gifts you take and be thankful for.

The Nationals are now 6-2, and have won the series no matter what happens tomorrow. This is where managerial skills come into play: hammer home that tomorrow's game (game 3 of the series) is just as important as any of the upcoming Braves games, and keep your team focused.

Every strike of the nail with the hammer drives it in a bit further; every time you miss the nail, it's a wasted strike. The Nationals need a team psychologist to get them prepped for tomorrow.

8 games, 88 strikeouts. If this isn't a major-league record, I'd like to know what the record is.

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When I went into dinner this evening, I checked my cell phone, and the Nationals were down 5-0. I wrote the game off, and was just happy that they had won game #1 of the series.

"Werth's Grand Slam Lifts Nats Past Marlins 10-7" by Howard Fendrich on abcnews.com

...

8 games, 88 strikeouts. If this isn't a major-league record, I'd like to know what the record is.

And the Nationals sweep the series against the Marlins, 7-1, giving them a 7-2 record for the year, a 4-game winning streak, and the best record in the major leagues.

They've swept 2 out of 3 series so far.

And Strasburg broke out of his slump, striking out 12 and walking 1 in 6 2/3 quality innings, giving the bullpen a rest.

Now, after 9 games ... 105 strikeouts. 11.67 strikeouts per game - this *must* be an all-time record.

To put this in perspective, only 3 individual pitchers have ever averaged over 10 strikeouts per (9-inning) game for their career: Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, and Pedro Martinez.

Back-to-back games with 8th-innning grand slams (Jayson Werth yesterday, Ian Desmond today).

This takes so much pressure off the upcoming series against the Braves, but if you're going to win it all, you have to (eventually) beat the best - why not start this weekend?

A truly great team would floor the gas pedal right now, and take 2 of 3 from Atlanta - easier said than done.

Team psychologist: Hammer! Hammer! Hammer! Treat each game as if it will be the last one you ever play.

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Not sure if it's an all-time record, but this "hasn't been seen in more than a century."


Now, after 9 games ... 105 strikeouts. 11.67 strikeouts per game - this *must* be an all-time record. 

To put this in perspective, only 3 individual pitchers have ever averaged over 10 strikeouts per (9-inning) game for their career: Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, and Pedro Martinez.

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When I went into dinner this evening, I checked my cell phone, and the Nationals were down 5-0. I wrote the game off, and was just happy that they had won game #1 of the series.

"Werth's Grand Slam Lifts Nats Past Marlins 10-7" by Howard Fendrich on abcnews.com

These are the little gifts you take and be thankful for.

I did the same thing, but in my case I turned off the TV.  In the car yesterday morning I learned that I had indeed been of little faith.  I spent yesterday afternoon watching the rerun on MASN and then the 4:05 game, so I got two grand slams in one day.

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Not a Grand Slam, but Zimmerman hit a 3-run homer to tie the game. Last year, they would have just gotten demoralized and folded. This is making me very, very hopeful for this season.

It was 4-1 when I answered the phone.  Some time later (still on the phone) I looked at the TV and it was 4-4.

I guess I should now change the channel because they appear to do better without me.

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Sometimes the better team just wins...

Like Barbara said, "snakebit."

The Braves are 3-1 against the Nationals this year.

Everyone else is 0-6 which is why the Nationals have the better record at 7-3 (.700).

J-Up stole the name 14UP from donrockwell.com. This is an indisputable fact.

7 more strikeouts, making 112 in 10 games, or 11.2 per game. When "7 strikeouts" is a disappointment, that is a blistering pace.

Drew Storen struck out the side in the 9th - it's too bad they didn't leave him in (for whatever reason) in the 10th.

One interesting statistic: I mentioned in a previous post that only Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, and Pedro Martinez ever averaged over 10 strikeouts per 9-inning game over their career. The 7th-highest pitcher for the Nationals this season after 10 games - the *7th-highest* - is averaging 12.46. No, it's not that significant, but it's a fun statistic. Even JasonC might find it interesting.

You can see on that same link that only Gio Gonzalez has more than 1 victory this season - I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

I also agree with Barbara that this year, so far, is different: the Nationals seem like they think they can win.

Call it a gut feel, but win or lose, I suspect the Nats are going to be walking into the game tomorrow with one big thing.

Natitude.

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One interesting statistic: I mentioned in a previous post that only Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, and Pedro Martinez ever averaged over 10 strikeouts per 9-inning game over their career. The 7th-highest pitcher for the Nationals this season after 10 games - the *7th-highest* - is averaging 12.46. No, it's not that significant, but it's a fun statistic. Even JasonC might find it interesting.

What I find interesting is your penchant for playing fast and loose with statistics.

Craig Kimbrel (closer for the #Barves) is averaging 21.21 Ks per 9 this season.  13.16 last season and 16.66 in 2012.

The reason, among other factors is that he's a closer and it's easier to strike people out when you are coming in an inning at a time.  That's why he's not on the list with the guys you mention.  The other reason, and that for the 21.21 figure, is the extremely small sample size.  Other than Strasburg, the guys on your list pitched, on average, 5 innings and many of them are relievers.  Randy Johnson, Wood, and Martinez are starters who pitched over 200 innings.

Correct me if I'm being wrongheaded, but in my book it's fine for friends to tease each other about their sports teams (I've been doing this for most of my life), but it's hardly "high level" to post misleading information.

Based on the talent of the two teams, yes, the Nats are clearly the better team this year.  That, to use your word, is indisputable.  I don't understand why I can't get a few digs in when the Braves manage to win one.

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Comparing K/9 between starters and relievers is apples and oranges, but Kerry Wood is an odd case since pitched more seasons as a relief pitcher than a starter.  I think his one crazy strikeout season probably skews him for analysis anyway. Just checking out his stats now, and his rookie year as a starter he had a K/9 of 12.6, then his three next highest K/9 seasons were all between 11.2 and 11.4, but only one was when he was a reliever.  Dusty Baker really ruined some amazing arms in his day.

Also, baseballreference.com requires 162 innings pitched in a season to qualify to be ranked in their strikeout rating list.

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After spending the afternoon watching the Masters, I turned the radio on to find a rather perplexing pre-game interview with Matt Williams, who was talking about moving Harper to Center field. WTF? A little bit of Googling found the info that Span maybe has a concussion and is on the 7-day DL and Werth has "groin pain" and will be on the bench if needed. This game is going to be very, very interesting; especially since Rendon started the first inning with a homer.

In other words, not folding like a cheap suit--which was the case last year.

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Can we please ban that awful "chopping and chanting" they do in Atlanta? It's a least a bad as the name of the Washington Football team.

Here in DC we sing Bach Cantatas and get our asses handed to us:mellow:

I have an awesome idea.

You know all these 8th-inning grand slams we've been hitting?

Let's hit them against the Braves!

And all these 11-strikeout games we've been throwing?

Let's throw them against the Braves!

---

The better team is going to sweep the series, leaving the Nationals and Braves with 7-5 and 8-4 records, respectively.

But the Braves are 5-1 head-to-head, and possess a huge psychological advantage.

The word "possess" was chosen carefully.

Just like Nadal was beating Federer when nobody else was. It got under his skin, and Nadal surpassed him.

The Nationals, who were playing virtually error-free ball, have committed 6 errors in the past 2 days.

Atlanta has cast a hex on Washington, and the Nationals are rattled in a big way.

Take away the Braves, and the Nationals are 6-0.

Take away the Nationals, and the Braves are 3-3.

But you can't take away the Braves or the Nationals - that's not how it works.

And that's why winning that 3rd game against the Marlins was *so* *damned* *important*.

Because of that, the Nationals are able to flee from leave Atlanta with their heads up.

Get the hell out of there. Fast.

Then, someone needs to step up in the clubhouse.

I don't know if it should be a player, or a coach, or a sports psychologist, but the Nationals need a leader *right now*.

Forget Atlanta exists for the time being.

Start winning games again, and the crisis will be gone the next time you face Atlanta. In DC, in mid-June, thank God.

It is possible to turn this early-season tragedy into a net-positive.

Here's your recipe for success, Washington. All steps must be performed *in order*:

Step 1: Start winning

Step 2: Keep winning and retake the division lead

Step 3: Get your lost confidence back, pronto, and then get some more. Don't ever confuse empty cockiness with quiet confidence.

Step 4: Acknowledge that you were outplayed by a better team, but believe - really believe - that the situation has completely changed, and that now, *you* are the better team. Believe it to the point where there's no doubt in your minds. You'll know you really believe it if you feel absolutely no need to say it.

Step 5: In mid-June, treat the Braves like they murdered your mothers. *Want* to play them. *Want* to kick their asses. From the first pitch, you hold their heads underwater, and you don't let them take a single breath for the entire series.

You have two months to get it done, and the odds are stacked against you. Good luck.

Congratulations to the Braves.

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It is possible to turn this early-season tragedy into a net-positive.

Here's your recipe for success, Washington. All steps must be performed *in order*:

Step 1: Start winning

Step 2: Keep winning and retake the division lead

Step 3: Get your lost confidence back, pronto, and then get some more. Don't ever confuse empty cockiness with quiet confidence.

Step 4: Acknowledge that you were outplayed by a better team, but believe - really believe - that the situation has completely changed, and that now, *you* are the better team. Believe it to the point where there's no doubt in your minds. You'll know you really believe it if you feel absolutely no need to say it.

Step 5: In mid-June, treat the Braves like they murdered your mothers. *Want* to play them. *Want* to kick their asses. From the first pitch, you hold their heads underwater, and you don't let them take a single breath for the entire series.

You have two months to get it done, and the odds are stacked against you. Good luck.

Before the game today, GM Mike Rizzo said this about playing the Braves:

"Great games and they've come out on the winning side of it more than we'd like," he said. "But we feel confident against this team. We feel we're better than this team. We respect them and we respect their organization. But we don't fear them. We think we're the better team and at the end of the day we're going to come out on top."

Do you see what I say in Step 3 about "empty cockiness?" In case anyone wasn't clear about what I was referring to ... this statement is what I'm referring to.

"‹Having this attitude right now fast tracks the Nationals to a .500 season. Rizzo doesn't believe it, I don't believe it, the Braves don't believe it, and most importantly, the Nationals don't believe it. Because it isn't true.

This is a very, very dangerous thing for Rizzo to be saying right now, and as far as I'm concerned, he's whistling while walking through a graveyard. And if he doesn't do an about-face *right now*, it's going to be the Nationals' graveyard he's walking through.

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Since it's 9-2 in the top of the 8th I think it's safe to say that this game is good therapy after what happened in Atlanta. 

I had to watch "Dancing with the Stars" (so sue me) and, thus, didn't turn on the game until 10pm. The way these games have been going, I figured there was at least one inning--if not two--to go. Nope, i caught the last out of the ninth. Still, a win is a win and the Nats have won ALL their games. . . except the ones with the Braves, who they won't have to face again until June.

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I'd like to know how many other times an inside-the-park home run has been scored as a triple plus an error.  In the case of Denard Span's a few minutes ago, it was a triple plus an E9.  I'll be stunned if it's not in ESPN's Not Top Plays of the week.

I feel bad for the Houston Astros players.  Horrible attendance at the ballpark and regular 0.0 ratings on local TV.

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I'd like to know how many other times an inside-the-park home run has been scored as a triple plus an error.  In the case of Denard Span's a few minutes ago, it was a triple plus an E9.  I'll be stunned if it's not in ESPN's Not Top Plays of the week.

I feel bad for the Houston Astros players.  Horrible attendance at the ballpark and regular 0.0 ratings on local TV.

Since I'm listening to the game on the radio, it was referred to as a "Little League home run." Texas is first, second, third, etc. a Football state. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Nats won a World Series before any Texas team does--and, the Rangers used to be the Senators. It took them almost 40 years to even get to a playoff game.

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Since I'm listening to the game on the radio, it was referred to as a "Little League home run." Texas is first, second, third, etc. a Football state. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Nats won a World Series before any Texas team does--and, the Rangers used to be the Senators. It took them almost 40 years to even get to a playoff game.

The HR/triple + error was fielded poorly:  the fielder's slide towards the ball went wrong, then a couple attempts to pick up the ball didn't go so well.

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The HR/triple + error was fielded poorly:  the fielder's slide towards the ball went wrong, then a couple attempts to pick up the ball didn't go so well. 

That's pretty much the definition of a "Little League home run" isn't it?  ;)

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I just saw this!

*So proud*

Dear MLB:  Just postpone the rest of tonight's game.  It's 11:30 and the precipitation is training, for heaven's sake.

Addendum:  What do I know?  They're about to start again.  Meanwhile, thunder and lightning are here in Mount Vernon.

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The HR/triple + error was fielded poorly:  the fielder's slide towards the ball went wrong, then a couple attempts to pick up the ball didn't go so well. 

To come to George Springer's aid (and pretty much *nobody* else has), he slightly overran the ball in the April 30th Nationals-Astros game, then tripped over his own feet (you can see his upper body falling over his lower body (which is trying to slow down), and him doing a resultant face-plant) - then he felt rushed, and panicked several times in the course of two seconds trying to pick up the ball.

A bad play, yes, but not unforgivable, and it would have been a triple anyway, leaving a runner on 3rd with no outs.

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*Looks at clock*

They're still playing!  And I'm awake!  I'll regret this!  Going to the bottom of the 8th with the Nats leading 2-0.

I went to bed at around 11 pm or so, thinking the game had been cancelled. Was surprised to see that it had gone ahead and ended at 1:21 am. I had to laugh at the description of the very sparse crowd left at the end--an American Legion baseball crowd.

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