Friday, July 27, 2012

Will Ichiro Help the Yankees?

I've been busy lately getting settled into Singapore and a new job, so haven't had much time to post. But there is a lot going on in sports, most obviously with the London Olympics getting started. As well, UEFA's Champions League and Europa League are in the middle of their qualifying rounds, and are great for dreaming about future sports road trip destinations. After all, who wouldn't love to spend a day in Moldova watching Sheriff Tiraspol hosting Dinamo Zagreb?

For baseball fans, the biggest news over the past week was the Ichiro trade. After 11 1/2 seasons in Seattle, Ichiro finally had enough of losing and requested a move to a contender. Now he is in the AL East as the Yankees were only too happy to welcome him, especially with the Mariners paying most of his salary. Seeing Ichiro in pinstripes brings back nightmares from the 2000 off-season, when I worried he might end up there after being posted by the Orix Blue Wave. Thankfully Seattle grabbed him and he has enjoyed a hall-of-fame career since then.

However, it is obvious that he is on the downside, with his numbers dropping considerably over the past two years. My favourite "unusual" stat is bases/out (BPO) which I wrote about last year. It is more intuitive than OPS and not as difficult to calculate as some of the more elaborate metrics such as WAR or wOBA+. Let's look at Ichiro's stats since 2001:

2001 157 692 242 56 14 30 53 .350 .838 316 3   8   4  4 .880
2002 157 647 208 31 15 68 62 .321 .813 275 8   5   3  5 .823
2003 159 679 212 34  8 36 69 .312 .788 296 3   6   3  1 .780
2004 161 704 262 36 11 49 63 .372 .869 320 6   4   2  3 .892
2005 162 679 206 33  8 48 66 .303 .786 296 5   4   2  6 .787
2006 161 695 224 45  2 49 71 .322 .786 289 2   5   1  2 .818
2007 161 678 238 37  8 49 77 .351 .827 292 7   3   4  2 .839
2008 162 686 213 43  4 51 65 .310 .747 265 8   5   3  4 .754
2009 146 639 225 26  9 32 71 .352 .851 297 1   4   2  1 .848
2010 162 680 214 42  9 45 86 .315 .754 268 3   3   3  1 .751
2011 161 677 184 40  7 39 69 .272 .645 227 11  0   1  4 .603
2012  98 414 109 16  3 17 40 .261 .642 146 10  1   0  4 .570

Remember, BPO is (TB + BB + HBP + SB + SF + SH) / (AB-H+CS+GDP+SF+SH). It is by no means a perfect stat but it does provide a very understandable way to present a player's offensive value. For every out he makes, how many bases does he achieve? The average this season is .683, so an average player should get around 68 bases for every 100 outs.

As you can see, Ichiro was always between .750 and .900 in his first ten seasons. This is actually rather low for someone with such a high average and stolen base totals, mainly because he rarely walks. In his rookie campaign 2001, he was unintentionally walked 20 times in 738 plate appearances! This is terrible for a lead off hitter, but it was easy to ignore as he hit .350 on his way to the MVP and ROY awards. (As an aside, he finished 22nd in the AL that year in BPO, behind such luminaries as Corey Koskie and Frank Catalanotto, not to mention teammates Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, and John Olerud.)

Now that Ichiro is hitting around .260, his failure to take free passes is really hurting. His BPO has fallen to  .570 right now, which ranks him 140th of 153 qualifiers in MLB. I expect his defense is still superior to the average but his overall value is questionable at this point. I think the Yankees will soon realize that the Ichiro they have is not the Ichiro of old and makes far too many outs for less than 2 bases per game.

You might notice in the stats above that Ichiro's OPS and BPO numbers are quite similar for each year. This is not unusual; BPO is rarely more than 20% higher or lower than OPS. They generally count the same thing, just in a different manner. 

For those interested, Mike Trout leads the majors with 1.233 bases/out, while Blue Jay Edwin Encarncion is 6th overall at 1.083 (3rd in the AL, with the washed-up David Ortiz taking 2nd at 1.109).

Team BPO

I also computed the BPO for each team and compared it to the average and OPS. As you can see, there is a considerable difference in the rankings for BPO and batting average. Note how Toronto zooms from 18th to 6th while KC tumbles from 5th to 19th.  However, there is little variation between the OPS and BPO rankings:
        Team              BPO  AVG RK  OPS RK
1 New York Yankees       .770 .263  9 .794  1
2 Texas Rangers          .756 .277  1 .785  2
3 St. Louis Cardinals    .745 .277  2 .776  3
4 Colorado Rockies       .730 .265  7 .764  4
5 Arizona Diamondbacks   .727 .265  8 .761  6
6 Toronto Blue Jays      .724 .254 18 .756  8
7 Boston Red Sox         .721 .266  6 .761  5
8 Los Angeles Angels     .721 .271  3 .759  7
9 Milwaukee Brewers      .709 .247 21 .735 12
10 Detroit Tigers        .708 .269  4 .754  9
11 Chicago White Sox     .701 .259 13 .742 10
12 Cincinnati Reds       .696 .252 19 .734 14
13 Washington Nationals  .696 .256 16 .735 11
14 Atlanta Braves        .695 .256 17 .729 15
15 Cleveland Indians     .694 .257 15 .734 13
16 New York Mets         .682 .259 12 .727 18
17 Minnesota Twins       .680 .262 10 .727 17
18 Philadelphia Phillies .673 .259 14 .719 19
19 Kansas City Royals    .669 .267  5 .728 16
20 Tampa Bay Rays        .663 .233 28 .691 24
21 Miami Marlins         .660 .241 24 .692 23
22 San Francisco Giants  .658 .261 11 .704 20
23 Oakland Athletics     .651 .229 29 .686 25
24 Pittsburgh Pirates    .649 .243 23 .704 21
25 Baltimore Orioles     .636 .239 26 .702 22
26 San Diego Padres      .633 .237 27 .671 29
27 Houston Astros        .630 .240 25 .681 26
28 Los Angeles Dodgers   .627 .248 20 .679 27
29 Chicago Cubs          .612 .245 22 .679 28
30 Seattle Mariners      .597 .229 30 .650 30

The similarities between the two stats mean that BPO will never get much attention as OPS has become a key metric over the past few years. I still prefer BPO though and will occasionally write about it here.



Thursday, July 12, 2012

All-Star Stupidity

The 2012 MLB All-Star Game has come and gone and as is the case every year, it was fraught with controversy. Some players were "snubbed" while others were added due to manager preferences rather than their performance. If you look at the Baseball Reference WAR numbers, Brett Lawrie is the best overall player in MLB and he wasn't even on the snubbed list. This sort of thing happens every year, so I'm not going to crunch numbers to see who should and shouldn't have made it; there are plenty of other writers who have done that.

Rather, I'm going to discuss just how stupid the midsummer classic has become since 2002, when the game finished in a tie. I'm sure you remember when neither team had pitchers left after 11 innings and Bud Selig was forced to declare a draw. In order to add avoid such an embarrassing outcome to the contest from 2003 onward, Selig decided to give the winning league home field advantage in the World Series. It baffled me when this rule was instituted, and it continues to baffle me today. The World Series is the ultimate goal of any franchise and to have a team finish with 96 wins play a deciding game on the road against a team with just 90 wins (as happened just last year with Texas and St. Louis) is grossly unfair. Prince Fielder, whose 3-run homer was the margin of victory in that 2011 game, should have been given a small share of the Cardinals' World Series money. (Interestingly, it was Ranger C.J. Wilson who gave up that dinger; little did he know the impact it would have on his team just three months later).

Having the game suddenly become meaningful is not the only way this once-proud event is a shadow of its former self. Rosters have become bloated with more and more players added every year, until a record 84 were involved in the 2011 game. This is nearly 1/4 of about 350 eligible players (those who qualify for batting or pitching titles or are regular relievers). Firstly, the requirement that one player per team be included needs to be eliminated as it rewards those whose merit is being surrounded by failures. In 2011, Gaby Sanchez was chosen as the Marlins representative. For the rest of his career, he can refer to himself, laughably, as an All-Star. Simply put, the term should not be handed out lightly; it should be earned on the player's own merits.

Of course, that immediately brings up the issue of fan voting. How can you guarantee the best roster if fans are responsible for the starting 8 or 9? The answer is that you cannot. Baseball fans are generally well-versed in the game and most vote for deserving players, but obviously they are never going to pick the best at every position. Still, I will say that having the fans choose you is due to your merits on some level, and thus fan voting should stay, at least for the starters. Having another fan vote for the last player is a way to maintain interest in the week up to the game and although it really becomes a popularity contest, those players made eligible by MLB are usually deserving.

But do we need this additional player? As I mentioned above, we already have inflated rosters, so let's can this bit of marketing genius. Simplify the selection process and let's keep it to the best of the best, perhaps an additional position player per league and no more than 11 pitchers, limiting each to an inning.

Yes, if the game is tied after 11 innings, let it finish there. Who really cares if the game doesn't declare a winner? It is far more important to have the championship decided by the regular season than an exhibition game, especially one featuring players who don't belong there. You may not agree with me now, but you might change your mind when it is your team that is shafted by this rule, just like the Texas Rangers were in 2011.



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2012 Florida Trip Summary

Being somewhat self-indulgent, I like to post quick trip summaries when I finish an extended journey. During the most recent trip, which began June 8 in Atlanta and ended July 8 in Toronto (yet is called the 2012 Florida Trip as I spent 3 weeks touring the Florida State League along with the Marlins and Rays), I saw 12 MLB games, 14 minor league baseball games, the NBA championship being won, a CFL contest and my first Indy Car race.

The Blue Jays were involved in 8 of those MLB games, going 4-4 naturally as they are 43-43 at the all-star break. It still amazes me that their trip to Miami coincided with game 5 of the NBA Finals and I was able to go. Such scheduling luck is rare on these trips and seeing LeBron win his first is a memory that will last the rest of my life.

I put a bit of a dent in the Quest for 400, visiting 12 venues on that list for the first time, bringing the total up to 182. Still a long way to go but hoping to get to 200 this winter with a few new hockey rinks. A lot depends on how the NHL labour negotiations proceed; if there is any delay at all, I won't be wasting my time or money on watching them for a long while.

Until then, it will be quiet in terms of sports travel as I start a new job in Singapore. I'll probably watch a few S League games, including one in Brunei, and travel around the region, but there isn't much in terms of interesting sporting events. I'll be updating this blog with some opinion pieces here and there, so check back regularly to see what's up.



Monday, July 9, 2012

Honda Indy Toronto - July 8, 2012

In 1986, the city of Toronto was awarded a CART race, marking the first appearance of the series in Canada. It was met with incredible excitement, attracting an estimated 60,000 fans. For the next several years, the Molson Indy was an annual highlight of the series. Even the contentious feud between Champ Car and the IRL didn’t dissuade local race fans from heading out to Exhibition Place every July, with crowds exceeding 70,000 throughout the early part of the 2000s.

In 2006, Molson stopped sponsoring the event, setting in motion a sequence of events that cost the race its reputation. When the IRL and Champ Car merged in 2007, the Toronto Indy was cancelled for the following season. Fortunately Andretti Green Racing purchased the assets of the defunct Grand Prix and reinstated the race, this time under the sponsorship of Honda. But the poor economy and Toronto's changing population have affected attendance, as only 25,000 showed up for the 2011 event and there were plenty of empty seats this year as well.

The street course has a reputation as being one of the most difficult on the Indy Car schedule, with relatively narrow roads surrounded by concrete walls on both sides. Drivers have no time to relax during the minute-long lap. Turn 3 is the key point on the track and it was here that driver Jeff Krosnoff and a race marshal were killed in a horrific accident in 1996. Since then, safety standards have been improved, but racing is still an inherently dangerous sport, both for participants and fans.

The entire event lasts three days, with Friday being free for all. Saturday sees autograph sessions, the first Star Mazda Race, the Indy qualifying, and the Indy Lights race, while Sunday includes the second Star Mazda race before the main event. I didn't want to spend 7 hours outside, so I showed up around noon in time for the 12:30 start of the pre-race festivities.

I was fortunate to be staying within walking distance to the course, as parking was a ridiculous $25. Tickets are also overpriced, with the best seats going for $135 ($185 for the weekend). If you only want to walk around, you can get general admission passes for $35 ($45 for both days). I would recommend this option and using the GA section near turn 3, which likely has the most action. I found a $25 seat for Turn 9 (regularly $65) and would advise against this area, as there is no passing done there, although it is good for pictures, with a part of the fence open for official photographers, as you can see in most of the car shots here. Above is the view I had from my seat, while below is the actual seating area at turn 9, much smaller than I expected.

The Direct Energy Center housed the Support Series Paddock with dozens of cars on display (such as the Ferrari below) from the other races. Here is also where you can find a few specialty food stands that provide some variety from pizza and hot dogs. There was a sushi spot where the rolls where made right there in front of you; I had a pedestrian tuna roll which was a bit too much at $9. There was also a crepe stand that was not cheap but might have been more satisfying.

The introduction of the drivers was held at Victory Circle about 30 minutes before the race. The last three included Canadian James Hinchcliffe, who was accompanied by some flames that even surprised him, while Dario Franchitti appeared surrounded by smoke. It was a bit of an omen as Franchitti's race went up in smoke after a bad pit stop and he finished 17th. Hinchcliffe had mechanical troubles and was forced to retire after just 28 laps, a sad ending for the hometown hero.

I don't want to recap the entire race because frankly, I had no idea what was going on from my vantage point. There were speakers and I could hear the announcers calling the race, but even then all the passing and incidents occurred elsewhere. All I could do was see if the order changed from lap to lap, which it did on occasion. Simon Pagenaud (#77 above) had the lead for much of the early part of the race, but Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28, below) took over on the 49th lap and held the lead the rest of the way except for a single lap when JR Hildebrand briefly led.

It was Hunter-Reay's third straight checkered flag and he took over the points lead with just 5 races left. That's him below at Victory Circle.

Charlie Kimball finished 2nd, a career best for him in the #83 car.

Third went to Mike Conway, a British driver, #14 below.

The Honda Indy was a good experience although I was fortunate to find a cheaper option as $35 for a 90-minute race is a bit much in my mind. But if you spend the full day there, or even the weekend, the value is more apparent and you should enjoy yourself with plenty to see and do. 

Tony Kanaan finished 4th, but at least he saves money on car insurance


Dr. Pepper was giving out free bottles and cans of their horrid cherry drink and some fans picked up half a dozen to carry home. Those that finished the freebies on site must have felt that the Exhibition Place grounds were their personal garbage disposal, leaving their litter everywhere despite plenty of empty garbage bins and recycling containers nearby. Clean up your act, Toronto!

After the race, I made my way up Dufferin Street and happened upon a quiet pub called Cafe Jolly. They had a very nice pint and panini combo for just $10 and a small patio that was a good place to sit and relax after a short day.

Next Up

I'm flying back to Singapore today. I'm hoping to see a Malaysian Super League game this weekend, so check back next week to see how that went.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Calgary Stampeders 36 at Toronto Argonauts 39 - July 7, 2012

When I visit Ontario in the summer, it is usually to see family and perhaps the Blue Jays if they are in town. What this means is that I am rarely in Toronto at the same time as the Argonauts, Toronto's CFL franchise. However, with the Quest for 400 now my main focus, I planned this trip to ensure that I finally got to see the Argos at Rogers Centre. So after a break in Belleville to recharge the batteries, I returned to Toronto for the Argos home opener, with the Calgary Stampeders the honoured guests.

Rogers Centre (CFL Version)

The main difference between the Jays and Argonauts is that the upper deck is closed for the latter. This means there are only 31,074 seats available for a CFL game. As a comparison, capacity is 53,506 when the Buffalo Bills come to town. You would expect a good crowd given that it was the home opener and the Argos acquired QB Ricky Ray during the offseason, but with the Honda Indy also on the sports docket, only 20,862 bothered to show up for the game.

The other noticeable changes are the Argo Grey Cup banners (above) and retired numbers, which were not on display earlier in the week. I'm not sure if these remain up for the CFL season, but I'd guess not. Seems like a lot of work to set them up and take them down for every game, but I guess the Blue Jays don't want to be overshadowed.

The seating bowl is somewhat different, with the third base seats moved around so that the football field lies between the two lower bowls. There are some backless seats that are added in the end zone where those 3rd base seats used to be, while the other end zone beneath the videoboard is closed off. The 200 level is open as well and there are no changes here from the baseball configuration. Ticket prices range from $85 for the platinum seats (2nd level midfield) down to $23 for the blues, which are the corners on both levels. However, I managed to snag a lower midfield seat for less than half-price so do talk to the friendly resellers if you want a bargain.

With fans concentrated into a smaller area, there was more atmosphere than at a typical midweek Blue Jay game. There was even a band called the Argonotes who performed on the concourse during the action and added to the proceedings. I found supporters here to be more passionate as one would expect with football, and they were well entertained with a game that had a little bit of everything.

The Game

The CFL is entirely different from the NFL, with 3 downs, 12 men on a longer and wider field, more passing, and much more scoring. You could probably call it firewagon football and not be far off.

I want to avoid a play-by-play recap as there was so much going on, so I'll try to keep it brief. Both teams scored on their first possession to set the tone for the afternoon. Calgary's starting QB, Drew Tate, was sacked on the first play of their second drive and separated his shoulder, forcing him from the game. Kevin Glenn (below) replaced him and had trouble moving the offense for the rest of the half.

Glenn was helped by his defense though. On Toronto's 2nd possession, Ray's pass to Dontrelle Inman was tipped and intercepted by Eric Fraser who romped 61 yards for a pick-six. But their offense was unable to do anything, being forced to punt twice and turning the ball over on two other occasions. Toronto did not take full advantage though, grabbing three field goals from Noel Prefontaine (below) and a beautiful 53-yard TD pass from Ray to Inman to take a 23-14 lead at the break.

As the second half began, the Argos continued to run the ball effectively with Cory Boyd (taking the handoff below) but again they couldn't get the big score, adding two more field goals. Even then, the 29-14 lead looked safe given Calgary's inability to mount a consistent attack.

Of course, these are the Argos, so the key word there was "looked". In fact, the lead was not safe at all. First, Glenn finally managed to complete his first scoring drive, moving the Stamps 75 yards for a TD, cutting the lead to eight at the end of the third. But Glenn threw another interception early in the fourth quarter and Toronto took over on the Calgary 20, ready to close things out. Oops, not so fast. A face masking penalty pushed them back and forced Prefotaine to attempt yet another FG, this one from 36 yards out, which he missed. In the CFL, missed kicks are often run back to avoid giving up the single point, and Larry Taylor did just that, catching the ball 15 yards deep in the end zone and then taking off, beating tackles here and there before turning upfield and racing into the Argos end zone. The 125-yard return was stunning to watch, but also depressing as it brought the Stampeders to within two, and they quickly tied it on the 2-point conversion.

The next three possessions saw Ray get intercepted, Glenn lose a fumble, and Argos backup QB Jarious Jackson get stuffed on a goal line sneak. That's three turnovers in less than 3 minutes and left the fans befuddled. Did anybody want to win the game? After Calgary was forced to punt from deep in their territory, Toronto took over with good field position and capitalized with Inman scoring his second TD reception of the game to make it 36-29 with just 3:08 to go.

Calgary's next drive stalled as well and they punted, giving the Argos the ball with just two minutes left, and certainly the game was in the bag now, right? Nope. I guess I'm used to the NFL, where the extra down generally means a team with the lead under two minutes pretty much wins the game. That was not the case here. Boyd carried twice for just 9 yards and the Argos punted stupidly, sending the ball right to Taylor who rumbled for 64 yards to the Argo 25. On the next play, Glenn hit Nik Lewis for the easy score and the game was tied again. Overtime loomed.

Or did it? Toronto returned the ensuing kickoff to their 47 and had 61 seconds to get into field goal range. On the first play, Ray found Andre Durie over the middle for a 36-yard gain, easily close enough for Prefontaine. A couple of runs took the remaining time off the clock and then Prefontaine booted his 6th FG of the afternoon (above) with no time left to give the Argos the 39-36 win.

So much for the brief recap. It was a crazy finish to a strange game. Even with all the action though, the contest took only 2:50 to complete, a nice change from those 3 1/2 hour marathons the NFL showcases.

Ray finished with 407 yards passing, Boyd had 101 on the ground, while Glenn went 15/19 coming off the bench. His two interceptions and fumble were costly though, counting for three of the four Stampeder turnovers. The Argos had 3 giveaways of their own, meaning nearly a quarter of the 32 total possessions ended in a turnover. Not a well-played game but highly entertaining and I'm looking forward to seeing the other stadiums in the league in the next few years.


This season will see the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto and the Argos are celebrating their championship history with fancy tickets (1921 champs shown above) as well as honouring the great teams of the past. Today, the 1971 Argos, who won the Grey Cup that year and were led by Joe Theismann, were given a short halftime introduction.

This doesn't exist on an NFL gridiron

After the game, fans were allowed onto the field. There was a ten-minute wait while they cleaned up, and then about 1,000 fans made their way down the aisles to wander to and fro. A few kids tossed footballs while other fans chatted with the cheerleaders or took advantage of unique picture opportunities. It was my first time on the field at Rogers Centre and I tried to figure out exactly where Joe Carter's home run landed, but didn't see any memorial plaque. At any rate, I got a cool shot of the Blue Jay pennants along with the uprights (below). More teams should do this, it really adds to the experience.

Next Up

Today is the Honda Indy and that is how I will spend my last day in Canada on this trip as I fly back to Singapore on Monday. I hope to be back home for the Winter Classic on New Years Day, but if the NHL decides to delay their season, I'll be skipping that and perhaps watching some AHL. In the meantime, I'll be posting about various topics in sports as well as attending a few things here and there in Southeast Asia, so check back on occasion.



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays - July 2-3, 2012

I'm spending a week in Canada before returning to Singapore and the Blue Jays thoughtfully scheduled a home series against Kansas City, so I went to the first two games at Rogers Centre (the big white spot in the aerial shot below, taken during my flight from Atlanta).

On Monday, Ricky Romero was torched to the tune of eight earned runs as KC won 11-3. No pictures from this nightmare. Despite being a holiday Monday, only 17,127 showed up. The good news with such a poor crowd is that you can buy an upper deck ticket and then sit in the lower deck without being hassled.

On Tuesday, the team played a truly enjoyable baseball game. After falling behind 3-0, the Jays fought back by sending 11 batters to the plate in the 4th. Colby Rasmus' bunt single and a 3-run jack from Adam Lind were the highlights as Toronto took a 6-3 lead.

Starter Brett Cecil and three relievers kept KC off the board the rest of the way, with Casey Janssen (above being congratulated by Jeff Mathis) getting his 10th save. With the win, the Jays hit the halfway mark of the season at 41-40.

Yunel Escobar singles

For this game, my friend Chien was visiting from Beijing and he brought his young son to his first ballgame. We were able to procure good seats from a friendly scalper, just eight rows up from first base and cheaper than the box office. With only 15,516 on hand, the place was deadly quiet at times. To compare, the AAA Buffalo Bisons had 414 more fans for their Independence Eve game. The Jays need to find ways to get more fans into the ballpark for these less popular opponents.

Yuniesky Betancourt returns to the dugout

The roof was closed when the game began as there was a threat of rain, but when the skies cleared, the roof was opened (below). Interestingly, it was during the 4th inning and the Jays responded with their six-spot once they had some natural light to work with.

Stupid Stats

In the two summer trips this year, I saw the Jays 11 times, 5 in Toronto and 6 on the road. They went 3-2 at home and 3-3 as visitors. In those 11 games, they committed only 2 errors and generally played very good defense. They also have a great offense but the injuries to their rotation have doomed them this season, I fear. Great fun to watch though and it will be enjoyable to see them develop over the next few years.

Next Up

I'll be returning to Toronto this weekend, first for the Argos home opener on Saturday and then the Honda Indy on Sunday. Check back for updates next week.



Monday, July 2, 2012

Washington Nationals 5 at Atlanta Braves 7 - June 30, 2012

I started this trip three weeks ago with a 3-game set featuring the Jays visiting Turner Field in Atlanta. The Braves had a ticket special that day, four tickets for $30, so I picked up the three Jays games and added a fourth for June 30th against Washington. Originally, I had planned to visit the Gwinnett Braves of the International League, but figured if Stephen Strasburg was starting for Washington, I'd check that out instead.

Well, the pitching rotation worked out and Strasburg (below) was scheduled to start, so I decided to revisit Turner Field. After a 7-hour drive from Daytona Beach,  I arrived in Atlanta and parked at College Park Station, taking MARTA to the ballpark and arriving just as first pitch was thrown at 4:05.

It was a stifling day, with temperatures reaching 106F, the hottest in Atlanta history. It was even hotter on the field and this affected Strasburg. He tossed two shutout innings and managed an RBI single as Washington grabbed a quick 2-0 lead. But in the third, he was visibly tired, and also seemed frustrated by the home plate umpire. A couple of walks (his 3rd and 4th of the day, unusual for a pitcher who averages about 1.5 per game) and a pair of doubles, including one from Dan Uggla (below) gave Atlanta three runs and the lead.

Strasburg batted in the third and walked but was stranded. In the top of the 4th though, he didn't make it back to the mound (it was later reported that he was suffering from heat-related issues). He was replaced by Chien-Ming Wang, who gave up four runs in two innings as the Braves took a 7-2 lead which was enough in a 7-5 win. Phenom Bryce Harper (below) also had a bad day, going 0-5 although he hit the ball hard a couple of times.

A rather disappointing turn of events but it was better than going to the Gwinnett game in the end, as that was delayed for over an hour. With a very early flight back to Toronto for Canada Day, I wouldn't have been able to stay to the end of that one. As the G-Braves are part of the Quest for 400 though, I'll be back in Georgia sometime to check them out.