Busch Stadium shadows wreak havoc with Nats

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Busch Stadium shadows wreak havoc with Nats

ST. LOUIS -- Nationals Park has its "Sun Monster," as Bryce Harper likes to call it. Busch Stadium has its "Shadow Monster," which reared its ugly head yesterday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series and is likely to make another appearance later today in Game 2.

The effect of the late-afternoon shadows caused by the various overhangs and light standards on the grandstand was obvious during the Nationals' 3-2 victory.

It made it difficult for batters to pick up the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand. It made it tough for infielders to make clean plays on what appeared to be routine grounders. And it left outfielders alternately trying to shade their eyes from the sun, then trying to regroup once flyballs returned to darkness.

Perhaps the only moment where the conditions actually aided the Nationals was on Jayson Werth's home-run-robbing catch of Daniel Descalso's sixth inning drive to the right-field wall.

"The visuals were tough in the outfield all day," Werth said. "And at the plate, too. This is a tough place to play as the day goes on. Luckily on the ball that I caught at the wall ... I was surprised actually that I caught it, because I was just having a hard time seeing it. When I went back and looked on video my last couple steps at the wall, I went in the shade. And that allowed me to get a good bead on it and time out the jump. But up until then, I was pretty much panicking 'cause it was a ball that I was pretty unsure on."

Werth's catch helped save the day for the Nationals and gave them a chance to rally late, which they did on Tyler Moore's eighth-inning single off Mark Rzepczynski. But that catch might not have carried as much significance had the Cardinals held a bigger lead at that point, something their players felt might have been possible had they been able to see the ball better at the plate.

When the game began at 2:08 p.m. local time, the shadows hadn't quite reached home plate. But by the third inning, the batter's box was in darkness while the pitcher's mound was in bright sunshine.

Over the next several innings, the dynamic changed over and over again, with various combinations of sunshine and shadows affecting batters from both sides.

"I think the toughest thing was, it was different every single at-bat," Ryan Zimmerman said. "So you go up there, the first at-bat was OK and then you could see it starting to creep in. Right before my second at-bat, it was almost right where the catcher was, so it wasn't quite there yet. And then my third at-bat and from there on, you go through different things where it's light in the back, dark at the plate, where it's light-dark-light."

"It's hard to square the ball up when you can't see it," Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday told reporters. "I don't know if you noticed, but both teams had a hard time squaring the ball up."

Major league players, creatures of habit if ever there were any, get used to playing games during the regular season at mostly regular times (usually the 1 p.m. hour for day games, the 7 p.m. hour for night games). Come October, though, odd starting times become the norm, with TV networks trying to stagger the starts of as many as four games a day to their national audiences.

"It's a shame, is what it is," Holliday said. "You play all year, get these opportunities, and this is the game. You play all year at 1:00 and 7:00, then you get to the most important part of the year and you're playing at weird times."

Look for more of the same today in Game 2, which is scheduled to begin at 3:37 p.m. CDT (4:37 p.m. EDT).

NL East: Mets vet Wright says Harvey should have spoken to media

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NL East: Mets vet Wright says Harvey should have spoken to media

Mets pitcher Matt Harvey didn't only duck the media on Tuesday night after his start, he also avoided them on Wednesday morning before the team's series finale at Nationals Park. Reporters approached him, but he declined. At some point he'll talk, of course, but he has essentially been delaying the inevitable.

The backlash for Harvey in New York for not talking was strong. One Mets columnist even said the move speaks to Harvey's entitlement and went into detail about how he's been enabled by the Mets. 

Nationals manager Dusty Baker admitted on Wednesday that it may have made things easier for Harvey if he had addressed the media. And now Mets teammate David Wright has said about the same. 

"Accountability is big and I think [Harvey] just had a bit of a lapse in judgement," Wright told the New York Post. "I think the consensus is we should all be accountable for what we do on the baseball field."

Wright has been with the Mets for 13 years and has a strong voice in their clubhouse. It wouldn't be surprising at all if he is speaking for a large number of Harvey's teammates with those words.

Whether Mets fans actually care may be another story, but we now know how at least one of his teammates feels.

NL East: Barry Bonds wouldn't take picture with Dodgers star Pederson

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NL East: Barry Bonds wouldn't take picture with Dodgers star Pederson

Apparently being an MLB All-Star and home run derby runner-up is not enough for Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds to take a picture with you.

That's according to Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, a 2015 NL All-Star. He said he tried to take a picture with Bonds before a Marlins-Dodgers game last month and got rejected.

Ouch. Pederson described the interaction on Fox Sports Live and it sounds like he was pretty surprised by Bonds' reaction. Then again, who wouldn't be? It seems like a simple request.

Many athletes current and former take pictures with fans all the time and those are just fans. It would seem even more likely to get that picture if you are part of their fraternity as a pro ball player.

Here is Pederson describing the exchange on FS1:

[Via Sports Illustrated]

Daniel Murphy owns up to costly error after loss to Mets

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Daniel Murphy owns up to costly error after loss to Mets

The margin for error is always going to be slim when you're facing your most closely-matched division rival and when they've got a pitcher as lethal as lefty Steven Matz on the mound, and on Wednesday it was a mistake by Daniel Murphy at second base that loomed large in a 2-0 Nationals loss to the New York Mets.

With the Nats down a run in the seventh inning and Mets infielder Matt Reynolds on first base, first baseman Eric Campbell smacked a hard groundball to Murphy at second. It shot up to the left of his glove and through his legs into center field.

That put runners on the corners with one out and set up an RBI single to left field by Mets catcher Rene Rivera. The score was then 2-0 and that would hold until the final out was made.

After the game Murphy brought up his mistake on his own when asked an unrelated question. 

"I misplayed another groundball, which just needs to stop happening. I just need to work harder on that," Murphy said of his team-high fifth error of the season.

Murphy came to the Nats with a reputation for subpar defensive play and this was the most obvious case so far of it affecting the outcome of a game. Though the Nats didn't score any runs on the day, Murphy explained how he thinks his mistake altered the momentum and scope of the contest.

"I think it was a double play ball and [Tanner Roark] should have gotten out of the inning. Then it was 2-0 and it just changes our approach from an offensive perspective," he said.

Murphy was asked if the ball took a bad bounce and he declined to go there, instead referring to the sequence as a "bad play by me."

His manager, Dusty Baker, didn't fault Murphy for the loss and instead focused on the dominant performance by Mets starter Steven Matz.

"Errors are part of the game," Baker said.

Baker, of course, can live with the occasional error as long as Murphy is atop the majors with a .394 batting average. Murphy's OPS is 1.043 and he's on pace for a career-high in homers. He's been as important to the Nationals' first-place start through 47 games as anybody.

Murphy knows defense is an area of game that needs improvement and Baker is not too concerned about it at this point.

"Murph works hard at it, he works very hard and he takes it hard when he doesn't make the plays," Baker said.