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The Sun Monster

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“The Sun Monster got me.”

Those were Bryce Harper’s words after the natural conditions at Nationals Park colluded with the Milwaukee Brewers to defeat the Nationals 6-2 on Sunday afternoon. With the harsh, mid-afternoon sun bearing down on right and center fields in the middle innings of day games in D.C., any ball hit with a high enough trajectory to clear the top of the seating bowl in the eyes of the outfielders is susceptible to disappearing against the blinding backdrop.

The “Sun Monster” on Monday afternoon at Nats Park (from Twitter: @JackOBeam)

Harper and Jayson Werth took turns battling the brutal glare on Sunday (Sun-day?), mostly unsuccessfully. Harper lost a ball in the mid-afternoon glare that dropped for a double, with the Brewers scoring the first two runs of the game in the fourth inning. He later managed to fight off the sun just enough to make a catch on which he fell to his knees. Just when the Nationals may have thought they had weathered the worst of it, another would-be routine fly ball was hit straight into the sun’s path at Werth, again dropping as the outfielder had no chance to pick up the white ball against the blinding glare. Milwaukee would take advantage again, posting a three-run inning.

But the Sun Monster giveth, and the Sun Monster taketh away. That’s the lesson the Brewers learned on Monday along the banks of the Anacostia.

With the go-ahead run already in, leading 2-1 with two outs (again in the fourth inning), Werth lofted a fly ball out to right-center field. Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez drifted over, but could not find the ball until it was nearly on top of him, diving futilely at the last moment as it clanked off his wrist and dropped to the turf. Two runs scored on the play, but it was after Harper followed with a walk that the Nationals took full advantage. Ryan Zimmerman belted an opposite-field, three-run shot, his 24th of the season, to cap a six-run frame on the way to a 12-2 blowout victory.

Werth acknowledged that the sun tends to be at its brightest this time of year, as well as in the earliest part of the season. We here at Curly W Live are certainly not astronomers, but we find it interesting that such a time would correspond roughly with the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (the latter of which fell on Saturday), perhaps accounting for the sun being on a particular trajectory that ends up blasting right and center fields at these particular times of year. Regardless of the reason, it will be something to keep an eye on, or shade yourself from, as the Nationals face the prospect of either mid- or late-afternoon start times during the postseason.

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