The Sun Monster strikes again

Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

Jayson Werth was frustrated enough after dropping a sun-shielded fly ball on Sunday during a loss to the Brewers that he didn’t want to talk to reporters afterwards. He had already discussed the topic earlier in the month when teammate Bryce Harper lost a ball in the sun in center field at Nationals Park on Sept. 9 and gave some good insight into what outfielders go through during day games in Washington. Harper, himself, dropped another in Sunday’s game and on the very next play had to fight to make a catch at his knees. It’s getting crazy out there.

On Monday his own team benefited when Werth’s fly ball to center eluded Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez. The “sun monster”, as Harper dubbed it on Sunday, had struck again. So what happens if the Nats have to play an afternoon game in the playoffs? The hour between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. seems the worst.

“I don’t remember a worse sun field, worse sun conditions,” Werth said. “Left field in [San Francisco] is tough, but this borders on ridiculous. I’ve never seen anything like it. You almost don’t have a chance out there as the game goes on.”

The sun starts an afternoon game at Nationals Park in left field and ends it in right field. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman noted that things are far worse in September – and presumably October – as the sun is lower in the sky. Players try to take rounded approaches to balls hit into the outfield and they obviously wear eye black and flipdown sunglasses. But not much helps at this time of year. Players just have to use their glove to shield their eyes and make sure they note the angle of the sun every single defensive inning, according to manager Davey Johnson. Everyone from third base coach Bo Porter to veteran utility man Mark DeRosa was giving out advice.

“It’s a helpless feeling. There’s really nothing you can do to prevent it,” Zimmerman said.

Added Werth: “It is just a matter of being lucky and not getting a ball hit to you when it’s in your field of vision. Even then, if the ball is hit to your left early in the game it goes into the sun and if it goes to your right later in the game it goes in the sun. And if it’s hit right at you in the middle of the game you are in trouble. It’s tough, no doubt about it.”

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