Category: Attended Games

Seeing Double: Jake Arrieta’s No-Hitter

Just about a year and a half ago, instead of going to the second-to-last game of the season, my family decided we wanted to see Jordan Zimmermann wrap up the 2014 regular season at Nationals Park. What a decision that turned out to be, as he ended up throwing the first no-hitter in Nationals history.

I attend Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, otherwise known as Reds country. I hadn’t yet been to a game this season, and some of the guys on my hall who are avid Cubs fans wanted to get down to Great American to inevitably watch the Cubbies dismantle the over-matched Cincinnati Reds.

With a paper due the next day and a horrible cold resting in my respiratory system, I strongly considered not going to the game. However, I finished the paper before the game and took up the offer on the tickets. Turns out, it would end up being an above-average decision.

Disclaimer: I grew up a Reds fan before the Nats made the great exodus from Montreal. One thing was for sure, there was not a chance I wanted them to break up this no-hitter.

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(Left to right) Nick, Danny, Spike, Tall Paul

We sat in left field by the foul pole, and Jake Arrieta toed the rubber for Chicago.

No sooner were we settled in our seats than Kris Bryant launched a home run into the second deck above us. That was far from the last of the offensive production from Chicago, who would go on to score 16 runs.

Now, let’s set one thing straight here. I can’t really think of anything in sports off the top of my head that intrigues me more than perfect games and no-hitters in baseball. From the first pitch of the game, I am constantly scoreboard watching to see when each team records their first base knock. Maybe that’s why I’m such a fan of F.P. Santangelo and his trademark, “There goes the no-hitter.”

As the game got into the fourth inning, I began noticing with increased awareness the big fat goose-egg in the hit column for Cincinnati. Along about the sixth inning, Nick and Danny went to sit on the first base side with a couple friends from Xavier. Me being as superstitious as I am, I was supremely hesitant to change seats in the middle of a no-hitter. Who does that?!

I gave up the fight, and Spike and I joined the group along the first base line. I was certain Arrieta would promptly surrender a hit, but that was not to be. Red after Red retreated to the dugout.

One observation I made as the buzz in the stadium started to swirl: this was not by any means one of his best starts. No-hitters aren’t all that much of a rarity, far from that of a perfect game, and it’s often a bad team that just can’t hit a gap. I saw Arrieta’s pitch count rising quickly, and began to worry if he would even finish the game as he walked his third batter. Statistically, this wasn’t even Arrieta’s best-pitched game since last August.

Ninth inning now. There is almost a tangible anxiousness sweeping across GABP. The crowd, the vast majority of which is donning blue, gradually gets their phones out to start recording.

Two outs. Jake Arrieta is one out away from his second career no-hitter, and his second in his last 16 starts.

Eugenio Suarez strode to the plate as the last hope for the Reds to avoid what seemed to be the inevitable. With two strikes, home plate umpire Dana DeMuth called a ball on what appeared to be a strike, and what would have been long debated had Suarez not flied out to Jason Heyward.imageimage

Arrieta is now 15-0 with a 0.54 ERA in his last 16 starts (ESPN). He has allowed seven earned runs since the beginning of last August, and during that time eight pitchers have allowed at least that many in one innings. Also, the Cubs has won his last 17 starts (ESPN Stats and Info). Needless to say, he’s a major reason why the Cubs are one of the favorites to win the World Series.

Oh yeah, I would be remiss without mentioning that some dude thought it was a brilliant idea to run on the field and celebrate with Arrieta after the final out. Although, if you’re gonna storm the field, get fined, and go to jail, that’s probably as good a time as ever.

Tonight, Arrieta looks to match Johnny Vander Meer as the only pitchers to throw back-to-back no-hitters. His matchup is the Milwaukee Brewers.

So, to recap, the first game I attended of the 2016 season was the second no-hitter I’ve seen live. Here is to what lies ahead the rest of this season.

Saying Goodbye to a Win and a Park

It was a solemn day, Friday, as it marked the final time I would be making the trek to Nationals Park in the 2015 season. As distance abounds between the park and my place of learning, I will have to settle for cheering on the team from the constraints of my dorm room.

Last week produced a whirlwind of events, not all of which were positive in nature. In fact, Steve and I only saw the Nationals win once in our four games, and Friday’s finale proved to be the most gut-wrenching of all as I will relay to you below. For a full background on the tales of the week that did not all pertain to the national pastime, be sure to check out Steve’s recap here.

Steve and I arrived to the park right as the gates opened, allowing ample opportunity for batting practice leading up to the game. I tracked a Jayson Werth bomb that was my best chance as of yet, but I made it across the aisle just too late and the ball skimmed off the edge of my glove. Luckily, I had a chance at redemption only a few moments later when Werth hit another one; this time the ball found itself securely in the back of my glove. As for Steve, he made an acrobatic catch on a home run by none other than Dan Uggla, one of his favorite MLB players. imageThe Colorado Rockies took their turn but did not produce many home runs to where we were standing in the Red Porch, save for one caught by Steve.

We meandered around the stadium as we killed time before first pitch attempting to find some consumables along the way. Upon filling our stomachs with some delightful American food, it was time to go watch some baseball.

The Nats got off to yet another good start, taking an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann did his part in shutting the door and held the Rockies off the board until the seventh inning. He got an extra run of support in the fourth along with two more insurance runs in the sixth to make it 4-0 entering the final third of the game.image

Colorado trailed 4-1 in the eighth as recently-dominant relief man Drew Storen strode to the mound from the bullpen. For the first time since the Papelbon trade, he allowed a runner to reach scoring position. All of a sudden the bases were juiced. And then…Carlos Gonzalez put the Rockies ahead with one swing of the bat, a laser over the right field fence.

Nationals Park was deflated. What looked to be a certain 4-1 victory had see-sawed into a 5-4 deficit seemingly in the blink of an eye. It was not over yet, and the Nats had two more chances to muster just the one run they needed to tie it back up.

The Nats left a runner stranded at third in the bottom of the eighth, so still behind by one in the ninth, they were looking at 9-1-2 coming to the plate.

One runner reached, and the Nationals had none other than Bryce Harper coming to the dish with two outs, down by a single run. One swing of the bat and the home crowd would be going home exuberant, but it was not to be. Tommy Kahnle earned his first career save and the game was over. With yet another Mets win, the Nats were now 2.5 games behind in the division.Steve and II watched the post-game Freedom Fireworks with a strong sense of nostalgia. The summer was quickly coming to a conclusion and I will soon be heading off to begin another chapter in my life. Hopefully, my beloved Nationals can write themselves a storybook ending to their season.Steve and I departing Nationals ParkSee you next year, Nationals Park.

Third Time is Not a Charm as Nationals Drop Another

One year ago, on August 5th, 2014, the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome enamored a fan base and caused hysteria among the masses attempting to get one in their possession. I made sure I would not be denied, and waited nearly two and a half hours as the first in line for the unique promotion. I was interviewed by The Washington Post, and it was one of my fond memories from last summer.

The same date of this year served as a platform for yet another distinct giveaway utilizing Jayson Werth’s likeness: The Jayson Werth Chia Pet. Given to the first 20,000 fans, the Chia Werth was all over Twitter in the time leading up to the event and the game was sure to be packed with fans trying to get their hands on one. Werth ChiaIn the spring, Steve Miller interviewed me for an article he was writing for Flyer News, the University of Dayton’s student newspaper. The article was about the promotion schedule for Major League Baseball, and he talked about my experience last year with the craze of the Werth Garden Gnome.

He applied for a press credential to cover the follow-up to the gnome: the chia pet. He was granted the press pass, and upon informing me of his success, I applied for one also but did not hear back.

When we emerged from the Navy Yard metro station and looked down Half Street, I noticed the line for the chia was not nearly as long as I remembered it for the gnome before the gates had opened. After walking around and ensuring Steve had made it into the park, I made my way back to the left field gate where I received my chia.

The Red Porch was quite crowded for batting practice but that didn’t stop me from trying to catch a home run. I had not caught one on the fly since August 5th of last year, so I was hoping for a repeat experience a year later. Sure enough, after waiting for a little while, a batter who I believe was Ian Desmond, smacked a ball right near where I was standing and I moved over to make the catch.

Around 5:30 the entire park opened and I went down next to the Diamondbacks dugout since Steve was on the field behind home plate for batting practice with his press pass. He told me he had already talked to some broadcasting members, including Dave Jageler who we interviewed last year before a game. Steve and I talked for a little while longer and when he left to go back to the press box, I meandered back to the Red Porch to try my luck with D-backs BP. Be sure to read all about his experience here.

Wouldn’t ya know, one of the batters hit a home run to essentially the same spot as the one I had caught before and I had my second souvenir of the day. At this point, my parents and another friend were arriving and I had my company to ascend to our seats and watch the game.

Like the night before, leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar got things started with a blast to center. While this one did not go over the fence, it did go over the head of the Diamondbacks center fielder, and Escobar had himself a double to start the game. The Nationals scored three in the first on Tuesday night and two in the first on Wednesday night, but the games would turn out to be polar opposites upon completion.

Gio Gonzalez pitched five strong innings and left in the sixth with a one run lead. To say the bullpen imploded is an understatement, as Aaron Barrett relieved Gio but left in the same inning after having recorded only one out and allowing three earned runs. By the end of the sixth it was 5-2 Diamondbacks and the visiting team was not looking back. They tacked on three more in the eighth and three more again in the ninth to turn a 2-1 battle into a 11-2 laugher. It got so bad in the ninth that position player Tyler Moore was called on to finish the inning.

There was even a point when the section I was in started chanting “Let’s go Marlins!” after the Marlins staged a rally in the bottom of the ninth to make it a close game against the Mets.

Michael Taylor provided a two-run blast in the bottom half of the frame, and then the fat lady sung, concluding a marathon of an affair that lasted nearly four hours. With yet another Mets victory, the Nationals ended the night two games back in the National League East. The Nats took a loss last year on gnome day, so hopefully next year August 5th doesn’t become an annual losing affair.imageAll in all, it wasn’t a completely bad day. The experience before the game was fun, and it was interesting hearing Steve’s stories of the press box. If only the actual game had gone better.

Tomorrow, Friday, will likely be my last trip to Nationals Park before I set off for college in less than two weeks. Stay tuned also for a special announcement coming from this site in the very near future.

Ramos Rights Ship: Nationals Win on Day Two

imageDay Two of Steve and my’s baseballing escapades commenced Tuesday, this time with the same crew that took on the park nearly two years ago.

We got there a few minutes before the gates opened, prime time for catching home runs in batting practice for both teams. We quickly made our way down to the Red Porch as the Nationals took their hacks.

Not many home runs came out our way, but Wilson Ramos managed to clobber one into the restaurant section of the Red Porch. I was standing by the first row of the seating section as I watched it sail way over my head. It hit the ground uncaught and promptly bounced all the way back to where I was standing. The ball found itself in my glove, and I was ensured I was not leaving for home empty handed.image

Another takeaway from batting practice was Bryce Harper. He usually does not take BP on the field, but chose to on this day and put on a display. He hit upper-decker after upper-decker, including one into the third deck which was probably the longest home run I had ever witnessed in person.

Also of note was Denard Span, who was taking ground balls in centerfield. Span, working his way back from back problems, hopes to return to the lineup soon to provide that leadoff spark the Nationals so desperately need.

After batting practice had concluded and we had made our way to our seats, we were informed by the PA announcer that, despite the sun shining, a delay was in effect for an impending storm. The storm never came to fruition and the game started around 7:35.

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From left: Ben, Jack, Steve, and I

Max Scherzer squared off against Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin, who was making his sixth start of the year after coming off Tommy John Surgery.While the first inning did not go very well for Mr. Corbin, it went abundantly well for the home team. Yunel Escobar lead off with a home run to center, and two more runs crossed the plate before the third out was recorded. An early three run lead hoped to be a boost to Scherzer who has proved he does not need much run support to produce a win.image

However, three runs would not be enough. Scherzer labored through a 40 pitch 4th inning in which the D-backs scored the needed amount to tie the game. Things would remain knotted for several more innings until there came some drama in the later stages.image

Drew Storen entered in the top of the eighth for what would become yet another shutdown inning. To put in perspective how he has pitched since the Papelbon trade last week, let’s take a look:

It was the meat of the Nationals order for the bottom half of the eighth, and the game would not be tied in the 9th if they had anything to say about it. Ryan Zimmerman walked, Jayson Werth smacked a double into the left field corner, and Wilson Ramos strode to the plate with two runners in scoring position. He dropped a blooper into shallow right field allowing Zimmerman to score easily and Werth to come home and score from second. The crowd roared as Ramos gave his customary Buffalo horns on second, and the hit seemed to be a product of the day’s work for Wilson.

Jonathan Papelbon allowed one run in the 9th on a throwing error by third baseman Yunel Escobar, but shut the door quickly afterwards and earned his first save at home for his new team.

Papelbon ends the game himself as he tags out Chad Pennington running to first

Papelbon ends the game himself as he tags out Chad Pennington running to first

The Mets defeated the Marlins, so the Nats remain one game back of the Metropolitans.

Today is August 5th, or in the minds of Nationals fans, Jayson Werth Chia Pet day. It is also the one year anniversary of the Gnome day, as many of you may remember from last year. I’ll be there for the Chia Pet with a review of the event tomorrow.

So Close Yet So Far: Nats Fall Short Against Diamondbacks

The workforce did not claim me this summer, but it did claim my good friend Steve Miller; and his hours were sub-optimal to say the least. He worked weekdays from 5PM to 1AM, and as such, he was unable to attend Our National Pastime at the rate he would have liked. So earlier in the summer we discussed the first week of August as a possible “stay-cation.” Steve and I would go to the Nationals games against the Diamondbacks and Friday against the Rockies. Well, it’s the first week of August and the plan is being executed, so Nationals Park is essentially my home for the next few days and I’m not complaining.imageSteve bought four tickets for Monday’s game, and he invited two humans of the female kind. One was a mutual friend from our high school and the other was a girl he knew and actually attends Xavier University (the institution of higher learning that will be educating me in a few weeks). We decided to make a day out of the affair, so the four of us went to the Newseum to take in the new Nationals exhibit on display. It had everything from the home plate in Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter to the pitching mound from Strasburg’s debut to the golden shoes donned by Teddy in his first President’s Race victory. Adjacent to the exhibit was the interactive TV broadcasting section, where visitors get to stand in front of a camera and rattle off a pre-determined script to test whether or not they have what it takes to make it to the broadcasting big-time someday. Behold what Steve and I produced:

Upon leaving, and after we stopped in at a Potbelly, we made our way to the Metro and eventually to Nationals Park.

Entering the game, I was on a 13 inning scoreless drought when attending Nationals games. I had not seen the Nationals score a run since the 5th inning of a double-header against the Blue Jays in early June after watching Zack Greinke mow down the Nationals lineup on Star Wars Day.

It looked as if the scoreless streak would continue. Doug Fister took the mound against the Arizona Diamondbacks looking to right the ship after struggling for much of the year.

He started off well but his first blemish came on a 3rd inning home run. Then in the 4th, the Diamondbacks tacked on three more behind two more round-trippers and the Nationals faced a 4-0 hole. After another run in the 5th, the Nats needed five runs to tie. Looking at the out-of-town scoreboard, the Mets were dismantling the Marlins and the Nationals were staring second place straight in the face.

On the other side, little known rookie Zack Godley continued his strong start for the Diamondbacks. He threw six shutout innings, including three perfect ones to start the game. He added six strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 1.50 over his first 18 innings.

After much criticism for his bullpen management over the weekend at Citi Field, Nationals Manager Matt Williams called on Drew Storen for the eighth who retired the side in order.

It was then Jonathan Papelbon who came in to make his home debut. His first outing at the park was not exactly endearing as he gave up yet another D-Backs home run.

The Nats were staring a shutout straight in the face, but they were not going to get shutout if Ryan Zimmerman had anything to say about it. He hit a towering homer to left field with one out in the 9th to at least get the home team on the board, and thus, thankfully, end my scoreless innings streak.

Then all of a sudden the Nationals woke up. It was hit after hit, and before the crowd that was left knew what was happening, the score was 6-4 Diamondbacks. Jayson Werth, struggling since coming off the DL, came up with one out and Michael Taylor on 2nd, but could not muster an RBI. Subsequently, Yunel Escobar flew out to left field, and just like that, the Nationals had dropped their fourth in a row and were one game behind the Mets in the NL East.

While the game was sub-par, the day was fun. I’m looking forward to what the next three have to offer.image

Meet and Greet: The Experience after Jordan Zimmermann’s No-Hitter

After Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter in one of, if not, the fastest Major League Baseball games I have ever attended (just over two hours), I decided I wanted to stick around Nationals Park a little longer. Since playoff tickets were so expensive, I knew this was most likely the last time I would be at the Park for the 2014 season. Therefore, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity.

Upon exiting the stadium I made my way over behind the first base gate to the players’ lot. I knew I’d have to wait a little while before anyone started emerging, but I definitely didn’t plan on being there as long as I was. However, just like the game which had taken place, this would turn into another unforgettable experience.

I leaned against the gate which provided space for the cars to exit the stadium and which kept fans contained. There was a solid number of us there when the first significant member of the Nationals organization stopped the car he was driving to greet fans. Significant, though, may be an understatement; it was General Manager Mike Rizzo. A line for autographs quickly formed and I was sure to get my place. Before long I was at his window, and after he signed my Inside-Pitch program, I made sure to get a picture.

A selfie with Mike Rizzo (Photo by: Paul Fritschner)

A selfie with Mike Rizzo (Photo by: Paul Fritschner)

Rizzo departed and it was time for the next National to stop for the crowd. This time it was Drew Storen, the pitcher whose career has come under-fire since his inability to close Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. However, I was happy to get in line and get another autograph and picture.

Selfie with Drew Storen after signing a baseball (Photo by: Paul Fritschner)

Selfie with Drew Storen after signing a baseball (Photo by: Paul Fritschner)

Next to leave was utilityman Scott Hairston. Once again, a line quickly formed, but this time I would not be in luck. The person in front of me was the last autograph he signed before cutting off the line, and he didn’t even look for a good picture. Still, I gave it a good attempt.

Selfie with Scott Hairston before he drove away (Photo by: Paul Fritschner)

Selfie with Scott Hairston before he drove away (Photo by: Paul Fritschner)

After Hairston came my favorite National. Ian Desmond’s work on and off the field has put him in a special place in the hearts of many Nats fans. He’s the reason I wear number 20, and I was especially excited when he also stopped to sign autographs. While he preferred I not take a selfie with him, my mom, standing a few feet away, got an awesome picture of our exchange.

A photo my mom took of Ian Desmond signing my baseball

A photo my mom took of Ian Desmond signing my baseball

Desmond drove away, and it was time for one of the most important members of the Nats to make an appearance. It was not a player, it was manager Matt Williams. He stepped to the side and signed autographs for the long line of fans. I did not hesitate, and took my place to acquire yet another picture and autograph. My mom snapped a picture while I was taking the selfie of my own…a little pic-ception (click the pictures to view as a gallery).

After Williams, I encountered two more people of note. The first was play-by-play man Dave Jageler, the broadcaster Steve and I interviewed on our podcast back in May. I did not take a picture with him, I just wanted to make my way over and say hi. There were others in front of me talking to him, and I lingered in the back waiting my turn. Then he saw me peeking over the small crowd and said, “Hey Paul,” which was significant to me. Over the course of the season you run into a lot of people and talk such a large number of fans, so for him to remember my name and pick me out was special. Granted I did tweet him several times since our interview, and my profile picture has remained that of me and him, so it may not have been all that difficult. However, still cool nonetheless. When I got my chance to talk to him, he asked me if I was at the stadium to receive a bobblehead the night before, a reference to my waiting in line for the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome in August. I told him we chose to go to this game instead of last night, and he remarked that you can buy a bobblehead on eBay but you can’t exactly do the same for a no-hitter. After the exchange, Jageler departed, and it was time to see one more National before heading out myself.

The man who caught the first no-hitter in Nationals history, Wilson Ramos, made conversation with the crowd. By this time, it was over an hour and a half since the last out of the game had been recorded, so there weren’t all that many people left. When I saw Ramos, I made sure to get a picture. Last season, he played in a rehab game at Potomac, but the picture I got with him after that game was fuzzy. I needed a better one, and a better one I took.

All in all, it was such a memorable day. From seeing the first no-hitter in Nationals history, to interacting with the players after the game; it was an experience I will take with me for as long as I can remember. To conclude, here is another gallery containing the pictures. As always, click on one to be able to go through them more easily.

Jordan Zimmermann Throws First No-Hitter in Nationals History

On Sunday, September 28, 2014, Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for the historic event, and I am excited to share my perspective of everything that happened. So much happened in fact, that I decided to split it up into two posts: one about the actual game and one about after the game.

Unlike Opening Day, Sunday consisted of perfect weather. We got to Nationals Park early in order to meet up with some family friends. As I was standing around checking Twitter, I saw a tweet that not too far from where I was standing, MASN Dan (Dan Kolko) was taking pictures with fans. I hurried over to the MASN area in left field and got a picture with him myself:

Dan Kolko and I on the day Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter

Dan Kolko and I on the day Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter

From there it was time to make our way to our seats. We walked around the stadium to Section 319 and took in the sights on what I mentioned was such a fantastic day; maybe an omen for the events which were about to transpire.

The Nationals were playing the Miami Marlins, and Jordan Zimmermann was being opposed by Henderson Alverez. As you may remember, Alverez tossed a no-hitter in last season’s concluding game. He took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, but the game was still scoreless. Then in the bottom of the ninth, the Marlins walked-off in what was one of the craziest endings to a no-hitter in the history of baseball.

All my life, whenever I attend a baseball game, I go hoping to see a no-hitter. I constantly check the scoreboard until I see both teams have recorded a hit; it’s just one of my baseball-watching obsessions. So on Sunday, unlike Tyler Moore, who didn’t know a no-hitter was being thrown until the ninth inning, I was attentive to the fact of what was occurring before my eyes the entire game.

Jordan Zimmermann throws a pitch

Jordan Zimmermann throws a pitch

The game started off quickly. Zimmermann recorded a 1-2-3 first inning and the Nats were also set down in order. However, when Ryan Zimmerman came to the plate in the first inning, the crowd sang Happy Birthday to him, as he had just reached 30 years old.

In the second, it was six up six down for JZ, who just kept on rolling. Then in the bottom half of the inning, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond launched his 24th home run of the year and that gave the Nats a 1-0 lead.

The Marlins could not muster a baserunner in the third inning either. When the Nationals got up, it was time for the crowd to begin acknowledging the hard work the starters had put in all season long. After Denard Span doubled, he was replaced by Nate Schierholtz, and he received a standing ovation as he walked into the dugout. The same happened in the bottom of the 4th, when Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper were replaced by Tyler Moore and Scott Hairston, respectively.

Zimmermann’s perfect game was intact until the fifth inning. Chantilly High School’s own Justin Bour drew a two-out walk to give the Marlins their first man on base of the day. I was slightly disappointed the perfect game was gone, but I could tell how well JZ was pitching and I knew there was a strong possibility I could still witness history.

The game continued on and the tension continued to build. While no more runs were scored, the excitement grew as each out was recorded. I have never been to a baseball game before where the whole stadium was so into every pitch; it was an atmosphere I will not forget for a long time.

In the top of the seventh, Miami was able to put a second person on base. Garrett Jones struck out, but the ball bounced away from Wilson Ramos, and Jones was able to make it to first on the dropped third strike. I was glad he was not the only baserunner for the Marlins. If their only runner had been on a dropped third strike, that would have been quite disappointing. Ramos made up for not blocking the pitch though, by picking Jones off of first base. The crowd erupted as the umpire signaled him out, and just like that, Zimmerman was six outs away.

The Nationals did not score in the bottom of the seventh or the bottom of the eighth, so the game went into the top of the ninth with the Nats still ahead 1-0. Stephen Souza Jr. was inserted into left field as a defensive replacement. Jordan Zimmermann needed only three outs to secure his place in Nationals lore. The crowd was on their feet, cameras were recording, and I stayed nervous.

The first two outs were recorded quickly. Then the magic happened. Christian Yelich stepped to the plate as the last chance for the Marlins to avoid being no-hit. On a 2-1 count, he drove a ball to deep left field. The crowd held its breath and Zimmermann threw his head back as he was sure the ball would drop for a double. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the aforementioned Souza came flying in and made a spectacular diving catch to save the day. Bedlum ensued as the players stormed the field.

After the celebration, it was time for Zimmermann to be interviewed by none other than MASN Dan. Zimmermann was showered in Gatorade, bubble gum, and even an equipment bag as well as a rosin bag. Jayson Werth did the honors of throwing the pie in Zimmermann’s face and Werth took no mercy on Kolko either, pieing him as well.

You can see my first hand account of all these events in the YouTube video below. It covers the entire ninth inning as well as the on-field post-game events.

It was a spectacular day. However, the final out did not spell the end of interesting things for me. Be sure to read the next post containing what happened after we left our seats. You definitely won’t want to miss it…

Nationals 10th Win in a Row has Fans Bobbing Heads in Approval

Last night was Ian Desmond bobblehead night at Nationals Park.  As I stated in my post about the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome, I’m not one of those crazy, die-hard bobblehead fans.  However, that Garden Gnome may have converted me.  I found myself desiring a bobblehead of my favorite baseball player, which lead me to 1500 South Capitol Street on Thursday afternoon.  While I was not first in line for this one, I did receive one nonetheless.

The Ian Desmond Bobblehead alongside the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

The Ian Desmond Bobblehead alongside the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

In deciding whether to attend the game or not, I was slightly hesitant.  I had not seen a win at Nationals Park since Jordan Zimmermann’s complete game two hitter against the Marlins last season, and the Nationals were in the midst of an outstanding nine game winning streak.  I figured my presence at the game obviously wasn’t going to affect on-field performance and I thought it would be pretty neat to say I was at the Nats’ 10th win in a row.

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Washington Nationals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 9-21-14 (Photo by Paul Fritschner)

Gio Gonzalez pitched the last game I attended but had a much more solid outing this time around.  He threw 7 full innings while not allowing a run and striking out six along the way.  He only yielded four hits and three walks, an encouraging sign of hopefully similar outings to come in the near future.

The story of the game early and throughout the entire contest for the Nationals was runners left on base.  It seemed that everytime the Nats would find themselves with an opportunity to score, they would also find a way not to score.  In fact, as Adam Kilgore tweeted, through 7 innings the Nats had eight hits and six walks (i.e. lots of baserunners).  However, at that same point in time they were 0 for 11 with Runners in Scoring Position, and had left eight runners stranded.  Had the Nats gone on to lose the game, I’m sure that would have been a more prevalent topic in Matt Williams’ post-game press conference.

The Nationals’ defense though backed up their pitching.  Behind multiple double plays, the game was scoreless entering the 9th inning.  If the Nationals were to extend their winning streak it would come via the walk off.  But what’s new?  The Nats had walked off four of the last five days, so why not make it five of the past six?

A side-note, I had never seen a Major League walk-off in person before even after all my years of attending games.  I guess it was the magic in the air, but I could sense something was brewing in the bottom of the ninth that might put that streak to an end.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Denard Span notched his second hit of the ballgame.  Upon reaching first base, Mark Trumbo, the Diamondbacks’ first baseman, said to Span, “Just how you guys like it (referring to now possibly winning on a walk-off).”  After waiting patiently and analyzing the quick-delivery of Arizona’s pitcher, Evan Marshall, Span stole second base.  He picked a perfect pitch to steal too; a slider, giving him that extra time to slide in and beat the tag.

Span was now in scoring position and it was a question of whether Rendon would come through.  I had my camera recording for what I hoped would be that elusive walk-off I had yet to see in person.  Rendon connected and hit a ground ball to the third basemen, and it’s Arizona’s third basemen Jordan Pacheco whom Nats fans should thank.  He made an errant throw to first, and when Trumbo failed to scoop it, the ball bounced into the Nationals dugout.  The ball was out of play and by rule Denard Span was allowed to score.  The Nationals were now the owners of a 10 game winning streak; only the second time they have accomplished this since returning to the District in 2005.

The National League East Standings (notice the 10-0 in the Last 10 column for the Nats)

The National League East Standings (notice the 10-0 in the Last 10 column for the Nats)

The Nationals had walked off for the fifth time in six days.  I had witnessed my first Major League walk-off.  My losing streak at Nationals Park was over.  I got my favorite player’s bobblehead.  I captured the walk-off on video, which you can see below.  Needless to say, it was a good day.

Gnome Sweet Gnome: The Jayson Werth Garden Gnome Experience

Almost two years ago, I created my Twitter account (@PaulFritschner) and began to follow an account called Jayson Werth’s Beard (@JWerthsBeard).  The real-life owner of this account remains anonymous, so we simply refer to it as the Beard.  It posts creative photoshops relating to the Washington Nationals, possibly it’s most famous of which is a picture of Jayson Werth’s face photoshopped onto the face of a garden gnome.

An original photoshop of a Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Courtesy of @Jwerthsbeard)

An original Jayson Werth Garden Gnome photoshop (Courtesy of @Jwerthsbeard)

Back in February, the Nationals announced the promotional schedule, and wouldn’t ya know: August 5th was the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome. Bobbleheads do not usually matter much to me as far as a must-have giveaway, but after seeing all those crazy photoshops, I knew I had to get myself a gnome. You may ask, what’s the craze? It’s just a plastic garden gnome of a player. Maybe to you it’s a plastic garden gnome, but to the Nationals community it is a fantastic piece of baseball memorabilia.

The day was getting closer and after seeing the lines for the Bryce Harper Bobblehead, along with all the promotion the Nationals were doing on social media for this gnome (also here), I knew the lines were going to be incredible. I thought to myself, well, if I’m going to get there so early to be able to get one, I might as well be first, right? In order to be first would mean a long wait. To aid in my relief from boredom, I asked my friend from school, Francis Bright, if he would attend the game with me and wait in line. He was all for it, and Gnome Gnight was set.

We arrived downtown around 1:15 and when we couldn’t see a line at the gates forming yet, so we walked down the street to grab some lunch at Potbelly. We figured it would be a long, hot couple of hours, so we made sure we were adequately prepared.

To my surprise, nobody was in line yet, and we walked up simultaneously with one other man to take our spot in a line.  This was right around 2:10, and the gates opened at 4:30, so we now had about 2 hours and 20 minutes before we could receive our gnome.

The Gnomes in boxes

The Gnomes in boxes

First in line for the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome around 2:10 (Paul Fritschner)

First in line for the Jayson Werth Garden Gnome around 2:10 (Paul Fritschner)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We brought our gloves for batting practice, and I had brought a ball, so we played catch for about a half hour until we decided we should sit at the gate so as to secure our place in line. This meant that we were relegated to finding a way to pass about two more hours.

At 3:30, with exactly one hour left to go, I got a Direct Message on Twitter from Scott Allen, a sports writer for the Washington Post. He asked if he could interview me about waiting in the line. I was ecstatic, and did the interview over the phone a few minutes later.

Around that same time was when the line began to take shape. I took this picture right before the interview:

I relayed the message to many people I knew about what had just happened, including podcast co-host Steve Miller. he was the first one to send me the link to the article after it was posted within minutes. I will include all the links to the article later in this post.

The interview excitement helped the next few minutes go very quickly. All of a sudden there was less than a half hour to go, and the excitement was building. Throngs of people made their way down Half-Street from the Metro, anxious to take their place in line.

27 minutes to go

27 minutes to go

The ushers began to prepare for the onslaught of gnome-hungry fans. After all the time waiting, I was beginning to get somewhat anxious for the gates to finally open. With seven minutes to go, it was now a sea of red down Half-Street and around the gates.

Then at 4:30, after nearly two years of photoshops, six months of waiting for this game, and almost two and a half hours at the gate, I had my hands on a Jayson Werth Garden Gnome.

As an added benefit to being in the front of the line, this meant prime position in the Red Porch to take in batting practice. Francis got a ball right after we had gotten ourselves situated when, who I believe was, Tanner Roark launched a ball that bounced off the field and up into the seats. It was now my turn for a ball of my own.

Since I was little, I have attended Potomac Nationals games, as I wrote about in my very first post. I have collected dozens of baseballs from those games and many baseballs from Major League games, but even after all these years, I have never caught a ball on the fly. As in, catch a foul ball or a home run before it hits the ground. I’m always having to chase after them. I made it my goal to catch at least one before I go off to college next year, and I thought that maybe after all the good things that happened, today would be the day.

Sure enough, Danny Espinosa (99% positive it was him) launched a home run right to where I was standing. It was only a matter of whether I or the few other people standing around me would get it. I stuck my glove way up (shades of The Sandlot), and the ball smacked right into my glove. I had finally been in the right place at the right time.

Danny Espinosa BP Home Run ball

Danny Espinosa BP Home Run ball

The day was now on another level.  Francis and I watched the Nationals finish up batting practice and proceeded to watch the Mets. We didn’t catch any more baseballs, but I was plenty satisfied. I had my gnome, a baseball, and an interview. Now all we needed was a Curly W.

Francis and I made our way to the other side of the stadium to begin our ascent to our seats in Section 226. My dad was already sitting up there, and when we arrived he had just had a conversation with the couple behind him. Apparently they were already aware of the interview article and confirmed I was the one who was in it. It’s amazing how quickly information spreads

Lefty Gio Gonzalez started for the Nats, opposed by Zach Wheeler for the Mets. Gio gave up a triple in the first inning to Daniel Murphy, who later came in to score to make it 1-0. The Mets added another run in the top of the second before the Nats answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the second on a wild pitch to make it 2-1.

Both pitchers began to settle into a groove, but the groove for Gio would only last so long. The Nats could not provide him with much run support, even squandering a scoring opportunity when a groundball hit Asdrubal Cabrera. Ian Desmond had to return to third base and did not end up scoring, thus leaving the Nationals still at a deficit.

Gio began to struggle in the 7th inning with the Nats still trailing 2-1. Drew Storen replaced him with men on first and second, both of whom came in to score after a sacrifice bunt by Wheeler and a single by Daniel Murphy.

The Nats gave up one more run in the 8th inning to make it 6-1, the eventual final score. They could not muster much of a rally in the game’s final two innings, leading to a defeat on Gnome Gnight. A Curly W was not in the books after all. Jayson Werth himself did not get a gnome, and said post-game of the 15,000+ who didn’t receive one, “I know how they feel.” Also an interesting statistic I read from Scott Allen today. This season, the Nats are 1-6 when playing in front of 40,000+ people and 2-10 when playing in front of that many since 2013.

However, while the actual game may not have been fantastic, basically everything else about the day was.

The interview took off and was posted in various articles across many different websites.

The original article, written by Scott Allen of the Washington Post, can be found by clicking here.

A section of USA Today called For the Win picked it up, the article for which can be found here.

The website Deadspin also did a piece of their own on the line for the Gnomes and their article can be found here.

We were hyperlinked in an article on the NBC Washington website and that can be found here.

Finally, for those curious, the gnome is being sold on eBay for over 150$. So if you think its just a cheap giveaway, it’s a giveaway that could earn you some money if you wanted to sell it. Check out the bids here. I for one will be keeping my gnome.

Please be sure to subscribe to my blog via email on the right side of this page. You will not receive any junk mail, just an email whenever I post.

Here are some more pictures from the rest of Gnome Gnight. It was really a fun day; a day I will not forget for a long time.

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

The Jayson Werth Garden Gnome

The Jayson Werth Garden Gnome

The Washington Nationals take batting practice

The Washington Nationals take batting practice

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Panorama picture of Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Panorama picture of Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

The Gnomes in boxes

The Gnomes in boxes

Waiting in line for the gnome

Waiting in line for the gnome

Nationals Park employees unpack the Garden Gnomes

Nationals Park employees unpack the Garden Gnomes

Paul Fritschner and Francis Bright

Paul Fritschner and Francis Bright

Waiting in line for the gnome

Waiting in line for the gnome

Post-Interview (...get it...)

Post-Interview (…get it…)

27 minutes to go (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

27 minutes to go (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Nationals Park (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

Line for Jayson Werth Garden Gnome (Paul Fritschner)

A fan dressed as a gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

A fan dressed as a gnome (Picture by Paul Fritschner)

Opening Day 2014 at Nationals Park

Opening Day. The grass is freshly cut, the bunting hangs from the railings, the players are excited, there is a buzz in the air, and hope springs eternal for the upcoming marathon of a season. While it was not the first game of the season for the Washington Nationals, it was indeed their first home game at Nationals Park. Thanks to my mom who bought my dad and I two tickets for my dad’s birthday, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for this year’s Opening Day festivities in D.C.

The day started off early to ensure we found a parking spot at dad’s office which happens to be right across the street from the stadium. We got to his office and found ourselves needing to kill about two hours before the gates opened at 10:30. Breakfast was eaten, and before we knew it it was time to walk over for our first game of the season.

Walking up to Nats Park for the first time this season

Walking up to Nats Park for the first time this season

Natitude is printed on the sreet before the Centerfield entrance on Opening Day

Natitude is printed on the sreet before the Centerfield entrance on Opening Day

Once we walked through the gates and received our giveaway hat, we split up so that dad could walk the stadium and I could watch batting practice. The Nats were taking BP first, but as is usually the case, they were quickly off the field once I got settled in a spot. I tend to stand in the Red Porch, hoping that one day I will catch a home run. Maybe this season I can accomplish that.

After the Nats cleaned up and a few minutes passed, the B…Br…Braves…came out of their dugout to take the field. Closer Craig Kimbrell, a nemesis of the Nationals and often considered the best active closer in baseball, assumed his position to shag balls right in front of where I was standing. Seeing the professionals everyday on TV is one thing, but seeing them up close in person is another. You could say, without a doubt, they do indeed lift.

As has been the case with just about every batting practice, I came up short on my effort to catch a home run. A bounce came close, just beyond the reach of my outstretched glove, but nonetheless I wound up empty handed. It  didn’t help there was also about a million other kids there that had the same idea as me. I’ll just have to wait for a less crowded day.

The Braves finished up their rounds of batting practice, and it was time to find some way to occupy the last hour before the game started. I met back up with dad and we spoke to a couple friends of his who were also at the game. Around 12:30, the Opening Day events began, and we made our way across the stadium to the first base side to see everyone introduced.

The customary introductions for Opening Day

The customary introductions for Opening Day

Dad and I raced up to our seats upon the conclusion of the introductions in time to view the enormous American Flag in the outfield while the National Anthem was sung. Seeing the members of the military hold the Flag and taking in all the surroundings, it truly was such a memorable experience.

The American Flag is held in the outfield as the National Anthem is sung

The American Flag is held in the outfield as the National Anthem is sung

At last, it was time the game to actually start. The first few innings passed with relatively low excitement. Then in the top of the fifth inning, Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann left a meatball for Evan Gattis who quickly deposited it over the bullpen in left field to put the Braves up 1-0. In the bottom of that same inning was when the controversy occurred.

 Ian Desmond hit a ball down the left field line which ran down into the left field corner. The ball then got lodged underneath the wall, between the wall’s padding and the ground. Braves left fielder Justin Upton threw up his hands to indicate to the umpire that the ball was lodged instead of simply reaching down and throwing it back. Aware of the situation, Desmond did not stop running and crossed home without a play. The horn sounded indicating a home run and the crowd went nuts. Desmond had barely crossed the plate before Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez was out to dispute the call. After a long discussion, he challanged the play and the first use of the newly-instituted MLB replay system at Nationals Park was underway.

The scoreboard shows a graphic notifing the fans that replay is in use

The scoreboard shows a graphic notifing the fans that replay is in use

The Umpires congregate to make the first replay decision at Nationals Park

The Umpires congregate to make the first replay decision at Nationals Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a long delay before the decision was made that Desmond would only be awarded a double, what he most likely would have gotten in the first place if Upton had simply picked up the ball. Boos rained from the crowd, of course with no effect, and the game resumed. Desmond was promptly tagged out in a pickle, and looking back, that sequence proved to be one of the most important sequences of the game.

The  Nationals added a tying run in the sixth but after Tyler Clippard surrendered a leadoff walk to the Braves in the eighth inning, that walk proved to be the deciding factor after the runner came around to score. The Nats could not muster another rally and they fell to the Braves in new-Manager Matt Williams’ home debut by a score of 2-1.

 

Regardless of the outcome, the day was truly a memorable experience. Being the baseball fan that I am, especially of the Nationals, it was a unique chance to see first hand the festivites of Opening Day. Here are some more pictures capturing the day.

 

Another Centerfield ShotBatting Practice

Left Field

The man himself, Craig Kimbrel, stands in the outfield shagging baseballs during batting practice

The man himself, Craig Kimbrel, stands in the outfield shagging baseballs during batting practice

The Nationals take their swings in batting practice

The Nationals take their swings in batting practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field looks prepped for the first game of the 2014 home season

The field looks prepped for the first game of the 2014 home season

Even More Batting Practice

Opening Day introductions are made for the visiting Atlanta Braves

Opening Day introductions are made for the visiting Atlanta Braves

Nats Park

 

Nationals Park, Opening Day 2014

Standing in Centerfield

Photographic proof that dad was in attendance on Opening Day 2014

Photographic proof that dad was in attendance on Opening Day 2014