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. In 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.All 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.
Day 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Steve 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.
2014 was a year which fell short of expectations for the Nationals. We made the playoffs, but once again could not make it out of the first round.
As we ring in 2015, for my first post of the year I decided to rank all 30 teams of Major League Baseball by how much I like them. Steve just did this yesterday, and he was saying he’d like to see what I thought. I’m excited to see what this year brings! Feel free to comment on your preferences or if you feel, in your opinion, I got something wrong.
1) Washington Nationals – Does this really need explanation?
2) Cincinnati Reds – Without a DC team, I loved the Reds with so much of my family from Cincinnati. I still love the Reds, but only when they don’t play the Nats. If anyone has tickets to the All-Star Game this year, let me know.
3) Chicago Cubs – It’s been a lot of years since they’ve won the World Series. If the Nats aren’t in it, I would guess a lot of baseball fans would like to see them take one.
4) Chicago White Sox – First Adam Dunn and now the beloved Adam LaRoche. They also signed David Ross, the veteran catcher, who I met a long time ago when he was a member of the Reds. I wouldn’t mind seeing them win.
5) Kansas City Royals – Captured America this year during their magical postseason run. Sadly, they ran into a certain roadblock by the name of Bumgarner.
6) Cleveland Indians – Poor Cleveland. It seems like they have pieces to do well, it just needs to come together.
7) Seattle Mariners – I’ve been to Safeco, and the Nats have good memories from this year of their visit to Seattle.
8) San Diego Padres – All of a sudden the Padres mean business. They got Derek Norris, who I’ve watched progress since his days with Potomac, and a bunch of other big name players recently in free agency. I wouldn’t mind seeing them do well.
9) Houston Astros – Their mascot, Orbit, is about the only reason they’re this high on the list. He’s probably the best mascot in all of MLB. Click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here to see why.
10) Miami Marlins – Stanton drops bombs. I’m still trying to catch one of his BP homers when the Marlins come to Nationals Park.
11) Colorado Rockies – Coors Field is so nice, I’ve seen a game there, and my dad lived in Colorado for a while. They also participated in a stand-off with the Nats this season, which I loved.
12) Tampa Bay Rays – One of my favorite movies ever is The Rookie, and Jim Morris was on the Rays.
13) Oakland Athletics – Moneyball showed such an interesting view of baseball, and poor Oakland never seems to succeed anymore. Before the Royals grabbed my attention, I was hoping the A’s would find themselves in the World Series.
14) Detroit Tigers – I played on the Tigers and it gave me some of my best youth baseball memories.
15) St. Louis Cardinals – They win a lot. A lot of people really don’t like them. I, however, are one of few neutral fans who don’t mind them. I love watching the battery of Wainwright and Molina. There’s a reason they’re not higher up on this list, but those are the reasons they aren’t lower either.
16) Texas Rangers –Jim Morris made his debut for the Rays on the road at the Ranger’s stadium. I’ve also seen their stadium from driving around it, and it was a sight to see.
17) Minnesota Twins – Anymore, the Twins are sorta just, there. Not great, not awful, just there.
18) Toronto Blue Jays – You don’t hear a ton about the Blue Jays but watch out this year, they could make a run for the AL East.
19) Los Angeles Angels – Mike Trout is a stud. Also, I rooted for Anaheim when they were in the World Series a lot of years ago.
20) Los Angeles Dodgers – I don’t particularly dislike the Dodgers, but I don’t really like them either; I’m indifferent.
21) Arizona Diamondbacks – Whenever I went to Reds games when I was younger, it seemed like I always saw the Diamondbacks play. There was only so much of Craig Counsell’s swing I could take.
22) New York Mets – I also played on the Mets in Little League, but being in the NL East, I don’t like them as much.
23) New York Yankees – Along with the Cardinals, I don’t hate the Yankees. But Derek Jeter was one of the major reasons I tolerated them, and now that he’s gone, they’ve fallen lower on this list.
24) Milwaukee Brewers – I still remember sitting in the hotel room in Virginia Beach and watching Josh Willingham hit his second grand slam of the game for the Nats in Milwaukee.
25) Baltimore Orioles – Peter Angelos, why do you make things so difficult? They also ruin the National Anthem.
26) Philadelphia Phillies – Lingering dislike from when the Phillies fans would pack Nats Park.
27) San Francisco Giants – I’m just not a huge Giants fan. Used to love them with Barry Bonds, but then he used steroids.
28) Pittsburgh Pirates – I don’t have a ton against the Pirates, except that they play in Pittsburgh. And that right there is the major problem.
29) Boston Red Sox – Boston and Pittsburgh, my two least favorite sports cities in America. I’ve visited Boston (not Fenway), and the city itself has so much history. But we’re talking sports and baseball here, and man do I not like those two cities’ teams.
30) Atlanta Braves – If you thought anyone else would be last, then you obviously don’t know me very well.
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.
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.
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 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.