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. The 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.
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.I 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.See you next year, Nationals Park.
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.