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 Friday, the Nationals signed Dan Uggla to a minor league contract. Uggla, a now-journeyman player who hasn’t found a solid home since he was released by the Atlanta Braves, looks to earn some playing time at second base. However, with Danny Espinosa looking to be the one who will receive the majority of playing time there, this may just be a safety deal. Many Nats fans were more excited that the Twitter account, @FakeDanUggla, is now a Nat more than the real Uggla himself.
The following post was written by my good friend, Steve Miller, when Uggla was a member of the Miami Marlins. Steve said he would write about whoever hit that eyesore of a statue first in the new Marlins Park, and wouldn’t ya know, it was Uggla.
I hope you all have a Happy New Year, and thank you for reading this year! Good things are hopefully on the horizon in 2015!
I thought for sure that Giancarlo Stanton would be the first to drill the centerfield sculpture at Marlins Park, and had he not overshot the behemoth with a home run three weeks ago, he would have won my contest. But Dan Uggla beat Stanton to it by drilling the feature straight up on June 5th for his 200th career home run. And I am ecstatic that I get to write this blog post (over 1300 words) analyzing the strange stance and swing, among other things, of Dan Uggla.
Uggla was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 11th round of the 2001 draft, but never progressed in the Arizona organization and was never regarded as a high prospect. In 2005, he qualified for the rule 5 draft after not making Arizona’s 40-man roster, and was picked up by the Flordia Marlins. And the rest, as they say, is history.
In 2006, Uggla…
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I have finally gathered myself in the wake of the abrupt, disappointing finish to the Washington Nationals’ 2014 season. After the Nats were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants, I found myself in the same quandry I often find myself after the team I root for is no longer in contention: do I cheer for the team who beat us, so that we know our loss was not in vain? Or do we cheer against the team who ousted us; wishing that the next team will avenge our suffering?
I could not bring myself to root for those Giants, the now dynastic franchise which has won the Commissioner’s Trophy three of the last five seasons. Along with so many others, I hopped on the Royals’ bandwagon, hoping for a glistening end to their Cinderella story. Alas, it was not to be, and the Giants were victorious yet again.
Every time I attempted to voice my frustration through this medium on the internet, I found myself at a loss for words. It’s hard to describe the feeling of loss after being so attached to a team day after day for months on end, especially after the regular season had ended on such a tremendous note. With so many lofty expectations, and so many others who provided more in-depth analysis, I was simply left dumbfounded in the wake of the events.
Much has changed since the final out was recorded in the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Beloved first baseman Adam LaRoche parted ways with the Nationals and found a home with the Chicago White Sox. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins signed the richest contract in American sports history at over $320 million. The Athletics parted ways with one of their cornerstones, Josh Donaldson, and it seems their franchise has entered rebuilding mode.
The proverbial Hot Stove season of free agent deals and blockbuster trades is just heating up as the cold, brisk air envelops the country. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the off-season plays out, especially for the Nationals. They are looking to re-sign pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond, along with solidifying pitcher Doug Fister, but all three might be too steep of a price to pay. I’m sure Mike Rizzo has a plan in place, it’s just time for us to sit back and watch it all unfold.
The annual NatsFest is much earlier this year, happening on December 13th. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it, so I’ll be anxious to hear how it goes from all those in attendance.
Check back in for more updates as the winter progresses. I’ve been busy writing numerous articles for my school’s sports website, so when I’m not busy, I’ll enjoy writing more about both the Nationals and the rest of Major League Baseball.
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:
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.
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…
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.
Over the past several days, I have been counting down my top five things to look forward to this upcoming season. I thought for a long time on what to pick as number one, and I finally made a decision. So drum roll please…
#1 – Fulfilling Expectations
I considered a variety of different topics for number one. I thought about making it “The Matt Williams Decision,” or a variety of other ideas, but in the end I kept coming back to this. So many people hopped on the Nationals bandwagon at the end of the 2012 season, only to be sorely disappointed in 2013 when the Nationals failed to make the playoffs. That’s why I decided the number one thing we should look forward to in this upcoming season is the Nationals fulfilling the lofty expectations set for them.
You might wonder, what are some of these expectations? Well different people will have their own expectations. But on a general basis, the largest expectation going into this year is for the Washington Nationals to still be playing baseball in the middle of October; that is, to make the playoffs. Along the way, the pitching rotation is expected to shut down opposing offenses, hitters expected to produce runs, and fielders expected to perform at the highest level. General Manager Mike Rizzo has done an outstanding job in assembling the pieces to be able to fulfill all of these expectations in their entirety. The Nationals have one of, if not the, best rotation in all of the Major Leagues. The Nationals farm system is extremely deep, allowing the team to dip down to AAA and find a player needed for a spot start in a crucial game knowing that player will produce. Also, the Nationals have acquired a strong defense to complement the pitching core. Even though you do not often see Nationals at the top of statistical hitting categories, they still manage to win games by manufacturing runs in needed situations.
It seems every facet of the game has been put together to give the Nationals the best opportunity to be successful in the 2014 season. So what might cause the season to not go as planned?
Worst Case Scenario:
I honestly would rather not think about the worst case scenario here. After suffering through a painful 2013 season, I can’t imagine what not making the playoffs would mean this year. By many standards, especially the Marlins or the Lastros (yeah that was on purpose), the 2013 season was superb. The Nats were 10 games over .500 and were fairly competitive in what has been often considered the toughest Major League division. However, the Nats didn’t make the playoffs. So when it comes down to it, that would be the worst case scenario this season: the Nationals fail to reach the postseason. I won’t go on about different ways they wouldn’t make it because there are a variety of ways they could find themselves on the outside looking in. But I just don’t believe that will happen. I’m not one to predict a World Series ring, but I will predict a playoff berth. It would truly be the worst if that were to fail to happen.
Best Case Scenario:
Now I know I just said I would not predict a World Series championship and I’m not. Not because I don’t think they can win, I just tend never to predict specific winners; it’s just part of my sports personality. I definitely believe the Nationals are a contending team with all the right tools in place to win a title, and that is why the best case scenario this year in fulfilling their expectations as an elite team would be to be to bring the World Series trophy to Washington D.C. With the team that has been assembled for them to make a stretch run, winning a title should be a definite possibility.
For now, I am just too excited to see what happens. Most of all, I’m glad baseball is returning. It has been a long, dark winter, and pitchers and catchers means Spring is on the horizon. The prospect of baseball approaching is almost too much for me to handle. I wait all winter for this day, and it has finally arrived. Baseball has returned. The world is back to normal again.
Pitchers and Catchers report tomorrow everyone!!!!
Countdown to #Natitude: 1 DAY!!!!!!
The 2013 Nationals feasted upon the bottom feeders of the league. They went 14-5 against the Miami Marlins, 12-7 against the New York Mets, 5-2 against the San Diego Padres, and 4-3 against the Chicago Cubs. Yes, a win is a win, but come playoff time it is important that the Nationals are battle tested and ready for the strong teams they must face.
Last season they went an abysmal 6-13 against the Atlanta Braves, 0-6 against the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals, and even 1-3 against the Baltimore Orioles. For the Nats to be successful this year, they must prove their mettle against the top tier teams in the league. In inter-league play they face teams such as the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics, as well as the regular NL East power house Atlanta Braves.
How the Nationals fare this year against winning teams will show if they are a well oiled machine and ready for a deep playoff run. They have the veteran team to do it; it’s just a question of going out on the field and getting the job done.
Worst Case Scenario:
The Nationals struggle in prime games plain and simple. When push comes to shove, they bow out under the spotlight. They rely on harvesting wins against low-level opponents while struggling mightily against teams they need to beat. Even though their record shows a strong team, they cannot compete in big situations, causing them to have yet another disappointing season. A win is indeed a win, but a win against a strong team does more to improve the club’s performance than winning laughers against last place teams.
Best Case Scenario:
Even the best teams in the league are no match for the 2014 Washington Nationals. They roll through the season demolishing teams no matter the opposition’s record, and head into the playoffs with unparalleled momentum. Pitchers pitch deep into ball games, hitters lead many statistical categories, and the season goes right along with many’s expectations. Wins against quality teams are not a problem, as they win game after game no matter who they are facing. The 2014 Nats are what was expected out of the 2013 Nationals.
It is important that the Nationals perform well against above .500 teams. While wins against sub-.500 teams do count, they do not benefit the club as much as the experience gained through beating good teams. For the Nationals to be successful in this upcoming season, it will be important that they prove they can keep up with the best of them, and not back down in the face of a challenge. If they do that, then this could be a magical season.
Countdown to #Natitude: 3 days