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.
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.
As I’m sure most of you are aware, there is this pesky thing which sometimes gets in the way of recreational activities. School. Needless to say it has been a busy past couple of weeks since I last posted about the reaction to my push-up video, and much has transpired since then. Let’s get ourselves caught up:
- First and foremost is the most exciting news. My dad received two tickets to Opening Day at Nationals Park for his birthday, which means he and I will be taking in all of the April 4th festivities! I will be sure to take lots of pictures and report back on all the happenings. Sadly, it’s against the Barves (yes, that was on purpose), but Opening Day is Opening Day and I can’t wait to be apart of it.
- Once again this year, Sports Illustrated has chosen the Washington Nationals as their pick to win the World Series. As many of you may remember, they also chose us last year and some blamed the disappointing season on this “curse.” We will see how the year plays out and if, hopefully, they will be correct.
- From a roster standpoint, the most notable move of the month was new manager Matt Williams’ decision to send Ross Detwiler to the bullpen to begin the season. Many presumed he would take over the role of 5th starter behind Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Fister, but that was not to be. Rather, it is still a competition between last season’s two star rookies, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark (pronounced Row-ark).
- Doug Fister will likely start the season on the disabled list after suffering a strained lat as Spring Training came to a close. Hopefully he recovers quickly and can get back as soon as possible. On a positive note, barring anything drastic happening in their exhibition game against the Tigers this Saturday, this will be the most serious injury coming out of Spring Training. Needless to say, the Nationals were pretty lucky in not suffering any major/serious injuries.
- On a personal note, the high school baseball season is already underway. It feels good to once again be playing baseball myself. I’ll keep you all updated on how we do as the season progresses.
Only four (4!!!!) more days until the Nats open their season away against the Mets on Monday. We’ve been waiting long enough, let’s get started.
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