From Nationals Park – Sunday May 25, 2008


Memorial Day weekend at Nationals Park included day games on Sunday and Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Memorial Day is the informal beginning of the Summer Season.  Among other things, it means that couples coming to visit Alexandria from National Harbor can now officially wear matching white belts and shoes.

If ever there was a perfect day for baseball, Saturday was it.   First of all it was the middle of the three-day Memorial Day weekend.  Second, the game time temperature (as announced by Official Scorer Dave Vincent) was 72 degrees under absolutely clear blue skies.  Third, the Nats won, but only just.

For the Washington Nationals Saturdays game was number 51.  As there are 162 games in a major league season, they are closing in on the first third of the season which will have taken place on Wednesday in San Diego against the Padres.

Coming into Sundays game the Nats were 21-29, good for last place in the National League East.  Coming out of Sundays game they were 22-29, still in last place eight games out of first, but only two-and-a-half games behind the fourth place Mets.

The team came into the game batting .234 which was 29th out of the 30 MLB clubs.  Only Cleveland (.231) has been more ineffective at the plate.  For comparison, for the 2007 season the Nationals batted .256 22 points above their present production.

The optimists among us in the press box believe the Nats will begin to hit at their natural level and could go 59-52 (.532)  the rest of the way to finish the season at .500.

Could happen.  In fact, the opposite did happen.  In the Nats inaugural 2005 season the team was 51-32 (.614) on July 5th.   Press box denizens calculated that in order for the Nationals to finish at .500 they would have to play a dismal .380 the rest of the way.

Which is exactly what they did, losing the final three games to the Philadelphia Phillies just to make it all come out even.

On Saturday, the Nats had a 6-0 lead going into the 6th inning.  Coming out of the sixth the game was tied.  But, they manufactured a run in the bottom of the ninth on a walk, a single and a wild-pitch to win it 7-6.

Every writer in the press box had to completely re-write their stories having first written about how the Nats had cruised to an easy victory, but then having to write about grinding out a gritty win.

Saturdays crowd was the second biggest of the season, 35,567.  Only opening night (39,389)  has topped it so far.

At three oclock on Sunday, the game was stopped to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance.  There was some discussion before the game as to whether the umpires would halt the game within an at-bat.   They didnt. 

After a double by the Nationals Lastings Millage, the third base umpire called for the ball, walked to the mound and, apparently, told the Milwaukee pitcher about the short ceremony.

According to USC Title 4, Chapter 1: On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.  The main American flag in left-center field was at full staff when the park opened for vendors, employees and press well before noon.

In Mondays game, the Nats were ahead 2-0 until the seventh when the Brewers tied it up, then went ahead 3-2 with a run in the top of the 8th.

In the bottom of the eighth inning first baseman Dmitri Young smacked a ball off the top of the wall in deep left center field.  Young rounded first, headed to second and watched with dismay as the ball bounced back into the field of play forcing him to run to third for a stand-up triple.

After some consultation, the umpires ruled that the ball had hit beyond the wall and then  bounced back, making it a home run and tying the game at three.

Thats not the amusing part.  This is:  The Nationals 2008 Media Guide lists Dmitri Young as 62 and 298 lbs.  Young is 298 if he weighs himself before breakfast. On the day after Yom Kippur.  Maybe.

There were those in the press box who wanted to organize a trip to the Smithsonian to see if Youngs triple registered on the seismograph there.

When the  Nats took the field for the top of the ninth, Young didnt answer the bell.   The defensive substitution at first base was greeted with neither shock nor surprise in the press box.

The Brewers ended up winning in 11 innings 4-3, but no matter.  What a great way to have spent a Memorial Day weekend.

Now, I have to get to Filenes on Connecticut to see if theyre having an early season sale on white belts and shoes.  And catch the water taxi to National Harbor.