WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, the Washington Nationals held their fifth home opener, the 76th for D.C. baseball. For the fourth consecutive year, Fritz and I were there. The Nats fell for the seventh time in as many tries in the 2009 season, this time to the visiting Phillies 9-8.
As home openers go, this one was my second favorite after last year’s thrilling win. Yesterday’s game was competitive, exciting, frusturating and sad all in one. The Nats scored first, but left the bases loaded at the end of the first inning. They would score in every inning but the 3rd, 6th and 8th. The offense had a pretty good day, but never got more than 2 runs in an inning. LF Adam Dunn hit his first Nationals Park home run, a monster shot to center in the seventh. 3B Ryan Zimmerman did the same in the ninth; they both hit two run homers. SS Cristian Guzman had five hits, but hurt his hamstring on the last one in the ninth. RF Elijah Dukes homered in the 5th.
Starter Daniel Cabrera, destined to be nicknamed D.C. Cab, was victimized by poor fielding. Anderson Hernandez had a dreadful game at second base, his first of the young season after being on the DL. He had two costly errors that led to runs. Cabrera gave up four runs, but only one was earned, over five innings and 24 batters faced. He kept the Nats in it though, they were tied with the Phillies after the fifth inning. It all came part in the seventh though when RHP Saul Rivera hit the first two batters and then was left in to face Ryan Howard for reasons unknown. Howard hit one into the seats and the Phillies led 7-4, a lead that they would hold onto and extend. We would all like to know why one of the lefties available in the bullpen was not brought in.
In short, the Nats were undone by sloppiness in the field and on the mound. They had a real chance to win this game and they blew it. That being said, I was thoroughly entertained.
- We took Metro from Pentagon City to the game without incident.
- As we arrived, there was an ambulance coming down Half Street, needing someone to move the fence. We would later find out, via a text message from a friend of Fritz’s in Harrisburg, that it was likely for Harry Kalas, the voice of the Phillies who collapsed and later died at GWU Hospital. I will have more on Kalas later today.
- The statues of Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson and Frank Howard are fine, even with the “motion” effects. That being said, if there were standard statues, that would have been okay too.
- My tickets were not sent to me even though I paid $11.50 in processing costs. I had to wait in line for 15 minutes to get some printed. I’m not happy with tickets.com and discourage you from using their service. I’ll just use the box office from now on. I thought this might be a tough ticket, but I was wrong.
- Five veterans threw out the ceremonial first pitch, since the president was not interested.
- The moment of silence for Silver Spring native and Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was the longest moment of silence I have ever witnessed.
- Ben’s Chili Bowl half-smokes are now sold in their own carts. The one around section 415 is criminally slow. I missed much of the pregame ceremonies waiting for the two idiots who work there to get the job done.
- A moment of silence after the National Anthem, sung by Patti Austin, was observed for Harry Kalas.
- “Sweet Caroline” was not played all day long!
- We got to hear Chuck Brown three times because the Nats hit three homers.
- Clint seemed less annoying.
- I think Tom won the Presidents Race. A “cat” jumped out of the stands and tackled someone.
- There are three pennants for 1924, 1925 and 1933 flying above the scoreboard. Last year, there was just a 1924 pennant flying. It is a nice touch.
- I do not think the pitch speed was ever on the scoreboard.
- Nats beat writer Chico Harlan is a tiny little dude.
- What I saw of the pregame “pump up” video looked pretty good.
- I missed the first pitch because a middle aged woman was standing up. Apparently it was her birthday and other people did not matter.
- I am glad the Nats did not cancel the game after Kalas died. The Phillies were surely playing with heavy hearts, but they played well and won.
- The fifth inning featured strong outfield play by Lastings Milledge and Dukes. Both made some big catches to keep the inning scoreless. Milledge even got decent jumps on the balls.
- The Phillies fans were fine, they have never been a problem. I still don’t want the team president hawking tickets in other cities.
- During the seventh inning, Austin said we weren’t going to sing “God Bless America” Kate Smith style. Hey someone gets it!
- The attendance of 40,386 was a new Nationals Park record.
- I elected to avoid the long Navy Yard Metro lines and went all the way to Federal Center SW. The ride back to Pentagon City was easy from there, even the L’nfant transfer.
THOMAS BOSWELL – It’s Time To Get Serious
The Wash. Times