May 4, 2012 [LINK / comment]
Bryce Harper is quickly erasing any doubts that he belongs in the major leagues, now. Even though he went a disappointing 0 for 3 in his debut [home] appearance against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Nationals Park on Tuesday night, in the next two games he provided the offensive firepower that the Nats have so desperately needed. In Wednesday night's game he went 3 for 4, including two doubles -- one of which led off the ninth inning. The next two batters struck out, when up to the plate stepped the Nats' shortstop, Ian Desmond. Down one run, with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth inning: the perfect situation for a clutch performance. Sure enough, Desmond rose to the occasion by swatting a home run just over the left-center fence, giving the Nats and their fans a much-deserved walk-off victory.
Last night was almost as much fun, as Harper once again delivered a clutch RBI double, scoring Ian Desmond who had also just doubled. Final score, Nats 2, D-Backs 1. See MLB.com. It was nice that they won the series, bouncing back from that five-game losing streak.
UPDATE: Stephen Strasburg gave up his first two home runs of the year tonight, and left the game after six innings with his team behind the Phillies by two runs. The Nats came back to tie it 3-3, however, as the game went into extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, the Nats loaded the bases with two outs, and pinch hitter Wilson Ramos singled home the winning run. Yet another thrilling walk-off victory! Weirdly, neither Bryce Harper nor Jayson Werth had any hits in six plate appearances each, though Harper did walk three times. Tonight's attendance: 34,377 -- the third highest of the year, but it's not certain how many were "friendlies."
Other than the lack of consistent batting, the Nationals have played magnificently in the early 2012 season. As shown on the newly-updated Washington Nationals [page], they amassed a record of 14-8 in April even though they lost their last four games of the month. It's the first time since June 2005 that they finished a month in first place in the National League Eastern Division.
In today's Washington Post, Barry Svrluga notes the meager attendance at Nationals home games so far this year, in spite of the team's great success. Well, that's bound to change before long. Tonight the Nats welcome arch-rival Phillies to town, and we'll see if the PR campaign to get more Nats fans to show up and offset those noisy visitors from Philadelphia works out as planned.
Last Saturday, Nationals Park was filled to capacity by devotees of televangelist Joel Osteen, a noted exponent of the "Gospel of Prosperity." See Washington Post. It was the second major religious event there, after the visit of Pope Benedict in April 2008, when Nationals Park was brand new.
Not long after the FOX Game of the Week between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers last Saturday, a thunderstorm cast aside a huge party tent near Busch Stadium. a St. Louis Cardinals game. Seventeen people were injured enough to be taken to hospitals and one person died. I remember watching that game, which was one of the few games in the Midwest that day that weren't rained out. See ESPN.