Perfect game in Washington!
No, not a perfect game for a pitcher, as defined by no runners reaching base, but a perfect game for a fan: great weather, great seats, great company, great excitement, and a cliffhanger, dramatic victory. I joined my old friend Dave Givens and two of his pals, Paul and Buddy, to see the Nationals come from behind to beat the Braves last night, 5-4. This was their third straight win, bringing them to within a game and a half the the Marlins and Braves at the top of the NL East. Quite a turnaround from last week! Just back from disabled status, John Patterson had a rocky first inning, but he kept his cool and retired every Braves batter for the next four innings. Pretty impressive. Mike Hampton, likewise returning from the DL, had a devastating fast ball, but his control started to suffer. After both starters were taken out in the middle of the game, things got interesting. The Braves scored twice in the top of the sixth, but the crowd started getting fired up when the Nats scored two in the bottom of the inning, keeping the margin to only one run. The Nats rallied again in the seventh inning, as Nick Johnson knocked a 2-RBI double into the right field corner, and the Nats took the lead 5-3. "And the crowd went wild!" Closer Chad Cordero had a tough time in the ninth inning, as Julio Franco hit a home run, and two singles and a fielder's choice put Andruw Jones on third base -- the tying run with only one out! Somehow Cordero pulled himself together and threw two strikeouts to win the game, though the final pitch -- to Rafael Furcal -- looked a little low to me. Whew! Compared to the frustrating way the Nationals won the last game I saw at RFK [on April 30 -- that game was delayed twice because of rain and finally called after eight innings] -- this one was worth every penny paid for admittance!
Paid attendance last night was 29,512, but I would estimate only about 24,000 were actually present. The lower deck was full, but most of the yellow seats in the upper deck were empty. Our seats were in Section 211, behind the visitors' dugout on the first base side. It was the first time I had seen a game from the lower deck since Coors Field in 1998! I spied Nationals general manager Tony Tavares in the presidential suite, along with D.C. official Don Tuohey. In the press box I saw TBS sports commentators Chip Caray, Don Simpson, and Pete Van Wieren. I realized that most of the ground-level concourse behind the first deck provides good open views of the infield, so you don't miss much of the game if you need to buy a snack or adult beverage.
Tonight the roles were reversed, as the Braves battled back to take the lead in the eighth inning, winning 5-4. So the Nats are two and a half games out of first.
Attendance exceeds expectations
Today's Washington Post reported that attendance at Washington Nationals home games in May averaged 32,251, even greater than in April, and outpacing the Baltimore Orioles. The combined Washington-Baltimore attendance ranked fourth among metropolitan areas with two baseball teams, barely edging Chicago. The Baseball in D.C. page has been updated with a new table showing monthly attendance figures for all the two-team cities (and neighbor cities).
Albert Lord, chairman of the Sallie Mae student loan corporation, is the new leading partner of American Baseball Capital (good pun), taking the place of William Collins, who had been trying for many years to bring baseball to Northern Virginia.
More page updates
The data tables on all of the stadium comparison pages have been enhanced appearance-wise, with alternating row colors and a dynamic row "cursor" for easier legibility. The franchise pages will be revised in a similar way shortly.