August 3, 2008 [LINK / comment]
Nationals sweep the Reds
Now there's a refreshing change of pace! After getting swept in three consecutive series -- losing three games each to the Giants, the Dodgers, and the Phillies -- the new-look "rejuvenated" Washington Nationals won three straight games with the Cincinnati Reds. (Payback time: It was just one month ago that the Reds swept the Nats in a four-game series at Great American Ballpark.) The Nats scored first in all three games over the weekend, though they lost the lead in the second inning of Saturday's game. This afternoon, Lastings Milledge started the four-run first-inning rally with a two-out home run, his second four-bagger in as many days. See MLB.com and the next paragraph!
Nationals Park revisited
I picked a good time for my second visit to Nationals Park on Saturday night, getting to see the "D.C. Nine" come back from a 6-2 deficit to beat the Reds by a score of 10-6. The Nats took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but then Jason Bergmann gave up five runs in the second inning, and neither team scored for the next few innings. Ronnie Belliard got things going (as a pinch hitter) in the sixth inning, knocking a home run with one runner on base. That tied the game 6-6. In the seventh inning, the Nats capitalized on errors by the Reds, adding four runs. Surprisingly, journeyman utility player Pete Orr hit a clutch 2-RBI single. I was impressed by the new second baseman, Emilio Bonifacio, both for his hitting and his fielding performance. As for the Reds, I was surprised that Adam Dunn went hitless; the Nats infielders shifted for the left-handed slugger. I'm sure most of the fans there were disappointed that Ken Griffey Jr. was traded just before this series began. But the game was huge fun, full of nail-biting tension and drama. For the long-suffering Nats fans, it was a huge relief to win in such a dramatic and convincing fashion. This home stand was the first time this year that (paid) attendance at Nationals Park has exceeded 30,000 for six games in a row.
I had a pretty good seat, in Section 222 near the front of the "Terrace Level" -- third deck near the right field corner. I was mildly annoyed at being told by the ticket clerk that there were no more $10 seats left in the upper portion of that part of the stadium. I saw a good many empty seats near the top, so it's pretty obvious the Nationals Front office gave orders to their employees not to sell any cheap seats on the day of the game. That sucks.
I decided to try the free parking at RFK Stadium option, but just as I arrived there, a thundershower began, and I had to wait almost a half hour for the skies to clear. (Nice rainbow!) I wanted to see how efficient the shuttle bus to Nationals Park was, and I'd say it's not bad. It's an interesting ride, passing by the Congressional Cemetary, Eastern Market, and the historic Navy Yard. The bus stop is actually four blocks away from Nationals Park, at the corner of 3rd and M Streets.
Anyway, I took dozens of photos of various views inside and outside the park with my new Nikon digital camera, including the two shown below and several others which will be posted soon. The sky was mostly clear blue at game time, good for picture-taking, though it drizzled briefly a couple times during the game. I also made some mental notes that will aid in refining the Nationals Park diagram. For one thing, the backstop distance is ten or more feet shorter than I first estimated: about 45 feet, rather than 56. I think the minimum distance behind home plate should be 50 feet, and even that's too cozy.
After the game, they showed the fantasy movie Rookie of the Year, in which a hapless young kid gets a chance to pitch for the Chicago Cubs after his arm gains supernatural strength as the result of the way his broken bone healed. The movie included some nice views of Wrigley Field from the days just after they installed the lights (1988) but before any of the more recent renovations began. The "Saturday Night at the Movies" promotion at Nationals Park is basically a way to justify the premium ticket prices, but it's not a bad idea. I would say about 500 people stayed to watch, but many (including me) left before it was half over.