With travel and vacation, it has been a month since I was at Nationals Park for a baseball game. Last night I made it back and realized how much I’d missed.
When I left, the Nationals were pulling away to about an 8-game lead in the division over the Marlins and Mets. Last evening, the Nats went into the opener of a series against the Colorado Rockies leading the Marlins by 8 games and the Mets by 10. Even though they didn’t play outstanding ball in August, they played well enough to keep the margin in the division race.
But when we left in early August, Anthony Rendon was just showing signs of coming out of a year-long slump and Bryce was still scuffling, with no real sign of playing like BRYCE! And there was this youngster – Trea Turner – who was not playing everyday, but who was taking advantage of what playing time he got to make an impact.
Well, four weeks is a long time to take your eye off the game, but it was nice to see where the Nats were when I returned. Let’s begin with Rendon. He will hit if he is healthy, but the first half of the year it was clear he wasn’t in top-notch health, and his offensive stats reflected the problems. But since the All-Star break, he has played like the old “Tony.” Since game 82, his stats are .312 / .386 / .584. (Batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) In honor of Rendon’s resurgence, I wore his #6 t-shirt last evening. Those quick hands are back and it is fun to see.
What’s up with Bryce? Well, since returning from a stiff neck 13 games ago, Bryce is on fire. He is hitting .400, has driven in 15 runs (more than one per game), and last evening had the longest drive for the Nats, although it hit the top of the fence at the 402′ sign and Bryce wound up with a triple.
Trea Turner – who still looks like he is 12-years old – has been the other revelation. When I was last in the park, he stole home in one of the most exciting plays of the year. He is now an every day player – and as of his first bat on Saturday afternoon’s game, he had 13 hits in his last 16 at bats. Friday night he had two singles that never left the infield (Jeez, is he fast) and he induced two Rockies’ errors. He has changed the Nats offense and made it significantly better.
On Friday evening – when fans received the Max Scherzer bobble head celebrating his second no-hitter in 2015 – we saw Gio Gonzalez win his 100th game, Daniel Murphy hit a solo home run and gather his 500th career RBI, and red-hot Jayson Werth homer and double. This remains a fun ball-club to watch.
And we had our own bit of history…Candice had her very first “half smoke all the way” from Ben’s Chili Bowl. A long-time friend and retired colleague of mine decided that he would rather work at the ballpark than sit at home retired, so I try to stop by and see Louis when I get by the park. He fixed up Candice’s half smoke with a little special TLC, and when Andrew texted to ask how she liked it, she replied, “It was great – ate every bite!”
Chatting with friends. Chowing down a half smoke with a beer. Balls smashed around the ballpark by a revitalized offense. Players running wild on the bases. Keeping score (for another win…I think we’ve banished the jinx that old scorebook once held). Ah, the rhythms of the ballpark. You just can’t beat it.
More to come…