The Fourth of July is a time to take pride in our country, and one way that I think is a very American way to spend the day is at a baseball game. For quite a few years now, my family has taken part in this tradition, starting when the Nationals were playing at RFK, and in their move to Nationals Park. It’s a day where our baseball family shows their love and support for those who liberated our country, for those who protect our country, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The color guard represented all the services, the kids who were the starting 9 were part of the TAPS program and were accompanied by service members onto the field. The game ball was delivered by an actively enlisted serviceman, and as always, the Nationals saluted wounded and returned servicemen during the top of the fourth inning.
It was a crazy game. The Nats had a great first inning where they put 2 on the board. The Cubbies put 1 on the board in the 2nd, followed by another two runs in the fourth (including an embarrassing play by the outfield where no one caught a fly ball). Jordan Zimmerman got into a jam in the sixth, but pitched his way out of it with only 1 more run, but the Nats came back in bottom of that inning and in the seventh to tie things up. And then it was a battle of relief – from the seventh through an extra tenth inning, the Nats and Cubs couldn’t decide who wanted to win. You got interesting things like Jason Marquis (seen in the pic above) and Livan Hernandez stepping up to pinch hit for the pitcher, Laynce Nix making his debut at first base (along with Michael Morse coaching him on how to play the position from the dugout), and a little dribbler by Rick Ankiel in the 8th that no one realized was a fair ball – not even Rick!
But the crowd loved it. Everyone was enthusiastic, and the second half of the game was loud and involved a LOT of Nats fans on their feet. That’s the one thing that has impressed me the most this year – the fans seem to have finally woken up. We’re still a generally polite bunch: studiously watching the game, keeping score, or just quietly watching the game. But when things get interesting – at least this year – Nats fans get loud, and they STAY loud. Maybe doing the wave during a tie game isn’t the best idea (what happens if a play is made during the wave? were you paying attention to the game, or to where the movement of people was?), but people were REALLY into it.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, Jayson Werth was walked. Livo came up as the pinch hitter (you should have heard the crowd when they realized who it was), and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Werth to second. Pudge came up to the plate, and Werth immediately stole third base (that’s him and Pudge in the picture). Pudge waited patiently, and eventually Cubs pitcher Marmol threw a wild pitch. Pudge’s arms began to windmill, but Werth was already halfway down the basepath and crossed the plate on his feet.
And the crowd went wild. A run/walk-off win for America’s Team. Nats getting back to .500. A beautiful day that would turn into a fireworks-filled night. There’s not a lot that you can do on the Fourth of July to make you feel as good as a close baseball game with a win by the home team.