Houston-Minute Maid Park: Nationals at Astros 7.18.11

Yesterday I attended the Nationals @ Astros game at Minute Maid Park. This weekend was the first time I had ever been to Texas, much less Houston and the Astros’ stadium. It was really nice from a first impression. And despite the Astros’ dismal season they manage to attract a large fan base-even when the Nationals come to town. The game started at around 7:00 (CT), I got there around 6:00 and the stadium was already crowded. The Crawford Boxes over the cozy left field wall were already full, and it seemed like every ball the Nationals’ pitchers snagged ended up being tossed there. I took a spot down by where the ball boy would normally sit hoping to catch a ball. At first my chances seemed very slim until a Nationals’ right-hander blasted a home run off the facade of the train tracks in left field. The baseball came back down onto the field and rolled right down the line, I leaned over the railing but came up an inch or two short of reaching the ball. That would be my best chance of the day. Nevertheless, BP was still very entertaining as I got to see this park for the first time in person.

I attained autographs of both Jerry Hairston and Roger Bernadina for analyzing. Neither were too glamorous or interesting, not good enough for evidence that the autograph really does have an art.

Anyway, the roof was closed the entire time making this the first game I have attended at a closed-roof stadium. I believe they have it closed the entire summer due to extreme temperatures and unpredictable weather. I haven’t visited too many baseball stadiums, so this ties with Camden Yards for the nicest I’ve been to. Unfortunately the food was anything but good. They only have typical ballpark cuisine.

My seats were great; just a few rows up from the camera well looking down the right field line. This was also one of the first games in which I stayed planted in my seat for all nine innings. That proved to be very entertaining since I didn’t miss the many interesting occurrences. Michael Morse blasted a home run down the left field line in the fifth inning. He managed to get the ball on top of the train tracks, and I don’t think it came down. The ball crossed the foul pole at about 3/4 height and planted itself above everything. This was the Nats’ first hit of the game.

Ryan Zimmerman went deep later, to right field, to tie the game at two. Both starting pitchers worked eight innings as the game was tied 2-2 going into the ninth. But Zimmerman came through again with a go-ahead single, closely followed by a two run single by Laynce Nix. With one out and runners on the corners, Wilson Ramos popped up to shallow left field and Jayson Werth tagged from third. There were two mistakes that followed: One, the throw from left field came to third base – you never throw behind a runner. And two, Jayson Werth stopped halfway to home because he though the throw was in front of him. Had he kept going he would have scored. And then to add a cherry on top of the messy play, Werth tripped and was caught in a rundown. I applauded for the comical affair.

Also, during a pitching change in the top of the ninth inning, a fan ran onto the field. It wasn’t just any fan; it was a kid – a little kid. He looked between 10 and 12 years old, although I couldn’t tell exactly from where I was sitting. And then of course the PA came on, “Attention fans, as a reminder, trespassing onto the field is a class A offense and will be charged to the fullest extent of the law, etc…” That added a little more excitement to the evening.

When it was all said and done, the Nationals won. Jason Marquis got the win (8-4), and Jordan Lyles the loss (he is still winless at 0-5). Drew Storen recorded another save and the Nats are in third place in the East.

During my trip to Houston I also went to the Space Center, San Jacinto monument, the USS Texas, Schlitterbahn water park, and a wooden roller coaster featured on the history channel’s show, “How the States Got Their Shapes.”

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