For the second time in as many nights, Paul and I ventured to Nationals Park. Tuesday we were accompanied by Jack and Ben, both of whom went to our high school. We were looking to snag during batting practice and change the Nationals’ fortune as they had lost the previous four games.
My main mission for this season at Nationals Park is to attain one of the 10-year commemorative baseballs the team is using. The Nats first moved to Washington in 2005, and this whole season has been a celebration of their tenth anniversary in the nation’s capital. As such, they are using a special baseball during all home games.
The pre-game baseballs
On this hot August afternoon, we arrived off the green line metro around 4:25 and proceeded to the center field gates, which were slightly more crowded than I had anticipated for such a midweek contest. Shortly after 4:30, we walked into the stadium and down the steps of the Red Porch.
To me, the Red Porch is the best BP location at Nats Park because of the fair amount of home runs that land in the section, and the fact that it only has one entrance–discreetly located next to the Red Porch restaurant. Because of this, it tends to be less crowded as most fans bypass the entrance and populate the traditional left field seats for BP.
The Nationals’ pitchers were hitting when we first got in, so it took a while before anything reached the seats. When a home run was eventually hit to the porch, it was deep on the center field end. I raced back and a across a row just in time to get my hand on it as it spun beneath a seat. Another fan grabbed it simultaneously, but I had the better positioning. Note: I don’t like wresting people for baseballs because it’s juvenile and I’m really only in it to catch homers on the fly. But I had to make sure I did not pass up a chance for a 10-year commemorative baseball, so I snatched it for myself, turned it over a few times, and after determining it was not such a ball I handed it over to a kid who was a row below me.
Yunel Escobar was in the next group of hitters, and he came through as well as anyone. He hit a line drive homer into the first few rows of the porch that I got into position for. It ticked off the glove of a fan in the first row and lucky did not change direction too much as it stuck in my glove a few rows behind the deflection.
I brought my shadunker (a.k.a. the glove trick) to this game for any balls that may fall behind the wall and below the seats. Lo and behold, kids dropped baseballs that were thrown to them down behind the wall. That always happens.
So I brought Ben down with me to the front and told him to photograph my retrieval of the ball. I dropped my glove down quickly as to not arouse suspicion setting it up, but the sharpie pen fell out of the device because of the force. I reeled it back up and propped it with a thin, ballpoint pen, which I had never attempted to use with the shadunker before. Luckily, I was able to secure the ball on the second try, and the little kid next to me assured me that the ball was intended for him originally. I searched it for the 10-year logo, and then handed it off to him.
A short time later, a Nationals righty launched a deep home run into the Red Porch. And I mean deep. It hit about halfway up the restaurant and took a high bounce back towards the field. I had ascended up towards the restaurant in anticipation of a shorter bounce, but was now completely out of position. Paul, though, was in one of the first rows of the seats, and lunged to make a sprawling grab on the ball that likely would have ended up back on the field.
The entire Diamondbacks team hit all of one ball to the porch during their batting session, so the four balls were all we could muster before the game.
After BP ended, we were all hungry so we meandered the stadium for a bit in search of the best eats. I need to update my Nationals Park seating chart post because in it I recommend food that no longer exists in the stadium. They do, however, have two new stands behind section 113. They’re Maryland and Virginia themed and showcase local cuisine from each. I ended up getting a chicken biscuit from the Virginia stand at one point, which was fantastic.
Ben and Jack inquired about the restaurant at the Red Porch, so I explained what I remembered from my trip with Paul last year, and they were quite interested. More on that in a bit.
Our seats were in section 108, which is the left field corner. The section ended up being a lot more crowded than I had anticipated, so earlier on I eyed the third base line for possible upgrade spots.
The actual game
Let it be known that Paul was not happy with the Nationals’ performance at the games he attended up until this point in 2015. So unhappy was he, that when he asked Siri who was pitching for Arizona on Tuesay, and she responded with “Patrick Corbin”–Arizona’s equivalent of an ace–Paul tore off his shirt in disgust, threw it on the ground, and pouted about the Nats being unable to score runs.
Scherzer sent down the D’backs quickly in the first, and the Nats picked up right where they left off offensively Monday night. Yunel Escobar homered to start the game, the first of Washington’s four consecutive hits out of the gate. Although they left the bases loaded, the Nats satisfied their fans with a trio of first inning runs to take a 3-0 lead.
Scherzer ran into some trouble in the fourth inning when he surrendered three runs to Arizona on forty pitches. One run was even knocked in by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the former Marlins catcher who has the best last name in baseball.
The score was deadlocked at three for the middle innings.
Ben stole a menu from the Red Porch to peruse back at our seats before he and Jack decided to jaunt up there again to attain the unlimited beverages I had informed him of. Here is Ben’s personal account of the excursion:
Ben Lawler here with a special report about the Red Porch restaurant at Nationals Park. It was Tuesday August 4th 2015, a hot humid day. As the sun set, it became perfect for baseball. Paul, Steve, Jack and I were walking around the park, trying to find some sustenance without spending a small fortune. During our search we walked past the famed Red Porch, where Steve was talking and informed us that the drinks have unlimited refills. This immediately piqued my interest and I began to listen to Steve more intently.
Okay, hold on, Ben! Notice he says “I began to listen to Steve more intently.” That’s substantial evidence that Ben does not actually value my intellect enough to listen to me all the time. Carry on.
He said the food was not much more expensive than the rest of the park and the drinks were only $4.50 or so. I immediately recruited Jack and in the bottom on the second inning we meandered over to this fabled fountain of drinks. After a brief wait, we were seated at an outdoor table overlooking the field. Unfortunately we were told that we only could stay at our tables for an hour, which meant we would have to speed up our soft drink consumption. Our server, Brian (probably Bryan) was happy to get us our drinks (and honestly anything else, he was extremely laid back) to start and we settled in to look at the menu. We were also happily surprised by an assistant waiter who brought us ice cold water, which was free.
Our plan was not to buy anything too expensive and split whatever we got so has to cut the price of the experience even more. I asked Bryan about a side of fries(they didn’t appear on the menu) and without hesitating he said “I got you,” with the tone of a 20-year old surfer reclining on a beach chair, and disappeared. He returned after probably picking, slicing and frying the potatoes himself. Now for the record, I had not asked to order a side of fries, I only inquired about them, nevertheless they were hot and salty and contrasted the third cup of soda nicely.
After the fries, Jack and I decided the main course would be a blonde brownie with ice cream staked at 10 bucks. Termed the “blonde bombshell,” we hoped it would be large enough so as not to have to divide it with a microscope. It did not disappoint and was consumed along with our 5th drink. We were at this point satisfied with our experiment. Bryan brought us the check and told us that the fries were seven dollars and not to worry about paying for the drinks (while very nice, what I took out of it was that we had not drank enough for them to charge anything–well next time we shall). We found Steve and Paul had upgraded our view of the field and settled in for a Nats pull-ahead and win.
Thank you, Ben, for spoiling the ending to the game. As he alluded to, Paul and I had already upgraded our seating experience when he and Jack set off for the restaurant. We settled into section 112 and then began moving down the rows.
We ended up down in row N, alphabetically 14 rows up. And finished the game around the same spot in section 113.
Now, the term “blonde bombshell” ignited a story of its own, which I shall save for a later date as to prevent this post from dragging on longer than a confirmation Mass in the Diocese of Arlington.
Tied 3-3 still, Dan Uggla came in to pinch hit in the bottom of the sixth, as Scherzer had already thrown 114 pitches. Uggla lined a deep fly ball to left that unfortunately found the glove of David Peralta on the warning track. Off the bat, I thought it had a chance to leave the park, but it just wouldn’t be.
In the bottom of the eighth after Ryan Zimmerman walked and Jayson Werth doubled, Wilson Ramos, “The Buffalo,” sliced a short liner down the right field line that landed in for a perfectly-placed hit. Both Zimmerman and Werth scored to give the Nats a 2-run advantage.
Bring on Jonathan Paplebon, add in a little drama produced by a Yunel Escobar error, cap it off with a save and a free Chick-fil-A sandwich, and you have a 5-4 win for the Nationals! It snapped their losing streak and put Paul in a better mood, at least until chia pet day.
Today, the 5th, is Jayson Werth Chia Pet Day! I’ll be in the press box, and I’m planning to live blog the experience. So check back here this afternoon for all the coverage you could possibly imagine.