The Agony of Defeat

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I know what you’re thinking – this is supposed to be Fitness Friday…am I admitting my failure? Have I crippled under the strain of three months of continual commitment to physical fitness? Ha! No – I haven’t. I just thought I’d take a break from Fitness Friday for this week and recap my final Nationals game of this season. Well…that and I’ll admit; it’s been raining all week and I’ve been less than stellar about sticking to my walking. It’s no fun to walk/jog in the rain (it’s been raining since Sunday) and I really hate the elliptical. All excuses, I know – I promise you (and myself) that I’ll do better!

 I’ll be back with Fitness Friday again next week…but for now, the “last” home game of the season in DC.

Optimistic fan, headed to DC under insanely cloudy skies.
One last meal at the Red Porch…in the blazing sunshine! Weird weather alert! 

The weather on Sunday morning was unfortunate – that’s really the only way to put it. It was so overcast that absolutely no sunshine was ever going to penetrate through the clouds, I was sure of it. I loaded into my car (without my sunglasses…because seriously, SO cloudy) with my jacket and headed for Vienna/Fairfax to meet my friend Rachel The closer I got to DC, the sunnier it got…and the more I regretted leaving my sunglasses sitting on the table. Before getting on the Metro, I decided to leave my jacket in the car – it was blazing outside and I didn’t want to have to lug my coat around. Poor life choice? Maybe… But it didn’t open the door for buying new things at the Team Store.

A good enough day for baseball – blue skies, fluffy clouds…
I love a day at the ball park.
The Red Porch. Obviously. Ha!
It’s really too bad we won’t see a moment like this in the 2015 season…

The sun was out in full force by the time we emerged from underground – and it was blinding. I figured the Team Store would certainly have sunglasses of some kind and I’d just grab a pair and be done. Well…apparently that is one of the few things they don’t have. What? I can buy a stuffed Bryce Harper but not sunglasses…not even little plastic sunglasses? However, they were having a sale on all apparel and so I grabbed a pullover (of course I bought something – did you really think I wouldn’t?) and then we headed across the park to the Red Porch for lunch. The last time I ate at the Red Porch, I had to keep an eye open for balls rocketing across the field toward our table…but no one was taking batting practice on Sunday, so the meal passed without incident – unless you consider our waiter bringing us beers, sitting them down and then realizing they weren’t ours an incident. Ha!

The Washington Redskins defensive line threw out “first pitches” to six of the Nationals pitchers.
Gio Gonzalez warms up for the game.
Bryce Harper, Michael A. Taylor, Clint Robinson & Matt den Dekker warm up pre-game….

The game was originally meant to be the final home game of the season but due to a rained out game with the Cincinnati Reds from all the way back in July being made up on Monday the 28th, this wasn’t technically the final home game. They treated it as such though; for the most part. The pregame videos all highlighted some of the best moments of the season: Dan Uggla’s Grand Slam at Turner Field to give the Nationals the 13-12 lead on April 28th, Bryce Harper’s walk-off home run against the Braves at Nats Park on May 9th (I was there), Max Scherzer’s no-hitter on June 20th, Ryan Zimmerman’s 200th home run on September 2nd. All good moments. Everyone was in high spirits, despite the clouds that had rolled in and turned the day gray…at 1:35, after a first pitch(es) from the Redskins Defensive Line and a rousing performance of the National Anthem on the Electric Slugger…the game was under way!

This video is old…but it’s at Nationals Park…and don’t tell me that it isn’t awesome, because it is.
Washington Nationals – Play Ball!
This screen – always hit or miss in pictures….
Ian Desmond at bat – he was about to give that ball a good knock.
Desi cruises around the bases after smashing a home run…

The game seemed to be going really well for the first few innings. Gio was pitching well, holding off the Phillies (who are in 5th place in the National League East…5th place…cripes…) and keeping the opportunity there for the Nationals to take the early lead. The Nationals did just that in the second inning…Ian Desmond stepped up to bat and after just a couple pitches…*SMASH*…that ball was gone and the fans erupted! This was potentially Desmond’s final home game with the Nationals; you could feel the electricity of watching this guy who has been with the team for years, having this moment. The crowd started to chant: Ian…Desmond…*clap, clap, clap*… and while we were still cheering on Ian, Matt den Dekker stepped up to bat…and on the first pitch… *SMASH* …he sent his ball in the same direction as Desmond’s and out of the park. The cheering changed to: Matt den Dekker… *clap, clap, clap*… we were up 2-0, Gio was rolling and things seemed good.

Bryce & Michael A. patrol the outfield…
Pitchers who rake – Gio hangs out on first after hitting a solid single.
The dugout…under cloudy skies…

The fourth inning is where things fell apart…The Phillies managed to get two runs off of Gonzalez that were walked in. Yes, you read that correctly, he loaded the bases and walked in two runs to tie the game. *sigh* It wasn’t pretty. We managed to take back the lead when Lobaton doubled, bringing Ian Desmond home (3-2) and then Dan Uggla hit a sacrifice fly to allow Matt den Dekker to make it home (4-2)…but the Phillies managed to catch right back up to us when Jeff Francouer hit a homer with one man on base and made it 4-4. The Nationals wouldn’t ever catch up again…even though we scored a run in the ninth, but by that time the Phillies had raised their runs to 12…and 5 runs never did quite beat 12. The weather seemed to be in sync with the game – not really sure what to do, what was going on. The sun would shine for an inning, then the clouds would pile in and the (cold) breeze would blow in, whipping things out of fans hands and down toward the field…

And….they’re off!
Who won? Screech declared Abe the winner…but it looked pretty close to me…
A low flying plane…cruising across the park…
Glad all the apparel was on sale; I needed my pullover by the sixth inning. Weird weather…

The eighth inning was when things really got weird…although Rachel and I wouldn’t realize how weird until after the game was over. The Nationals were making the effort to score runs, Harper stepped up to bat and gave the ball a crack – it was a hit that you immediately knew was going to be caught, but Harper looked at it for just a moment before heading for first, stepping onto the bag before the ball landed in Franceour’s glove. (yes – he hustled, yes he ran the ball out and yes, I’ll back Harper in this “fight” all day long) Called out, he headed for the dugout…and shortly after, we wondered to each other “why are the people sitting so close to the dugout leaning over, looking…what are they looking at??” Jonathan Papelbon had already let the score go 6-4 in favor of the Phillies, so he wasn’t saving too much…but he went back onto the mound for the 9th and proceeded to give the game away. Rachel and I headed for the gates as the score kept mounting and moved toward the Yards Park and Ice Cream Jubilee to assuage the pain of the loss.

Harper – this is the at bat; this is when he hit the pop fly…a certain no good relief pitcher is hanging onto the side of the dug out…
Taking a minute between swings…
A quick picture – trying to be oblivious to the meltdown on the diamond behind us…
A final farewell to Nationals Park for the 2015 season.

As we rounded the corner into the park, my phone buzzed with a message that read “Papelbon and Harper have dugout brawl in eighth inning” and Rachel and I immediately knew exactly what everyone so close to the field had been craning to see. We just didn’t know exactly what they might have been seeing…until after we got our ice cream and sat down to eat it…and watched the video that had been posted of Jonathan Papelbon lunging at Harper, clamping a hand around his throat and shoving him into the back wall of the dugout before they were pulled apart. Thank goodness for ice cream, because it was sad to see “my” team in this kind of situation – and when they made the news the next morning (and for days after) it was sad…it’s not the reason you want to make headlines.

Who’d have guessed I see this wandering the Yards Park?
Cookies & Cookie Dough on top of Maple Rye Pecan – delicious!
Isn’t the afternoon lovely? Those skies…

We ate our delicious ice cream (I had cookies & cookie dough with a scoop of maple rye pecan) and discussed the game, the brawl, just life in general…and the fact that the nearby Anacostia river stunk to high heaven. The wind would shift…and wow… We walked along the water front just to see what we could see. The South DC water front is in the midst of a revitalization that was started when Nationals Park opened – the Yards Park is fairly new and offers outdoor space and dining options, condos are being built, the area is starting to flourish. As we walked, we took in the nearby empty buildings and decided we’d put a Farmer’s Market in one; owing to the nearby river we figured fresh produce, fish, meat of all kinds and other goods could easily be brought in. We discussed other dining options and overheard a gentleman saying one nearby warehouse would be converted into a winery! We fancied ourselves the perfect two people to guide the project and decided they really should just go ahead and give us the job. Ha-ha!

Water features at the Yards Park…
I really like the bridge. It makes me smile.

After a fun (but also defeating) day at Nationals Park, a walk around Yards Park and delicious ice cream from Ice Cream Jubilee, we made our way back to the Metro to make the return trip out of DC. The trip went smoothly enough until we were two stops from the end of the line in Vienna/Fairfax…at West Falls Church, the trains went to one track and our train stayed parked…and parked…and parked…and then they cut off the engines and thanked us for our patience; we reviewed video after video of the dugout brawl, discussed what we thought should be done (because along with heading up the South DC Waterfront Revitalization, we are also going to manage the Washington Nationals – ha!) and passed the time the best we could. We sat at the West Falls Church station for 45 minutes before finally getting underway again and finally making it back to our cars. All in all, it was a good day – even if there were some bumps along the way.

Vintage travel posters.
I hope those ships avoid the falls…hehehe…
Up in the sky…it’s a bird…it’s a plane. Yea…it’s a plane.

So – the Nationals 2015 season certainly hasn’t ended (there are three games left) the way I’d hoped. We won’t be making a run for the post season and our final week was tainted not only by loss but by a fight from within the team…like Harper said, it’s usually the other team you might be fighting, not your own. Having said all that…to use a phrase that usually hashtagged on Twitter and Instagram… I back the Nats. I’m not sure what the 2016 team will look like; there is so much going around right now, a new manager (I hope so), finding a way to remove Papelbon (oh gah, I hope so), doing something to secure Harper (please)…and we have numerous guys who are eligible for free agency.

I don’t know what the 2016 season holds, but I do know I’m looking forward to April. I’m looking forward to Spring breezes, to the smell of beer (hey, it’s a thing you smell at the ball park) and burgers, the sight of crisp white uniforms emblazoned with the Curly W and the sound of the crack of the bat. 2015 was fun, there were plenty of (good) memorable moments and now we look ahead to 2016. 
I can’t wait! 

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