Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Nats Fan's Notes: Marcia's Birthday Edition

It’s getting to that point in the season when the Nats have settled into their underachieving ways. Everyone is performing slightly below average. Manager Jim Riggleman’s habitual perplexed grimace has become the default position of his face. I kind of like Riggleman’s philosophy of stacking his roster with just-emerging talent and versatile veterans who can be plugged into the line-up as needed, but this does not a consistent team make.

They were coming off a dismal road trip on Friday, during which they lost seven of eight games, prompting a frustrated outburst by Jayson Werth, who apparently finally realized what it’s like to be on a losing team. So my hopes were not high that this would be the most successful birthday present I ever gave my wife. On the other hand, our opponents, the Padres, were the only team hitting worse than we were.

As could be expected, this was a low scoring affair. The most exciting thing that happened in the early going was a 47-minute rain delay that afforded us the opportunity to take shelter in the concourse and observe the truly astonishing variety, in both size and shape, of beer bellies available to man, a testament, really, to the diversity of the human species.

Once the rain abated, Danny Espinosa gave us a lead with a nifty solo home run, but a one-run lead by the Nats is kind of the definition of false hope. So naturally, the very first Padre in the top of the ninth sent the very first pitch over the left field wall to tie the game.

Now loomed the prospect of extra innings, made doubly daunting by the fact that they cut off the beer after the seventh inning. The young couple beside us, who arrived late bearing little plastic cocktail glasses, had spent most of the game getting even more drinks and sneaking out to smoke. By now they had stockpiled five full beers between them, so at least they were set. The male half told me they were from Centerville, MD (which I guess is a place?), and that he usually spends his weekends riding his dirt bike on piles of mine tailings in Pennsylvania (which I guess is a thing people do?) At any rate, when our half of the ninth rolled around, I found myself saying, out loud, to Michael Morse, “do exactly what they did. Hit one out of here.”

When he actually did blast the first pitch into the Padres bullpen they both looked at me like I’d successfully influenced Morse with my mind, which I also choose to believe, because he looks susceptible to hypnosis.

The Nats celebrated the unlikely feat of an actual bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off home run by smashing Morse in the face with a shaving cream pie and dumping a whole big thing of Gatorade over his head, generally behaving as if they’d won the World Series, which, in context, is what it must have felt like.

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