Over the weekend, Nationals Park was more packed than it has been at any time this season. The series attendance total for Nationals-Orioles came to more than 107,000. Sunday, cars were parked on the roof of the garage out beyond center field, a rarity and a sign of a large crowd. The presence of all those fans thrilled at least one Nationals player.
“I thought it was awesome,” Jayson Werth said.
The big crowds over the weekend, of course, had as much to do with the opponent as the Nationals’ recent surge. This is an estimate, but judging by crowd noise and the colors in the stands, it seemed like about three-quarters of Sunday’s crowd was Nationals* fans. And as for those cars on the roof, folks from Baltimore are more likely to drive than Nationals fan in D.C.
*That originally said “Orioles fans,” which of course was a very obvious and stupid mistake. My bad.
The real test to see the effect the Nationals’ eight-game winning streak has on attendance will come Tuesday, when the Mariners come to town. This is the time of year attendance typically climbs, with the weather heating up and school out for summer. So far this year, the Nationals are on pace to draw 1,812,927, about 10,000 less than last season.
Again, even after the Orioles bump, that’s with all the spring dates and very few summer games. If the Nationals could reach or surpass last year’s total without the presence of Stephen Strasburg, that would be a decent accomplishment.
Since Werth signed with the Nationals, he’s been very vocal about his desire to make the Nationals a local favorite, to change the perception of the franchise. He remembers his very early days in Philadelphia, when Citizens Bank Park had a few sparse crowds and Mets fans showed up in droves when they came to town.
Both of those things changed, and Werth wants the same thing to happen at Nationals Park. This weekend, Werth thought, served as a preview.
“I’ve been saying for a long time, you put a good product on the field and start winning ballgames and the fans will show up,” Werth said. “I think this town wants to support a winning team and would love to see us win ballgames and get to the postseason and fight for a spot in the playoffs. We keep winning, we keep playing good, this town will be real proud of this team and will keep showing up every night to support us.
“There’s a lot of people around here. I think this town is hungry for a good baseball team. Hopefully, we can fill that void. We’ve got a lot of good guys that the fans in the city and the surrounding areas can kind of relate to and be proud of and come watch every night.”
FROM THE POST
The Nationals’ saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end with a 7-4 loss to the Orioles that included three errors and Tom Gorzelanny’s ineffectual return from the disabled list.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Charlotte 10, Syracuse 9: Corey Brown went 3 for 4 with two home runs and a walk. Jesus Valdez went 3 for 5 with two doubles. Yunesky Maya allowed six earned runs in five innings on 10 hits and a walk, striking out two.
Altoona 4, Harrisburg 1: Josh Johnson went 1 for 4 with a double. Erik Arnesen allowed one earned run in six innings on three hits and two walks, striking out seven.
Potomac was rained out. It finished last in the Carolina League in the first half with a 29-40 recrd.
Hagerstown 11, Delmarva 4: Bryce Harper did not play. Sammy Solis allowed two earned runs in four innings on three hits and two walks, striking out five. Brett Newsome went 3 for 5 with a double. Michael Taylor went 2 for 4 with two doubles. Kevin Keyes went 3 for 5 with a homer.
Batavia 6, Auburn 4: Matt Skole went 1 for 4 with a double. Russel Moldenhauer went 2 for 4 with two doubles. Travis Henke, son of former big league reliever Tom Henke, allowed no runs in 1 2/3 relief innings on one hit, striking out two.