The O’s Xavier Avery leaped to the top of the fence but was a yard shy of a catch as the 23-year-old pitcher blasted the first home run of his career. If you want the sight line as a historical footnote, Strasburg’s ball was headed toward the statue of good-hitting-pitcher Walter Johnson on the left field concourse. Johnson had 24 career homers along with his 417 wins.
“I don’t think I’ll hit 24 homers,” Strasburg said later, actually smiling, though he was so stone-faced during and after his bomb that teammates had to encircle him, hide him from view and harass him till they made him grin.
Ignited by those blasts, the Nats went on to a crunching 9-3 win over Baltimore, that featured eight Strasburg strikeouts, a two-run Bryce Harper triple and a two-run Danny Espinosa homer to center field.
“The best part of it all was right there — back-to-back!” said Micah, who can’t wait to get back to fourth grade to tease his teacher, an O’s fan, who had advised Micah on Friday to “get out the broom. The Orioles are going to sweep the Nats.”
Not this time, despite exciting 2-1 and 6-5 Baltimore wins on Friday and Saturday nights before comparably huge, and utterly uncharacteristic spring crowds of 36,680 and 42,331 in a stadium with only 41,487 seats. Except on opening day, the Nats have never had a home park crowd as big as any of these three before Memorial Day.
The Orioles have come to town in May four previous times and averaged 86,000 for the three-game series. This series drew 120,929, typical of a spring when Nats crowds are up 28 percent over 2011 after 23 dates. This weekend may have marked the point when the Nats gained traction.
“I was at the Pittsburgh game [Thursday]. We hadn’t planned to come today. Got here, ‘no tickets’ left,’” said Barry Hurewitz, Micah’s father, who lives in the District. (Technically, there were still $185 Presidents Club seats left for the clinically insane.) “So, we got the $20 standing-room-only. I guess we’ve got to get here earlier next time.”
Yep, it looks like there are going to be games where you’ve got to plan ahead if you want one of the 41,487 tickets that come with an actual seat attached.
This is a Washington franchise at a unique moment: growing up before our eyes with multiple generations of fans, old and new. Those who remember the old Senators barely know how to feel when they watch a team that might win a pennant sometime in the next five years.