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Nationals Get Stuck In the Mud

Thus, another first for this bunch: first one-run loss, concluding the first homestand. The seven-game stretch was a test not only for the team, but for the entire franchise -- from the grounds crew to the concessionaires to the ushers. Team president Tony Tavares said there are a slew of things the team and stadium management, which is overseen by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, must improve on.

"Cleanliness has been a problem," Tavares said, "and we know that."

Between innings, the RFK Stadium grounds crew tends to the sloppy infield, which "was so bad," acccording to Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro. He said he was "just glad no one got hutr." (Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)

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Commission spokesman Tony Robinson said yesterday that the commission has replaced its old cleaning service with a new one. Tavares said there were other issues to work out. Yesterday, the scoreboard presentation was accentuated with a radar gun that showed the speed of pitches. Further improvements will show what batters have done earlier in the game. Concessions, Tavares said, "will improve as we go along." The public address announcer frequently missed lineup changes and mispronounced names.

A three-game weekend series in New York, where the Nationals will face the Mets, will give everybody at the stadium a chance to catch up. Time has been so short that Tavares held a small staff meeting in his box during yesterday's game. The commission will use the weekend as another opportunity to switch the stadium from baseball to soccer for tomorrow night's D.C. United game and then back to baseball again by Monday.

"Part of the problem is these guys are in over their waders," Tavares said. "They're used to doing 20 events, 25 events a year. They're not used to the pace. That's a big issue."

All told, though, Tavares said he was pleased. The seven games averaged 32,014 fans. And even with yesterday's loss, the team's unexpectedly strong performance has helped on all fronts.

"We're getting cut a lot of slack from both the media and the patrons because we're winning," Tavares said. "I think if we were losing, the things that are little annoyances to people right now would turn into problems."

For now, the Nationals will take yesterday's game as just that -- a little annoyance. Whether they allow it become a legitimate problem will be determined in New York. Perhaps, with all the good feeling about baseball's return, they were due for something like this. After all, baseball -- on and off the field -- is still trying to get its footing in Washington.

"I don't believe in that evening-out-over-the-course-of-the-year stuff," Robinson said. "I feel like that was a game we could've won. You just don't get even on that. That's one that you let get away, and that's one you never get back."

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