By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 12:04 AM
Adam Dunn felt something Wednesday night he had not felt in a long time on a baseball diamond. Not nerves, exactly. "I would call them jitters," he said. "Tonight, for some reason, I had it." He knew at the beginning of the night, like everyone else at Nationals Park, that he might be playing his last home game with the Washington Nationals.
Dunn, as ever, expected he would be impervious to the emotion. He walked to the plate in the first inning, and the crowd chanted his name and cheered him. He felt the jitters.
"When I started hearing that stuff, I tried to hit every ball as far as I possibly could," Dunn said. "I was trying not to do that. But I ended up trying to do that."
So, to the 20,026 souls who turned out for Washington's last home game of the season, feel proud in a rare achievement: You got to Adam Dunn. Affected by the moment, he collected four strikeouts in four at-bats in a mostly dreary, 7-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. But he also collected one more memory, maybe his last in Washington.
As Dunn stood in the on-deck circle for his final at-bat in the ninth inning, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and chanted, "Sign Adam Dunn!" The chants remained during his at-bat, and after Brad Lidge struck him out he received another cheer.
"You can't even put that into words," Dunn said. "I haven't felt that in baseball in a long time. It was a pretty cool feeling."
The sparse crowd watching the home finale gave the Nationals, who ended the year 41-40 at home, a total attendance of 1,828,066, almost 11,000 more than last season. With a boost from eight scheduled home starts by Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals still ranked 23rd in the majors in attendance with 22,568 fans per game. Afterward, Manager Jim Riggleman addressed the fans left at the stadium, microphone in hand, and thanked them.
"They've been very patient," Riggleman said. "The number of fans that come out is going to double here and triple here when we get it going. We want that to happen sooner or later for the ones who are here now, the ones who are here through the tough times. They're so supportive. It's going to get the reputation of a great place to play. But you can only wait so long."
Said Ryan Zimmerman: "We have great fans here, and everyone wonders why we don't sell out. When you win, you'll sell out."
The topic on their minds Wednesday night was Dunn's future. Before the game, General Manager Mike Rizzo reaffirmed his desire to reach an agreement with Dunn. But he also acknowledged he may need to look into alternatives.
"We need to get a four-hole hitter that plays first base," Rizzo said. "We understand that. We want it to be Adam Dunn. But if it isn't, we need to address that situation."
It was definitely the last home game for outgoing team President Stan Kasten, who as usual mingled with fans and watched from behind home plate. After their nightly dash the Racing Presidents held up signs reading, "We Will Miss You Stan." The video board showed a short tribute to Kasten. Teddy Roosevelt, with Rizzo standing beside him, handed him a sheet of cupcakes.
The happenings on the field stifled the potential farewell and the warm goodbye. Ross Detwiler, making his fifth start of the season, gave himself reason for plenty of uncomfortable thoughts this offseason. He allowed seven earned runs in 42/3 innings against a lineup whose only two regulars were Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.
Detwiler had made progress in his last start, which was his first in more than a month, by allowing two runs in six innings. On Wednesday, he became the 28th pitcher this season to allow at least four home runs in a game, and he allowed them to three players who had combined for 26 starts all season.
Mike Sweeney and Ben Francisco drilled back-to-back home runs to lead off the second inning. John Mayberry, making his first start of the season, blasted a three-run homer in the fourth inning, and Francisco ended Detwiler's night with a two-run shot in the fifth.
The Nationals' bullpen customarily followed a truncated start with several innings of dominance. Miguel Batista, Collin Balester, Joel Peralta and Doug Slaten held the Phillies to one hit over the final 41/3 innings.
When the game ended, the Nationals walked around the park and handed out souvenirs. They had already given Dunn his sendoff.
"I thought it would be like any other game," Dunn said. "That's the first time in a long time I had that feeling."