The announcement alleviates one major concern and bolsters another: Concerns about Metro’s unwillingness to extend service for late playoff games at Nationals Park seem unlikely to be relevant for the first two games, which would need to extend five hours or more to threaten the midnight deadline. What will be relevant is rush-hour traffic, always bad on Fridays around that time, likely worse because this is a holiday weekend. Those commuting by car may meet challenges.
Already anticipating transportation trouble because of Metro’s SafeTrack program, the Nationals had been crafting a postseason plan for weeks. Most of it centers on informing fans of alternative methods of reaching the stadium, which are all available on the team’s updated “Way to Go” website.
Among the noteworthy alterations to the existing setup is the fact that the team is currently working with the city and shared ride companies like Uber and Lyft to establish designated pickup areas for fans hoping to use those methods. The Nationals are also encouraging fans to arrive early to Friday’s game to avoid and alleviate congestion by offering discounts on food and merchandise for the first hour after gates open — which they will do 2 1/2 hours before that 5:38 start time.
Though late-night transportation does not seem to be an issue for the first two games of the series, it could very well become one as the playoffs go on and the number of teams dwindle. Then, late games will be the norm and fans who take Metro will be stranded. Asked about the potential for trouble such as that, a Nationals spokesperson said, “Metro is very aware of our concerns.”
In the past, the Nationals fielded criticism for being unwilling to pay the cost of keeping the Metro open late for a few October evenings. In 2012 and 2014, paying Metro — which sponsors eventually did — was all it took to keep trains running past their usual shutdown times. This season, because of Metro’s SafeTrack policies, no amount of money seems able to buy such services.
“God, I would hope to believe that playoff games here in D.C. would mean more than shutting down the lines for a couple hours,” Scherzer said then.
Scherzer will almost certainly pitch Game 1 on Friday, though the Nationals have not said as much. The unique start time means he will match up with Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw — who has been announced — with fewer shadows between the mound and home plate than might have crept there with a slightly earlier start. On Saturday, for example, those shadows may play a larger role. As of now, some rain is forecast for the weekend, which could be the biggest problem of all, in the end.