It May Be Early, But It’s Still First Place

By Carla K. Peay
Updated: June 5, 2005

Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson. Photo by John E. DeFreitas.

Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson. Photo by John E. DeFreitas.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—“It’s only June”, said Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson during his post-game news conference, when asked by a reporter how he felt about being in first place. He said that his team was back in the clubhouse playing music, enjoying the victory, and not taking a peek at the television to check on the Atlanta Braves score.

A Braves loss on Sunday would put the Nationals in first place. Shortly after the Nationals won their game, the Braves lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Coming on strong with yet another come from behind win on a 3-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning by outfielder Ryan Church, the Nationals swept the visiting Florida Marlins in their three-game weekend series. It is their second series sweep of the season, the first coming against the Arizona Diamondbacks back in April.

Predicted to finish at or near the bottom of one of baseball’s toughest divisions, the National League East, the Nationals are proving to be a very resilient team. Although they top the major leagues in players currently on the disabled list with 10, they manage to keep finding ways to win. They lead the major leagues in the number of pitchers to record at least one victory with 14. Of their 31 victories so far this season, 21 have been come from behind wins. After the first weekend in June, the Nationals have a record of 31 and 26, sitting atop a division where less than two games separate all five teams.

“It gives us a good feeling, a confidence boost”, said Robinson, who stressed that the team is already focusing on what comes next.

“We have some inter-league games coming up and we’ll be facing some teams we haven’t seen before”, said Robinson. During the remainder of this homestand, the Nationals will host the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners from the American League West for two three-game series, before heading west to face the L.A. Angels, the Texas Rangers, and finally the Pittsburgh Pirates before returning home.

But even with the mid season all-star break a little more than a month away, and more than 100 games left in the season, the fans at RFK Stadium couldn’t care less that it’s only June. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, with temperatures in the high eighties, and a parking lot full of tailgaters who have fallen in love with this scrappy, hard working team, it doesn’t matter how early in the season it is. Baseball is back in the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals are in first place, and this team plays an exciting brand of baseball that keeps the fans on the edge of their seats.

“We don’t lose sight of what’s in front of us”, added Robinson, who’s next task at hand is watching game film of his team’s upcoming opponents. The ultra-professional manager of the Washington Nationals may not pause too long to celebrate the first place standing of his team before preparing for what comes next, but he can rest assured that a city full of newly energized baseball fans are already celebrating for him.