Nationals Sweep Athletics

By Carla K. Peay
Updated: June 10, 2005

2005 Inaugural Season-BASEBALL WASHINGTON, D.C.–The league put it in play back in 1997, in part to bring back fans still smarting from the 1994 work stoppage. And while baseball purists were the first to cry foul at what seemed like a quick fix gimmick, even they have started to come around. As for the fans, they get to see natural rivalries that were formerly just confined to exhibition games, such as Yankees vs. Mets and Cubs vs. White Sox.

But besides the obvious inter city rivalries, the fans also get to see a whole new set of the league’s best players, which can only be a good thing for the health of the sport. As the for the players and managers, the different rules employed by the two leagues – the designated hitter in the American League, while the pitchers bat in the National League – can sometimes provide for a little more end game strategy, which is always fun to anticipate.

As for the Washington Nationals, they got their American league slate of contests off to the best start possible, sweeping their three game series against the visiting Oakland A’s. Next they’ll host the Seattle Mariners, giving fans at RFK a chance to see one of the games premier hitters, Ichiro Suzuki, who flirts with a .400 batting average nearly every season.

But, despite any concern manager Frank Robinson may have had while preparing for such seldom seen opponents, the opening series went as well as the team could have hoped for. During their sweep of the Oakland A’s, the first two victories were of the National’s usual come from behind style, with the final victory coming on a rare game-long lead, even as closer Chad Cordero faced the winning run at the plate in the top of the ninth inning.

The sweep of Oakland puts the Nationals winning streak at seven games, and in first place in the National League East. Still the closest, and arguably toughest division in baseball, less than three games separate all five teams. The Nationals also boast the league’s best home record. Manager Frank Robinson is hopeful that the team can duplicate this home success on the road, and sees no reason why it can’t be accomplished. He also acknowledged that it’s a slightly different view to occasionally be the team looking in the rear view mirror.

“It’s different playing with a lead, because you’re trying to keep the other guys from catching up. We had a long way to go. I was just hoping we could add a run or two, because I felt like before it was over, they would make a run at us. But we had enough to hold off in the end and that’s the ball game”, said Nationals manager Frank Robinson at the conclusion of the series final game, which the Nationals one by one run, 4-3.

And as good as the RFK faithful feel about their new team, it seems obvious that the team returns the sentiment.

“We’ve gotten comfortable very quickly in this ballpark. Our offense is suited to this ballpark. We don’t depend on home runs. When we mix in two or three, it’s a real bonus. But we depend on base hits to win ballgames. I think that’s why we continue to have success here, along with outstanding pitching. That combination along with the support we get at home is why we feel very comfortable and feed off the crowd’s energy. We want to play well here and have success for the fans”, added Robinson.

There is no shortage of energy at RFK. Night after night, the crowds rock the stadium. Literally. When the fans come to their feet and begin jumping up and down as they begin another victory celebration, the floorboards quite literally move. With the year to date attendance just shy of the one- million mark, one can honestly say that this joint is jumpin’.