Tuesday, April 2nd…still.
It had started to rain before I even left home to head for the metro. I excited though to see whether my inclination to boo would prove true but also because my good girlfriend Reesie would be going to the game too. She used to have the seat next to me, but after not attending as many games last year, she opted to give up her season plan holder status for another package…a better seat too! But my hopes were that the seat next to me wasn’t taken and we could sit together again like the old pals that we are.
We arrived at the ballpark to news we already knew: the game was delayed due to inclement weather. IMHO…they could’ve played in the light precipitation. We decided to stay dry by ducking into the team store for a little, then made stops at the Red Carpet Rewards kiosk and Season Plan Holder Lounge. Moving through the concourse I’d see a lot of Phillies fans and would hear an Eagles chant or “We Got Harper”, I guess because they thought it’d be an effective taunt. The energy was frenetic and the tension was THICK. Phillies fans and Nats fans were both deep in number. I saw signs calling Harper out on being a “traitor” and that perhaps “Papelbon was right” to choke him back in 2015 when Harper didn’t run the ball out to first base (against the Phillies guys). Some wore “modified” jerseys with “Harper” completely cut out from the jersey and some with #34 (his old number) but with new names like “Soto”, “Sell Out”,and “Phraud”, courtesy of duck tape and a Sharpie.
First pitch was updated to 7:45p.
Before first pitch however (and as was known), a tribute to Bryce’s time as a National was displayed on the big screen. I wasn’t in view of the screen at the time, as we were making our way to the Social Lounge to meet up with our girlfriend Bleta, her brother Agon, and her new boo, J.
I didn’t need to screen though, 1) I was probably there for most of what was being highlighted and 2) the booing saturated the ballpark. It was clear to what side most fans took on the “Do we boo him?” debate. To be honest, booing is an integral part of most sports.
The boo’s continue all the way through to the end of the Phillies line up and got extra loud when Harper’s name was called.
“Bryce, you suck!”
It was game time and still raining by the way. Max was getting the start though and I knew he would have no problem striking out our new opponent, Bryce Harper. Bryce may have seen Max pitch before but what’s the likelihood that he’d ever hit off one of Max’s pitches?!
I hung out in the Social Lounge longer than I expected but also to avoid going to my wet seat. I watched Harper’s first at bat standing, glued to one of the television screens, trying to cheer for Max over the crowd of Philly fans nearby. Max had allowed two hits prior to Bryce’s at bat but now he was facing his former longtime teammate and this match up was much anticipated. Max isn’t a 3x Cy Young winner (and came only 2nd last year) or called Mad Max for nothing though. We boo’d…loud.
Max struck him out. His first time back in Nats Park on the opposing team and his first at-bat. Lawd…I’m emotional just rewatching this video. I remember how intense it was. I wanted this for Max.
Max – 1, Bryce – 0
As for the game, I obviously wanted the whole team to fail but admittedly as the game went on, I only cared about Bryce striking out. I didn’t want him to hit at all in that ballpark and definitely not a home run. However, Nationals Park was his home for SO many years…it would only be a matter of time before he found it.
Reesie and I then made our way to our seats to enjoy the rest of the game. No one ended up sitting next to me so she came up to join me. The rain had slacked a bit but the temperature took a nose dive. So cold, the “Lemonade!” man swapped his lemonade for Baileys and hot chocolate (LOL).
Adam Eaton leads off for us in the bottom of the 1st inning but gets an out. We had one out and nobody on base when Trea tried to bunt. But it was a 92-mph fast ball from Zach Eflin and Trea got hit by a pitch (HBP) and left the game. Wilmer Difo would bat in his place and strike out. We later found out that Trea suffered a fracture on his right index finger broken index finger. There’s no timetable on when he’ll be returning.
Nats – 0, Phillies – 0
Top of the 2nd inning. Oh and let make it clear here that the boo’s NEVER stopped so yeah…we’re still booing. Then to break the scoreless game, Phillies’ Michael Franco hits a homer to left field to put the Phillies out in front.
Nats – 0, Phillies – 1
Top of 3rd inning and it’s Bryce’s second at bat facing Max. He strikes him out AGAIN!
Max – 2, Bryce – 0
By the bottom of the fourth inning, a new chant emerged toward Bryce in the outfield…”OVER-RATED!” The irony here being two fold: 1) We had an issue when a National League executive called Bryce “overrated” and a “losing player” and, 2) Bryce was recently voted Most Overrated Player, BY HIS PEERS, to be…yep…OVERRATED. He took 48.6% of that vote out of more than 200 MLB players.
Rendon comes through, delivering our first hit of the night. Unfortunately, we don’t get anything going after that.
In the top of the 5th inning, we see Bryce at the plate again but this time he gets a base hit into right field for a double (he makes it to 2nd base), bringing home Segura for another run.
Max – 2, Bryce – 1
Nats – 0, Phillies – 2
Max is done for the night and killed it as only he does. Allowing just 7 hits, 2 runs, and a walk, with 9 strikeouts over 5 innings. He was relieved by Wander Suero.
With Max out, everything just turns to shit. I’ve said this in previous posts. We CANNOT be successful if every time our starting pitchers exit the game (and rightfully so) not a single reliever can hold the opposing team. Just absolute trash, the bullpen is.
It’s now the top of the 6th inning. A pitching change has Matt Grace at the mound now. After Franco’s homer in the 2nd inning, he’s intentionally walked to first base, eliminating his shot at doing it again. However, they also eventually load the bases. Segura doubles and all 3 Phillies on base come home.
Nats – 0, Phillies – 5
Still the top of the 6th, we see Harper for the 4th time. He hits again, doubling, allowing Segura to run home.
Nats – 0, Phillies – 6
Full disclosure: The crowd was thinning. I left around this time too. It was getting late having had the rain delay and the temperature had dropped into the 40s. Not to mention, we didn’t have a chance at winning this game.
Rendon and Difo would put up runs to finally put us on the board. However, in the top of the 8th, Bryce would homer and top it off with his signature bat flip.
Harper would go 3-for-5 (meaning he managed make contact with the ball 3 times out of 5 tries in the batter’s box) with a home run and 3 RBIs.
It wasn’t the night I hoped for. I wanted Bryce’s night of showing his new team around his former home to be a total fail. But Max proved again while he will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Bryce makes baseball fun. I will never take that from him despite my disappointment and how poorly he handled his opportunity to show some appreciation.
Nats – 2, Phillies – 8 (FINAL)
Until we meet again…