The Real Comeback Kids
The Nationals hosted the Boston Red Sox on a perfect, warm spring afternoon in the Nation’s Capital on Tuesday. The hometown nine fell behind 6-0 early, but mounted an epic comeback to take a late lead. The hard-fought, back-and-forth affair ended on a bizarre play at the plate, but the real story of the day was only about to begin.
First, to the details of the game. After watching Clay Buchholz dominate through four perfect innings with his team scoring a half dozen runs behind him, the Nationals finally struck back in the bottom of the fifth. In his first game back in D.C., Wilson Ramos got the offense going with a three-run shot to cut the deficit in half at 6-3 through five innings. Ian Desmond added a solo shot in the sixth to get Washington back within two, setting up a three-run rally in the seventh that would put them in front. Ramos was again at the center of the action, driving home the first run of the inning with an RBI-single, then scoring the third and final tally of the frame on Steve Lombardozzi’s sacrifice fly to make it 7-6. But the Sox got single runs in both the eighth and ninth to push back ahead, 8-7.
It seemed as though Boston would survive, quickly getting the first two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Ian Desmond drew a two-out walk, then stole second with Danny Espinosa at the plate. The other half of the Nationals double-play duo ripped a single to center field, and Desmond tore around third, heading to the plate as the potential game-tying run. He beat the throw by a full step, and slid through the block of catcher Daniel Butler, but was called out at home to end the game. Desmond popped up to his feet to object, and manager Davey Johnson could be seen from the dugout, pleading his shortstop’s case, “he was safe!”
With a little perspective, though, we can realize that perhaps the call was a blessing in disguise. After all, it signaled the end of Spring Training and a game with no real meaning in the standings. Desmond will have plenty of chances for redemption, starting Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field when the Nationals officially open their 2012 campaign against the Cubs.
There was another event that took place at Nationals Park on Tuesday that helped provide some perspective: The second annual Wounded Warrior Amputee Celebrity Softball Classic. After joining the Nationals for Spring Training in Viera in February, these heroes got their chance to take on a celebrity team full of local athletes, media personalities and politicians in the outfield following the Nationals-Red Sox exhibition game.
The Washington Nationals Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team received a standing ovation from the crowd when they took the field prior to the exhibition game, but they had not trained this hard and flown all this way simply to participate. As the lights took effect for their contest, they broke open a close game early and cruised to a 17-4 victory.
“These guys can mash,” said Nats play-by-play man Charlie Slowes, who has played in the game each of the past two years. “They’re even better than they were last year.”
At the end of the day, there was no question who the real comeback kids were. For the softball players, the long journey back from the pains of war and the process of readjustment to life back at home had brought them all the way here, to Nationals Park, playing out on the field like Major Leaguers. By the game’s end, with the crowd cheering and calling from the stands, asking for autographs, you would have sworn that they were the celebrity team.