Results tagged ‘ Boston Red Sox ’

What They’re Saying – Mike Wilbon

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Following our interview with both Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon of ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, Mr. Wilbon stayed behind to shed some more insight onto what the Nationals mean to him personally and to the Washington D.C. region.

Curly W Live: As a fan of the game of baseball, what do enjoy about Nationals games?

Mike Wilbon: The food is great. The variety of food, the pavilions you can walk. Basically, 20 years from now, all these kids who are going to these games where they see Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, they ought to be enormous fans, where there is loyalty built – real loyalty – to the brand.

I’m not from here. I go to one place, I take my kid to one thing: Nationals games. That’s it. I took him to Nationals-Cardinals, since we both hate the Cardinals. That’s my birthright (laughing). We sat next to a couple from St. Louis who are Nationals Season (Plan) Holders, but they’re from St. Louis. They were the nicest people in the world.

This year, I’ll take him to more like eight or 10 games, because he’s five. When he’s walking out, I’ll be like, “Why do you have that jersey on?”

MikeWilbon2011 (3)“Because I like Bryce Harper.”

Now we’re getting to reasons why you go to baseball games. But to me, that all goes back to the arc of planning for stuff you can’t control. There’s two separate parts: There’s the appeal of coming to something, then there’s the satisfaction you get once you get there.

D.C.’s an event town, it’s not a sports town. But for a baseball team, it’s the hardest one of all, because you’ve got 81 games. To me – and it’s too hot here, so they’ve done the right thing – but you should have as many afternoon games on the front and the back (of the schedule). April, May and September ought to be all day games. I’ve seen what day games do to a franchise: They create an environment where you take your kids and you play hooky. I’m going to say to my son, “Where were you?” and he’s going to say, “I was at school,” and it’s going to be a lie! He’s going to be at the Nats game.

CWL: How has the perception of the Nationals changed since the team arrived in 2005?

MW: People are aware of it. People are aware of baseball. My wife grew up here in the 70’s and 80’s and she doesn’t know anything about it. It’s a learning process, even for people in their mid-40s: They don’t know anything about baseball, I mean, not for real. They may have made a couple of treks over to Camden Yards because their parents took them, or it was a date night, or something like that. But you have to grow up with baseball every day, day-to-day, caring about the team, checking the box score. It’s what I want my kid to grow up with. Most of the people I know in Washington are at least 35 and up, and baseball is not in their soul, from no fault of their own. It’s not in their blood. It’s not a ritualistic thing. I feel for them – I can’t imagine my life without that obsession. Even though I live somewhere else, I want to know what the Cubs did: It’s the first thing I check. That’s changing. It’s sad, but that group’s going to have that void. I don’t know how you get rid of that. I don’t know if living here another 20 years, if my wife would automatically think about the Nationals. The Nationals have to hope the kids who are seven and nine years old, that those are going to be kids who grew up with the Nationals in their consciousness. It’s like starting over, but it’s been eight years. This sort of change is a big-time thing.

CWL: Did you see specific signs of the increased awareness around D.C. last season?

MW: Yeah, yeah. Even on the road. I was in Los Angeles walking through LA Live and I saw a guy in a Strasburg jersey and a Nationals hat. One of the things you can control – the uniforms – are great. They’re great. The combinations are great. The colors – even people who aren’t really Nationals fans are going to get into it. All of that was done well, in my opinion. But the awareness of last year was an adult awareness. Kids don’t know that. Kids don’t pick the team because it’s good, follow the team because it’s good. They follow the team because it’s their team, and I think that is building. That’s taken a while to build and it’s going to take some more years. They have to be successful, but they don’t have to be in the playoffs every year – nobody does that. Even the most popular teams, they don’t do that every year.

CWL: That being said, how much did the 98-win season in 2012 contribute to the change in attitude?

MW: Last year appealed to adults. They got some hardcore adults who didn’t pay attention to baseball all of the sudden on the bandwagon, but to me that’s a separate story of the seeding and of growing baseball in Washington. I think there are two separate things going on: the Nationals as a contender, which is an adult thing, and the Nationals as a civic – and I don’t want to say obligation, but baseball is almost an obligation – something you are tethered to, and it’s not affected by winning. I don’t want to hear, “Oh, in Washington they’re baseball fans because they won last year.” That’s bull. That’s nothing. You want to show me you’re a fan, show me how you react to losing. Winning accelerates the whole process. But God knows, if winning had everything to do with it, Fenway and Wrigley – the Red Sox and the Cubs – would not be overflowing all these years. I think there’s more to it than that.

Beginning this season, we will provide links, text shortcodes and QR codes to digital features like this throughout Nationals Magazine and Inside Pitch. Make sure to pick up the first 2013 issue of Nationals Magazine to read the full Q&A with Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon.

#HarpeROY

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Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that Bryce Harper was awarded National League Rookie of the Month for September. While that trophy will no doubt find a nice home on the mantle next to the identical one he took home in May, we’re more interested in the 19 year-old’s candidacy for a larger award: National League Rookie of the Year.

Harper’s hustle was epitomized by his swipe of home for his first career steal.

Harper should not win the award because he’s the most famous first-year player in the league. He shouldn’t win because television networks choose to portray him as the face of the Nationals as they storm into their first-ever postseason. And while Harper may reap the benefits of his notoriety when the final vote comes down, it is his performance on the field and his unmistakably profound impact that will have earned him the award, should he win it.

Why? Harper changes the game around him. His ability – and propensity – to bunt, forces the third baseman to play near the line and square with the bag. His success against righties prompts pitcher-for-hitter bullpen moves from opposing managers. His speed prevents infielders from double-clutching, lest he turn a routine grounder into an infield single. Gather the ball too casually as an outfielder and a single becomes a double, or a double a triple. Did we mention he leads the team and ranks in the top 10 in the league with nine triples? In fact, he’s the first rookie with nine triples and 20 home runs since Nomar Garciaparra who, you guessed it, won Rookie of the Year back in 1997 with the Boston Red Sox.

On May 6, the Nationals hosted the Philadelphia Phillies in the final game of NATITUDE Weekend. Cole Hamels decided to “welcome” the rookie to the big leagues by plunking him on his first pitch with two away and no runners on base in the first inning. When Chad Tracy followed with a single to left, Harper raced all the way to third base, right in the face of left fielder Juan Pierre. And we all remember what happened next, as the 19 year-old timed Hamels’ pick-off lob to first base, breaking for the plate and stealing home.

On June 5, the Nationals were embroiled in the tightest division race in baseball, as they opened a three-game set at home against the Mets in a three-way tie for first place with New York and Miami. The opening game of the series dragged into the 12th, as Ian Desmond kept the Nationals alive long enough for Harper to plate the winning run on a two-out, two-strike, bases loaded liner to left field. It was the first walk-off hit for any teenager since Gary Sheffield in 1988, three years before Harper was even born.

Harper leads all National League rookies with 57 extra-base hits, including 22 home runs. He is just the second teenager in history to hit 20 or more longballs in a season, joining Tony Conigliaro, who belted 24 for the ’64 Red Sox. Harper is doing more than standing out among his fellow rookies, though, as he is tearing up the league at a pace almost unfathomable for a teenager.

Harper’s prodigious power at such a young age puts him in elite company.

His 98 runs scored are 17 better than his closest competitor and ranks him fifth in the National League, ahead of Atlanta leadoff man Michael Bourn. His .651 slugging percentage and 69 total bases were both the second-highest marks in all of baseball for the month of September, while his 26 runs scored led the Majors. That’s right – no Major League Baseball player crossed home plate more times than Bryce Harper in the month of September.

After his second inning steal Tuesday night, the center fielder and two-hole hitter on the best team in baseball sat just two swipes shy of a 20-20 season, with an OPS north of .800 for the season.

Harper doesn’t need his Rookie of the Year case made for him. But hey, we figured we’d do it anyway, to remind everyone of just how historic a season he has delivered. Share your own favorite Harper moments in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #HarpeROY.

Weekly Review (6/11)

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

The Nationals entered the week in first place in the National League East, coming off a weekend sweep of the Boston Red Sox. The road trip continued to Toronto for the first of a three-game set, in which they pounded out 14 hits to help Edwin Jackson to his third victory of the season. Upon further review, we discovered an odd but fortuitous connection between Jackson’s starts and the bat of Adam LaRoche. Meanwhile, the Nationals announced the signing of 23 recent draft picks, including six of their top 10 selections. In game two of the series, Bryce Harper and company accepted the challenge to “Be Bold” as they crushed three home runs in support of Stephen Strasburg in a 4-2 triumph to win their fifth straight. A different rookie stepped up to be the hero of game three, as Tyler Moore hit his first two Major League home runs and drove in five RBI to key a 6-2 victory, a series sweep, and a season-high sixth consecutive win.

Back at home, as the team relaxed on their off-day Thursday, members of the Nationals ownership group enjoyed a unique experience, thanks to the US Navy. Meanwhile, we took advantage of the break to answer a number of your questions surrounding the Ignite Your NATITUDE Tweet-up, more commonly known as #IYNT.

The club returned home to face the Yankees on Friday as we celebrated the US Army’s 237th birthday. At the same time, Ian Desmond encouraged fans to start a new patriotic tradition in our Nation’s Capital for the National Anthem. Unfortunately, the team and could never really get rolling against Phil Hughes, dropping a 7-2 decision. A tough call on what would have been the go-ahead run in the eighth inning doomed the two teams to a 14-inning battle on Saturday. Even with seven hitless innings from the Nationals underrated bullpen, New York eventually prevailed, 5-3. In the finale, despite our clairvoyant tweet, the Yankees completed the weekend sweep to run their winning streak to nine games.

Mon @ TOR: W, 6-3

Tue @ TOR: W, 4-2

Wed @ TOR: W, 6-2

Thu: OFF

Fri vs. NYY: L, 2-7

Sat vs. NYY: L, 3-5

Sun vs. NYY: L, 1-4

Weekly Record: 3-3

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Road Tripping

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Hello Nationals fans. I am blogging today from north of the border, where your Nationals are about to wrap up the most successful road trip since arriving in D.C.

The trip began with a three-game sweep of the Red Sox. When Tyler Clippard posted his third save in as many games on Sunday, Washington became the first NL club to sweep a series at venerable Fenway Park since the Braves did so way back in 2002.

While the memories of the Beantown sweep will remain for a long time, my immediate thoughts reside with Jesus Flores, who has taken undue punishment behind the plate. Whether it be foul tips or the inevitable pitch cross-up, Flo’s arms, legs and hands sport bruises representing every color of the rainbow. Yet, he keeps on blocking balls and putting himself in harm’s way. Luckily, there are no mental dings for Flores, however, as his game-calling skills have helped unite a hot pitching staff.

Fenway was not immune to the ever-increasing number of Curly “W” hats, shirts and logos that we have seen on the road. I can also tell you that the players have noticed. I have never seen more Nationals gear for a road series. Yet another bit of evidence that our fans are realizing that this is shaping up as a special summer.

And what about our favorite 19 year-old, Bryce Harper? His play is nothing short of stellar. And, from my seat, it is contagious for teammates and fans alike. While his talents are obvious to all, his energy and undying passion for the game is what sets him apart. Oh, … and his prodigious power! That homer of his to center field on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre will not soon be forgotten.

I am looking forward to this weekend’s upcoming Yankees series at Nationals Park. The Bronx Bombers are playing very well the last three weeks and find themselves currently atop the AL East standings (they’ve also been very helpful in winning five straight from the Mets and Braves). It appears we will miss C.C. Sabathia’s turn in their rotation, but Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova will undoubtedly provide a stiff weekend test.

I have to think tickets for this weekend are the hottest in D.C. this year.

I also urge all fans to plan your departures and arrivals to Nationals Park 45 minutes earlier than normal if you want to see all the action from first to last pitch. Sellout crowds, rush hour traffic (Friday), road construction and previously-scheduled Metro track maintenance will all be part of weekend equation.

While it is easy to focus on the big Yankees weekend, let’s remember that Tampa Bay is set to invade Nationals Park next week. The Rays’ ability to compete and often beat the Yanks and Red Sox in that division is equal parts commendable and inspirational.

Lastly, I am hopeful that our increased fan presence on the road can extend to our series at Camden Yards on the weekend of June 22-24. Let’s have some fun with this pennant race thing!

I hope to see you all at Nationals Park this next week … Don’t forget to Vote Nats!

Weekly Review (6/4)

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Tuesday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

Monday brought with it the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, in which Washington snagged prep right-hander Lucas Giolito with the 16th overall pick. Meanwhile, the Nationals returned home as they continued their stretch of 33 straight games versus east division opponents with a three-game set against the New York Mets. The teams went extra innings on Tuesday, as Ian Desmond became the first player since Cincinnati’s Art Shamsky in 1966 to tie a game three separate times in the 8th inning or later before Bryce Harper hit the first walk-off by a teenager since 1988 in a 7-6, 12-inning win. On Wednesday, Adam LaRoche homered in the first inning on his way to a four-RBI night in support of Edwin Jackson, as the Nationals won their second series in as many tries against the New York National League Ballclub. The Mets bounced back on Thursday behind a sparkling performance by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to salvage the final game of the set, 3-1.

Washington then hit the road for just the club’s second visit to Fenway Park in team history since the move from Montreal. Friday night, the Nationals recorded their first-ever win in Boston, using a superb team effort to back a 13-strikeout performance from Stephen Strasburgon the two-year anniversary of his Major League debut – in a 7-4 victory. The team struck early on Saturday, jumping out to a four-run lead early, then hanging on late for a 4-2 victory thanks to some solid work by the bullpen. The Nationals then capped off the week with a Sunday victory for just their second full-series sweep of the year, as Tyler Clippard recorded his third save in as many days in a 4-2 final.

Mon: OFF

Tue vs. NYM: W, 7-6 (12)

Wed vs. NYM: W, 5-3

Thu vs. NYM: L, 3-1

Fri @ BOS: W, 7-4

Sat @ BOS: W, 4-2

Sun @ BOS: W, 4-3

Weekly Record: 5-1

What to Watch for: 6/11

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Washington Nationals (35-23) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (31-29)

RHP Edwin Jackson (2-3, 3.11) vs. RHP Brandon Morrow (7-3, 2.90)

The Nationals move on to another Interleague series at Rogers Centre in Toronto to face the Blue Jays starting Monday night. Washington is looking to strengthen its lead in the NL East, but Toronto ace Brandon Morrow may prove as a major challenge in tonight’s series opener.

CANADIAN HOMECOMING

The Nationals return north of the border for just the fourth time since relocating from Montreal to Washington, D.C. prior to the 2005 season. This marks their first Canada trip since June 2007 when they dropped two of three to the Blue Jays, and where they are just 2-7 in Canada since making the move. Two Nationals coaches have Blue Jays ties as bench coach Randy Knorr played five seasons (‘91-’95) and won two World Series rings with the Jays and bullpen coach Jim Lett coached on Toronto’s staff from ‘97-’99.

EDWIN LOOKS TO CONTINUE THE WINNING WAYS

Edwin Jackson collected just his second win of the season in his last start (6/6 vs. NYM) despite seven quality starts in 11 outings so far in 2012. Tonight, he makes his 14th career start against the Blue Jays. He is 3-0 with a 4.43 ERA (20 ER/40.2 IP) in his last six starts against Toronto dating to July 30, 2008.

NL BROOMS MAKE RARE APPEARANCE AT FENWAY

With a weekend series sweep over the Red Sox, the Nationals became the first National League team to sweep a series at Fenway since the Atlanta Braves did so in June ’02. Roger Bernadina broke a 3-3 tie with a RBI-double in the ninth inning off Alfredo Aceves, scoring Bryce Harper from first base. Jordan Zimmermann posted seven innings of three-run ball, before turning it over to Tom Gorzelanny (win, 2-1) and Tyler Clippard (8th save).

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First Things First

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For all of the hype surrounding this weekend’s three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox on the road at Fenway Park, perhaps Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa summed it up best when reflecting upon the feat.

“I think we were the team to beat right here,” he explained. “We’re the first-place team.”

Indeed, they are. They were when the weekend began, and found their lead padded to two games when Atlanta finally saw its six-game win streak come to an end on Sunday. Nevertheless, the national media was paying more attention this weekend to all the things that Nationals fans have been watching since Opening Day, now more than two months in the rear-view mirror.

That’s the thing about playing at Fenway: wherever the Red Sox reside in the standings, everyone is watching. It is one of those venues that puts you under the magnifying glass of the entire country. Peter Gammons, the Hall-of-Fame writer who covered the Sox for decades before ascending to the National stage, was unapologetic in his gushing over the Nationals fan support, those who showed up to cheer the team on in a hostile environment. As The Washington Post’s Tom Boswell pointed out in his column this morning, The Boston Herald even called the Nats “The most exciting team in baseball.”

The last such moment of national attention for this team came during NATITUDE Weekend against Philadelphia in early May. While the Nationals won that encounter – taking two-of-three including a dramatic, extra-inning victory to open the set – they lost in the nationally televised finale, missing perhaps the opportunity to claim the attention that they demanded this weekend in Boston.

Sunday’s heroes Bryce Harper (right) and Roger Bernadina (middle) celebrate with Rick Ankiel. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Given the opportunity to close out the sweep once again, they did not disappoint. Following a dynamic team performance Friday and a solid effort on Saturday, the Nationals were in a battle in the finale. Bryce Harper, who was given his first day off since his call-up, found himself thrust into the middle of a tie game with one out in the ninth inning. He drew a five-pitch walk, then spent the bulk of the next two at-bats trying to size up Boston reliever Alfredo Aceves for the best time to steal. With a quick delivery to the plate, Aceves kept Harper on the bag until two outs and two strikes, when the rookie finally broke for second on the perfect pitch, a letter-high fastball that Roger Bernadina laced towards the right-field corner. With his momentum already at full blast (nearly overly so, as he struggled to keep his footing heading into second base), Harper tore around the 270 feet toward home, slapping the plate with the go-ahead run as he slid across well ahead of the relay throw back to the infield.

That allowed Tyler Clippard to come out of the ‘pen for the third straight day, and for the third straight day he shut the door on the Red Sox, silencing the Fenway crowd. His final masterpiece, a literally knee-buckling changeup to Dustin Pedroia, iced both the game and the cake of the weekend’s heroics. It marked the second road sweep in just over two weeks for this team, showing the continued growth that they have already experienced since that Phillies series just over a month ago.

Speaking of those Phillies, they now trail the front-running Nationals by eight games in the NL East, and by a staggering 10 games in the all-important loss column. So, yes, a three-game road sweep of a team with the history and tradition always makes for a great weekend. But with a much-less talked about three-game set against a less-heralded (yet quite talented) Toronto team beginning Monday night, it is where the Nationals sit as a result of that sweep that matters far more.

First place.

What A Difference A Day Makes

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The Washington Nationals head into a three-game series in Boston Friday night in a situation that surprises many on the outside of the baseball world. The Nationals reside in first place in the NL East, while the Red Sox pull up the rear of the AL East, albeit with a winning record of 29-28. Peripheral fans, who see Boston as a perennial playoff contender and winner of two of the last eight World Series, and the Nationals as a franchise with no winning seasons under its belt, might feel that the natural order of the game has been turned on its head this season. But really, that transformation began exactly two years ago, in what may arguably have been the most significant 24-hour period in the history of the young Washington franchise.

Bryce Harper has been one of the biggest stories of the 2012 season.

The first round of Major League Baseball’s 2010 First-Year Player Draft was televised on MLB Network, beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 7. The number one overall pick had been preordained for months, as the Nationals had made clear their intentions to select 17 year-old catcher/outfielder Bryce Harper out of Southern Nevada College, much the same way they had taken San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the first selection the year prior. They did so just a few minutes after 7 o’clock, and so began this defining 24-hour stretch.

Fittingly, Strasburg – after overwhelming batters at each of his Minor League stops – had been summoned to make his Major League debut the very next day. He took the field in front of more than 40,000 raucous fans at Nationals Park and turned in a performance for the ages, striking out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates, including the last seven batters he faced that night, to set a new franchise record.

24 hours after Harper was drafted, Strasburg took the baseball world by storm.

While it was just a single game, and Harper was still unsigned, seemingly several years away from the Major Leagues, there was good reason to hope for a bright future as a Nationals fan.

Fast-forward two years, and here we stand, with Harper having just recorded his first Major League walk-off (and the first by a teenager since 1988), and Strasburg putting up All-Star-caliber numbers atop the rotation. It is only fitting that the two phenoms take their show on the road this weekend to one of baseball’s most hallowed grounds, Fenway Park, where Strasburg will face the Red Sox for the first time in his career Friday night.

It is amazing to think what a difference two years makes, but perhaps more so, the difference those pivotal 24 hours made – from a few minutes after 7:00 p.m. on June 7 to the same time on June 8, two years ago.

Meanwhile, Strasburg, Harper and the first-place Nationals will take the field a few minutes after 7:00 p.m. Friday night (7:10, to be exact), seeking their first-ever win at Fenway.

What To Watch For: 6/8

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Washington Nationals (32-23) vs. Boston Red Sox (29-28)

RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-1, 2.35) vs. LHP Felix Dubront (6-2, 3.75)

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

On this date two years ago, with the entire MLB community watching, Stephen Strasburg made his MLB debut in a 5-2 win over the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. Strasburg allowed just two runs on four hits in 7.0 innings of work. In front of a packed house of 40,315 fans, he struck out 14 batters, the most in franchise history since baseball returned to the District in 2005. Tonight against Boston, Strasburg will pitch in New England for the first time since closing for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Torrington Twisters in the summer of 2007.

SHIPPING UP TO BOSTON

The Nationals franchise, which began in Montreal in 1969, remains in search of its first victory at Fenway Park. The Nationals or Expos have been swept here three times and been outscored, 69-20. Washington returns to Fenway Park for just the second time, and the only National that remains in place from Washington’s other three-game visit, June 19-21, 2006, is Ryan Zimmerman.

UNTIL NEXT TIME, NATIONAL LEAGUE

Beginning with a three-game set this weekend at Fenway Park, the Nationals begin a stretch of 15 straight contests against the American League. During that stretch, they’ll face off against the Red Sox (June 8-10) at Fenway Park, against the Blue Jays (June 11-13) at Rogers Centre, against the Yankees (June 15-17) and Rays (June 19-21) at Nationals Park, and at Camden Yards vs. the Orioles (June 22-24). Washington is 1-2 this season in Interleague Play, after hosting the Orioles from May 18-20 at Nationals Park. The Nationals (‘05-present) are 57-69 all-time against the AL, including 22-41 on the road and 35-28 at home.

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One for the Ages

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Baseball is a funny game. It has a way of testing its most patient and passionate of fans, yet rewarding them in the end. There is no doubt that Boston’s 2004 World Series title was that much sweeter for Red Sox fans who waited 86 years for it to finally happen, the same way Chicago Cubs fans will finally revel in glory when their curse is broken (someday…maybe).

Bryce Harper rewarded the fans Monday night with his first Major League home run.

Fans flocked to Los Angeles, then to Washington, then to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, all in hopes of watching baseball’s youngest star, Bryce Harper, launch his first home run. They all came away without such a memory. They saw him live up to expectations by crashing into walls, firing opposite field missiles for doubles, even stealing home. But they never got that ultimate payoff.

No, that honor was reserved for the hearty souls who made their way to Nationals Park Monday night in the wake of dismal weather forecasts, who remained in their seats through the light rain into the third inning, when suddenly Harper jumped on a slider that just didn’t slide enough, driving it on a line to the deepest park of the park in dead center field. The hard-hit ball landed softly with a thud on the grass below the batter’s eye, and there it was. Harper hustled around the bases, took his curtain call, as demanded by the fan base that had waited for this moment.

It may not have been the most dramatic blast anyone’s ever seen. But it came in a game the Nats would go on to win, one that would put them back in sole possession of first place in the NL East. That alone made the dinger crucial beyond its obvious historical relevance. For those who love the compelling storylines, though, do not despair. If we’ve learned anything from Harper’s first few weeks in the Major Leagues, it’s that he will provide plenty of exciting moments in the months and years to come.

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