Results tagged ‘ Take Back The Park ’
Years from now, when we look back at the turning point in the history of the Nationals franchise on the field, we may well pinpoint a three-day stretch in early May of 2012. After a hot start to the season, Washington hosted its bitter rival, the five-time defending division champion Philadelphia Phillies, in a much-anticipated weekend set in the Nation’s Capital. With the Take Back the Park campaign in full swing in the stands, the series became known as NATITUDE Weekend. The hometown nine responded on the field, winning in walk-off fashion in the opener, then riding Jayson Werth’s mammoth, three-run home run to a blowout victory on Saturday afternoon.
But while NATITUDE Weekend was the larger turning point in this budding NL East rivalry, the first inning of the series finale provided its signature moment. With the game airing on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball – the first such primetime national telecast since the first game ever played at Nationals Park in 2008 – the eyes of the baseball nation were fixed on Phillies ace Cole Hamels as he tackled his first run through the Washington lineup. After two quick outs, he faced 19 year-old Bryce Harper, batting third for the first-place Nats in just his eighth Major League contest. Hamels promptly plunked Harper in the back on the first pitch of the at-bat – an act he would later admit was intentional – sending the rookie to first base. It was a seemingly harmless price to pay for his “message.”
But when Werth singled to left field, Harper motored around second and tore for third, right in the face of left fielder Juan Pierre, who could do nothing to stop him. After the next batter, Chad Tracy, fell behind 1-2 in the count, Hamels lobbed a pick-off throw to first base and Harper measured out a long secondary lead from third, behind the left-handed hurler’s back. When Hamels repeated his check on Werth, once more casually easing the ball over towards first, Harper took off for home. First baseman Laynce Nix had no recourse to prevent the inevitable, his futile throw to the plate arriving behind the phenom’s slide. With his first career steal, Harper became the first teenager to swipe home since Ed Kirkpatrick in 1964. In so doing, he brazenly defined NATITUDE and set the visceral tone for a season that would end with Washington’s unseating of Philadelphia as champions of the National League East.
Earlier today, the Nationals released Take Back the Park, an initiative designed to get as many Nationals fans in the ballpark for this season’s first home series against the Philadelphia Phillies. With anticipation for the upcoming season at an all-time high, Washington fans have an opportunity to create a true home field advantage here at Nationals Park. That starts today, with a chance to shut Philadelphia fans out of the park for what promises to be another exciting chapter in an already contentious rivalry.
Consider last year. While the Phillies have been dominant in the National League East recently, winning the last five division titles, there was a chink in their armor in 2011. The perennial champs ran into a pesky group from the District that just would not give up. The Nationals won each of the final four series against Philadelphia, including a four-game road sweep in September. In fact, the Nats have won 10 of their last 13 against the Phillies.
Our players have turned the tide on the field of play. Now, it’s time for our fans to do the same. To get you fired up, all next week we’ll take a look back at the top five moments against the Phillies from a thrilling 2011 rivalry series. What are your favorite memories of beating the Phillies in 2011? Check out our top 5 below, then vote for your favorite in the poll below!
Moment #5: A Werth-y Opponent (4/12)
April 12 marked Jayson Werth’s first game against his old team after inking a seven-year deal with the Nationals. He took no time to make his presence felt in the rivalry, taking Joe Blanton deep with a solo shot in the fifth inning en route to a 7-4 victory.
Moment #4: A Team Effort (6/1)
John Lannan out-dueled Roy Oswalt, and the bullpen closed out the game with 3.2 innings of one-hit, shutout relief as Drew Storen closed out a 2-1 win with his 10th save of the season.
Moment #3: Double Dose for Espinosa (5/31)
Cliff Lee surrendered only 18 home runs all season long, but three of them came off the bat of Danny Espinosa, including two in the same game. His second blast, deep over the bullpen and into the left-center field bleachers, provided a signature moment in a 10-2 rout of the former Cy Young Award winner.
Moment #2: Down To The Last Strike (8/21)
With Washington trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Ian Desmond fell behind 1-2 before turning around a breaking ball from Antonio Bastardo into the left-field bleachers to send the game into extra innings. Jonny Gomes then took one for the team, as he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the 10th inning, forcing in the game-winning run.
Bonus video: The Walk-Off HBP
Moment #1: Zim, For The Win (8/19)
Trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, the Nationals scored twice on RBI singles by Jonny Gomes and Ian Desmond, then loaded the bases for Ryan Zimmerman with two outs. Mr. Walk-off came through in epic fashion with a two-out, full count, walk-off grand slam, delivering an 8-4 victory for the Nats.