WASHINGTON – Game 3 of the NL division series between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon will be the first time the nation’s capital has hosted Major League Baseball postseason action since 1933, when the Senators lost to the New York Giants in the World Series.
Here are some facts and figures – and some quirks – about Nationals Park:
– Opened in 2008, the Nationals’ fourth season in Washington.
– In the stadium’s regular-season debut, on March 30, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman hit a game-ending solo shot with two outs in the ninth inning to beat the Atlanta Braves, only the third walkoff homer in the first game at a ballpark.
– After averaging about 22,000 fans a game – only a little more than half of the stadium’s capacity – in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Nationals drew an average of 30,010 this year. Winning helps, of course. “You could tell, early on, that it was almost more of a social gathering. Come out, nothing else to do. `We’ll go hang out at the park.’ Now it’s turned into like some die-hard fans,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “People probably skipping work and skipping school to come see the Nats. And our last few regular-season home games, I think were about as close to a playoff atmosphere as you can get.”
– Dimensions: 336 feet down the left-field line, 377 feet in left-center, 402 feet in straightaway center, 370 feet in right-center, 335 feet in down the right-field line.
– Odd left field ground rule: There are two vertical yellow lines painted in the left-field corner – one extends down from the foul pole to the ground, as is usually the case, and the other is only a couple of feet long, down a wall that juts in behind the main outfield wall. If a ball lands in fair territory and bounces between the two lines, it results in a ground-rule double. But if a ball lands in fair territory and bounces on or to the left of the extra line that sits in foul territory, that ball is in play. Asked about that oddity, Nationals left fielder Michael Morse said it was news to him.
– Sun Monster: After a September day game when Nationals center fielder Bryce Harper and right fielder Jayson Werth each misplayed a ball in the sun, 19- year-old Harper said the “Sun Monster” was to blame. Sure enough, the next day, an opponent flubbed a ball hit by Werth for the same reason. Werth said it “borders on ridiculous. I’ve never seen anything like it. You almost don’t have a chance out there as the game goes on.” That second game, on Sept. 24, began at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday’s game is scheduled to start at 1:07 p.m.
– Presidents Race: Yes, the Nationals will have their mascot race during the fourth inning. A bit of suspense is gone now, though, because Teddy Roosevelt finally won in Washington’s final regular-season game on Oct. 3 – his only victory since the fourth-inning “contest” involving 10-foot foam renderings began in 2006.
– A-ha Moment: One of the songs played in later innings before Morse’s at- bats is “Take on Me,” a 1980s hit from the Norwegian group A-ha, and the crowd really gets into it. They know the lyrics well – “Take on me, take me on. I’ll be gone, in a day or two” – and always stretch out that final word, and its high- octave conclusion, for several seconds. Asked what he expects Wednesday, Morse smiled and replied: “It’ll be magical. I know it will be.”
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