Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Long Day's Journey Into Nats, Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2...

"I'd just spent half a Benjamin on my ticket and had five Coronas anchoring me to the chair. But then the comeback began."

The Nationals immediately answered with four runs in their half of the fifth. There were no flashy homers, just a few walks by Yankee pitchers and base hits by one Nat after another. When the curtain went down on what was one of the longest, wildest innings of baseball I can remember, the Nats were only down three runs. If nothing else, I thought, at least the box score won't show what a massacre this game was. But the Nats kept scoring and the Yanks kept choking. Two more runs scored in the seventh and the Nats were only down one.

Then came the greatest inning of baseball that I've ever been a part of as a fan. The Yankees brought in the indomitable Mariano Rivera to stop the bleeding. I was sure that our comeback was doomed. There was one out and Soriano was on first. Soriano stole second, then third, then scored tied the game on a horrible throw by Posada! Incredibly, Rivera managed to walk Daryle Ward. Then came Jose Guillen, who ripped a triple to right center. Ward chugged along the basepaths in an effort reminiscent of Carlos Baerga. I expected him to stop at third, but Tony Beasley was waving him around! Ward beat the throw to the plate and the Nationals were ahead 10-9!

I went ballistic. I have never gone so ballistic. I was jumping up and down in my seat so high that I almost fell over a railing. I found some Nats fans (the only people who were standing up at this point) and started giving high fives. Then Zimmerman brought home Guillen with a single to give the Nats an insurance run. When Chad Cordero logged his 13th save in the ninth, the Nats had done the impossible. They'd scored nine unanswered runs off the best baseball team in the universe. They'd crossed the Atlantic. They'd landed on the moon. There was much joy in Natsville.

It's hard to describe the way I felt as I left the game. The joy I felt was pure and unfettered. I pumped my fist along with Cordero and ran around the concourse high fiving anyone with a Nats jersey on. There was nothing greater than seeing the Yankees fans trudge out of the park, their cheers silent, their smugness deflated.

I walked out of RFK and down A St, NE to avoid the crowded Metro. All along the way people came out of their houses to ask me about the game and share their joy at the win. One man told me the story of how he and his brother had snuck out of their house on a school night to see that fateful last Senators game against the Yankees in 1971. A Vincent Orange campaign car pulled up and asked me who won the game. The men in the car couldn't believe that the Nats had pulled it off. I couldn't believe that they were supporting Vincent Orange.

As I headed down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol South Metro, passing cars honked their horns and gave the thumbs up. It seemed as if all of Washington was united in triumph. I walked west into the setting sun, with joy in my heart, a grin on my face, and a Nationals cap on my head.