Nationals 3, Mariners 2
WASHINGTON (AP)—After meeting on the infield grass for high-fives and back slaps in celebration of their 10th straight victory, the Washington Nationals looked into the stands at RFK Stadium and saw most of the 37,170 spectators on their feet, applauding.
Several players clapped right back—making for matching standing ovations— and manager Frank Robinson doffed his cap.
Home, sweet home, indeed. It’s tough to tell who’s enjoying the Nationals’ success more, the team that felt as if it didn’t have a true home the past couple of seasons, or the fans who waited 34 years for a major league club to call their own.
“It’s been a long time coming. We feel energized by our situation now,” outfielder Brad Wilkerson said. “To walk off and know they recognize what we do is just a great feeling.”
Washington stretched its winning streak to 10 games, tying a franchise record and setting a high for the NL this season. The team has swept three straight series and four overall; as the Montreal Expos, the team had three sweeps in all of 2004.
After two years of being forced to play a portion of its “home” schedule in Puerto Rico, the club has taken to its new digs quite well, going 24-9 at home, a .727 winning percentage that’s the best in baseball.
Robinson and his players have no doubts that some of the credit goes to the fans. In Montreal, the team averaged under 10,000 fans last season. The Nationals topped 1 million spectators for the year Saturday night, and adding in Sunday’s crowd made for the largest season attendance in D.C. baseball history.
“The support has been tremendous,” Robinson said. “I don’t think anybody could have foreseen this.”
He was referring to the big crowds in a city that lost its two previous major league teams. But he also could have been talking about his team’s play.
Last season’s Expos lost 95 games and finished 29 back in the standings. More than two months into the season, Washington is 37-26, with a 1 1/2 -game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East.
“Everything that goes in a game is bouncing their way,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said, “and to their credit, they are taking advantage of it.”
Ryan Franklin (2-8) took the loss, giving up all of Washington’s runs on six hits plus three walks in five innings. Spivey’s sixth homer of the season—and first hit since joining Washington in a trade with Milwaukee on Friday—came in the second, and Jamey Carroll drove in the other run on a bloop single in the fourth.
Armas (3-3) gave up five hits and three walks, but had six strikeouts and got plenty of help from Seattle’s batters, whose woes in the clutch continued.
The Mariners left two men on in each of the first four innings, and they went 0-for-10 overall with runners in scoring position.
“We burned a lot of runs at third base with less than two outs,” Hargrove said.
Armas never had a 1-2-3 inning and needed 90 pitches just to get the first 12 outs. He left after throwing 107.
“That was, I guess, the glue that held us together—him giving us that effort today,” Robinson said.
After Gary Majewski replaced Armas and gave up RBI doubles by pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs in the sixth and Raul Ibanez in the seventh, Luis Ayala got four outs, and gave way to Chad Cordero for his 19th save.
It was Washington’s 16th one-run victory.
“We are good at those games,” Vinny Castilla said. “Good teams do that.”
Seattle OF Ichiro Suzuki entered the game one hit shy of 1,000 for his career and went 0-for-5, dropping his average to .295. He hadn’t been below .300 since May 12, 2004. “If I was satisfied with my hitting right now, I’d have to quit baseball,” Suzuki said through a translator. … Mariners 3B Adrian Beltre doubled twice before leaving in the fifth inning with tightness in his left hamstring. Hargrove said he could be out a few days. … Armas singled in the third, his first hit since April 5, 2003.