A pallor hung over what was predicted to be a "perfectly pleasant" evening for baseball, as Monday's MLB game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves was moved to Tuesday evening, making it the second game of a doubleheader.
Nationals Park was less than 1/4 full the evening after Monday's shooting rampage at Navy Yard.
The first game, held just a few blocks from the Navy Yard where a gunman went on a rampage and left 13 dead, started with an extended moment of silence before the national anthem was sung. The Nationals wore Navy caps presented to them by Navy Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, vice-chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Once the pre-game rituals were done, though, it was an all-out battle at Nationals Park.
Washington was actually down by one run at the bottom of the ninth inning, but Denard Span went for a ground that was missed by Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, allowing two Nationals to score runs. The come-from-behind 6-5 win was applauded raucuously by the sparse crowd, which numbered less than 10,000.
The less-than-ideal turnout, which was far less than the announced crowd of 25,066, was attributed to the first game's 1:05 pm first pitch. There was also talk that many would-be spectators chose to stay put and watch the game in the safety of their homes after the previous night's tragic events.
"It was good for us to get a win, for the city, good for the fans," Span told USA Today. "It felt good to get a win for our fanbase."
There were no signs though of increased security at all at the Nationals Park. Most of those who formed the small crowd did not seem concerned about safety.
The second game, scheduled at 7 pm, was far less exciting, but rookie pitcher Tanner Roark showed the DC-area faithful that he was worth the pick. Throwing a personal-high 101 pitches, he still felt good even after Nationals manager Davey Johnson pulled him out. The right-handed pitcher threw seven shutouts, allowing just two hits. He also struck out six and retired the last 13 batters.
The Nationals hit a home run in the eigth inning, courtesy of Ryan Zimmerman. It was all Nationals from that point. Denard Span, the hero of the first game, hit a fifth-inning single to extend his streak to 28 games.
Despite the doubleheader sweep, the Braves still lead the division over Washington by eight games. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez had reason to be concerned.
"I like where we are, our position, but there's still baseball games to be played, and we've just got to get back on a roll again," Gonzalez said.
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