WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the minutes leading up to the biggest home run of his life,
It’s not that Harper is some enigma wrapped in a mystery shrouded in Under Armour, eyeblack and hair product. It’s that he’s different, different from
He was thinking about who-knows-what, something, nothing, everything, when he stood in the outfield and made his way to the dugout and climbed into the on-deck circle and stepped into the batter’s box and read the 80-mph curveball from
The ball landed among the flowers that separate the left-field fence at Nationals Park from the stands, and the 6-3 advantage it handed Washington
Almost 50 years of ugliness define the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals, and that Harper and Zimmerman happened to be the two who homered was poetic. Harper is the present and the future, and while Zimmerman represents the Nationals’ past, the 100-loss messes, he is beloved here nonetheless, ever a favorite. Both were vital in turning 16 of the worst innings imaginable into afterthoughts.
Washington mustered two hits and didn’t score in Game 1, and Game 2 started similarly feeble: two hits in the first seven innings. The Cubs led 3-1 and brought in Edwards, the reliever who had recorded 30 consecutive outs since last allowing a hit. The first batter he faced, pinch hitter
Inside the Nationals’ clubhouse, four players lined up along the right side of the room: reliever
It’s important to understand: Washington baseball, and until recently the Nationals, had carried on a tradition of futility honed, crafted and passed down, like an heirloom no one wants, for eight decades. Saturday marked the 84th anniversary of the last World Series game played in this city. It ended, for the Washington Senators, with a swing and a miss on a pitch from a 43-year-old relief pitcher. The definitive book on the history of baseball in Washington,
In the middle innings of Game 2, the crowd went dead, almost reflexively. Cubs starter
“Different teams, different players, different people having different years,” Zimmerman countered about the 2017 team. “You know, you can learn a lot from your past, but for me, the past is the past. You know, this team has nothing to do with the teams in the past. Completely different feel, completely different season.”
Ryan Zimmerman gives the Nationals a 6-3 lead in the 8th with a three-run home run to left field
The next five days will test the veracity of that statement. Game 3 brings
He could’ve been saying the same about himself, too. Saturday was two months to the day of Harper’s last home run, a knee injury sidelining him most of the time and placing into question his availability in October. He answered against Edwards. The ball soared into the night, a bright-white rainbow, landing amid hands already thrust into the air because even a neophyte could’ve seen the ball launch off the bat and know it was gone. For years, Harper has lived in the 99th percentile of his possibility and promise, only a deep run into October left to conquer. One swing salvaged this chance.
“I was kind of bewildered because it’s not too many teams or pitchers that have held us in check like that for a couple days,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “I just knew in the bottom of my heart that we were going to explode for some numbers.”
Sometimes belief is all you’ve got in October. It can be a lonely month and a confusing one, the confluence of past and present crashing into mental hurdles that commingle with physical limitations that butt up against the difficulty of putting a bat on a ball or avoiding that, depending on one’s vocation. It’s the kind of month that makes the game so great. Staring at the abyss one minute, pulsing with life the next.