WASHINGTON — Adam Eaton predicted a “ridiculous” atmosphere greeting the Nationals for Game 3 of the World Series. He wasn’t wrong.
Hosting a World Series game for the first time in 86 years will do that for civic excitement.
There was plenty of that inside and outside this downtown ballpark on Friday. More than six hours before the 8:07 p.m. first pitch, the surrounding streets were filled with fans wearing red and white Nationals gear.
Friday would have been electric regardless for the first World Series game played in this city with a checkered baseball past since Oct. 17, 1933. On that day, the New York Giants earned a series-clinching 4-3 victory over the Washington Senators in Game 5. (The Giants moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season and the Senators no longer exist; the first version became the Minnesota Twins for the 1961 season and the second version became the Texas Rangers in 1972.) The Montreal Expos franchise moved here before the 2005 season and was renamed the Nationals.
“They’ve been unbelievable this whole postseason so far,” Nationals shortstop Trea Turner said of the fans. “I expect a sellout and people going nuts. I think one game we had a beer shower, which was pretty incredible to watch, so hopefully they can be rocking and we’re excited to play in front of them.”
That was a reference to the NL wild-card game against the Brewers, one the Washington fans were ready to add to an already crowded list of October disappointments.
The Nationals trailed 3-1 entering the eighth, but Juan Soto, who turned 21 Friday, began what has been a breakout October with a bases-loaded single. When it got past Brewers rightfielder Trent Grisham, three runs scored and the Brewers reached the NLDS with a 4-3 victory.
And with that, the past postseason disappointments — losing win-or-go-home Game 5s at home in 2012, 2016 and 2017 – were wiped clean and baseball fever took over.
Upsetting the Dodgers in the NLDS (including an extra-inning victory in the deciding Game 5 at Dodger Stadium), earning a four-game sweep of the Cardinals in the NLCS and taking the first two games of the World Series have only added to it.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, a member of the original Nationals team in 2005. “I think [the fans have] been great all postseason and every postseason, really. [But] I’m sure they’re more excited than we are, honestly. They’ve been waiting for something like this, so, obviously, really excited to see what the atmosphere is like and can’t wait to get there.”
Second-year manager Dave Martinez, who lives relatively close to the ballpark, said during this postseason run that he’s been recognized more and more frequently on the streets.
“It’s been unbelievable, it really has,” said Martinez, whose job security was a frequent source of speculation during the early-season struggles that bottomed out with a 19-31 record in May. “As you know, I travel by scooter everywhere around. And now -- before I used to wear my hat and nobody really [noticed] -- and now wherever I stop — as a matter of fact, sometimes people just come up and smack me on the back, ‘Nice going, nice going, Davey.’ I’m like, ‘Hey.’ But it’s been overwhelming. The fans have bought in and it’s been great. And I know apparently [for Game 2] almost 15,000 people here watching us play [on the big screen]. I can’t wait until [Game 3]. This place, I said it before, this place gets really loud and it’s electric. So I know the boys are excited to play.”