So I was asleep at the turnstiles last week, when the Orioles and Nationals had three home dates in common. It had been so long (nearly two months) that they’d both been at home that it wasn’t on my radar. So let’s look at their attendance figures:
Tuesday, June 28
Pirates at Washington: 35,828
Yankees at Baltimore (so you know it’s going to be high): 47,465
Wednesday, June 29
Pirates at Washington: 31,213
Yankees at Baltimore: Rained out (killer)
Thursday, June 30
Pirates at Washington: 37,361
Indians at Baltimore: 27,272
There’s one more common date before the break, tomorrow, so after those games I’ll break down the head-to-head numbers further, and sometime during the three-day lull I’ll look at their overall attendance. But entering tonight’s games (with the Nationals at home against the Mets and the Orioles in New York), Washington ranked 13th in the majors with an average of 32,812 while Baltimore was 15th at 31,735. The Orioles, despite a two-month run at the top of the AL East, are drawing about 3,000 fewer fans per game than they did in 2004. However, the Northeast’s long, cold spring has affected attendance at most parks, and the O’s have a chance to rebound with the summer crowds.
Washington is indeed one of the best stories of the season so far, but how far will it go? Can the Nationals keep up this pace? Can they continue to win 77 percent (23-7) of their one-run games? Can they continue to play 10 games above their expected record? Are they a 51-32 team, or a 42-42 team? Can they continue to have the best bullpen record (20-10) in the National League with the fourth-best bullpen ERA (4.08)?
I’m dubious. I look at this team a little like the 2003 Kansas City Royals, though at 51-32 through 83 games, Washington is six games better than the Royals were at the same point (45-38). For now, I have to root for the Nats to slide while the Mets have a slim chance to be a part of this race. But if Washington can continue to hold off the Braves and the underachieving Marlins, I’ll be buying that D.C. cap — the one I’ve been meaning to get, since it’s my initials anyway — and pulling for the worst-to-first story.