They clogged subway cars and traffic routes to Nationals Park. They wore red T-shirts sporting the names of Utley, Howard and Halladay. They erupted in cheers when Jayson Werth struck out, and they chanted, “Ruuu,’’ when Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz came to bat.
And, when the Phillies’ Raul Ibanez scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, the crowd noise was so loud, it was more like Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Thanks to thousands of Phillies fans, the Nationals’ Sunday attendance was 41,727, third-largest crowd in the ballpark’s history. The Nats won 5-4 in the 10th inning after a pitch from Brad Lidge hit Jonny Gomes with the bases loaded.
The New York Yankees are the largest-drawing road team, with an average of 33,731 a game, according to Major League Baseball statistics.
The Phillies are second at 33,663 followed by the Boston Red Sox at 32,978. The San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs are the other teams to average 32,000-plus.
For the record, the Houston Astros are the worst road draw in the National League while the Toronto Blue Jays have that label in the American League.
The Phillies are helped in road attendance by their proximity to D.C. and the fact the Nationals don’t typically sell out. The Baltimore Orioles are in a similar situation with the Yankees and Red Sox. The Cubs, even though they lose, are popular everywhere, from Los Angeles to Atlanta.
The Nats didn’t mind the Phillies’ fans. “I like playing in front of a packed house, even if it is for the other team,’’ manager Davey Johnson said. “I look at them as our fans because they’ve got red on.’‘
When he played for the Tampa Bay Rays, Gomes got used to having Yankees fans fill the Rays’ park in St. Petersburg. (The Yankees have a radio affiliate in Tampa Bay.)
What to do?
“To change it, you’ve got to win,’’ Gomes said. “That’s what we plan on doing.’‘
But Gomes and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard kidded each other about Nationals Park becoming Citizens Bank South.
“I told Ryan Howard that you guys are going to have to hand your meal money over to us,’’ Gomes says.
* What more could go wrong for the San Francisco Giants?
They put closer Brian Wilson on the disabled list Sunday, joining his would-be replacement, Sergio Romo.
With Eli Whiteside out with a concussion, they are struggling to find a catcher. Carlos Beltran is hurt and hasn’t gotten a chance to settle in after being acquired from the New York Mets.
The Giants’ disabled list is standing-room only and they lost three of four to the worst team in baseball, the Astros, over the weekend.
* The only good news for the Giants is that the Arizona Diamondbacks are having a rough East Coast road trip. The D-Backs, who are in D.C. this week, were swept in Atlanta, missing a chance to pick up ground vs. the Giants in the NL West. After two consecutive seasons of 90-plus losses, the Diamondbacks have replaced the Pittsburgh Pirates as the feel-good surprise story this season.
* Classy move I: Former Cubs general manager Jin Hendry knew for a month that he would be fired, but he stayed on to help the Cubs through draft deadline. The team needs a payroll purge and a stable foundation of young players: The Cubs say they are going to hire experience for their new GM and it’s going to come from outside the organization, so we wonder: Would Tampa Bay’s Andrew Friedman or the Yankees’ Brian Cashman be possible candidates?
* Another classy move: The Minnesota Twins are giving Jim Thome, a sure-fire Hall of Famer who joined the 600-home run club last week, the option to be traded this month to a contender for the chance to win a World Series ring before he retires. Thome has 17 home runs in 67 postseason games, but no titles.
* The Detroit Tigers picked up ground by sweeping AL Central rival Cleveland, and they did it without using pitcher Justin Verlander. Verlander was scheduled to pitch, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave him an extra day of rest, sending a message to the rest of the staff that the Tigers need more than Verlander to make the playoffs.
Still, the Tigers have pitching questions, given that Rick Porcello, struggling with mechanics, almost coughed up a seven-run lead to the Indians. And, the Indians’ big trade acquisition, Ubaldo Jimenez, couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning. In three of his four starts with the Indians, he hasn’t made it out of the fifth. Verlander will pitch twice versus Cleveland in September.