Rachel Levitin: Regional rivalries add life to NatsTown

The argument can be made that Tuesday night’s 5-2 conquest of the division rival Philadelphia Phillies, solidified by a two-RBI triple off the bat of Bryce Harper, was one of the most enjoyable for Nationals fans so far this season. The Nationals have beaten the Phillies six straight time, the first time in a 43-year franchise history that the Expos/Nationals have done so.

The same argument can be made for Washington’s 9-3 win on Sunday versus the regional rival Baltimore Orioles in which battery members Stephen Strasburg and Jesus Flores smashed home runs.

Fact is, there are a lot games in which fans have ample opportunity to get excited and express their so-called “Natitude.” It’s these regional rivalries, though, that have really livened up the game.

This past weekend, the Orioles were in town for the “Battle of the Beltways” series. The first three games of the year were scheduled to be played at Nationals Park from May 18-20 and helped the Nationals post record attendance numbers Saturday night.

A (non-sellout) crowd of 42,331 (in a park that has a seating capacity of 41,546) turned up for night baseball, making it the second largest crowd in Nationals Park history, behind 44,685 in attendance for an Aug. 20, 2011 Phillies-Nats game.

As the Nationals continue to draw successfully, even in times of a one-run loss like Saturday’s, they show signs of a being a new team. The new normal is expecting the Nationals to win games, not the opposite.

Washington lost 6-5 on Saturday night after battling back from an early 6-0 deficit against a first-place American League team. Despite the loss, this game was important to the overall context of the Nationals’ season. It spoke to the volumes of fans on both sides of a regional rivalry and the passion ignited once their teams start doing what they want them to - winning games.

A total of 120,929 in paid attendance visited Nationals Park for the three-game weekend series. It’ll be interesting to watch as this regional rivalry evolves over the course of 2012 and the years beyond, especially if both teams continue on their path to gain control of their respective divisions.

Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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