Reveling in a fantastic atmosphere

Even this morning, more than 12 hours after last night's dramatic six-run eighth inning, which lifted the Nationals to a 10-7 comeback win, the atmosphere in Nats Park was the talk of the home clubhouse.

"That was as loud as I've ever heard it, no doubt," said reliever Ryan Mattheus, who picked up his fourth win of the season last night.

A crowd of 33,449 filled Nats Park - a solid turnout, but far from the largest of the season. Still, the eighth inning served as the host to easily one of the most boisterous scenes the Nationals have been a part of this season.

Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore knotted the game up at 6-6 with back-to-back, two-out RBI singles, bringing the crowd to its feet. But things really became a party when Danny Espinosa crushed a three-run shot out to deep left, giving the Nats their first lead of the night.

"This is how it's supposed to be," Espinosa said. "When you're in first place, you should be playing in front of a sold out crowd and when you do good things, it should be loud. It should be a great atmosphere. Being in first place can't be taken for granted. It doesn't happen every single year, so it's definitely fun.

"This is what you dream of to play in front of as a kid, a sold out crowd making a lot of noise."

Shortly after Espinosa entered the dugout and got two buckets of gum dumped on him by a teammate as if it was Gatorade, Jayson Werth pushed Espinosa onto the top step of the dugout to take a curtain call.

The crowd roared.

Just a couple pitches later, Bryce Harper turned it into an even bigger frenzy throughout the stadium by crushing a homer into the second deck in right.

He rounded the bases to a huge ovation.

"It's unbelievable," Harper said. "We have a great fan base. We have great fans out there. They love this team. They want to see us win. It's fun to see them out here, especially when we're in first place."

Those who have played here in previous seasons - guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Espinosa and others - have seen a huge change in the overall atmosphere at Nats Park this season. Only once in nearly the last three months has the announced paid attendance been under 25,000, and not only are the fans showing up, but they're making noise.

If you think that overall crowd enthusiasm doesn't make a positive impact on the guys in the home dugout, you're crazy.

"You look up and it looks like a packed house and the fans (are) getting into it, something they haven't had here a whole lot," Adam LaRoche said. "And that's turning around quickly."

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