Nationals Park has undergone some minor playoff renovations while we've been gone.
There are new banners gracing the top of each dugout - one that reads "#Natitude" on the visitors' dugout, and another that reads "October Natitude" on top of the Nationals' dugout. The MLB Postseason logo has been painted onto the grass down the first- and third-base lines, and bunting has been added to the facades of the second and third decks.
Red towels will be handed out to fans tomorrow, and if you're watching the game at home, you should see plenty of them waving throughout the stands.
Interestingly enough, one player told me that he wished the Nats had gone with white towels, like the Cardinals did, because it makes it harder for the visiting team's defensive players to see the ball off the bat. The ball can blend into the white towels, sometimes preventing outfielders from getting a good initial read on the ball.
Since the towels are waved primarily when the home team is batting, the white backdrop would affect the visiting team more than the home squad.
Those in the Nationals' clubhouse said they're excited to take part in the first big league postseason game in D.C. in nearly 80 years and are eagerly anticipating what should be a good atmosphere, even with the 1 p.m. start time.
I asked Michael Morse what he expects the crowd sing-a-long to be like tomorrow before his fourth at-bat, when "Take on Me" is played throughout the stadium.
"It'll be magical," he said with a smile.
The Nats took part in a team workout today and regrouped from yesterday's loss, not that they needed much regrouping. As Ian Desmond said, they moved on from that loss as soon as they stepped foot in the clubhouse and turned on some music. Now they'll look to Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler to get them back on track the next two days.
"Our inexperience has shown up in a couple areas," manager Davey Johnson said. "The pitching has been our strength all year, and really didn't get (it) too good the first two games, and that's not our trademark. But I'm certainly looking forward to Jackson and also Det. They are certainly capable of pitching good ballgames. That's been our strength to me. We haven't showed that yet."
Yesterday was rough on a number of Nationals pitchers, but probably none more so than Sean Burnett, who allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits with a walk and a home run over just two-thirds of an inning. He threw a whopping 29 pitches and was serving up meatballs, but Johnson said the outing wasn't related to an elbow issue the lefty battled in the second half of the season.
"Sean came out of it all right," Johnson said. "His feelings were hurt. That's probably the hardest he's been hit this year. He just got the ball up, and I don't know if it was lack of not being out there. I thought his ball was pretty straight, usually has a nasty sinker. His command wasn't what it should be, but I got him out of there before he threw too many pitches so he'll be available tomorrow. I like our bullpen. We match up pretty good against these guys."
Bryce Harper has gone just 1-for-10 with six strikeouts in the two games of this series, but he says he doesn't feel like he's overanxious. The number of pitches he's seen in those 10 at-bats seems to back that up; he saw 52 pitches in two games
"He has just a great approach at home plate, and had good BP today," Johnson said. "Our guys are happy to be here. The shadows in St. Louis were something that my guys, and especially in that environment, in a playoff situation, weren't used to. Obviously the Cardinals are more used to the shadows in their own ballpark, but we are more comfortable here and won't have to deal with that. I think we are going to get better at bats all the way through the lineup."