That only a shade more than 11,000 fans made it out to Nationals Park last night for the Nats' 5-2 win over the Rockies was really too bad, since it was a night where everything clicked for the home team.
Starter Craig Stammen went eight strong innings, there were some crisp defensive plays in the field, some timely hitting from Willie Harris, and another save by Matt Capps. Very enjoyable all around, and nothing flukish about it. Stammen closely resembled the pitcher I saw in Viera with strong command and a plus breaking ball.
Monday nights in MLB have become fairly slow evenings insofar as the turnstiles are concerned. Other crowds last night included 10,000 in Toronto, 14,000 in Seattle and 17,000 in San Diego. Even in a market the size of the New York, the Mets drew just 27,000 in their almost new ballpark.
The Nats had strong TV competition locally from the Capitals last night, playing game 3 of their opening round playoff series on the road in Montreal. A number of the screens on the press level were tuned to that game, too.
The other part of that equation is the simple fact that many Americans have re-trained themselves over the years to stay home and watch the NFL on Monday nights. After a frequently miserable Monday at work, folks want to sit on their own couch and vegetate in the evening, whether any football is being played or not..
Still, the Nationals should start seeing crowds pick up as this homestand continues. They're holding their own in a schedule that many thought would leave them in a hole once June arrived. Thirty-six of their first 50 games against teams with winning records last year (Milwaukee was 80-82), and obviously, no games at all against anyone with a worse 2009 record than theirs.
There's no Caps' game tonight, and there's a giveaway at the ballpark: the first "T-Shirt Tuesday" of the season. You'llwant to slip that shirt on over what you're wearing since it will likely be a cool spring evening on the banks of the Anacostia. Scott Olsen looks for his first win since last July 5 against Jorge DeLaRosa, in a battle of lefties. DeLaRosa has been generally very effective - 16-9 last year in 32 starts - but he had some command issues in his last outing, walking 5 Mets in a 5-0 loss at Coors Field.