The chants started with a few vocal fans in the upper deck after Adam Dunn's first home run on Friday night, making their opinion heard after the first baseman's rocket to center in the second inning. They spread across the stadium in the third inning, when Dunn blasted another homer to left.
By the time he came up for his fourth at-bat in the sixth inning, the chants preceded him. And when he singled to right, driving in two runs and effectively putting the Nationals' 8-3 win over the Atlanta Braves out of reach, the chants grew to a full-out plea.
The message was simple, a three-word chant to verbalize what most Nationals fans have expressed in less direct terms all year: They want Dunn back.
And with nine games left in the season, the slugger couldn't have made a more emphatic statement about his worth to the Nationals on Friday night. The free agent-to-be drove in five runs, giving him 101 for the season, and hit two homers, powering Washington to its fourth straight victory.
"It's like I've said all along: It's really good to feel wanted," Dunn said. "I mean, who doesn't want to have that feeling? You really can't put that kind of thing into words. That's special."
In many ways, the game was a sampler platter of everything Dunn brings to a team, good and bad. He drove in five runs, but struck out twice and made his 12th error when he couldn't get in front of a rocket from Jason Heyward down the first-base line. But there isn't a more prolific power hitter available on the free agent market than Dunn, who is second in the National League with 37 homers.
Ever since the subject of a contract extension for the first baseman came up in January, Dunn has professed his desire to stay in Washington. The Nationals, though, haven't come to an agreement with Dunn and his agent, Greg Genske. He is believed to want a four-year deal, which seems to be the sticking point in negotiations, but has said he would accept three years. And though sources in the organization have said the Nationals view Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, who will be a free agent this winter, as a possible replacement, Pena wouldn't bring quite the same power that Dunn offers. He has 143 homers over the last four seasons; Dunn has 155.
"Certainly, he continues to make a statement," manager Jim Riggleman said. "(He has) two years in a row now, approaching 40 home runs here, as he's done it many times before, and the 100-RBI mark again. That's what people are looking for."
His ability to change a game was on full display on Friday night. And the Nationals fans in attendance made it known they want to keep that ability around.
"It's starting to become home," Dunn said. "The way the fans have received me, it's good. I don't know how else to put it. It's something that doesn't happen often."
Audio of Adam Dunn talking about his big night and the "Sign Adam Dunn" chants