Nationals Pulling Out All The Stops to Improve Home-Field Advantage

WASHINGTON — The Nationals have taken fairly overt steps to ensure they get a good national showing out of their fans during the NLDS.

For starters, Major League Baseball helped them dodge a bullet — for now — with fans being forced to make an uncomfortable decision about leaving games early due to Metro hours thanks to announced start times of 5:38 p.m. (Game 1) and 4:08 p.m. (Game 2).

Additionally, Valerie Camillo, Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer, revealed at a Nats pep rally put on by 106.7 The Fan that the organization would offer a discount of 20 percent off food and beverage for fans who arrive in the first hour after gates open at Nationals Park.

Also important: The Nats will ditch the white rally towels flags of surrender of 2014 in favor of red.

Charlie Slowes, play-by-play announcer for Nationals Radio, also offered this helpful bit of advice: “Come early. Stay late. Be loud. And don’t count on the Metro.”

The players, too, have done their part, whenever asked, to reinforce the message of the role home-field advantage can play in their upcoming divisional series against the Dodgers.

On Thursday, Nationals reliever Shawn Kelley had this to say, when asked by Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier what he would say to fans about the chance they have to impact Games 1 and 2:

“Just get out, just be there,” Kelley responded. “If they show up and they’ve got energy and they’re loud and they’re in on the game, we feel that energy as players. Home-field advantage is a big deal, there’s a reason we fought for it — so we could be here, be in our own beds, be in our time zone, have our own fans screaming and yelling and doing the “Nats Nats Nats woo!” thing. We feel that, we hear it, we get vibes from that.”

Starting pitcher Tanner Roark echoed his teammate’s sentiment later in the day to 106.7 The Fan’s Chad Dukes and Chris Russell.

“It’s extremely important,” he said of the home crowd’s effect on the game. “We feed off that kind of stuff. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the first inning tomorrow and Max has a guy 0-2 on the first hitter and everybody’s up on their feet cheering and going crazy.”

“We feed off that. The pitchers feed off that. Everybody feeds off that,” he said. “And it’s great knowing that you have that kind of support behind your back and you’re not just the only ones out there, you know? It’s great to have that feeling behind you. It gives you an extra adrenaline rush and keeps you going even longer.”

Regarding metro hours, especially the insistence by Metro officials that the transit system may not stay open late should a Nats postseason game run long — just as their 18-inning Game 2 did against the Giants in 2014 — Roark agreed, it’s frustrating.

“Yeah. It’s definitely frustrating not being able to get people here to the game and stuff like that, and to be able to get people home,” he said. “It doesn’t help, but, you know, it is what it is. I mean, we can’t do much here talking about it.”

Max Scherzer expressed a similar thought last week, calling Metro’s public stance “really weak.”

“God. I would hope to believe that playoff games here in D.C. would mean more than shutting down the lines for a couple hours,” Scherzer said.

You almost have to forgive prior miscues by such a young organization and fanbase which, between 2012 and 2014, have collectively experienced all of five postseason home games together.

Whether by some internal memo distributed organization-wide or an implicit understanding, the Nationals have made clear that what happened in 2014 — when droves of fans fled the park during extra innings, drawing jeers from a national audience — cannot happen again.

If nothing else, the Nationals, after pulling out all the stops this week to improve their national showing, clearly hope it won’t.

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.

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